NOTES ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
God is the speaker in both the Old and New Covenants: the channel of communication of old was the prophets – He spoke “in the prophets,” but now He speaks “in Son,” that is, in one who is Son. The absence of the definite article “more emphatically and definitely expresses the exclusive character of His Sonship.” His manner and method of speaking of old time was varied; He spoke “in many parts” and “in many ways,” in inspiration as varied as His material universe. Variety is the law of the universe: neither men nor beasts (of the same species), nor trees, nor leaves, nor blades of grass are exactly similar; so is the variety and beauty of His word. The Psalms are different from the Proverbs, though they are the writings of father and son, and the Songs diverse from Ecclesiastes, the writings of the same man. “The fathers” were they to whom His words were spoken, but now He has spoken to “us,” and happy are they who so view God’s word as His message to them. God appointed (Gk. tithemi, to place, set or appoint) the Son to be His Heir, a fact which the Aorist shows to be in the past, but when we are not told. Abraham’s appointment of Isaac to be his heir is a beautiful type of this. All things have been given by the Father to the Son. He, the Heir, washed the disciples’ feet, though He knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands” (Jn 13:3). The Heir was killed by the Jews – “This is the Heir, come let us kill Him and take His inheritance.” His inheritance is wider than Israel – “I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance” (Ps.2:8), and it is wider than that still. The Son was the Master Workman who carried out the Father’s designs (Prov.8:30; Jn 1:3). The word “worlds” is “ages,” usually translated “ages” in the RVM. The LORD is “the Father of Eternity” (Isa.9:6, RVM). Age, Gk. aion, duration, finite or infinite, in its plural form indicates periods of duration past or future in what is called eternity; it is also used of periods of duration in time not bounded by the ordinary fixed limits by which time is reckoned, such as years and so forth. We read of “the course (age) of this world (Cosmos)” (Eph.2:2), and of “this present evil world (age)” (Gal.1:4). It seems that more is involved in Heb.1:2 than periods of duration, and more, too, than the material universe; it may be that to each of the rolling ages He gave a character and content diverse and beautiful, and as the ages roll along there will be fresh unfolding of His mind and purpose. Our present limitation should make us careful not to dogmatize in so profound a matter. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning,” not merely those which have existed or do exist, but such as shall yet be.
“Who being” describes what He is (not what He became) and what He can never cease to be. “The effulgence”: He is the radiation of the glory of Deity, not partially, but absolutely. This is no transient glory as was seen in the face of Moses, who carried in his hands the law which revealed God’s Holiness. Every attribute of Deity is to be seen in the Son, who is the Revealer of God – His justice and holiness, His truth, grace, goodness, gentleness, meekness, love, compassion, and so forth, and every beauty of the splendour which is called the Glory (Gk. tes doxes), which of old the Hebrew called “the Shekinah,” radiates in the person of the Son. He is also “the very Image” (Gk. charakter, from charagma, to cut in, engrave, impress or stamp) or “exact impress” of the substance or subsistence of God (Gk. hupostasis, to place under, substance, “something of which we can say it is, opposed to Gk. he phantasia, mere appearance,
Heb.1:3”). We can say truly “God is” and He has expressed Himself in His “exact impress” His Son, His “very image.” We may help ourselves to grasp what is meant by such similitudes as the impress of a seal on soft wax, as a stamp on paper, a penny from the die in the mint, or as the image in marble, chiselled by the sculptor, who has cut with precision the delineations of his subject in the stone. Upholding (Gk. phero, to bear); the weight of all things hangs upon His spoken word (Gk. rhema, what is spoken), and His word has so great power (Gk. dunamis) or ability that it will never fail or break down. His creative word, when He spoke and it stood fast, still maintains what He brought into existence. “By Himself” and “our” are omitted by the most of the great textual critics, as having no sufficient authority to be inserted. Here we have the antitype of the Day of Atonement in Lev.16, but He needed not first to offer for His own sins, only for the sins of the people. The high priest of old went in to sprinkle, to cleanse and to retire, but He, the great High Priest, went in to sit down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. He sits with perfect right on the throne of Deity, because he is God.
He has become better because He is better. He who in incarnation became “a little lower than angels,” has in His ascension on high become better than they, because of the inherited name He bears – that of Son, a name which describes His true and eternal relationship to God the Father. This name was His before His incarnation: “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” Note the words “into the world” (Gk. eis ton cosmon); He was the Son before He was sent into the world (Jn 3:17). The name Son was His whilst on earth, and it always will be His.
The answers to these questions are, that at no time and to none of the angels did He ever so speak. They are creatures, but He the Increate – begotten, not made, the Only Begotten. One who is immutable in essence and attributes as the Father; One who remains the same “Yesterday and today, yea and for ever.” This quotation from Ps.2 is stated to be a “decree,” “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said unto Me, Thou art My Son.” This “decree” is a statute to be observed, believed and owned by all created intelligences, a fact which is the very core of the gospel; faith in the Son of God is necessary to salvation. “This day have I begotten Thee”; was this the resurrection morn? Nay! for He was the Son of God on earth, and before He came to earth. This text is quoted thrice in the New Testament, (A), in association with His birth (Acts 13:33) (compare the raising up (Gk. anistemi) of Jesus, in verse 33, with the raising up (Gk. egeiro) of David, in verse 22, – contrast the uses of anistemi and egeiro in verses 16 and 30 – and contrast these with His being raised up from the dead, in verse 34); (B), in association with His being raised from the dead in Heb.1:5; and (C), in association with His priesthood, in Heb.5:5: “This day” (Gk. semeron, today) is not a point in time, nor yet any point in eternity which is past. God is the ever present “I am,” to Him there is no past or future. He dwells in one ever-present “today” that had no yesterday and will have no tomorrow. It is what Peter calls “the day of eternity” (2 Pet.3:18, RVM). Here we may quote the weighty words of J. Hawkins in N.T., Vol. 31, pages 140-141:- “Some may create difficulty by associating the ‘To-day’ of the oracle with the event expressed in the words, ‘In that He raised up Jesus.’ There is no warrant for this. ‘To-day’ expresses neither past nor future; it is a day that was not born out of yesterday, and never shall pass into tomorrow. The term here indicates an eternal age, an eternal now; surely, no simpler words can be found to express more effectively perpetual and eternal generation, for ‘To-day’ is associated with the words ‘I have begotten Thee,’ and corresponds in duration to the verb expressed in the words ‘Thou ART My Son’; and during future millenniums untold will His oracle be as
appropriately and absolutely true as at the first moment in which it was uttered. Note carefully, God does not say, ‘I have adopted, declared or constituted,’ but ‘I have begotten Thee’; by which we understand the communication of His own divine essence and nature, by a method altogether beyond human conception. How surely and clearly the beloved apostle entered into the deep thoughts of the eternal Father’s bosom when he designated His co-equal and well beloved Son, ‘THE ONLY BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH’!” “Thou art” and “to-day” stand co-related in an indivisible union. The Lord neither became Son of God by incarnation nor yet by resurrection; He is Son by being begotten, and is the Only Begotten. If human generation is a deep mystery, how deep is the mystery of the Divine Sonship of our blessed Lord! “These things are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31). “To Him,” “To Me,” describe the mutual obligations which devolve upon each because of the relationship indicated in the previous statement – “I have begotten Thee.” Compare this with 2 Cor.6:18, where it is said to God’s obedient children, “(I) will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to Me for sons and daughters.” This does not describe how they became the children of God, but what the LORD Almighty will be to them if they are obedient to Him. This second quotation of Heb.1:5 is taken from 2 Sam.7:14, where Jehovah promises to David that He would be a Father to his son Solomon, to whom, if he committed iniquity, He would act a father’s part and chastise him with the rod of men. But He who is Son of God needed no such stripes as wayward Solomon received.
Just as “Only Begotten” shows that unique relationship in which He alone stands to God the Father (for though both unfallen angels and redeemed men are called sons of God and are sons by creation, the Son knows no creation), “First-born” shows Him in the premier place as being before, over, and pre-eminent above all things, “that in all things He might have the pre-eminence” (Col.1:18). First-born is a title of pre-eminence, sometimes used where relationship exists, as in the case of the first-born of a family, and sometimes where no relationship exists, as in the case of David, whom God calls His first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth (Ps.89:27). Christ is God’s First-born, the One who is pre-eminent over all. (See Needed Truth, Vol. 19, page 244, J.H. on “First-born”). “Again bringeth” shows that He was in the inhabited earth before. At His second advent the angels of God shall worship, or bow before Him doing Him the honour which the rebellious earth refused, though some bowed in mockery. This quotation is the LXX (Greek Old Testament) rendering of Deut.32:43, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
Heb.1:7 Only twice in the New Testament (RV) is Gk. pneuma rendered “wind,” in Jn 3:8 and Heb.1:7: The margin of RV may in both cases be the better rendering, “The Spirit breatheth” and “spirits.” See Heb.1:14, where angels are called “spirits.” The Seraphim of Isa.6:2,6, are “burning ones,” so that “a flame of fire” is not a figure of speech. These mighty beings are completely under His control, who is called God in verse 8.
This is a quotation from Ps.45:6,7: The RVM reading of the Psalm, “Thy throne is the throne of God,” is without justification. God addresses His Son as “O God,” and any weakening of words which present Him as being truly God (“The Word was God,” Jn 1:1) should be eschewed by all who have learned to love Him. Ps.45 is Messianic and consequently we have both the Divine and human natures of the Lord touched upon. Thy throne. Thy sceptre. Thy kingdom. Thy fellows. Here beyond doubt it is His human fellows (Gk. metochos, a partner or partaker); this involves His incarnation, for it could never be said that He was anointed
with the oil of gladness above the Father and the Holy Spirit, His Fellows of the Trinity. See Zech.13:7 – “the Man that is My Fellow, saith the LORD of Hosts.” Because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows, Peter, James, John, and myriads besides, over whom He is enthroned, and who gladly acknowledged His enthronement and His place of authority over them.
In the previous quotation from Ps.45 we have a description of the King, the Divine Ruler; in this quotation He is set forth as the Creator and Maker of all, and though His material universe in the heavens and earth shall wax old and perish, He abides the same and His years fail not. What a stay it was to the Hebrew Christian, who might be wavering on the matter of the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth, to know and be assured that that Man was truly God, the Creator of the ends of the earth! How comforting too to the afflicted in Ps.102, from which this quotation is taken, that though his days were like a declining shadow (verse 11), His God was Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not neither is weary (Isa.40:28,29), whose years fail not! The Child born and the Son given is the Mighty God (Isa.9:6). Surely no further proofs are needed of the Lord’s Deity! Some hold that the material universe will be purified and restored as the new heaven and earth, but the opposite is stated here. It is said that “they shall perish.” The heavens and earth shall “wax old,” be “rolled up” and “be changed,” not into something new, but will give place to something new; for we are told that the earth and the heaven shall flee away from the face of Him that shall sit on the great white throne, and no place shall be found for them (Rev.20:11). The new heaven and earth that shall be are not renewed but new. The present earth (Ge, land or earth) and its works shall be burned up (2 Pet.3:10).
No angel was ever invited to sit upon the throne of God, yet the Son of David, who is also David’s Lord, has been so addressed. “The LORD (Heb. Jehovah) saith unto my Lord (Heb. Adon), Sit Thou at My right hand” (Ps.110:1).
Verse 7 says that He maketh His angels spirits, and here we are told that they are ministering spirits. This ministry is on behalf of those who shall inherit salvation; this salvation is yet future; the heirs are viewed as in the place of trial and temptation, and need angelic ministration. The Lord in His temptations was the subject of such ministry (Mk.1:13; Lk.22:43), and so may those be who endure temptation now, who shall shortly inherit salvation.
To drift means to glide or flow along like a river. It is not the thought of rapid movement, but something that glides away almost imperceptibly. Because of the importance of the matter – that God has spoken to us in His Son – we ought to give heed with more abundant zeal to the things that were heard. How much depended upon those whom the Lord entrusted with His word at the first! If they had proved unfaithful to the trust, like many in the later days of the New Testament, how should men have fared afterwards? and if we are unfaithful what of the Lord’s work in time to come?
“Stedfast” shows the stability of the word in contrast to the word “drift” (or “slip,” AV/KJV) of the previous verse. The law was given “through” (Gk. dia, by means of) angels. Acts 7:53
says that Israel received it by disposition (Gk. diatagas rendered “arrangement” by Dr. Young, by others as “promulgation” or “the act of promulgating”) of angels. God’s stedfast law imposed just penalties on all acts of transgression and disobedience.
“How shall we (the people of God, those to whom God has spoken, in contrast to those who received the law in the past dispensation) escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” The sinner may reject what is offered him, but saints may neglect (Gk. ameleo, not to care for. See 1 Tim.4:14) what they have. There is only one means of escape from losing one’s life for God in this scene and that is by giving the most earnest heed to the great salvation which was at the first spoken by the Lord. This great salvation covers the whole of the doctrine of Christ, the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jud.3), the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ which saints are to hold (Jas.2:1). The writer of the Hebrews was not one who had himself heard the Lord, for he says that it “was confirmed unto us by them that heard.” With those who heard, God bore witness by miraculous evidence, attesting the divine character of the message. The Holy Spirit and the apostles were to bear dual testimony – “The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of Me; and ye also bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning” (Jn 15:26,27). God having confirmed the great salvation by miracles, these have been withdrawn, God leaving the reception of His word to faith unassisted by sight. The working of miracles never occurred according to the whims of men, but “according to His (God’s) own will.”
In this quotation there seems to be an allusion to both Adam and Christ. In Ps.8:4-7 man, in “what is man,” is Heb. Enosh, mortal or frail man, and Christ was never a mortal man. He was not subject to the frailty and mortality of the race. He died because He willed to do so, laying down His life of Himself (Jn 10:17,18). He is the Son of Man (Man here is Adam), the Son of him whom God formed of the dust of the earth who was made in the image of God. Adam became an “Enosh” through sin, and in consequence much that God put into his hand got beyond his control and beyond the control of his sons, but He who is Son of Man, the Heir to his inheritance, who was made a little lower than angels, will deliver creation from the present bondage of corruption in which it languishes into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom.8:18-22). Christ the Son of Man was crowned on earth in perfect manhood with glory and honour; all was given into His hand and put under His feet. Whilst angels seem in some way to have to do with the government of the inhabited earth – and this was probably rendered necessary because of Satanic interference in earth’s government from the days of Adam (see Dan.10:13,20; Dan.12:1; Eph.6:12) – the time will come when God’s original purpose in the subjection of earth to man shall be fulfilled in all being subjected, and manifestly seen to be subject, to the Son of Adam. Christ shall fulfil the purposes of God wherein men failed. All things have been subjected to Him, but the words “not yet” show that the time for the manifestation of this fact has not yet arrived, which will be in the coming of the Son of Man, which is yet future.
Does this verse say that the crowning with glory and honour was before or after His death? The usual interpretation is that he was crowned with glory and honour after death. This is true of the Lord’s glorification in another sense, but here as the Son of Man He was crowned with glory and honour to suffer. His crowning was because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God, He, and He only, of all the sons of men, should taste death for every man. To accomplish the work of redemption He had to become the Son of Man, so that as
Kinsman-Redeemer He might have the right of redemption. He was the one perfect, holy Man who could effect salvation for men of the human race with which He had associated Himself in incarnation. To “taste death” is simply to experience death or to die, and “for every man” shows the vicarious nature of that death. A twofold glorification of Christ is spoken of by Himself in Jn 13: 31: “Now is (was or has been) the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; and God shall glorify Him in Himself and straightway (immediately) shall He glorify Him.”
It was a becoming thing for God, the great End as well as the original Cause of all things, to make the Author (Gk. archegos, chief, leader, prince, or efficient cause), the One who was the Cause of their salvation, who is also the Leader (both thoughts are in the word archegos) of the ransomed band, perfect through sufferings. If of old time it was said of Jehovah, the Author of Israel’s salvation and their Leader, “In all their affliction He was afflicted,” it cannot be less true of Him who leads the ransomed host to glory in our day. He would be greatly deficient as Leader of God’s sons, who had themselves suffered, if He had not Himself suffered. But He, the great Sufferer, the pattern of all sufferers, has acquired perfection through His sufferings – His sufferings in life which were brought to a climax by His sufferings on the cross, for He could never have been the Author of salvation but for His crucifixion.
He that sanctifieth is the Lord. This sanctifying One and the sanctified ones are all (Gk. ek, out of) of One (the Father), and consequently there is kinship existing between the Sanctifier and the sanctified. In consequence of this kinship He calls them “brethren.” This word “brethren” has been misapplied and used to describe an ecclesiastical position or those in an ecclesiastical position, whereas it is used to describe those who have sprung from a common fatherhood. He is not ashamed to describe those who are born of God as “brethren” (see Jn 1:13 “which were born … of (ek, out of) God”). Note the distinction between this and Heb.11:16, where God is not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and such like, because their conduct as pilgrims and strangers on earth had His approval. In Heb.11:16 it is conduct, but in Heb.2:11 it is relationship. It is possible for God to be ashamed of many who are called “brethren,” because their conduct is not that of pilgrims and strangers, who have not been separated from the world, and who know practically nothing of what it is to have a God to worship and serve.
“Thy name”: What name? It must be a name co-related to the name “brethren,” a name which describes Him out of whom all brethren are. What name can describe this relationship like the name “Father”? To the patriarchs He revealed Himself as the “Lord Almighty,” to Israel He made known somewhat of the mysteries of His name Jehovah – “I am Jehovah your God,” but to all who are brethren the Lord reveals to such His Father as their Father. “I ascend to My Father and your Father” (Jn 20:17). The disciples were taught to address Him as “Our Father which art in heaven,” and the Spirit of adoption has come into our hearts whereby we cry, “Abba, Father. ” The Hebrew word “Abba,” the Greek word Pater, the English word “Father” and whatever word may be used in any language to express “Father,” such is the name by which God is addressed by those who are begotten of Him. We have in the former statement the co-related terms of the name (Father) and “brethren,” but here we have those previously viewed as brethren now seen in a separated position as having been called out and called together (Gk. ecclesia comes from ek, out of,
and kaleo, to call). The Lord cannot be in the midst of a scattered people. The Revisers in rendering ecclesia by the word congregation had no doubt the thought of a people together, and also a wider thing is contemplated than a local church, for in this epistle the writer does not limit his view of God’s people to those resident in a single city, but the whole are contemplated. Of old God separated His people from Egypt and gathered them unto Himself and around Himself in the wilderness. He dwelt in their midst in the Tabernacle which was His Sanctuary. In Ps.50:5 He says, “Gather My saints together unto Me: Those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” Today, as truly as ever, God wants a together-folk, called out and separated, in the midst of whom the Lord is the Leader of the praise. He says that here He will sing (Gk. humneso, hymn) God’s praise. We on our part, as part of that gathered-together people, are in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph.5:19,20) to be singing (Gk. adontes, singing), and making melody (Gk. psallontes, psalming, from the word psalm), not with the accompaniment of a musical instrument, when together as the people of God to praise Him, but as the next words show, “with your heart” (Gk. te kardia). Neither wind instruments nor stringed instruments, etc., are allowed by God to find a place in His service today amongst His gathered people. If the Lord sings, who shall play with an instrument? Let us also sing under His leadership with hearts tuned to His praise in holy melody. These words will, no doubt, have a wider meaning when the Lord at His coming stands in the midst of His own and rejoices over them with singing.
The Lord as perfectly trusts (Gk. peitho, to persuade, to be persuaded) His Father as He sits on the throne as He did in the days of His flesh on earth, for there He carries on the work with reference to God’s people which He began on earth. He is still associated with them, for He says, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me.” It is “I and the children” in a blessed unity. This quotation is from Isa.8:18 where the Lord is seen, during the time of Israel’s rejection, associated with children that God has given Him. In Jn 17:6 He says, “I manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were and Thou gavest them to Me; and they have kept Thy word.” These are undoubtedly those referred to as “My disciples” (Isa.8:16) amongst whom the testimony was to be bound and the law sealed, the children God gave Him who were for signs and wonders in Israel. These are God’s people during the time that Israel, God’s Old Testament people, are set aside.
The children were common sharers (from Gk. koinoneo, which in turn comes from koinos, common) of blood and flesh (RVM., is correct), but the Lord partook (Gk. metecho, from meta, with, echo, hold possession of, to have) of what others shared in common. Flesh and blood speaks of man in his natural state, but the Lord partook of blood and flesh, for though He is Man who was made of a woman, “in like manner” as the children, yet it must ever be remembered that it was in the likeness of sinful flesh He came (Rom.8:3). He was no co- partaker of a fallen nature. He was born holy and was ever separated from sinners. In temptation He ever repelled and resisted the devil by the power of the word of God, saying, “It is written.” How perfect is His example and how encouraging to us to follow His steps! “Through death” – His death on the tree – the Son of Man has annulled the devil, who had the power of death, in a crushing defeat. The Greek word katargeo, rendered “bring to nought” (RV), “destroy” (AV/KJV), which is the same word as in 2 Tim.1:10, means to render inactive or to make of none effect. It does not mean to cause to cease to be or to exist, but to render useless or ineffective. See Lk.13:7 where the ground was rendered useless by the barren fig tree; also see Rom.6:6, etc., for the same word.
Here we have saints of a by-gone day alluded to; those who lived in fear of death during their lifetime, who had not the bright hope of believers today, to whom the words come – “absent from the body” – “at home with the Lord.” Saints of Old Testament times prior to the Lord’s death and resurrection went down to Sheol (not to the place of torment in Sheol beneath). See Gen.37:35; Gen.42:38; Gen.44:29,31 (“grave” here is “Sheol,” not the place of burial); Ps.16:10; Acts 2:27,31: Compare the liberation of Heb.2:15 with the leading of “captivity captive” (Eph.4:8).
When the Lord became incarnate, by partaking of blood and flesh, it was with the object of helping men, not angels. He came to lay hold of, with a view to assisting, the seed of Abraham. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God; but the children of promise are reckoned for a seed” (Rom.9:7,8). Here we view, not Abraham’s natural descendants, but the children of faith. The faithless Jew did not want Messiah’s help, but those who are sons of Abraham through faith are such as the Lord lays His hands upon to help. “He giveth help to the seed of Abraham” (American Revision). The RV rendering of the passage is better, in our judgement, than the A. V.
The propitiatory work of the Lord is viewed from three points of view in the New Testament, in regard to three distinct kinds of need:- (1) Christ is the propitiation for the whole world (1 Jn 2:2). He gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim.2:6). Men may approach to God through the one Mediator between God and men, “Whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood” (Rom.3: 25). The Greek word for propitiation here is hilasterios, one who makes expiation or propitiation (Gk. hilasterion, the propitiatory or mercy-seat: Heb.9:5). (2) Christ’s propitiatory work has in it not only that which meets the sinner’s need, but there is in it that which meets the need of the child of God, for “if any man (one) sin” (1 Jn 2:1) – any of the children of God – Christ “is the propitiation for our sins” (verse 2). He who is an Advocate (and we have two Advocates, the Lord and the Holy Spirit) on behalf of the children of God, pleads the merits of His propitiatory work, so that forgiveness might be theirs. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 Jn 1:9). Forgiveness here is with a view to fellowship with God and with one another, not in order that we may be saved, for believers are forgiven all and saved eternally. Salvation was an assured matter when we came as sinners to God, through Christ, who is the propitiation for the whole world. (3) In Heb.2 we have something further than being children of God, here we have “the people.” Firstly: Christ the Mediator and propitiation meets the sinner’s need that he may be saved. Secondly: Christ an Advocate and propitiation meets the need of the child of God, so that he may live in fellowship with God and with the children of God. Thirdly: Christ is the High Priest who meets the need of the people of God so that they may serve Him in the house of God. His work of propitiation has in view (1) Salvation: (2) Fellowship: (3) Service; having in view (1) all Men; (2) God’s children; (3) God’s people. In “the people” we see a collective folk, a nation, which, in the work of God, has many faults and failings. “In things pertaining to God,” God’s people are a sinful people. Do we not seek our own pleasure rather than His will? Do we give to Him of our strength, time and substance as we ought? Are we devoted to Him? Do we love Him with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind? Have we not acted as though in our service the lame and the blind of our offerings would do for our God? indeed the carnal mind says that
anything will do for Him. Have we not done the things we ought not, and left undone the things we ought to have done? How much of our work is fulfilled before our God? (Rev.3:2). Who meets such a need of His people and gives to God satisfaction for the many deficiencies of their unworthy service so that they may continue to be His people in His house? It is the High Priest who is in God’s presence, who having offered Himself a propitiatory sacrifice has gone in through (Gk. dia) His own blood to make propitiation for the sins of the people. God is getting satisfaction in the priestly work of the Lord, who is the Surety of the covenant (Heb.7:22), for the ignorances and deficiencies, even the sins of His people. The need is continuous and so also is the provision to meet it.
He who was made in all points like unto His brethren (not our elder Brother) suffered in temptation as a man. He, as God, never was or could be tempted of evil things. Divine nature is above all temptation. But He who hungered felt in His weak and dependent humanity the sting of the evil one’s suggestion that He should turn stones into loaves. He was the Son of God truly, but as a man He bore hunger and temptation. His answer was, “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Strange that He, the eternal Logos, should live by every single word (Gk. rhema, a saying) that proceedeth out of God’s mouth! This remarkable Person – of indivisible personality, yet of two natures, Divine and human, in the form of God, yet in the form of a bond-servant – who fed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes would not feed Himself with loaves made of stones. He would depend and suffer, till He was succoured when the temptation was past. This is He who is able to succour with a Gk. dunamis (power or ability), that no one need fail in the hour of temptation, and those who come through victorious may return in the power of the Spirit to their divinely-appointed work (Lk.4:14).
Heb.3:1 These holy brethren are the brethren indicated in Heb.2:12,17: “Holy” shows that they are brethren of a holier order than the sons of Israel, of whom David wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps.133:1). They are not only brethren, but they are also sharers or have a part (Gk. metochos, see Heb.1:9; 3:14; Heb.12:8: see also the verbal form of the word in Heb.2:14) in a heavenly calling. Israel’s calling was earthly, to the wilderness where they built God’s house, which was a sanctuary of this world, though it was a copy of things in the heavens, and to the land of Canaan their inheritance. Ours is heavenly, first of all to separation from the world, with the object of building and being built up a spiritual house, even the house of God (see verse 6, and 1 Pet.2:3-5; 1 Cor.3:9-17), and we also have a heavenly country in view. As brethren and partakers we are exhorted to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession – the Apostle who came from God with God’s word, and the High Priest who has gone to God to meet the need of His people who hold and keep the word He committed to them, their confession. Israel had their confession in “the law,” their apostle in Moses, and their high priest in Aaron; we have our confession in “the Faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and our Apostle and High Priest is the Lord Himself, who fills both offices.
“Appointed” is “made” (see RVM Gk. poiesanti). The word is used in the same way as in Acts 2:36: “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ.” Christ was the faithful Apostle and He is also the faithful High Priest. Of Moses God said, “My servant Moses … is faithful in all Mine House” (Num.12:7).
In this illustration of a builder and a house we have a principle indicative of why the Lord is worthy of more glory than Moses, because the builder is ever more honourable than what he builds. We may admire the building, but we admire more the mind that conceived the plan and fabricated the structure. God, too, is ever greater than His work, and Christ is greater than what He accomplished, wondrous as that work is.
How true! when we see a house we know that there has been a builder there. Houses are not rained from the skies, nor do they grow from seed. So we conclude in regard to the material universe, in all its marvellous design, that there must have been a Divine Builder at work. “He that built all things is God.” See Acts 7:44-50:
Here we have reference to one of the most remarkable houses ever built by man – the Tabernacle in the wilderness – the pattern of which was divinely given. This house was built by some one. It did not descend complete from the heavens. In the Tabernacle Moses was a faithful minister (Gk. therapon, servant, minister, used of Moses in the LXX in Ex.14:31: From this word comes therapeia, service, attendance, aid, help, and therapeuo, to serve, to minister). Moses’ faithfulness in the house of God was typical of the Lord’s faithfulness, who is the One in authority over the house of God.
Moses was a servant in (Gk. en), but Christ is a son over (Gk. epi), the house of God. The house of God today is not made of curtains, boards, and bars and so forth, but of persons – “whose house are we” – and these persons are not in heaven, but on earth. But who are included in “we”? Many answer, “all born-again persons on earth who are members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are the house of God: the Church which is Christ’s Body and the house of God are one and the same – the same thing under different figures. ” We know that the most of the members of Christ are in heaven, yet believers will confuse the Body with the house of God. What saith the Scripture on the point? Whose house are we, if we hold fast.” Are we born-again persons if we hold fast? or members of Christ if we hold fast? Surely if holding fast is a vital necessity to the new birth, then those who hold the falling away doctrine – that saved persons may be lost eternally – have truth on their side. The fact of the matter is, that the house of God does not signify all born-again people on earth, nor does it mean the Body of Christ under another figure. The conjunction “if” is Gk. eanper (or ean in the Revised Greek Text) and means “if indeed” or “if truly”, for ean with the subjunctive mood kataschomen shows beyond question that “if” here is the “if” of condition, and that continuance in the house of God is conditional upon those therein holding fast. This passage does not show how those therein came to be in the house of God. But a comparison of 1 Pet.2:3-5 with Acts 2:41,42, 2 Cor.6:14-18, etc., shows how disciples came to find a place in the house of God. They tasted that the Lord was gracious, by receiving the Word, and having been baptized, they saved (or separated themselves) themselves from a crooked generation by going forth to Him who is the rejected Stone, the Stone that was rejected by the Jewish elders (Matt.21:40-46); coming to Him they were built up a spiritual house, or were added as in Acts 2:41, etc., or were received as in 2 Cor.6:17, but this being built, added, or received was not final, for what they did in going forth to Him they must continue to do; thus we have the exhortation – “Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb.13:13). For such a separated, added or built together people the Lord has gone into God’s presence as High Priest and they are and will continue to be God’s
house if they hold fast their boldness and the glorying of their hope firm unto the end. The coming again of the Lord is also the hope of God’s saints, but Heb.3:6 is the “going in” hope, not the hope of His “coming out.” The hope of the Lord in the presence of God is called “a better hope” and such a hope is an “anchor of the soul” (Heb.7:19; 6:18,19).
This is a citation from Ps.95:7-11 which shows the unique opportunity given to Israel in the days of David, in the revival in the early part of His reign, when Israel brought up the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab in the Hill (1 Chron.13:1-14; 1 Chron.15:1-29), where it had been for many years (1 Sam.7:1), subsequent to the disastrous days of Eli when the Ark was taken by the Philistines. The day of forward movement in David’s time is contrasted with the backsliding of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea (Num.14), when Israel refused to go into the land of Canaan and turned back in heart into Egypt. These same men from twenty years old and upwards, who had been numbered, had said, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do” (Ex.19:8; Ex.24:3), but they disbelieved in the LORD, disobeyed His word, and perished in the wilderness. This erring people who never learned God’s ways, and in consequence failed to enter God’s rest in the land (Deut.12:9), is held up by David as a solemn warning and example of the results of disobedience, and if Israel heard God’s voice in his time he exhorted them not to repeat the folly of that past day. Happily Israel in David’s day heard God’s voice, obeyed, and went forward into times of prosperity and greatness during the reigns of David and Solomon, times which were never equalled in the history of Israel. Such are some of the fruits of obedience. This quotation is the voice of the Holy Spirit to God’s people and is used as His message to such as were in His house. If they should harden their hearts against the voice of God then disaster would overtake them, as it did Israel in the wilderness, but if they went forward as in the days of David then God’s rest and its blessed possibilities would be theirs.
Unbelief has dogged the footsteps of mankind since Eden’s garden, and is the root cause of all disasters which have overwhelmed the race and individual men thereof. In the case of Israel in the wilderness the cause of their disobedience was that they judged things by the sight of their eyes and not by the hearing of faith. Giants and fenced cities filled their minds with fear and they disbelieved in Jehovah their God and in His power to bring them into the promised land; in Him who had with a mighty hand and outstretched arm saved them from the power of Pharaoh, and had fed them with Manna, and turned the flinty rock into a pool of water. Their present trial shut out the remembrance of past deliverances. We too need to take heed lest we also fall away from the living God, the God of the house of God (1 Tim.3:15). A living God is ever the object of a living faith; He is the God of such as live by faith. If our faith becomes a dead faith (Jas.2:14-26), we shall surely, as dead leaves fall from a living tree, fall away from the living God, yet we may have a name that we are alive, though we are dead (Rev.3:1).
How blessed is the ministry of a day-by-day exhortation or encouragement! Happy is it, too, where it is mutual – “one another” – and not one continually exhorting the rest. It is to go on so long as it is called “today,” which is the present day of our life’s opportunity, and the object of it is “lest any one be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Sin deceives men so thoroughly that they believe that their best interest is served and their happiness lies in its service. Sin hardens the heart against the word of God in its commands, its warnings and pleadings.
Partakers (Gk. metochoi) is the same word as “fellows” in Heb.1:9 and “partakers” (Heb.3:1). They would cease to be the fellows of Christ if they failed to hold fast the beginning of their confidence to the end, for in the beginning their confidence was such that they took joyfully the spoiling of their possessions, knowing that they had a better possession and an abiding one (Heb.10:34).
Here the present opportunity of “today” is again emphasized and the seriousness of hardening the heart against God’s voice.
Rebellion against God’s word is the worst of offences. The word provoke is from the Gk. word parapikraino which means “to render bitter, ” which comes from para, beside and pikros, bitter, and shows the embittered state of the hearts of the men of Israel against the word of God; their bitterness and rebellion God could never forget. He had not forgotten His experience with Israel even in David’s time.
Throughout the whole of the forty years of their wilderness journey God was displeased with His people. He was displeased (Gk. prosochthizo, grieved or disgusted with, detested or abhorred) with all the men of Israel who were numbered and sinned, save Caleb and Joshua, who only (the tribe of Levi to which Moses and Aaron belonged was not numbered with these) of all the vast number of 603, 550 (Ex.38:25-28; Num.2:32) entered God’s rest in the land of Canaan. All the rest knew not God’s ways.
The AV/KJV says, “to them that believed not.” The Gk. word is apeithesasin, which comes from A, not, peitho, to persuade, and shows that despite all that the LORD and His servants said to Israel they refused all persuasion; the word of God fell on deaf ears, and rebellious and bitter hearts, and in consequence God in His wrath swore that they should not enter His rest.
Israel’s disobedience arose from their lack of faith (Gk. apistian, unbelief, from a, no, or without, pistis, faith); they disbelieved God and His word, hence their failure to enter the land. THE REST OF GOD In Matt.11:28,29 we have two different aspects of Rest:- (1) “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest.” (2) “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” The first rest is rest from labour, the second is for the soul through labour. The LORD gives to the believer rest from his burden of sin, and then gives Him a burden to bear in His service. His is a light burden and an easy yoke. In verse 28 it is the Greek verb anapauo, which, according to Dr. Strong, means: “to repose, to refresh, take ease, refresh (give, take) rest.” In verse 29 it is the noun anapausis, which comes from the verb anapauo, and the meaning given by Dr. Strong is: “intermission, rest.” In Heb.3 and Heb.4 we have a third aspect of rest: (3) “We which have believed do enter into that rest” (Heb.4:3). Rest here is katapausis, which Dr. Strong describes as: “resting down, i.e. (by Hebrew) abode, rest.” The verb katapauo means “to settle down.” See Acts 14:18 (restrained), Heb.4:4,8,10. The only
other mention of the noun katapausis in the New Testament, besides its frequent use in Heb.3 and 4, is in Acts 7:49, where it is associated with God’s place of rest, when the Lord said, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt.23:38), and Stephen truly said that now the most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands” (Acts 7:48). Then where is the place of His rest now? It is in the house that is described in Heb.3:6, over which Christ is as Son – “Whose house are we, if we hold fast.” What is said of God’s rest in Heb.3 and 4 is all in association with God’s rest in His house.
Here it is anticipated that though the numbered men of Israel failed to enter in through unbelief, the promise is left so that others by faith may enter God’s rest. The promise is here brought up to date – “lest haply … any one of you should seem to have come short of it.” The very appearance of having come short is to be dreaded. To have come short signifies abiding failure, even as in the sinner’s case with reference to salvation: “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). Faith is necessary to salvation and faith is necessary so that the people of God may enter God’s rest.
This is not the good tidings of the gospel for the sinner, but the good tidings of the rest of God for the saint. They had the good tidings of the land of Canaan, God’s rest for Israel, preached to them by Joshua and Caleb, but that “word of hearing” did not profit them, and the reason given was because “it was” not united or mixed with faith in the hearers. Though “it was” may not be so well attested by authorities as “they were,” it seems to convey the correct meaning. The preachers were Joshua and Caleb, the hearers the men of Israel, but there was no fusion, no union formed, in the hearers’ hearts between the message and their faith. God’s word must mix with faith in the hearer’s heart if it is to become an integral part of his being, as, for instance, in the parable in Matt.13 the Lord speaks of “he that was sown among thorns” verse 22), “he that was sown upon good ground” (verse 23), where the plain meaning is – the word of God which was sown in individual hearts in which it took root and grew. The Israelites exercised no faith in the good tidings, hence the word did not profit them.
“We … do enter,” not “did enter.” The entrance into God’s rest is never a completed thing, that we need never fear lest we fall away. That is true of salvation; we can rejoice that we have been saved and that we shall never perish, but it is not so with God’s rest, which is dependent on a continuous faith in the promise that is left, which comes to us in the ever present “Today” in which the living God speaks to us – “Today if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” True, the works were finished then, for God had wrought six days and finished the work. He had created and made, and then rested the seventh day; but unbelief entered and then disobedience, and so God’s rest was disturbed, which necessitated His beginning to work again. Just as the rest of creation was lost through the sin of unbelief, so also was the rest of the land lost to the men of Israel through unbelief, for God sware in His wrath that they should not enter.
Here we see a portion of time (the seventh day) united with a portion of land (Canaan, God’s rest). After the work of six days, the Sabbath day is entered, and after the afflictions of Egypt and the trials of the wilderness, they were to enter the land. Wherein lay the difference between that day and land and other days and lands? The sun shone on other days as it did
on the Sabbath; all nature acted on the seventh day as it did on the other six, and other lands were beautiful and fertile like the land of Canaan. The distinction was in the choice of God and His hallowing a day and a land. The seventh day was a holy day, and the land of Canaan a holy land. In each they were by faith to rest with God in His rest. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of the LORD honourable; and shalt honour it, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD” (Isa.58:13,14). Sabbatic rest was to be enjoyed by the land as well as by the people, and when the Sabbatic rest was broken the people were carried to Babylon till the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. No human labour could turn another land into a Canaan and make it the place of God’s rest, and men must not change the calendar and substitute another day for the seventh. By divine choice this day and this land were God’s rest.
God did not penalize all because of the disobedience of certain, though many may suffer through the disobedience of others. God does grant times of revival, though there may be long intervals between. “After so long a time” covers a period of fully five hundred years, from the time of the rejection of the land till the time of the bringing up of the Ark. Ps.95, though not stated to be a psalm of David, is nevertheless shown here to be his. Israel, on their knees before God, are caused to look back to the disastrous failure in the wilderness, and to think of the present opportunity of bringing up the Ark to the place of God’s rest in Zion (Ps.132:8,13,14). They heard God’s voice and entered into God’s rest, now seen to be associated with His house, the place of His rest (Isa.66:1,2; Acts 7:49). It is ever “today” however often men may have heard God speak in the past; His word like an ever-flowing stream is with us today. However many may have looked into the clear waters of the river of God’s word and have been blessed, yet, though they have gone, His word flows on, ever murmuring its sweet lay, “To-day, as it hath been before said, To-day, if ye shall hear His voice.”
The RV helpfully substitutes Joshua for Jesus, which is the Greek form of his name. See RVM. How did Joshua fail to give the people rest though they were in the land? The answer is that they disobeyed God, as shown in the beginning of Judges. “And it came to pass, when Israel was waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to task work, and did not utterly drive them out” (Jdgs.1:28). And God said to them, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (Jdgs.2:3). From Joshua to Saul the record of Israel is an exceedingly chequered one. Even the brightest spots, when deliverance was granted from oppressing foes, reveal little acknowledgement of God or praise to Him for His goodness. The sin of unbelief wrought havoc amongst God’s people, and again and again they rebelled against Him. But God had another and better day in view, a day when He would speak to them in David.
This Sabbatic rest or sabbatism remains, and note it is for a people – the people of God. It was presented and refused by the people of God in the wilderness: the people of God after Joshua’s time failed to enjoy it through their wilful disobedience, but the people of God in David’s time heard, believed and obeyed, and brought up the Ark to God’s rest in Zion, and began to go up on the highways to Zion to praise Him in His holy hill. The Sabbatic rest remains for us, for God’s gathered people. It is not a rest for the isolated individual, but for a
together-folk, for those who are the house of God – “whose house are we” (Heb.3:6). This rest is not contemplated as primarily relating to the Milennium or Heaven, but is associated with “Today if ye shall hear His voice, ” and with our responsibility not to harden our hearts.
To be in God’s rest, God’s house, is a matter of faith and not of works. Our works do not make that in which we are. When men reached the Sabbath day they ceased work, they saw that that day was different, not that it was different because the sun was brighter, or that all animated nature rested, but because God had hallowed it. They believed God, and so they ceased from toil and rested. The true Israelite believed Canaan was God’s land and rest, and he also believed that Zion was the place of God’s choice, His resting-place. So also those who are in God’s house, if they would continue to be in the place of God’s choice, must continue to hold the beginning of their confidence. From the day that doubts and unbelief enter the heart and those in God’s house begin to question whether they are in the place God would have them be, they are found standing in slippery places. No amount of filling their hands with work, so that they may not be occupied with doctrine, and with what may be regarded by some to be the dry bones of a divine position, can maintain them in such a position. Faith alone can maintain a person in God’s house. Many have never seen the place of God’s rest, and others have despised it, but happy are those who by revelation have seen it and who are able to say, “How lovely are Thy tabernacles O LORD of Hosts!” (Ps.84:1), and again, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple” (Ps.27:4).
Those who are in God’s kingdom must through many tribulations continue to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Those who have gone forth to be with the Lord in His rejection must continue to go forth – “Let us go … forth” (Heb.13:13). Those who are in God’s house must continue coming to the living Stone to be built up a spiritual house (1 Pet.2:5). And those who have known God’s rest must give diligence to enter His rest. There is no standing still. Those who stand still will be left behind. God ever advances, and His people must follow on. We must hold fast the beginning of our confidence and the boldness and glorying of the hope firm unto the end. We must hear His voice today, and be diligent in faith to enter His rest. The disobedience and failure of Israel is ever held up by the Spirit as a warning to us.
The Speaker is the living God, and His word a living word; it is charged with divine life. It is not only living, but full of untiring activity; ceaseless in its energy. It is sharper than the keen edges of a two-edged sword. It is so sharp and piercing that it can divide what no human intellect can ever divide between – the soul and the spirit of man. Men say that the soul and spirit are but one, but the word of God distinguishes the one from the other and divides them. It can also divide between the joints and the marrows. Men may divide the joints, but God’s work is keener than men’s knives and lances. It is a discerner also of the thoughts of men and what they intend to do. How keen is its criticism! How just its judgement!
The word of God by an over-mastering and irresistible power lays open the inner secrets of the heart before God. It enters into the inner recesses of the heart. No bars or bolts can withstand its penetrating power, and, after discerning our state exactly, it brings us into the
light of day before Him to whom our account must be made. The word of God truly finds us out, and we know it. We are stripped and the mask of unreality is torn away. Happy are those who have ceased to criticise the word of God and who allow the word to criticise them.
Having shown in Heb.2:18 that we have a High Priest to succour us in temptation, and shown too in chapters 3 and 4 the dangers of unbelief, of falling away from the living God, the God of the house of God, and also from His house, His rest, the writer brings us back again to the High Priest. Despite our weakness and the proneness of our hearts to unbelief, and despite the fact that our inmost thoughts are known to God, which we realise through the piercing criticism of His word, we have the strong and kindly succour of Jesus the Son of God, a Divine-human High Priest, One whose power as God is mingled with the sympathy of Man. Having such a great High Priest let us pick up courage, and “let us hold fast our confession.” Such an One has passed through the Heavens and penetrated right “into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us” (Heb.9:24). Our need as a failing, feeble people is adequately met in Him.
The exaltation of the Lord to glory has not cut the tender ties of His sympathy for His own. He can never forget them, nor can He forget the days of His own temptations in the days of His flesh. He remembers how in the days of hunger He was tempted to make stones into loaves of bread; with a path of suffering before Him He was tempted to take a short and easy (but disastrous) way to the seat of power. Even the daring Peter, used by Satan and speaking his words, sought to turn Him aside from the paths of suffering and faithfulness to the Father’s will; “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall never be unto Thee” (Matt.16:22). He was tempted to give up the path of faithfulness, from hearing the word of God from day to day – “Today if ye shall hear His voice.” “In all points,” there is no point in obedience to God upon which Satan did not challenge the Lord and on which he will not challenge us. The Lord knows our weakness, our infirmity to doubt God (“This is my infirmity,” said Asaph of old, Ps.77:10), and He is touched upon the throne of heaven. In His case there was no traitorous, unbelieving heart in the camp to deal with, no depravity in His holy flesh. No temptation in His case ever issued in sin; this seems to be the meaning of “without sin,” though some may prefer to think of these words as indicating that He was never tempted from sin in His nature, as we are, for He was sinless. “In Him is no sin” (1 Jn 3:5), and He was the only man “who did no sin” (1 Pet.2:22).
Because we have One so powerful and so sympathetic towards such as suffer from so great and many infirmities, let us draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace. This is not a throne set as a judgement-seat from which justice is dispensed, but one where the failing may receive mercy for failure and grace to help them to overcome in times of need and trial. This is God’s Mercy Seat in the present dispensation. Here the High Priest pleads the merits of His own great sacrifice to meet the need of all who in faith would maintain His truth and hold fast their confession.
This clearly indicates the position and work of a high priest. He was once among men, one of them, and then he is taken from among those men by God and appointed for them in things that are towards or that relate to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
Every high priest of Aaron’s line could bear gently or exercise forbearance, not that they always did so, with the ignorant and erring (not with the rebellious or the presumptuous; wilful sin could not be atoned for), for they were themselves men of like passions and compassed with infirmity or weakness as the people were on whose behalf they served God.
Being liable to sin, the priest was provided for by God in the priestly sin-offering. He had to offer for himself as well as for the people. This is clearly seen on the day of atonement (Lev.16).
No high priest took such honour or appointed himself, to the priesthood, no one was ever self-elected to the honour of being high priest. Their appointment was by a Divine call. This comes out in the case of Korah’s rebellion and is seen in Aaron’s rod that budded (Num.16 and 17).
Here are the words of Divine appointment. Christ is not self-appointed as High Priest, but God-appointed. But we must distinguish between His Sonship and His Priesthood. He was born a Son, but He was made a priest. He was a Son from all eternity, but He was made a priest by the word of the oath in resurrection in the power of an endless life.
Christ attained perfection to fit Him for the High Priest’s office through His suffering in the days of His flesh. The high priests of Israel bore with the ignorant and erring because they found in themselves the same weaknesses and tendencies to sin, but the Lord can bear gently because of His experience in the scene of His suffering. Here He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears. He, the Man Christ Jesus, did not receive special consideration because He was the eternal Son. God heard His prayer because of His godly fear. His prayer to God was that God would save Him “out of” death, not from going to death. “Not My will, but Thine be done” was the true spirit of His whole life.
The Son was ever one who rendered perfect obedience to the Father. But though still the Son, yet as Man, He learned in a scene of disobedience what obedience meant, and how great was the cost of obedience to God on earth. It is not that He learned to be obedient; to be obedient was His very nature, but He who is perfect in knowledge, learned what obedience meant in this scene of rebellion, and it cost Him many a sorrow and many a tear. Even when yielding to God in the last great act of obedience to God, for He was obedient unto death, He was reproached by His foes, and reproach broke His heart, but He had learned all there is to know in the meaning of the word “obedience.” He learned by the things that He suffered.
Heb.5:9 The perfect Sufferer was made perfect through His sufferings. “Author” here is not the same as “Author” in chapter 2:10: There it is Gk. archegos, “chief leader, author, captain, prince.” Here it is Gk. aitios, “author or causer.” To all who obey Him with the “obedience of faith” (Rom.1:5), Christ is the Cause of eternal salvation.
He has not only been “called of God,” but He has been “named” or saluted. He has been spoken to by God. In Ps.110 we have two statements associated with the LORD’s resurrection, the first relating to authority, the second to His priesthood. “The LORD saith unto My Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand” (verse 1), “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” What a moment that must have been in the glory when the Father so addressed the Son, when He was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) and saluted and so constituted High Priest!
The things were concerning Melchizedek and consequently related to Christ who was after Melchizedek’s order. The great mysteries of His priesthood require quick hearing and lively faith. The writer found it difficult to explain what he wanted to say owing to their dullness or sluggishness.
Things pertaining to Christ’s priesthood are for advanced scholars, which they ought to have been considering while they had been under Divine instruction. Indeed they should not have been merely scholars, they should have advanced to being teachers of others. They had so squandered their time that they even needed someone to teach them the rudiments, the most elementary things of the Christian faith, the rudiments of the first principles. The first principles are mentioned in chapter 6:1,2: The oracles of God are New Testament oracles, the word spoken in the Son, the great salvation. Their infantile state is clearly indicated in the fact that they were in need of milk and not of solid food. They were as mere “sucklings.”
A babe is without experience in the word of righteousness; he is unskilled to divide rightly the word of truth. How much havoc has been wrought by spiritual babes presuming to handle matters for which they have no competence! Many have been drowned by wading beyond their depth. Let the babes have milk by all means, but they ought not always to be kept in that state; they should have food of the word of righteousness as they can bear it.
Full growth or perfection is attained by exercise: it is so physically, and so too in the exercise of the faculties of spiritual intelligence. Continual training enables a person to discard the evil and select the good. This perception is never more needed than in reading men’s writings. How much that is read is like the clay from the diamond mine, it has to be dumped, and for all our labour how infrequently we get a gem! Babes would be well advised to stick to the pure fountain of Divine truth in the Scriptures for some time, before they read much from the pens of men. Learn truth and then you will easily discard error, having had your senses exercised.
Because he had begun to speak of the more advanced things of the word of Christ, he would not have them to return to the beginning, but rather to press on to perfection, or full growth, to a perfect spiritual understanding of His word and doctrine. They had already laid a foundation of repentance which could never make alive (Gal.3:21), ordinances which were
in themselves weak and beggarly (Heb.9:14; Gal.4:9); they had turned from these to faith in the living God. The bondage of legalism of the past was an unbearable burden (Acts 15:10) and men of faith must have longed for the day of Christ’s appearing. Now that Christ had come, faith in God shook itself free of the rites and ceremonies of the law.
Baptisms: Such baptisms are mentioned in the New Testament as John’s baptism, the baptism of the Lord’s disciples, the Lord’s baptism on the Cross, baptism in the Holy Spirit, besides the “baptisings (or washings) of cups and pots and brazen vessels” (Mk. 7:4) by the Pharisees. We have also reference made to the baptism of Israel in the Red Sea, and of Noah being saved through water, which is a true likeness of baptism. Baptism, which comes from Gk. bapto, to dip, ever signifies a dipping or immersing, never sprinkling. Baptism in water is a figure of death and resurrection and should take place in the case of disciples at the beginning of their spiritual life. It is one of the plainest of the Lord’s commands (Matt.28:18- 20; Acts 2:37-42; Acts 10:44-48). Laying on of hands: In Lev.16:21 Aaron was commanded to lay both his hands on the head of the scapegoat, and the elders were to lay their hands on the head of the sin offering for the people (Lev.4:15), and thus they became identified with these offerings. In the New Testament men who laid their hands on others (Acts 8:18; Acts 13:3; 19:6; 1 Tim.4:14) identified themselves with them, whether in the matter of the gift of the Holy Spirit or in connexion with the service of God. Resurrection of the dead: The resurrection of the dead is definitely one of the first principles of Christ. He taught both resurrection from the dead (Lk.20:35), of those that are His (1 Cor.15:13), and then after the thousand years of His reign on earth (Rev.20:6) the resurrection of all the dead (Jn 5: 28,29). Eternal judgement: Eternal judgement is also one of the fundamental principles of the Lord’s teaching, for speaking of Himself as the King who shall judge the nations of the earth, He said, “These shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt.25:46).
The writer was not for the present, in view of the danger of falling away that seemed to exist in certain cases, going to relay the foundation already laid, but at some future time, if necessity existed, and if God permitted, he was willing to do so; for when men have fallen away it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.
Those who are here described were not mere professors; they had been definitely enlightened. Words could not make the reality of the new birth more certain. Who but true believers are made partakers of the Holy Spirit and taste of the good word of God? Theirs was no fleeting ecstasy of passing emotion.
The falling away here was not from relationship to Christ, which can never take place, but from a position of responsibility in testimony for Him. These believers had once taken their stand for Him in the house of God, but, alas, they fell away from the living God (Heb. 3:12), the God of the house of God (1 Tim.3:15), and ceased to be partakers of Christ (Heb.3:14). To themselves they crucified the Son of God afresh; they did what the world did once, which refused God’s chosen Ruler and crucified the King; they turned their back on Him who rules over the house of God (Heb.3:5,6), who fills a similar place in our day relative to God’s house to that of faithful Moses in the past (though we need to observe the force of the prepositions “in” and “over” of verses 5 and 6). They despised His authority and exposed Him to shame in
their life, habits and conversation, the One whom they ought to have sanctified in their hearts as Lord. Each one who falls away does this in his measure, but the Jewish believer did so more especially, having regard to the awful depths of unbelief into which the Jewish nation had fallen and from which faith in the word of God brought him. Help will be derived if reference is made to Jud.as Iscariot. Jud.as was ever “a devil” (Jn 6:70); he was never other than an unregenerate man, but Peter said of him that he had a “place in this ministry and apostleship from which Jud.as fell away.” He fell away from a place of service and testimony, but never from relation to Christ, for Jud.as Iscariot never was one of Christ’s. So also the apostle Paul said of his place as a servant – “lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected” (1 Cor.9:27). “The while” of the RVM. may seem to hold out hope of the restoration of those who fall away, but the text of the RV more correctly explains the meaning of the original – “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh.” Alford reinforces this when he renders the meaning here by the words – “crucifying as they do.” No hope of restoration is held out in the passage.
Those who fell away are illustrated here by unfruitful land which is irresponsive and unproductive despite the tillage of man and the blessing of God in plenteous rainfall. After all the toil and blessing it has received it bears only thorns and thistles; what can be done to such land? – “it is rejected”! The word “rejected” here (Gk. adokimos) is exactly the same word as the apostle uses in 1 Cor.9:27 to which we have already alluded, “lest … I myself should be rejected.” Note that it is said to be “nigh unto a curse,” but it is not accursed, “whose end is to be burned.” Land itself is never burned, it is ever the weeds it produces that are burned, such things as are indicated here by thorns and thistles. Note how the believer’s carnal works are burned in 1 Cor.3:15 – “If any man’s works shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved: yet so as through fire. ” So is it in Heb.6, where it is not the eternal security of the believer that is dealt with, but his falling away and his unfaithfulness in Divine service.
How gracious is the apostle’s spirit, that though he writes in a warning tone he thinks better of them, though he has alluded to certain who had fallen away! Note how he writes not of salvation, but of things that accompany, are next to, or are bordering on, salvation. it is not of the eternal security of the believer he writes, but of such things as service and fruit- bearing which accompany salvation, things that should not be divorced from salvation and accounted of little importance.
God is not unrighteous to forget, like the butler in the story of Joseph (Gen.40:23), the work of His saints, nor their love in ministering to the needs of others. Such love is declared to be toward His name. God has a book of remembrance and He will recompense His saints. Such service is amongst the things that accompany salvation.
The apostle earnestly desires a continuance of the work and loving ministry of the saints to which he refers in the previous verse. Their diligence in this service was not to be one sided, but mutual – “that each one of you may show the same diligence.” “Unto the fulness of hope” shows the place that the promises of God have in relation to the ministry of the saints. Paul writes to the Colossian saints of their love toward each other: “Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have toward all the saints, because of the hope which
is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” The more brightly this hope burns within us the more will we give ourselves to ministry to others, and the more we are taken up with earthly and worldly things the less will we serve others, and we shall become like the man with the muck-rake in Bunyan’s allegory. Faith and hope eliminate sluggishness from the believer, for it is through faith and patience the heirs inherit the promises.
God having promised to Abraham a son, even Isaac, and also that He would give him innumerable seed by that son (who is a type of Christ the promised Seed), He reinforced the promise by the word of the oath. He could not swear by one greater so He sware by Himself for the encouragement to patient endurance on the part of His friend Abraham, whom He would bless and multiply.
The promise that he obtained was in the birth of Isaac, his promised son, in whom his seed was called. Note the contrast between this and Heb.11:13, where it is said, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Here the promises are associated with “a country of their own,” but in Heb.6:15 the promise was obtained by Abraham in the birth of Isaac, through whom Abraham would obtain seed as numerous as the stars of heaven, the sand upon the sea shore, and the dust of the earth.
“The greater” is one greater than man and refers to God Himself. The oath is the end of all strife or disputation or gainsaying of men, for the purpose of confirmation to which all disputants consent. Human disagreement should end when men swear by the Greater.
If men find the end of gainsaying in the word of the oath, how much more should the heirs of the promise be settled in mind; the word of the oath should silence for ever the disturbing voice of unbelief, for God has put Himself under oath; he interposed (mediated RVM), that is, came in as a middle person, as it were, between Himself and Abraham. God previously made promise to Abraham, then He sware to what He had before promised. He promised Abraham seed by Isaac, but when Isaac had passed through death (as in a figure) and had been raised again on Mount Moriah (Gen.22:16-18), he interposed with an oath.
The two immutable things are the promise and the oath. The promise was made prior to the death and resurrection (in figure) of Isaac, and the oath subsequent to his figurative death and resurrection. In these things, the promise and the oath, it is impossible for God to lie. Not only had the heirs, the men of faith, of past days strong encouragement, but we also have strong encouragement in the immutability of Divine counsel, we who in the present storms of unbelief have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. “The hope” here is what we may call “the going in” hope, and refers to the Lord entering as a priest into God’s presence for His people. It is the same hope as Heb.3:6 and Heb.7:19 – “a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God.” God, who had promised much in Christ, swore, after His Son had gone through death and had been raised again, saying, “The Lord sware and will not repent Himself, Thou art a priest for ever” (Heb.7:21). From the disputes of men and from every stormy wind that blows the heirs should find refuge through God’s immutable
counsel in the High Priest who has gone into God’s presence for them. To Him they should hold fast.
The High Priest, who is the hope of God’s people, is an anchor of the soul. A ship in a storm does not cast anchor, it flees for refuge, and when it reaches calmer waters then it drops its anchor. So the saint who is compared here to a vessel finds in Christ an anchor of the soul. The ship’s anchor when cast is unseen; it is veiled from the sailor’s eyes; it is far below in the deep waters beneath; but the anchor of the soul is far above in the heights of heaven at God’s right hand. Though He is out of sight, He is not out of reach by faith; faith can make contact, it can lay hold of Him, and can know by real experience His power to keep. The Lord is within the veil and we are without, but our anchor cannot drag, so we are safe, and safe so long as we hold fast. He who saved us once for all from eternal destruction saves us day by day as His people.
“Whither” signifies “within the veil.” There Jesus entered as forerunner. The word forerunner was used of old of “scouts who were sent out before an army” and “also of any others sent before. ” As forerunner Jesus has entered on our behalf. He has become High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. There He represents us as is indicated in the words “for us” and he is “forerunner” as showing that we are to follow.
Melchizedek was a king-priest (Zech.6:13). He was a king; his authority had to be owned by those on whose behalf he ministered as priest. Just as in Israel, such as knew the value of Aaron’s priestly ministry had to obey the law of Moses. “A man that hath set at naught Moses’ law dieth without compasssion on the word of two or three witnesses” (Heb.10:28). Aaron’s priestly work at the alter could never avail for the presumptuous and rebellious sinner. Even so is it today, the Lord must be sanctified in the heart (1 Pet.3:15; Acts 2:36) and His authority owned (Matt.28:18-20), and His word obeyed (Jn 14:21-24), if the priestly work of the Lord is to be known and enjoyed. The fact that the Lord is King as well as Priest carries with it very weighty responsibility for us in regard to obedience to His word. A king is God’s representative among men; a priest is men’s representative before God. Melchizedek met Abraham at a unique time – when he was returning from the slaughter of the kings, when he was weary with fighting and marching, and when he was about to be tempted by the king of Sodom. In Gen.14:17 we read that “the king of Sodom went out to meet him,” but ere he reached him, verses 18, 19 say, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine … and he blessed him.” Abraham was strengthened and blessed, and so fortified to meet the temptation of the king of Sodom. What a picture of the Lord’s work, He who is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb.2:18)!
The priest’s work is seen in that (1) he succoured Abraham with bread and wine; (2) he blessed Abraham of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; (3) he received a tenth of the chief spoils, an offering to his God. Such is also the work of our great High Priest; He succours, He blesses, and He received the offerings of His people to give to His God and Father. The apostle interprets to us the meaning of Melchizedek’s name – King of righteousness; he was a righteous king; his name describes his character. Names were given as descriptive of persons and things. His sphere of rule was Salem, which means peace, therefore peace was characteristic of his realm. We need not enquire where Salem was
situated, whether it was Jerusalem or some other city. The Holy Spirit wishes us to know the interpretation of his name and his place. He was king of righteousness and king of peace.
In a book (Genesis) wherein we have fatherhoods and motherhoods, in a book of generations and genealogies, this great person has none. We need not try to get round to the back of the picture that God has given us in Gen.14 and ask whence he came and whither he went. Where can we search for the genealogy of his father, or the pedigree of his mother, nowhere but in the Scriptures and there he has none. He did not derive his priesthood from his father as the sons of Aaron did from theirs; they had to be able to produce their genealogy or they were deemed polluted and put from the priesthood (Ezra 2:61-63). As God, the Son has a Father but no mother, and as Man He had a mother but no father. Melchizedek has neither beginning of days nor end of life and is made like unto the Son of God. He is not declared to be the Son of God; he is made like Him. The term “made like unto the Son of God” is associated with having neither beginning of days nor end of life. The Son of God has a Father. He is the only begotten Son of God. But the Son of God has neither beginning nor end. He is the beginning and end, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega (Rev.22:13), as truly as His Father is (Rev.1:8). “This Melchizedek … abideth a priest continually.” He comes into view a priest in the full exercise of his office and passes from view still a priest. As long as we see him he is a priest and so the Holy Spirit says that “he abideth a priest continually.” It is quite beside the mark to say that Melchizedek as a priest had no father or mother in his office, but as a man he had both; parents are ever the father and mother of a man, of a person, not of an office; besides, it is a person who has, or has not, beginning of days or end of life. It should be remembered, too, that the omissions of Scripture are important, as are also what God has inserted, and what God has of purpose omitted, let no man supply.
Abraham gave a tenth, this is the first mention of the tithe in Scripture (Gen.14:20). There is no word for “man” (this man) in the Greek. The Greek word houtos refers back to the priest of the previous verse. It is the greatness and dignity of this priest that the writer would emphasize who is above Aaronic priesthood.
Of old the people brought the tithe to the sons of Levi and the Levites gave a tithe of the tithe unto the priests (Num.18: 21-28), so that what Abraham gave, perhaps, voluntarily, the people and the Levites were commanded in the law to give.
A man, if he were of the Levitical family, because of his genealogy could claim legally his share of the tithe, but here was Melchizedek, receiving tithes of Abraham though he was not of the Levitical line, and blessing Abraham to whom God had promised much, for He had said “I will bless thee … I will bless them that bless the, and him that curseth thee will I curse” (Gen.12:2,3).
Melchizedek was in a position in which he could bestow blessing, for he was priest of God Most High. In his official position he was “the better,” and Abraham, who was already blessed with Divine promises, was “the less.”
Here we are thrown back on verse 3 where it is stated that Melchizedek is without end of life. The Levites received tithes and died, but Melchizedek received tithes but he liveth. Hence the conclusion of the following two verses:
Just as we all were involved in the fall of Adam (we who have sprung from him) though as yet unborn; so Levi, who was yet in Abraham’s loins, is involved in the giving of tithes to Melchizedek. The apostle here points out the exalted dignity of Melchizedek as a priest in that Israel paid tithes to the Levites (who were dying men), but the Levites paid tithes through Abraham (they paid tithes of the tithe to Aaron or other high priest, but they also paid tithes to a higher priest, a priest who lives) even to Melchizedek.
Was there perfection under the Levitical priesthood? The answer is, no! The sacrifices of the law could not take away sins or make the worshipper perfect (Heb.10:1-4), and the ceremonials were weak and beggarly (Gal.4:9), “for the law made nothing perfect” (Heb.7:19); hence the need for another priest to arise of another order. God can never be satisfied with anything that is imperfect. “It shall be perfect to be accepted” (Lev.22:21). Christ’s one offering hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb.10:14).
The priesthood of Aaron and his sons forms an integral part of the law of Moses and the service of God involved in that law. A new order of priesthood requires a new law. The law of Moses gives place to the law of Christ (1 Cor.9:21), otherwise called the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ which was once for all given to the saints (Jas.2:1; Jude 3).
The Lord was precluded from priesthood on earth, being of Judah, the royal tribe, and not of Levi, the priestly tribe. The case of King Uzziah is a striking proof of this, whom God smote with leprosy because he dared to enter the sanctuary to burn incense on the golden altar (2 Chron.26:16-21). To Aaron and his sons, only, pertained the right of priesthood and not to any man of Judah, even though he were of David’s royal line. The transference of the priesthood from Levi and from the family of Aaron to some other tribe and family in Israel would have availed nothing. There is a complete change in the priesthood and law.
The fundamental change in things is clear, if a priest should arise outside of the Aaronic line, a priest who is better than the priests of Aaron’s line, who will bring in a better order of things.
Priests are made, not born. The Lord is not begotten a priest, whether we view Him either as the only begotten Son or as Man in Bethlehem. Aaron was made a priest, as were also his sons, after the law of a carnal commandment. Carnal is used here not in its bad sense, as indicative of a fleshly, corrupt state of mind, but it is used in the sense that the commandment was of force during the tenure of the earthly life of a man in the flesh. When life in the flesh was over for a high priest then his place was taken by another, who in turn was made priest after the same carnal commandment. In contrast to this the Lord is made a
Priest “after the power of an indissoluble (RVM.) life.” What a power such a life is, over which death has no power! Of old God silenced rebellion in the camp of Israel concerning the priesthood of Aaron by the fact that Aaron’s rod budded. His rod came to life amidst eleven dead rods, typically foreshadowing what is indicated here, that the Lord is priest in the power of an endless life. This clearly indicates that the Lord was made a priest after His death and resurrection. A priest of Melchizedek’s order cannot die, for it is witnessed of Melchidezek that he liveth (Heb.7:8).
“Disannulling” means a putting away or aside. A carnal commandment must in its nature be a weak and useless thing, as all that pertains to man’s brief life in the flesh is. Thus God has set aside the law, His commandment which pertained to the appointment and service of priests of the Aaronic order.
The carnal commandment (the law which made nothing perfect), by which priests were made, is put aside and the priest after Melchizedek’s order is appointed. He is the better hope through whom we draw nigh unto God. The high priest of old was the one through whom God’s people Israel approached, for he carried them on his shoulders and on his breast – written on the onyx stones and on the stones of the breast plate (Ex.28:6-30), but now as Melchizedek is called “the better” as contrasted with Abraham and Levi who was in his loins, so the hope in our great High Priest is better. This is the same “hope” as Heb.3:6; and Heb.6:18,19, and is the Priest who has been made and who has entered the presence of God for us through whom we draw nigh unto God. Christ has drawn nigh to God through sacrifice and we draw nigh through Him and through His sacrifice.
We have here a striking distinction drawn between the Aaronic priests and the Lord, who is after the order of Melchizedek. They were made priests by law, but He is a priest by the word of the oath. The law made many men high priests, each being consecrated to the priest’s office as the first had been, but the word of the oath makes one priest who had no predecessor and has no successor. The Lord does not follow Melchizedek in his priestly office, for it is witnessed of Melchizedek that he liveth (Heb.7:8). If Melchizedek had died and the Lord had taken his office then we should have had what was true of the house of Aaron, but the Lord is a priest after the order of Melchizedek of whom it is said that he “abideth a priest continually.” The Lord was made a priest for ever and God will never repent nor will He have any need to do so in regard to what He has done. We need no rods to be laid up before the LORD, for the word of the oath is final (Heb.6:16), and the Lord is the first to rise from the dead in immortality and He enters His priesthood in the power of an indissoluble life.
In the past economy God held the priest responsible for the carrying out of the terms of the covenant. He acted as the Trustee of a will. He was taken from among men and appointed for men in things pertaining to God. In the carrying out of his duties he had to be faithful to the terms of the covenant. In the covenant there was gracious provision for the exercise of mercy in regard to those who were defaulters, who had not rebelliously set aside the covenant. God took him out from men as a surety: he bore the iniquity of the holy things (Ex.28:38) and the judgement of the children of Israel (Ex.28:30). Even so is it with the Lord who is the Surety of a better covenant. How excellent is the change-over from the past order
of things, for in our High Priest we have “a better hope” and He ministers according to “a better covenant” of which He is the Surety! How great is His suretiship! The Aaronic priests are only sureties for a time, but He is Surety for ever. The Lord is also the Mediator of the New Covenant.
With the Aaronic priests in their earthly life in the flesh there was no abiding, as David said when he gave to Solomon the pattern of the house of God and the wealth he had prepared for the building of it. “For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding” (1 Chron.29:15), but He who is a Priest for ever abideth for ever. There can be no death in the office of this Melchizedek-Priest, hence, as the RVM puts it, He “hath a priesthood that doth not pass to another.” It is “inviolable” (RVM).
The RVM gives a better view of what is meant to be conveyed by the word “uttermost” where it says “Gk. completely.” The thought is of completeness rather than duration of time. Christ has a competence, ability, or power, to save, to rescue or deliver everyone that is coming to God through Him. Just as the Lord cannot save a sinner who refuses to come at His invitation, so also the saint cannot be saved by this High Priest unless he comes to God by Him. A prayerless saint is in a perilous position, but if he draws near to God in prayer then there is one who makes intercession for him and who ever lives to make intercession, the Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is before God’s face. Then let His people come and continue coming for salvation and complete salvation will be theirs.
“Became us,” that is, was fitting, suitable or right. Then follows the reasons why the Lord is so befitting in His Priesthood. He is holy. In Acts 2:27 the same word is used, where He is called God’s “Holy One.” He is harmless; in Him is no bad quality or disposition; He has no mischievous or harmful propensities. He is perfectly simple and sincere. He is also undefiled; He is unstained. The word means not to be tinged, dyed or stained. In thought and word and deed He is undefiled and unsullied. He was separated “from the whole race and category of sinners.” He was so different from all priests of Aaron’s order who were sinful men (some, alas, very sinful) who were sanctified or separated to the priest’s office. These men had to offer a sin offering for themselves first before they offered the offering for the people. Sinful men were placed in a holy office by a law of a carnal commandment, and with that state of things God found fault (Heb. 8:7,8). Our High Priest has become higher than the heavens, for He has gone into the presence, and sat down on the right hand, of the Majesty on high.
There is no need for Him to offer a sacrifice for Himself, for the simple reason that He was Himself the Sacrifice for others. Had He not been holy, harmless, undefiled, He could not have been the Lamb of God, the Sin Bearer. Some would make the shadows of the law the exact resemblance of the antitypes. But it is well to remember the apostle’s words – “The law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things,” and it is fitting to apply such a statement here in the answering of such a question. Did the Lord minister as a priest at His own sacrifice? The answer is, no! for the simple reason that the following verse and the previous verses show that He was made a Priest by the word of the oath, when He rose from the dead. The Lord was the sacrifice and He offered Himself as a
sacrifice. His sacrifice is once for all and needs not to be repeated, as the Levitical offerings were.
In this verse we have a summing up of what is given before in the chapter. The law, the carnal commandment, appointed men liable to sin and death with all attendant infirmity, but the word of the oath which God hath sworn hath appointed One who is a Son, not simply a man or a servant, but one who is truly the Son of God, who has passed through this earthly life and learned obedience by the things that He suffered, and is by this perfected to become a Priest on behalf of others. Note how it says that the word of the oath is after the law, which does not mean that it was spoken prophetically in David in Ps.110 after the giving of the law by Moses. The law obtained until the Lord’s death on Calvary. The law finds its fulfilment and end in Him. In resurrection God swears and makes the Son a priest for ever. His priestly functions in this dispensation are associated with the heavenly sanctuary and with God’s people in His house.
In the mass of spiritual argument which the apostle is setting before his readers, he indicates that the chief point or sum of all, is the fact that we have a High Priest who has sat down on the throne of God. Of old in the Tabernacle and the Temple there was no seat for the high priest of Israel in the holy or most holy place, but this High Priest, who is shown to be the Son (Heb.7: 28), has sat down in a place of equality with God. The apostle evidently joins verses 1 and 4 of Ps.110 together and shows that what is true of Him as Lord – “Jehovah saith unto my Adon (Lord), sit Thou at My right hand” – is true equally of Him as Priest.
He is a minister (Gk. leitourgos – a public minister from leitos, public) of the Sanctuary or Holies (see Heb.9:8,12,24,25; Heb.10:19; Heb.13:11). The Holies are described to be the true Tabernacle, not that the Tabernacle in the wilderness in Moses’ time was a false one, but that the heavenly Tabernacle which the Lord pitches is the ideal one, and that of Moses was but a copy and a shadow (Heb.8: 5). The Holies of Moses’ Tabernacle were like in pattern to the true (Heb.9:24).
Note how the words “for sins” (Heb.5:1) are omitted here. In His offering the gifts and sacrifices of God’s people, the Lord Jesus Christ does not offer sacrifices for sins. His offering for sin was done once for all (Heb.7:27; 9:12; 10:10). It is fitting, nevertheless, that, as with the priest in the past, so with the Lord our Priest today, He should have somewhat to offer. See Heb.13:15; 1 Pet.2:5, where the offering of the sacrifice of praise is “through Him.”
As God never had two houses of God at one time, even so He had not two orders of priesthood at one and the same time, nor had He two forms of divine service going on concurrently. Whilst the Lord was on earth He went to the temple, but only to the Gk. hieron, the temple, including the whole buildings and courts, but He never entered the Gk. naos, the temple, the holy place and holy of holies, into which the priests alone entered. He never gave attendance at the altar. The Lord did not commence His priestly service till He had pronounced sentence on the temple in Jerusalem – “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt.23:38) – and had died and been raised from the dead, and entered the Holies
of the true Tabernacle (Heb.8:2; 9:11,12). The apostle is most emphatic. “If He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all.” His priestly functions are associated with the true Tabernacle, not with a copy, and thus we have the following statement of those who offer according to the law.
The Tabernacle that Moses made was a representation or delineation, and a shadow of heavenly things, even of the things that pertain to the sanctuary in the heavens. What care Moses had to exercise, and what faithfulness he exhibited in connexion with the building and service of that earthly sanctuary! God said of him, “He is faithful in all Mine house” (Num.12:7; Heb.3:5). That Tabernacle is a parable for the time now present (Heb.9:9), hence how careful the builders in the house of God today should be that they build according to the pattern! Many, alas, build, who have never, we fear, seen the pattern, and what they build is not God’s house.
“But now” is in contrast to “if He were on earth” of verse 4: The Lord has obtained a ministry (Gk. leitourgia, public ministry, see verse 2) more excellent than that of the priests of the Aaronic order, and as the ministry is more excellent so also is the covenant better of which He is the Mediator. The covenant is enacted upon better promises, and the New Covenant contains such promises as that every man shall “know the Lord … from the least to the greatest of them, ” and again, “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more” (Heb.8:11,12).
God made promise of a New Covenant in the dark days of apostasy in the times of Jeremiah. Complete failure had overwhelmed the nation of Israel. The ten tribes had been carried away by Shalmaneser during the reign of Hezekiah to Assyria (2 Kgs.18:9-12), and Judah and Benjamin were carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Midst the prevailing darkness shines the gleam of hope of a New Covenant being made with both houses of Israel. It is like God who gives oftentimes His brightest promises in darkest days. He has sought and found a place in the present dispensation and in the future millennium for that new economy of things.
The first covenant presented God’s perfect standard of holiness and righteousness with which man in the flesh was not able to comply; by law came the knowledge of sin and when the law entered sin became exceeding sinful, but God could not present to man less than a perfect standard. Coupled with this was a system of sacrifices which could never take away sins and make the worshippers perfect, and which could only exist until a time of reformation. The New Covenant will yet be made with Israel and Judah, but it is also made with us, as witness what is said in Heb.10:14-18: “And the Holy Spirit also beareth witness to us …” “This is the covenant that I will make with them.” What is true relative to the Covenant is true of other things, such as the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16,17). The use of Old Testament Scriptures in the New Testament is an important and helpful study.
At the time of the promise of a New Covenant Judah (and before that Israel, the ten tribes) brought that part of their national history to a close with all manner of abominable idolatry. Josiah’s short reign was as a brief ray of sunshine between the darkness of Manasseh’s reign
which preceded it (Amon’s brief two years’ reign was like his father’s) and the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah which came after. The words, “Thou shalt have none other gods before Me” (Ex.20:3) was as an idle tale. “Thou shalt do no murder” was also unheeded, for children who would naturally look to their parents for love and kindness were cruelly butchered and burnt in honour of the god Molech (2 Chron.28:3; 33:6). Their last act of callous treachery was to murder God’s Holy Child (or servant) Jesus. God had drawn up a covenant which Israel agreed to keep, but alas, from the very beginning, in the matter of the golden calf, they continued not in His covenant. In the New Covenant not only will the terms be new, but also the whole nation, with whom the covenant will be made, shall all know the Lord from the least to the greatest, a fact which was not true of Israel under the law. God disregarded that law-breaking nation; that is, he neglected or did not care for them. Since that time He has been carrying out His purposes amongst the Gentiles. But they are still beloved – not for their own – but for the fathers’ sake (Acts 15:14; Rom.11: 28).
Under the New Covenant the repository of the law is not an acacia ark overlaid with gold, now it is the hearts and minds of His people. Note how the heart and the mind are transposed in Heb. 10:16, indicating that to write, or inscribe, the law on the heart is the same as to put it there. The Lord puts His laws into the seat of intelligence – the mind, and into the seat of affection – the heart, so that His people may serve Him intelligently and lovingly. God will only be the God of men (or of a people) who receive His laws and obey them. Note how in the case of obedient Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that God is not ashamed to be called their God (Heb.11:16), and also how, at the second giving of the Law (as well as at the first, Ex.19 to 24) on the plains of Moab, the LORD avouched Israel to be His people, and they avouched Him to be their God, and this would only be true if they walked in His ways, kept His statutes, His commandments, His judgements and hearkened to His voice (Deut.26:16-19). Many of God’s children understand something of God as a Father, but few know what is meant by – “I will be to them a God”, God who is the Object of their worship because they obey His word which is written on the heart. See 2 Cor.3:1-11, where the church of God in Corinth is spoken of as an epistle of Christ, because the word of God was written by the Spirit of God upon hearts of flesh. Each church of God was to express in its own locality what was true of God’s people as a whole.
This will be a happy day for Israel. Every Israelite shall in that day know the meaning of what Abraham their great forefather knew – that a man is justified by faith apart from works (Gen.15:6; Rom.4:1-5); for it is said, “Thy people also shall be all righteous” (Isa.60:21), and, not only so, but they shall go on to know the LORD more fully, for it is also said of them: “All thy children shall be taught of the LORD” (disciples, RVM.) (Isa.54:13). The wicked amongst God’s people of old persecuted the righteous – “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him” (Ps.37:32), but that day for Israel will be for ever past. Sectarianism today is much like the condition of things in Judaism of old in the days of the Old Covenant, when those who knew God had to teach their brother and fellow-citizen, “Know the Lord”; but that state of things is not proper to the New Covenant, for under it all know (by Divine Rev.at the time of the new birth) the Lord; this is one of the conditions of the New Covenant. Alas, what bondage believers are in who are joined with dead sinners in church communion! Let them come out from among them and be separate, whether they have to leave other believers behind or not. Each one is responsible to hear and heed the word for himself. Believers know God as Samuel did – “by the word of the LORD” (1 Sam.3:21). Two words are used in this passage for know. “Know (Gk. ginosko) the Lord,” and “All shall know
(Gk. oida) Me.” Of Gk. ginosko and oida it is said, “The former signifies objective knowledge, what a man has acquired.” “Oida conveys the thought of what is inward, the inward consciousness of the mind, intuitive knowledge not immediately derived from what is extrnal.” In the case of the knowledge of the Lord oida) in this passage, that comes by the revelation of the Lord to the heart of the believer, it is immediate, unlike the thought in ginosko, that which is learned over a period of time.
How sweet is Divine forgiveness! Everyone who is in relationship with God in terms of the New Covenant is in the enjoyment of forgiveness of sins. In Israel the question of sin was ever recurring, with the individual and with the nation. With the nation there was a remembrance of sins year by year, on the day of atonement (Heb.10:3), and the individual had to come as often as he sinned, but now the sin question is settled once for all (Heb. 10:9- 18). The believer is in the enjoyment of full and free forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38,39; Rom.4:1-8). God has forgiven and also blotted out the remembrance of the sinner’s sins (Acts 3: 19).
It is ever the new that makes another thing old. God, by His word, when He said, “A new” covenant, has enacted that the first is “the old” covenant and so we too may rightly so speak of them. Following on the entrance of the new into the activity of human life the old began to show how true were the words of God. It seemed like old age in the presence of virile youth. It “is becoming old,” “waxeth aged,” and “is nigh unto vanishing away.” Such is the view of the writer as he sees the Old Covenant in his day, for soon after, the Temple, with its priests and its ritual of the past economy, passed away in the destruction of the Temple by Titus, and has never been restored.
The first covenant, as well as the New Covenant, had ordinances (things righteously appointed by God) of divine service (Gk. latreia). The sanctuary wherein this divine service was performed was of this world (in contrast to the heavenly sanctuary of Heb.8:5).
Though the writer speaks of the Holy place as the first tabernacle and the Holy of holies as the second, the book of Exodus speaks of one tabernacle. “Thou shalt make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to another with the clasps: and the tabernacle shall be one” (Ex.26:6). The writer makes no allusion to the altar of incense being in the Holy place, only to the fact that the lampstand and the table with the shewbread were there. To describe the lampstand as a candlestick is entirely wrong, and why the Revisers should perpetuate the error of the AV/KJV is hard to understand. The lampstand in the tabernacle upheld with its six branches and central stem the seven lamps; there were no candles either in the tabernacle or temple.
The Holy Spirit, instead of using the word “wherein,” as in verse 2 when He describes the furniture of the Holy place, uses the word “having.” This may explain the difficulty in connexion with the censer (or altar of incense, RVM.) being associated with the ark of the covenant and the Holy of holies, and not with the Holy place. The altar of incense was placed in front of the veil in the Holy place, and the word “having” shows that it belonged to the Holy of holies. This view of the use of the word “having” is strengthened by what is said of
the altar of incense in the Solomonic temple: “And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until all the house was finished: also the whole altar that belonged to the oracle he overlaid with gold” (1 Kgs.6:22). A close connexion between the ark and the altar of incense is also indicated by Ex.30:6: If the altar of incense had been placed in the Holy of holies the priests would not have had access to it to burn incense when the morning and evening sacrifices were offered at the time of prayer, the high priest alone having access to the Holy of holies once in the year. Thus it was that though the altar belonged to the Holy of holies, it was placed in the Holy place. This seems to be the explanation of what appears at first sight to be an apparent discrepancy. The ark of the covenant which belonged to the Holy of holies had its place therein, “wherein” were the golden pot with the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant. Both the manna and Aaron’s rod were at the first laid up before the Testimony (the tables of the covenant) (Ex.16:34; Num.17:10), but it seems that they were at length placed in the ark beside the tables of stone. In the days of Solomon we are told that “There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb” (1 Kgs.8:9). This statement seems to indicate that there had been at one time other things in the ark besides the tables of the covenant. The ark with its contents typically foreshadowed the Lord; the tables of the law typified Him as the Word of God, the manna as the Bread of God, and Aaron’s rod as the Priest of God. We have everything in Him, so that we may obey God, live for Him, and serve Him.
The cherubim, as it were, fenced and guarded the holiness, and maintained the glory of God. Between the cherubim dwelt the Shekinah or glory of God. This was God’s throne – the seat of mercy – in the midst of His people. Here mercy and truth met together, as seen in the mercy-seat and the ark with the tables of the law, and righteousness and peace kissed each other (Ps.85: 10), a beautiful type of Him that was to come. The mercy-seat was never to be separated from the ark; the law without mercy would be unbearable to man, and mercy, apart from God’s requirements in the law being met, would have been intolerable to God. The blood of the atoning sacrifice had to be sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. Into the teaching of the several vessels of the tabernacle the apostle found it inopportune to enter, having before him in particular the priestly work of the Lord as typified in the work of Aaron.
The tabernacle having been made and erected, and the furniture set in order, the priests went into the Holy place continually, day after day, in their service for God according to the Levitical law.
One priest – the high priest – once in the year on the Day of Atonement entered the Holy of holies, the second tabernacle. He dare not approach without blood, and this he offered for himself, he being a sinful man, and for the people of Israel whom he represented. This blood was offered for sins of ignorance; for if any one in Israel sinned, whether priest, ruler, or one of the common people, when they became aware of it, they had to bring their sin offering which atoned for their acknowledged sin. Sin is sin in God’s sight, whether done in ignorance or not. Sins unknown to the people were atoned for by the sin offering on the Day of Atonement.
The first tabernacle is that of verses 2 and 6, the Holy place, and, so long as it stood, the way into the Holies (or the way of the Holies) was hid from the people. They could see the high
priest enter the first veil or door of the tabernacle, but they never saw the second veil, which typically speaks of the flesh of the Son of Man (Heb.10:19,20). All the service of the priests under the law was performed in connexion with the first tabernacle, they were not allowed to enter the presence of God in the Holy of holies, save the high priest once in the year. So long as the first tabernacle stood and the service in connexion with it continued, the people remained blind to the way of the Holies, in that they saw not the veil (the incarnation and atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ), the way to God, on the day of atonement.
The first tabernacle with its gifts and sacrifices is a simile or parable to teach us in the present time, and many lessons with reference to divine service we could not have learned but for the parabolic teachings of the tabernacle. The things which were offered could not clear the conscience and make the worshipper perfect, as one having no more conscience of sin (Heb.10:1,2).
They were carnal ordinances, ritualistic and outward, dealing only with man’s outward condition, and never touching the inward spiritual state of the conscience. With such a state of affairs God could not be well pleased, so it was only imposed upon Israel after the flesh until the time of reformation or of setting things right, when He would make a New Covenant with His people, based upon the death of Christ, whose blood is the blood of the eternal covenant, the fulfilment and substance of the shadows of the law.
Christ has come or appeared or approached as a High Priest; this is not at His birth in Bethlehem, nor yet at His entrance upon His public ministry at His baptism in Jordan, but at His entrance into the presence of God as a High Priest of the coming good things. He has approached through the greater and more perfect tabernacle which is not made by hands, nor yet is it of this creation. It is not made of acacia wood, fine linen, ram’s skins dyed red, and so forth; this heavenly tabernacle is not of this earthly creation from which come all materials for building houses built by human hands.
As the high priest of Israel approached to God to the mercy-seat through the tabernacle and through the blood of bulls and goats, so has Christ our High Priest approached through (dia) the more perfect tabernacle and through (Gk. dia) or by means of His own blood. Dia, through, shows that the blood was instrumental as supplying the means of approach to God. He did not approach with His own blood, as carrying His own literal blood into heaven, but His blood, that is His death, was the means by which He entered the Holies of that heavenly tabernacle, and all the infinite value of His blood-shedding is present with Him in heaven, for He entered in, having obtained or having found eternal redemption.
This was the length to which the sacrifices of the law went, they sanctified those that were defiled unto the cleanness of the flesh.
Great is the contrast between this verse and the former one, between the flesh and the conscience, between sacrifices which ceremonially sanctified and cleansed the flesh, and a sacrifice which cleanses the conscience. The Israelite was unclean by contact with the
unclean or with the dead body of a man, even so those who engage in dead ritualistic works are unclean, and require, if they would serve the living God, to have their conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ. Christ as an offering was without spot, there was no flaw, no fault in Him. The eternal Spirit is like the fire which consumed the sacrifices of old; it was through Him that Christ offered Himself to God. There is no exhausting of the value of the sacrifice which is offered in the eternal Spirit. The Trinity are thus seen in the sacrifice of Calvary. Christ, the Son of God, offered Himself through the eternal Spirit to God.
“For this cause,” because the Lord offered Himself and obtained eternal redemption by His atoning death, He is the Mediator of a new covenant. This is also repeated by Paul in 1 Tim.2:5,6: “There is one God, one Mediator also between God and men, Himself Man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” There was an accumulation of transgressions under the first covenant, “because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God” (Rom.3:25), for it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins, hence it was necessary that the death of Christ should redeem those transgressions, so that those who were called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, which means that they were not to receive a promise merely, but the thing promised, namely, the eternal inheritance. It is said of Abraham in Heb.6:15 that “having patiently endured, he obtained the promise,” that is, he obtained what God had promised him, his son Isaac. Under the old economy those who were redeemed and called out of Egypt had the inheritance of the promised land of Canaan before them, but the New Covenant, through the death of Him that made it, has the eternal inheritance of saints in view. Thus, through the death of Christ, Old Testament saints obtain the eternal inheritance here spoken of.
Of old, the covenant was the testimony, and God’s covenant today has also a testamentary sense, both thoughts of covenant and testament being in the Greek word diatheke. In the illustration in this verse a testament requires the death of the testator, the testator makes his testament in view of his death and the document is of no particular value until his death, it is a deed waiting to come into force at the death of the testator.
When he that makes his last will and testament dies, then it becomes a legal instrument or disposition, by which the will of the testator is carried out. Such an illustration is used to show how God’s covenants came into force through death.
The Sinaitic covenant was not dedicated or inaugurated without blood, it became operative as the law of God, the legal instrument to control the heirs under that covenant, through the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant. The perfect tense in the word inaugurated would show that what was done in the past was to remain effective in the present life of the Israelites ever after, throughout all their generations.
When God’s representative, the Mediator Moses, had spoken every commandment, and the Israelites were aware what they were agreeing to, and when they confessed their agreement therewith, then Moses took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and here, in Hebrews, we are told that he also sprinkled the book of the covenant and the terms of the
covenant became binding; the covenant became law. It was to them the law of God, the Magna Charta of Israel’s national life and vital to their existence as a people. We too have come to the blood of sprinkling who like Israel have come to God’s holy mountain (Heb.12:18-24; 1 Pet.1:2). Note how Peter associates obedience with the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, having evidently before his mind what took place at Sinai, when God covenanted with His people who professed obedience to His will.
As the book of the covenant, which revealed the conditions of their service, and the people, who were to serve God, were sprinkled with blood, so also were the tabernacle, wherein God’s service was carried out, and the vessels, by which the service was done. Only on the ground of the sprinkling of blood could a sinful people serve God.
Cleansing by blood was almost the invariable rule in connexion with the Old Covenant, and there is no remission apart from the shedding of blood. The Lord’s words in the night of His betrayal are helpful, when He said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins” (Matt.26:28). The shedding of blood signifies the taking of life, and the pouring out of blood or the death of a sacrificial victim was essential to the remission of sins. The offering of the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin-offering by a poor person (Lev.5:11-13) in no way affects the law’s requirements of old regarding blood shedding or the still wider demand in that declaration which finds its answer in the death of Christ – “apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission.”
Here we have a contrast between the copies and the originals; the earthly things of the Mosaic tabernacle and the heavenly things of the greater and more perfect tabernacle. If the copies have been cleansed by the blood of the Old Covenant sacrifices, the heavenly things need also to be cleansed. The plural in the words “better sacrifices” has been a difficulty, for these evidently speak of one sacrifice, even that of Christ. Of the use of the plural here, a scholar writes: “Categoric plural of an abstract proposition; not therefore implying that the sacrifice was repeated: applicable in its reality, only to the one Sacrifice of the body of Christ once for all, and most emphatically designating that as a sacrifice.” As the tabernacle and its vessels had to be cleansed by blood, so that the priests who were sinful men might serve God, so the heavenly things had to be cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice in order that God’s people of this dispensation might draw near to Him to serve Him in the Holies of the heavenly tabernacle. But for the death of Christ and all the infinite value of that death being known in its cleansing power in heaven no one could approach to God; but by Christ’s cleansing blood those who have known its cleansing power have through that blood boldness to draw near. It should be clearly understood that on the day of Atonement the high priest of Israel was acting on behalf of God’s people collectively. So in this dispensation also the Lord approached into the Holies in heaven on behalf of a people in a collective sense. Thus the Holies in heaven were cleansed so that God’s people (a description which should not be confused with God’s children, who are His children simply on the ground of the new birth) might be able to draw nigh to God thereinto. It should be clearly seen that the drawing nigh of Heb.10:19-22 is a collective drawing nigh of God’s gathered together people.
The Lord entered not such Holies as those into which the high priests of Israel entered, which were figures or copies of the true Holies in heaven, but He entered heaven itself into the heaven of the very presence of God, there and now to appear before the face of God for us. In the value of the sacrifice He offered once for all, and which abides in perpetual efficacy, the Lord appears to intercede for God’s people whom He represents. There is no need of the renewal of His offering which was offered in the eternal Spirit.
The offering of Himself is compared to the high priest’s offering of the blood of the sin offering in the Holy of holies, and whilst the high priest appeared again and again with blood in God’s presence, the Lord offered Himself but once. The high priest entered in blood, that is, as though covered by blood not His own, but the Lord entered in the value of His own person and His death on Golgotha.
Repeated entrance, as in the case of the Levitical high priests, required repeated suffering on the part of the victims which were sin offerings; even so, had Christ often offered Himself before God then He would have suffered as often as He offered Himself, but now once, and only once, at the end of the ages (the foundation of the world saw the beginning and Christ’s cross-work the end) hath He been manifested to put away sin. Here we see Christ displacing (or abrogating) sin which formed an obstruction between man and God, so that man was shut out from having fellowship with, and from being a worshipper of, God.
Death is laid up for or apportioned to men “We must needs die” (2 Sam.14:14). Christ suffered and offered Himself to God once, but men are appointed once to die, and after death, judgement. Why judgement? Because men are not as Christ, who died without spot. Each man must give account of himself unto God.
Men die and so Christ also died, but He was offered to bear the sin of many. Men die because of the power of death which they cannot resist, however much they might wish to rebel against it. Christ was offered, and thus we see the perfect submission of the Lord to God’s will, of which He said “I am come … to do Thy will, O God. ” The writer has evidently before his mind, as he writes, the sin offering, and in particular what Lev.16 teaches as to atonement: also, Isa.53 is plainly before his mind. Christ at His first coming put away sins, but He shall appear a second time without or apart from sin. The offering of Himself has eternally settled the sin question. “To them that wait for Him” does not signify that only the saints in an expectant, waiting attitude will be caught up at His coming. “In Christ” is a wide and inclusive term as descriptive of all who are redeemed in this dispensation, and all “in Christ” shall hear His voice and respond (1 Thess.4:13-18). Waiting for the Lord is (or should be) the normal attitude of those who know the value of Christ’s sacrifice, as waiting for the high priest to come out of the Holy of holies was the proper attitude of Israel on the day of Atonement. “Salvation” is the salvation of His people from the presence of sin, a salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last time, wherein we greatly rejoice (1 Pet.1:5,6). Then salvation for God’s saints will be complete.
“For” connects chapter 10 to the last paragraph of the previous chapter. The apostle lays down a principle of interpretation in the typical teaching of the Old Testament; it had a shadow of coming good things, but was not the very image. Already we have tasted of those good things in association with which Christ is High Priest (Heb.9:11), and we are destined to enter more fully into their enjoyment. The sacrifices which were offered continually (or in perpetuity; see verse 12 where the Lord’s one sacrifice is for ever, or in perpetuity, and also verse 14, where it is said that He hath perfected for ever, or in perpetuity, them that are sanctified), could never make perfect those who approached to God thereby.
The sacrifices would have ceased had they been able to remove the guilt of sin from the conscience, but the sacrifices of the law sanctified to the cleanness of the flesh only; they never reached the conscience (Heb.9:13).
Year by year, as the day of Atonement came round, there was a calling to mind of sins. The high priest confessed before God the sins of Israel, which were ceremonially sent away upon the head of the scapegoat; a truly wonderful shadow of the Lord’s death when He put away sin!
Here the atoning sacrifices of the law are shown to be ineffectual in dealing with sin. They were merely shadows of the Lord’s propitiatory sacrifice by which alone sins could be put away for ever. God in His forbearance passed over sins and forgave the sinner because He would receive full satisfaction in the death of His Son. The shadows of the law were intended to teach the Israelite the heinousness of sin, and referred to the great Sacrifice that was coming.
“Wherefore,” because of the inadequate character of the sacrifices of the law, the Son came to do the will of God. “When He cometh into the world, He saith”; this shows the pre- existence of the Son of God. No mere human child could so speak of knowing the purposes of God. But of Him alone the words were true – Thou didst make Me trust when I was upon My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly. (Ps.22:9,10). The citation from Ps.40 shows how fully the Lord entered into the reason for His coming, and shows too His devotion to His God. The four great sacrifices of the law are indicated here – peace offering, meal offering, burnt offering and sin offering. God had no pleasure in these. The quotation from Ps.40 is from the LXX; this accounts for the variation between Ps.40 and Heb. 10: The former, following the Hebrew, gives, “Mine ears hast Thou opened” (which I judge, has been wrongly taken to be an allusion to the boring of the Hebrew servant’s ear: Ex.21:6), whereas the Greek translation gives “A body didst Thou prepare for Me.” The Hebrew emphasizes the importance of having opened ears, the first necessity of a servant, and the Greek shows that in a divinely prepared body Jehovah’s Servant would obey His God in all He commanded Him in the roll of the book. It seems to the present writer that underlying the fact that He had opened ears is the greater fact of the incarnation. He had taken the form of a bondservant to obey His Divine Master, and His obedience was unto death, the death of the cross.
He taketh away the first – the will of God in the sacrifices of the law, which could only be of a temporary character, that He might establish the second – His will relative to the sacrifice of Christ. In the first He had no pleasure, but in the second he has found eternal satisfaction and pleasure.
The believer has been sanctified by the will of God, fulfilled in the Lord’s perfect offering and finished work. The offering of Christ’s body was once for all and so is the sanctification which results from it.
Such was the divine requirement of the law. Because of the nature and character of the sacrifices, the Aaronic priests had to minister daily in the priest’s office in offering the same sacrifices which could never (how strong is the word “never”!) take away sins.
“For ever” (see note on verse 1) means “in perpetuity” and shows the enduring state and value of the Lord’s one offering of Himself for sins. When He had offered Himself He sat down on God’s right hand. No priest of the house of Aaron ever sat down in the sanctuary, there were no seats for them there; but the Lord went into God’s presence and sat down on His right hand and will never again rise to deal with the question of sins. He has dealt with sins once for all.
He is seated at God’s right hand and is waiting, according to Ps.110, the time when He will put all His enemies beneath His feet. The Father has subjected all to the Son, as Son of Man, but the Lord waits the Father’s time when He will take His great power and reign manifestly.
Those who are sanctified (as verse 10 shows) by the will of God are perfected for ever (in perpetuity) by that same one offering. They are set apart in a state of perfection. The believer is perfect in Christ through the perfection of His offering; he is for ever free from the guilt of His sins. In himself, because of the old Adamic nature in his flesh, there are manifold imperfections:
Note that here the voice of the Spirit is to us, though God will also make this New Covenant with Judah and Israel (Heb.8:8). Israel rejected Christ and so He turned and covenanted with us, but after those days He will turn toward Israel and they will accept Him and He will covenant with them. The New Covenant has two outstanding characteristics. 1. The remission of sins of the believer; 2. the putting of God’s laws into the mind and the heart. The first in order is the remission of sins, though it is the last of the terms of the covenant mentioned; we begin where God leaves off.
Remission of sins is the result of offering for sin. Remission – Gk. aphesis means “to dismiss,” from aphiemi, to send away; the believer’s sins are dismissed or forgiven; they are
removed from him as far as the east is from the west, as David wrote in Ps.103: 12: God will never remember them or bring them up against him for ever; he enjoys eternal redemption.
“Therefore,” because the Lord, our great High Priest, entered the Holies by His own blood, having made complete atonement and having cleansed the Holies by His sacrifice, we have boldness (which literally means freedom of speech, but it goes beyond such liberty of utterance to that freedom of conscience which we enjoy from the guilt of sin) or confidence to enter the Holies by the blood of Jesus – the blood of the great Sin Offering, for our confidence rests upon His shed blood. Whilst the presence of God is open to the child of God at all times and in all places, the drawing near indicated here is that of a people entering in. Of old the high priest of Israel drew nigh in a collective sense, that is, he drew nigh representatively on behalf of the people. Even so has the Lord drawn nigh, and because of His perfect sacrifice God’s people have boldness to enter in by Him who has gone into the Holies. In the past the high priest alone went in, but today the High Priest has drawn nigh and the people also may enter in.
The way which He dedicated or initiated was never open to man before. It is described as being “new and living”; it is new, that is, the way is Gk. prosphatos, newly slain. As God’s people enter in, the sacrifice is seen as slain immediately prior to their entrance; the victim is as if it had been freshly killed. The Lord in His sacrificial work will ever so appear. Jn saw in the throne a young Lamb standing as though it had been slain, wondrous sight! (Rev.5:6). The way is also living, for the slain Lamb is alive, and alive in the body in which He was slain. It is a melting sight to see One alive, yet with the wounds of His sacrifice and passion. The shadows of the past, however moving they might be to the Israelite with a tender heart, as he saw the victim of the sin offering die for him, could never move the heart like a sight of the Lamb alive, yet bearing the wounds of His cross still fresh upon His holy flesh, as when they pierced Him on the tree. “Through the veil, that is to say His flesh.” The veil of the tabernacle was the first covering of the ark and mercy-seat when they were carried from place to place in the wilderness. That veil was typical of the holy flesh of the Son of Man. When the tabernacle was erected the veil divided the Holy place from the Holy of Holies and through it the high priest entered the Holy of Holies year after year. Access to the Holies now is through the veil of His flesh. Man can only reach God mediately, and that through the incarnate Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead, never immediately or in his own right.
He is Son over (Gk. epi) (Heb.3:6) and Great Priest over (Epi) the house of God. The house of God is not the Holies or heavenly sanctuary, but is the same house as is indicated in Heb.3:6
– “whose house are we, if we hold fast.” The house of God is the people of God who are builded together (1 Pet.2:5) at which judgement first begins (1 Pet.4:17). In Heb.3 where He is typified by Moses, the Son is seen in authority as the One by whom God speaks – “Wherefore, even as the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye shall hear His voice” (verse 7), but in Heb.10:21 He is the Great Priest whose entrance into the presence of God is vital to those in the house of God in their drawing near to God. He is the Great Priest, not the greater nor the greatest; He is above all comparison, in nature, being, and position.
What an introduction! What an array of facts relative to God’s provision in Priest and Sacrifice, in Sanctuary and Covenant, ere we come to these vital words of exhortation – “Let us draw near.” We are to approach with a heart that is sincere, without hypocrisy or insincerity. “In full assurance of faith”: the revelation God has made to us of His will, and His provision so that we might have access into the Holies, should leave no dark, lurking doubt in our minds. “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience”; our conscience was once defiled by the guilt of sin, but our hearts were sprinkled, and so they were cleansed from such defilement. Thus it is that the worshipper who is once cleansed has no more conscience of sins. This is the once for all cleansing of the conscience by the sacrifice of Christ and that cleansing abides for ever. “Having our body washed with pure water.” It seems beyond question that the writer has before his mind, as he writes, the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood and their being cleansed by the sprinkling of blood, and washed by Moses at the laver. (See Ex.29:4,21). The Lord referred to such washing done by Him once for all in Jn 13:10: “He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit,” and in Jn 15:3: “Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.” This washing is called the washing of regeneration in Tit.3:5:
Allusion is made to the same hope as that which is spoken of in Heb.3:6 and 6:18, the “better hope” of Heb.7:19, which is Christ as Priest in the prsence of God on behalf of God’s people. What a confession for the Hebrew Christian who at one time acknowledged the divine appointment of a high priest of the house of Aaron! Now He confesses that his High Priest is after the order of Melchizedek. If his confession wavers he is on slippery ground and liable to return to the old covenant order of things and to deny the Lord in His sacrificial and priestly work.
First let us consider ourselves and let us hold fast, then let us consider one another. How much there is in the consideration of each other! What propensities we have and what inherited tendencies! Some are strong and some are weak; some harsh, some mild; some avaricious, some liberal; some over-estimate their own importance, some depreciate themselves; some are autocratic and overbearing, some humble, and between such extremities we have all grades. The question is, How can we get the best out of each other? How can we provoke (not to evil) to love and good works? Next to the affectionate consideration of Deity is the consideration of man, for the divine commandments were, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
If we cease to hold fast we shall not be amongst those who assemble themselves together, and if we do not consider one another our coming together may be far from a joy to us. But where there is the due acknowledgement of our responsibility to God, and an affectionate regard for God’s people, our souls shall greatly desire the assemblings of the saints. Some had fallen into the custom of neglecting such assembling of themselves together, it had become their habit, their usual practice. This gives us an insight into what transpired even in apostolic times; there was in some the habitual neglect of what God had arranged for as necessary to the well-being of His people. The asssembling of themselves together was vital to their position in the house of God, and their exhorting one another was essential to the proper condition of soul, relative to this divine position. All this had in view the approaching day of the Lord’s return.
“For” joins this verse to the previous one (verse 25), and shows possibilities of the utmost gravity which may follow in the train of the custom of saints forsaking the assembling of themselves together. The loss of fellowship and exhortation to those who absent themselves may result in disregard of the Lord’s will and claims and may lead to one of the worst of all forms of sin, the sin of wilful disobedience, which in essence is rebellion. It was that of which Saul the king of Israel was guilty and because of which he lost the throne. He continued as king for many a day afterwards, but his course was disastrous; its one outstanding feature was his persecution of God’s chosen king, David. “Rebellion,” Samuel told Saul, “is as the sin of witchcraft.” There was no sacrifice that could meet the sin of a witch or a rebel (a presumptuous sinner); even so it is now with those who wilfully sin against the knowledge of the truth. The knowledge of the truth is the knowledge of the revealed will of God for God’s people. The sin of apostasy is so serious that when one takes one’s stand intelligently in the will of God, to go back wilfully from the will of God, there is no sacrifice for the rebellious person. God “willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim.2:4). The Lord’s servant must be gentle: “In meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim.2:25). Certain may be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim.3:7). “The faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” (Tit.1:1). In Heb.10:26 it is wilful sin after the person has come to the knowledge of the truth. It is like Saul’s in his rebellion relative to God’s plain command in regard to the destruction of Amalek. Israel’s attitude to Amalek was one of the fundamental things associated with their national life (Ex.17:8-16; Deut.25:17-19). Saul was never restored again, and neither can those be who set aside God’s truth wilfully; the loss sustained abides.
This verse must be read in the light of verses 30 and 31: “The Lord shall judge his people.” The judgement which the rebellious believer expects to receive cannot be eternal judgement. The sacrifice of Christ for ever secures for him safety from all fiery punishment which will be the portion of the disobedient sinner in his Adamic standing. The apostle is dealing with the rebellious believer, not with an ungodly sinner. The God whom we serve is “a consuming fire” (Heb.12:29). The God of such a serving people is a jealous God (Ex.20:5; Ex.34:14), and who may stand before the fierceness (Gk. zelos, fervour, jealousy RVM) of His fire! Poor Saul sought peace in music from a mind in perpetual unrest. He is a picture of an unhappy saint who has wilfully sinned against God’s revealed will.
Here we have an illustration of those who wilfully sin against the knowledge of the truth, from what happened in the days of the law. There was provision made for sin under the law, even as there is in this day of grace. By the sin offering atonement was made and sin was forgiven (Lev.4). So today, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). But in this verse reference is made to something worse, it is presumptuous sin, it was a man who set at nought Moses’ law. See Num.15:30; Deut.17:8-13; Ps.19:13, as to presumptuous sin. There was no sacrifice for such sin, no forgiveness or possible restoration; death was the penalty.
Great light and great privileges brought correspondingly great responsibilities in the past dispensation. But we are more privileged still, who live in this economy of grace. Death was the punishment under law. Is there anything sorer than death? Is not the expectation of judgement (of verse 27) worse than even the enacting of the death penalty in the past, an expectation to receive something that we know is inevitable, which is consequent upon wilful disobedience; a punishment which God has not exactly defined, but which will be commensurate with the wrong that has been done? What is the wrong? The enormity of the crime of the rebellious person is put under three heads: (1) that he “hath trodden under foot the Son of God”; (2) that he “hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing”; (3) and that he “hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.” It is impossible to tread under foot the Son of God in person; it can only refer to a symbolic act of treading down the word and authority of Him who is Son over God’s house (Heb.3:6). We are exhorted to see that we “refuse not Him that speaketh” (Heb.12: 25). The sanctification here must, I judge, be in keeping with the acceptation of the Son of God in His authority; it is associated with the setting apart of a people for Himself. “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb.13:12,13). The blood of the covenant at Sinai set apart Israel as a people, for they professed that they would be obedient to the law (Ex.24:1-8). If a man set at nought Moses’ law in regard to which he with others had “answered together” that they would do what the LORD had spoken (Ex.19:8), he counted the blood of the covenant a common thing, a thing not to be esteemed above anything else. This was an act of the most outrageous profanity. Could the blood of the covenant be so regarded in the past? and should the blood of the covenant Victim be so viewed or treated in this dispensation? If we are sanctified by it, let us maintain our separated character by going forth to our rejected Lord, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, for such separation is because of the sanctification of God’s people by the Holy blood of the Covenant. The rebellious person has done despite to or insulted the Spirit of grace. What a fearful thing to do! We may grieve the Spirit (Eph.4:30) and the Spirit may be quenched (1 Thess.5: 19), but here it is much worse, the Spirit is insulted. The Spirit of grace describes the Holy Spirit in His character as the gracious Guide and Teacher of God’s people, He who is in each believer (1 Cor.6:19,20), and who dwells in and walks in them collectively as gathered together in the churches of God (1 Cor.3:16,17; 2 Cor.6:16; Eph.2:22). The wilfully disobedient turns back from His gracious leading and instruction and pursues a path of his own by self choice.
God is slow to anger, but vengeance is His; it is His prerogative, not ours. Will He repay the wicked doer? Is there punishment for wrong doing in the case of the rebellious believer? “I will recompense.” There is no equivocation here. “I will” -let us hear and fear! “The Lord shall judge His people”; it is His people, not men of the world. Their day too will come. Judgement begins at the house of God, and the house of God is shown to be “us” – those who are “built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet.2:5). “The time is come for judgement to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet.4:17). It seems needless for us to say that the house of God is not and cannot be the Body of Christ, yet because of abounding error and confusion on the point, we make this remark. There can be no judgement in the Body of Christ; we are there as members of Christ in all the perfection of the Lord’s work, but in the house of God we have responsibilities and privileges relative to obedience and Divine service.
The living God is the God of the house of God (1 Tim.3:15). Those who fall away fall away from Him (Heb.3:12), and it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands to be punished for wilful disobedience, if we have rebelled against His word and will. May we be warned against self- will and presumptuous sin!
Those Hebrew believers had had former days, days of suffering and of corresponding joy; for there is ever a weight of joy measured to believers in the balances of suffering. The former days were to be recalled and rehearsed in the memory. They were the precious days of early enlightenment, when the glowing prospect of eternal joys, like the coming of a new day with all the glories of the dawn, burst upon them, and in the joy of a new experience they endured a great conflict, a conflict which consisted in the sufferings they passed through. Was that all for nothing? would there be no recompense for their suffering and loss? and were they going to abandon the hopes which Divine light brought to them? Surely not!
Here we have part of their sufferings described, that in their own persons they were a spectacle, as though in the theatre they were exhibited and exposed to the reproaches of the multitude in all their afflictions. This was their conflict on the one part. The other side was that they were not so absorbed with their own trials that they forgot the trials of others: they became partakers with them who were in like affliction. Their Christian sympathy went out to their persecuted brethren and they became in their love for their brethren partners with them. This marks true Christian living; this was no fair weather friendship, but that kind in which saints are joined heart to heart in a common love in dark days of persecution and tribulation. There had been nothing in those early days of what, alas, will yet be true; “Because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold” (Matt.24:12); and even in such a time to come there is this relief in such a desolate prospect, it says “many” and not “all.”
“I was in prison, and ye came unto Me” (Matt.25:36) – a precious ministry indeed! They had compassion, they had sympathy, they suffered with their brethren. The sufferings of their afflicted brethren who were in bonds were their sufferings, and in what way they could mitigate those afflictions they did it. They also took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. What an attitude of mind! No sorrow, no tears over the destruction of personal effects or of goods and chattels! Business premises wrecked, years of patient labour lost, domestic quarters, perchance, plundered; all this they took with joy. Why? Because they had their true wealth and possession where thieves do not break through and steal. There they had a better possession and an abiding one. Only a clear view from the “Delectable Mountains” of faith of the inheritance that waited them could have enabled them to look with complaisance and joy on the hand of wantonness that was laid upon their personal effects.
Having suffered so much, are they now going to cast away such boldness, such firm conviction and fortitude of spirit, which came by Divine enlightenment, and which had carried them through the dark clouds of persecution, clouds which had such a silver lining? Their boldness had great recompense of reward. Note it is not simply recompense, but it is great recompense, God will amply reward; He will fully indemnify the loser, for he that loses
his life shall find it. It is the most wanton extravagance on the part of the saint to spend his time in this world as though he were a mere worldling without future prospect. Such a life spent in the gratification of one’s desires, even though they may seem innocent enough, but which have not the vital consideration of seeking first God’s kingdom, is a life that will be lost, a life in which God is not glorified and Christ is not well pleased.
God does not recompense suffering according to His will on the day on which we suffer, nor at the end of the week. Nor yet does He recompense the sinner for his sins with quick retribution. He is the God of patience, and we must learn to wait patiently the coming day of reward. We must occupy till the Lord comes. If we are busy the time will slip past all too quickly, for He may arrive before we have half done what we had hoped to do. Let us not become disgruntled and say with certain, “It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His charge?” (Mal.3:14). If we have done the will of God then let us patiently await the coming of the Rewarder who has said, “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to render to each man according as his work is” (Rev.22:12).
“A very little while,” or “a little, little while,” or “a very, very little while,” the idea here expressed is that the little while is the very least time imaginable, and also that we have here the great definiteness of the promise relative to the One who is coming emphasized. Were the Hebrew believers flagging in their zeal and earnestness? then nothing could be thought of which would revive their hopes like the prospect of the imminent and certain return of the Lord. The coming One shall not tarry; He will not delay. The quotation is from Hab.2:3,4: The prophet sees the vision and says, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay.” The devastation of the Chaldeans would come truly, when there would be the spoiling of goods, the destruction of homes, the captivity of the LORD’s people; but was there any hope amidst such calamities? Oh, yes! even in such a day faith saw the dawn of a new day, the coming of a new era. “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab.3:14). Surely such a day was worth waiting for! Such a vision would cheer the man of faith amidst the ruins of the labours of his forefathers. The Chaldean was coming, but the Messiah was coming also, He who would bring right into a scene of wrong and who would bring order out of chaos, and to the sorely tried and afflicted the Sun of Righteousness would arise with healing in His wings.
How was the righteous or just man to live in Habakkuk’s time ? “By faith.” He would win through amidst all the turbulence of his time. His faith and hope was to be in God. If his trust was in things, then that prop would go and leave his mind without a stay in the swelling tide of human woe. But if in Jah Jehovah he found his everlasting Rock (Isa.26:3,4), then the calm of an abiding peace was assured. If the eye got fixed on the circumstances, on the upheavals, then faith would be liable to lose its hold. Pet. when he essayed to walk upon the sea saw the storm and began to sink. Who could not walk on a calm sea at the Lord’s command? Peter was told to come to the Lord on a tempestuous sea. Fair days and full barrels need but little faith, but a famine and a handful of meal in a barrel need a daily faith (1 Kgs.17:10-16). If from the trial of faith the Lord’s righteous man shrinks back, then the pleasure the Lord had in him is gone, for without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto Him. We may be either a pleasure or know God’s displeasure. See Matt.12:18:
Here is a breath of fresh air, a burst of sunshine! Men of this kind have held the pass against the enemy in all ages. “We are not of them that shrink back.” The writer was neither a shirker nor a shrinker. He had no cold feet and was not a valiant fireside soldier, a Reubenite of great resolves of heart sitting among the sheepfolds, far from the tramp of armed men and from the noise of archers (Jdgs.5). Perdition means utter loss and here it is the loss of the believer’s life. No saved person can shrink back and lose eternal salvation. Such as are a new creation in Christ Jesus remain so eternally, but a saved man may not have a saved life; all his works may be burned up, yet he himself shall be saved so as by fire – all his life work gone! (1 Cor.3:14,15). How happy to be amongst those who have faith to the saving of the soul (or life)! The word “saving” is not Gk. soteria, a saving or safety, but it is peripoiesis (from peri, about or around, and poeio, to make, form, construct), an acquiring or obtaining, an acquisition, or a preserving as a result of faith in the living God and His word. Those whose lives are so preserved will have them as their abiding possession; they shall not go to utter loss.
In this verse we have a definition of faith, the faith referred to at the close of chapter 10: “My righteous one shall live by faith” (Heb.10:38). Faith is the assurance of things hoped for or “the giving substance to” (RVM). Gk. hupostasis, “assurance” (the AV/KJV gives “substance,” and this original word was understood by most ancient interpreters to mean “the real and true essence”). Faith makes the things of Divine Rev.to the believer substantial realities; the heavenly Jerusalem is more real to him than Paris or New York, the throne of God nearer and more accessible than that of a king. We walk by faith and “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor.4:18). The glory and all else for which we hope are made to us substantial realities by faith. Hope is cheered and strengthened by faith. Faith is also the proving of things not seen. Are the unseen things true of which God has spoken? Faith answers, “Yes!” Faith accepts the words of the Speaker. The matters are demonstrated to the eye of faith and the believer stands convinced. Where reason fails with all her powers, There faith prevails and love adores.
Some have thought that the elders are those ancient and patriarchal men of whom he writes in detail – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. – but it may be that those of whom he writes are the leaders to whom he refers in Heb.13:7 whose faith was to be imitated.
The apostle states the understanding of the believer relative to the creation of Gen.1:1, that the worlds (or ages) were not made out of material manifest to our senses now, but that they were made by the word of God. God’s utterance (Gk. rhema) or word of command, we believe (and our faith is based on revelation), is the first and efficient cause of creation. We perceive this to be the case not by reason or investigation, nor by science, but by faith, we believe God (Ps.33:6,9; Jn 1:3). “For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” The mystery of the universe can only be explained by the word of God, for by His word the universe came into being. Alford’s note on “the ages” is helpful – “The Greek expression hoi aiones (the ages) includes in it all that exists under the conditions of time and space, together with those conditions of time and space themselves, conditions which do not bind God, and did not exist independently of Him, but are themselves the work of His word.”
The excellence of Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s was in fact that he offered it by faith, whereas Cain’s was not of faith, but according to his own mind. God revealed His will with reference to sacrifice, and Abel offered according to the will of God, but Cain did not. Hence God had respect to Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain He had not respect. Cain had listened to the devil’s voice and consequently he became of the evil one (1 Jn 3:12). Abel believed God and we see that his offering is typical of the Lord in His sacrificial work. Through the respect God paid to Abel’s sacrifice he had witness borne to him that he was righteous. He was righteous through the sacrifice offered by faith, even as is the believer in Christ’s sacrificial work. Through his sacrifice Abel continues to speak. Some have thought about “through it he being dead yet speaketh” that the “it” refers to Abel’s faith; but faith in itself is unseen and unheard till it manfiests itself, and the manifestation of Abel’s faith in the word of God was through the sacrifice he offered of the firstlings and the fat of his flock, so Abel’s voice, the voice of an accepted and justified man, is heard through what he offered. But the blood of sprinkling, of Jesus Christ, speaketh better than that of Abel (of the blood of Abel’s offering).
Enoch, like Abel, believed God’s word and in consequence he was translated; but what God said to him we are not told. He left this earthly scene, not in the normal way, by death, for he was translated by God (Gk. metatithemi, to transfer, transport, translate) that he should not see death. “He was not found” indicates that they sought him, as the sons of the prophets searched for Elijah; both were suddenly transported and disappeared from the scene, and neither was found. What a glorious end to a God-pleasing life, during which he had witness borne to him that he pleased God well!
In this verse the Holy Spirit makes a deduction from the life of Enoch which is applicable to all persons during all time: no one can do one single act well-pleasing to God without faith. Those who would please Him must live and walk and work by faith. And, further, those who would come to Him must first believe that He is. It would be folly to seek a god who is not – many do! – for there are gods many, that are no gods, but to us there is one God, the Father. Those who are coming ones, whose habit it is to come to Him, believe in His existence, and not in that merely, but that He is the rewarder of true seekers after Him. Why should we seek Him and say to Him that He is not? or that He is powerless to answer? We believe He is the living God, the prayer-hearing and prayer-answering One. He will reward the faithful by and by, but we believe that even now He rewards the seeker after Him. Enoch is an example of this faith as he is also a type of saints who, at the Lord’s coming, shall be translated without death.
Heb.11:7 See Heb.8:5, where Moses was warned to make the Tabernacle according to the pattern that had been shown him. Noah was warned concerning unseen things that were coming; believing the Speaker he took good heed to the Divine warning and prepared an ark according to the God-given instructions. The ark was not for the salvation of the world, but for the preservation of his house, that is, his family, and in so doing, acting by faith, he became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. He also by his faith condemned a world of unbelievers who took no heed to his word of warning, as a preacher of righteousness, and perchance scoffed at his work. All who believe the Divine message today not only enjoy salvation, but by their faith they condemn the unbelieving. God’s provision
for men means, either salvation for those that believe or condemnation for those who disbelieve.
“Abraham, when he was called” (not “he that was called, named, Abraham”) out of Ur of the Chaldees obeyed the call of God and went out not knowing whither he went. In Abel and Enoch we have sacrifice and translation emphasized. In Noah and Abraham we learn the truths of salvation and separation. God said to Noah, “Come in,” but to Abraham He said, “Get out.” Thus the call of God is seen in two aspects, the one being the complement of the other, and these aspects of the Divine call have still their place in the Divine will, as witness Matt.11:28 and Rom.8:30 and in contrast 2 Cor.6:17,18: In the will of God for Abraham the divine place of separation and service was in view; he “obeyed to go out unto a place” and it was only in that place, that land, that Abraham could build an altar in agreement with the mind of God, and call upon the Name of Jehovah.
Though he was in the divinely-chosen place, yet the Canaanite was in the land, and as it took faith in the call of God to bring Abraham from Ur to Canaan, so it took faith in that same call to keep him in the place to which he had come. Even so is it now. It takes a continuous faith to keep a man out in the place of separation. The land was Abraham’s, but not in actual possession in his day; he dwelt as a stranger in tents with his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs with him of the promise.
Though Abraham was in Canaan, the divinely-chosen place of separation and service, he was in the place of trial and tribulation, where he had testings manifold, as a sojourner, for he waited for the City which has the foundations, whose Architect and Constructor is God. Not Jerusalem whose foundation is in the holy mountains (Ps.87:1), but the New Jerusalem, the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb (Rev.21), which shall be God’s tabernacle with men eternally, when He shall dwell with them and they shall be His peoples (Rev.21:3). The heavenly Jerusalem (and here let me speak suggestively) shall be, as it ever has been, the dwelling place of the angelic host, the centre of their service; and the New Jerusalem shall be the centre of the redeemed of the human race. Here the Lamb will enjoy for ever the delights of love in His Bride, to whom He will be married at the time of Rev.19:7-10, prior to His coming as Son of Man. The nation of Israel, as seen in the names of the twelve tribes on the gates, it is generally agreed, shall occupy a midway place between the Bride and the redeemed nations without the city, as is indicated by the names of the tribes on the gates; and the redeemed nations shall walk without in the glory of God which will radiate from the city, from the Lamb who is the lamp thereof. For this final scene, however dimly understood by him, Abraham waited, content to dwell in a tent. A father of many nations shall he be, for the fruit of his faith shall be seen in full measure then.
The Spirit’s assurance is very beautiful here, that though Sarah laughed when she heard the announcement regarding the birth of her son, she counted Him faithful that promised. Hence, because she believed the promise, she received power to conceive seed in her old age, when according to nature it was impossible.
Through the quickening power of God, which was experienced by Sarah through her faith, there sprang from Abraham, one as good as dead according to the power of natural generation, so many as the stars of heaven in multitude and as the sand of the sea shore innumerable. Such is one of the marvels of faith in the word of God!
These – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and also Sarah – all died, not by faith, but in or according to faith, having received the promises by faith and in that faith died. They saw and greeted by faith the realisation of the promises from afar and besides so greeting the promises they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth.
They that say that they are strangers and pilgrims (for a pilgrim has an objective before him in his pilgrimage) show that they are seeking, not such a country through which they as pilgrims are passing and where they are strangers, but a fatherland (Gk. patris, fatherland or homeland, from Pater, father), a homeland where they will be at home and where their stranger character will be past forever.
They could have gone back to Ur of the Chaldees had they wished, but Abraham made it clear to his servant that there must be no going back, not even for his son Isaac who was a sharer in his father’s call and a co-heir in the promise God made to him. “Beware thou that thou bring not my son hither again. The LORD, the God of heaven … took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my nativity” (Chaldea) (Gen.24:6,7). The call of God was too real for him to go back to the place from whence it brought him. They were not even mindful of that country; it was to them a dead land, for which they never had a hankering after.
They desire (Gk. orego, to stretch one’s self forward in order to lay hold of anything) a better homeland, a heavenly one, and of such persons God is not ashamed to be called their God, and those also who follow in the steps of faithful Abraham may know Abraham’s God as theirs. Note the difference between Heb.2:11: “He is not ashamed to call them brethren,” where it is a relationship that is in view, and Heb.11:16, where it is conduct. Three countries are in view in these verses: 1. Chaldea, from which Abraham was called and to which he never went back; 2. Canaan, the land of promise, the place of his sojourning and service, of testing and testimony; and 3. the heavenly country the Gk. patris, the fatherland, or all that is conveyed in that sweet word, Home. For such persons as pilgrims God has prepared a city, the city of verse 10, the city of gold as clear and pure as transparent glass, such gold as men have never seen. Into this the kings of the earth shall bring their glory.
Note the RVM – “hath offered up.” Alford says of the tense, “Perfect, as if the work and its praise were yet enduring.” Abraham stood the testing of his faith in the promises, which he had so gladly accepted. “Was offering up his only begotten son” – “was offering”: imperfect tense, and again Alford says, “He was in the act of offering – the work was begun.” The son of the bondwoman who was born after the flesh was cast out in Gen.21, and then God claimed Isaac, the only begotten, as a burnt offering in Gen.22: How beautiful the type as to the casting off of Israel after the flesh, the children born to legal bondage, and the sacrifice of the
true Only Begotten, the Son of God; and from the Only Begotten, God’s seed comes, even as it was in the promise, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”! “When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed” (Isa.53:10).
Because Abraham believed the word, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” he was able to say to the servant, “Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder: and we will worship, and come again to you” (Gen.22:5). Abraham believed that the same Isaac that God had given to him, and who toiled up Moriah’s rocky ascent by his side, would descend again. Wondrous faith!
If he had offered Isaac and burnt him as a burnt offering Abraham reckoned that God, who is able to raise the dead, would have raised him, for raise him He must so that His word might have fulfilment. And from the dead, the writer says that he received him back as in a parable, for the ram was slain in Isaac’s stead, and Isaac arose alive from off the altar.
One would almost have thought that faith had gone astray in the domestic tangle of Isaac’s home, but no, for Isaac’s oracular blessing of his sons was by faith. Though he trembled very exceedingly when Esau came, he said, “Who then is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed” (Gen.27:33). There was no retracting of Jacob’s blessing, and no place of repentance for Esau, though he sought it diligently with tears. But Isaac blessed Esau also in regard to things to come, but not with the blessing of the firstborn, for the birthright was Jacob’s.
The light of faith shone clearly in Jacob as he crossed his hands (though his eyesight was dim), much to Joseph’s displeasure, and gave the blessing of the firstborn to Ephraim the younger son, and thus gave to Ephraim’s descendants that outstanding place which they had amongst the tribes of Israel at the first. But, alas, they forfeited this premier place by turning back in the day of battle. “He (God) forsook … Shiloh … And chose not the tribe of Ephraim; But chose the tribe of Judah, The Mount Zion which he loved…He chose David also His servant.” (Ps.78:9,10,57,60,67,68,70). Previous to the blessing of Joseph’s sons, Jacob worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. In Gen.47:31 it is said that he “bowed himself upon the bed’s head.” Alford says: “The same Hebrew word … signifies a staff, or a bed, according as it is pointed … And, as there are no points in the ancient Hebrew text, it is an open question which meaning we are to take. The LXX have taken Gk. rhabdos (staff), though as Jerome notices, in loc., they have rendered the same Greeek word kline (bed) in Gen.48:2 (and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed) two verses after.” The writer of the Hebrews follows the word used in LXX (rhabdos) in this reference to Jacob’s act of worship. Jacob, because of his strong faith in the promises of God, made Joseph swear that he would bury him in Canaan, in the burying place of Isaac and Abraham his fathers, in the cave of Machpelah, and in the light of the promises of God this aged pilgrim and servant of God bowed before Him in this act of adoration. There was no worshipping the top of his staff with Jacob, according to the fulsome idolatrous teaching of Rome.
At the close of the life of princely Joseph, Egypt’s glory had not dimmed his vision, for he made mention of the departure of the sons of Israel from the land over which he had ruled so well. Canaan and not Egypt filled the vision of this man of faith, and he gave commandment concerning his bones. These lay in a coffin in Egypt, as the closing words of Genesis tell us, till the Exodus.
In Ex.2:2 in the Hebrew it is said of the mother of Moses that “she hid him three months,” but the LXX have the plural as in Heb.11:23; he “was hid three months by his parents.” Moses was a beautiful or fair child. Stephen says that he was “fair unto God” (Acts 7:20, RVM). The faith of Moses’ parents led them to fear and obey God, and in consequence they feared not the king’s command, and they hid their beautiful son.
As with his parents and Pharaoh’s command, so it was with Moses, God’s will ran athwart the designs of Pharaoh’s daughter. When grown up, Moses refused adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter; he would not be called her son. He knew that the purposes of God were associated with Abraham’s seed enslaved in the brick fields of Egypt, and he would be true to his belief in Divine promise; so he renounced a pseudo-relationship, with all the earthly honour and wealth bound up with it.
Refusing and choosing are prerogatives of the human will, and never did a man refuse a greater offer and choose a path more against the natural enjoyments of the flesh than Moses did, but he did it by faith. He was like another who said, “What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ” (Phil.3:7). Moses willed to become a co-sharer in the afflictions of the down-trodden Israelite nation, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. How temporary and transient are such pleasures! The pleasures of the Egyptian court had evidently become odious and loathsome to this great-souled man, and a life of affliction was to Him more to be desired with a people who were the people of God by Divine choice and would become so in reality.
Paul called his sufferings in the doing of the will of God “the sufferings of Christ” (2 Cor.1:5), “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil.3:10), and “the afflictions of Christ” (Col.1:24), that is, his sufferings were like unto those which Christ endured at the hands of men when He did God’s will on earth. Even so it was with Moses; the odium in which he would be held, the reproach which he would endure from men, because of the step he was taking, from the palace to the brick fields, from being known as an Egyptian to being seen as a true Israelite, was typical of that reproach which Christ would endure in the days of His humiliation. But to be similar in character and circumstances to Christ, even in some small measure, is greater treasure than all the world’s wealth, for it will yield its recompense of reward; for he that loseth his life in this world for Christ’s sake shall save it. Egypt’s treasure passed away, but Moses’ recompense and riches abide. Oh, to have an eye to see as he saw, and a mind to weigh accurately things temporal and eternal as he did!
This was not at the Exodus, but it describes his personal flight from Egypt, though there seems to be a contradiction between the Spirit’s testimony in this verse and the historical
account in Exodus. “Moses feared, and said, Surely the thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.” We ask, What was the real cause why Moses left Egypt, was it faith or fear? Did he fear? Yes, for Exodus says so. Did he act in faith? Yes, for Hebrews says so. The real reason of his leaving the land of Egypt was because he knew God’s will for him was that he should leave it and not through fear of the king of Egypt, for had God commanded him to remain he would have remained and faced the king of Egypt, as he later did this king’s successor. The two statements that he “fled from the face of Pharaoh” and that “by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king” are complements of each other, as are those concerning the flight of Joseph with the Child Jesus and His mother; they fled from Herod, but they fled at the command of God (Matt.2:13,14). Moses endured as seeing (not “to see”) the invisible One. Jehovah was ever before him, as seen by faith.
By faith Moses kept (the perfect tense is used as indicating that what was done then abides, it is not merely an historic event) the Passover and the sprinkling (or affusion, Gk. proschusis, a pouring out upon, effusion) of blood. The blood was not sprinkled on the lintel and side posts. The LORD’s command was, “They shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side posts and on the lintel,” and Moses showed them how it was to be done: “Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood” (Ex.12:7,22). Proschusis – a pouring out upon, comes from Gk. pros, towards, and cheo, to pour. Ekcheo, to pour out, to shed (blood) is ek, out of, and cheo, to pour. The Greek word to sprinkle, as in Heb.9:19, etc., is rhantizo, to sprinkle, besprinkle, and the sprinkling of blood first took place at Sinai: “He (Moses) took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself, and all the people.” The sprinkling of blood conveys the thought of cleansing, purification, and sanctification of those who were sprinkled. The affusion of blood saved the firstborn from the destroyer. All firstborns then and ever afterwards were to be sanctified to the LORD (Ex.13:12,15); the clean animals had to be sacrificed; and the first-born ass, and the firstborn of man associated with the unclean ass, had to be redeemed.
They crossed (neither by bridge nor ford, neither by swimming nor wading, though the Greek word can be used in these senses) as by dry land. This the Egyptians assayed to; in their case it was presumption, for they had no command so to act; they walked by sight, and made a trial or experiment of what Israel did by faith. Men should from such events learn a lesson, to do what God has commanded, for Israel in obeying God’s command were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Cor.10:2), and thus they were saved from the hand of the enemy; though, let it be observed, they were saved from the wrath of God which fell on Egypt by the blood of the Passover. Let those who presume to follow the Lord’s command, given to those redeemed by blood, to be baptized, who have never known salvation by the shedding of the blood of Christ our Passover (1 Cor.5:7; 1 Pet.1:18,19) beware of the fearful calamity such a course will lead to. The professed baptizing (or sprinkling) of unbelievers can only result in leading such persons (but for the intervention of God’s grace and power) into the jaws of eternal death.
Israel carried out implicitly and patiently (for he that believeth shall not make haste) for seven days the plain command of God, and then at a given moment they shouted and
Jericho’s walls fell down, and each Israelite went into the city straight before him. God takes delight in His people when they obey Him as He has commanded them.
Here we have the last specific example of faith, and that in one in whom, because of her character and conduct, you would least have expected to find such faith. The greatest sinners have sometimes become the greatest saints, as witness, Saul of Tarsus, and Mary Magdalene. Rahab said, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land … for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath” (Josh.2:9,11). In such words shines faith of no ordinary kind. Because of her faith in Jehovah she hid the two spies who belonged to His people. She was at peace with them, for she was not hostile to their God. Therefore she, a believer, perished not with the disobedient (Gk. apeithesasin, those who would not be persuaded). They had the same evidence of Jehovah’s power as Rahab had, in the drying of the waters of the Red Sea and the destruction of Sihon and Og (Josh.2:10).
The writer names six men of faith, but not in chronological order, for Barak lived before Gideon, Jephthah before Samson, and Samuel before David. No doubt in these three pairs the greater man of faith is placed first in each case. Samuel stands at the head of the prophets, not that he was the first prophet, but he was first of that line of men who are generally described as “the prophets.” (See Acts 3:24: “Yea and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after.”
In David many of these things are exemplified in a remarkable degree. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego seem also to be in the writer’s mind.
Such believing women as the woman of Zarephath (1 Kgs.17:17) and the Shunammite (2 Kgs.4:17) had their sons raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha. Other faithful ones were beaten to death (RVM). (Gk. tumpanon, a drum, also an instrument of torture, on which criminals were extended to be scourged and beaten even to death), absolutely refusing the deliverance offered to them, which undoubtedly was a deliverance under conditions with which their faith could not agree. They refused deliverance that they might have a better resurrection, for there is not only the resurrection of the dead, there is resurrection from the dead, that is, (Gk. ek) out of the dead, when many shall rise in a pre-millennial resurrection to share the glories of Christ’s kingdom. The rest of the dead shall not rise till the thousand years of Christ’s reign are finished. The Lord speaks, in Lk.20:35, of those that are accounted worthy to attain to that world (age, RVM), and the resurrection from (ek) the dead.
Well does the writer say of such godly persons who suffered such ungodly treatment, “of whom the world was not worthy”! What power the devil has to set the one part of the human family against the other! But it is the story of Cain and Abel told over and over again. “Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” The devil carries on this unholy war against God, in which the wicked persecutes the righteous (Ps.37), the flesh, the spirit, and yet though the righteous is slain, he is the conqueror of the manslayer. Who is the victor, Jn the Baptist or Herod Antipas? Christ or Pontius Pilate? Heaven’s nobility wandered in a foreign
land in sheepskins and goatskins, in deserts and mountains and caves, but what robes and what mansions shall yet be theirs!
They “received not the promise”; compare this with Heb.9:15: Those who died in faith under the Old Covenant received not the promise of the eternal inheritance, nor could they until Christ had died for the redemption of the transgressions which were committed under that covenant. These saints died and went down to Sheol (upper), and were there till the resurrection of Christ. When He was raised this new dispensation which God had foreseen began, for apart from “us,” of this dispensation, who have been brought into the blessings of the eternal covenant through the death of the covenant Victim, they could not have been made perfect. Note how the two peoples are seen in Eph.4:8 – “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts unto men.” “He led captivity captive,” these captives were held under a measure of captivity till the death and resurrection of Christ, and then they were liberated by Him, and they are seen in association with the heavenly Jerusalem as “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb.12:23). These during their earthly lifetime were subject to bondage through the fear of death (Heb.2:15), but now know Divine deliverance through Christ’s death and resurrection. “And gave gifts unto men,” these are the gifts of the present dispensation – “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” The “something better” of this dispensation above the past dispensation of law is what has resulted from the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which so much is made by the apostle in the earlier chapters of this epistle. There is no thought here of these Old Testament saints becoming members of Christ’s Body. They are a company of saints distinct from the eternal purpose of God proper to this dispensation of grace, durng which Christ is building the Church the Body, which is a distinct and separate thing, an eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus.
In addition to those described in chapter 11, we also are to run the race before us. In the imagery used of the runners in the race there seems to be some allusion to the runners being surrounded by a great crowd – a cloud of witnesses. Some have thought there are two meanings in the word “witnesses”: 1, that they are witnesses to the power of faith in their life’s work and experience; 2, that they are onlookers on the runners of this dispensation. I do not view the witnesses as spectators. No scripture, that I know of, would justify the thought that saints who have left this earthly scene are now viewing the progress of saints on earth. I regard the first sense, that they are witnesses who have borne and bear testimony to the power of faith, to be the correct one. Like runners who divest themselves of every burden, even that of heavy clothing, so the Christian runner is to lay aside every weight which would hinder him. In particular he must lay aside the besetting, or easily surrounding, sin of unbelief, a sin which would hem him in on all sides. How can we run the race of faith with an unbelieving heart? Faith is allied to patience or endurance. The race is not one of minutes, but of years.
Some render this “looking off” or “looking away,” but looking to one object – faith’s Leader (not the Author) and Completer – necessitates that we look away from every other object. We can only truly look at one object at a time. The Lord Jesus is to fill the runner’s vision. He is the Leader of faith (as He is the Leader of many sons to glory), who by His perfect example takes precedence over all others. He is also the Completer of faith; He “exhibited faith in perfection in His own example.” No clouds of unbelief ever filled His sky or were
seen on the horizon of his thoughts as morning by morning God wakened His ear to hear as a disciple. He said, “The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward” (Isa.50:4,5). This perfect Man, subject and obedient, coming at the close of a past dispensation and opening a new dispensation, becomes before all; He surpasses all, and we see in Him, the Leader of faith, the course we are to pursue. He, our great Example, in the days of His flesh endured the cross, and He despised all the shame which consummated in His Crucifixion, in view of the joy of His triumph and the satisfaction He would have as the result of the travail of His soul. His earthly sufferings o’er, He sat down on God’s right hand. Such is the picture that is to fill the minds of those who patiently endure in the race – the Lord’s endurance and His resultant joy.
Consider, “think on, by way of comparison.” Compare Him with ourselves, how He stood, how He endured such or so great gainsaying of sinners; such gainsaying as – “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, Commit Thyself unto the LORD; let Him deliver Him: Let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighteth in Him.” (Ps.22:7,8) “My tears have been My meat day and night, While they continually say unto Me, Where is Thy God?” (Ps.42:3). Whether we read “against Himself” (AV/KJV) or “against themselves” (RV) it matters but little, for the gainsayng of men against the Lord will rebound against themselves; for who can despise the suffering Saviour without despising the salvation He by His sufferings wrought, with all the inevitable and awful consequences? Great is the tonic to sufferers who drink from the well at Calvary, and as we consider Him and think of “His wearied frame and thorn-crowned head, ” we feel our own weariness the less.
No blood had yet flowed from the Hebrews in the spiritual contest in which they were engaged, as had flowed in the case of their Master, and had flowed in the case of many of old time, who were stoned, sawn asunder and slain with the sword. “Wrestling against sin” is not our striving against the evil which arises from the old nature in our flesh, but resistance to external oppression; and were we to yield to such we should be found doing what is contrary to the will of God. Earlier, the Hebrews had taken joyfully the spoiling of their possessions, and now that that early joy had passed, under the present pressure they were liable to give way.
Chastisement by external persecution, causing the Christian much distress of mind and perchance grief, is not to be lightly regarded or despised. His wrestling to do God’s will is a necessary part of his discipline and education. Such discipline makes the sons of God strong. “A planter had the cocoon of an Emperor moth, and one day watched it bursting. He saw it struggle to burst its bonds, pitied it, and taking a pair of scissors, cut the old garment so as to permit it to emerge easier. So it did, but it was an abortion, it could neither stand nor fly.” We must not despise our strivings against sin, our standing for God; it is part of the Father’s discipline of His sons. The quotation in these verses is taken from Prov.3:11,12, as to God’s chastising. In the first seven chapters of Proverbs we have Solomon’s instruction to his sons. God too wishes to instruct His sons. These are our school days, and whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth. Our future will depend upon our learning of present lessons God would teach us. The reception of sons here must not be confused with the reception of sinners (Lk.15:2), nor yet with the reception into the Fellowship at the time we were added thereto (Acts 2:41), but is the reception of sons by the Father into His school of experimental
dealing and instruction that we may be useful to Him in His service. A man without training is like a fruit tree without pruning – all wood and no fruit, or like a horse that has never been trained, an animal whose strength is going to waste, and which may be a real danger.
Whilst God will afflict those that afflict His people, and vengeance belongs to Him, not to them (2 Thess.1:5-8; Rom.12:19), yet such affliction is part of God’s discipline for His sons. “It is unto chastening that ye endure.” This affliction comes by Divine permission. There is nothing haphazard in God’s training. We endure affliction, perhaps we say, because we must, it is inevitable and there is no use fighting against it; we must not view it in that light. “It is for discipline.” God is going to teach us some lesson by its means that we could not have learned otherwise. Storms on the sea of Galilee taught the disciples how small their faith was, a very necessary lesson. In calm waters they no doubt thought that they had great faith. The storm was needed to show how weak was their faith. Storms cause the oak to send its roots deeper into the earth, so should afflictions, which are oft sent in mercy, cause us to lay hold upon God by His word, because faith ever comes by hearing and by the word of God.
The son who knows no chastening is not a son in God’s reckoning, but a child without a father. All sons are made partakers of chastening. How much a person misses in life who has had no fatherly care, no restraint, no correction, no pruning, allowed to grow wild! But how beautiful is the character of a properly trained person, whose disposition by training has been rendered mild and moderate, who is a real asset and embellishment to the life of any community! On the other hand, how disturbing and destructive of peace is the lawless, fiery spirit, who has never been put under restraint, never been displeased by paternal control (1 Kgs.1:6), who becomes a displeasure to all who know him, a rebel against law and order! This sort of character is becoming more and more manifest in the perilous times of the last days, in which being disobedient to parents and headstrong are outstanding features. (2 Tim.3:1-5).
Here the contrast is drawn between the fathers of our flesh and the Father of spirits. The former chastened us and we gave them that respect due to them, but in the greater and more important matter of the disciplining of the human spirit, naturally so lawless, restless and rebellious, ought we not, who own this Divine Father as our Father, to subject our spirits to Him and live? When oppression and affliction come should our spirits become bitter as Israel’s did at the waters of Meribah? Should we murmur and rebel against the Lord? Is it not better that we should remember the beautiful words of Paul in such circumstances? “Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor.4:17). We may rebel, but we shall dwell in a parched land (Ps.68:6) and there die, or we may subject ourselves to the dealing of the Father of spirits, grow fat on the bread of affliction and live before Him.
During the few days our fathers had control over us they chastened us as seemed good to them; the apostle does not say the chastening was just and right, but the chastening was what seemed to them proper to the need and the occasion. How much rather should we welcome divine discipline, in view of the fact that the profit accruing therefrom shall abide when time shall be no more! To be partakers of His holiness means that we should be holy,
as is enjoined in 1 Pet.1:16: “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy,” and again in 2 Cor.7:1 “… perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Here we have “the grievous present” contrasted with “the fruitful afterwards.” Here we have the sowing during divine chastisement contrasted with the reaping time of the peaceable fruit, even that of righteousness. Jas.3:18 says that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace,” and in Isa.32:17, it says, “The work of righteousness shall be peace: and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence for ever.” The reaping of righteousness is only true in the case of those who are exercised concerning chastisement. Happy are the people who can say, “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: … He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him. And let us know, let us follow on to know the LORD” (Hos.6: 1-3). An unexercised mind is like an athlete who has not exercised his body for the contest; failure will inevitably be his; so the believer should have an exercised mind, a mind trained, and to such his experiences will yield abundant fruit.
Having said so much to runners as to the Lord’s example and our being disciplined and trained, the writer reverts to the race again. If there has been a slackening off or a ceasing to run, in the light of what has been said they are to lift up the hands that hang down. No runner runs with his hands dangling at his side as mere appendages, far less do palsied or paralysed knees befit a runner. They were to straighten their hands and knees and also to make straight tracks or paths for their feet. There was to be no zig-zag running like the ostrich. If the strong runners run as they should, then the weak and lame will be able also to keep to the path and to go straight on, and in time, by practice and goodly example, may themselves run well. But the failure of the strong has often turned the weak out of the way.
We are to pursue peace with all. “Men” is not in the original. We are to follow peace man- ward and sanctification Godward. The Christian is to be a man of peace and a holy man. Without sanctification no man shall see the Lord. Jas.5:11 says, “Ye … have seen the end of the Lord,” that is, the end of the Lord’s dealings with Job. To see the Lord, in the sense here spoken of, is to see Him, not in person, but in His dealings with us. When Samuel told Eli every whit of the LORD’s visitation to him the previous night, Eli said, “It is the LORD.” “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt.5:8), they shall see Him with the eyes of their heart, here and now, as well as in time to come.
The analogous scripture to this in the Old Testament is in Deut.29:18, which contemplates the possibility of a man or woman, or family or tribe, turning away from Jehovah to idolatry, which would result in a root bearing gall and bitterness. It is not falling short of God’s grace, but one who has known it falling back or away from it. It is not God’s grace in salvation (Tit.2:11), but the grace of God as a teacher, which instructs us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age (Tit.2:12). A backslider in heart is ever a trouble, and often many are affected by such a root of bitterness. Sometimes through such a root some, who have themselves done right, have gone away from the holy place and have been forgotten in the city; this also is vanity (Eccles.8:10).
Reuben was a fornicator and lost his birthright, and Esau was a profane person and sold his. With the selling of the birthright went all the spiritual inheritance of the promises of God, and also the blessing and service of God. Whatever material wealth may be got for the birthright it is but a mess of pottage or a moment of carnal pleasure. Afterwards comes the loss, the life a blank, and in due time comes the remorse consequent upon such outrageous acts.
Birthright and blessing go together. At the first his father Isaac would have blessed Esau with the firstborn’s blessing, but later, having understanding of God’s purpose by revelation, he rejected his son’s entreaty. Esau found no place of repentance; though he had changed his mind God had not changed His, and his tears did not move his father to repeal the words of blessing pronounced upon Jacob, whose was the birthright. Let us hear and fear! Let us hold fast what we have that no one take our crown (Rev.3:11). Jacob knew much of divine chastening, but he died in possession of the fruits of the birthright and the blessing, and passed on the birthright to Joseph and to Ephraim.
This is the description of that fearful appearance of Jehovah upon Mount Sinai; the mountain to which Israel came, where they received the law and where they commenced their national service for God, in connexion with the sanctuary which they built there for Jehovah their God. God appeared thus to Israel that they might fear Him and keep His covenant.
There are here eight clauses, in which eight things and persons are mentioned, which are joined by Gk. kai, and –
1: Mount Zion, and
2: The city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and
3: Innumerable hosts of angels, the general assembly, and
4: The church of the firstborn (ones) who are enrolled in heaven, and
5: God, the Judge of all, and
6: The spirits of just men made perfect, and 7: Jesus the Mediator of a New Covenant, and 8: The blood of sprinkling.
We suggest that the earthly copy seen in Israel of the heavenly things as enumerated here finds answer in –
1: Mount Sinai
1: Mount Zion
2: The encampment of Israel
2: The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem
3: The people of Israel, God’s host on earth
3: The innumerable hosts of angels, the general assembly
4: The Levites, who were called out of the tribes to take the place of the firstborn sons of Israel
4: The church of the firstborn (ones)
5: The God of Israel
5: God, the Judge of all
6: The spirits of just men made perfect
7: Moses the mediator of the Old Covenant
7: Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant
8: The blood of the Covenant, sprinkled on Sinai, by which the covenant was ratified and Israel became God’s holy nation, a kingdom of priests, and a peculiar people
8: The blood of sprinkling. (The blood of sprinkling should not be confused with the teaching associated with the blood of the Passover)
The following remarks are made as a contribution to a difficult, yet important subject, and are not dogmatically made, but are given suggestively.
With present knowledge the writer considers that the heavenly Jerusalem is not the New Jerusalem. The latter is the Lamb’s Bride and Wife. The heavenly Zion, God’s holy mountain, is alluded to, I judge, in Ezek.28:14-16, where we read of the holy mountain of God: there too, I judge, was and is the heavenly Jerusalem, the seat of government and centre of worship of the heavenly hosts. This heavenly Zion and heavenly Jerusalem cast their shadow on earth, when Israel reached the mountain of God in the wilderness (Ex.3:1,12; Ex.19:1-8 etc.) where they received the law, built the sanctuary, and commenced their national service for God. This earthly shadow of heavenly things is seen later when Israel reached the land and God revealed His choice of “the place of the Name,” which in David’s time was Mount Zion and Jerusalem. Though God forsook Shiloh, He never chose another place when once He reached Zion, despite the sad and repeated failures of His people, both
in regard to the whole nation and also the remnant that later were associated with Jerusalem, the place of the Name. This centre of Zion and Jerusalem will again play an all- important part in connexion with the government and service of God in the Millennium in those glorious days which are fast approaching. Then in the eternal state there will be a New Jerusalem, the centre of things in the new earth, when God’s purposes in Eden, so long suspended by the entrance of sin, will be realized, with the added glory, a glorious state from which men can never fall. But this, it seems to me, will not affect the heavenly centre in the heavenly Jerusalem, which existed before man’s creation, for I believe that the scene of Ezek.28:13-16 is pre-Adamic. We have not come to Sinai, for we are not subject to Moses and his law, but we are come to Zion where the Lord Jesus is enthroned with all authority in heaven and on earth. We are subject to the Lord upon the throne, the precious corner stone which is laid in Zion, of sure foundation. Thither we have come collectively to receive God’s word for His collective people and to do service to our God in connexion with His holy mountain. Hence, we must not refuse Him that speaketh. God, who is served by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, gives to His few and feeble people boldness to approach to Him. He will listen to us, if we hearken to Him; but if we refuse His words, our worship will be in vain.
Under the Old Covenant there was no way of escape open to those who refused Him that warned (divinely instructed, – “an oracular command given by the Deity”) them on earth; much less is there an avenue of escape open for such as turn away or are turning away from Him that warneth from heaven.
Despite the seriousness and the responsibility of hearing and obeying God’s voice, it is comforting in these days of remnant testimony to remember that the quotation in this verse is taken from Haggai, and is amongst the words of encouragement which that prophet spoke to the remnant at the time when the work of the building of God’s house had ceased. God was with the remnant in their work as truly as He had been with the entire nation when they built the Tabernacle in the wilderness. His voice then shook the earth and He gave visible tokens of His power and presence, but there were no such evidences to the remnant which had returned from Babylon. Yet they were assured, that as God had spoken in the past and given proof thereof, and they were to abide in His spoken word, He would again speak, and both heaven and earth would tremble, and in that day the latter glory of the house of God would be greater than the former. In such words they were assured that their work in association with God’s house would fill its place, and not an unimportant one, in the history of God’s work amongst His people and amongst men, and would meet its due recompense.
What shall remain eventually, the material or the spiritual? the things that are seen or the things unseen? the things God has made in His natural creation or the things He has wrought in the souls of His people by the operation of His word and Spirit? that which is outward or that which is inward? The things which shall be shaken are heaven and earth. What cannot be shaken? – His word (which shakes the shaken things), and those that rest upon it as the sure foundation of their souls and all their work. As buildings shaken by an earthquake become dangerous and are better taken down and removed, so God will remove from His universe in due time all those things that are shaken and will establish for ever the unshaken and unshakable.
The kingdom is unshaken, for God’s throne is established for ever. Christ said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt.24:35; Rev.20:11). In this kingdom – the kingdom of God – the word of God, the authority of His Christ, and our subjection to Him are the outstanding characteristics. No human teaching or authority can be allowed or tolerated. There is one Lord and one faith (the revealed will of God for His people) and one baptism. Should we not have grace or thankfulness, if we have reached and found a place in such a kingdom under the authority of our one and only Lord, Jesus Christ, to render service well pleasing to God with reverence and awe?
Our God is no less a great and terrible God in this day of grace than He was under the law. Those who fear Him who speaks in a “still small voice” need not fear the tempest, and the rending of the mountains and the rocks, the earthquake and the fire (1 Kgs.19:11-13). The day of testing will come when each man’s work will be tried (1 Cor.3:13-15), and all shall go save that which has been wrought in God (Jn 3:21). “He that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.”
Brotherly love had existed amongst those to whom the epistle was addressed, for they had ministered to the saints and still continued in this good work (chapter 6:10). They had also had compassion on them that were in bonds (Heb.10:34). In Heb.10:24, they were exhorted to consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. This sweet brotherly affection was not to die and leave them to a cold, dead, formal Christianity. “In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another” (Rom.12:10).
“Given (or pursuing) to hospitality (love of strangers)” is one of the exhortations to the Roman saints (Rom.12:13). It is also one of the characteristic features of an overseer – “given to hospitality” (1 Tim.3:2). Peter also exhorts; “using hospitality one to another without murmuring” (1 Pet.4:9). The Hebrews were to love the brethren and not to forget to love strangers and to show them hospitality, because some, such as Abraham, who entertained the three men who visited him (Gen.18:3), had entertained angels unawares. Bearing in mind that saints, who may be strangers to us, are children of God, we are honoured to entertain God’s own children.
To be able to see ourselves in another’s circumstances and to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us, will have a softening effect on our hearts. Where love is, the sorrows and sufferings of those you love become in measure your sorrows and sufferings. Thus those in bonds were to be remembered by those who were actually free, as though they were bound with them. And those who were evil entreated and in distress were to be remembered in the light of the fact that similar distress could reach to those who though free were in the body.
Here we have exhortations to chastity. The honour of marriage was to be maintained among all. Whilst saints were called upon to judge and to excommunicate the fornicators, in 1 Cor.5, yet God Himself will judge fornicators and adulterers.
The manner of life or turn of mind of the Christian is that he should be free from the love of money. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim.6:10). The overseer is to be “no lover of money” (1 Tim.3:3). We are to be content, satisfied or sufficed, with present things or circumstances, for some who have reached after money, in the love of it, have been led astray from the faith and have been pierced through with many sorrows (1 Tim.6:10). We must not, however, confuse contentment with indolence and slothfulness. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim.6:6). To such as are free from avarice the promise has peculiar sweetness; “for Himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.” Deut.31:6,8, and Josh.1:5 contain similar words. This is one of the strongest and most comforting of God’s promises in relation to what He is to His own in the trials of life. However hard and trying the circumstances may be, and He has brought His own through many difficulties, He will neither fail nor forsake His own; He has said so Himself.
If the Lord is with us we may each be of good courage and cheerfully give our reason – “the Lord is my Helper.” What can man do if the Lord helps His own?
“Remember your leaders,” the leaders who had at one time led them, and consequently ruled them; which spake, but are no longer speaking, to them the Word of God. Considering, contemplating or surveying, the issue of their life, conduct or manner of life, their behaviour or walk, they were to imitate their faith. Issue, Gk. ekbasis, is rendered in 1 Cor.10:13 “way of escape.” The word may mean – “way out”, “egress,” and also “result,” “termination. ” Some have thought that “issue” means “result, “as to what had accrued from their faithful lives, and others “termination” as to how they left this scene, bringing their lives to a triumphant conclusion.
The faithful leaders had gone, but that did not mean that all good had gone with them. Jesus Christ is the same: He who supported their leaders yesterday, will support those that are left today, and He will be the same for ever. Jacob said to Joseph, “Behold I die: but God shall be with you” (Gen.48:21). The God of the fathers will be the God of their sons. “LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations,” said Moses (Ps.90:1). Jesus Christ the Shepherd and Comforter of His saints will be the same to His own during all the rolling centuries of passing generations. “Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this” (Eccles.7:10).
Eph.4:14 speaks of infants being tossed about with every wind of doctrine. Here the possibility is contemplated of saints being carried out of the way or course by various and strange doctrines, teachings that they had formerly been unacquainted with. Their hearts were to be confirmed with grace not with meats. God’s people in the past economy were never profited spiritually by meats. In this dispensation of grace it is words of grace that
feed and stablish the hearts of God’s people, not meats, and there must be no mixture of law and grace, ritualism and faith. “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall bring to nought both it and them” (1 Cor.6:13).
Those who served the tabernacle received their meat through the altar. We receive grace through our Altar, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who serve the tabernacle and have their portion from the altar (1 Cor.10:18) have no right to eat of our Altar. There must be no fusion of meats and grace, no amalgamation of service in connexion with the tabernacle and that of Christ, no confusion between their altar and our Altar (Christ), no mixture of Judaism and Christianity. They had the shadows, but we have the Substance.
Such beasts, whose blood was brought into the holy place, were the highest kind of sin offering. Their bodies were not eaten by the priests, but were burned outside the camp. This is the type of the Lord’s sacrifice. He entered the holy place (or Holies) through His own blood (Heb.9:12), and cleansed the heavenly things by His sacrifice (Heb.9:23,24).
As the bodies of the highest kind of sin offering were burned without the camp, so Jesus suffered without the gate – outside Jerusalem – so that He might sanctify or set apart His people by His blood. Two things are indicted in verses 11 and 23, “the holy place” (or Holies) and “without the camp.” This sanctification is not that of Heb.10:10,14 – “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all … By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” which indicates a sanctification which is eternal and abiding. In Heb.13:12 not only is the blood-shedding necessary to this sanctification, but the place of His suffering is a vital consideration – “without the gate.”
Note how in verse 12 it is the sanctification of “the people”; it is the collective sanctification of God’s people that is in view. Unto the realization of this it is necessary that we obey the exhortation – “Let us go forth.” It is not here that we are “set apart” by one act of faith in Christ, but a sanctification manifested in a continual going forth to Him. We see the state of the camp. Man’s will has taken the place of God’s will. Christ has been rejected; His claims have been set at naught, and He has been taken outside and crucified. This has been done by Jew and Gentile, Herod, Pontius Pilate and the people of Israel, and there has been no rescinding by the world of the decision of Golgotha. We are responsible to go forth unto Him, to identify ourselves with Him, and to bear His reproach, the odium which is associated with Him, and the place and manner of His death. If we are reproached “for the Name of Christ,” then let us know that the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God rests upon us (1 Pet.4:14). If we are to know the service of the Holies, we must go forth to Him outside the camp. The priest of old went into the Holies with the blood of the victim whose body was burned outside. Let us remember too, that “He led them out until they were over against Bethany” and, “He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven” (Lk.24:50,51). He went “in” for those whom He led “out. ” Are we “out” here and “in” there, or do we wish to be “in” here and “out” there? We cannot be “in” in both. Some go “in” – into the city – too soon, as Jonathan did (1 Sam.20:42); natural ties seemed too strong for him to remain outside the gate with David, but David, who was “out,” went to the house of God, to the priests of Nob and there he ate of the holy bread from “the holy place” (1 Sam.21:1-6), which no others ever did, save the priests of the house of Aaron.
As those who have gone out to Him we are pilgrims and strangers; we have no continuing city. “We are but strangers here, Heaven is our home.” We seek the city which is to come, the Bride, the New Jerusalem (Rev.21). “He that overcometh … I will write upon him the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God” (Rev.3:12).
“Let us go forth” precedes “let us offer up.” Separation comes before service. He who is the leader of praise (Heb.2:12), through whom the sacrifice of praise is offered, was cast out. He is outside all sects and systems of men, outside the camp which is defiled by man’s will usurping the place of God’s will, and if we would offer the sacrifice of praise through Him we must be outside with Him. Continuous praise is contemplated here, not spasmodic. “Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth Me” (Ps.50:23). The sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips which make confession to His name. “The fruit of lips” is also spoken of in connexion with the preaching of the Gospel of peace. “I create the fruit of lips: Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near” (Isa.57:19; Eph.2:17).
The sacrifice of praise should not be disconnected from the sacrifice of material things, in doing good and having communion with others in respect of their needs. “Communicate” is Gk. koinonia, frequently rendered “fellowship.” We have here in these verses 15 and 16 two kinds of sacrifice (and we speak suggestively), that which may answer to the Burnt offering, in the sacrifice of praise, which is something that is wholly for God – “we render as bullocks the offering of our lips” (Hos.14:2) – and the Peace offering or fellowship offering in which all who were clean might share. The fat of the peace offering was burnt upon the burnt offering on the altar, so that God’s portion in the peace offering was always connected with the burnt offering; even so here, the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of doing good in communicating to and having fellowship with the need of others are seen joined together.
“Remember (with a view to imitation) them that had,” and “obey them that have the rule (your leaders) over you,” are the injunctions of verses 7 and 17: Obey means “to be persuaded.” Leaders rule by persuasion, not by lording it over their charges or allotted portions (1 Pet.5:3). The leaders go before and persuade others to follow by the word of God, which in some degree finds its answer in their lives. Saints are to submit to their leaders (or overseers). What great responsibility leaders have – “They watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account”! If they do not watch how shall they give account? How serious on the other hand it will be if saints refuse their watchful care and are rebellious against their rule! Overseers may give the account of their stewardship, either with joy or grief (groaning or lamentation). If it is given with grief then it will be unprofitable for the saints who have been under their care. Let each give cause for others to have joy in them, both now, and then – at the judgement seat of Christ. God grant spiritual leaders or guides, and grant, too, a spiritual state amongst saints!
Here the writer joins others with himself – “Pray for us.” This is characteristic of Paul to link others with himself (1 Thess.5:25; 2 Thess.3:1). Whatever may have been said against the
writer and his fellows they had a good conscience and desired to maintain this toward men, as well as to Godward, in an honest life.
Here the writer drops into the personal note, “I exhort.” He exhorts them again with added force to pray, that he, personally, might be restored to them the sooner.
The God of peace is frequently referred to in Paul’s epistles. “The God of peace be with you all” (Rom.15:33). “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom.16:20). “For God is not a God of confusion, but a God of peace” (1 Cor.14:33). “The God of love and peace shall be with you” (2 Cor.13:11). “The God peace shall be with you” (Phil.4:9). “The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly” (1 Thess.5: 23). “The Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in all ways” (2 Thess.3:16). “This is the only place where our writer mentions the Resurrection … that which lay between Golgotha and the throne of God, between the Cross and the heavenly sanctuary, the resurrection of Him who died as our sin offering.” But for the resurrection of Christ chaos and darkness would have won a great victory; but He who made peace by the blood of His Cross has been raised by the God of peace, and now the Great Shepherd feeds His flock in green pastures, beside the still waters. Whatever disturbing elements may have been indicated in this epistle, these are possible of adjustment provided there is a turning to Him the Great Shepherd. The covenant was sealed by His blood, in (En) virtue of which He has been raised, its terms become living through His death, but they could not be put into operation till the Shepherd and mediator had been raised from the dead. Christ is to this dispensation what Moses was to the dispensation of law. The Lord calls Himself the Good Shepherd who laid down His life (Jn 10:11); the Great Shepherd was raised from the dead (Heb.13:20); and the Chief Shepherd is coming to reward the under shepherds of the flock (1 Pet.5:4). Though we have been made perfect by Christ’s sacrifice (Heb.10:14), yet we need to be made perfect in every good thing or work to do God’s will. How imperfect we are in this respect!
Here we have a personal exhortation again, “I exhort.” They were to bear or endure the sound words of exhortation and not be as those, of whom we read, who would not endure the sound doctrine (2 Tim.4:3). As we view the epistle we say, “What an exhortation!” and what wealth is contained in what are described as “few words”! Every word is precious as the fine gold of the sanctuary. What an exaltation of Christ! and what an indicating of that which is due to God! yet throughout there is a pious restraint and wistful longing for the spiritual betterment of those to whom he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit.
The writer would have them know that Timothy, who had been imprisoned, had been released from custody, and he anticipated his coming and hoped with Tim.to see those to whom he wrote.
“Salute all your leaders,” not some of them merely. Not only were all the leaders to be saluted, but all the saints as well, the poor as well as the rich (Jas.1:9-11; Jas.2:2-5); the less honourable as well as the more honourable (1 Cor.12:23) are to be saluted. “Hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” “They of Italy salute you,” that is “the saints from Italy,” who were not now resident there.
This is the invariable Pauline salutation, “which,” he says, “is the token in every epistle; so I write” (2 Thess.3:17). Jn in Rev.(22:21) uses the same salutation, but in no other epistle, save Paul’s, is this salutation found. Great difference of mind has existed from early days as to who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, whether Paul, Apollos, Luke or some other, and it may remain a matter of disputation, but there can be no doubt of the divinely inspired nature of the epistle, and this is what counts after all has been said. We turn to this wonderful epistle to learn of the Lord’s priesthood and His work in connexion with the heavenly sanctuary and also the service of the people of God in association therewith. It is indeed a precious inheritance to God’s people and may we prize more and more its mind- illuminating contents. Amen.