|Volume 22 Number 11 November 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asked, “Who was the father of Melchizedek?” This Bible character’s name appears 11 times in Scripture (Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:1, 10-11, 15, 17, 21). None of the passages that refer to Melchizedek identify his parentage. The absence of references to the mother and to the father of Melchizedek or to his birth and to his death is part of why and how Melchizedek is an example of some of the characteristics of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Note that Hebrews 7:3 says of Melchizedek that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (NKJV). Being a mortal, certainly Melchizedek had a mother and a father. Obviously, he was born and eventually he died. However, none of those particular details have been preserved.
Lacking the details of Melchizedek’s parentage and when he was born or when he died makes him appear to be without beginning and without end. Thereby, Melchizedek in this way mimics and serves as an example of God the Son, Jesus Christ, Who is eternal – without beginning and without end. “And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life” (Hebrews 7:15-16).
In addition, Melchizedek served as “priest of the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1) under Patriarchy and preceding Judaism with its Levitical priesthood. As such, the priesthood of Melchizedek was perpetual, without end or continual (“forever,” Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). More so, the priesthood of Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood, also a fitting comparison to Jesus Christ, whose priesthood is superior to the priesthood under Judaism (Hebrews 7:1-28).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone submits a statement and a question thusly: “Reading of Scripture prior to the sermon seems to be of recent origin. Does the one who reads the Scripture have to be a baptized believer?” We will consider the statement and the question separately.
Rather than being of recent origin, public reading of Scripture is an ancient practice among the people of God. Nehemiah did this. “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8 NKJV). Centuries later, Jesus Himself illustrated the practice of the Jews to read Scripture and afterward to expound upon it.
So He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21
Years later, the apostle Paul preached following the reading of Scripture in a synagogue (Acts 13:14-41). He noted that Scripture was read publicly weekly in the synagogue (Acts 13:27). Likewise, the apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem observed that historically Scripture was read weekly in the synagogue, accompanied by preaching (Acts 15:6, 21).
In the present day, some congregations read Scripture preceding preaching, whereas others do not have this practice. The New Testament does not stipulate that Scripture must be read apart from preaching, in which preaching one would hope that Scripture is read or quoted. Especially expository preaching necessitates the reading of Scripture in the process of exposing the text.
There are biblical instructions regarding acceptable worship by the Lord’s church. The apostle Paul corrected the Corinthian congregation for not observing the Lord’s Supper properly (1 Corinthians 11). Chapter 14 of the same epistle provides directives concerning the participants in public worship – for preachers, leaders of prayers, song leaders and men versus women. Forasmuch as this passage advocates male worship leaders, it also presumes that the preachers, leaders of prayers and song leaders are baptized believers and faithful Christians. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that should a male occupy the function of reading Scripture in public worship that he is a Christian.
I am aware that some congregations have their little boys take part in reading Scripture or even leading some songs in worship – as an encouragement and a training exercise. Another venue, outside of public worship, would be more biblically defensible, though. What, then, when a little boy who has been publicly reading Scripture, leading singing or even preaching brief sermons during worship is no longer a little boy and has not obeyed the Gospel? Is there a danger of giving the impression that as the boy grows, he is already acceptable to the church in its public worship, although he was never baptized? Does using unconverted boys in public worship cheapen the roles of Christian men who preach, lead prayers, lead singing and read Scripture publicly? A better practice would be to teach boys how read Scripture aloud, lead singing, lead prayers and teach or preach, and after they obey the Gospel of Christ, then, add them to the roster of Christian males who actively participate in public aspects of Christian worship.