Last week’s lesson had a lot of great information in it. We started out with a trivia question: can anyone tell me who Melchizedek was? Not surprisingly, no one could. Why that wasn’t surprising: I didn’t even know who Melchizedek was and while what I don’t know about the Bible could probably fill a library, I didn’t know what role he really played in the Bible. Melchizedek was a priest who is said to have received what we would call a tithe from Abraham. Since the entire Hebrew people grew out of the family of Abraham, that makes Melchizedek, at least metaphorically, sort of a “super-priest”. That metaphor becomes instrumental in how Paul explains to the early Christian Hebrews how Jesus’ authority usurps and replaces the intricate and convoluted religion laws that the Hebrew nation had established.
It All Starts on the Inside
In Hebrews 6:16-20, we are reminded of all the crazy (or what seems crazy to most of us) requirements and restrictions placed on Old Testament believers. Averages Joe’s couldn’t just walk into the temple and pray for their own salvation. A priest from one particular family that was “chosen” to intercede for the people had to walk into a special chamber in the center of the temple and pray for everyone’s sins. This was a very tedious and methodical process that people had to go through to achieve some form of cleanliness from their sins. In Hebrews 6:20, Paul reminds the Hebrew people that when Jesus died for our sins and rose again, He removed the need to follow all of those steps.
Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)
In this verse, Paul uses the name of Melchizedek to prove his point. Jesus is in “the order of Melchizedek”. That places Jesus in a religious order above the Hebrew religious state. The metaphor that Paul is drawing is that Jesus stands before and above the traditions and laws of the Hebrew state. Jesus stands are the priest above all priests and the authority over all law. What is Jesus’ law? We go back to our lesson a couple weeks ago for the answer: the greatest law is to love God and equally important is to love people. Jesus changed the requirement for cleanliness from an “outward display of obedience” to an inward pursuit of the heart.
The Change on the Inside Drives Behavior on the Outside
Now that we established that our cleanliness and “rightness” with God comes from the inside, where does that leave our actions on the outside? Why do we even bother with participating in rituals, some of which Jesus actually TOLD us to do (like communion)? Isn’t this a contradiction?
There is an interesting relationship between our hearts and our bodies that too often we like to overlook. A long time ago I started talking about this concept called the “churchian”. This was just my little name for the casual church-goer that ‘danced the dance’ and ‘sung the songs’, but didn’t really show a spiritual drive in their daily lives or talk, act, and live like they were pursuing God’s own heart. [Isn’t that judgmental of me? That’s another subject for another day, but the short answer is “not really”. The Bible is littered with guidance to believers to keep those who proclaim the name of Jesus “honest” just as we should expect others to keep us honest. But I’ll get to that later…]
When you consider the churchian, part of what they are missing is that there is an inherent relationship between the “stuff” that goes on inside our hearts and what we do on the outside. The metaphor I like to use involves how you take care of your car. Most people wash their own cars (or take them to get washed), but will hire a mechanic if they need to get their transmission rebuilt or need other major repairs. If I take my beat-up ’86 Mustang to the shop and get them to really hop-up the engine, then I know the car will run amazing. It’ll be faster than ever. What my mechanic won’t do is wash and buff my paint job. So, if I just leave it all up to my mechanic but don’t do any exterior work on my own, people may not realize my car is actually a really fast Mustang. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fast Mustang; it just means no one may notice because they don’t see any external change.
This is very similar to how people see our own exteriors. God cleanses our souls and makes us all new creations, but it is up to us (there comes Free Will again) to clean our own exteriors so that others can see what God can do in our lives. It’s that outward display of faith that actually helps us become different people. We can do that through our actions, our attitude, or our obedient pursuit of things like baptism.
For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22b NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)
There is a good tangent on baptism here, but I’m going to save that for another day. Be looking out for my article on why I disagree/disagreed with the traditional Baptist view of baptism, why re-baptism is sometimes necessary, and why my thinking on the subject has evolved… kindda. The bottom line for our students is that faith is something more than just what we do in church or what we do in our hearts. It pervades every aspect of our lives, inside and out. It is ultimately this “complete” faith that reaps the richest lives.