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As I was preparing yesterday’s post on what Anglican priests think of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, a lot more material came to the fore.

Trinity Sunday

As regular readers and churchgoers know, June 12, 2022 was Trinity Sunday.

At the Priory Church of St Bartholomew in London, it was also Confirmation Day for a blessed handful of the congregation.

The Revd Marcus Walker, St Bartholomew’s vicar, is on the right of the photo below. The Bishop of London, the Right Revd Sarah Mulally, is in the centre:

Did you ever wonder why mitres are shaped with a point?

Our vicar told us on Pentecost Sunday — the week before Trinity — that mitres are shaped that way to suggest the tongues of fire that descended on the heads of the faithful on the first Pentecost, signifying the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

It is a pity that the Bishop chose to preach on The Shack in her sermon. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear — no!

Not surprisingly, those preaching on Trinity Sunday dread it because it requires in some measure explaining the holy mystery of the Triune God. It is not unusual for a vicar to assign the sermon to an ordinand — trainee priest — who is a member of his congregation.

St Patrick used a shamrock. However, a Lutheran pastor in the United States uses an egg, which, in some ways, is even better. His sister, whom I cited in my post, wrote on another website (emphases mine below):

He set out 3 small bowls. He cracked an egg, separated the white from the yolk, placed them in 2 of the bowls, and the shell in the third. He then asked the children which was the egg (which of course brought out all kinds of interesting responses). He used this illustration to explain the Trinity. I think even the adults in the congregation were enlightened by his talk. The children certainly learned something that day.

Returning to St Bartholomew’s, Marcus Walker exchanges thoughts with a Catholic in the Twitter below:

Walker is absolutely right.

The Revd Matthew Cashmore is the vicar of St Anselm’s in Hayes, Middlesex, near Heathrow Airport. For centuries, it was a rural area. Now it is very much a part of Greater London. Its growth as an industrial suburb began in the mid-19th century with the arrival of the railway. In the 20th century, it was home to many industries, including player pianos, vinyl records, caravans, food manufacturing and aviation companies. Today, it is known for food, aviation and a number of Heathrow’s hotels.

St Mary the Virgin Church is the oldest house of worship in Hayes, dating back to the 13th century.

St Anselm’s was built in the 20th century but its name references the history of St Mary the Virgin, as Wikipedia explains:

St Anselm’s Church was completed in 1929 to the design of architect Hubert Christian Corlette. Noted designer MacDonald Gill was responsible for the panelled ceiling. The church’s foundation stone was laid on 13 May 1927 by Sir John Eldon Bankes. The east window is by James Powell and Sons of Whitefriars, London. The church was Grade II listed in November 2019.[58] St Anselm’s is so-named because William Rufus (1056 – 1100) sent Archbishop (later Saint) Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033 – 1109) to stay in the manor house of St Mary’s Church, as it was the nearest of the Archbishop’s manors to Windsor, where William Rufus resided.[59][60]

William Rufus was the third son of William the Conqueror.

On to the present day, and Matthew Cashmore, like many other vicars, preached on the mystery of the Trinity. This is an excerpt from St Anselm’s Trinity Sunday pew leaflet:

To try to figure out HOW this trinity of God works. We are human and modern humans attempt to understand the world through the lens of science and ‘reason’.

The issue of course is that creation is rather more complex and difficult than we can understand.

We are not God and we are reaching and trying as hard as we can to understand things that He created and put into place.

It’s just not possible.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t try – that we shouldn’t engage in trying to understand the the universe through science and ‘reason’; but rather to accept that there are things that we can not neatly fit into categories of science that are central to how we exist in the universe.

We are not God.

Sometimes we need to accept that it is wiser to exist and simply appreciate and give thanks for what God has made – and our part in it.

Wise words indeed.

Mission work

I found out about St Anselm’s via a tweet from a vicar whose tweets I posted yesterday.

The Revd Sarah Hancock, from Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, posted the church’s brilliant advert for a Mission Priest:

I can see why they have passed a Resolution. Going into rough pubs is probably not the sort of thing even today’s women priests are up for.

Mission work also appeared in Cashmore’s Trinity Sunday sermon, as he exhorted the congregation to think about ways in which they, too, can bring the Gospel to the unchurched. Excerpts follow:

In the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today, as I’m sure you’re all aware is Trinity Sunday. It’s a day we call to mind the Holy Trinity and what that means to us today.

Trinity Sunday is an annual reminder of the simple command to live within the love and commandments of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and Jesus tells us how we discern how to do that …

… our faith is a felt faith. It is a faith that exists as much in our hearts and our stomachs as it does in our brains. The moment we forget that we lose the awesome breadth of what God has in store for us – we lose the ability to engage with what Jesus taught us – and we lose sight of what the Holy Spirit wants us to do in this life.

Now, I’m not saying we should leave our brains at the door when we come to church. What I am saying is that academic and intellectual exploration has to work alongside that gut feeling we all experience when we see the work of the Holy Spirit and that gentle warming of our heart we feel when we see the love of Jesus in action.

Our faith is a broad, complex and wonderful thing. It interacts with the world in a myriad of ways and people interact with us – and the faith they see in us – in a myriad of ways

We should be open to all those possibilities

The fact that somebody may want to talk to us about where the Trinity appears in scripture for example, is an opportunity to engage people about their faith. For us to crack open the Bible and talk them through the gospel of John and its rich description of the workings of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. (so I suggest you take your pew sheet home and read around these chapters!)

Or it may be that people want to know what the practical outworking of the Trinity in our day to day lives isor they may want to understand how our love of God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit makes us feel.

We need to be prepared to answer these questions in the real world

There are three things that I think any Christian should be ready to answer in the street.

    • How does God make you feel?
    • How does the Holy Spirit guide your daily life?
    • How has Jesus taught you to live a life more pleasing to God?

These questions form the heart of what we talk about in the world when we bring people to the love of Jesus – and in so doing – to the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

They are true because we experience them across the breadth of our lives and because we see them in scripture – the test of truth …

Our faith is an experienced faith.

It has to be lived out to be understood

When we talk to people about GodWe engage them with the truth of what we have seen, what we have learnt, what we have experienced in our day-to-day life with Jesus.

And we should be more prepared for it.

We should, each morning as we cross ourselves and say the Our Father – think with our brains, feel with our stomach, experience the joy of love in our heart, and ask ourselves – how can I go into the world today and bring somebody to Jesus.

How can we bring people to this church, this place and bring them to baptism – to a relationship that is earth shatteringly life changing with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit?

It is up to each one of us to figure that out. Each one of us will bring a different gift, each one of us will bring different experiences and feelings, each one of us will have engaged with scripture in different ways and each one of us will reach somebody that another person cannot.

Nobody is beyond the love of God the Father, Son & Holy Sprit.

So, go out into the world my brothers and sisters and bring people to baptism, to this place, to a relationship with the Holy Trinity – because the only way to understand the Trinityis to live inside its love.

Amen.

St Anselm’s is a High Anglican church, therefore, it adopts some Catholic practices and pre-Vatican II vestments, such as this fiddleback chasuble in gold and blue:

I wish Fr Matthew all the best with his parish work and finding a Mission Priest.

Those interested in reading or watching more of his sermons can find them here.

I can also recommend the one for Pentecost Sunday, another inspiring call to mission:

Another vicar, the Revd Sam Charles Norton, is also concerned about spreading the Good News in the Church of England. He begins by going back to basics, with the Bible, writings of the early Church Fathers as well as Anglican clergy who helped to develop the Church of England in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was theologically at its best:

He says we have replaced doctrine with culture:

People should visit our churches if only for their beauty, as close to a glimpse of heaven as we have in this life:

Who knows where a church visit might lead?

Trivia

In closing, new members were installed into the Order of the Garter on Monday, June 13. This ceremony takes place every June.

This year, the Bishop of Worcester’s brother was one of the newest members of this ancient Royal order. Tony Blair, unfortunately, was, too.

However, the interesting thing is that both the Bishop of Worcester — the Right Revd John Inge — and his brother, who is a Field Marshal, are the sons of butchers. Let no one say that modest parentage prohibits great achievements:

The Bishop is the Lord High Almoner, in charge of distributing alms to the poor. The office dates from 1103 and is a post in the Royal Households of the United Kingdom.

The last Lord High Almoner who was the son of a butcher was Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530):

How marvellous to be parents of sons who went into the military and the Church!

Advertisement

Last weekend saw an Anglican news story make the papers: that of ordinand Calvin Robinson, who is effectively being prevented from taking Holy Orders in the Church of England.

Even though he is mixed-race black, he appears to be the ‘wrong sort’ of minority for the C of E: too biblical, too conservative, too traditional.

I wrote about him a month ago, when it was clear he was having problems securing a priestly placement, even though he had been offered one in central London at St Alban’s in Holborn.

Background

In 2020, Calvin Robinson was a campaigner for Defund the BBC. Here he tells Dan Wootton, then a broadcaster on talkRADIO, that it was absurd for the BBC’s Countryfile to suggest that people of colour would feel awkward in the countryside. Robinson said that he practically grew up in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire:

He had more to say in September, when the BBC’s A Question of Sport revamped its panel because of their skin colour. Robinson called for more diversity of thought and economic background instead, i.e. conservative working-class people:

Robinson worked as a schoolteacher and assistant principal before entering the seminary. He was also a school governor, so a well-rounded children’s education remains important to him. On October 15, he took exception to radical ‘theories’ entering the British school system:

He had more to say a few days later when Parliament debated the subject. Kemi Badenoch MP is at the despatch box. The Opposition view her as the ‘wrong sort’ of minority woman:

He deplored the National Education Union’s push for school closures early in 2021 because of the pandemic:

Shortly after he tweeted that, he had appeared on a BBC Sunday morning show, The Big Questions. His appearance brought reaction in the form of verbal insults from an activist and academic at Leeds Beckett University, more about whom below. On February 18, he wrote an article about it for the Mail:

… after I had appeared on the long-running BBC discussion show The Big Questions last Sunday morning, I saw a message on Twitter from Aysha Khanom, the founder and director of the Race Trust charity, which works with schools and universities and purports to promote ‘racial equity’.

Aysha Khanom personally tweeted of me: ‘Please somebody deal with this man!’

I found that menacing. I don’t know exactly what she meant by it, but it echoes the sort of language that Tony Soprano would use when he wanted a rival rubbed out.

‘Deal with’ could easily be read as an incitement to violence.

But I shrugged it off. If I obsessed over every piece of abuse I receive through my phone, I would never think about anything else.

Shortly afterwards, though, the Race Trust Twitter account also attacked me — and this time it was less ambiguous. 

‘Calvin Robinson,’ the tweet read, ‘does it not shame you that most people see you as a house n****?’

I knew immediately that any decent person would find that language abhorrent. And sure enough, within 48 hours, Leeds Beckett University, which had worked closely in the past with the Race Trust, cut all ties and deleted Aysha Khanom’s profile from its website.

For what it’s worth, Race Trust now denies Aysha Khanom sent that second tweet. It claims it came from an anonymous employee without approval, and that this unnamed person has since been dismissed …

There was no apology to me for labelling me with a racist slur …

The sad truth is that many on the Left want to remove my freedom to speak independently.

To them, my skin colour means I am supposed to be part of a homogenous, faceless group, without a mind of my own.

But I am more than that. I am British, a Christian, a Midlander, a former computer programmer, a qualified teacher, a political adviser, a son and a brother.

I have many elements to my identity, and all these things have far more effect on how I see the world.

Above all, I believe in self-reliance and personal responsibility. I want to make the most of my life and refuse to see myself as oppressed or downtrodden …

After Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes aired, Robinson was dismayed that Meghan claimed the Archbishop of Canterbury married her and Harry privately in the garden when it was only a rehearsal. Robinson explains the C of E criteria for a wedding ceremony:

Robinson joined GB News as a panellist and presenter soon after its launch in the summer of 2021.

This appearance of his from August 2021 was excellent. In it, he defended traditional Christian values which have informed the UK’s way of life for centuries:

Two weeks earlier, he reminded us that then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock resolutely said in November 2020 that the coronavirus vaccines would not be given to children. Robinson is opposed to children receiving the vaccine. Yet, by the time he posted this tweet, schoolchildren were receiving it. What a difference several months make:

On August 18, he was very generous in defending the free speech of the aforementioned academic at Leeds Beckett University who called him something offensive. He wrote an article for Spiked about her, saying:

It is for that reason that I haven’t joined in the demands for academic Aysha Khanom to lose her job. Leeds Beckett University has cut ties with Khanom after an organisation she runs, the Race Trust, racially abused me on social media.

Earlier this year, I appeared on BBC One’s The Big Questions to discuss the state of racism in the UK. I spoke about how I have been racially abused for not holding the ‘correct’ opinions. In response, the Race Trust tweeted: ‘Does it not shame you that most people see you as a house negro?’

Khanom maintains that the ‘house negro’ tweet was not sent by her, though she accepts responsibility for it. Either she or someone at her organisation was clearly comfortable using such racist language in public. The good news is that the tweet was rightly challenged and ‘ratioed’ by the masses on Twitter …

In my eyes, what’s most worrying about this incident is that Khanom’s organisation was set up to promote this critical race theory view – or what it calls ‘race literacy’ – in schools and universities. Sadly, this is what passes for ‘anti-racism’ today. Is this really the kind of worldview we want to indoctrinate our young people into?

The rise of identitarian racism should definitely worry us, but we won’t be able to challenge it openly if its defenders aren’t free to express themselves.

On Remembrance Sunday last year, an asylum seeker attempted to bomb Liverpool Cathedral but set himself off at the nearby children’s hospital instead. He had converted to Christianity. Pictured below is a man from his church who housed him for a while. Calvin voiced his opinion:

By early 2022, anyone not towing the media-Government line on coronavirus was anathema. Robinson was empathetic but frank with a university student who lost her friends because she dared to dissent:

Calvin Robinson anathema to C of E bishops

This brings us to the present, the past week, in fact.

On Friday, May 20, Robinson said on GB News that he had no choice but to leave the Church of England. He announced that he would be joining GAFCON, Global Anglican Future Conference, which is traditional in its teaching and practice.

The Mail on Sunday was already working on the story. A Mail+ article from Saturday, May 21, reported (emphases mine):

Internal emails obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asked to be shown examples of Mr Robinson’s tweets amid mounting alarm within the Church over his criticism of  ‘bleeding-heart liberal vicars’ and the Church’s race policy

In one, The Rt Rev Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton, voiced his fears to senior church leaders after Mr Robinson insisted that Britain was not riven with racism. ‘Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country,’ he wrote

Mr Robinson also claimed that the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, lectured him about racism in the church, insisting that ‘as a white woman I can tell you that the Church is institutionally racist’.

Mr Robinson, a former teacher who has trained for two years to become an ordained member of the clergy, has been told that plans for him to serve as a deacon at a parish in London have been axed.

Last night he described the decision as ‘soul-destroying’ and claimed it followed a ‘sustained campaign’ against him by the Bishop of Edmonton over his views, including on whether Britain and the Church were institutionally racist. ‘These people are claiming they are institutionally racist, yet they are disregarding the opinion of an ethnic minority because it is not fitting their narrative,’ he said

In comments set to rock the Church’s hierarchy, he questioned whether the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has claimed the Church is ‘deeply institutionally racist’, had a part in blocking his ordination.  

‘I would love to know how big a role the Archbishop had in it because he has certainly been a part of the conversation. He is the boss and the fact they have gone ahead and cancelled me suggests that he was happy with that.’  

The Church said last night there were only a few clergy positions in London and ‘no suitable option’ available in London for Mr Robinson, who became a trainee vicar – an ordinand – at St Stephen’s House, a theological college at the University of Oxford, in October 2020.

Yet, Robinson had already been offered a post at St Alban’s, Holborn.

I gave you his background above because that is what the bishops were examining:

The emails reveal that even before starting his studies, Mr Robinson’s public comments were being scrutinised by church leaders. He claimed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in September 2020 that the Black Lives Matter movement was stoking racial tensions, adding: ‘There are elements of racism in this country we need to stamp out, but while we are seeing everything as racist we are kind of undermining those racial issues we need to address.’

That day the Bishop of Edmonton emailed the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, and a PR adviser to the Diocese of London to register ‘concern’ about Mr Robinson’s denial of institutional racism in Britain. ‘Calvin Robinson is not only a political commentator, but he’s an ordinand and former teacher in this area,’ he added. Despite the Church’s view on racism, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities concluded in March 2021 that Britain did not have a systemic racism problem. In November 2021 senior Church leaders received a complaint after Mr Robinson shared on social media a Daily Mail investigation that exposed how the Church gave official advice that being baptised could help failed asylum seekers stay in Britain.

It followed news that suicide bomber Enzo Almeni, who detonated a device at a hospital in Liverpool last year, was baptised there as a Christian in 2015. Mr Robinson, by then a GB News commentator, tweeted that ‘misguided bleeding-heart liberal vicars could be complicit in recent terror attack’, adding: ‘Not to mention abuse of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism.’

Bishop Wickham criticised the ‘highly irresponsible’ comments in an email to Emma Ineson, assistant bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and said they remained online after 27 migrants died in the English Channel. ‘These are clear examples as to why, in my opinion, his ordination should be looked at very closely indeed,’ he wrote. ‘Calvin’s Twitter feed is here. It is worth scrolling down.’ He revealed the Archbishop of Canterbury had ‘asked for examples of Calvin Robinson’s tweets’ and highlighted that Mr Robinson had also criticised the findings of the Church’s anti-racism taskforce, which recommended quotas to boost the number of black and ethnic-minority senior clergy. Bishop Ineson said she would show the information to Archbishop Welby.

Mr Robinson was to be ordained as a deacon with a part-time role as assistant curate at St Alban’s Church in Holborn, central London. But in February the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, told him the role was ‘likely to prove problematic, and would not lead to a fruitful or happy formation for you in your early years in ordained ministry’. Mr Robinson offered to reduce his media work but was told he would still not be able to take up the proposed role because ‘that moment had passed’.

The Bishop of London suggested he was stoking division:

At a meeting with Mr Robinson this month, Bishop Mullally insisted the decision was not about his politics, but because his ‘presence’ on social media and TV ‘is often divisive and brings disunity’.

Robinson received support from a young Conservative MP, Tom Hunt:

Tory MP Tom Hunt backed Mr Robinson last night, saying: ‘The message the Church seems comfortable to send out is that it’s OK to propagate some political views but not others. Sadly, Church of England congregations will continue to decline as millions of Christians are alienated by its behaviour.’

The C of E prelates involved in deciding Robinson’s fate as a future priest declined to comment:

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishops of Edmonton and London declined to comment. The Diocese of London said: ‘We have a limited number of curacies available. In this instance, it is felt that there is no suitable option available that London can offer. We continue to be in conversation with Calvin, are willing to work with him to discern the right way forward, and we keep him in our prayers.’

The Mail on Sunday‘s article has this title: ‘EXCLUSIVE: Not woke enough to be a vicar! Black political commentator Calvin Robinson who said Britain is NOT a racist country is BLOCKED from becoming a priest by a white bishop as a result’.

That title sums the situation up perfectly. Is not the bishops’ attitude a racist one, as in ‘We whites know better than you’?

Calvin tweeted the article:

The article is the same as Mail+‘s, but it does include photos of the main players in this story.

The Mail kindly gave space for Robinson to respond beneath their article.

Excerpts follow:

Sitting in an ornate study in the Old Deanery – a 17th Century mansion house opposite St Paul’s Cathedral – the Bishop of London put her hand on my arm and quietly said something that left me astounded.

‘Calvin, as a white woman I can tell you that the Church IS institutionally racist,’ the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally told me.

We had been discussing the Church’s race policy, which I had been vocally objecting to for some time. The Bishop could not understand that as a black man, I simply did not share her – and the Church hierarchy’s – view on this contentious issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has proclaimed that the Church of England is ‘deeply institutionally racist’ and called for ‘radical and decisive’ action. Last year an Anti-Racism Task Force recommended using quotas to boost the number of black and ethnic-minority senior clergy, introducing salaried ‘racial justice officers’ in all 42 dioceses and launching ‘racial justice Sunday’ once a year.

I fundamentally disagreed with this approach, which is based on a faith in divisive Left-wing Critical Race Theory, instead of the teachings of Christ. I believe it is divisive and offensive.

I have experienced plenty of racism in my life, but it has always been down to a minority of malicious individuals. I do not think the claim that either the Church, or wider society, is institutionally racist has ever been supported by robust evidence.

The Bishop of London’s hushed condescension during our meeting made me realise that any dissent from the Church’s ingrained view, which to me seems like nothing more than virtue-signalling, is not welcomed. The Church claims it wants to listen to the perspectives of minorities – well, I am one of them but it doesn’t appear to want to hear my view because it also happens to be a conservative one.

For the past two years I have been training for ordination at St Stephen’s House at the University of Oxford. I was due to begin a curacy at a lovely parish in Holborn, Central London, and within a year I hoped to be ordained a priest.

It takes a long time to acknowledge a call from God to serve as a priest, and it’s a vocation that often involves the sacrifice of leaving behind a successful career. I gave up my career as an assistant headteacher and consultant for the Department for Education to throw myself into my theological studies.

He said that the role at St Alban’s would have allowed him time to still appear on GB News and do other media work:

as an acknowledgment that I see my media work, which reaches a huge audience, as part of my calling and future ministry.

Another bishop was involved with deciding Robinson’s fate, the Bishop of Fulham, also in London:

During a Zoom call, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, told me that there had been ‘a lot of turbulence’ over some of the views I had expressed online and on TV. It was no secret that senior figures in the Church disliked me. I am after all a traditionalist – which means I do not believe in the ordination of women – and I have never been afraid to voice my criticism of the Church’s drift away from what I, and many of its parishioners, think are its core values.

I did not expect everyone to agree with me, but what I did expect is the right to express my own opinions. I had always been taught that the Church of England was a broad church.

I later discovered that Church leaders in London appeared to have had deep misgivings about my ordination from the very beginning of my training – despite spending more than £20,000 of parishioners’ money on sending me to study theology at Oxford.

Emails that I obtained via data-protection rules revealed that bishops at the very top of the Church had been closely scrutinising my public comments.

His political agenda is I guess what you would call libertarian – anti-woke, anti-identity politics, Covid-sceptical,’ the Bishop of Fulham wrote in one email. ‘His tweets get him into trouble sometimes and there have been complaints to the Bishop of London that he shouldn’t be ordained.’

Robinson rightly asks why, if the Church is institutionally racist, these white bishops have not tendered their resignations:

If the Church is institutionally racist, as the Archbishop of Canterbury insists, then why have he and other senior figures, including Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, and Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, not resigned? After all, they have all been bishops for years, which suggests they have been unable to solve the problem.

He warns that the C of E is entering apostasy. He is not wrong:

If you defend family values, the sanctity of marriage, all human life being sacred, or the fact that God made us male and female, you’ll face opprobrium.

Something has gone wrong. The established Church is entering apostasy, and the faithful masses in the congregations and the hard-working clergy deserve better.

Fortunately, he has received much support from clergy and laity:

Since my ordination was blocked I’ve been contacted by clergymen and lay people up and down the country who have been sharing their stories of how they’ve been silenced by the Church for holding conservative views.

He confirmed that he will be joining GAFCON and explained why it is so heartbreaking for him to leave the C of E:

After becoming increasingly disillusioned, I recently decided to leave the Church of England and join a more orthodox institution, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Walking away from the Church of England has been heartbreaking.

People often quizzed me on why, if I was so troubled by its direction, I was also so determined to take holy orders in the Church of England. It was because, for me, the Church is the body of Christ and, perhaps naively, I thought I could help pull things back on track from within.

The Sunday Telegraph provided a few more details:

He had been training to become a priest at the University of Oxford for the past two years and was due to begin a curacy at a parish in Holborn, London, but was turned down for the role by the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, in February

Mr Robinson submitted a subject access request (SAR) to the Church of England – asking the organisation for access to the personal information it held on him

It was then that he discovered a series of internal emails between Church bosses raising concerns over his opinions on institutional racism in Britain …

In another email, the Bishop of Fulham writes: “I wanted a word about an ordinand, Calvin Robinson. You might be aware of him … ”

Of the Bishop of London, he pointed out the irony of her insisting that the Church was institutionally racist:

Former teacher Mr Robinson added: “She was just ignorant. She accused me of being controversial so I said to her in a polite way that some of the things she says are controversial too – like the fact that she thinks the Church is institutionally racist. And then she turned around and said that.

“She was contradicting herself because in one instance she’s saying the Church is racist and needs to listen to the lived experiences of ethnic minorities, but then she was refusing to listen to my lived experience as a black man because it didn’t fit with her narrative.”

On Sunday evening, he appeared on Mark Dolan’s GB News show:

On Monday, May 23, The Times carried a report.

In it, we discovered that the Bishop of Edmonton’s child or children attended the school where Robinson was an assistant principal:

Calvin Robinson has been blocked as a priest by the Church of England after the Right Rev Rob Wickham, the Bishop of Edmonton, privately warned church leaders against ordaining him. Robinson, a social commentator, was an assistant principal at a school where Wickham was a parent

Robinson said that he was shocked to be told in February that his ordination was likely to be problematic. He applied under the Data Protection Act to see the information the church had on him.

He discovered that the Bishop of Edmonton had been reporting him to church leaders since he began his studies. Robinson went on Good Morning Britain in September 2020 to say that he was against Black Lives Matter because it was increasing racial tensions, and he believed that everyone in this country had an equal opportunity to succeed. The same day Wickham wrote to the Right Rev Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, to “bring it to your attention . . . Calvin Robinson is not only a political commentator, but he’s an ordinand and former teacher in this area who has just started at St Stephen’s House. Calvin’s comments concern me about denying institutional racism in this country.”

In December last year, Wickham wrote to the Right Rev Emma Ineson, Bishop to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also to the Bishop of London. Wickham sent them some of Robinson’s tweets, adding: “These are clear examples as to why his ordination should be looked at very closely.”

Robinson said he felt “betrayed and a bit heartbroken” at Wickham’s conduct. He said: “To hear that people are campaigning behind your back after you have given them all that you have got, I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Church sources said that Wickham’s status as a parent at the school had no bearing on this matter.

Robinson rightly urges the C of E to return to the fundamentals of faith:

The TV pundit, who now works for GB News, accused the church of apostasy by “moving away from core tenets of the faith. They need to focus on scripture because that’s the word of God.”

He said that he had now joined the Global Anglican Future Conference and would be ordained to one of its parishes. “My hope is to attract all the people who feel the Church of England doesn’t represent them because it is obsessed with woke issues.”

The Diocese of London issued an updated statement:

A spokesman for the Diocese of London said: “We wish him well in the ministry he is now going to exercise.”

On Monday evening, Douglas Murray’s editorial for The Times appeared. It listed a modern litany of the C of E’s preoccupation with race at the expense of everything else, including during the time when an African, the Right Revd John Sentamu, now retired, was Archbishop of York. Oh, the irony:

It is two years since Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave a speech to the General Synod in which he apologised for the “institutional racism” of the Church of England. “I am sorry and ashamed,” the archbishop said. “I’m ashamed of our history and I’m ashamed of our failure. There is no doubt when we look at our own church that we are still deeply institutionally racist.”

It was a strange claim to make — not least because at the time the next most important bishop in the church was John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

Murray rightly points out the diversity among C of E clergy:

This fatal combination of ignorance and present-era preening seems to have become the tenor of the established church — and in no area so much as in the church’s demands for clergy representation. As it happens, the Anglican communion has one of the most diverse bodies of clergy that any religious denomination could wish for. But the church has declared that it will continue to be racist until such a day as minority ethnic groups (or UKME as the acronym-laden C of E likes to call them) are over-represented among the clergy.

Even my church has had a minority vicar, who has since been promoted within the Church.

Murray then discussed Calvin Robinson’s sad situation:

And in a way, here is revealed the modern Church of England’s actual party political affiliation.

Having shut its doors throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the church now seems to be back with a new faith: an evangelical and dogmatic belief in its own iniquity and racism. Fail to go along with that belief and the church has no place for you.

So determined is the C of E about this new gospel that a church hierarchy of white people is even willing to bar a young black man from joining the clergy because he will not agree with their insistence that their own church is racist. It is a farce, certainly, but a tragedy, too — for a church that has need of talent, and an era that has need of institutions that are not principally intent on blowing themselves up.

On GB News Monday evening, presenter Dan Wootton chose the Bishop of Edmonton as his Union Jackass of the day. Good on the former Brexit Party MEP, the lady on the right, for nominating him:

Conclusion

Calvin Robinson is surely doing all the right things. That is why our pharisaical clergy have opposed his ordination.

May God continue to sustain Calvin with his grace. May our Lord Jesus continue to give him inner peace. And may the Holy Spirit continue to enhance his gifts of wisdom, fortitude and discernment.

I wish him all the best as he pursues a path to ordination.

On May 1, 2022, The Sunday Times reported that the Church of England hopes to recruit retiree pew-sitters to the priesthood in an initiative called Caleb, a fast-track route to ordination (emphases mine):

Retired City workers, head teachers and police officers are being fast-tracked into the clergy to bring a “lifetime of work experience” to rural churches and share the load with over-stretched vicars.

It is hoped that up to 8,000 Church of England worshippers in their late fifties, sixties or seventies, particularly those with managerial experience from their careers and a track record of serving as church wardens or lay ministers, could be tempted to train as priests to serve in their local parish after retirement.

The scheme is called Caleb for the faithful Israelite, who, with Joshua, arrived in the Promised Land at the ripe old age of 85.

Learn Religions has an excellent biography, complete with Bible verses, about this faithful servant, who was one of 12 men sent to scout the Promised Land before the Israelites’ arrival. Ten of the 12 spies said that the people — descendants of the Nephilim from Genesis — were too large and their fortresses too formidable to be conquered:

Moses sent spies, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, into Canaan to scout the territory. Among them were Joshua and Caleb. All the spies agreed on the richness of the land, but ten of them said Israel could not conquer it because its inhabitants were too powerful and their cities were like fortresses. Only Caleb and Joshua dared to contradict them.

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30, NIV)

God was so angry at the Israelites for their lack of faith in him that he forced them to wander in the desert 40 years until that entire generation had died–all except Joshua and Caleb.

Upon conquering the territory:

Joshua, the new leader, gave Caleb the territory around Hebron, belonging to the Anakites. These giants, descendants of the Nephilim, had terrified the original spies but proved no match for God’s people.

Caleb and his descendants prospered.

More information about him follows. It is thought he was born a pagan and an Egyptian slave:

Caleb’s name means “raging with canine madness.” Some Bible scholars think Caleb or his tribe came from a pagan people who were assimilated into the Jewish nation. He represented the tribe of Judah, from which came Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.

Caleb was physically strong, vigorous to old age, and ingenious in dealing with trouble. Most importantly, he followed God with his whole heart.

Caleb knew that when God gave him a task to do, God would supply him with all he needed to complete that missionCaleb spoke up for truth, even when he was in the minorityOften, to stand up for truth we must stand alone.

We can learn from Caleb that our own weakness brings an inpouring of God’s strength. Caleb teaches us to be loyal to God and to expect him to be loyal to us in return.

Returning to The Sunday Times article, the C of E article hopes not to have to pay for the Caleb priests’ housing or upkeep:

They will be “self-supporting” priests, who are not paid a stipend and do not need a vicarage as they already live locally.

The Revd Nicky Gumbel, founder of the Alpha course and vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in London, is going to retire at the age of 67. He is championing the ‘Caleb stream’, which is run by the HTB Church Revitalisation Trust. Note that he is retiring at the age where he expects others to become ordained:

Speaking to The Times for his farewell interview and before the Global Alpha Leadership Conference this week, he said there were about half a million Anglican churchgoers aged between 55 and 72. With life expectancy now in the eighties, many want to pursue a new passion in retirement.

“They’ve been involved in church all their life, some are licensed lay ministers, lay chaplains, church wardens, some are just dedicated church people,” he said. How hard would it be to find 8,000 who would give 25 years for free after they’ve left life in the City or police force?”

Hmm.

The article explains how the Caleb scheme contrasts with conventional ordination:

Those who feel called to the priesthood discuss it with their priest before embarking on a series of interviews. The usual selection process can last for up to two years, ending with a bishop recommending them for ordination. They then spend two or three years at theological college before being ordained as a deacon and then a priest.

Under the Caleb scheme, candidates can start a one-year training course immediately with the local bishop’s blessing and have interviews as they train. Gumbel aims to sign up more theological colleges.

Quite a few Anglican priests have already had a career in the secular world before ordination. Our small parish has had several over the past 30 years.

The Times gives us a profile of the first Caleb priest:

The Rev Anthony Goddard, 67, is the first Caleb graduate. He was ordained last June and is a curate at his parish in West Sussex. He spent 20 years working for ICI and four years as a partner at Accenture.

“Most people at around 60 have a lot of life experience, a lot of professional experience quite possibly in leadership roles, and hopefully have a good track record of Christian ministry,” he said. “I spent 25 years in business and then 13 as head and [lay] chaplain of an independent school and was always actively involved in the church …”

A married couple also enrolled themselves and will be taking up assignments this year:

Andy Green spent 30 years as a police constable while his wife, Caroline, worked as a dressmaker and GP practice manager. They will be 69 and 65 years old when they enter Worcester Cathedral in July to be ordained by a bishop to embark on new lives in the priesthood.

The pair will return to serve as deacons and then priests at their home church of St Egwin’s near Evesham in Worcestershire. “It’ll be the first time in about 50 years that St Egwin’s will have had its own ordained minister at the church,” Andy said, adding that older worshippers could bring a “lifetime of work experience” to the priesthood.

The Caleb scheme is a departure from the C of E’s earlier post-pandemic plan to close local churches and have regional ‘hub’ churches for traditional in-person worship. I have no idea if that is still a plan or if the Caleb scheme has replaced it.

In any event, Anglican churches have needed more clergy for decades now:

Thousands of churches no longer have their own dedicated vicar. Some priests have 20 or more parishes under their care, reliant on teams of assistant priests, retired clergy and lay parishioners to hold services across large areas.

Those large areas are called benefices. The article has an alarming graph showing how many benefices have four or more churches with too few priests to assign to them.

It is hoped that new, second-career priests would save those churches:

Critics have said that restoring a system of “one-priest-per-church” would boost congregations by forming closer bonds between communities and their vicars. The new “Caleb” scheme aims to find new priests for parishes from within their congregations.

The article has another graph breaking down the age and sex of ordinands into the C of E. Younger ordinands tend to be men. However, after the age of 40, women predominate, especially after the age of 55.

I do not know if the Caleb scheme will work, but I hope it does. The C of E needs something. A return to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion would be a start. So would more biblical preaching, rather than a focus on identity politics and climate change.

John F MacArthurIn 2017, John MacArthur preached a sermon on Galatians 4:19-20 called ‘The Primary Importance of Sanctification’.

In addition to preaching well on the text, he also gave a discourse on why today’s churches are so, well, awful, for lack of a better word.

The excerpt follows, emphases mine:

We talk a lot about the economy in America and the economy growing. You do understand, don’t you, that the economy in America grows on massive self-interest, not on altruism, not on wanting to help others; it grows on massive self-interest. The church has bought into that as a way to appeal to those people who live for their own fulfillment. Churches then look and sound and feel like the world, and they advertise God as if He was a product that would satisfy your heart’s desires. Carefully they avoid anything that condemns people, anything that convicts them, certainly anything that terrifies them, like the judgment of hell. They avoid anything that expects people to deny themselves, take up a cross, pursue with passion what is holy, pure, and good. And, again, even in churches where there’s a strong emphasis on justification, and maybe a now and then emphasis on glorification, there is a strict avoidance of sanctification. This plays out all the time.

The church is supposed to look like Christ in the world. And rarely does a day go by that there isn’t some blatant, gross sin and immorality attributed to someone in the media across the country, if not across the world, who is anything but Christlike. Faithful churches are always led by godly shepherds who lead their people away from the world, away from themselves to God, away from the fulfillment of their own desires, their own longings, to seek those things which are above, not things on the earth. The church is in a sad state.

Now, how did we get to this point? I don’t want to belabor this, but this is a little bit of helpful history. Churches for centuries were theological, theological, and biblical. The Bible was the centerpiece, and the theology that the Bible taught established the convictions, and churches were God-centered.

It was even demonstrated architecturally. You go back a few generations, and when churches were built they were built to manifest a kind of transcendent perspective. They were tall, they were high; they wanted to demonstrate something that was above the earth. Some of you have visited those kinds of places where you look up, perhaps in some cases a hundred feet or more, and you see paintings and stained glass and things like that.

There was a sense in which when you went to church you were encountering God, and transcendence was important. It was God-centered, it was Christ-centered. And they trusted in the Holy Spirit for the growth of the church. I’ll say that again. They trusted in the Holy Spirit for the growth of the church.

Churches opposed worldliness. They opposed sin categorically ... But even Protestant churches, even gospel-preaching churches had a sense of transcendence. There was a dignity about them. The music had a dignity. The way people conducted themselves had a dignity. The leadership carried themselves in a dignified fashion. One commentator I read this week said, “Modern pastors look like they buy their wardrobes at Forever 21.” There was a loftiness. There was an ascendency. You came to hear from heaven. You came for an encounter with God.

New churches are not theological, they’re not biblical; they are psychological, sociological. They have given up transcendence – a heavenly experience, for imminence – an earthly experience, to make it as much like what is familiar in the world as possible; to not make you think that you’ve stepped into any kind of different category, either in the style, the fashion, or anything else; make it as worldly, as flat as possible. It is man-centered. And though the names of Jesus and God are used, Jesus and God are like imaginary friends who give you what you want. Churches today trust in their growth techniques, not the Holy Spirit. They trust that by sucking in the world and redefining worship as a mindless musical stimulation while the people think only about their own desires, that somehow this is how you grow a church.

You can collect a crowd that way, but only the Holy Spirit can build a church. Vague spirituality has replaced sound doctrine. True holiness is not an issue, because that would be way too confrontive. You can’t talk to people about self-denial, of giving up everything they long for, everything they think satisfies them, giving it all up in total self-denial for the sake of God; can’t do that. This culture today has drunk too deeply of the wine of self-fulfillment for too long. They are drunk on it.

Attendance in a church and loyalty to a church is never related, it seems, to the love of the truth or the love of Christ, but always to the love of self: “I like what they do, it’s my style; makes me feel good about me.” You might say, “How did we get here?” We got here because ideas have consequence.

Sigmund Freud died in 1939. He was the father of psychoanalysis. His system was a system that rejected God. His system was a system that said man is the ultimate. And so he said, there is in every human being, what he called, the id. And the id is the real you, the authentic you. It’s basically the complex out of which comes all your desires. And if you want to be who you are you’ve got to let your desires go. If you want to be an authentic person, you need to be you. Whatever you is, whatever the complex of your heart’s desires are, you have to be able to fulfill them to be a healthy, authentic person. In other words, unleash your sinfulness.

Obviously, the most eager people to buy into that were young people, because young people haven’t learned lessons in life about how living like that destroys you. So they’re the fertile ground to sow those seeds. The most liberated sinners are the youngest, because they lack the restraints that come from the lessons of life, and so youth become the symbol of authenticity. Youthful, irresponsible desire is elevated to a noble level, and the perpetual adolescent is the most authentic person.

We see it in our culture. The heroes of this culture are so profoundly sinful and so proud about it, that it would be hard to track the record of their iniquitous behavior. But they’re real; they’re the real people. The church is a restrainer. The church is bondage. The church is full of hypocrites, people who dress up like we do because they’re phonies and they are not authentic.

Over the years since Freud, this youthful authenticity movement has taken over the culture. Dramatically it made strides in the 1960s when, for the first time, the selfish, self-indulgent, immoral young person, hedonistic young person became the cultural hero: the hippies – sex, drugs, rock and roll. This is played out in songs like “I’ve Got To Be Me,” “I Did It My Way.” “And so if a church doesn’t let me be me, I reject it.”

This has reached severe proportions. An illustration: same-sex marriage. Homosexual people don’t care about marriage – just mark it – they don’t care about marriage, they just care about doing what they want to do. They don’t care about marriage.

Why do they want same-sex marriage? They want it established by law for one reason: so that they can put those who are against that sin out of business. That’s all they want; LGBTQ lobbying constantly for acceptance in the culture. It isn’t that they want some kind of political acceptance, they want to make criminals out of the people who spell that out as sin. They want to criminalize Christianity. That’s the only reason any of this is happening. They’re free to do what they want, and they do it. But what bothers them is those who denounce that behavior as sin; they want to make us criminals. So we’re in a tough spot.

The culture, mostly young people, is against us. In the ‘60s after the hippie movement, when immorality just broke loose, there were some kids who supposedly came to Christ; they became the Jesus people. They came to Southern California down to Orange County. There was a guy named Lonnie Frisbee who was leading that movement, who was secretly a homosexual and died of AIDS.

But Lonnie Frisbee had decided they needed to take their kids, that were meeting on the beach and baptizing in the Pacific Ocean, to church. So they went to Calvary Chapel in Orange County where Chuck Smith was pastor. Then it was a four square church, traditional church. And they all showed up on a few Sundays barefoot, long hair, irreverent, casual, with their own kind of music; and the leaders of the church said, “We’ve got to hold onto the young people. If we don’t give them what they want they’ll leave.”

That was already being discussed a lot of places, because the hippie movement caught fire across America – the movement of rebellion against authority, responsibility, duty, expectation; rebellion against right, honor; it caught fire. So the church feared, “We’re going to lose these people if we don’t acquiesce.” So for the first time when the Jesus people came to church, first time I can find in church history, the church began to redefine its own identity and worship based upon the wishes of a rebellious subculture. That definition started then and spread; started in California, spread clear across the country.

Prior to the ‘60s, nobody expected a church service to be rock concert. Nobody expected a church service to be entertainment. Nobody expected worship to be physical stimulation, emotional feelings without engaging your mind. Nobody expected church to be a manipulation of people’s desires to fulfill their own self-styled identity. A church was a church, and it was a place where there was thoughtful, prayerful, biblical, sober-minded hearing from the Word of God, leading to conviction and edification and elevation. It was a heavenly encounter.

But to this modern generation of young peopleserious, sober, thoughtful, scriptural preaching about God, and confrontation of sin, and a call to holiness, and a call to separate from the world and from iniquity is far too absolute and far too offensive. People who want to feel good about themselves the way they are don’t want that, so the church caved in. The church caved in and gave them what they want. And now pastors continue to accommodate those same people – irresponsible, lazy, undisciplined rebels who want what they want – and the church, instead of confronting it, conforms to it. No preaching on sanctification, no preaching on holiness can be done in those environments; they’d empty the place.

This is the situation today. Strong preaching on holiness against worldliness, confronting the desires of the hearts of the “me” generation as sin from which they need to repent is a far cry from the trend.

How true.

I put this post together on Easter Day. What was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon about? The Resurrection? No. Justin Welby preached about the ungodliness of processing economic migrants crossing the English Channel from France to the UK — overwhelmingly single, young men without papers — in Rwanda. That is the Conservative government’s plan which is scheduled to start in several weeks’ time. It is an attempt to reduce the number of migrant crossings which went up from several hundred per annum a few years ago to 28,000+ in 2021.

In a further note on the Church of England, which illustrates what MacArthur is rightly condemning, a 30-something ordinand, GB News commentator Calvin Robinson, is unable to be formally ordained yet because he follows the Bible and is not conforming to the world. The C of E doesn’t like biblical preaching. The C of E is one of the worldliest denominations around. However, many of us stick around because we love the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and, where we can find it, the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. We ignore everything and everyone else.

The channel’s article on Robinson’s struggle appeared on Holy Saturday:

When asked what reason the Church gave to him as to why they cancelled his curacy, Calvin added: “They said it would be too turbulent for me to be an ordained minister and have a public profile.

“The official line will be that there [are]n’t enough curacies in London but that is nonsense as I have had several offers for title posts, but even then the Church says no.

“It’s not about there not being enough space, it’s purely politics.”

In response to Calvin’s comments, the Diocese of London told GB News: “In the Diocese of London, we have a limited number of curacies available each year that are considered on a case-by-case basis.

“We work with and support Ordinands throughout the discernment process to establish the right path for each person.

“In this instance, it was felt that there was no suitable option available that London could offer.

“Calvin continues to be a candidate sponsored for ordination. We continue to be willing to work with him to discern the right way forward, and we keep him in our prayers.”

Last year, Calvin Robinson presented an hour-long programme, The Meaning of Christmas.

This year, he presented a similar programme on Easter, featuring classic hymns, a biblical viewpoint and interviews with clergy and laity discussing the meaning of the Crucifixion and Resurrection as well as what it was like living in our Lord’s era under Roman rule:

I, too, will keep Calvin in my prayers for his future. He was a teacher for several years, and he would make a good priest. He’d be an ideal Archbishop of Canterbury.

One can only live in hope for the future.

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 8:1-7

Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent[a] that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ[b] has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

——————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post concluded the Hebrews author’s discussion of Psalm 110:4 and the universal priesthood of Christ which God the Father bestowed upon Him via an oath, something He did with no earthly priest.

The author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, intended to persuade Jewish converts and those Jews who had heard of Jesus that He is the Messiah. The author wanted his audience to leave Judaism behind fully and focus on Christ.

Hebrews 7:22 says:

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

Chapter 8 picks up on that thought and further expands upon it. Jesus is the Great High Priest, because He sits at the right hand of God in heaven (verse 1).

John MacArthur explains the importance of sitting at the right hand of God in a way that a Jewish person would have understood (emphases mine):

there were always two scribes before the judges of the Sanhedrin. One scribe sat on the right hand, and the other scribe sat on the left hand. And it was always the business – watch this – of the scribe who sat on the right hand to write the acquittals, and it was always the business of the scribe on the left hand to write the condemnations. The Bible says that Jesus came, in John chapter 3, verse 17, not to – what? – condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Hence, His place is never on the left hand but always on the right hand for He writes the pardons for His own.

That detail of information makes us appreciate His placement at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ is on our side. He is our only Mediator and Advocate with the Father.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

He sits on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high, that is, of the glorious God of heaven. There the Mediator is placed, and he is possessed of all authority and power both in heaven and upon earth. This is the reward of his humiliation. This authority he exercises for the glory of his Father, for his own honour, and for the happiness of all who belong to him; and he will by his almighty power bring every one of them in their own order to the right hand of God in heaven, as members of his mystical body, that where he is they may be also.

What an uplifting thought. What joyful confidence we can have in Jesus in this life and the next.

The author of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is a minister in ‘the holy places’ — Heaven — where the true tent (tabernacle, Holy of Holies) is, a sanctuary that God, not man, created (verse 2).

Henry explains:

The tabernacle which was pitched by man, according to the appointment of God. There was an outer part, in which was the altar where they were to offer their sacrifices, which typified Christ dying; and there was an interior part within the veil, which typified Christ interceding for the people in heaven. Now this tabernacle Christ never entered into; but, having finished the work of satisfaction in the true tabernacle of his own body, he is now a minister of the sanctuary, the holy of holies, the true tabernacle in heaven, there taking care of his people’s affairs, interceding with God for them, that their sins may be pardoned and their persons and services accepted, through the merit of his sacrifice. He is not only in heaven enjoying great dominion and dignity, but, as the high priest of his church, executing this office for them all in general, and every member of the church in particular.

Jesus took His seat when He ascended into Heaven. MacArthur words this beautifully:

He passed through the heavens and so forth. So, Jesus Christ, having accomplished His work, finished it, passed through the heavens – the stellar heavens, atmospheric heavens – entered into God’s heaven, sat on the throne. What a High Priest.

MacArthur says that this elaboration was probably meant to assuage any anxiety the Jewish converts might have felt about abandoning Judaism:

The emphasis in the book of Hebrews is repeatedly on the fact that Christ is at the right hand of God. And I think the purpose of it is to assure those who were deprived of the temple services in Jerusalem that they didn’t need to worry about what was going on, on earth in the shadowy realm, because they had a real priest in the real Holy of Holies, in the real heaven of God, who was there for them, ministering and interceding. So, the crowning argument for the superior priesthood of Jesus Christ and his exaltation to heaven, to sit with the Father, that is the glorious sum of everything else that shows us He is, indeed, a superior priest.

Not only that, however. He sits in the true tabernacle, the real, heavenly Holy of Holies:

He doesn’t fool around in a skin tent like the tabernacles, nor does he minister in a physical building on earth. Those temples have all crumbled long ago. His temple is in heaven. He ministers in the real Holy of Holies.

The author then mentions the particular office and duties of His priesthood (verse 3).

Henry says that He accomplished these largely during His Crucifixion and Resurrection, because He:

had himself to offer, his human nature upon the altar of his divine nature, as the great atoning sacrifice that finished transgression, and made an end of sin once for all; and he has the incense of his own righteousness and merits too to offer with all that his people offer up to God by him, to render them acceptable.

Now He intercedes for us and guides us.

The next two verses describe the Jewish priesthood by means of contrast. Jesus could not be a priest on Earth because He did not come from the correct tribe; He came from Judah, which was not given the priestly remit (verse 4). Furthermore, the earthly tabernacles the priests ministered in were but mere shadows of the glorious, true one in Heaven. God instructed Moses to build a tent — a tabernacle —  in a precise way to serve as a temporal shadow of the heavenly one (verse 5).

MacArthur explains the author’s use of ‘true’ and ‘shadow’:

And so it is that God has a Holy Place in heaven, and that’s where Jesus ministers. Notice He calls it the true tabernacle. And the word “true” is not here used in an opposite sense from false. He is not saying the true tabernacle as opposed to the tabernacles of the heathen or the temples of the heathen idols. He is using the word “true” in contrast with something that is shadowy and unreal. The difference between a typical shadowy, temporary thing and the true one. The true one is abiding, solid, and real

Christ ministers in the heavenly sanctuary, the Holy of Holies where God is. He doesn’t minister in a shadowy temple on earth

the Greeks always thought in terms of two worlds: one was the real world, and the other was the unreal. And you may have studied about Plato, and you may have studied a little bit of the Aristotelian polemic and some of the things that had to do with philosophy in those days, and you probably ran across this kind of a dual concept especially that was the basic doctrine of Plato. But Plato always said somewhere there was [the] real, and that what we saw was only the unreal. This world of space and time was a world of shadows. It was a world of copies – pale copies at best. A world of unreal reflections. But somewhere there was a real world

Now, this was a kind of a Greek philosophy. This is only a shadow world. Somewhere there’s a real world …

Now, the writer of Hebrews is saying very much the same thing. He is not a Greek philosopher; he is speaking the revelation of God, but in a very real sense, the Greeks weren’t too far off. There is a real world. This is not the real world. In terms of God’s revelation of the old covenant, it was shadows and types and pictures, and reflections all from the pattern which is heavenly, you see?

The earthly temple, the earthly tabernacle is a place that is only a copy of the real temple of God. Earthly worship is only a remote reflection of real worship when we get to heaven. The earthly priesthood is only an inadequate shadow of the real priesthood.

Therefore:

Jesus is superior to Aaron number one because He’s seated, and number two, because He serves in a superior sanctuary, not pitched by men, but pitched by God. He serves in the real sanctuary. Tremendous truth.

Also, this makes Christ’s priesthood in the New Covenant vastly superior to — ‘much more excellent than’ — anything the Levite priests could accomplish in the Old Covenant because His universal priesthood is ‘enacted on better promises’ (verse 6). He is there, with His Father, interceding with Him on our behalf, continuously.

And, if there were any doubt in the Hebrews’ minds, the author says that, if the priesthood of the Old Covenant matched up to that, it would still have been in force. However, as any rational person can conclude, it was inferior to the eternal priesthood conferred upon Jesus in the New Covenant (verse 7).

The author continues with a further proof from Jeremiah, which will be the subject of next week’s post.

For now, it is such a blessing to be able to write about the Book of Hebrews during the season of Advent. The Sunday readings for the next few weeks, today being the first, include Old Testament prophecies about Christ and the Church. Studying Hebrews concurrently removes any doubt that Jesus is Lord. He is much, much more than ‘a good man who lived 2,000+ years ago’.

If young people — with the help of a mature family member — studied the Book of Hebrews before or shortly after Confirmation, they would understand the essential nature of Jesus. The same holds true for adults. We would no longer see a drop in church attendance or a lapse in faith. Christians would understand why they believe in Jesus and why He lives and reigns forever.

Furthermore, more of us would be able to competently answer the question, ‘Why are you a Christian?’

There would also be minimal shifts by Christians towards Hebraic movements that purport to get Christianity back to Jewish roots. The Book of Hebrews proves why that is not only completely unnecessary but also erroneous.

This book is unbelievably uplifting, and all the more so at this time of year.

Next time — Hebrews 8:8-13

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:20-22

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

—————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed the perfect and everlasting priesthood of Jesus Christ after the order of Melchizedek.

The unknown author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cites Psalm 110:4 (verse 17). God is speaking to His Son:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

In order to better understand verse 20, here are the previous two verses:

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

The author refers to the imperfect nature of the Levitical priesthood, which was based on genealogy rather than character. Melchizedek preceded the Levite priests and was also a king. He blessed Abraham (Genesis 14), and from that, God began delivering His promised blessings to our father in faith and his descendants.

The author is saying that God ended the priesthood of the Old Testament and made a New Covenant with us through Jesus Christ. He did this through an oath (verse 21), one that He never made with the Levite priests.

Therefore, the New Covenant a) replaces the Old Covenant and b) is unparalleled by any other priesthood (verse 22). As such, the Hebrews whom the author addresses can have every confidence in Jesus as the Great High Priest.

John MacArthur explains, referring to the veil over the Holy of Holies, which only the high priest could see once a year for a few seconds on the Day of Atonement. After the Crucifixion, God rent the veil in the temple in Jerusalem, meaning that Jesus became our Mediator and Advocate with God the Father. People finally had access to God. Emphases mine below:

We saw that Aaron’s priesthood was limited because it couldn’t provide one thing that was primary; it couldn’t provide perfection. And another term for perfection is what? Access to God. Aaron’s priesthood could not bring men to God. All through the ministry of Aaron and the Levites, the veil remained. Right? There never was access to God. The one thing men needed most couldn’t be provided by Aaron. Therefore, there had to come another priest who could bring access to God, a priest after a different order, and that is Jesus Christ. And David, in Psalm 110:4, when he made the statement concerning Messiah, “Thou art a priest forever after the of Melchizedek,” was prophesying that when Messiah did come, He indeed would be a priest after a different order” …

The goal of our faith is access to God. The goal of Christianity is to bring men into the presence of God: that Jesus Christ could do; Aaron could not. The veil always remained. But in Christ, the [ve]il was – what? – was rent and access was made. And in verse 19 of chapter [7], we go into the presence of God where our forerunner has entered, verse 20, and we are anchored there. That’s something Aaron couldn’t do.

The design for us is that we have access to God.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us:

There is a change in that covenant of which the priesthood was a security and the priest a surety; that is, a change in the dispensation of that covenant. The gospel dispensation is more full, free, perspicuous, spiritual, and efficacious, than that of the law. Christ is in this gospel covenant a surety for us to God and for God to us, to see that the articles be performed on both parts He, as surety, has united the divine and human nature together in his own person, and therein given assurance of reconciliation; and he has, as surety, united God and man together in the bond of the everlasting covenant. He pleads with men to keep their covenant with God, and he pleads with God that he will fulfil his promises to men, which he is always ready to do in a way suitable to his majesty and glory, that is, through a Mediator.

This post is appearing fortuitously on Reign of Christ Sunday in 2019, the final Sunday in the Church year. The readings are here.

Christ reigns as King; this day used to be known as Christ the King Sunday.

Christ also reigns as Great High Priest.

He reigns as both forevermore.

In that sense, He is like Melchizedek, who was both king and priest. Melchizedek did not inherit his priesthood. He was a priest because of his excellent character.

Aaron and the other Jewish priests were never kings.

Jesus Christ is both King and Priest, sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

He is our guarantor of salvation.

MacArthur explains:

Jesus Christ Himself engaged as the guarant[o]r in the service of the Father says to the Father, “Charge to my account whatever my people do, and I will fully pay their debts. Whatever they owe; I’ll pay it.” He’s the guarantee so that our covenant with God can never be violated. Every time we bring a debt to bear, Jesus pays it. And therefore, the covenant is maintained. You see?

Our covenant with God cannot ever be broken, because as soon as a debt exists, Christ pays it. Isn’t that a fantastic thing? Wrapped up in that is the security of the believer. He pays every debt instantly upon its being owed. He is the surety of a better covenant. And dear ones, there was no such surety in the old covenant. When you blew it, you had to come crawling back all by yourself. But in Jesus Christ, we have the surety of a better covenant. He is our guarantee; not only is He willing to be, better than that, He’s able. I like that part. Right? And God is completely satisfied with His performance. The only question remaining is are you satisfied with Him? He is the surety of a better covenant. If you’re satisfied with Him and what He’s done in your behalf, that’s all you need. He takes care of the covenant.

I hope that this gives us a lot to think about as we contemplate Christ the King today.

And, as we are one week away from Advent, it is worth considering the previous posts from Hebrews 7 about the universal priesthood that Christ represents: the priestly order of Melchizedek, Melchizedek and Abraham, Jesus compared to Melchizedek and His eternal, sufficient and superior priesthood.

The closing verses of Hebrews 7 are read on one of the Sundays in Pentecost (Year B of the three-year Lectionary). They provide more insight into the perfection of Jesus. These, too, will help to heighten our experience of Advent as a time of spiritual preparation as we recall our Lord’s earthly birth in a month’s time:

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[a] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

A Son who humbled Himself to be amongst mankind and who gave Himself in obedience to the Father as the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

May we be ever grateful.

Next time — Hebrews 8:1-7

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:15-19

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

—————————————————————————————

Last week’s entry discussed the Hebrews author’s explanation of a change in priesthood — from the Jewish (Aaron) to the universal (Melchizedek) — with Jesus Christ as our everlasting Great High Priest.

The theme of today’s passage is Jesus Christ as ‘a better hope’.

Hebrews 7:14 says:

14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

From that, the author goes on to say that another priest has arisen in the likes of Melchizedek — a universal priest. The author is referring to Jesus (verse 15).

John MacArthur points out that Scripture tells us this early on — in Genesis 49:10 (emphases mine):

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;[a]
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

MacArthur says:

Verse 15, “And it is yet far more evident: for after the similitude of Melchizedek, there ariseth another Priest.” Far more evident. In other words, the evidence – the logic is overwhelming that the Levitical priesthood is now obsolete. It’s evident. It’s as evident as is the fact that Jesus came from Judah, which is also evident, Genesis 49:10 tells us Messiah would be from Judah. Even the genealogy of Jesus, if anybody wanted to check into it, they all have to find out is that He went to – His parents went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, which meant they were from the tribe of Judah. “Bethlehem, though thou be little among the sons of Judah,” said Micah, “out of thee shall He come forth who is to be ruler over my people Israel.” So, it was evident that He came from Judah. It was more evident, because of that, that the whole Levitical system had been set aside, and after the similitude of Melchizedek, there arises another priest, a greater priest. The priesthood of Christ was no temporary thing; it was sufficient; it was permanent; it was abiding. It was the fulfillment of prophecy.

Jesus evidently, obviously fulfilling that promise. So, He says, “Don’t cling to Judaism. In effect it’s defunct. We have a superior Priest.”

MacArthur draws our attention to two words in verse 15: ‘another’ and ‘arises’.

With regard to ‘another’, he explains the Greek used in the original:

Now, watch this word “another.” Mm-mmm, that’s interesting. “It is far more evident for after the similitude of Melchizedek, there arises another priest.” Now, in the Greek there are two words for “another.” We may have talked about them before. This word here is heteros. There is one word for another allos, and it means another of the same kind. This one, heteros means another of a different kind. Let’s assume that I wanted to get rid of my Volvo. I don’t want to get rid of it necessarily, but let’s assume, for illustration, that I did. So, I drive my Volvo down to the car dealer, and I drive it in, and I say to the car dealer, “I would like to trade my Volvo for another Volvo.” That would be allos Volvo. But let’s say I say to the man, “No, this time I’m not happy; I want to trade my car for another car; my Volvo for, say, a Rolls Royce.” I mean why not? It’s only an illustration; live it up.

In the first case, I’m trading a Volvo for a Volvo. That’s the same thing. In the second case, I’m saying, “I don’t like my Volvo; I want another kind of car that’s different than mine.” That is the word used here. We do not have another priest just like the other ones; we have another One who can do what the other ones couldn’t do. That’s the point of another – a rich, rich word showing the distinction between Christ and Aaronic priests. So, another priest had to come, and it was evident that He did, not like Aaron, but a different priest of a different order, who could do what Aaron couldn’t do.

Moving on to ‘arises’, he says:

There’s a wonderful note on that word – anistatai – this won’t mean anything to some of you. Paul will understand this. It’s a present middle indicative. And what it comes from is anistēmi, which means to arise. But anything in the middle voice is reflexive. That means to arise by myself. No Aaronic priest could ever use that in the middle voice, “There ariseth by himself another priest.” No. No. He would arise by virtue of his mother and father, not of himself. In other words, the Aaronic priest would have to say, “I am a priest not by myself, but because I’ve inherited the right.” Jesus said, “I just arose a Priest by Myself.”

Let me give you another thought. Anistēmi is used in Acts 2:32 to refer to His resurrection. He Himself raised Himself from the dead. And so, when that little word says that there ariseth another priest, He arose and declared Himself a priest uniquely on His own character, and He arose from the dead to establish that He indeed was a Priest. What an exciting thing to get into the words and see what God is really saying.

So, a different priest.

The Hebrews author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, reminded his audience that the Jewish priesthood depended upon heredity and physical perfection, to a degree, whereas Christ’s priesthood is dependent upon His indestructible life (verse 16). He lives and reigns forever.

MacArthur describes the ordination ceremony of Jewish priests:

To be a priest, you had to be a pure descendant of Aaron, and there were at least 142 physical blemishes that could disqualify you. Those were the only disqualifications. If you made it through as a physical specimen, it didn’t matter what you were spiritually, you were in. You can read Leviticus 21 and you’ll find some of those qualifications.

The ordination ceremony is outlined in Leviticus 8, and it goes like this: first of all, the man who was being inducted into the priesthood was bathed in water to be ceremonially clean. All external. All physical. He was clothed in four priestly garments: the linen knee breeches, long linen garment, the girdle, and the bonnet or the turban. He was anointed with oil. He was dabbed with sacrificial blood on the tip of his right ear, his right thumb, and his right big toe. Every single item in the whole deal had to do with his physical body. It was all a fleshly rule. It was all a physical issue. And once he had been ordained, he had to go through certain washings and anointings with oil and had his hair cut a certain way and so forth and so on. It was all physical. It had nothing to do with character, ability, personality, or holiness at all. Their whole ministry was physical. Even in chapter 9, verse 13, it indicates this, “For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the” – what? – “flesh.” You see? The whole thing was physical. It was only physical. And all these things make up the law of a fleshly commandment. They were priests because of bodily rules. It had to do with their physical body. Watch this, “Who is made” – verse 16 – “not after the law of a fleshly commandment, but after the power of a indestructible life.” That’s a different kind of priest isn’t it? Nothing to do with the physical body, but to do with eternal power. That’s the kind of priest Jesus was.

In the case of the Levitical priesthood, no matter how ill suited he was and reluctant to take the office, the law made a man a priest by his pedigree. It was outside compulsion. In the case of Jesus Christ, it was the inside compulsion of a life that couldn’t dissolve, of an eternal kind of power. He was a Priest by eternal power. He had an inward priesthood. Not a physical claim, but an eternal claim. And thus, by His eternal power, He can do what no priest could ever do; He can give us access to God.

The author cites Psalm 110:4 (verse 17), the only other mention of Melchizedek in the Old Testament. God is speaking to His Son:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

The author of Hebrews says that the old law regarding priesthood was set aside because it could not achieve anything of lasting benefit (verse 18).

Matthew Henry explains:

The Levitical priesthood brought nothing to perfection: it could not justify men’s persons from guilt; it could not sanctify them from inward pollution; it could not cleanse the consciences of the worshippers from dead works

As such, the author says the old law made nothing perfect, but that, with Christ, we have ‘a better hope’ and, through Him, we are finally able to draw near to God (verse 19). The veil in the temple, shielding the Holy of Holies, was rent upon His death on the Cross. That meant Christ became our only Mediator and Advocate with God the Father.

Indeed, Christ offers a far better hope than Aaron or any of the other priests of the Old Covenant.

MacArthur analyses verses 18 and 19 for us:

He takes us to God and anchors us there. And that no Aaronic priest could ever do. He is the one who brings us to perfection. His priesthood, based upon eternal power, accomplishes access to God.

And that is the theme of verses 18 and 19. This is the climax of the text. Aaron is replaced by Christ. Let me read you 18 and 19, correcting the punctuation so it become clear. “For there is verily an annulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness of it.” God set aside the old standard. Now watch – now put a parenthesis at the beginning of verse 19 – “For the law made nothing perfect” – close parenthesis – but the bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw near unto God.” Or you chose “and.” Let me read it this way, “For there is verily an annulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness of it (for the law made nothing perfect) and the bringing in of a better hope” – cross out “did” – “by which we draw near unto God.” You see?

God says, “I am setting aside the old one, and I’m bringing in a new one.” And in the new covenant, you have – what? – access to God. Now the word “disannulling” – athetēsis – has to do with the doing away of something that is established. It is used, for example, of annulling a treaty; of annulling a promise, a law, a regulation; of erasing a man’s name from something. It has to do with removing what is established. The whole paraphernalia of the sacrificial system, the whole ceremonial system is wiped out. It is annulled; it is done away with. God wipes it out. And he wiped it out for good in 70 A.D. when He destroyed the temple.

The old system could reveal sin; it could cover sin; it could give a relative measure of drawing near to God, but not full perfection; it brought nothing to conclusion. But the priesthood of Jesus Christ made all that Israel looked forward to a reality: access to God.

Many of us have been brought up in the Christian faith all our lives. So often, we have taken it for granted, myself included. This is why I appreciate reading Hebrews. It reminds me of the great gift and the great hope that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Privately, I plan to reflect upon Hebrews during the weeks of Advent, which will make the prophecies of the Sunday readings even clearer and more profound.

The theme of priesthood in light of Psalm 110:4 continues next week.

Next time — Hebrews 7:20-22

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:11-14

Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry delved deeper into the universal priesthood of Melchizedek, a king and priest to whom Abraham paid homage and a tithe (Genesis 14). Melchizedek, in turn, blessed him. That is all we know about Melchizedek. After that, the next few chapters of Genesis reveal how God blessed Abraham.

These are the important verses from that entry (emphases mine):

It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.

One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Aaron and all the Jewish priests were descended from Levi.

As John MacArthur points out, Melchizedek preceded the Levitical priesthood and was a universal priest of God-fearing men. Similarly, Jesus, who was not of the Levites, is a universal priest according to the order of Melchizedek:

You see, Melchizedek wasn’t a priest by any physical standard. He was a priest because of his character. And in that sense, he pictures Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ can do what Aaron couldn’t do; he takes us into the presence of God, and He anchors us there.

Although Hebrews is aimed at early Jewish converts who could not leave ceremonial and ritual law behind as well as at Jewish people who were still mulling over whether Jesus is Messiah, we Christians have much to learn from this book, which explains the eternal pre-eminence of Christ as King and Great High Priest.

It is important for every Christian to understand that Jesus accomplished what the Levite priests could never do, and that was to break down the barrier to God. Recall that, before the destruction of the temple, only the high priest could enter into the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, once a year on the Day of Atonement and only for a few seconds because even he was not worthy of being there.

At the Crucifixion, after Jesus died on the Cross, God rent the veil of the tabernacle, meaning that people would come to Him through His Son, who had made the full, perfect, sufficient sacrifice for our sins.

MacArthur explains:

Drawing near to God is the goal of Christianity. That’s the whole point. This is the essence of Christianity. This is its highest experience. This is the design of God for Christianity: access to His presence. Coming into His presence with nothing between. And I think sometimes we forget this. Christians look at their Christian life usually in three or at least three ways. Some look at their Christian life, and they see Jesus Christ only as a means to salvation and personal happiness. And that’s about how they look at their Christian life: they’re looking for happiness; they’re on a quest for security. They found Jesus; there’s their happiness; there’s their security. And that’s about as far as it ever goes.

Other people look at their Christian life like this: they see it as a relationship to Jesus Christ, and they seek to know Christ better. Now, that’s fine, just as number one was fine. But still, they haven’t grasped really what Christianity is. It’s not just security and happiness; it’s not just knowing Jesus Christ deeper and deeper.

Thirdly – and this is the key; this is what Christianity really is – some Christians understand that Christianity is drawing nigh unto God. That is the essence of Christianity. That’s what it is. The fullest expression of our faith is to enter into the presence of God, into the Holy of Holies, and to sit on the throne with Him. That’s the fullest expression of our faith.

Jesus is the door to God, and in a sense, many Christians fellowship with the door and never get into the Holy of Holies. We need to understand that the design of God, in our faith, is to bring us into a full kind of access to the God of the universe.

With regard to Hebrews 7, beginning with today’s verses and continuing to the end of the chapter, the author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, uses Psalm 110:4 as an illustration of Christ’s universal priesthood:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

First, the author examines the Levite priesthood, supreme to the Jews of that time. He asks his audience to consider whether, if it were so perfect, even though those priests were the ones to uphold Mosaic law, why there would be a need for any other priesthood, one after the order of Melchizedek (verse 11). If one form of priesthood is perfect, surely, there is no need for another.

Yet, those priests had to continue offering sacrifices, generation after generation. Therefore, it could not have been perfect.

As Matthew Henry points out, it was a framework for the future, one that, by necessity, would come to an end:

They could not put those who came to them into the perfect enjoyment of the good things they pointed out to them; they could only show them the way.

MacArthur directs us to Psalm 110:4 (above):

If God had intended the Aaronic priesthood to introduce the age of perfection, the time of perfect access to God, why would He then have prophesied Messiah to be a priest of a different order?

You see, when God set aside Israel, that was no accident. God had planned that way back in the Old Testament, even before the world began. God knew Messiah would be a different priest, because He knew the Aaronic priesthood was imperfect.

Jesus supercedes any Jewish priest — and Mosaic Law — because He is now our Great High Priest. As the author of Hebrews says, a change of priesthood necessitates a change in the law (verse 12).

Henry explains:

That therefore another priest must be raised up, after the order of Melchisedec, by whom, and his law of faith, perfection might come to all who obey him; and, blessed be God, that we may have perfect holiness and perfect happiness by Christ in the covenant of grace, according to the gospel, for we are complete in him

a new priesthood must be under a new regulation, managed in another way, and by rules proper to its nature and order.

MacArthur discusses the Greek used in the original text, meaning ‘to replace’:

So, if there’s going to be a different priesthood, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Now, the idea of change here, metatithēmi, means to put one thing in the place of another. You don’t add Christianity to Judaism; you take away Judaism and you put Christianity in. You replace it. The priesthood of Melchizedek was not added to Aaron’s; it replaced it. You see it there, “For the priesthood being changed” – metatithēmi, replacing another one. Aaron’s is defunct. It says, then, “There is made of necessity a change also of the law.”

The ‘law’ as discussed here relates to the ceremonial and ritual law of the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments, which mandate that we love God above all and that we love our neighbour as ourselves, still stand.

MacArthur tells us:

Certainly there’s not a doing away of God’s moral law; it’s not all of a sudden right for us to say, “Well, we’re under the new covenant. We may now commit adultery, steal, lie, covet, etcetera, etcetera, take the Lord’s name in vain.” No, God does not set aside his moral law.

The author of Hebrews moves on to Jesus, saying that He did not descend from a line of Old Testament priests (verse 13). He came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never said anything about priests coming from that group of people (verse 14).

So, the priest has changed, the priesthood became universal and Mosaic law became obsolete.

Henry says:

This change of the family shows a real change of the law of the priesthood

the high priest of our profession holds his office by that innate power of endless life which he has in himself, not only to preserve himself alive, but to communicate spiritual and eternal life to all those who duly rely upon his sacrifice and intercession

the priesthood of Christ carries in it, and brings along with it, a better hope; it shows us the true foundation of all the hope we have towards God for pardon and salvation; it more clearly discovers the great objects of our hope; and so it tends to work in us a more strong and lively hope of acceptance with God. By this hope we are encouraged to draw nigh unto God, to enter into a covenant-union with him, to live a life of converse and communion with him. We may now draw near with a true heart, and with the full assurance of faith, having our minds sprinkled from an evil conscience. The former priesthood rather kept men at a distance, and under a spirit of bondage.

That bondage was one of sin, but also one of ceremony and ritual, as MacArthur explains. As we saw during my series on Acts, the tensions between Jews and Christians were palpable, not unlike those that the new converts of Hebrews had endured:

some who had come to Christ, were still worshiping at the temple, still hanging on to the ritual of the old system. And the setting aside was extremely difficult for the Jews to grasp. In fact, so difficult that it was the reason they stoned Stephen and they vented their wrath on Paul on that very basis. The issue of setting aside the old.

And even some believers, even some who had been redeemed obstinately contended that the Mosaic system still remained in force. And you had to go through all the rigmarole of the Levitical priesthood still. I think that’s the issue in Acts – yes – 21:20, “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto Him, ‘Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews are there who believe; and they are all zealous of the law.’” There were Jews being saved but not breaking with the old system. It was the same contention that caused so much trouble in the early Church you remember. The early Church was always being harassed by the Judaizers; that’s the word that means certain Jews who came in and tried to impose the whole Old Testament system on the Christians. They were telling the Christians you had to be circumcised, and you had to go through the Aaronic priesthood, and you had to go through all the sacrifices and so forth. And the book of Galatians is really written as kind of a reaction to that. And in Galatians chapter 4, verse 9, writing to this very problem, he says, “But now, after you have known God, why are you turning to the weak and beggarly elements unto which you desire again to be in bondage?” You already have access to God, why do you want to back out of the Holy of Holies and go through the ritual in front of the veil again? You see?

He says, “You observe days, and months, and times, and years.” You’re back into the old ceremonies. Chapter 5 he says, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Don’t go back to the old rituals, the old system. You’ve been turned loose. “For in Jesus Christ” – verse 6 – “neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision” – that isn’t the issue any longer. That’s over with.

The Transfiguration illustrates this issue, as MacArthur explains. This is exceptionally important to remember:

Mark 9, listen to it, “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Master, it’s good for us to be here’” – he’s up on the mountain – “‘let us make three booths, one for thee, and one for Moses, and on for Elijah.’” – now watch – “For he knew not what to say” – which was often his problem ; it never seemed to stop him from saying anything – “for they were very much afraid.” Peter just kind of blurted it out. Now watch. “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son: hear Him.’” Now watch. “And suddenly, when they had looked around about, they saw no man any more, except Jesus only.”

God said, “Don’t listen to Moses and Elijah; this is my Son,” do what? – “hear Him.” You see, in a sense, God was illustrating that the old covenant had passed. And after the thunderstorm – after the cloud or whatever it was had vanished, they saw Jesus only. That’s the point. The old system is defunct.

I’d never thought about it that way, but that’s an excellent point — and one I’d not read or heard of before. I understand the Transfiguration much better now.

In next week’s reading, the author continues to discuss Psalm 110:4. More insights will follow.

Next time — Hebrews 7:15-19

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:4-10

4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers,[a] though these also are descended from Abraham.6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

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Last week’s post offered a lengthy explanation of the importance of Melchizedek and his universal priesthood, not only to Abraham but to us today.

Melchizedek’s priesthood pre-dated that of the Jewish people. Abraham, at that point, had not yet received God’s promises to him, but this encounter with Melchizedek began their fulfilment.

The unknown author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was in the beginning points of his dissertation on Melchizedek being a higher priest than those of Jews, as his priesthood was for all who feared God. The author developed this argument, point by point, weighing heavily on the notion of universal priesthood. Melchizedek was a ‘type’ of Christ, yet not Christ himself. Christ, however, fulfilled God’s will of becoming the great and eternal High Priest for all — including Gentiles.

Furthermore, Melchizedek was also the ‘king of peace’ (Hebrews 7:2), because he was from Salem (which means ‘peace’, probably Jerusalem). Christ is the Prince of Peace: yesterday, today and forever.

We will see how this dissertation on Melchizedek develops in the coming weeks.

John MacArthur summarises the Holy Spirit’s reasoning as follows (emphases mine below):

Now, in this argument, the Holy Spirit shows that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham because He wants to show that he was greater than Aaron and Levi. Now, the point being that Abraham was better than Aaron and Levi. Therefore, if Melchizedek was better than Abraham, he was also better than Aaron and Levi. If he’s better than Aaron and Levi, he’s the mediator of a better covenant, and you ought to turn from Judaism and come to Christ. Do you see the argument?

Last week’s verses covered Abraham’s one-off tithe to Melchizedek: one-tenth of his spoils in battle with a neighbouring king. Those were not cast-offs, either, but the very best of the spoils.

Melchizedek blessed Abraham (verse 6), the man to whom God made promises that continue to be fulfilled today through descendants of Jew and Gentile alike. Abraham is our father in faith.

Considering that Abraham made a tithe to Melchizedek and received his blessing, undoubtedly, Abraham was the inferior of the two men (verse 7).

Matthew Henry says that it was Melchizedek’s:

place and privilege to bless Abraham; and it is an uncontested maxim that the less is blessed of the greater, Hebrews 7:7. He who gives the blessing is greater than he who receives it;

Therefore, in comparing Christ and Melchizedek in their universal priesthood, we can conclude that Christ is superior to the Jewish priests:

and therefore Christ, the antitype of Melchisedec, the meriter and Mediator of all blessings to the children of men, must be greater than all the priests of the order of Aaron.

The author states that in verse 8, as John MacArthur explains the ongoing priesthood in the order of Melchizedek. Even though Melchizedek died, the universal order of priesthood continues and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever:

Look at verse 8, “And here men that die receive tithes” – you know, Melchizedek was of an eternal priesthood in the type; Christ is an eternal Priest, and if we tithe to priests that die, “but where he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.” In other words, to be able to exact tithes in a dying kind of priesthood is one thing; how much greater Melchizedek had no death. And so, Jesus Christ is a Priest who is alive forever more. “He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed He liveth.”

And so, He is a greater priest because He’s a living priest; not a dying one. All men are dying men. The idea that it says in verse 8, “Here men that die” is the – the Greek is “here dying men receive tithes, but this is one who is alive forever more.”

Verses 9 and 10 are interesting, because the author of Hebrews posits that, figuratively, even the Jewish priests paid tithes to Melchizedek through their ancestor Abraham. Therefore, Melchizedek was greater than the Jewish priests. And if Jesus is greater than Melchizedek, it was time for the audience, the Hebrews, to believe that Christ is the eternal Great High Priest.

MacArthur breaks down the Jewish thinking for us:

And then comes this interesting argument in verse 9, “And as I may say” – in other words, he kid of apologizes for the strangeness of the argument; nevertheless it’s valid – “And as I may say so, “Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.” The only one argument that would be left would be this: a Jew would say, “Now wait a minute. Now let me think this thing through. Melchizedek, yes, Abraham paid him tithes, but Abraham was no priest. Right? Therefore, the Levites were priests, and maybe they were greater than Abraham. And maybe if Abraham had been a priest, he wouldn’t have done that, and maybe the Levites wouldn’t have done it.”

And so He says, “Levi also, who receives tithes, paid them in the loins of Abraham.” Now, this is an interesting argument, and you’ve got to understand the Jewish mind. The Jews viewed heredity in a realistic manner. Levi was in the loins of Abraham since he was to descend from Abraham. When Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, it was as if the entire Levitical priesthood had acknowledged his superiority. And so, that answers the last objection.

Melchizedek, then, is better than Aaron. Now this is a powerful point to the Jewish mind. And in a sense I apologize to you and to me even, because without a Jewish frame of reference, this is difficult for us to understand. But Melchizedek was of a better priesthood. Jesus came after the order of Melchizedek.

Even though Genesis 14:18-20 is the one primary mention of Melchizedek, it had to appear in Scripture to show that a) there were men of God among the Gentiles and b) that Jesus would fulfil a pattern of priesthood that God established through Melchizedek. If that example of universal priesthood were not in Scripture, the Jews would have rejected any arguments about it:

Don’t you see that He couldn’t just invent a new priesthood without a historical precedent or they wouldn’t have bought it?

The argument for the superiority of this universal priesthood unfolds further next week.

In the meantime, Hebrews has many answers to the question, ‘What makes Jesus and Christianity so special?’ We can learn much from what was written to the early Jewish converts.

Next time — Hebrews 7:11-14

Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 7:1-3

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

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In last week’s reading the author of Hebrews began discussing spiritual meat, rather than milk, by introducing Abraham’s unwavering faith in God.

In today’s passage, he brings into scope the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek.

Melchizedek is mentioned in prayers of consecration during the Communion service in Catholic and Anglican (including Episcopal) churches, using a phraseology similar to Hebrews 6:20 in describing Christ (emphases mine below):

20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Given Melchizedek’s importance, the Old Testament has very little history on the man himself.

We have three lines from Genesis 14, where he appears after Abraham won the war against various kings, which included the liberation of his nephew Lot and the recovery of Lot’s possessions:

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,

Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessor[a] of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

There is another mention in Psalm 110:4:

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

The Book of Hebrews has the most to say about Melchizedek. He foreshadowed Christ, and Christ’s priesthood surpasses his.

The notion of priesthood and Melchizedek all gets quite complicated — but nonetheless fascinating — as we shall see from John MacArthur’s sermon below.

To begin with, I will look at a more general explanation from Matthew Henry after discussing the verses themselves.

The author of Hebrews reminds his Jewish audience of Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham (verse 1).

In return, Abraham recognised Melchizedek’s stature as both king and priest (verse 2). As such, Abraham gave Melchizedek one-tenth of his spoils won in battle. These were not the middling spoils, but the very best. Abraham understood that Melchizedek’s name meant ‘king of righteousness’ and ‘king of Salem’, meaning ‘king of peace’.

The author of Hebrews says that we know nothing more about Melchizedek in Scripture (verse 3) — or history, for that matter. That said, he was a very important person in terms of universal priesthood. God chose Melchizedek for his character, not his lineage. Jewish priests were chosen from their tribe, e.g. Levites, or lineage.

The author says that this brief mention of Melchizedek’s priesthood should serve as a timeless example of what serving God should be, like the priesthood of Jesus Christ, whose eternal priesthood surpasses that of Melchizedek’s temporal one.

Excerpted below is Matthew Henry’s explanation:

(1.) Melchisedec was a king, and so is the Lord Jesus–a king of God’s anointing; the government is laid upon his shoulders, and he rules over all for the good of his people. (2.) That he was king of righteousness: his name signifies the righteous king. Jesus Christ is a rightful and a righteous king–rightful in his title, righteous in his government. He is the Lord our righteousness; he has fulfilled all righteousness, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, and he loves righteousness and righteous persons, and hates iniquity. (3.) He was king of Salem, that is, king of peace; first king of righteousness, and after that king of peace. So is our Lord Jesus; he by his righteousness made peace, the fruit of righteousness is peace. Christ speaks peace, creates peace, is our peace-maker. (4.) He was priest of the most high God, qualified and anointed in an extraordinary manner to be his priest among the Gentiles. So is the Lord Jesus; he is the priest of the most high God, and the Gentiles must come to God by him; it is only through his priesthood that we can obtain reconciliation and remission of sin. (5.) He was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, Hebrews 7:3. This must not be understood according to the letter; but the scripture has chosen to set him forth as an extraordinary person, without giving us his genealogy … (6.) That he met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him … Thus our Lord Jesus meets his people in their spiritual conflicts, refreshes them, renews their strength, and blesses them. (7.) That Abraham gave him a tenth part of all (Hebrews 7:2) … as an expression of his gratitude for what Melchisedec had done for him, or as a testimony of his homage and subjection to him as a king, or as an offering vowed and dedicated to God, to be presented by his priest. And thus are we obliged to make all possible returns of love and gratitude to the Lord Jesus for all the rich and royal favours we receive from him, to pay our homage and subjection to him as our King, and to put all our offerings into his hands, to be presented by him to the Father in the incense of his own sacrifice. (8.) That this Melchisedec was made like unto the Son of God, and abideth a priest continually. He bore the image of God in his piety and authority, and stands upon record as an immortal high priest; the ancient type of him who is the eternal and only-begotten of the Father, who abideth a priest for ever.

John MacArthur has much more on the subject.

First, Melchizedek is a symbol — a type — representing Christ:

Now, there’s much in the Scripture that comes under the category of typology. There are many theological terms that we use in Bible study and in Bible teaching. One of them is typology. Whenever we talk about a type, we mean an Old Testament picture of the person and work of Christ. For example, in the Old Testament we read about a brazen serpent being lifted up, and all who looked upon the serpent were healed from the snake bites. And then we hear in John chapter 3 that that is a picture of Jesus Christ. And it says, “As the Son of Man was lifted – as the serpent was lifted up, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up, and those who look on Him in faith shall be healed from sin.”

We read in the Old Testament about lambs being slain, and then we hear the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God” in reference to Jesus Christ. There are many pictures in the Old Testament of Christ. We call these types, and Christ is the antitype or the fulfillment of that type

But as we come to Hebrews chapter 7, we meet another Old Testament type. Now, keep in mind that types are always frail illustrations at best. A lamb rates no comparison with the Lamb of God realistically. Nor does a serpent of brass rate a relationship to Jesus Christ realistically. They are merely humble pictures meant to give us insight from an illustrative point of view. And we say at the same time that Melchizedek in no way deserves an equality with Jesus Christ. But he does serve as a very interesting picture of Christ

The author of Hebrews begins a long dissertation on Melchizedek because the priesthood was — and still is — very important to the Jewish faith.

To a certain extent, it is also central to Christianity, because a priest, or minister, is seen by many believers to be the bridge between laypeople and Jesus as well as God. Note the word ‘pontifex’ below, which Catholicism uses to describe the Pope:

And the Latin word for priest is pontifex, taken apart and it means bridge builder. The priest was the one who built the bridge from man to God. And to the Jew, the priesthood was really very, very important. To them, you see, religion was access to God. And since they couldn’t go directly to God, they had to go through a mediator, and the priests were designed to be mediators.

The high priests offered the main Jewish sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. The high priest was the only person allowed into the Holy of Holies, and, even then, he could only stay there for a moment because he himself was not worthy.

Recall that, after the Crucifixion, the curtain shielding the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem was rent in two, meaning that Jesus — not a human high priest — is our only Mediator and Advocate with God the Father. Jesus Christ offered the true, final, sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. The author of Hebrews wants his audience to understand this by beginning with a discussion of Melchizedek.

In God’s covenant with the Jews, priesthood was based on hereditary lines:

This was how God designed it, that certain men would be called out, set apart, sons of Aaron and Levi, to minister as priests. And they would build bridges between men and God according to God’s specifications.

Sacrifices went on and on for centuries. Then, Jesus sacrificed Himself for countless sins of Jew and Gentile alike, ending the Old Covenant and instituting a New Covenant:

And what they did, they had to do over and over and over again. And finally, a great, glorious priest has come along.

Now, you see, to the Jew this is very important, because he knows of no way to get yourself connected with God apart from a priest. And so, the Holy Spirit says, “Christ is that perfect priest. Not only does He fit the qualifications of a priest, but he supersedes any qualifications of any priest you’ve ever seen. He’s far beyond.”

Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest, forever and ever:

Now, here the Holy Spirit introduces the priesthood of Christ and says, “We have such a Great High Priest. We have a Great High Priest. You don’t need the priests of Judaism anymore. You don’t need the old system. There is a Great High Priest. There is a bridge builder whose bridge stays, whose bridge remains. And once you cross that bridge, you’ll remain eternally in the fellowship of God. There is such a bridge builder, and it is Jesus Christ.

Note that the author of Hebrews discusses Melchizedek because he was a priest of the Most High God, the creator of all. Melchizedek was not a Jewish priest, because God had not created the Jewish priestly system at that point. The Jews referred to the God who made the Old Covenant with them as Jehovah. Both names refer to the same God, but the Most High God referred to the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews whereas Jehovah refers to the God of the Jewish covenant.

MacArthur compares and contrasts Melchizedek’s universal priesthood — a foretelling of Christ’s — with Aaron’s priesthood, which was strictly for the Jewish nation. Furthermore, Melchizedek was a king. However, no Jewish priest was a king himself, nor was he a bringer of permanent righteousness and peace with God:

Now, Aaron’s priesthood was national to begin with. In other words, it was strictly Judaistic. The particulars that were under Aaron were priests of Israel. Secondly, the priests were subject to the kings in a measure. They were not kings themselves; they were subjects in a kingdom. Thirdly, Aaron’s priesthood offered no permanent righteousness and peace, only that continual, continual, continual sacrificing. Nothing ever permanent. It never established a permanent righteousness for a man nor permanent peace with God. That peace and that righteous was shattered every time they sinned. Constant repetition.

Fourthly, Aaron’s priesthood was hereditary. It didn’t matter how good of a guy you were, if you were born in the right family, you were automatically a priest no matter what you were. Now, that poses some problems, obviously. Fifthly, it was a timed priesthood. They only existed in it from the year – from the age of about 25 to 50 and it was over. It was limited by time.

So, Aaron’s priesthood was a national one, subject to kings, no permanent righteousness and peace, hereditary, and limited by time. Now, this is very important for us to understand because Melchizedek’s priesthood supersedes Aaron’s at every single point. Therefore, says the Holy Spirit, Christ is a better priest than Aaron.

The author of Hebrews is positing a question in his audience’s collective mind. Do they want to follow a Jewish priestly system or do they want to follow a high priest who is also a king of righteousness and peace in the same way that Melchizedek was? There is only one high priest who can satisfy that criteria and that is Jesus Christ.

Looking at Melchizedek’s priesthood, we find that:

Melchizedek’s priesthood was universal. It was not national; it was universal.

At this point, MacArthur explains the difference between the Jewish names ‘the Most High God’ and ‘Jehovah’:

In relation to Israel, God took the name of Jehovah … God’s name is I Am. Right? YHWH in the Hebrew. But no Jew would say the name of God. And so, since the Jews didn’t want to say the name Jehovah, they took the consonants of Jehovah and the vowels out of Adonai, which means Lord, and stuck them together and got Yehowah which is Jehovah. So, Jehovah’s not really the name of God; it’s only that name which Israel came up with in an effort not to say YHWH and yet express who they wanted to express. So, it’s a combination word, Jehovah, and it deals strictly with Israel. And watch this, Aaron’s priests were priests of Jehovah. You remember that all the line of Aaron, the Levite line of Aaron, were – and incidentally, within the line of the Levites, you still had to be a son of Aaron. But all of those who came from Aaron were priests only of Jehovah. That is they were related to God only in connection with Israel. They couldn’t run over here and minister of there and here and everywhere else. They were tied to Israel’s economy.

But watch this. It does not say that Melchizedek was the priest of Jehovah; it says he was the priest of – what? – the Most High God. Now, that is a universal name for God, El Elyon, and it reaches everywhere and everything in heaven and earth. It is the universal name of God that includes Jew and Gentile. Far broader than the Jewish term Jehovah.

So, whereas Aaron’s priesthood related just to Israel, Melchizedek’s was broader than that and related to all men. Now, when the Holy Spirit says Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, do you see the significance? The significance is this: Jesus is not just the Messiah of Israel but of the world. So, it is very important to establish Melchizedek’s priesthood as universal if you’re going to say Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Now, you see the Jew – in the Jewish mind there had to be a historical reason for everything or a historical foundation. And so, God chooses Melchizedek as His perfect foundation to teach this truth. There have been priests who’ve been broader than Israel before; there’s no reason to believe there can’t be some more. And there is one, Jesus Christ. So, it transcends Israel.

MacArthur’s version of the Bible makes this clearer; Abraham used both names for God:

Now, Abraham understood this concept, because in Genesis 14:22, he said, in response to Melchizedek, “I have lifted up my hand unto Jehovah” – and then he said – comma – “God Most High.” So, he understood Jehovah in the covenant relationship; he also underst[oo]d Jehovah in the sense that He was God of everything.

The name Most High God appears elsewhere in the Bible:

In Daniel, for example, where the first great king of the Gentiles, Nebuchadnezzar is brought through seven years of humbling until he finally acknowledges the facts of God, he says this. He knew that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “The Most High doeth according to His will in heaven and in earth.” And here was a Gentile acknowledging the Most High. That’s a term that has reference to Gentiles. That’s a broad term for God.

And you’ll remember that even the demons, when our Lord cast them out, cried, “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the Most High God?” And they again used the universal term for God.

Jesus has made a promise to Christians involving the Most High God:

Jesus says for those of us who come into His relationship, He promised that we shall be called the sons of the Most High. And so, the term “the Most High” is then a universal name for God in the sense of His universal rule and character as it involves all men. And this means that Melchizedek’s priesthood is not limited to a nation. He is not just priest of Jehovah; he is priest of the Most High God, El Elyon, Possessor of heaven and earth, above all national and above all dispensational distinction.

MacArthur then examines kingship, which Melchizedek and Jesus Christ have in common:

Secondly, Aaron’s priesthood was subject to royalty; Melchizedek’s was royalty. Notice verse 1, “For this Melchizedek” – what’s the next word? – “king of Salem.” Four times it says he was king. In verse 2, it says King of righteousness, King of Salem, which is, “King of peace.” Four times in two verses, it tells us this man was a king, royal priesthood. Melchizedek’s was royal. This is something totally foreign to the Aaronic priests. This is totally foreign to the Levitical priests in Israel. There was never that combination. Israel’s priests were never king and priest. That was unknown in Israel. No priest was royal. But oh, my, what a perfect blend it is. What an absolutely perfect blend that the true Priest, the Great Priest, the glorious Priest Jesus Christ should be that blend of priest and king so that He not only takes men to God, but He rules men for God.

Listen to Zechariah 6:13, “Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne” – there He is as a King – “and He shall be a priest upon His throne.” Now, that is an unheard of concept. And yet it is prophesied in Zechariah so clearly. Jesus was to be a priest, but a priest on a throne, a royal priesthood.

Now on to the identity of Salem, about which there is broad agreement but not 100% certainty. Most experts believe it is Jerusalem, but other theories suggest Shalem in the land of Canaan and Salim, where John the Baptist performed many baptisms.

Jerusalem sounds the most reasonable place for Salem when you read MacArthur’s reasoning:

… likely that’s an ancient name for Jerusalem. Jerusalem also had the name Jebus – J-E-B-U-S. The Jebusites occupied Jerusalem initially. But it may have also, at the time of Melchizedek, had the name of Salem. And so, Melchizedek could well have been an ancient king of Jerusalem. And I think that has the best evidence. The city that was the hometown of God. There’s a most wonderful statement about that in Psalm 132. I’ll take a minute to read you two verses there, Psalm 132:13, “For the Lord hath chosen Zion” – that’s Jerusalem – “He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” You didn’t know God had a hometown, did you. His hometown is Jerusalem.

And it seems to me that it would be very likely that God would have had His priest in His hometown even pre-Abraham. And so, Jerusalem had a king long before David, and a king appointed by God; and a priest long before Aaron, and a priest appointed by God. Melchizedek was king and priest of Jerusalem. Now, this is important. The Jews always felt that God dwelt with them, and that was about it; that God was exclusively theirs, and there could never be another priesthood, and there could never be another covenant. And so, when Christianity came along and says, “Here’s another covenant; here’s another priesthood,” they said, “No, it can’t be.”

Now watch this – beautiful, beautiful argument by the Spirit. “Look,” He says. “There was another priest, and there was another covenant before you existed. Why can’t there be one after?”

Ultimately:

The whole world didn’t begin with Judaism. There was something going on before God worked that way; there can be something going on after He’s finished or temporarily finished working that one. Oh, this is so important. It leaves room for the new covenant. For if God dealt differently before, why can’t He deal differently again? He didn’t need to work through the nation Israel before Abraham. Why can’t He work another way if He wants to in this economy? That’s the point.

If He had a royal priest one time, why can’t He have another one? And He does. And who is He? Jesus Christ. Something no Jewish priest ever conceived.

There is one more aspect of this to explore which is ‘righteousness’ and ‘peace’. Peace, says MacArthur, is not temporal world peace but peace with God. And we can have peace with God only if we are righteous. Therefore, righteousness must come before peace. And, if you study Scripture, you will see that ‘righteousness’ precedes ‘peace’ in every passage with the two words.

MacArthur says:

There was no permanent righteousness, and there was no permanent peace in Aaron’s priesthood. Ah, but Melchizedek’s priesthood was a priesthood of righteousness and peace. Notice verse 2, “First” – and we’ll skip the first phrase, come back to it later, “First being by interpretation King of righteousness” – and that’s a translation of Melchizedek; that’s what his name means: King of righteousness – “and after that also King of Salem, which is King of peace” – Salem, from Shalom, which means peace. His name is righteousness; his city is peace. He is a perfect combination of righteousness and peace.

Now, don’t you know that that’s exactly what all priests attempt to accomplish? What is righteousness? Righteousness is holiness. And righteousness is demanded before you can ever be at peace with God. Right? God hates sin. Therefore, if you’re a sinner, you and God are not at peace. Right? God fights against His enemies. Did you know that? God fights against His enemies. And if a man is not righteous, then he’s not at peace with God. But if a man is righteous in the eyes of God, then he’s not at war with God; he’s at peace with God. Right?

Now, Romans chapter 3, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ gave us His righteousness, and therefore, it says in chapter 5, we have peace with God.

You say, “Well, how do you get righteous?”

When the righteousness of Christ is given to you by faith in Him. Christ’s righteousness becomes yours; you’re immediately at peace with God. He sees you covered by the blood of Christ. Every priest wanted to make a man righteous that he might be at peace with God, but they couldn’t do it. The blood of bulls and goats didn’t do it; they had to do it over and over, and it only lasted as long as a man didn’t sin. But here He says Melchizedek’s very name was righteousness, and his city was peace, emphasizing that his was a kingdom and his was a priesthood of righteousness and peace. Is that typical of Jesus Christ? Does Jesus Christ provide a permanent righteousness? Absolutely.

What happens to a sinner after he comes to Jesus Christ, invites Him into his life and then sins? What happens? Does he have to go back and ask Jesus to come in again? No. His righteousness covers him forever. What happens once you you’ve made peace with God? All of a sudden do you turn into God’s enemy again, and He’s going to destroy you? No. No. Jesus Christ secures righteousness and peace on a permanent basis.

The historical Melchizedek was probably a very righteous man and a very peaceful king. But the Holy Spirit is not here dealing with the personal characteristics of Melchizedek; He’s only dealing with Melchizedek as a type of Christ. And He says that He was first righteousness and then peace. And may I say they always come in that order; there’s no peace with God unless there’s righteousness. The Bible says the Lord is our righteousness. Righteousness comes first, then peace.

I will leave it at that.

Who could imagine a 4,300+ word post discussing three verses? I had not anticipated it.

Yet, does this make you more elated to be a Christian? Does it make you more eager and willing to spread the Good News? I hope it does!

More on Melchizedek will follow, all being well.

Next time — Hebrews 7:4-10

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