Studies In Hebrews #6
by Alex D. Ogden

A Word Of Encouragement (6:9-20)

In discussing the high priesthood of Jesus the writer touched on the idea of Jesus being a high priest "after the order of Melchizedek" (5:6,10). He has "many things to say" about Melchizedek but felt hindered in doing so because his readers had become "dull of hearing" (5:11). He thus took the time to address the dangers of such a condition (5:11-6:8). After rebuking and warning his readers so sternly the Hebrew writer continues by balancing his sternness with words of encouragement. He states that he is confident of better things from them than prolonged immaturity; things which accompany salvation (6:9). He reminds them that even though they had not grown and progressed as they should have, they still had accomplished some things for the Lord (6:10). He then exhorts them to "show the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end" (6:11). They got off to a good beginning in the Christian life but had been sluggish in their growth. He, therefore, encourages them to go on as they had begun: with diligence. He further urges them to be "imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (6:12). If they would imitate the faith and patience of the men of old they would be able to receive the promise of "entering into his rest" (cf.4:1).

Our author here, and more fully in 11:8ff., presents Abraham as the supreme example of a man who received promises from God. God's faithfulness to His promise to Abraham is a token of His faithfulness in regards to two of His other promises, one concerning the Priesthood of Jesus after the order of Melchizedek and the other concerning entering into His promised rest.

The specific promise of God under consideration here is that made to Abraham after his offering up Isaac: "By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah... that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens...and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen.22:16-18). This is a reaffirmation of the promises given to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3, but this time it is reinforced by the oath of God. When the promise was first made Abraham and Sarah had no children, without which the promise could not be fulfilled. In due time Isaac was born, with God's help, to fulfill these promises. Yet it was Isaac whom Abraham was commanded to offer up to God. By faith and patience (cf.6:12,15) Abraham obeyed the will of God and "obtained the promise". Much of God's promise to Abraham would not be fulfilled for many years, but in the restoration to Abraham of his son (cf.11:17-19) upon whose survival the promise depended Abraham did, in a very real sense, "obtain the promise".

Our author emphasizes the fact that when God repeated this promise to Abraham He confirmed it with an oath, swearing by Himself (6:13,16). When men swear an oath, they swear by someone or something greater than themselves. "As the Lord liveth" was the oath of Israel (cf.1 Kings 1:29; 2:24; etc..). Since God has none greater than Himself by whom to swear, when He wishes to confirm His promises in this way, He must swear by Himself. "As I live" is found in divine oracles throughout the Old Testament (cf.Isa.49:18; Jer.22:24; Ezek.5:11; etc..). This oath was used to show the "immutability", unchangeable nature, "of his counsel" (6:17).

The writer shows we have "strong encouragement" by "two immutable things" (6:18). This encouragement will cause us to "lay hold of the hope set before us" which is an "anchor of the soul" (6:18,19). But what two immutable, or unchangeable, things give us strong encouragement? (1) The promise of God itself, because "it is impossible for God to lie" (6:18; cf.Tit.1:2). Since "the Lord is not slack concerning his promise" (cf.11 Pet.3:9) we can be encouraged to have a hope which is both "sure and steadfast" (6:19). (2) The oath of God by which the promise is confirmed (6:16). By these two unchangeable things we have a "sure and steadfast" foundation for our hope in the fulfillment of the promise. This hope, then, becomes an anchor for our soul. But to what immovable object does our anchor moor us to? Our writer tells us it is "that which is within the veil" (6:19). "That which is within the veil" is heaven and the throne of God itself (as is made clear in chapter 9). Our hope is fixed there because Jesus is there, seated at "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (cf.1:3). Abraham rested his hope in the promise and oath of God; but we have more than that to rest our hope upon: we have the fulfillment of His promise in the exaltation of Christ, who "as a forerunner...entered for us" (6:20). With the promise of God, His oath and Jesus ascended to heaven as a forerunner for us, we have a hope which is a true "anchor of the soul" being both "sure and steadfast".

Melchizedek (7:1-3)

It has been our author's desire to expand on the priesthood of Melchizedek since he introduced the subject in chapter 5:6. Now the writer develops this idea in detail as he discusses Jesus being a priest according to this order.

In the first three verses of chapter seven, Melchizedek is described. Our author gets his information from Genesis 14:17-20 and Psalms 110:4, which are the only places in the Old Testament where Melchizedek is mentioned.

The first thing stated about Melchizedek is that he was both "king of Salem" and "priest of God Most High" (7:1). This Salem was the city of Jerusalem (cf.Psa.76:2). It is stressed that Melchizedek was "king of righteousness" and "king of peace" (7:2).

Our author makes an argument based on what the Biblical text did not say about Melchizedek (7:3). Nowhere do we find any mention of his parents or descendants. Neither is there any record of his birth or his death. These are ideas which are predominant in the Old Testament with famous characters. The writer is saying that as far as the biblical text is concerned, this king/priest had no beginning and no ending, no ancestors and no descendants. He is likened unto the Son of God Himself, who being God has no beginning and no ending, no ancestors and no descendants.

Already we can see how Jesus is a High Priest "after the order of Melchizedek". Our writer will, however, make the concept even clearer as he continues.


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