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According to the Bible, there are only two orders of the priesthood—the order of Aaron and the order of Melchisedec. The order of Melchisedec came before that of Aaron. The priesthood of Melchisedec did not come in with Abraham's descendants but with Abraham himself. We have seen that Adam was the head of the created race and that Abraham was the head of the called race. Since the created race under the headship of Adam had become a failure, Adam having failed God in His eternal purpose, God eventually gave up the created race. At the time of Babel, the created race had become altogether a land of Chaldea. Since the time of Nimrod, Chaldea was filled with idols. Idolatry is utterly opposed to God Himself. Because mankind under the headship of Adam had become a land of idols, even the Almighty God found it impossible to do anything with them. Although He gave up the created race, He could never forsake His eternal purpose which needed man for its fulfillment. Therefore, according to His economy, God called Abraham out of the fallen created race, making him the head of the called race.
We, the chosen ones of God, also belong to the called race. We all were once part of the created race belonging to “Chaldea” under the headship of Adam. We all have come out of an idolatrous land. Where were you before you were saved? You were in a land of idols. In the eyes of God, everything, whether it was moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, good or bad, high or low, was an idol. Praise the Lord that He called us out of our “Chaldea”! Romans 8:29 and 30 say that God foreknew, predestinated, and called us. This calling of God is not an insignificant matter; it is a high, heavenly matter, and we must behave ourselves worthy of it. God's calling is higher, richer, and more important than His creation. Hallelujah, we are members of the called race! Our father Abraham is the head of this race. The priesthood which came to the father of the called race was not that which was according to the order of Aaron but that which is according to the order of Melchisedec. Melchisedec met Abraham with bread and wine, and Abraham gave him tithes (Gen. 14:18-20). Melchisedec did not come to Abraham to receive tithes from him, but to minister to him the bread and wine.
One night, before He left His disciples, the Lord Jesus ministered to them the bread and wine (Matt. 26:26-27). The Bible is wonderfully consistent. Melchisedec ministered bread and wine to Abraham, and the Lord Jesus ministered bread and wine to His disciples. Not many of us who have been partaking of the Lord's table for years have ever realized that it is related to Christ's priesthood according to the order of Melchisedec. The first time the priesthood is mentioned in the Bible we are told that a priest came from the Most High God and ministered bread and wine to the father of the called race.
We do not know where Melchisedec came from. In the biblical record, he had no parents, no genealogy, no beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:1-3). He simply came and went.
Melchisedec was the king of Salem, which was the ancient site of Jerusalem. “Salem” means peace, and “Jeru” means foundation. Hence, Jerusalem means “the foundation of peace.” At the time of Melchisedec, there was Salem but not yet Jerusalem; there was peace but no foundation of peace. The first time the Bible speaks of the priesthood, it tells of a wonderful person who was the king of peace. The second aspect of his title is that of the king of righteousness. If we do not have righteousness, we cannot have peace, because peace always comes from righteousness. With Melchisedec there was both righteousness and peace. Based upon this righteousness and peace, he ministered the bread and wine to Abraham. What is our basis for coming to the Lord's table? Is it pity or mercy? No, it is righteousness and peace. According to Romans 3, 4, and 5, righteousness has been reckoned to us and we have been justified. As a result, we enjoy peace. Romans 3 and 4 give us righteousness and justification, and Romans 5 gives us peace under righteousness. Based upon this righteousness and peace, we may enjoy the bread and the wine at the Lord's table. The One who brought in righteousness and peace is the One who ministers the bread and wine to us. He is our High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec.
What is the significance of the bread and wine used at the Lord's table? The Lord Himself said of the bread, “This is My body” (Matt. 26:26), and of the wine, “This is My blood” (Matt. 26:28). This indicates that the bread and wine on the table signify the processed God, portraying the Christ who, as the embodiment of God, has been processed that He might be ministered into us.
If we would understand any item in the Bible, we must consider it at its source, the place where it is first mentioned in the Scriptures. This is in keeping with the basic principle of the first mention. Although the book of Hebrews speaks of Melchisedec, if we would know him, we must consult Genesis 14, the place where Melchisedec and the priesthood are first mentioned. When Christians think of Christ as their High Priest, very few of them go back to Genesis 14. Hebrews 7 refers us to Genesis 14, the time when Melchisedec, king of righteousness and king of peace, met Abraham after the slaughter of the kings. Although Melchisedec was a king, he did not come as a king but as the priest of the Most High God, coming to Abraham with bread and wine. This seems simple and rather unexciting, but it is profound. In the Bible bread denotes the life supply. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), meaning that He is the bread from heaven which gives us life. In the Bible wine signifies the blood which accomplishes redemption in order to quench our thirst. As fallen people, we are under God's condemnation. We are thirsty because the fire of righteous judgment burns within us. Since our thirst comes from being under God's condemnation, water cannot quench it. Our thirst can only be quenched by some liquid of life. Wine is not water; it is a life liquid, coming from grapes, which are something of life. The Lord Jesus chose wine to signify His redeeming blood, saying, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28). Melchisedec's coming to minister the bread and wine to Abraham, the father of the called race, signified Christ's coming to minister Himself as the processed God into us. He was processed on the cross that He might be our life supply with the redeeming wine to quench our thirst under God's condemnation. He is the redeeming God imparting Himself into us for our supply and satisfaction.