By Leslie M. Grant
Compared with the subject matter, the question of who wrote this epistle is of little importance; for it deals with the revelation of God's glory in the Person of Christ, and the far-reaching value and significance of His mighty work of redemption. Yet it seems beyond doubt that Paul was the writer, for it is written from Italy, and Timothy, a close companion of Paul, mentioned as expected to travel with the writer (Ch. 13:23, 24). The style and matter of the epistle too can point to no other known writer than the apostle to the gentiles. That he should so write to Hebrews need be no surprise to us either, for despite his special mission, it was his habit in every city he visited, to offer the Gospel to Jews first. Moreover, the object of the epistle is to separate Jewish believers to the Lord Jesus, from the system of Judaism. Peter also speaks of Paul's having written to Jewish believers (2 Peter 3: 15, 16), and no other epistle than this could fit his description.
The profound logic and orderly, discerning arguments of the epistle find a similarity only in the book of Romans; both books similarly also quoting copiously from the Old Testament, in adducing proofs of the truth of Christianity. But Hebrews, in contrast to Romans, comments extensively upon the priesthood and tabernacle service in Israel, specially dwelling upon the spiritual significance of the great day of atonement. This of course would be of vital consequence to Hebrews. not so to Gentile Romans.
Appropriately, the title, "Hebrews" is used rather than "Jews." The former word means "passengers," and denotes pilgrim character. Should Hebrews then object to passing onward from one dispensation of God to another, when the evidence is clear that this great change of dispensation is wrought by the eternal God, who first instituted Judaism?
If justification before God is the great theme of Romans, sanctification is characteristically that of Hebrews. The former delivers fully from the bondage, guilt, and stigma of our former condition, and provides a position of righteous dignity before the throne of God. The latter dwells upon the value of the great atonement by which conscience is purged and the soul set apart from a former vain existence, and brought into the immediate presence of God, there to worship in holy boldness.
It may be remarked that quotations, which differ from the authorized version, are usually taken from the New Translation.
In the first verse is compressed admirably the one most vital truth as to the history of man in all past ages; to which Jews would fully agree. God is, without preliminary, presented as having "in many parts and in many ways" spoken "in time past unto the fathers by the prophets." This was certainly revelation, yet gradually added to, and therefore only partial, not in any sense a complete revelation of God. Let us note too that He was not limited as to the ways in which He saw fit to communicate. Israel well knew this, and should have expected, in the advent of their Messiah, a revelation no less distinctive and worthy of so great a God. But they were determined to circumscribe the action of God by their pre-conceived assumptions, and bind Him by human tradition.
Thus, through the perversity of man's heart, the former partial revelations of God's glory have been used as a basis and excuse for rejecting the full revelation of Himself in Christ Jesus, rather than (as Divinely intended) to prepare hearts for the greater glory of this manifestation. Indeed, the entire value of the Old Testament lies in its anticipation of something infinitely better than could then be brought to man. Nothing but the blindness of willful unbelief can deny so evident witness.
Assuredly, Israel did look for something, but every prophecy she regarded from a viewpoint of mere self-interest, looking for glory to invest the nation itself, rather than expecting the glory of God to be revealed in a marvelous and blessed manner.
But verses 2 and 3 proceed immediately to summarize this present-day transcendent manifestation of the glory of God in the Person of His Son. It is not simply that God is seen thus speaking in the words spoken by the Lord Jesus, but that in Him personally God has spoken; for the words are literally, "hath in these last days spoken unto us in Son." This may not be correct English, but exactly expresses the mind of God, which is the important thing. Prophets had but borne audible witness to God's glory: the Son has Personally manifested that glory.
But let us examine now the seven-fold description of this glory. First, "Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things." This appointment is consistent with the official capacity of the promised Messiah. The public assuming of such an office is future, of course; but the Old Testament had prophesied of One to occupy this place (Ps. 89:27-29).
This one must of course fulfill every qualification, and (secondly) "by Whom also He made the worlds." He must therefore have creatorial power. The Old Testament too declares this. Psalm 102:25-29 is explicitly said to be the words of God to the Son (Cf. Heb. 1:10).
Thirdly, "Who being the brightness of His glory" involves His Personal revealing of the light of the glory of God. This is not reflection of the light, but "effulgence," - the light itself,-just as the light from the sun reveals the glory of the sun, which in itself is too bright to behold. Isaiah 9:6 strongly presents in prophecy this glorious representation of the glory of God: "His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace."
This prophecy too intimates the fourth glory declared in Hebrews 1: "the expression of His substance." So fully is this true that He Himself is called "the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity." Certainly none could express the very substance of God save God Himself. Nor is it simply that He expresses the substance of God, but is Himself the expression. He is Himself the perfect imprint of the substance of God. It is therefore impossible to ascribe to Him too high a place.
This too is evident in the fifth glory mentioned: "upholding all things by the word of His power." If He is the original Creator, He must he also the eternal Sustainer of all things. Nothing can subsist except by the Word of His power, which maintains all things in existence. This is indicated remarkably in Isaiah 40, the first part being the witness of John the Baptist to Christ, and verses 9 to 11 declaring His coming: "Behold, the Lord God will come," and the remainder of the chapter occupied with the greatness of this One, Who measures the waters, the heavens, the dust of the earth, and maintains the order of the heavenly orbs, so that "not one faileth." Only blindness could ignore this magnificent prophetic reference to the promised Messiah.
The sixth glory is that acquired in His advent in the world, "having made (by Himself) the purification of sins." The unique greatness of this work, consistent with the greatness of His Person, is here insisted upon. Many are the prophecies of this marvelous sacrifice of Himself, notably Isaiah 53, Psalm 22 and Psalm 69.
Finally, in the seventh place, "sat down on the right hand of the majesty on High." Such exaltation is impossible for any mere creature, but testifies rather to the august dignity of His Person and His work. Psalm 110:1 had prophesied of this in clearest terms: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand until I make thine enemies Thy footstool." This is not only the due recompense of His mighty work, but rightful public recognition of the glory of His Person.
Verse 4 involves these two aspects of His glory. Having humbled Himself to a place lower than angels, He is now, as Man, exalted by God, "taking a place by so much better than the angels" (New Trans.). Thus His work of self-humiliation has earned Him a place of highest majesty. But this was only consistent with the fact that "He inherits a Name more excellent than they." Because He is the Son of the Father, He is Heir of all things. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (John 3:35).
How fully and wonderfully does this blessed One fulfill every detail of the minute qualifications laid down in the Old Testament. The heart can only marvel at so full a summation of His glories in so brief a compass. How worthy of God, Who, in the revelation of His Son, has revealed His own full identification with His Son.
But a second section in the chapter (beginning with verse 5) now develops further His glory in contrast to angels, noted in verse 4. He must not in any way be confounded with the greatest of created beings, for he is infinitely above them all. Though angels "excel in strength," (Ps. 103:20) they are but creatures, and worshippers, not objects of worship. This section quotes seven times from the Old Testament.
First, "For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?" The importance of this public announcement at the time of His birth must not be underestimated. False Christ's have arisen, and after foisting themselves upon the public, have dared to claim to have been miraculously born of a virgin: but in no such case would a public announcement have been made at the time of birth. To attempt such an imposture by some such declaration at the time of birth of a child would of course be too hazardous: the child would not likely turn out in the mold desired by its wicked promoters. But Luke 2:S gives us historically the public announcement of the birth of the Lord Jesus: "Unto you is horn this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord" (vs. 10). This is confirmed also independently by the wise men. who had seen His star in the east (Matt. 2:1, 2). Let us weigh well then the force and power of this first quotation.
"And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son." This second quotation (from 2 Sam. 7:14) again presses the relationship of Christ to the Father. This was most needful to be established beyond question. If in the first case, this is publicly announced, in the second it is the consistent testimony of His entire life on earth. The Father owned Him fully, bearing witness to His words and walk, with signs and wonders, which in not one instance failed Him. He proved to be Son of the Father in practical character, in every detail of life. Twice also from Heaven the Father announced His delight in Him: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."
But then is more: "Again, when He bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him" (Psa. 97:7). The Psalm speaks of "the presence of the Lord of the whole earth," therefore the advent of Messiah, and calls upon the highest created intelligences to "worship Him." When thus He "was manifest in flesh, seen of angels," there is no question but what He was rightly the Object of their adoring worship. (Cf. Luke 2:13, 14).
"And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire." This fourth quotation insists that angels are simply creatures, made by the hand of God, however awesome their power. Him whom they worship is infinitely greater than they.
The fifth quotation now rises to the blessed climax of the truth concerning this glorious Person: `But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." It has been evident that all that has gone before must involve the fact that He is God. Hence, this is now asserted in plainest terms, when God addresses the Son as "God," whose throne is for ever and ever. Psalms 45 is quoted, where the King, the Messiah of Israel, is thus addressed by God.
The eternity of His nature assures the eternity of His throne, in contrast to all mere human thrones. In further contrast is His sceptre of righteousness; for history has proven this woefully lacking in every other kingdom.
Yet if verse 8 declares His glory as God, verse 9 no less beautifully indicates His true Humanity. In lowly experience on earth He is proven in perfection to love righteousness and to hate iniquity. This glory in Humanity is also in contrast to all others. Therefore God, His God, has anointed Him with the oil of the Holy Spirit, as above all others with whom He has condescended to link His Name in fellowship. If in grace He has "fellows," yet He is above them. This anointing as One unique and apart from all others is seen when He was baptized by John, and the Spirit, like a dove, abode upon Him. The actual assuming of the throne is still future, of course, but the anointing is already His, as typified in David's anointing long before he was exalted to the throne of Israel. Yet, at this very occasion (the baptism of John) He linked Himself in grace with repentant Israelites. How beautifully is His solitary glory and dignity maintained while He finds delight in identifying Himself with His "fellows."
Verses 10 to 12 add the sixth quotation (from Psa. 102:25-27). Here His eternal glory is seen an the visible creation, and also in contrast to it. He who is addressed as "God" is now addressed as "Lord," the former denoting His supremacy, the latter His authority. He has founded the earth and formed the heavens, and they therefore declare His glory (Psa. 19:1). But "they shall perish." In their present form He has decreed they shall not continue, and their very destruction serves to emphasize that He is the eternal One: "Thou remainest."
Creation is but as a temporary garment with which He has clothed Himself in partial display of His glory: it will he folded and changed. "But Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall not fail." This grand title of our Lord is often used, and Ch. 13:8 briefly states its eternal significance: "Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, and today, and forever." In eternity past, in present manifestation to faith, in future, visible glory, His very Name is "The Same." His "years shall not fail." The decline of age that so affects creation has no bearing upon His blessed Person. These verses quoted from Psalm 102 are words addressed to Him by God, just as is true in verse 8.
The seventh quotation completes this series: "Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool." He thus occupies this place of present, highest exaltation, in contrast to angels. This is His position upon the Father's throne, which could be given to no created being, for it is the throne of Deity. In the Millennium He will take His own throne as Son of Man, but prior to this His title to such a throne is abundantly proven by His present exaltation to the highest throne of all. And here in calm patience He waits for the subjugation of His enemies, - not that there is the slightest doubt as to this, for this present throne involves His own sovereign control of all things, His wise and timely disposal of every issue according to Divine counsels. Blessed, holy dignity!
It may be remarked that His literal coming for His saints at the rapture does not in any sense interrupt this session on the Father's right hand, for this exaltation does not mean a confining to a strict location, no more than we should expect a sovereign on the throne to be always literally seated. But He remains infinitely exalted, although not yet publicly so, as will be the case when all enemies are put under His feet and He sits upon the throne of His glory (Matt. 25:31).
He therefore is in the place of absolute authority, but angels are "all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." Theirs is the place of servants simply, their place infinitely lower than His, just as in person they are as much lower. But it is nevertheless a blessed place they occupy, in being delegated to minister in temporal protection, comfort, sustenance, to those destined to eternal glory. Doubtless we owe to angelic ministry far more than we discern in matters of physical strength and wellbeing, yet as spirit beings their ministry is completely veiled, and they are content to remain unknown to us, that glory for this may be given only to God. Blessed service indeed! Compare their ministry to the Lord Jesus in Mark 1:13, and an angel strengthening Him (physically of course) in Luke 22:43.
The first four verses of this chapter now press upon us the appropriate conclusions that must be drawn from so transcendent a revelation of the glory of God. "For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away" (N. Trans.).
The truth has been given by report, and absolutely authenticated by God's authority. How worthy of the complete concentration of our minds and hearts! Is it possible the intelligence can become so deadened as to ignore facts so demonstrated? Yes. Pressure of personal circumstances among Hebrews who had professed Christianity had induced some to renounce what they had at first acknowledged, and to return to the dead forms of Judaism. The seed of the Word of God had sprung up, but without roots, it withered quickly away. These were not born again, as was proven by their "slipping away" from the very profession of Christ. This was not simply conduct unbecoming to a Christian, but turning wilfully away from Christ Himself, in cold unbelief. Similar cases are contemplated in Ch. 6:4-6 and Ch. 10:26-29.
The warning is fearfully solemn: "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?" The law, "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator," or as Stephen said, "received... by the disposition of angels," demanded sternest measures of judgment for every infraction of it. Jews knew this. But since this was true, and now in these last days God has provided so great a salvation for the guilty, what possible hope can there be of escape, if this great salvation is ignored? How avoid the just retribution of God's anger if this marvelous revelation - infinitely greater than law - should be despised?
Nor was the message communicated by angels, but by the Lord Himself, borne witness to by many who heard Him, and further witnessed by God's accrediting these messengers by granting "both signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will." Here was threefold competent witness; for the character of these "signs, wonders and miracles," was not questionable, as is the case with modern imitations. Indeed so indisputable were the facts that the most bitter enemies of Christ would attempt no denial, though set in opposition to the plainest testimony. Compare Acts 4: 15-18, and 5:16-24. No shadow of doubt was allowed to remain as to God's full approval of the establishment of Christianity publicly. Only unreasoning prejudice on the part of Jews could reject it. How can such folly hope to escape the dire consequences?
As examples of "signs," speaking in tongues is significant of an understanding established between those formerly at odds (e.g. Jews and Gentiles), an understanding found only in the mutual knowledge of Christ; and healings were significant of the more vital healing of the soul by the knowledge of Christ. As to wonders, it is clear from Acts 3:9-11 that a sign may also be a wonder. All three elements (signs, wonders, miracles) may be evident in one case, though some may more emphasize one than another. Signs intimate a spiritual teaching; wonders, the startling effect on man; miracles the fact of natural law being (not suspended, but) transcended by a higher power.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit were remarkably evident in power in the beginning of the book of Acts. The boldness and power of Peter and John in proclaiming the Word of God greatly impressed the Jewish council (Acts 4:13). Compare also Stephen in Ch. 6 and 7, Philip in Ch. 8. These are but samples of the many marked gifts of the Spirit which bore overwhelming testimony to the truths of the doctrine of Christ. Nor was God a respecter of persons, for He thus gifted unlearned men, "according to His own will," and those of every walk of life were chosen, a procedure contrary to that which human energy would have attempted.
Verse 5 now introduces a second division of the book, beginning with sound, admirable deductions based upon the truths already asserted, and upon further quotations from the Old Testament.
If angels have been superseded by the witness of the Lord Jesus and of His disciples, was this itself consistent with Old Testament prophecy? The answer is most plain: "Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world (or age) to come, whereof we speak." Though angels had a prominent place in the dispensation of law, it was prophesied otherwise as to the coming millennial kingdom, the age to come.
Verses 6 to 8 are quoted from Psalm 8: "What is man that Thou art mindful of Him, or the son of man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou madest Him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownest Him with glory and honour, and hast set Him over the works of Thine hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet." No doubt in a prime sense this was true of man as originally created of God. But man had completely forfeited this place even of dominion over the earth, through his miserable disobedience to God; and at the time the Psalm was written, it could have reference to no one but a Man of a different stamp than Adam, One whose perfection could delight the heart of God. Moreover the prophecy states that God has put all things in subjection under His feet,-not only things on earth. Let us remark too that He is referred to, not only as man, but "the Son of Man," which was not true of Adam.
But the Psalmist might well express wonder at the consideration of man's being so exalted, for the form of man's being is decidedly that of weakness and limitation, in contrast to angels. Verse 7 refers to this, that man has been made a little lower than the angels. And such was the condition in which the blessed Lord of Glory was pleased to tread this earth. Yet now all things are put under His feet, which includes angels too, "for He left nothing that is not put under Him." If we do not as yet see this in public display, it is vitally true, and will yet be displayed in the coming kingdom.
"But we see Jesus." This is faith's language: we see with the eyes of a believing heart,-the Object the Person of the Son of Man at the right hand of God. Since it is truth, then truth in the heart responds to it. He who was made (voluntarily) a little lower than angels, though in nature infinitely higher than they, is now crowned with glory and honor.
But our verse explains the expression "made lower." This was an absolute necessity "for the suffering of death." Angels cannot die, for they are spirits, their form of being therefore higher than that of man. They "excel in strength." Man, by reason of his bodily condition on earth, is characterized by weakness and many limitations, and is capable of dying-nay, subject to death because of his sin. Death being God's sentence against sin, no redemption was possible except as the blessed Son of God in grace became truly "Man," lower than angels, to suffer death for all. Such is the immeasurable grace of God! Rightly therefore, as Man, He is now crowned with glory and honor, exalted above angels. If in Manhood He has become lower than angels, this was but for the suffering of death: now in Him we contemplate Manhood as exalted above angels. It is this Man who will rule over the earth in the age to come.
From verse 12 to 18 this Man's perfection as a Saviour is beautifully shown. For this He must be a sufferer: "For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." It was morally consistent with God's nature that, in order to bring many sons to the bliss of His presence, He should lead His own Son through the sufferings and death of the cross, to make Him, in resurrection, the "perfect" originator of salvation. Notice that it is not man's blessing that is most important here, but what is becoming to God, that is, His own glory.
In the performance of this work, the Lord Jesus is seen as sanctifying (or setting apart) every believer to God. But this too involves His own voluntary unity with them: "For both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." They are of one Father, -He by very nature and title, we by His infinite grace. By nature, it is impossible that He should call us brethren, but through virtue of His perfect salvation, He is not ashamed to do so. But let us repeat, this He does in grace: for us to call Him "Brother" would be unbecoming abuse of grace.
Verse 12 quotes from Psalm 22 words of the Lord Jesus spoken in resurrection: "I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing Thy praises" (N. Trans.). How beautifully linked to this is His message to Mary Magdalene, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (John 20:17). He does not say, "Our Father," for there remains an infinite distinction between the Master and His brethren by grace; but there is yet an established and blessed unity. Primarily it is He Himself who sings praises to God, in the vibrant, joyous delight of an accomplished redemption; but it is the sacred privilege of His redeemed to join with Him in this triumphant song.
He Himself is 'in the midst of the assembly,' not simply for our blessing, but for the glory of God. This unfeigned, joyous ascription of praise to God is the prime reason for the gathering of the church, the assembly of the living God. Let us zealously guard against its degeneration into anything less than this. Indeed this spirit of praise should be evident even when gathered for prayer in seeking the gracious blessing of God, or in the ministry of the Word of God to the saints. But the remembrance of the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread,-the central expression of the fellowship of the body of Christ, -is intended exclusively for the bringing of praise, thanksgiving, adoration to our God and Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 13 quotes first from 2 Samuel 22:3, to stress the dependence of His perfect Manhood: "I will put My trust in Him." This too is beautifully seen in Psalm 16, which begins, "Preserve Me, O God, for in Thee do I put My trust." As such too, however, His delights are with the sons of men, and it is His joy to say, as in Isaiah 8:18, "Behold I, and the children which God hath given Me." Let us observe again that His own unique distinction is first noted, and this enhances the wonder and beauty of His grace in so uniting with His saints. He receives these children as a gift from God. It may be remarked that a similar expression is used when, speaking as the Divine Son of God, He says, "I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world" (John 17:6). In the former case they are a gift from God in virtue of His sufferings and death: in the latter they are a gift from the Father to His Son because of the eternal worth of His Person.
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy (or annul) him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." To be thus identified with them, it was imperative that He should first take part in the same bodily condition as they, flesh and blood, in order that His blood might be shed in sacrifice, that by means of death He might cancel the dread power of Satan over men. Nothing but this could righteously meet the case. Nor could anything but love have energized a sacrifice like this. Let us note that here we have a second reason for the sufferings of Christ. In verse 10 the glory of God is in view: in verse 14 the destruction of Satan.
This involves deliverance then for those who were "all their lifetime subject to bondage," that is, the bondage of sin, by which Satan had wielded his power over mankind. "The sting of death is sin," and so long as this question remained unsettled, "the fear of death" held souls in bondage. He is speaking here of believers of course, for unbelievers know nothing of present deliverance from this fear and bondage, as do all whose trust is in the precious blood of Christ. Observe too that this bondage is during "lifetime," not after death. Even the unsaved are not in such bondage after death. Satan can exert no more authority over them: they are rather imprisoned in bondage to the exclusive authority of God.
But previous to the death of Christ even believers were held in a distinct measure of bondage through fear of death. There are some brightly shining exceptions, in cases where various saints exercised a faith that carried them far beyond the limits of the partial revelation they had received; and Jacob for instance shows thorough tranquillity in the face of death. This was not the common state, nevertheless, of which the godly Hezekiah is an example, weeping in bitterness when told to put his house in order in view of his death (Isaiah 38:1-3; 17).
"For He does not indeed take hold of angels, but He takes hold of the seed of Abraham" (N. Trans.). In grace He has seen fit to identify Himself, not with angelic beings, but a class lower in creative order,-mankind,-yet that class of mankind characterized by faith, the "seed of Abraham," a family in which the heart of God the Father finds pleasure.
"Wherefore it behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (N. Trans.). The full and blessed reality of our Lord's humanity is thus strongly emphasized for us. This is of course humanity in untainted perfection and purity, in which the foreign element of sin could have no place; yet nevertheless true humanity, as to spirit and soul and body. Only thus could He be a High Priest, a Mediator between God and men. Entering into their physical condition of weakness and dependence, He is thoroughly qualified by experience to have merciful consideration for their need, and to act faithfully for them in consistency with such a relationship.
But this must of necessity first require that the question of His people's sins should be faced, and as true Man and true Priest He had made "propitiation for the sins of the people." Indeed, in reference to this great work, He is both Priest, Sacrifice and Altar. Propitiation is a third reason here noted for the death of Christ,-first God's glory, secondly Satan's destruction, thirdly, propitiation, which last denotes the satisfying of the claims of God's throne in regard to man's sin.
This verse is clear to the effect that He must be a Priest in order to sacrifice Himself. Chapter 8:4 is no contradiction to this: "If He were on earth He should not be a priest, seeing there are priests that offer gifts and sacrifices according to the law." In this latter case the apostle speaks of an official position, which on earth was given to the sons of Aaron, but now in resurrection given to the Lord Jesus in Glory,-"saluted of God all High Priest after the order of Melchisedek." This is an office only assumed in Glory.
But in Person, if not in office, His character of Priest manifested in all His life of ministry to mankind, and in His voluntary sacrifice of Himself. For His own sacrifice was not an official act, but one purely voluntary, prompted by the perfect love and grace of His heart,-not in any sense required of Him, except by the very goodness of His own nature. Thus in our present verses, His moral nature and character are emphasized; so that when later He is seen in resurrection to be given official glory from God as High Priest, it has been fully established that He is worthy to be utterly trusted to fulfill that office in perfection. Blessed, holy, gracious Lord!
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted. He is able to help those that are tempted." Having proven Himself in lowly experience, - suffering rather than yielding to temptation, - He is Himself a strength to His suffering people, able to give grace that they should bear rather than succumb to temptation. Having such an High Priest, what a shame that we should ever give way when tempted. But here we have a fourth reason for His sufferings, - that He might have perfect sympathy with His suffering saints. How full and orderly is the precious Word of God!
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." Let us keep in mind that this is addressed to Jewish believers. How great a contrast to that which their own religion had taught them! Earthly hopes now they must leave behind, and as "holy brethren," set apart by virtue of identification with the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus, were to recognize themselves as partakers of the heavenly calling. Israel in rejecting their Messiah had forfeited all title to their longedfor earthly inheritance; but God had in grace provided a transcendently greater blessing for those who in their hearts received His beloved Son.
Now, in properly considering Him - the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, - the significance of this is more clearly seen. It will be observed that both the Deity and the Manhood of the Lord Jesus are vitally involved in what is now presented to us. Also, both Moses and Aaron are seen to be types of this blessed One: hence there are comparisons, while yet, these being noted, there is greater emphasis upon the contrasts in this great Person to the lesser glories of Moses and Aaron. Indeed angels have before been set aside in His favor, and certainly men ought to be.
"Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus" (N. Trans.). The official title "Christ" evidently had no place here in the original, for the insistence here is upon His Personal Name of moral grace and beauty, in both the lowliness and dignity of true Manhood. But as the Apostle, He is One sent of God, to maintain the sovereign rights of God in reference to the people. As the High Priest He is One come in grace to maintain the cause of the people in reference to God. In these Moses typifies the first, Aaron the second.
"Who is faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house." This faithfulness to God is true of Him both as Apostle and High Priest, but He is compared here first to Moses, as He is later to Aaron (Ch. 5:4). Doubtless the house here referred to is the tabernacle, in which was represented God's relationship with the people, and in which Moses was careful to conform to the pattern given him of God.
But if verse 2 is comparison, verse 3 is contrast. Moses had been faithful in God's house; but Christ is the Builder of the house, worthy of greater honor than the house itself, and therefore than any servant in the house. "For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God" The force of the passage is simply that a house testifies to the fact that someone must have built it. Creation testifies also that it has a Builder greater than itself. "He that built all things is God." Note that this again proves the Deity of the Lord Jesus, Whom verse 3 declares the Builder. It is not that all creation is the object in view in what is said here, but rather that, if He built all things, then He certainly built that of which the tabernacle is a type, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
Beautiful it is however to consider the faithful devotion of Moses as a servant in God's house, a servant obeying the word of his Master, in order that the house (the tabernacle) should rightly represent the God who in grace dwelt there. The reader may profitably consider Exodus 39 and 40 as to this matter, where it is evident that Moses was extremely diligent to see that every detail conformed to the commandment of the Lord. "According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and behold they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them" (Ex. 39:42, 43). Eight times in Ch. 40 the expression is repeated, "As the Lord commanded Moses."
Moreover, our verse 5 continues, "for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after." The tabernacle was a type of that which was to be revealed afterward (and has now been revealed). Thus the servant Moses has borne testimony to the truth of God even in that which was but a type of the church. And if so, does our God expect any less faithfulness to His Word in the church itself? Indeed, how diligent ought every servant of the Lord be that the Word of our God be faithfully followed in its entirety. Let the faithful testimony of Moses be taken to heart, and bear its proper fruit in encouraging the saints of God today.
"But Christ as a Son over His house." The word "own" is not correctly inserted here, for he is speaking all through of God's house, though of course that house has different character today, for it is the antitype rather than the type. But here is One who, because of equal dignity with the Father, is to be trusted utterly to order the house in perfect wisdom and truth. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath committed all things into His hand." This is far above Moses, or any other servant.
"Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." The apostle here is certainly not seeking to unsettle faith, but to encourage it. But he would definitely unsettle anyone who rested upon anything but Christ. All false confidences would eventually leave souls bereft and hopeless. Profession must necessarily be tested, and its reality is proven only by continuance. Some of the Hebrews who had publicly embraced Christianity were giving it up, and returning to Judaism. Did they actually then have part in the house of God? No: their giving up proved they had never really been brought in faith to the Lord Jesus. Faith is not a mere cloak one may put on and later put off again. It is rather the vital gift of God (Eph. 2:8, 9), which purifies the heart, remaining as the settled attitude of its possessor; and it is proven only by holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end.
"Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith,) Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the wilderness." One who has merely made a profession without reality may easily harden his heart. The wilderness history of Israel served to bring out what was actually in their hearts. Just so, if one is a mere rocky ground hearer, the seed might spring up quickly, then when persecution or tribulation arises because of the Word, the truth of the Word is as quickly renounced, the heart hardened against what the conscience had previously approved. Christ is given up because He was not actually in the heart.
"The day of provocation" refers to mans provoking God to anger. Their rebellion was occasioned by their circumstances of trial, but this was only the occasion, not the reason. If man excuses himself by protesting that he was provoked to rebel, let him think again that such rebellion is a reason for God's being rightly provoked to judge him. They tempted God: He bore long with them. They proved Him: times unnumbered He proved faithful and gracious in spite of their selfwill. They saw His works of grace and power forty years. But all this, together with His patient forbearance they treated with contempt, and time thus proved their hearts false and ignorant of God's ways.
This was the general condition of the people. They were all surrounded by and partook of the benefits of God's goodness in publicly blessing the nation; yet proved themselves cold in heart toward the God Who fed them. Doubtless there were individuals who differed but he speaks generally. God was grieved with that generation.
"So I sware in My wrath, If they shall enter into My rest." Both in the Psalm quoted (95) and here the verse is translated, "They shall not" etc., but the actual form is a question. Is the lesson not simply this, that since man dares to question the truth and faithfulness of God, by his proud rebellion, then does not God have a right to question man's title to blessing? In other words, profession must be questioned, or tested, to ascertain its reality.
Such being the case, how urgent is the warning of verse 12: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God," (or "in falling away from the living God"). He is not speaking of weakness of faith or of failure in details of conduct, but of an evil heart of unbelief, faith not being present at all. This is the cause of falling away, a fall into a state of cold rejection of One previously acknowledged as the Son of God. Only faith can maintain this position of firm confidence in the blessed Son of God; so that a mere lip profession that lacks this vital root of the matter, may very soon give place to a callous reaction of deliberate apostasy, from which there is no recovery: the living God is rejected, and the only alternative is the cold, cheerless state of death.
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you he hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." If in the case of those truly born again, this exhortation would stimulate and encourage their faith, it might also, in the case of any who lacked faith, be the means of awakening and bringing them in reality to the Lord Himself, and thus prevent so dreadful a fall. For sin will harden, however innocent its face may at first appear; and those deceived by it will choose eventually to mock at faith. The expression "while it is called today" insists that the present is the time of testing, which may abruptly end at any moment.
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." Similarly to verse 6, the emphasis is on continuance as the proof of whether one has actually in his first profession been made a partaker of Christ. If an engrafted branch has really "struck" into a stock so as to partake of the sap of the tree, it will continue as a live, flourishing branch. If the "beginning" was not however a vital, real connection, the branch will wither and die.
Verse 15 refers again to "the provocation" in the wilderness, the limited time of testing; and the urgent entreaty here is evident: in the brief moment men are given to be proven, a false step may be eternally fatal. But if none in the wilderness had been exceptions to the general state of provocative unbelief, it might be cause for despair; but "not all that came out of Egypt with Moses" were guilty of this. "Some, when they heard, did provoke." The Word of God was despised: how solemn a sign!
"But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?" Patience bore long during this testing time, but because they had despised the land of promise, they died in the wilderness. Solemn consideration for those who today lightly esteem the heavenly glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the heavenly calling of His saints. It is important to make clear however that the issue in the wilderness was that merely of an earthly inheritance and temporal blessings, not the heavenly inheritance and eternal blessings. Falling away from Christ today is immeasurably more dreadful evil than Israel's despising the pleasant land: Israel's rebellion called for temporal judgment; but rebellion against Christ eternal judgment.
Verses 18 and 19 expose to our view the root of this rebellion on the part of Israel: it was not mere passive lack of faith, but active unbelief. The testimony of God had been declared: they had heard it, and had seen public evidences of its trustworthiness; but through fear of present discomfort and opposition of the Canaanites, they chose to disbelieve God. He told them to enter the land: they refused: only unbelief kept them out.
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." This admonition is a continuation of Ch. 3. The promise has been left us, but the promise is to faith: any who come short of it do so only through unbelief. Let us take solemnly to heart the significance of these lessons.
"For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them." Indeed, to us it has been preached in fulness: to them only "in part:" we therefore stand in a place fully as responsible as they - and more so. "But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" That Word is itself invincible, eternal, entirely unaffected by the kind of reception it receives; but he who will not receive it cannot receive profit from it.
"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said. As I have sworn in My wrath. If they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." Let its notice as to "we which have believed" there is absolute affirmation, for the promise is absolute. Yet this is followed by an "if," a question, -even though in the counsels of God the basis of rest had long been established. The true believer rests upon this basis; but the question is raised with those who have dared to raise a question as regards the truth of God's promise, that is, the unbeliever. The believer's position therefore is absolutely secure, dependent on the truth of God's Word; but the unbeliever has the oath of God to the contrary) The blessing is dependent upon God's work, the value of which is available to everyone, by faith; but unbelief is a base refusal of the blessing, because it refuses God's Word.
Verses 4 to 10 must be considered together, to be properly understood. "For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all His works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into My rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief; Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also bath ceased from his own works, as God did from His."
Verse 4 illustrates the fact of how full of deeper meaning may be a brief Scriptural statement of a historical fact. God's rest intimates that He had in mind an eternal rest pursuant to all His working with this present creation. Verse 5 then quoting Psalm 95:11 indicates that some would not enter into His rest. Verse 6 therefore concludes that "some must enter therein." God's rest was not merely for His own enjoyment, but He had decreed that this was to be shared with others. The latter part of the verse shows that those who had first opportunity did not enter in. Doubtless this has direct reference to the unbelieving generation in the wilderness, but may be rightly applied to Israel the nation when the Gospel was preached "to the Jew first," and hence be a solemn warning to present day Hebrews.
However, verse 7 goes further than verse 6, and quotes from David, "after so long a time." Even those who did enter into the land and had been so long in it, had not really entered God's rest, for there they were admonished not to harden their hearts. It was Joshua who had brought them into the land (Jesus is the Greek form of the same name), but he had hot given them this rest, for after their advent there, another day is spoken of. The rest therefore, as verse 9 shows, is still future.
Verse 10 explains this. In the fullest sense, it is only in the eternal state that we shall rest from our own works. All things there will be entirely of God, with no admixture of man's works. Toil will have no place, for toil is the result of the marring of creation. "His servants shall serve Him" infers not toil, but perfect tranquility in service. There is another sense of course in which the believer has entered into rest; that is, so far as conscience is concerned, and the guilt of his sins, faith in Christ has already given him rest, and he has in this regard ceased from his own works: he no longer depends on his own works to procure blessing from God. But fulness of rest is future.
"Let us therefore use diligence to enter into that rest, that no one may fall after the same example of not hearkening to the Word" (N. Trans.). The matter is of vital consequence, and well worth applying ourselves in serious earnestness. A negative attitude is fatal, for it ignores the clearly spoken Word of God. If there were any indifferences to the glory of the revelation of God in the Person of Christ, the testing of tribulation or persecution would expose it: that person would fall. The only protection for the soul is a positive, real faith in the blessed Son of God, an ear opened to receive the Word of God as living truth. Who can dare claim the knowledge of God if he refuses Scripture as the revelation of God? There is certainly none other, and it remains the one solid foundation for faith.
"For the Word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow', and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (N. Trans.). How this transcends all human writings. which become mere stagnant pools in contrast to the constantly flowing freshness of this river of the water of life. Its every part is full of fresh vitality, ready to meet every demand of faith upon it, for if we fail to find fresh blessing, wisdom, encouragement, from any part, this is our own failure, for the living truth is there. Moreover, it is pregnant with energy that begets active response and results where there is faith: it is operative.
More than this, however, it cuts: it is no respecter of persons. A two-edged sword cuts both ways. If one would use it, he must be prepared for its cutting in regard to his own conduct and doctrine just as to that of others. It pierces and divides, that is, penetrating beneath the surface of things, it distinguishes in finest precision between things that differ. Soul and spirit could never be distinguished by mere observation or human wisdom. Yet the Word of God clearly discerns between the two, attributing to the former all that expresses feeling, emotion, passion; and to the latter intellect, reasoning, understanding, conscience. These two entities in man are entirely above natural science, though natural science actually bears witness to the necessity of their existence. But joints and marrow are more naturally understandable, and the scientist knows the distinction, the one being external, the other the necessary internal ingredient by which the joints operate effectually. This is but one symbolic illustration then of the Word's character of dividing in any realm between outward form and inward operation. How we need this for the guidance of our own souls!
But more: it discerns the very thoughts and intents of the heart. In these things we are all too likely to be self-deceived, and in order to maintain self-respect will seek to persuade ourselves that our motives are actually better than they are; or to hide our actual intentions or desires under a plausible cover of avowing that we want the leading of the Lord! But let us honestly read the Word of God, and it will expose to us these secret workings, and make manifest the counsels of the heart. This is strikingly seen in Jeremiah 42, where Johanan and the remnant of Israel required of Jeremiah as to the will of God, declaring their absolute intention of obeying God's Word. But the Word given them also discerned the actual dissembling of their hearts, (vs. 20, 21), and Jeremiah told them they would not obey the Word of God, but do their own will. Then their brazen actions proved the Word of the Lord to be right, but they excused themselves by denying it to be the Word of God! How little does man suspect the actual deceit of his own heart! May God give us to judge ourselves by His Word, the only trustworthy standard. It can be a grievous snare to us to assume that our preferences are consistent with the Word of God, then when the Word is given us to the contrary, to object that it must be a wrong translation or wrong interpretation, and thus dismiss it without honest inquiry.
But verse 13 follows on to say, "neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." While he is speaking of the Word of God, yet he says, "His sight," not "its sight." Does this not emphasize the fact that God's Word is virtually Himself. It expresses Him as nothing else on earth can do. "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name" (Psa. 138:2). This does not of course mean the physical Bible, but God's mind and will revealed in the Bible. If men profess to honor the Name of God, then His Word must be given supreme place in their lives. Indeed, it is our one means of knowing God. And it brings us under the light of His own countenance, fully exposed by infinite light and wisdom. This can be welcome only to faith: unbelief is terrified of such eyes of perfect penetration: and seeks to avoid God's eyes by closing its own eyes!
The last expression of the verse is however inescapable, "the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." To close the eyes or the ears now will not affect our having to do with Him. He will not retire from the scene, to indulge man's love for darkness. How indescribably better to welcome those eyes now than to have them expose all the hidden things of darkness at the Great White Throne; and the end eternal remorse!
Verse 14 begins a distinct division in the book, in which the Heavenly Priesthood of Christ is dwelt upon, and His eternally finished work of propitiation, in contrast with the Aaronic priesthood on earth, the work of which was never finished. This subject continues to the end of Ch. 10.
"Having therefore a Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession" (N. Trans.). The fact of His High Priesthood has been briefly mentioned at the end of Ch. 2, and in Ch. 3:1: now the subject is to be fully developed. As Aaron on the day of atonement passed through all the tabernacle, so the Lord Jesus has passed through the heavens, to the very throne of God, the ultimate in exaltation. This is our Great High Priest upon Whom faith depends for the establishing of an eternal relationship with God: He cannot fail; therefore what folly it would be to give up the confession of His Name. So firm, so unshakeable a foundation calls for the utmost holding fast of our confession.
"For we have not an High Priest not able to sympathize with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart" (N. Trans.). Though now exalted (and what joy to know Him as in the Glory!), yet He has previously passed through the circumstances of earth's sorrow, trial, distress, and in fullest measure, so that He understands through experience all the sorrows and trials of His saints, -"in all points tempted," not from within, but from without. For He was without sin, and certainly the corrupting influences of evil had no place in His holy body, - no sickness, disease or malady of any kind. But he has moved amid such circumstances, has felt the sorrows, has borne the sicknesses, in the sense of feeling in deepest sympathy for those so afflicted. Blessed compassion indeed! And His heart remains as tender and sympathetic as in all that wondrous path of grace. In Him too we know there was perfect, pure resistance of every temptation that might tend to overwhelm faith. And the secret of our own resistance is communion with Himself.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." This is no mere self-confidence, which would be "strange fire" (Lev. 10: 1, 2), but firmest confidence in the Lord Jesus, - no trepidation or cringing apprehension, but a calm (though reverential) sense of being heartily welcome. For we find the majestic throne of God to be in truth a "throne of grace." While His great glory is maintained, yet His grace is there dispensed in fullest measure. The blessed sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is the basis of this character of grace attaching to the throne of God.
There is a distinction here drawn between obtaining mercy and finding grace to help in time of need. Mercy is that heartfelt compassion that comes into the circumstances of sorrow or trial; it regards one as in such circumstances; whereas grace is active favor, a power that lifts one above his circumstances. Note Ephesians 2:46 in this regard. Man's condition of misery is seen in verse 3, then mercy and love in verse 4, and the active work of grace in verses 5 and 6, raising up and seating together all saints in the heavenlies, in Christ. Blessed communication of Divine favor. And such grace is constantly available in practical life below. What real, encouraging incentive to constant, effectual prayer!
"For every High Priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins." The apostle of course refers to the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, which is typical of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and first noted are some definite comparisons. Being ordained for men in things pertaining to God indicates a provision from God's hand to care for man's interests as regards his relationship with God. The offering of gifts and sacrifices for sins was the chief work of the high priest. These things are preeminently true of Christ. But comparison ends here, for Aaron's priesthood was for earth alone and the offering of his sacrifices only of a temporary formal value; while in contrast Christ's priesthood is eternal, and the value of His work eternal.
"Who can have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way." is we know blessedly true of our Lord, and infinitely more so than any earthly priest. But here again comparison ends, for of Aaron and his family it is said: "he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins." Aaron was to sympathize with the people because his nature was the same, and his offerings were as necessary for himself as for them. The sympathy of our Lord is rather the result of His omniscient wisdom and of His lowly humiliation in voluntary suffering and death, - entering into our circumstances in pure grace. Wondrous contrast indeed! And His sympathy is more full and pure than could be that of the most tenderhearted son of Aaron.
"And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" It is God exclusively who decides who is fitted for this place of holy mediation between God and man. Man has not an iota of choice in this appointment. In human affairs, it is common that both sides in reference to any discussion, must agree as to a mediator, but in this matter God alone can be trusted to make the proper appointment, and He reserves this to Himself.
"So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee." This appointment too is fully of God, but it is not mere external appointment. The very announcement by God at His birth, declaring the proper Personal glory of His Son, implies that in Person He is essentially God's High Priest. There is nothing similar to this in Aaron. No personal attributes had the slightest bearing on his priesthood, which was continued by mere natural succession.
Here however we must distinguish between official appointments and that which our Lord is by nature. Some have insisted that Christ was not an high priest on earth, assuming this from Ch. 8:4. But there he speaks of official priesthood, which on earth was confined to the sons of Aaron. In this the Lord Jesus could have no part. Yet our present verse is plain to the effect that in Person He was priest by the very fact of His incarnation. When God announced Him as His Son, this was actually glorifying Him as High Priest. But it was not yet official appointment, which must be necessarily of a character far higher than Aaronic priesthood,- not earthly, but heavenly.
This is now referred to in verse 6, which is the actual official announcement of His High Priesthood: "Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." This is a quotation from Psalm 110:4, which must have awakened the wonder of any godly Jew who read it. For Melchisedec was a priest long before Aaron, and though only briefly mentioned in history (Gen. 14), yet the evident approval of God was upon that history: he was "priest of the Most High God." Here was an order independent of Aaron, and previous to Aaron, yet an order that had no place in the nation Israel on earth. Wonderful indeed is the reason for this, for this man was typical of, not an earthly, but a heavenly priesthood, which is fully entered into by our Lord only in His resurrection.
For verses 8 and 9 most beautifully show that in His earthly path He assumed no official place whatever, but rather a place of lowliest humiliation: "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him from (or 'out of') death, and was heard in that He feared. Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered."
All of this is the blessed moral proof of His Person as One fully qualified for an eternal Priesthood. The verses are transcendently lovely in showing that He was really (if not officially) the High Priest of God, for He offered up prayers and supplications, - a true priestly work. Indeed, Heb. 7:27 also speaks of His sacrifice on Calvary as a Priestly work: "He offered up Himself,"-not a work required because of official position, but the willing outflow of His own nature of pure love and grace.
But further, was not all His earthly path one of godly preparation and proof as regards His qualifications for an eternal priesthood? His ability to take the lowest place in suffering, in faithful dependence upon the living God, even unto death, has marvelously proven Him worthy of the highest exaltation, worthy to receive, beyond the reach of death, an unchangeable priesthood.
Thus, He was saved "out of death," not saved from dying, but in resurrection saved out of that state to which His unselfish devotion had willingly descended. His prayers were heard because of His unswerving piety and devotion to God, and He was raised from the dead in righteousness. None other could fulfill such blessed qualifications: this is the Priest we need, Him whose intercession with God can never fail, He who has learned in experience what obedience really means, - learned this by the things which He suffered. "Though He were a Son," and therefore in a place of dignity and glory, accustomed to command, yet He has taken the place of Servant, learning experimentally the true character of obedience, in suffering; and moreover an obedience exquisitely perfect. Wonderful grace! wonderful condescension on the part of the Lord of Glory!
And having been perfected, became to all that obey Him Author of eternal salvation; addressed by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchisedec." This will be seen to compare with Ch. 2:10: "perfected through sufferings" This experience in suffering was necessary to qualify Him perfectly as the Author of eternal salvation; and in resurrection this preparatory rigorous experience is seen to have been perfectly completed in every respect. His accomplishing of eternal salvation too is on behalf of "all that obey Him" His obedience is the pattern of theirs. This includes all believers. It does not mean that they obey Him in every detail, but rather that, in submission of heart they yield to Him "the obedience of faith:" it is in other words the proper character of every believer to obey. Certainly a believer ought to be true to character in everything; but this is his character.
Verse 10 therefore is the definite salutation of God in appointing Him to His present exalted place of High Priest, an eternal appointment according to the order of Melchisedec. Here is an office unchangeable, not passing to another, never to be shared with another, and hence in infinite contrast to the office of Aaron.
"Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing." The very brevity of Melchisedec's history (in Gen. 14) and the lone comment of Psalm 110:4 ("Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec") should surely have stirred the exercise of every godly Jew with desire to know the reason for this. And ought not every Scripture stir our own hearts with longing to know the mind of God in it? But just as it was hard to interpret these things to the Hebrews, so often we find interpretation too difficult. And why? Simply because of dullness of hearing.
The apostle will go on to speak of Melchisedec in ch. 7; but first he must deal with this affliction that so prevents our glad reception of the precious truth of God. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat" (or solid food). Among many of the Gentiles to whom Paul preached there had been far more healthy response and growth than among Jewish believers in their own land. Earthly aspirations and national pride were no small hindrance to spiritual growth: the mind set in the wrong direction will have its dulling effect upon sight and hearing. At least they ought to have been able to teach fundamental principles of the grace of God, but had relapsed to a point of needing such teaching themselves. Let saints of God take this to heart today, and he prepared for the "solid food" of the Word of God.
"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food belongeth to them who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." It should be only briefly that we are confined to elementary principles, as a babe must be for a time confined to milk. Not that we should ever lose our taste for "the sincere milk of the Word" (1 Pet. 2:2), for even the simplest things require constant exercise and spiritual digestion; but there must be the addition of good solid food to produce proper growth and strength. This calls for skill in the use of the Word of God, and healthy exercise of the senses in discerning between principles of good and evil. It is no mere mental stimulus or progress, but a moral and spiritual condition that is not dormant, but subject to the stirring of soul-exercise.
Verse 1 of this chapter is not properly translated in the Authorized Version, and it should be evident that we must never leave "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." Divine principles and sound doctrine must be unalterably the vital basis of all Christianity. But the New Translation reads rightly, "Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of the Christ, let us go on (to what belongs) to full growth, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, of the doctrine of washings, and of imposition of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; and this will we do if God permit."
Though Christ had come, and the glory of God had been so revealed in Him, yet Jewish believers, being zealous for the law, were as yet babes occupied with those things that formerly pointed to Christ, -the sign-posts of Old Testament doctrines, - rather than with Christ Himself. This could give no perfection, or mature growth. Let us not turn back to engage our attention with the signposts but go on to where the sign-posts direct us, the full knowledge of Him in Whom all perfection is found. The teaching of the Old Testament is a foundation for the more vital teaching of Christianity. The law itself called for "repentance from dead works," by the very fact of its condemnation of evil. It called for "faith toward God," but it did not reveal "the glow of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It had its ceremonial "baptisms and laying on of hands," - formal cleansings indicating the need of moral cleansing; formal identification with the offering of animals, etc. (Cf. Lev. 1:4), typical of a vital identification with Christ in His great work of atonement. "The resurrection of the dead" was a well-known doctrine. Law itself demanded such a doctrine, for its claims of justice and equity were not met in the brief span of man's earthly existence: there was an accounting yet to be made. (There was however no teaching nor understanding of a "resurrection from among the dead," that is, of the distinct resurrection of saints at the coming of the Lord.) "Eternal judgment" too is a doctrine that law required and bore witness to, for if the authority of God is despised, His wrath against such rebellion must he consistent with His very nature; it must be eternal. These then are elementary principles preparatory to the revelation of the Person of Christ.
But the apostle acids a most serious condition as to "going on to perfection," - "this will we do, if God permit." Faith has in it a maturing energy and will go on to full growth. But there are other conditions in which God will not permit this "going on to perfection." This is elucidated in verses 4 to S, where the case is plainly one of mere profession without actual faith, a profession deliberately abandoned in defiance of every clearly witnessed truth which had once been outwardly embraced. In so solemn a case, God will judicially harden, and allow no recovery and therefore no progress.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." Let us note this well, that here is a class of persons whom "it is impossible to renew again to repentance." These are not merely ignorant souls who have been linked with some denomination, then lost interest in it. Nor are they true believers who have become lax in their ways and have "left their first love," needing to he restored to the joy of their salvation. But they are those once privileged with all the outward blessings of a Christianity that at that time was pure, fresh and vigorous, and have known its precious truths; then have callously, deliberately refused it.
First, "they were once enlightened," but though mentally enlightened, the light had not penetrated the heart. Secondly, they had "tasted of the heavenly gift." But in tasting they had not eaten; and having tasted they knew what they were refusing. Thirdly, "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost." The word for "partakers" may be rightly rendered "companions," and implies that they had intimate association with the manifest power of the Spirit in the early church; but in spite of so great witness, had not "received the love of the truth," so that Romans 5:5 was never true of them: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." They were partakers in an outward sense merely, never had the Spirit of God indwell them. Fourthly, "and have tasted the good Word of God." Here again, tasting was not receiving, no actual assimilation of it, no "drinking in" (Cf. vs. 7). The fifth of these privileges which gave them such responsibilities is that they had tasted "the powers of the world to come." Miraculous powers had accompanied the institution of Christianity particularly in Jerusalem, - powers that have their place properly in the Millennial age: they had witnessed these, so that any desertion of Christianity in this case could only be deeply culpable guilt.
Their "falling away" therefore in verse 6 is their turning deliberately against the marvelous and clearly attested truths they had once professed to embrace. This is apostasy. There remains no possibility that such souls as this will be "renewed again to repentance:" so rebellious a stand against known truth incurs the judicial blinding of God. We must not however infer that this is true of every case of profession of Christianity, which may be given up. For today there are no such marked public evidences of the truth of Christianity as in those early days. Present-day Christendom has compromised its purity: its freshness and vigor have gone. Its corruption and division are in great contrast to its inception in the blessed power and liberty of the Spirit of God. Yet there is still solemn warning in these verses. If one has actually known the truth of Christianity and the reality of its being of God, then deliberately to turn against the Lord Jesus is to seal his own doom. This is, in personal attitude, to "crucify the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame," - to willingly give approval to His crucifixion and rejection by the world. This would compare with the "sin against the Holy Ghost," which is never forgiven.
"For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." As these two types of earth differ fundamentally, so is the line drawn between true believer and false professor. To "drink in the rain," the earth must be pliable and porous. Where the plow has done its cultivating work, the implanted seed will respond to the gentle rains and bear fruit. So the stirring work of the Spirit of God prepares by true repentance that which is then called "good ground," and the fresh water of the Word of God is taken into the soul, bearing fruit and receiving blessing from God.
But where the rain from heaven is not drunk in, the arid ground produces thorns and briars, - only abortive attempts at fruitfulness. So a heart untouched by the blessed work of repentance, not drinking in the pure Word of God, may make some show of Christianity for a time, but will in the end bring forth what is harmful rather than good. The thorns will be burnt, for they will not be allowed to remain to cause hurt and damage. But the person who produces them, actually choosing them in preference to the good he has known, must suffer the same dread judgment of God.
But if the first 8 verses are a solemn test of profession, and warning against a mere outward adherence to Christianity without reality, the remaining verses of the chapter are of the utmost, sweetest assurance and encouragement to the true believer. "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." How beautifully calculated is such a verse to appeal to all in whom faith is a reality. Faith will produce better things, things consistent with salvation. For those things produced by an apostate can never accompany salvation, proving that he never had known salvation.
"For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." The very nature and character of God is such that it is impossible for Him to overlook the evidences of true faith. On the one hand He is perfectly righteous to reject a profession that shows no faith, but on the other hand His very righteousness requires that He fully recognize every "work and labor of love" shown "toward His Name." Such motives of love can be the result only of faith in Him Personally: and the eternal assurance of the believer is vitally bound up with God's perfect righteousness. He can forget nothing that is the actual fruit of "love toward His Name." This was publicly seen in one's treatment of the saints of God. Persecution and reproach was at the time rigorous, and those who would persist in ministering to the welfare of the saints would expose themselves to the enemy's hatred. Thus faith was a necessity for continuance.
"And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." Diligence was there, but he desired it on the part of every individual among them: only such endurance would evidence "the full assurance of hope;" for if one would apostatize from Christ, he would prove himself utterly devoid of any assurance of the hope of Christianity. "The hope" is of course anticipation of the future, but with "full assurance,"-no element of uncertainty.
"That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Lax indifference to the glory of God's revelation in the Person of His Son is inexcusable. Others had avoided slothfulness, and had maintained faith and endurance; both New Testament saints (such as leaders mentioned in Ch. 13:7) and the grand examples of faith in the Old Testament, as seen in Ch. 11. Such faith is worth our wholehearted following; for the promises were given only to faith, and faith alone will inherit them.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swore by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." This quotation comes from Gen. 22:15-18. How manifestly it is intended to contrast with Hebrews 4:3: "As I have sworn in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest." In this latter case the oath of God raises a solemn question as to those who in unbelief have questioned God's faithfulness. But here in Ch. 6 how strong an oath from the mouth of God assures Abraham of His unconditional blessing, because Abraham believed God. God swore by Himself. The entire glory of God then is involved in this great oath. Wonderful, unchangeable, absolute certainty! And if the fulfillment of the promise was long delayed, yet this waiting time would but prove the reality of the faith that believed God: "he patiently endured."
"For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife." Far more importance thus is attached to an oath than to merely the word of man. Thus, grace on the part of God deigns to make this solemn oath, to give us unshaken assurance of His blessing. Indeed, His word is fully as certain as His oath, but the very fact of His oath is condescension of tender compassion toward man, in desire for our fullest certainty. How marvelously gracious He is!
"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Let us note first that His counsel is immutable: there is absolute impossibility of change. The oath actually adds nothing to the Word, but only confirms it. But this beautifully displays the abundant goodness and willingness of God's heart to give every encouraging assurance to the heirs of promise. His Word is immutable, and of course His oath also is immutable: it is impossible for Him to lie. But this faithful consideration is for the "strong consolation" of the believer, who in dire need has "fled for refuge" to Him in whom alone is hope.
"The hope set before us" is heavenly in contrast to Jewish earthly hopes, - "an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." Let us observe that this hope allows no element of doubt, but involves rather the utmost certainty of anticipation. What an anchor of the soul! Stability, consistency, stedfastness will be ours in proportion as our souls lay hold upon the blessed reality of such hope.
A striking illustration of this verse was known in the days of sailing vessels. Particularly when the harbor entrance was narrow, a little boat called "the forerunner" would carry the anchor of the larger vessel into the harbor, and cast the anchor there. Then winding in the anchor cable, the vessel was drawn on a straight course into the harbor.
"Whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." If the veil involves some measure of obscurity, yet we know the blessed One who has entered there, and this assures our being drawn unerringly there, the wind and the waves of circumstance being of little consequence in this regard. This One who in lowly Manhood on earth has proven unchangeable, faithful, stable, - Jesus - (Name of unspeakable sweetness!) is rewarded in Glory with the dignity of an official, unchangeable Priesthood, "after the order of Melchisedec." Thus, both in perfect grace and perfect faithfulness the interests of His saints are presently and eternally cared for.
It will be noted that the necessary digression of the apostle begun at Ch. 5:11 is now concluded, and he returns to the precious consideration of the Melchisedec Priesthood of the Lord Jesus.
"For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him: to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all: first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem which is, King of peace: without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually." The brief record of Melchisedec found in Genesis 14 is as a shining light appearing momentarily and vanishing. But only thus is God's purpose served As typical of Christ's present official Priesthood in resurrection, this record is exquisitely beautiful. First, Melchisedec means "King of righteousness," and secondly, "King of Salem" means "King of peace." Being the one perfect upholder of righteousness, Christ is also the one true Source of peace. The two cannot be divorced. And He is the one Mediator between God and men, the High Priest upon the throne of God. As Melchisedec blessed Abraham, bringing forth bread and wine for his refreshment after the stress of his contest with the kings, so the Lord Jesus, in the present day of grace, ministers to His saints the memorials of His wondrous death. for sustenance in an evil world, and for protection against the world's seductions, as instanced in the offer of the king of Sodom to Abraham (Gen. 15: 21, 22). Abraham, in response to Melchisedec's grace, rendered him a tenth of all the spoils, not as a legal requirement, but in willing-hearted recognition of his superior position. We cannot fail to see a typical character in this.
Verse 3 does not imply that Melchisedec personally had no parentage, no beginning or end, but that the record has designedly omitted any reference to these things, in order that he might be a striking type of Christ. He is not (as some have imagined) the Lord Himself, "but made like unto the Son of God." Since there is no record of his death, this implies that the Melchisedec priesthood is perpetual. How good to observe that this perpetual priesthood is so shown to have been in God's thoughts long before the introduction of the temporary priesthood of Aaron and his sons in Judaism. But only by means of these many omissions as to Melchisedec's history could this man serve as a type of Christ as Son of God. How intricately beautiful is the Word of God in its wisdom and precision!
"Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils." What profound significance this should have for an Israelite! Abraham, the highest, most honored of all Israel's progenitors, had himself fully acknowledged another as greater than himself!
"And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham." While Abraham had given tithes, yet the Levites, who came out of the loins of Abraham, were commanded to take tithes of their Hebrew brethren. In Abraham they were subordinate to Melchisedec: under law their brethren were subordinate to them. How clearly this shows that law was an inferior thing to the Melchisedec priesthood, and therefore only temporary in character.
'But he whose descent is not counted from them, received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; hut there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes paved tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him." Thus Melchisedec, long prior in time to Levi, received tithes from Levi's great father, and conferred blessing on him, as one himself greater. Lovely picture of the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ bestowed on the man of faith!
The Levites also received tithes until they died, at which time this dignity ceased. This order of things was continually interrupted by death: how then could the order itself be permanent? But now, the true Receiver of tithes, the true Blesser, is the One of whom it is truly witnessed that He liveth. Melchisedec is a type of this only in the fact that Scripture gives no record of his death. Christ's Priesthood is permanent, because he lives.
Moreover, inasmuch as Levi's progenitor, Abraham, payed tithes to Melchisedec, then we conclude that Levi did so, for he was at that time "yet in the loins of his father." The entire legal system is therefore seen to be inferior to the blessed Person whom Melchisedec typifies, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priest-hood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" Here the apostle adds another strong and conclusive proof from the Old Testament that a change of the priesthood and of the law was imperative. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Perfection is a vital subject in Hebrews, and one which the Jew must fully approve. But was it found in the law? Impossible! for if so why did the law bear witness that another priest should rise of an order not known under the law? Law in fact excluded all others from the priesthood except the line of Aaron; but it prophesied of a different order entirely. Moreover, if the priesthood were to change to a completely different order, then the law must change: God's methods of dealing would certainly conform to the character of the priesthood He instituted.
"For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Indeed, King Uzziah, of the tribe of Judah, for his daring to enter the temple in a priestly capacity, was immediately smitten of God with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-21). And the Lord Jesus while on earth sought no place whatever in the official priesthood; made no suggestion of assuming the place or duties of a priest in the temple.
Nevertheless, Scripture had established the fact that Israel's Messiah must be of the tribe of Judah; that the Son of David would sit upon David's throne in perpetuity (Isa. 9:6, 7). And more than this, Zechariah 6:12, 13 boldly says of this same blessed Person, "He shall be a priest upon His throne."
"And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment. but after the power of an endless life. For He testifieth, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." The type is the more complete when we consider that Melchisedec was both king and priest. The Aaronic priesthood could never fill the former qualification, for the king could not rise out of Levi; but this lone, striking statement in Psalm 110:4 opens out wonderfully the truth of the necessary change in the order of priesthood.
This new priest must be constituted so, not by the law of a carnal commandment, - that is, a law governing the flesh in its condition subject to decay and death, - "but after the power of an endless life." He must be One Personally superior to death, though indeed He has in voluntary grace passed through it for our sakes, triumphed over it in the power of an endless life, which law could never have, nor give.
"For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." In one respect therefore the dispensation of law was weak and unprofitable. While it was perfectly just and holy, hard and inflexible, yet it had no strength to introduce righteousness among men. True, it condemned unrighteousness, but was utterly weak as regards providing any remedy: it could expose the terrible loss that man had incurred by sin, but could provide no semblance of profit. It could change nothing: it made nothing perfect, but rather confirmed the hopelessness of the actual condition that existed. Therefore, how infinitely greater is the "better hope" which brings perfection with it. Of course, this perfection is in the living Person of the blessed Son of God, Him whose endless life is the very essence of power and profit, Who in pure grace communicates life and eternal blessing to those once under sin and the sentence of death. And thus indeed "we draw nigh unto God," in contrast to the rigid distance that law had maintained.
But another great contrast in these two orders of priesthood must he noted. "And inasmuch as not without an oath He was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better covenant." An oath involves what is binding and unalterable; hence no oath was made at all in reference to the induction of priests of Aaron's line; but it has been made in reference to Christ. Such an unchangeable oath then means that He is the surety of a better covenant, a covenant sure and unalterable.
And to this another contrast is added: "And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this Man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood." Law required many priests, that is, High Priests: the new covenant allows but One. This was impossible under law, of course, for death intervened. But how blessed to contemplate this Priest, who "continueth ever," and His priesthood therefore unchangeable. All of these details are perfectly interwoven in marvelous consistency, bearing witness to the minute accuracy of the Old Testament as well as the New.
"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come 'unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." We may observe here how vitally the perpetuity of our salvation is bound together with the perpetuity of His Priesthood. This is salvation in its fullest and all-inclusive character, not simply the initial salvation of the soul, nor present salvation from the evils and pitfalls that beset the Christian path; but both of these, beside future salvation out of this world and for eternal glory. Blessed fulness indeed, and dependent utterly upon Him who "ever liveth to make intercession." Does this mean eternally dependent? Indeed so: and we should not want it to be otherwise, for it is dependence upon One eternally dependable.
"For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." Aaron and his sons were not at all suited to meet our actual need. The High Priest fully becoming to us must have infinitely higher characteristics. First, in character He must be holy, having unvarying love of good and hatred of evil. Secondly, in conduct He must be harmless, having no element of disregard for the need or welfare of others. Thirdly, in contact He must be undefiled, not in any measure contaminated by circumstances of corruption. Fourthly, His communion must be "separate from sinners," His path one that drew a clear line of demarcation between Himself and those in a course of sin. All these are seen beautifully in our blessed Lord in His entire path on earth, and of course in no other. But fifthly, He must he "made higher than the heavens." A mere earthly level of priesthood would not do. He must be given a position higher than all others, everything being subordinate to His authority, that He might use all things for the welfare of those for whose blessing He is appointed.
"Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people, for this He did once, when He offered up Himself." One who must sacrifice daily could never actually meet the need of our souls, for the daily repetition only hears witness that the need has not been met. The first part of the verse then speaks strictly of the Aaronic priesthood, under which order the priest must offer both "for his own sins, and then for the people's." The concluding phrase is the blessed contrast seen in the Lord Jesus. His sacrifice is perfectly completed: "this He did once when He offered up Himself." The eternity of His Person gives eternal value to His blessed work. In this the believer has rest. "For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated (or perfected) for evermore." Here is an added testimony as to the weakness of law: it appointed men who have infirmity as high priests. A system in the hands of failing creatures must be a failing system. But "the Son" is again seen in beautiful contrast: in resurrection, having accomplished propitiation, He is perfected forever. Indeed, in life on earth, He has proven Himself without infirmity, and now in resurrection as superior to death, - perfect in every respect as High Priest forever.
"Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens: a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." Another contrast now appears in ch. 8 between Aaron and Christ: not only is the Priest Himself of a higher and perfect character, but the ministry He introduces is "more excellent" than that of Aaron (see verse 6). But the first verse would focus our attention upon "such an High Priest," exalted to the highest possible place of glory. For if He is indeed "a minister," He is more than that - the Object of fullest worship and adoration. But being "a minister of the sanctuary (or of the holy places) and of the true tabernacle," His ministry is of universal character, eternal, purely and fully of God. The earthly tabernacle was but a faint picture of this, for though God's pattern was followed with utmost care, it was yet actually the work of men's hands, its ministry therefore temporary. For the tabernacle is symbolic of the universe. The inner sanctuary typifies Heaven itself, the ark therein a type of the throne of God. The outer sanctuary would indicate Israel, the priestly nation, as in the millennium, in closest outward relationship to God. The court would speak of the rest of creation. Actually, in the coming day, all of creation will be affected by the High Priestly work of the Lord Jesus, but its character is Heavenly, for He Himself has entered the "Holiest of all," now in the presence of God for us. This is a great, universal ministry, therefore, and not one confined to one nation under heaven.
But in verse 3, a comparison is again noted: "For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to offer." Since this is the necessary character of a priest, then certainly this High Priest must have an offering to present to God. In this case, the apostle does not speak of His offering Himself up in death, but of a present offering. "For if He were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law." Here again is contrast. He could not be an official priest of an earthly sanctuary, for this was confined to the line of Aaron. His official priesthood now is far above this. Note that the verse does not say that He was not a priest on earth; "but if He were on earth He should not be a priest." His present priesthood has no place now on earth, for He is officially High Priest now. As we have seen, in moral character He always was a Priest, but not officially on earth at all. Similarly, even on earth He was actually King of Israel; but He will not officially take His throne as such until a yet future day. These distinctions ought to give no difficulty.
Priests on earth however, who are linked with Israel's legal system, "serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." The word "example" here may be rightly translated "representation." Moses was given no light or indifferent task. He was not allowed in one iota to change the pattern God gave him, however the children of Israel might have felt about it or considered that some things might he improved upon in their eyes. This was to represent heavenly things, and only God could be depended on to give instructions. How solemn a word for the church today also, as regards true order according to God. Sad indeed that in too many cases man's thoughts have been allowed to qualify and alter the truth of God concerning the order of the church. This is a gross insult to God, and a false representation of His mind and will.
But besides representation the legal system was a "shadow." There was no solid substance in it: this is found only in Christ. The actual substance is heavenly, and the shadow of this was cast on earth, in anticipation of the substance.
"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." His ministry is superior because He is the Mediator of a superior covenant, which is founded upon superior promises. Indeed, the promise to Abraham was long before the law. Moreover, it was an unconditional promise as to Abraham and his seed, while the promise given to Moses was conditional upon the obedience of the people. How vastly inferior this was, for it could introduce no blessing at all. But the new covenant is the actual fulfilment of the magnificent promise to Abraham, which really manifests the heart of God, and the sufficiency of God, - He Himself accomplishing all blessing, with nothing dependent upon the energy or virtue of man. How much sweeter therefore, how much stronger, how much more full of blessing is the ministry of our Lord, the great Mediator of the new covenant.
Not that the new covenant is addressed to Christians, no more than was the Old. Both are definitely Jewish. This is seen clearly in verses 7 to 10. Nevertheless, though we are not therefore under a covenant in any respect, yet the blessings of the new covenant are ministered to Christians by pure grace, through Him Who is Mediator of the new covenant. This is grace, the branches of blessing spreading out over the wall of Jewish separation, and reaching Gentiles, who were not the subjects of promise, nor ever in any covenant relationship with God.
"For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord." The first covenant was not faultless, because it could procure no blessing for those who broke it; and of course those to whom it was given proved themselves far from faultless. Consequently, there was ample room for, and necessity of a new covenant. Observe that verse 8 says, "finding fault with them," not with the covenant.
The apostle quotes from Jeremiah 31, and of course it is plain that the new covenant was there promised exclusively to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Both are mentioned because of the division of the ten tribes from the two in Rehoboam's time. No tribe will be excluded from the new covenant: in that order of things the division will be Divinely healed. And the terms of the covenant must he in contrast to the terms of the former one, given when God led them out of Egypt. Note the reference here to God's compassionate mercy in liberating them from Egypt, a work altogether of sovereign power and grace, in the face of which Israel yet had the ignorant boldness to choose a covenant of law! They required more than this experience to convince them that the mercy of God was their only source of blessing; and the nation has not learned it yet. But they certainly "continued not" in the first covenant, and God has "regarded them not." This will be so until they cease "going about to establish their own righteousness," and abandon themselves to the mercy of God.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." How vastly different are the terms of this covenant from those of the old. There is no condition whatever here, that is, nothing based upon the fulfilment of human responsibility. No requirement is stipulated at all as regards Israel: it is entirely a matter of God alone fulfilling the terms. Israel has proven that she is utterly without ability to present to God anything that could possibly deserve His favor; and therefore if she is to be favored, it must be entirely on the ground of God's work. Of course, it is necessary that she be brought down to first acknowledge her utter destitution and helplessness before she will submit to this great and sovereign grace: only thus will she be in a state to give the entire glory to God.
Putting His laws into their minds and writing them in their hearts is a miracle of mercy. Does it not plainly speak of the new birth, a complete changing of the heart in true repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Nothing short of this will do for Israel. and it is just as necessary for every soul of man today. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3). It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4), and it is by the Word of God that new life is given (1 Pet. 1:23).
This will be true of "all Israel" in the millennial age. The Gospel will not be preached among them, for all shall know the Lord. How mighty a work of Divine grace in that stubborn nation, so long dealt with in chastisement and affliction before being broken and blessed. Isaiah 66:8 prophesies of the wonder of this great work: "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." Such is the blessed work of God within the soul. Verse 10 however also speaks of the actual outward acts of disobedience, and shows that Divine mercy would be required to dismiss these. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." How God could righteously show this mercy is not here mentioned, but chapters 9 and 10 dwell upon the greatness of the public work that must be done for this, - that is, the wondrous sacrifice of Christ.
"In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." The legal covenant, not having in it the capacity to endure the stress of man's condition, must be replaced by that which endures. The new covenant necessarily renders the first old, and it will never be revived. The new is not merely a method of patching the old: the old must be entirely discarded. And the new will give place to nothing else: it is perpetually new.
Chapters 9 and 10 form a wonderful climax in the orderly presentation of the truth in this epistle: If according to the new covenant, a man must be morally fitted for the presence of God by means of the new birth, as we have seen, yet the way into Gods presence, the holiest of all, must also be clearly made manifest. These chapters admirably and fully deal with this grand subject.
And first, from verse 1 to 10, the service of the tabernacle is summarized for us, for its typical significance is of deepest importance in this matter. A study of the details of these things in Exodus and Leviticus would greatly repay the godly reader. "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of Divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread: which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all: which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."
The details are not to be dwelt upon here, but we are intended to closely observe the distinction between the two holy places, the sanctuary and the holiest of all. Indeed, emphasis is put strikingly upon the holiest of all; for in the outer sanctuary the candlestick was of pure gold, the table of shewbread was overlaid with gold, yet the gold is not mentioned in connection with these, while it is mentioned three times in verse 4, in connection with the holiest. Moreover, the incense altar, which was in the outer sanctuary, is not mentioned at all. It was also overlaid with gold. Perhaps the reason for this is that under law there had been no true, real worship, of which the incense altar would speak. Gold is typical of the glory of God, and though this was involved in Judaism, yet His glory could not in any full measure be revealed under law and its shadows. Thus the Spirit of God would direct our attention to the greater revelation connected with the holiest. This is typical of Heaven itself, while the outer sanctuary is typical of the sphere of Judaism and the earthly priesthood.
This is intimated in the following verses: "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service. But into the second went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." Judaistic priests had access at all times into the first sanctuary: it was the sphere of their common service as the sons of Aaron. But none of the common priests were allowed at any time in the holiest of all.
The High Priest alone on the great day of atonement each year was allowed in, in order to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering before and on the mercy - seat. The veil remained always between the two sanctuaries, keeping the holiest of all in constant darkness.
What a lesson for Israel! Here was continual testimony to the fact that there was a sphere into which Judaism could give no free access. God Himself remained in the thick darkness. Yet the entrance of the High Priest each year was an indication that God had not precluded the possibility of man's entrance there; while at the same time the High Priest is a striking type of the Lord Jesus - the Man Christ Jesus, Mediator between God and men. But the way into the holiest could not be made manifest in connection with the first tabernacle, that is, under the legal system: the system itself pointed to something beyond itself. It was "a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."
Such gifts and sacrifices left the conscience still unpurged. Their actual value lay only in the fact that they typified a better sacrifice than these. Meats and drinks too were but typical of the food and refreshment of the sacrifice of Christ - both for God and for the believer. Divers washings and carnal ordinances were typical of the application of the truth of Christ to the soul, in cleansing and sustaining power. Such things, being typical, were of course temporary, - imposed only until the time of reformation, when God would set things in proper relationship and perspective, introducing a change to end all changes.
"But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building: neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Blessed fulfilment of all these types! Christ is come, "an High Priest of good things to come." These good things have of course not yet been secured by the nation Israel, as they will be; though the church is infinitely blessed in anticipation of that day, by her reception of Christ, with all the blessings His Priesthood brings. The greater and more perfect tabernacle is that which is eternal in contrast to the earthly system of Judaism committed to men's hands: it would speak of the universe as in the counsels of God, - God's eternal building.
Verse 12 speaks of the eternal character of His work, in contrast to the repeated sacrifices of the old testament. By the blood of goats and calves the high priest in Israel had title to enter into the holiest on the great day of atonement; but this gave no title to remain in, and the same sacrifice must be repeated each year. But Christ, by His own blood, because of its eternal value, had title to enter into Heaven "once," having obtained eternal redemption for us." The work of the priest in Israel was always unfinished: that of Christ was perfect and complete in every respect, and God has received Him in perpetuity in His own holy presence, the holiest of all.
In the type, the high priest brought with him the blood of the sin offering into the holiest, and sprinkled it before the mercy - seat, and upon it. This was necessary, in order to illustrate the fact that it was "by blood" that he had title there. It is of course evident that the actual material blood of Christ was not brought by Him into Heaven. Not "with blood;" but "by His own blood He entered in." That is, the eternal value of His sacrifice gave title to His entering Heaven as Redeemer and High Priest of His people.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" These formal ordinances accomplished a formal result. "The purifying of the flesh" was merely an outward, public setting apart from the sin for which the sacrifice was offered. The very fact of the sacrifice was a public condemnation of the sin; and the offerer thereby linked himself with the repudiation of the sin, publicly. But there was no vital, eternal value in it.
But a sacrifice of such vital, eternal character as that of the Lord of Glory, must necessarily have vital, eternal results. This is involved strikingly in the expression, "by the eternal Spirit." His was not a sacrifice by formal appointment, but by the voluntary, Divine energy of the Spirit of God. Nor are we to narrow our thoughts so as to think of "the blood of Christ" as merely the material blood which was shed, but rather to consider its deep, precious significance. For it is the sign of His life given up in sacrifice, - offered to God, whose heart takes unutterable delight in the infinite value of this. Well may Peter speak of "the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19).
Another matter of consequence is to be observed here. The actual offering of Christ through the eternal Spirit to God is seen in His baptism by John the Baptist, when the Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father's voice bore witness to His pleasure in Him. His baptism was the very figure of the death to which He pledged Himself. But offering Himself then to God, His utter devotion eventually culminated in His being "offered up" at Calvary, His blood shed for us. How fully and blessedly such a sacrifice purges the conscience from dead works (an effect vital and permanent), to energize the soul to serve the living God!
"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Having offered a sacrifice of eternal value, He is therefore necessarily the Mediator of the covenant that displaces the temporary one. Moreover, His death fulfils that which the old covenant demanded: it has satisfied the judgment of God against those sins which the old covenant brought to light. His death therefore is in a very real sense the end of the old covenant. Nothing in the old covenant could possibly provide redemption in regard to the sins it exposed; but it demanded death. Its claims have been met in the death of Christ, and its authority set aside by this great Mediator. He has triumphed in resurrection - a new and eternal condition, which involves a new covenant and introduces the "promise of eternal inheritance."
How much greater is this than anything that Israel has as yet inherited? Again and again has God demonstrated to them that their possession of the land of Israel is far from permanent. Law could not secure it to them. Nor, now that many of them have returned there, will all their political diplomacy and military prowess be sufficient to hold what they have gained. They will yet be more violently oppressed than ever before, their land torn from their hands. But God has decreed that under the new covenant Israel will dwell in peace, in full possession of their inheritance, given them by God's sovereign intervention in power and grace. Above this however, the church has her eternal inheritance "in Christ" and "in the heavenlies," and this perfectly secure now. This is consistent with the New covenant, but not actually a part of it, for we are not in any sense under a covenant, however rightly and greatly we may enjoy the benefits of it.
It is to be remarked also that "covenant" and "testament" are actually the same Greek word, translated in either way. This will give more clear understanding as regards what follows: "For where a testament is, there must be also the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, and water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover, he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood: and without the shedding of blood is no remission."
How perfectly this illustrates the fact of God's foreknowledge that blessing for Israel under the law was impossible, that is blessing promised by the testament of law. The blood, shed at that time, and sprinkled so profusely, really only insisted upon the necessity of death; and being a conditional testament, that is, its blessings conditional upon the obedience of the people to law, then blessing under it was hopeless. Indeed, disobedience demanded the shedding of blood, but blood was shed in the very giving of the law and its ordinances, before ever it brought guilt to light. And every service of the sanctuary was a continual reminder that blood must be shed: there could he no remission without it. Even formal remission, applicable to a public, temporary system of things, demanded the blood of an animal. What then must eternal remission require? The old testament required death, and so must the new. And the new is entirely a testament of Divine character, expressing the will of God. How admirable the truth here: in order to come into force, the death of the testator must take place.
But while law could demand death, it could not provide the death of the great Testator: indeed it only affirmed Him to be the living God, and man rightly under the sentence of death. All was hopeless under this testament. But how marvelous therefore is the new testament, full of unconditional blessing for confessed sinners, because it provides in pure grace the amazing incarnation and matchless death of the Testator Himself, on their behalf. This is what gives it eternal force and value. Only by the great mystery of incarnation - God's being made manifest in flesh - could this wonderful death have taken place, opening the floodgates of Heaven's blessing to unworthy sinners. The New Testament has fullest force on this grand basis of Divine grace. Sad to say, of course, Israel has today refused such grace, and there can be no application of this to that nation until they bow their hearts to acknowledge this blessed Testator who died for them. Meanwhile others, who have received Him, reap the benefits of this testament which was not actually made for them at all, - and thus grace is magnified.
"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." Such purification was strictly formal, that is the patterns were purified: all was external. The pattern itself accomplished no actual result, no more than a dress pattern could substitute for the dress itself. But the pattern must illustrate in its measure the form the dress is to take. So the heavenly things must be purified with a sacrifice of vital character, not formal.
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." He is not a formal priest of the line of Aaron performing the daily ritual of an earthly tabernacle, but infinitely above this. He has entered into Heaven itself, the true "Holy of holies," in gracious mediation on behalf of His redeemed people.
"Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year, with the blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Even a casual reader of Hebrews ought not to fail to observe the apostle's insistence upon the fact of Christ's being sufficient and final, in contrast to the repeated offerings of the Old Testament, specifically the sin offering on the great day of atonement. If His sacrifice were comparable to these, then He must offer Himself repeatedly, and with no hope of cessation? But as Hebrew's has so fully illustrated, since He is in Person infinite, therefore His one sacrifice has infinite value, not limited by the greatness of man's sin, nor by the element of time, - that is by the question of whether sins were committed before or after the offering of Himself: its value is all-sufficient. It is the perfect basis for the complete putting away of sin from under Heaven, as will be known in the eternal state; and by it the sins of believers are now put away, through faith in this blessed sacrifice: faith in this way anticipates eternity.
Another expression here must be noticed: "once in the end of the age hath He appeared." The age here is of course the probationary age of Judaism, which made nothing perfect. When all else was proven hopeless, the Great Creator Himself became Saviour, in one great work of infinite perfection and completeness. Blessed Redeemer indeed! Blessed grace that offered no less than Himself!
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Here is another viewpoint also involved, that since man is appointed to die only once, on account of sin, after which he has an appointment to give an account of his sins, therefore Christ died once, offering Himself for sins, that judgment might be averted for "many," that is believers, for He Himself has borne this judgment fully for them. If it is true that He died for all, yet to "bear the sins of many" is limited to those who in faith receive Him. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12). Thus such grace is available to "all," but applicable only to "many."
The many are of course "them that look for Him." Every true child of God looks for the Lord Jesus to eventually take His rightful place of authority and glory in the universe. All may not have clear thoughts as regards the truth of the coming of the Lord, but all "look for Him." To these He shall appear the second time, apart entirely from any raising of the question of sin. This has been settled long before, and cannot be raised again. Judgment is past, and therefore His coming will be "unto salvation," that is, complete salvation bodily, the believer delivered entirely from the very presence of sin. Wonderful prospect indeed! This is the first part of the second coming, for here He appears only to believers, while later "every eye shall see Him," when He must mete out judgment to those who have refused His blessed mercy.
The attentive reader cannot but notice the thoroughness with which this subject is treated in these chapters. It is a matter of profound importance, basic as regards any true knowledge of God, and as to approaching the presence of God. Law could not give any such revelation. "For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." A shadow is simply an evidence of something substantial. Verse 34 of our chapter speaks of the "better and enduring substance." This of course is what the law foreshadowed: the two were certainly not one and the same, nor is the shadow of any strength whatever to the substance. The sacrifices provided under law were but part of the shadow: they could never accomplish the redemption of which they were typical; and those who approached on that basis could find no real purging of conscience, no standing in perfection before God. For it should be evident that the sacrifice must be perfection itself if it is to bring perfection of blessing. And if it has done so, then the recipients of it "have no more conscience of sins:" a perfect sacrifice is complete in reference to accomplishing the purging of guilt, and it makes perfect those who approach God on this basis.
"But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." The repetition of the offering only proved that the question of sins was not yet settled. Like a great debt owed, it was never reduced by the paying of the interest year by year. Each year thus only brought to remembrance the fact that sins had not yet actually been taken away. The blood of animals could not possibly accomplish such a result.
"Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I am come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do Thy will, O God." This quotation is from Psalm 40, rightly called "the burnt offering Psalm." The Old Testament itself bore clearest witness to the fact that animal sacrifices were of no real value in the eves of God, and this Psalm is as the light breaking through the mist to declare that at least Someone would take the place of all such offerings. "A body hast Thou prepared Me" is the way in which the Spirit of God interprets His own expression in the Psalm, "ears hast Thou digged for Me." Does this not rightly imply that He would take the lowly place of the Servant, utterly obedient to the Father's will, ears opened to hear His Word? The same is implied in His body prepared for Him. Rather than in the form of God commanding and ordering all things according to His own will, He takes the form of a Servant, assuming the limitation of a human body, in complete subjection to the will of God. On earth, where not one had actually done the will of God, here was One Who came for that purpose, to accomplish that will in perfection. Blessed, wondrous sight! No doubt the "body prepared" is also an advance upon the thought of "ears digged," showing that the Psalmist's expression could be fulfilled only by means of incarnation.
But the apostle in verses 8 and 9 repeats this quotation with the object of showing that "the first" must be taken away. in order that "the second" be established. The law itself bore witness to the fact that its own terms were unsatisfactory, and therefore that it must be set aside in favor of One who would do the will of God.
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Sacrifices under law sanctified momentarily, that is outwardly; but of permanent value it gave none. The will of God accomplished by the offering of the Lord Jesus, brings with it a permanent sanctification, a setting apart to God of every redeemed soul, for eternity. This sanctification is positional, that is it sets the believer in a separated position, as having recognized that great public sacrifice which separates between believers and unbelievers publicly. "The sanctification of the Spirit" applies of course to all believers also. but this involves the Spirit's inward work in souls as separating them from those who have not the Spirit. This is internal, the former external.
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." The fact that the priests in Israel stood continually in performing an unending round of service, indicated that their work was never done. The tabernacle had no seat, except the mercyseat in the holiest of all, which could never be approached except by the high priest once each year, to sprinkle blood upon it. Is all this ritual not a designed lesson to mankind that the most unwearying labor could never accomplish the least iota of eternal blessing.
But the entire question is answered in marvelous fulness and perfection by the one sacrifice of our holy Lord, God's great High Priest. Having accomplished expiation for sins in this one great work, He sits down in perpetuity on the right hand of God, in the holiest of all, upon the very throne which He had propitiated, having perfectly done the will of God.
The perfection in verse 14 is explained for us clearly. It is certainly not perfection in a man's moral character of which the apostle speaks, but perfection of blessing accomplished on behalf of those who are sanctified, that is, every believer. The sacrifice being perfect, has perfect results, giving a position of perfection to the believer. The same work that sanctifies or sets apart, is the work that provides perfection for all who are sanctified.
"Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us, for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." We have first seen the will of God, followed by the work of the Son, and now in close connection is the witness of the Spirit. Let us observe however that it is not the witness within the believer that is here spoken of. 1 John 5:10 does speak of the Spirit of God within the believer witnessing to his possession of eternal life. But here in Hebrews 10 the witness of the Spirit is rather the Old Testament Scripture (Jeremiah 31) which had been long before dictated by the Spirit of God and therefore of course a conclusive witness to the Jew. Under the terms of this covenant, the Spirit of God had pledged all inward work in men's hearts and minds (that of the new birth), but also a complete remission of sins. This being so, then the Old Testament itself indicated that offerings for sin would cease. This is inescapable. Had the Jews even considered so evident a fact laid down in their own Scriptures?
It may be remarked also that God in Divine government put an end to Israel's offerings perforce, following the sacrifice of Christ; for the Jews lost their city in A.D. 70, and have never had possession of the temple area of Jerusalem until very recently (June, 1967). They well know that this is the only place in which their sacrifices are allowed to be offered; and we may well wonder how soon the intensity of their desire to restore their worship of old will overcome their fear of Arab and world pressures, to such an extent as to replace the present "Dome of the Rock" with a Jewish temple. But such an attempt will be of short-lived duration: for idolatry will supplant the worship of Jehovah, and the Great tribulation fall in dreadful ferocity upon the unhappy nation. Later on, when they are restored to blessing in the millennium, through the gracious intervention of their own Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, God will order again the sacrificing of animals, as Ezekiel shows us, but not "for sins." They will be rather a remembrance of the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and of sins fully put away (Ez. 40:39.43; 43:18-27).
The question of sin now settled, verse 19 proceeds to encourage the believer in those privileges proper to him. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." How infinitely marvelous a contrast to Judaism! For law sternly forbad entry into the holiest. God dwelt in thick darkness, and none dare approach. But the saint of God today is called to do so with calm, holy boldness, having fullest confidence in the blood of Jesus, which gives perfect title there, in the immediate presence of God.
The way into the holiest is both "new," accomplished by the death of Christ, and "living," that is not in any sense formal, but vital and eternal. Moreover, He has consecrated it: no service of consecration is left to man at all. The veil, separating between the two holy places is here interpreted for us, "that is to say, His flesh." His perfect Manhood was actually an absolute barrier to man's entrance into God's presence, for in that blessed Manhood of Christ God had demonstrated that only perfection was satisfactory to Him. But the death of Christ - the rending of the veil from the top to bottom - is the wondrous work that opens the way into God's presence for sinners.
But He is also a High Priest over the house of God, One Whose mediation is perfection itself, and because of Whom the believer is gladly welcomed. Thus we observe a threefold cord of assured blessing to the believer, all centered in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, - the blood, the rent veil, and the High Priest. We have before seen too that not only does He have authority over God's house: He is Son over His house.
Such being the case, it is but right that we should draw near, but certainly with a true heart. How could we dare stoop to deceit in connection with those things in which God's perfect truth and love have been so clearly manifested for our sake? "Full assurance of faith" too is to be our attitude in drawing near, - no unholy familiarity or unseemly forwardness, yet no terror or shrinking; rather a calm, holy decision of faith. The "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience" would speak of the Word of God having application to the heart and conscience by the new birth. It is the sprinkling spoken of in Ezekiel 36:25. "Our bodies washed with pure water" on the other hand would speak of the effects of that new birth in the outward character of the believer. The one therefore is the internal change, the other external, but by the power of the same water, the Word of God. This latter is the "bath" that every believer receives at new birth. Compare John 13:10. "He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." This washing must he distinguished from cleansing by blood, which is cleansing from the guilt of sins; for the washing of water is cleansing morally from the power of sin, that is, the effect upon the soul, both internal and external.
The first (and most important) exhortation therefore is to draw near to God. But there is more to follow: "Let us hold fast the confession of our faith (or hope) without wavering: (for He is faithful that promised)." If we have been given a solid basis for drawing near to God, to give up such a position would be impossible. Hebrew professors of Christianity were however exposed to particularly serious tests of their reality, and if the false turned back, this could but be expected; but such exhortations as this verse would strengthen those who were true in heart yet possibly shaken on account of the apostasy of some. "For He is faithful that promised." Blessed rock of certainty for the believer!
But verse 24 proceeds to more posititve, active goodness. "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Passive submission is one thing, and needful too, but we must not content ourselves with this. True, proper activity should stem from this, a genuine concern for the blessing of others with whom God has put us in contact. Such consideration for one another is the normal fruit of Christianity. Provoking unto love and good works is done by showing such character cheerfully in our own lives, and encouraging others in such things. But let us notice that good works are not considered until after the great work of the Lord Jesus is seen to be the only resting place of the soul, the only real foundation of blessing. Thereafter, good works have their true, real value, as a proper result of the knowledge of eternal salvation.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching." If there is decline in the fresh, honest energy of drawing near to God, a corresponding laxity will soon appear in the desire for the gathering together of the saints. How sad that this is such a tendency in a world that supplies every inducement to forget God. One may feel himself strong enough spiritually without the need of constant gathering in fellowship with the people of God: but this very feeling is a sad sign of spiritual weakness, for which he deeply needs such assembling to the Name of the Lord. Indeed, if he is strong, he should use his strength for the encouragement of others. Or if one should give in to his own feelings of discouragement because of lack of outward public blessing, he is only encouraging the discontent and selfishness of his own heart and of others. The Lord preserve us in His mercy, to hold fast that which He has given us, and not to give up because of the trial of faith. Indeed, let us go further, and diligently exhort one another in this regard, and more urgently as we see the Day approaching. How should we feel if the Lord should come immediately after we had decided to give up a wholehearted walk with Him in fellowship with saints?
The apostle here puts diligent faithfulness in contrast to apostasy. For verse 26 is the willful rejection of the Christ who was once acknowledged. "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite into the Spirit of grace?"
This is no case of a weak believer giving way to sinful conduct, for in such a case there is a restoring remedy. Compare James 5:19, 20; Galatians 6:1; 1 John 2:1. But here there is no remedy. The greatness of the Person of Christ and the perfection of His sacrifices have been here discussed in wonderful fulness. The willful sin of verse 26 is therefore the cold, deliberate rejection of this marvelous revelation of God, in the very face of having been intellectually enlightened. Notice, it is after receiving the knowledge of the truth, - not receiving the truth itself, or "the love of the truth." as is expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2. Some Jews who had professed Christianity were already revolting against it. In acknowledging it, they were admitting the necessity for a sacrifice to take away sins. Now in refusing it, they were choosing a position where there was no sacrifice for sins whatever. How dreadfully hopeless! Positive, certain judgment was the only alternative, fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries. For in such a stand they became the callous adversaries of the God of Israel.
Moses' law, with which the Jews were familiar, sternly demanded death in the case of any who rebelled against it, when the case was established by competent witness. But the revelation of God's glory in the Person of His Son infinitely transcends God's speaking by the law of Moses. If the judgment under law is so severe, then the far greater enormity of the crime against the Son of God demands a far greater judgment. Three solemn charges are brought against the apostate; first, his treading underfoot the Son of God. This is similar to Ch. 6:6. It is cold contempt for the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in flesh. How dreadful an insult to the Eternal God! Secondly, the blood of Christ he treats as unholy, despite the fact that God's covenants with Israel demanded shedding of blood. Thus if the Son of God Personally is cast aside, so is His great work of redemption. Such a man plainly has never been born again, yet is said to have been "sanctified" by the blood of the covenant. Taking a public stand with Christians, he had been publicly set apart by the acknowledgment of the virtue of the blood of Christ. But his heart had not actually been reached: all was merely on the surface.
Thirdly, "the Spirit of grace" is despised. The Spirit of God revealing the marvelous grace of God in the present dispensation, attending this with clearest demonstration for Israel, with miracles and signs, has been deliberately insulted with haughty contempt. This compares with the sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall never he forgiven (Mark 3:28-30).
In every nation under heaven, brazen contempt for a dignity is counted a grossly criminal offence, and the higher the dignity, the more grave the crime. Certainly then such daring insolence against the eternal God will reap a terrible punishment. "For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
But because God is patient, and no dire consequences of such evil are immediately seen, men are emboldened in rebellion. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11). Thus the test is complete. The patience of God allows time to prove fully the utter absence of faith in such painful cases; and when the judgment does at last come, it will be clearly seen to he absolutely and unquestionably just. Moreover, these things are so intensely serious that the judgment is not to be entrusted to human hands, nor even to angels: it is vengeance directly from the hand of the allwise and righteous God. Fearful indeed His vengeance at last manifested after years of patient grace so despised by man's proud unbelief!
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions: partly whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used." This exhortation would have true effect upon those souls who were real: they could not lightly overthrow the reality of what they had suffered for the Lord's sake in their first stand for Him, and for identifying themselves with the saints who were suffering. Only a callous, untrue heart could renounce all this.
For verse 33 we quote a more exact translation: "For ye sympathized with those in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better and an enduring substance" (Numerical Bible ). Such an attitude was fully true of those who had truly received Christ. It was no small matter to have linked themselves with prisoners who suffered for Christ, exposed to the ungodly persecutor who considered himself justified in plundering their possessions because they were commonly held in contempt. But faith could rise above grieving as to temporal loss: they had what was their own, a better and enduring substance. This had given them stedfast firmness, and certainly it was no less real now.
"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." If confidence in the living God is cast away, then its character is proven to be extremely deficient, for God Himself has not changed. Persecution tests it, no doubt, and the apostle would strengthen souls to stand by true, living faith. Patient endurance would gain its recompense, for the will of God in reference to any believer is that he should prove through hard experience that his trust is actually in the living God.
"For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Time may drag heavily and seem long when affliction and adversity try the soul, yet it is a mere moment in comparison to eternity; and the coming of the Lord is put before the soul as a constant source of encouragement, comfort, and confidence. Let the saints of God more wholeheartedly expect this and encourage one another in such blessed expectation.
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw hack unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." The quotation "the just shall live by faith" is from Habakkuk 2:4, quoted also in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. It is most interesting to observe the differences of emphasis in each case, however, as illustrating the blessed fact that Scripture indulges in no mere repetition. Romans dwells upon the truth of justification, and hence emphasizes "the just." Galatians deals with the subject of living a Christian life, not by works of law, but by faith, and therefore emphasizes "shall live." Now Hebrews emphasizes the means, - "by faith" and in ch. 11 illustrates this beautifully.
But if one should "draw back," that is, if he abandons faith. God can have no pleasure in him. How could God be pleased with one who refuses to trust Him, - a God of perfect truth and goodness.' But there is no possibility of this on the part of any true believer. Some drew back unto perdition, "but we are not of them," says the apostle. Believing to the saving of the soul is in fullest contrast to that type of belief that is merely an outward assent to the truth of Christianity.
This chapter in itself forms a complete division of the book of Hebrews. If previously the doctrine has been thoroughly laid down that faith is the principle of all actual relationship with God, now Ch. 11 provides from the Old Testament itself numerous examples of positive proof that faith is the one principle that produces real results for God in all ages. It is the experimental proof. And these examples of faith are the more remarkable when we consider that the dispensation of law did not in any way emphasize faith, as does our present dispensation of grace, which indeed may be termed "a dispensation for faith." But though not publicly taught in the Old Testament, yet faith is seen to be the only actual energizing power by which anything for God was accomplished. The Psalms actually are full of declarations of the blessedness of faith, but the law did not declare it as a necessary doctrine. However, there is a power in faith that could not but manifest itself in spite of the legal system.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This is not a definition, but shows us something of what faith does. It is that which, to the individual, gives solid substance to things hoped for. It is no mere fanciful imagination, but an honest trust in the living God, by which the things of God are made a definite, clear reality to the heart, and are thus recognized to be more truly substantial than all material substance-for the latter will pass away. Also it has that peculiar power of evidencing to us "things not seen." Faith in the living God is not blind, but the actual opening of the eyes, accepting unquestionable evidence of the reality of unseen, spiritual things.
"For by it the elders obtained a good report." Did legal-minded Jews consider this? It was not rigid law-keeping that clothed with such illustrious beauty the lives or works of the most outstanding Old Testament saints, but a genuine active faith in God. This we shall see in our chapter.
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." It is no problem to the believer to understand creation. Faith, crediting God, sees nothing too hard for Him. Some socalled scientists, who admittedly find no other alternative but evolution, will reject creation on the ground of its seeming to be "incredible," and with amazing credulity follow the theory that the universe has by the merest chance gradually taken shape out of some original, undefined, hazy nothingness! And thus, life, order, growth, instinct, feeling, sound, hearing, sight, odor, smelling, taste, memory, intellect, reason, energy, movement, personality, conscience, motives, spiritual conceptions, besides an infinite variety of material forms, and also of immaterial characteristics, seen in great variety even within one material species, - all this is claimed to proceed out of a nebulous mass of lifeless nonentity! Where in the universe, have they observed one sample of such a principle in operation? Such reasoning is of course grossly unreasonable.
But in the Word of God is majestic power, and this has framed the universe. The details of this God has not told us, nor does Scripture indicate at what time the original creation came into being. The six days of Genesis 1, in which the remodeling of the earth for man is described, reveal what is comparatively recent in earth's history. God has made visible things from things invisible. The atom, from which all matter is formed, (and which He created, Col. 1:16,) is invisible; and the atom itself is formed of smaller, invisible parts. Scientists wonder if even these are again formed by infinitesimal particles, and are dubious if they will ever discover the smallest basic building blocks of matter. At least, the lesson is inescapable, that what is unseen and spiritual is the basis of what is material, and therefore far more important. Faith apprehends this with not the least difficulty.
Verse 3 then connects faith with understanding or wisdom, and in relation to creation. But let us go further: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Observe that this verse connects faith with worship, related to the great truth of redemption. Sin had marred that which God had created without fault. Therefore creation was no basis of worship whatever. Cain ignored the fall, and dared to offer the fruits of the cursed creation. Abel offered a lamb by the shedding of its blood, a striking type of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, in which the just penalty of sin is faced, and borne. Faith recognizes that this is the only ground of approach to God. Apart from the cross, no worship can be acceptable to Him. How brilliantly is this faith exampled for us in the case of Abel, and so early in history.
By his sacrifice he obtained witness that he was righteous. His faith acted upon God's revealed will in the matter. Cain, even when reasoned with by God, stubbornly refused any offering but the fruits that witnessed the work of his own hands, and his pride was his own condemnation. But God testified to the value of Abel's gifts: He had respect to that which spoke of the offering of His own Son. Abel therefore, though murdered by Cain, continues to speak throughout all history: and doubtless multitudes have been awakened of God, through this record, to trust God's one sacrifice.
"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death: and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Here faith is connected with a godly walk in separation from an ungodly world, and therefore related to "translation" into the sphere of new creation. Genesis tells us that "Enoch walked with God." Jude further speaks of his faithful prophesying of the Lord's coming and the judgment of the ungodly (Jude 14, 15). He is a striking type of the church of God, which in her proper condition walks in devoted separation to God, bearing faithful witness to the coming of the Lord, and will be suddenly caught up to meet the Lord in the air, not actually seeing death. God confirms His approval of her moral separation by physically separating her from the world before judgment falls. No doubt the witness of Enoch was deeply resented, and it has been suggested that the expression, "was not found" implies that he was sought, possibly with the object of putting him to death. But God intervened: he did not see death at all! Wonderful indeed the testimony of Scripture as regards him: "he pleased God." Who can estimate the marvelous value of this? But let its remark that all of this is the fruit of simple, honest faith.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." If one does not honestly believe that "God is," then his apparent religious approach to God is thorough hypocrisy. Faith is simply a true recognition of God, and certainly nothing less than this can please God. This is the elementary essential, while the last part of the verse shows the active working of faith, that is, diligently seeking God, which is certainly to be rewarded, in accordance with the faithful nature of God.
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." In this case faith is connected with work as related to judgment. Noah worked because he believed God. The dreadful reality of God's judgment had stirring effect upon his soul. His labor in building the ark, his preaching while doing so, was not prompted by light motives, but by "godly fear." God had spoken, and God would make good His word. Only Noah's house was saved: others despised both the long preaching of Noah and his amazing labors in building the ark. But the weight of popular opinion was only folly in this case: all was swept away in the flood. Note too that by the very building of the ark Noah condemned the world. Its existence was the witness of the flood to come. Just so, the preaching of the Gospel of eternal salvation through the death of Christ, is clearest witness of the condemnation of the world. If there were no judgment, then salvation would be meaningless. The very fact of the Gospel of God's grace is proof that the world is under judgment, from which only individual faith will deliver individuals. The world chooses to ignore both the warnings of judgment and God's gracious provision for escape; but faith is that principle which, believing God, recognizes that God does as He says, and will tolerate no rebellion. If God says He will judge the world, He will do so. If He provides a way of escape for whosoever will receive it, then it is a perfect provision, and absolutely secures the soul from judgment. Thus Noah became "heir of the righteousness which is by faith." His works did not provide him with this righteousness, but his works were the result of faith in the living God, a faith which was counted to him as righteousness.
But it is well that we notice in the first seven verses of our chapter that faith connects itself with four basic and mighty works of God, as God has revealed them. First, in verse 3, Creation; secondly, in verse 4, Redemption; thirdly, in verse 5, Translation, or new creation; and fourthly, in verse 7, Judgment, God's "strange work." Thus faith exalts the works of God, and has no confidence in what is merely man's work.
Verse 8 begins now a second section, in which Abraham and his family are the examples of faith. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out. not knowing whither he went." We shall see faith here, not only as related to the basic works of God, but to the personal experiences of life. God called Abraham out from a land of idol worshippers, from his own near relatives. It was no light step to take. He was a man of means, and no doubt of prominence; but when God called, it was a voice that could not be ignored: he obeyed. We are not told here with what hesitation he at first acted, for he went only as far as Haran, his father accompanying him, and did not go on until his father died. Such weaknesses of the flesh are necessarily passed over in a chapter that deals with faith. But faith did lead Abraham on, and though not knowing where God was leading him, he went. This is faith in personal life. Can God be fully trusted, or not? Is this not a simple matter for faith to decide? If so, let faith act. If the Word of God tells me the path to take, then let me take it without question. Whatever the difficulties of it. God is more than sufficient for these. If only mere religious feeling prompts me, this is a useless substitute for the clearly declared Word of God. All personal preferences and feelings must utterly give way before this tribunal of absolute truth and authority. Faith therefore in this case connects with obedience. If I have no honest spirit of obedience to the Word of God, then it is mere hypocrisy to boast of having faith in God. When God speaks, faith obeys. For faith is that which trusts God absolutely in preference to every other confidence, and it trusts His Word as showing the only true and safe course for the believer. We shall obey in proportion, as we actually trust the Word of God. Faith does not fearfully inquire first as to what may result from taking a step of obedience: the results may be safely left with God. Abraham did not investigate first to find out all about the land God was sending him to: he obeyed!
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." If faith first obeys, faith also continues. Here is the stedfast, plodding life of faith, not a settling down amid earthly comforts, but a pilgrim path, as Abraham's tent bore witness. Mere material, present advantage, is no object whatever for faith. God's promise of better things had laid hold of Abraham's soul, and Isaac and Jacob after him took the same pilgrim character (though indeed Jacob in particular was painfully inconsistent in it until his later years). Though Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, yet the promise of the land was to his earthly seed, and he knew that personally he would not take possession of it (Compare Gen. 15:13-15).
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." This goes beyond any Old Testament record of Abraham's expectations, and shows that faith looked further than the limits of what God had publicly revealed at the time. The heavenly city had never been mentioned then, but faith could easily recognize that the incorruptible God would provide that which was incorruptible, above all that man observes by his senses, subject as this is to the early corruption and dissolution. Faith then desires nothing less than what is entirely the workmanship of God. It will not be disappointed.
"Through faith Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful Who had promised." Faith here connects with the receiving of strength. For while a step of obedience to God is admirable, and a life of stedfast continuance more admirable still, yet without the supply of God's power, these are impossible. Faith finds this too; and this completes a series of seven beautiful products of faith, basic in all godly character: 1. Wisdom (vs. 3); 2. Worship (vs. 4); 3. Walk (vs. 5); 4. Work (vs. 7); 5. Obedience (vs. 8); 6. Continuance (vs. 9); 7. Strength (vs. 11).
No comment is here made on the fact of Sara's weakness of faith when first God made the announcement that she should have a son (Gen. 18:9-15). But God had the last word, and Sara then believed it. And this simple trust in the truth of God's word produced the strength that was normally impossible. At ninety years of age she gave birth to Isaac. When God has spoken, do we not judge Him faithful, and expect Him to fully carry out what He has promised? Will He not also give the necessary strength for whatever purpose He may see fit to use us? Consider the results of Sara's eventual quiet submission of faith: "Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable." Here is fruit beyond calculation, and certainly beyond the limits of Sara's own hopes. Mere natural hope was dead, so that long before this she had given up any such expectation. Thus God teaches that He alone is the true Resource of His saints; and the fruit of faith's submission is greater far than appears at the time, or possibly for years after. Only eternity will actually reveal it. Faith does not ask to see results, nor depend upon results, but it will eventually produce them, however long the time may seem. It is the principle of life out of death-resurrection.
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Faith sees death to be but a necessary step toward the fulfilment of the promise, hence the quiet calmness of the patriarchs in the face of death. First in our verse we see faith's long sight; secondly, its firm, unshaken persuasion, thirdly, its embracing with the entire soul the preciousness of the truth of God; and fourthly, its unhesitating confession before the world that earth is but a foreign land of pilgrimage. How full, and real, and precious such character! Who would exchange it for all the wealth, pleasure, power and popularity the world may offer for a brief span of years? For the latter is but a bubble of air, bursting and gone, in comparison to eternal, solid substantial reality.
"For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city" The very actions of such examples of faith are a plain declaration that they seek something beyond and unseen, that is substantial and permanent. If Abraham had decided after coming to Canaan, that his previous home in Mesopotamia (where he had served idols) was preferable to a path of faith in the living God, then the way was open for him to return; but he had no such inclination. Just so, one who professes faith in Christ, if he prefers his former sins to a path of faith and the truth of God's Word, may return to his folly again; but this would only prove that he had never in actual faith embraced the promises of God. Abraham desired a better country, which could only be heavenly. however meagre was the knowledge of Abraham as to its character. He could trust God without being told everything. Much more has been revealed to us: how much more responsible this therefore renders us! And where this lowly, self-denying pilgrim character is in evidence. God is not ashamed to link His Name with it. Blessed if it can be said of ourselves that He is not ashamed to be called our God! He has prepared for us a city. Loneliness and deprivation now will give place to fullest fellowship and fullest provision there. For this, faith waits with patience.
From verse 17 to 22 there are now four grand examples of faith's triumph in the very face of death, and this concludes the record from the book of Genesis. Observe in this that the greater part of this chapter of the examples of faith is taken from a history previous to the existence of Israel as a nation.
"By faith Abraham when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed he called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." This history found in Genesis 22 is sublimely beautiful, both in the deliberate, unhesitating obedience of Abraham, and in the calm submission of Isaac. Abraham's love for his son was unquestioned, yet at the Word of God he was willing to sacrifice him. It was a striking trial of his faith, for God had before told him, "In Isaac shall they seed be called," and as yet Isaac was a lad. When God had so spoken, Abraham reasoned that if Isaac should die, God would raise him up again, in order to fulfill His promise that Abraham would have descendants through Isaac. Faith thus reckons God's word as paramount and unbreakable, and can willingly give up the most cherished possession on earth for the sake of obedience to that Word. Blessed privilege indeed! Nothing was lost by such faith. Isaac was received back again as though from the dead, - that is in figure, for of course God would not actually suffer the father's hand to kill the child. And this too becomes a most precious type of the great sacrifice of our God and Father in giving His Son to redeem guilty sinners, by the death of the cross.
"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." The history here is really no credit to the strength of Isaac's faith, for he intended to favor Esau rather than Jacob, no doubt because Esau was the elder; but God had said. "The elder shall serve the younger." However, the fact of Isaac so blessing his sons, as he himself was approaching death, is a simple witness to his faith in the living God, faith that death was no deterrent to the fulfilment of God's promise.
"By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." In this case the same faith is evident, but more intelligent than in Isaac's case, for his right hand he placed on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, for he discerned the mind of God. And on the very verge of death the heart of the aged patriarch expands in unfeigned worship of God. Blessed confidence in the unfailing promise of God!
"By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." Genesis 50:24, 25 gives us this simple history. Joseph believed the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps too he was acquainted with the word of God to Abraham that his seed would be a stranger in a strange land, afflicted for four hundred years before they would he brought back to the land of Canaan (Gen. 15:13, 14). But whatever the time, his bones were to be buried in Canaan, as indeed was the case. Even death, and long intervening years, was no barrier whatever, so far as faith was concerned, for it waits simply upon God.
Verse 23 now introduces 7 further distinct accomplishments of faith in connection with Israel's history from Egypt to Canaan, and this is followed by a more general list that covers the entire Old Testament. But it will have been noted in the first part of the chapter that Abraham is outstanding as an example of faith; in the latter part that Moses is outstanding. The former, being called to a path of godly separation, shows us the calm, steady endurance of faith. The latter, called to a rigorous service for God, illustrates the energy of faith.
"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment" (Numerical Bible). The faith here was that of Moses' parents, - his mother in this case evidently taking the lead, according to the history. The beauty of the child was doubtless used to impress on them the glory of the Creator, who could be depended upon to honor their simple act of faith in Him. Their hiding the child no doubt endangered their own lives, but God's honor was more important than the king's commandment. Doubtless too the mother's afterward placing the child in the ark at the river's brink, was an act of faith which was used of God in a virtually miraculous way. Did she not actually give him up into the hand of God, and in an unexpected way receive him back again? Thus faith never loses by its relinquishing anything into God's hand. May we learn such lessons well, in regard to our children, or any other possession with which we may be entrusted.
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Forty years elapsed in Moses' life before this definite act of faith. Doubtless his soul was deeply torn and tested as he viewed the affliction of his own people at the hand of the very nation in which he himself was exalted. He had become great, but the people of God were, suffering. Could he then take pleasure in being heir to the throne of Egypt? Eventually he was compelled to face the issue. Faith could not countenance the cruel assault of an Egyptian against an Israelite, and Moses killed the former. It does not follow that Moses acted in faith in the killing and hiding of the body in the sand. Faith might have found more honorable and wise methods of dealing; so that while his actions were prompted by faith in God, yet they also give evidence of the weakness of his faith. It was certainly not as bold as on a later occasion. Nevertheless there was decision here, a real relinquishing of his regal honors, refusing the glories the world had given him.
But lest any should suggest that he ought to have remained in office in Egypt and use his influence in governmentally patronizing and improving the conditions of Israel, we answer that this would not be faith at all, but mere human sagacity. Verse 25 is the ringing answer to all this. Faith must identify itself with God's people, and suffer with them. A man may be a public champion, with motives of utter selfishness: if he really has a heart for the suffering saints of God, he will take his place with them in suffering. Wonderful choice indeed on the part of Moses, and put in contrast to "enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season." Whatever pleasure is found in sin, it is only momentary, and leaves a bitter emptiness in the end. A word in each of the three verses here has much to tell us as regards the decision of faith, -vs. 24, "refused"; vs. 25, "choosing"; vs. 26, "esteeming." This last is a sober, judicious estimate of things. How much better the reproach of Christ than all of Egypt's treasures! For though Christ had not yet been manifested, this faith was the anticipation of Himself as the suffering One on earth. Whether pleasure or treasure, things counted so high in the world's esteem, they were nothing compared to the joy of a path of suffering for Christ's sake. Moreover, faith has long vision. "The recompense of the reward" was a real consideration to Moses. How trivial the few fleeting years of this life in comparison to eternity! But let us pay closest attention to this first act of faith: "he refused." It takes resolute decision to say "No" to the world's offers of finest advantage and distinction, but this is faith's blessed privilege.
Another forty years intervenes between verses 26 and 27, during which Moses had learned in solitary experience, in "the backside of the desert," that all the wisdom of Egypt was nothing to God. Then God called him to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel out of it.
"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." After repeated interviews with Pharoah, and manifestations of God's heavy hand in plagues upon the nation, Moses is persuaded that Pharoah has exceeded in defying the patience of God; and when Pharoah angrily threatens Moses with death, the man of God boldly, solemnly tells the monarch, "Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more" (Ex. 10:28, 29). Here is his deliberate forsaking of Egypt: no longer will he labor with it in patience: he gives it up to the judgment of God. Pharoah and his hosts were shortly drowned in the Red Sea. If in verses 24 to 26 we see decision, in verse 27 it is separation. And today the world is no longer under probation, as though God were laboring with it to change its attitude: it is rather under definite sentence of judgment which nothing can avert. Therefore faith forsakes the world,-gives it up to the judgment merited by its rebellion against God. Neither is there suggestion of fear or of cringing on the part of Moses: the king's power is far overshadowed for him by the presence of God, as plainly as though he could see his invisible Creator at his side. Blessed reality of faith! A path of faith is that of deliberate, real separation from the world.
"Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them." Separation from the world must be attended by devotion to God. For if the world is under judgment because of sin, God must also judge sin in His own people. How can this be done without the judgment falling on their own heads? The passover gives the answer. The blood of sacrifice must shelter the soul. Indeed, the blood on the doorposts and lintel was the sign that judgment had already fallen, though upon an innocent victim, - the lamb, - the punishment therefore borne by another. Blessed type of the great sacrifice of Christ, who has fully borne the judgment of every soul who in faith receives Him as Saviour. Judgment is past, and safety is assured. God had made the provision, and Moses by faith accepted it: the lamb was killed, and its blood sprinkled in simple obedience of faith. Thus Moses, by this act of unquestioning faith, would by means of the shedding of blood devote the children of Israel to God, as His own possession.
"By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." No longer do we see only the personal faith of Moses here: all Israel is linked with him. The Passover has been the basis of this link just as the cross of Christ is the basis of the unity of the church of God, the one body (Eph. 2:16). Now Moses' faith is seen bearing its fruit in Israel. But here faith hears the humiliation of going down to the bottom of the Red Sea, type of death itself, yet being protected from death's overwhelming power. Confidence in God can afford to take the lowliest place, for exaltation follows: they pass through. The Egyptians seek to imitate this, but without faith, without the least humiliation of heart, and they find that unbelief is swallowed up where faith can safely pass.
After verse 29 the third 40 years of Moses' life intervenes; and it is both significant and humbling that all the 40 years' history of the wilderness is left silent in this record of faith in Hebrews 11. It was too largely a history of lack of faith as regards the nation itself, though individuals no doubt shine out on certain occasions (as Joshua and Caleb.) Moses dies before the event now recorded in verse 30: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.' How strange to the inhabitants of Jericho it must have appeared, to see Israel march in calm, orderly procession around the city once each day for six days,-then seven times on the seventh day. Can we doubt that in the city there was anxious apprehension as to the significance of all this? Some may have scoffed, but not without at least vague tremors of fear. Thus to the world today the Gospel of God is sounded in patient continuance, and it is itself a warning of judgment to come. The world entrenches itself against it, hoping it is secure; but it takes only the intervention of God to suddenly crumple all their defenses: the walls fall down flat, and Israel is victorious. When God gave the order to Joshua, faith simply obeyed. Here is subjugation of enemies; and the believer who has learned the previous lessons, - seclusion, decision, separation, devotion, will also learn the triumphant language of 1 Corinthians 15:57: "Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ", a victory not over mere natural enemies, but over "spiritual hosts of wickedness" who threaten damage to all spiritual prosperity.
But there is a lovely conclusion to this sevenfold history of faith: "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." Thus victory has not issued merely in destruction, but in this case, salvation. If there is victory in judging evil, how much more precious the victory in the deliverance of a soul from evil! How many were with her in the house we are not told, but all were preserved. The Spirit of God had wrought true conviction in her heart, which judged both the wretchedness of her own previous life and the stubborn rebellion of the city in which she dwelt. There can be no doubt that faith produced a mighty change in this poor, sinful woman. The messengers of God she received with peace, and confessed the true condition of Jericho. Wonderful the grace of God which "brings salvation," and teaches us "that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:11, 12). Wonderful too that these seven steps in the history of Moses and of Israel end in salvation for others outside Israel! Good for us to apply these things to our personal lives.
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." This general list of names and of those unnamed, together with the long list of conflicts and conquests of faith, is not intended to awaken our admiration of the people involved, but of the God who sustained and enabled them. Indeed, if we read the history of the first four named, we cannot but be impressed with their weakness of faith in many respects, yet in certain definite cases, they did act for God, and faith was in evidence. In other cases they broke down, and did not act by faith at all. We know the same of David also, a man beloved of God, yet falling into grievous sin, for which later he was broken down in deepest contrition before God. Samuel no doubt evidenced a much more steady and godly balance throughout his long life; and we ought all to be encouraged to exercise real, honest faith in every step of our experience, rather than on special occasions merely. It is the one principle that pleases God, and begets true happiness in the soul.
"Subduing kingdoms" would have a parallel in the New Testament in "the casting down of imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). As to "wrought righteousness," here is "the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Cor. 6:7), righteousness acted on firmly in the face of wrongdoing. "Obtained promises" is a positive result of pleasing God, God revealing Himself in grace to the soul: "He that willeth to do God's will shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17 ). "Stopped the mouths of lions" is answered in 1 Peter 5:8: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Sober vigilance and stedfast faith are the preservatives. As to "the violence of fire," consider James 3:5.6; "escaping the edge of the sword." Matthew 26:52; "out of weakness were made strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10; "waxed valiant in fight." Acts 14:45, 46: "turned to flight the armies of the aliens," 1 John 5:4.
"Women received their dead raised to life again." 2 Corinthians 2:8-10 is a similar New Testament experience along this line.
"Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection." Blessed faith indeed, and seen beautifully in Paul himself, who said, "I endure all things for the elect's sake" (2 Tim. 2:10), and "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).
"And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy). They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." If the Old Testament does not give us the details of such history, at least in many of these cases, yet doubtless they were not few; and the annals of subsequent Church history record a multitude of cases of the godly suffering these very things, and tortures even more cruel, for Christ's sake. How pregnant and precious that word, "of whom the world was not worthy."
But the summing up here is of very real interest: "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect," Though the promise of God in Christ Jesus was not fulfilled to them before their death, however ardently they may have looked for the Messiah of Israel, yet faith was maintained unto death. God had longer vision, having included present day saints in His counsels of grace. Christ came at the precisely right time, and has fulfilled the promise of God, and we on earth today enjoy this, while waiting for the day when both we and they shall be perfected. They too will yet receive the full blessing of the promise, in a higher way than will the earthly nation Israel. The better thing God has provided for us is the present knowledge on earth of the Son of God having come to fulfill the promise of God. It is thorough, untarnished grace, which should bow our hearts with adoring thanksgiving. Why indeed should we be its subjects rather than they, - who had so suffered for their faith? At least all of this serves to humble our hearts in thankfulness to the allwise and gracious God of glory.
How rightly now Chapter 12 admonishes the saints of God to act by faith; for where faith is in godly exercise, every honorable and true responsibility will be willingly assumed, with the confidence of Divine help to enable its faithful discharge. "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." This "great cloud of witnesses" are those of whom we have read in Ch. 11. Our advantage is how much greater than theirs; for they were not provided with such a host of examples of faith as we are. But faith in Christ has put us on the racecourse, where endurance is so necessary an asset. Indeed, are the features of the race not seen beautifully in Ch. 11, a host pressing on toward brighter things than the entire world could offer? A racer must lay aside every weight, not because weights are contrary to the rules of the race, but because by these he will hinder his own progress. Hence weights are not sins, but the cares of this world, occupation with things merely material, which so engage the time that the exercise of faith is hindered. But if weights are assumed, sin will more easily beset us, for the energy of faith is not present to outdistance sin's temptations. Some Christians may be content to take a very slow pace Heavenward, weighted down by present desire for some earthly advantage or comfort; and like Peter "following afar off" find themselves suddenly caught in sin's cunning trap. F. W. Grant points out that if we thought of sin as a pack of wolves at our heels, we should certainly not choose to carry heavy weights with us.
Verse 2 speaks of Jesus as "the Leader and Completer of faith" as it may be translated. Such is the blessed Object or Goal of the saint, - "looking unto Jesus." Many others have been witnesses: He is the one Leader, the perfect exemplification of faith in all His path on earth; the Completer, He Who Himself will culminate every path of faith in blessed fulfilment of all the promises of God. In Him faith will have its complete answer and reward. Indeed, this wonderful conclusion of God's counsels in infinite blessing, with its future joy unspeakable, was a wonderful incentive to the Lord Jesus Himself, to endure the cross, the awful judgment of God for our sins; "despising the shame," that is, thinking lightly of the contempt and persecution of men, considering it nothing in comparison to the glory that would later be revealed. How blessed an Object for our own faith! And now He sits at God's right hand, His own sufferings over, but waiting yet the fulfilment of the fruits of His great work. Is it a great thing therefore for us to patiently endure? The end in view is no less certain for us, with its indescribable joy.
"For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Here is the blessed antidote to all discouragement, simply the honest consideration of the Lord Jesus. The Master had been persecuted: what else could His disciples expect? Moreover, the Master had resisted unto death all the efforts of sinful men to influence Him to surrender to sin's mastery. The Hebrews had not yet been called to go this far: would they give up for the sake of clinging to a few moments of earthly comfort? "Striving against sin" here is not the personal struggle of Romans 7, the individual fighting to free himself from sinful thoughts and feelings. In this case he must learn not to fight. but submit to the power and grace of the Lord Jesus, applying the cross of Christ to all that he is in the flesh. Nor is it here the conflict of Ephesians 6, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. For that conflict is in reference to gaining and holding the truth of God in its purity and uncorruptness, against which Satan so cunningly fights. But here rather it is standing with firmness against men's persecuting efforts to entangle our souls in the same sin they prefer to serve. It is a battle, but faith is the principle that overcomes.
But another aspect of suffering is considered from verse 5 to verse 11: "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." If they suffered persecution from sinners, yet it was God who was allowing this means by which to train His own to conform to His own thoughts: this was "the chastening of the Lord." Blessed is that faith that looks far deeper than the surface of things, to see that every bit of trial and affliction, though it may be occasioned by the grossest wickedness of men, is under the perfect control of our God and Father, being the very thing our own souls need to form them in the pattern God has planned. A child may little understand the reasons for his father's dealings, but if the father has proven himself perfectly kind and trustworthy toward his child, then the child may have fullest confidence that those dealings are to be trusted.
Yet, let us note that this is to be with no spirit of mere lightness or unconcern: we are not to "despise the chastening of the Lord," because it is for a purpose. Nor are we, on the other hand, to "faint," that is, to become discouraged and give in to a spirit of complaint. It is God's love that is responsible for these afflictions, and every son He receives must have his share in this.
"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers. then are ye bastards, and not sons." Enduring here is therefore neither despising nor rebelling, but taking it as from the hand of God. In this spirit alone can we enjoy the proper privileges of our relationship as sons of our God and Father, and reap the benefits of His dealings with us. It will be observed too in verse 11 that this "enduring" involves exercise of soul, in godly concern as to God's dealings. But if one were to find no testings of faith after professing to be a believer, it would indicate he was not a son of God at all.
"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them (margin); but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." God has Himself designed this human relationship as a type of that which is much higher, and spiritual. Correction of a child is absolutely essential for the good of the child, though this depends on the attitude of the father: whatever seems suitable to him will govern his training of the child. However, God's training is perfection itself: its object is the pure profit of the child, and no detail of it can be a mistake. Blessed indeed to be in such a hand! Only thus we learn to conform to God's own character of holiness, to honestly love what is good, and to hate evil.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." The chastening, as we have seen, refers to those outward circumstances of sorrow, trial, persecution, every element that is allowed to give distress or pain to the soul. These will grieve the heart rather than cause joy, though faith is able to triumph even while the trial is present, when the eye is simply upon Christ. Indeed, in the face of persecution we are told to "rejoice and be exceeding glad" (Matt. 5:11, 12). At least, where godly exercise has wrought its work in recognizing the hand of God in these things, the blessed result will be "the peaceable fruit of righteousness." The storm will give place to the quiet calm of solid, true blessing. God's hand must be recognized in the trial, and the soul be drawn to seek His mind concerning it, or we can expect no blessing as a result of it: we should be guilty of resisting God's goodness in designing such things in view of our greatest blessing.
"Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." In the knowledge of God there is no room for discouragement: hands are for active work: our knees should have strength to enable us to stand with firm decision: our feet are for walking, and should have "straight paths" in order that there be no mere aimless wandering, but definite purpose. Moreover, an uneven. tortuous path would itself discourage "that which was lame." We may be guilty of discouraging others by our failure to hold fast to the straight paths of the Word of God. Certainly the straight path itself is never responsible for discouragement: it would tend rather to heal; and our walking in such paths will tend to restore and heal those who falter.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Peace and holiness are normal fruits of Christianity: if they are entirely absent, one has not known the Lord, nor will he stand in His presence. But let the believer follow these things in wholehearted devotion. Too often also souls may divorce these things, and insist on peace while ignoring holiness, or insist on holiness while ignoring peace. The former involves a friendly tolerance of sin, the latter a contentious spirit of legality. Our preservation lies in godly concern to follow both peace and holiness.
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; (for he found no place of repentance), though he sought it carefully with tears." Godly watchfulness is only becoming to the people of God, for the enemy is ever active in seeking to tear down from inside. One may "fail of the grace of God," that is, though he has known that grace in theory, yet his heart has not embraced it: he is outwardly a disciple, but not so in heart. In such soil, "a root of bitterness" may easily spring up, a revulsion against the pure, precious Word of God and against the holy Person of the Lord Jesus. If such should occur among Christians. how easily others may be defiled, - not perhaps going to the same lengths as the bitter offender, yet badly affected by his unholy ways. The person spoken of as "a fornicator or profane person, as Esau" is of course not a believer at all, though he may have passed as one, and for this reason can be dangerous.
The test manifested Esau as an unbeliever: he sold his birthright to fill his stomach. That which God had given him he regarded with indifference, if not contempt: he despised the grace of God. Yet he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, and evidently expected to do so in spite of his having willingly forfeited it. Such is the perversity of the flesh. He shed tears of anguish in desire for the blessing, but he found no place of repentance. Not that he sought repentance: it was the blessing he sought, but did not care to repent of his proud contempt of the grace of God, which indeed is the only ground upon which God will allow the blessing.
"For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. (For they could not endure that which was commanded. And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart; and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.") Esau sought the blessing on the ground of mere human rights, with no repentance: this would be in principle coming to Mount Sinai, where one must expect to meet with the most forbidding, repelling anger of God. Merely touching the mount meant death. Fire signified the burning holiness of God in judgment. Blackness and darkness denotes the utter absence of light in any mere legal position as before God: while the tempest indicates a state of troubled unrest. The sound of the trumpet and the voice of words is the ringing declaration of truth without mercy, which implanted awful fear in the hearts of the hearers. They could not endure what was commanded. Note too that even a beast, which is not a morally evil creature, could not approach the mount: indeed no creature, even unfallen (as the angels of God) can approach the holy presence of God on the basis of creature merit: how much less man, who is sinful! Even Moses, the mediator, type of Christ, was filled with quaking fear. In all of this too it is most striking that no form is seen, and no face: God is hidden. This is the mount to which Israel came, where they received the law, under which they remained responsible until such time as God would in grace reveal Himself in the Person of His Son.
"But ye have come to Mount Sion; and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriads of angels, the universal gathering; and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enregistered in Heaven; and to God, Judge of all: and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, Mediator of the new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling, speaking better than Abel" (N. Trans.). The eternal value and blessedness of these eight subjects is in wonderful contrast to what goes before, in which no ray of actual, true blessing to mankind could penetrate the gloom: indeed nothing but the curse could actually accompany pure law. But pure Divine grace manifests both the marvelous counsels of God, the great blessings of God, and the glory of His Person. And to this believers have come. First, Mount Sion (meaning 'sunny' rather than dark) is the earthly center of blessing in Jerusalem promised of God for the coming day of Israel's glory, a state of settled blessing for the nation. Faith even now, believing in the unshakeable character of the counsels of God, rests in anticipation of this. Not that our place will be in the earthly city, but both Jewish and Gentile believers today have title to rejoice in the certainty of God's counsels of grace concerning the eventual blessing of earth. Secondly however, "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," gives us the certainty of future heavenly blessing for all those for whom God has prepared that city. For though no doubt it is the Bridal city, named for the Bride, the church, yet it includes all saints of past ages, and martyrs also of the tribulation period. Thirdly, "myriads of angels, the universal gathering," would widen our vision further, to see greater multitudes still rejoicing in unity of worship and adoration, the fruit of God's counsels of grace. Let us notice again, all of this involves the precious anticipation of faith.
Fourthly, "the church of the firstborn, enregistered in Heaven," involves the actual blessing enjoyed now by grace, by the church, whose blessings are on a heavenly level. Fifthly, "to God the Judge of all." Not only are we blessed in being linked with the marvelous administration of God's counsels of grace, but we are brought without fear to the Great Judge, the Administrator Himself. The thick darkness no longer hides Him: He is "in the light." Sixthly, "to the spirits of just men made perfect." This expression can refer only to Old Testament saints, as a class, who have waited in disembodied form all through the dispensation of grace, for the future day of resurrection, when they will be made perfect. Without them God's counsels of grace would be incomplete, and we rejoice in prospect of their blessing too.
Seventhly, "to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant" This precious Name of moral grace and beauty emphasizes the reality of His Manhood, as the one Mediator between God and men. For if we see revealed in His Person, on the one hand, the perfect light of the knowledge of the glory of God - that is, eternal Deity, - yet on the other hand is the wonder of His human perfection as the only possible Mediator acceptable with God. To Him we are brought in righteousness and peace, with no cloud to intervene. In the eighth place (number of new creation) is "the blood of sprinkling, speaking better than Abel." Here is the precious witness of an accomplished work, the necessary basis upon which every blessing in grace becomes effective, - blood that maintains an eternal value, and for which our hearts shall be filled with unceasing thanksgiving to God for eternity! Marvelous, infinite completeness of blessing!
"See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven. Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also Heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things that cannot be shaken may remain." The exhortation here is most solemn. When God had spoken on earth, that is, in the giving of the law, with all the awesome accompaniments that inspired terror in the children of Israel, and in such a manifestation of His power and holiness, refusal meant stern judgment; then how much more so now that God has spoken from Heaven, His own great glory revealed in the Person of His Son. His nature of infinite love displayed in the blessed sacrifice of that Son. Blessed, Heavenly revelation! How dreadfully culpable then the guilt of turning away from such matchless, infinite grace.
For grace is no indulgent toleration of rebellion. God will maintain His rights as Sovereign Judge and Creator. If His voice shook the earth at Sinai, it will yet shake more than the earth. "The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 2:10). Reaching for the moon or the planets will be no escape from this dire judgment: man's only hope is in Him who is "made higher than the heavens," the Lord Jesus Christ.
The quotation from Haggai 2:6, "Yet once more" is shown to indicate that this will mean the removal of all that is temporary, that only what is eternal may remain. For it is only "once" then the results can be nothing but eternal. We have seen the word used before in Hebrews in the same final, absolute way.
"Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" Blessed such a kingdom of eternal character, but received now by faith. "My kingdom is not of this world," the King Himself has declared (John 18:36), for "the world passeth away, and the lust thereof" (1 John 2:17). Since this kingdom cannot be moved, let us not be moved either, but draw from God the grace to serve Him acceptably, that is, in a manner acceptable to Him, consistent with His eternal nature and counsels. And a becoming reverence is to be accompanied by godly fear, a wholesome, serious regard for the awful majesty of God. For He is a consuming fire, fearful in holiness, consuming all that will not stand the test of eternity. The display of His grace by no means involves the slightest giving up of His holiness.
The first six verses of this chapter have a striking moral relationship to what has gone before. We have seen that though God's dispensational ways have undergone a mighty change in the advent of His beloved Son, yet His nature and character remain unchangeable. Now these verses show that moral responsibilities are not abolished either. "Let brotherly love continue." Dispensational change was not to change this at all: It is a character applicable to all ages. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Abraham's hospitality (Gen. 18) is a lovely example, not only for his earthly seed, Israel, but for ourselves. This is a general rule, though 2 John 8-11 is an important exception: one who comes propagating a doctrine that dishonors the Person of Christ, must be refused all hospitality, and not even accorded the courtesy of a common greeting.
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." Thus, our present dispensation, though Heavenly and spiritual, does not relieve us from having to face the groans of creation: just as godly Israelites suffered for their faith in the Old Testament, so Christians also endured persecution and imprisonment for Christ's sake; and compassionate sympathy for such is but normal and proper Christianity.
"Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Here again Christianity in no wise annuls the sanctity of relationships established in creation. Some have dared to teach this; but this involves the wicked denial of moral principles that remain unchanged through all dispensations. Indeed, even the law allowed inconsistencies because of the hardness of men's hearts-not because God approved, - but Christianity reaffirms God's creatorial rights in this regard (Matt. 19:39). But the law demanded death for an adulterer. Such evil is no less serious today than then, but judgment for it is in God's hands, not in ours. Of course, in the assembly of God, such abuse would require the firm discipline of the assembly as such, and putting away from fellowship, (1 Cor. 5) but the actual judgment for such guilt God reserves for Himself, rather than now appointing His people to execute capital punishment.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness: and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Personal godly conduct and character was not to be changed because of a changed dispensation, though "Thou shalt not covet" is replaced by the more gentle, persuasive language of grace. Two quotations are found in these verses from the Old Testament, first the blessed promise of God to Joshua, a man of faith, and seen here to be applicable to every child of faith, in every age. Secondly, there is the bold response of faith to such language of the Psalmist (Psa. 118:6), which every believer may adopt at all times, regardless of dispensation; and certainly ourselves, whose lot is fallen in a dispensation which is preeminently addressed to faith.
But if the first six verses have dealt with that which continues in spite of dispensational change, what follows now is characteristic of the new dispensation, to which no addition can be allowed, nor is advance possible. Let us consider this most thoroughly and digest well its implications.
"Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the Word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith: Jesus Christ is the Same yesterday, and today, and to the ages (to come)" (N. Trans.). In verse 17 we shall find that leaders are to be obeyed, but in verse 7 it is evident that deceased leaders are referred to, and to be remembered. Some had doubtless suffered martyrdom for Christ: their faith had stood fast even unto death. Blessed example! Their faith was worth following. This is no mere imitation of their methods, but acting upon the vital principle of faith, as they did. Let us remember today not to dismiss from our minds the godly example and faith of men of God who are now with the Lord. Leaders of this kind are those who have sought no following for themselves, but have directed souls to the Lord,-guided them in the paths of the pure Word of God. Their conversation, that is, their entire manner of life and conduct, had a definite end in view: it was no mere haphazard conglomeration of motives that moved them: there was a vital issue above all else that influenced their actions. This we are bidden to consider. What was the secret of their stability? Their faith was in "Jesus Christ, the Same yesterday, and today, and forever." Why ought a believer to change when he has a Master who does not? "Yesterday" would refer to the blessed manifestation in flesh of the Son of God, His entire earthly path of infinite grace and truth. "Today" at the right hand of God He is the Same. Of course, having died and risen again, He is changed in bodily condition, but in Person, in nature, in moral character, He remains unchangeable. Blessed, faithful Lord. "And forever!" No possible circumstance can ever alter this holy, gracious lord of glory. What an Object for faith! What a consideration for our souls! How comforting, refreshing, encouraging, strengthening, stabilizing! May we unceasingly adore His precious Name.
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart he established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein" The revelation of God in Christ is certainly infinitely better than the forms and laws of Judaism; but after such revelation, advance or improvement is impossible. Men may introduce new and diverse doctrines, but they are an insult to the blessed Person of Christ, and strange in the sense of being foreign to God's revelation. Unstable souls may be beguiled by them, but as we have seen, stability is found in the Person of Christ. The heart must he established with grace. May we know more fully and purely the sweet significance of that grace which has met the claims of a broken law, delivered us from bondage, and provided a liberty wherewith to serve God with wholehearted, voluntary devotion. How much more than conscientiousness is this! Not indeed that conscience is ignored, but rather that, being exercised by the Word of God, the soul gladly acquiesces in that which conscience approves. Thankful affection for the Lord thus becomes the motive, not a mere sense of duty. The legal principle is banished, as are its forms and ceremonies. "Not with meats" is a word added here to insist that mere temporal instances of selfdenial must be no object in a believer's life. They are good indeed if practiced honestly for the Lord's sake, with no thought of spiritual merit in them; but refraining from certain meats will make a soul no better or no worse. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but the Lord shall destroy both it and them" (1 Cor. 6:13). A believer ought to be able to give up his rights easily, whether eating of meat or anything else, without attaching any sanctimonious virtue to it, or considering it a legal imposition. Let grace reign in it, and it is very simple and honorable, as well as profitable. But those who occupy themselves with those things rather than with the grace of God, do not find profit for their own souls.
"We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." The Person of the Lord Jesus is the altar that sanctifies the gift, that is, which gives value to His work of sacrifice. The believer partakes of this altar, as the offerer was privileged in Israel to eat of the peace offerings. But one who serves the tabernacle, that is, clings to Judaism (which was but a temporary order of things), by that very fact ignores the glory of the Person of Christ and the efficacy of His sacrifice.
What right then could he possibly have in the fellowship of Christianity? There was the clearest line of demarcation between the two.
"For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come." Here another comparison with Judaism serves to strongly illustrate the great contrast between this and Christianity. On the great day of atonement, once each year, the high priest must take the blood of the sin offering into the holy place, sprinkling it before and on the mercy-seat (Lev. 16:11-19). But the body of the sin-offering, whether bull or goat, was to be taken outside the camp and burned (Lev. 16:27). None of this was to be eaten at all, but outside the camp all was to ascend in smoke, as it were, to God.
How strikingly beautiful is such a type as this. The blessed Lord of Glory, in order to fulfill the type perfectly, was rejected by His own earthly people, led outside the city of Jerusalem. and crucified. That which was solidly established as God's testimony on earth, having received the oracles of God, having the promise of the Great King, for Whom they professed to look with fervent anticipation, has yet been guilty of completely refusing this holy, gracious Messiah, who came with every possible proof of His glory, in fulfilment of the Scriptures they revered. Totally rejected by Israel, He "suffered without the gate."
Is this not a clearest indication of the fact that both the world in general, and mere formal religion in particular, will allow no place for the blessed Son of God?
But in so suffering outside the gate, He sanctifies the people with His own blood. Indeed, His blood speaks inside the holiest of all, in such manner as to eternally satisfy and glorify God, and this is sanctification to God. Yet sanctification to God must also involve sanctification from the world,-a setting apart in a very real and holy manner. He Himself was forced apart from all that was considered dignified and honorable on earth, and His people must expect to share with Him the same rejection, if they would follow Him. Yet such a path will be actually sweet to the soul, in just such proportion as we appreciate and enter into the sorrows of our Lord as the One "despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." May we deeply meditate upon Him and upon the holy reality of His sufferings, both from man's hand of hatred and contempt, and from God's hand of perfect justice on account of our sins. How truly this will temper the trials of our own path, and give us actual joy in "bearing all things."
What then does it require but simple, decided energy of faith to heed the exhortation, "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach"? For a Jew to leave the camp of Judaism was no light matter: he could expect the same reproach that Israel meted out to his Master. But it is well to insist that our going forth is to be "unto Him." There is no real comfort, no shelter, no strength at all for a path of reproach such as this, unless these are found in the very real presence of the Lord. His blessed Person is the only sufficiency for this, and thank God a perfect sufficiency. Do we love Him? Do we trust Him? Then let us gladly bear His reproach. If it pains us, let us rather think of His greater pain. If it incurs men's contempt or mockery, let us think of His patiently bearing that which was far worse.
The camp of Judaism was what had been previously established by God, but had degenerated into a mere formal religion, leaving no room for the gracious authority of the Lord Jesus. How similar to Exodus 33, where, on account of the sin of the golden calf, Moses pitched the tabernacle afar off from the camp, and everyone who sought the Lord went out to Moses. It was a case clearly demonstrated, of the Lord's authority being refused: then the believer must go to where the Lord's authority actually is.
The same principle must apply at all times. If, for instance, Christian testimony should degenerate to such a state as to be comparable to formal Judaism, where religious ritual is observed, but the Name and authority of the Lord Jesus ignored, then it has become the mere "camp," degraded to an earthly basis, marked by worldly principles. The believer is called to go forth unto Him, from all such hollow profession. He may be reproached for it, he may be made to feel the loneliness of such a path, but if it is truly "unto Him," the recompense is infinitely sweet. His own presence will more than compensate for every present loss.
For, after all, our time on earth is exceedingly brief at the most: "here we have no continuing city," no place of settled fellowship, for all here is both greatly impaired, and rapidly passing away. "But we seek one to come." What a prospect of unspeakable joy!-a fellowship of perfect purity and blessedness, where the Person and authority of the Lord Jesus is the very basis of its holy unity and sweetness for eternity. In view of so marvelous an end, how small indeed in comparison is whatever reproach and suffering we may bear in the present time, for Christ's sake. We shall welcome this in just such measure as our minds are set on things above.
"By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name. But to do good and communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." A proper stand for the truth of the Word of God will not tend to make us critical or bitter toward others, nor haughty and self-satisfied, but to rather fill our hearts with the lowly spirit of praise to God continually. This is said also to be a sacrifice, for is it not the willing giving up of confidence in the flesh, the refusal of personal honor in order that true honor and glory be given to the eternal God? If such praise and thanksgiving is our delight "continually," there will of course be no place whatever for complaint or cold criticism. But another sacrifice is closely linked with this, that is the active energy of goodness toward others, the willing sharing of our earthly goods with those who are in need. Blessed to have the assurance in this that "God is well pleased." Is it not the most blessed occupation on earth to please Him?
This will of course also be conducive to orderly conduct. "Obey your leaders, and be submissive; for they watch for your souls as those that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you." These of course are living leaders, in contrast to verse 7; but the verse supposes a normal Christian character of godly concern for souls. If leaders depart from the faith, they must not be followed, but if seeking to walk with God and to watch for souls, it is a serious responsibility to obey them. A truly worshipping heart will find no difficulty in honest submission in matters of order and government. For let us remember that leaders must give account to the God whom they are responsible to serve. It would seem that this refers, not to the future judgment seat of Christ, but to a present accounting before God of the state and welfare of the assembly,-which may be with "anguish of heart," in which exercise before God the apostle wrote to Corinth, (2 Cor. 2:4); or with profound joy, as in the case of the Thessalonians: "For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before God" (1 Thess. 3:9). But though a leader may have to give account with groaning, let us mark that this is not said to be unprofitable for the leader, but "for you." It is the insubject heart that suffers loss, while godly leaders may be deeply pained for the sake of that precious soul, and pour out their hearts in humiliation and prayer before God. Indeed, this very exercise will prove spiritually profitable for the leader, but the disobedient child of God will lose.
"Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner." 'The lowliness of the apostle is a lovely example for us. He solicits the prayers of which he feels the need, but it is no request to be lightly made: the request ought to be backed up by an honest willingness to live rightly before God. To ask prayer while desiring a self-willed, self-pleasing course, is an effort to enlist God's help in wrongdoing. As to verse 19, it does not appear that he means release from prison, for it seems he was not in prison at the time; but evidently he had a longing to return to Judea, and sought their prayers to this end. Compare vs. 23.
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ: to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." How full and appropriate this lovely closing prayer! For troubled Hebrews there was a God of peace, Who had laid the firm basis of peace in raising from among the dead Him whose heart was that of a faithful Shepherd, - great indeed also in the power of resurrection life. And this resurrection was consistent with the preciousness of His death: the value of the blood of the eternal covenant was such that resurrection was the righteous result. Again, let us mark, here is eternal virtue in contrast to all that was temporal in Judaism: the covenant is eternal because the value of the blood is eternal; and the blessed Shepherd lives in the power of an endless life. Wonderful fulness. and perfection of blessing for His sheep! With such a provision. how can our hearts fail to respond with real desire to be made perfect or mature in every good work to do His will? Yet again, the working of this must be on the part of God. Our resources are all in Him, through Jesus Christ; and practical results in our lives must be the result of submission to the working of His hand. Then we shall seek no credit for ourselves, but heartily ascribe to Him "glory for ever and ever."
"And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words." It is a tender appeal to his own nation, or at least to those in the nation who professed Christianity. Certainly any reasonable and thoughtful mind cannot but be amazed at the few words with which so great and wonderful a subject is expounded. The inspiration of God is the only answer.
"Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty: with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you." The apostle counts upon their affection for Timothy, and thankfulness for his liberty. Is there not a designed analogy here? For the object of the entire epistle is surely to set at complete liberty from Judaism these Hebrew believers. And Timothy's name (means "honoring God") bears its bright witness to the fruits of true Christian liberty.
"Salute all your leaders, and all the saints. They from Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen." For the third time in the chapter leaders are spoken of, and as worthy of respect. For though the epistle sets aside mere officialism and ritualism, yet it would carefully guard against any ignoring of proper godly authority in the hands of those whom God has given to care for the sheep. But all the saints are to be shown kindly respect. And the saints of Italy too witness their unity with the Hebrew saints. Blessed the workings of the matchless grace of God! May it be with us all.