AN EXPOSITION OF HEBREWS by A.W. Pink


AN EXPOSITION OF
HEBREWS

VOLUME 1
by A.W. Pink

CONTENTS
1. Introduction
2. The Superiority of Christ over the Prophet
3. The Superiority of Christ over the Prophet
4. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 1:4-14
5. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 1:7-9
6. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 1:10-13
7. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:1-4
8. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:5-9
9. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:9-11
10. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:11-13
11. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:14-16
12. Christ Superior to Angels.

Hebrews 2:17,18
13. Christ Superior to Moses.

Hebrews 3:1-6
14. Christ Superior to Moses.

Hebrews 3:7-12
15. Christ Superior to Moses.

Hebrews 3:13-19
16. Christ Superior to Joshua.

Hebrews 4:1-3
17. Christ Superior to Joshua.

Hebrews 4:3-10
18. Christ Superior to Joshua.

Hebrews 4:11-16
19. Christ Superior to Aaron.

Hebrews 5:1-4
20. Christ Superior to Aaron.

Hebrews 5:5-7
21. Christ Superior to Aaron.

Hebrews 5:8-10
22. Christ Superior to Aaron.

Hebrews 5:11-14
23. Infancy and Maturity.

Hebrews 6:1-3
24. Apostasy.

Hebrews 6:4-6
25. The Twofold Working of the Spirit.

Hebrews 6:4-6
26. The Two Classes of Professors.

Hebrews 6:7, 8
27. Two Christians Described.

Hebrews 6:9-11.3
28. Christian Perseverance.

Hebrews 6:12-15
29. The Anchor of the Soul. Hebrew 6:16-20
30. Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:1-3
31. Melchizedek:

Hebrews 7:4-10
32. The Priesthood Changed.

Hebrews 7:11-16
33. Judaism Set Aside.

Hebrews 7:17-19
34. Judaism Set Aside.

Hebrews 7:20-24
35. The Perfect Priest.

Hebrews 7:25-28
36. The Perfect Priest.

Hebrews 8:1-5
37. The Two Covenants.

Hebrews 8:6-9
38. The Two Covenants.

Hebrews 8:10-13.4
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Before taking up the study of this important Epistle let writer and reader
humbly bow before its Divine Inspirer, and earnestly seek from Him that
preparation of heart which is needed to bring us into fellowship with that
One whose person, offices, and glories are here so sublimely displayed. Let
us personally and definitely seek the help of that blessed Spirit who has
been given to the saints of God for the purpose of guiding them into all
truth, and taking of the things of Christ to show unto them. In

Luke
24:45 we learn that Christ opened the understanding of the disciples “that
they might understand the Scriptures.” May He graciously do so with us,
then the entrance of His words will “give light” (

Psalm 119:130), and
in His light we shall “see light.”
In this opening article we shall confine ourselves to things of an
introductory character, things which it is necessary to weigh ere we take up
the details of the Epistle. We shall consider its addressees, its purpose, its
theme, its divisions, its characteristics, its value, and its writer. Before
doing so, let us say that we expect to quote freely from other expositors,
and where possible name them. In some cases we shall not be able to do so
owing to the fact that extensive and long-distance traveling has obliged the
writer to break up five libraries during the last twenty years. During those
years he has read (and owned most of them) between thirty and forty
commentaries on Hebrews, from which he has made notes in his Bible and
taken helpful extracts for his own use when lecturing on this Epistle. As
most of these commentaries have been disposed of, we can now do no
more than make a general acknowledgement of help received from those
written by Drs. John Owen, John Gill, Moses Stewart, Andrew Bonar,
Griffith-Thomas, and Messrs. Pridham, Ridout, and Tucker. Let us now
consider: —
1. ITS ADDRESSEES.
In our English Bibles we find the words “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to
the Hebrews” as the address. Perhaps some of our readers are not aware.5
that the titles found at the head of the different books of the Bible are not
Divinely inspired, and therefore are not accounted canonical as are the
contents. No doubt these titles were originated by the early scribes, when
making copies of the original manuscripts — manuscripts, all traces of
which have long since disappeared. In some instances these titles are
unsatisfactory; in a few, grossly erroneous. As an example of the latter, we
may refer to the final book of Scripture. Here the title is “The Revelation
of St. John the Divine,” whereas the opening sentence of the book itself
designates it “The Revelation of Jesus Christ!”
While treating in general with the titles of the books of Scripture, we may
note that in almost all of the Epistles there is a Divinely-named addressee in
the opening verses. But we may add, the contents of each Epistle are not to
be restricted to those immediately and locally addressed. It is important
that the young Christian should grasp this firmly, so that he may be
fortified against ultra-dispensational teaching. There are some, claiming to
have great light, who would rob the saints today of the Epistle of James
because it is addressed to “the Twelve Tribes which are scattered abroad.”
With equal propriety they might take from us the Epistles to the Philippians
and Colossians because they were addressed only to the saints in those
cities! The truth is that what Christ said to the apostles in

Mark 13:17
— “What I say unto you, I say unto all” — may well be applied to the
whole of the Bible. All Scripture is needed by us (

2 Timothy 3:16, 17),
and all Scripture is God’s word to us. Note carefully that while at the
beginning of his Epistle to Titus Paul only addresses Titus himself
(

Titus 1:4), yet at the close of this letter he expressly says, “Grace be
with you all!” (

Titus 3:15)
Ignoring then the man-made title at the head of our Epistle, we are at once
struck by the absence of any Divinely-given one in the opening verses.
Nevertheless, its first sentence enables us to identify at once those to
whom the Epistle was originally sent: see

Hebrews 1:1, 2. They to
whom God spake through the prophets were the children of Israel, and it
was also unto them He had spoken through His Son. In

Hebrews 3:1,
we find a word which, however, narrows the circle to which this Epistle
was first sent. It was not the Jewish nation at large which was addressed,
but the “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” among them.
Clear confirmation of this is supplied in the Epistles of Peter. His first was
addressed, locally, to “the elect sojourners of the Dispersion (

Hebrews
1:1 — Gk., “eklektois parepidenois diasporas”). His second Epistle (see.6

Hebrews 3:1) was addressed, locally and immediately, to the same
company. Now in

2 Peter 3:15 the apostle makes specific reference to
“our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him
hath written unto you.” Thus all doubt is removed as to whom our Epistle
was first sent.
The Epistle itself contains further details which serve to identify the
addressees. That it was written to saints who were by no means young in
the faith is clear from

Hebrews 5:12. That it was sent to those who had
suffered severe persecutions (cf.

Acts 8:1) is plain from what we read in

Hebrews 10:32. That it was addressed to a Christian community of
considerable size is evident from

Hebrews 13:24. From this last
reference we are inclined to conclude that this Epistle was first delivered to
the church in Jerusalem (

Acts 11:22), or to the churches in Judea
(

Acts 9:31), copies of which would be made and forwarded to Jewish
Christians in foreign lands. Thus, our Epistle was first addressed to those
descendants of Abraham who, by grace, had believed on their Savior-Messiah.
2. ITS PURPOSE.
This, in a word, was to instruct Jewish believers that Judaism had been
superceded by Christianity. It must be borne in mind that a very
considerable proportion of the earliest converts to Christ were Jews by
natural birth, who continued to labor under Jewish prejudices. In his early
Epistles the apostle had touched several times on this point, and sought to
wean them from an undue and now untimely attachment to the Mosaic
institutions. But only in this Epistle does he deal fully and systematically
with the subject.
It is difficult for us to appreciate the position, at the time this Epistle was
written, of those in Israel who had believed on the Lord Jesus. Unlike the
Gentiles, who, for long centuries past, had lost all knowledge of the true
God, and, in consequence, worshipped idols, the Jews had a Divine
religion, and a Divinely-appointed place of worship. To be called upon to
forsake these, which had been venerated by their fathers for over a
thousand years, was to make a big demand upon them. It was natural that
even those among them who had savingly believed on Christ should want
to retain the forms and ceremonies amid which they had been brought up;
the more so, seeing that the Temple still stood and the Levitical priesthood.7
still functioned. An endeavor had been made to link Christianity on to
Judaism, and as

Acts 21:20 tells us there were many thousands of the
early Jewish Christians who were “zealous of the law” — as the next
verses clearly show, the ceremonial law.
“Instead of perceiving that under the new economy of things, there
was neither Jew nor Gentile, but, that, without reference to external
distinctions, all believers in Christ Jesus were now to live together
in the closest bonds of spiritual attachment in holy society, they
dreamed of the Gentiles being admitted to the participation of the
Jewish Church through means of the Messiah, and, that its external
economy was to remain unaltered to the end of the world” (Dr. J.
Brown).
In addition to their natural prejudices, the temporal circumstances of the
believing Jews became increasingly discouraging, yea, presented a sore
temptation for them to abandon the profession of Christianity. Following
the persecution spoken of in

Acts 8:1, that eminent scholar, Adolph
Saphir — himself a converted Jew — tells us: “Then arose another
persecution of the believers, especially directed against the apostle Paul.
Festus died about the year 63, and under the high priest Ananias, who
favored the Sadducees, the Christian Hebrews were persecuted as
transgressors of the law. Some of them were stoned to death; and though
this extreme punishment could not be frequently inflicted by the
Sanhedrim, they were able to subject their brethren to sufferings and
reproaches which they felt keenly. It was a small thing that they confiscated
their goods; but they banished them from the holy places. Hitherto they had
enjoyed the privileges of devout Israelites: they could take part in the
beautiful and God-appointed services of the sanctuary; but now they were
treated as unclean and apostates. Unless they gave up faith in Jesus, and
forsook the assembling of themselves together, they were not allowed to
enter the Temple, they were banished from the altar, the sacrifice, the high
priest, the house of Jehovah.
“We can scarcely realize the piercing sword which thus wounded their
inmost heart. That by clinging to the Messiah they were to be severed from
Messiah’s people, was, indeed, a great and perplexing trial; that for the
hope of Israel’s glory they were banished from the place which God had
chosen, and where the divine Presence was revealed, and the symbols and
ordinances had been the joy and strength of their fathers; that they were to.8
be no longer children of the covenant and of the house, but worse than
Gentiles, excluded from the outer court, cut off from the commonwealth of
Israel. This was indeed a sore and mysterious trial. Cleaving to the
promises made unto their fathers, cherishing the hope in constant prayer
that their nation would yet accept the Messiah, it was the severest test to
which their faith could be put, when their loyalty to Jesus involved
separation from all the sacred rights and privileges of Jerusalem.”
Thus the need for an authoritative, lucid, and systematic setting forth of the
real relation of Christianity to Judaism was a pressing one. Satan would not
miss the opportunity of seeking to persuade these Hebrews that their faith
in Jesus of Nazareth was a mistake, a delusion, a sin. Were they right,
while the vast majority of their brethren, according to the flesh, among
whom were almost all the respected members of the Sanhedrim and the
priesthood, wrong? Had God prospered them since they had become
followers of the crucified One? or, did not their temporal circumstances
evidence that He was most displeased with them? Moreover, the believing
remnant of Israel had looked for a speedy return of Christ to the earth, but
thirty years had now passed and He had not come! Yes, their situation was
critical, and there was an urgent need that their faith should be
strengthened, their understanding enlightened, and a fuller explanation be
given them of Christianity in the light of the Old Testament. It was to meet
this need that God, in His tender mercy, moved His servant to write this
Epistle to them.
3. ITS THEME.
This is, the super-abounding excellence of Christianity over Judaism. The
sum and substance, the center and circumference, the light and life of
Christianity, is Christ. Therefore, the method followed by the Holy Spirit in
this Epistle, in developing its dominant theme, is to show the immeasurable
superiority of Christ over all that had gone before. One by one the various
objects in which the Jews boasted are taken up, and in the presence of the
superlative glory of the Son of God they pale into utter insignificance. We
are shown
First, His superiority over the prophets,

Hebrews 1:1-3.
Second, His superiority over angels in

Hebrews 1:4 to

Hebrews
2:18..9
Third, His superiority over Moses in

Hebrews 3:1-19.
Fourth, His superiority over Joshua,

Hebrews 4:1-13.
Fifth, His superiority over Aaron in

Hebrews 5:14 to 7:18.
Sixth, His superiority over the whole ritual of Judaism, which is
developed by showing the surpassing excellency of the new covenant
over the old, in

Hebrews 7:19 to

Hebrews 10:39.
Seventh, His superiority over each and all of the Old Testament saints,
in

Hebrews 11:1 to

Hebrews 12:3. In the Lord Jesus, Christians
have the substance and reality, of which Judaism contained but the
shadows and figures.
If the Lord permits us to go through this Epistle — Oh that He may come
for us before — many illustrations and exemplifications of our definition of
its theme will come before us. At the moment, we may note how frequently
the comparative term “better” is used, thus showing the superiority of
what we have in Christianity over what the saints of old had in Judaism. In

Hebrews 1:4, Christ is “better than angels;” in

Hebrews 7:19,
mention is made of a “better hope;” in

Hebrews 7:22, of a “better
testament” or “covenant; in

Hebrews 8:6, of “better promises;” in

Hebrews 9:23, of “better sacrifices;” in

Hebrews 10:34 of a “better
substance;” in

Hebrews 11:16, of a “better country;” in

Hebrews
11:35, of a “better resurrection,” and in

Hebrews 11:40, of the “better
thing.” So, too, we may observe the seven great things mentioned therein,
namely: the “great salvation” (

Hebrews 2:3), the “great High Priest”
(

Hebrews 4:14), the “great Tabernacle” (

Hebrews 9:11), the “great
fight of afflictions” (

Hebrews 10:32), the “great recompense”
(

Hebrews 10:35), the “great cloud of witnesses” (

Hebrews 12:1),
the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (

Hebrews 13:20).
Again; in contrast from what the believing Hebrews were called upon to
give up, they were reminded of what they had gained. Note how frequently
occurs the “we have” — a great High Priest (

Hebrews 4:14, 8:1), an
anchor of the soul (

Hebrews 6:19), a better and enduring substance
(

Hebrews 10:34), an altar (

Hebrews 13:10). Once more, we may
note how these Hebrews were encouraged to forget the things which were
behind and to press toward those which were before. All through this
Epistle the forward look is prominent. In

Hebrews 1:6 and

Hebrews.10
2:5, mention is made of a “world (or ‘habitable earth’) to come;” in

Hebrews 6:5, of an “age to come;” in

Hebrews 8:10, of a “new
covenant,” yet to be made with the house of Israel; in

Hebrews 9:11
and

Hebrews 10:1, of “good things” to come; in

Hebrews 9:28, of a
“salvation” to be revealed; in

Hebrews 10:37, of the coming Redeemer,
in

Hebrews 11:14 and

Hebrews 13:14, of a “city” yet to be
manifested.
Throughout this Epistle great prominence is given to the Priesthood of
Christ. The center of Judaism was its temple and the priesthood. Hence the
Holy Spirit has here shown at length how that believers now have in Christ
the substance of which these supplied but the shadows. The following
passages should be carefully weighed: —

Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15;
5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11; 10:21.
“Though deprived of the temple, with its priesthood and altar and
sacrifice, the apostle reminds the Hebrews, ‘we have’ the real and
substantial temple, the great High Priest, the true altar, the one
sacrifice, and with it all offerings, the true access into the very
presence of the Most Holy” (Adolph Saphir).
4. ITS DIVISIONS.
These have been set forth so simply by Dr. J. Brown we cannot do better
than quote from him:
“The Epistle divides itself into two parts — the first, doctrinal; the
second, practice — though the division is not so accurately
(closely, A.W.P.) observed, that there are no duties enjoined or
urged in the first part, and no doctrines stated in the second. The
first is by far the larger division, reaching from the beginning of the
Epistle down to the 18th verse of the 10th chapter. The second
commences with the 19th verse of the 10th chapter, and extends to
the end of the Epistle. The superiority of Christianity to Judaism is
the great doctrine which the Epistle teaches; and constancy in the
faith and profession of that religion, is the great duty which it
enjoins.”.11
5. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.
In several noticeable respects Hebrews differs from all the other Epistles of
the New Testament. The name of the writer is omitted, there is no opening
salutation, the ones to whom it was first specifically and locally sent are not
mentioned. On the positive side we may note, that the typical teachings of
the Old Testament are expounded here at greater length than elsewhere;
the priesthood of Christ is opened up, fully, only in this Epistle; the
warnings against apostasy are more frequent and more solemn, and the
calls to steadfastness and perseverance are more emphatic and numerous
than in any other New Testament book. All of these things are accounted
for by the fleshly nationality of those addressed, and the circumstances they
were then in. Unless we keep these features steadily in mind, not a little in
this Epistle will necessarily remain obscure and dark. Much of the language
used, the figures employed, the references made, are only intelligible in the
light of the Old Testament Scriptures, on which Judaism was based. Except
this be kept before us, such expressions as “purged our sins” (

Hebrews
1:3), “there remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping to the people of God”
(

Hebrews 4:9), “leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us
go on unto perfection” (

Hebrews 6:1), “our bodies washed with pure
water” (

Hebrews 10:22), “we have an altar” (

Hebrews 13:10), etc.,
will remain unintelligible.
The first time that Christ is referred to in this Epistle it is as seated at “the
right hand of the Majesty on high” (

Hebrews 1:3), for it is with a
heavenly Christ that Christianity has to ‘do: note the other reference in this
Epistle to the same fact —

Hebrews 1:13, 8:1,

10:12,

12:2. In
perfect accord with

Hebrews 1:3, which strikes the keynote of the
Epistle, in addition to the heavenly Christ, reference is made to “the
heavenly calling” (

Hebrews 3:1), to “the heavenly gift” (

Hebrews
6:4), to “heavenly things” (

Hebrews 8:5), to “the heavenly Country”
(

Hebrews 11:16), to the “heavenly Jerusalem” (

Hebrews 12:22), and
to “the church of the First-born, whose names are written in Heaven”
(

Hebrews 12:23). This emphasis is easily understood when we
remember that our Epistle is addressed to those whose inheritance,
religious relationships, and hopes, had been all earthly.
In

Hebrews 13:22 there is a striking word which defines the character
of this Epistle: “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of
exhortation, for I have written a letter unto you in few words.” Upon this.12
verse Saphir has well said, “The central idea of the Epistle is the glory of
the New Covenant, contrasted with and excelling the glory of the old
covenant; and while this idea is developed in a systematic manner, yet the
aim of the writer throughout is eminently and directly practical.
Everywhere his object is exhortation. He never loses sight of the dangers
and wants of his brethren. The application to conscience and life is never
forgotten. It is rather a sermon than an exposition…. In all his arguments,
in every doctrine, in every illustration, the central aim of the Epistle is kept
prominent — the exhortation to steadfastness.” This is, indeed, a
peculiarity about Hebrews. In his other Epistles, the apostle rarely breaks
in on an argument to utter an admonition or exhortation; instead, his well-nigh
uniform method was to open with doctrinal exposition, and then base
upon this a series of practical exhortations. But the unusual situation which
the Hebrews were in, and the peculiar love that the writer bore to them (cf.

Romans 9:3) explains this exception.
What has just been said above accounts for what we find in Hebrews 11.
Nowhere else in the Bible do we find such a lengthy and complete
description of the life of faith. But here a whole chapter, the longest in the
Epistle, is devoted to it. The reason for this is not far to seek. Brought up
in a system with an elaborate ritual, whose worship was primarily a matter
of outward symbols and ceremonies; tempted as few ever have been to
walk by sight, there was a special and most pressing need for a clear and
detailed analysis and description of what it means to “walk by faith.”
Inasmuch as “example is better than precept,” better because more easily
grasped and because making a more powerful appeal to the heart, the Holy
Spirit saw well to develop this important theme by an appeal to the history
of saints recorded in the Scriptures of the Hebrews.
But it is most important that we recognize the fullness of the term faith. As
Saphir well said, “Throughout Scripture faith means more than trust in
Jesus for personal safety. This is the central point, but we must take care
that we understand it in a true and deep manner. Faith, as the apostle
explains in the Epistle to the Corinthians, is looking at the things which are
not seen and temporal: it is preferring spiritual and eternal realities to the
things of time, sense, and sin; it is leaning on God and realizing His Word;
it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Thus every doctrine and illustration of this Epistle goes straight to the
heart and conscience, appeals to life, addresses itself to faith. It is one
continued and sustained fervent and intense appeal to cleave to Jesus, the.13
High Priest; to the substantial, true, and real worship. A most urgent and
loving exhortation to be steadfast, patient, hopeful, in the presence of God,
in the love and sympathy of the Lord Jesus, in the fellowship of the great
cloud of witnesses.”
Another prominent characteristic, concerning which there is no need for us
now to enlarge upon, is the repeated warnings in this Epistle against
apostasy. The most solemn and searching exhortations against the danger
of falling away to be found anywhere in Holy Writ were given to these,

Hebrews 2:1-3, most of the third and fourth chapters,

Hebrews 6:4-
6, 10:26-29,

12:15-17, will at once occur to all who are familiar with
the contents of this Epistle. The occasion for and the need of them has
already been pointed out: the disappointing of the hopes the Hebrews had
cherished, the persecutions they were then enduring, and the Divine
judgment which was on the very eve of falling on Jerusalem (in AD 70)
made them imperative.
6. ITS VALUE.
Let us mention first its evidential value. The Epistle is particularly rich in
proofs of the verbal inspiration of Scripture. This is seen in the way the
apostle refers to the Old Testament, and the use he makes of it. Mark how
in

Hebrews 1:5-9 when quoting from the Psalms, 2nd Samuel,
Deuteronomy, he refers these utterances to God Himself — “He saith,”

Hebrews 10:6-8. So in

Hebrews 3:7 “the Holy Spirit saith.” Observe
how when quoting from the Old Testament the apostle attentively weighs
every word, and often builds a fundamental truth on a single expression.
Let us cite a few from the many examples of this:
See how in

Hebrews 2:8 the apostle argues from the authority of the
word “all.” In

Hebrews 2:11, when quoting from Psalm 22, he deduces
the conclusion from the expression “My brethren” that the Son of God
took to Himself human nature. Observe that in

Hebrews 3:7-19 and

Hebrews 4:2-11, when quoting from Psalm 95, he builds on the words
“Today,” “I have sworn.” and “My rest;” also in

Hebrews 3:2-6 how his
conclusions there are drawn from the words “servant,” and “My house” in

Numbers 12:7. His whole argument in chapter 8 is based on the word
“new” found in

Jeremiah 31:31. How blessedly he makes use of the
words “My son” from

Proverbs 3:11 in

Hebrews 12:5-9! How
emphatically he appeals in

Hebrews 12:26, 27 to the words “once.14
more” in

Haggai 2:6,7. Is it not abundantly clear that in the judgment of
the apostle Paul the Scriptures were Divinely inspired even to the most
minute expression?
The evangelical value of this Epistle has been recognized by Christians of
all schools of thought. Here is set forth with sunlight clearness the
preciousness, design, efficacy and effects of the great Sacrifice offered
once and for all. Christ has Himself purged our sins (

Hebrews 1:3); He
is able to save “to the uttermost” (

Hebrews 7:25); by His one offering
He has “perfected forever the sanctified” (

Hebrews 10:14); by His
blood a new and living way has been opened for His people into the
Holiest (

Hebrews 10:19,20): such are some of its wondrous
declarations. Emphasizing the inestimable worth of His redemptive work, it
is here that we read of an “eternal salvation” (

Hebrews 5:9), “eternal
redemption” (

Hebrews 9:12), and of the “eternal inheritance”
(

Hebrews 9:15).
The doctrinal importance of this book is exceeded by none, not even by
the Roman Epistle. Where its teachings are believed, understood, and
embodied in the life, ritualism and legalism (the two chief enemies of
Christianity) receive their death blow. In no other book of Scripture are the
sophistries and deceptions of Romanism so clearly and systematically
exposed. So fully and pointedly are the errors of Popery refuted, it might
well have been written since that satanic system became established. Well
did one of the Puritans say, “God foreseeing what poisonous heresies
would be hatched by the Papacy, prepared this antidote against them.”
But perhaps its chief distinctive value lies in its exposition of the Old
Testament types. It is here we are taught that the Tabernacle and its
furniture, the priesthood and their service, the various sacrifices and
offerings, all pointed to the person, offices, and glories of the Lord Jesus.
Of Israel’s priests it is said, “who served unto the example and shadow of
heavenly things” (

Hebrews 8:5); the first tabernacle was “a figure for
the time then present” (

Hebrews 9:9); the ceremonial law had “a
shadow of good things to come” (

Hebrews 10:1). Melchizedec was a
type of Christ (

Hebrews 7:15), Isaac was a figure of Him (

Hebrews
11:9), and so on. The details of these will be considered, D.V., in due
course..15
7. ITS WRITER.
This, we are fully assured, was the apostle Paul. Though he was
distinctively and essentially the “apostle of the Gentiles” (

Romans
11:13), yet his ministry was by no means confined to them, as the book of
Acts clearly shows. At the time of his apprehension the Lord said,
“He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the
Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (

Acts 9:15).
It is significant that Israel is there mentioned last, in harmony with the fact
that his Epistle to the Hebrews was written after most of his others to
Gentile saints. That this Epistle was written by Paul is clear from

2
Peter 3:15. Peter was writing to saved Jews as the opening verses of his
first Epistle intimates;

2 Peter 3:1 informs us that this letter was
addressed to the same people as his former one had been. Then, in

Hebrews 10:15, he declares that his beloved brother Paul “also
according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you.” If the
Epistle to the Hebrews be not that writing, where is it?.16
CHAPTER 2
THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST OVER THE
PROPHETS.
(

HEBREWS 1:1-3)
Before taking up the study of the opening verses of our Epistle, let us
adduce further evidence that the apostle Paul was the writer of it. To begin
with, note its Pauline characteristics. First, a numerical one. There is a
striking parallel between his enumeration in

Romans 8:35-39 and in

Hebrews 12:18-24. In the former he draws up a list of the things which
shall not separate the saint from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. If
the reader will count them, he will find they are seventeen in number, but
divided into a seven and a ten. The first seven are given in verse 35, the
second ten in

Hebrews 10:38, 39. In

Hebrews 12:18-23 he draws a
contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Sion, and he mentions seventeen
details, and again the seventeen is divided into a seven and a ten. In

Hebrews 10:18, 19, he names seven things which the saints are not
“come unto”; while in

Hebrews 10:22-24 he mentions ten things they
have “come unto,” viz., to Mount Sion, the City of the living God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, an innumerable company of angels, the general
Assembly, the Church of the Firstborn, to God the Judge of all, to the
spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator, to the Blood of
sprinkling. Compare also

Galatians 5:19-21, where the apostle, when
describing the “works of the flesh,” enumerates seventeen. So far as we are
aware, no other Epistle writer of the New Testament used this number
seventeen in such a manner.
Again; the terms which he used. We single out one only. In

Hebrews
2:10 he speaks of the many sons which Christ is bringing to glory. Now
Paul is the only New Testament writer that employs the term “sons.” The
others used a different Greek word meaning “children.”.17
For doctrinal parallelisms compare

Romans 8:16, with

Hebrews
10:15, and

1 Corinthians 3:13 with

Hebrews 5:12-14, and who can
doubt that the Holy Spirit used the same penman in both cases?
Note a devotional correspondency. In

Hebrews 13:18, the writer of this
Epistle says, “Pray for us.” In his other Epistles we find Paul, more than
once, making a similar request; but no other Epistle-writer is placed on
record as soliciting prayer!
Finally, it is to be noted that Timothy was the companion of the writer of
this Epistle, see

Hebrews 13:23. We know of no hint anywhere that
Timothy was the fellow-worker of anyone else but the apostle Paul: that he
companied with him is clear from

2 Corinthians 1:1,

Colossians 1:1,

1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2.
In addition to the many Pauline characteristics stamped on this Epistle, we
may further observe that it was written by one who had been in “bonds”
(see

Hebrews 10:34); by one who was now sundered from Jewish
believers (

Hebrews 13:19) — would not this indicate that Paul wrote
this Epistle while in his hired house in Rome (

Acts 28:30)? Again; here
is a striking fact, which will have more force with some readers than
others: if the Epistle to the Hebrews was not written by the apostle Paul,
then the New Testament contains only thirteen Epistles from his pen — a
number which, in Scripture, is ever associated with evil! But if Hebrews
was also written by him, this brings the total number of his Epistles to
fourteen, i.e., 7 x 2 — seven being the number of perfection and two of
witness. Thus, a perfect witness was given by this beloved servant of the
Lord to Jew and Gentile!
In the last place, there is one other evidence that the apostle Paul penned
the Hebrews’ Epistle which is still more conclusive. In

2 Thessalonians
3:17, 18 we read,
“The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in
every Epistle, so I write, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with
you all.”
Now, if the reader will turn to the closing verse of each of the first thirteen
Epistles of this apostle, it will be found that this “token” is given in each
one. Then, if he will refer to the close of the Epistles of James, Peter, John
and Jude, he will discover a noticeable absence of it. Thus it was a
distinctive “token” of the apostle Paul. It served to identify his writings..18
When, then at the close of Hebrews we read “grace be with you all” the
proof is conclusive and complete that none other than Paul’s hand
originally wrote this Epistle.
Ere passing from this point a word should be added concerning the
distinctive suitability of Paul as the penman of this Epistle. In our little
work “Why Four Gospels” (pages 20-22), we have called attention to the
wisdom of God displayed in the selection of the four men He employed to
write the Gospels. In each one we may clearly perceive a special personal
fitness for the task before him. Thus it is here. All through the Epistle of
Hebrews Christ is presented as the glorified One in Heaven. Now, it was
there the apostle Paul first saw the Lord (

Acts 26:19); who, then, was
so well suited, so experimentally equipped, to present to the Hebrews the
rejected Messiah at God’s right hand! He had seen Him there; and with the
exceptions of Stephen, and later, John of Patmos, he was the only one who
had or has!
Should it be asked, Why is the apostle Paul’s name omitted from the
preface to this Epistle? a threefold answer may be suggested. First, it is
addressed, primarily, to converted “Hebrews,” and Paul was not
characteristically or essentially an apostle to them: he was the apostle to
the Gentiles. Second, the inscribing of his name at the beginning of this
Epistle would, probably, have prejudiced many Jewish readers against it
(cf.

Acts 21:27, 28; 22:17-22). Third, the supreme purpose of the
Epistle is to exalt Christ, and in this Epistle He is the “Apostle,” see

Hebrews 3:1. Therefore the impropriety of Paul making mention of his
own apostleship. But let us now turn to the contents of the Epistle:

Hebrews 10:1-3. These verses are not only a preface, but they contain a
summary of the doctrinal section of the Epistle. The keynote is struck at
once. Here we are shown, briefly but conclusively, the superiority of
Christianity over Judaism. The apostle introduces his theme in a manner
least calculated to provoke the antipathy of his Jewish readers. He begins
by acknowledging that Judaism was of Divine authority: it was God who
had spoken to their fathers.
“He confirms and seals the doctrine which was held by the
Hebrews, that unto them had been committed the oracles of God;
and that in the writings of Moses and the prophets they possessed
the Scripture which could not be broken, in which God had
displayed unto them His will” (Adolph Saphir)..19
It is worthy of note that the Gospels open with a summary of Old
Testament history from Abraham to David, from David to the Captivity,
and from the Captivity to Jesus, the Immanuel predicted by Isaiah (see
Matthew 1), and that the Epistles also begin by telling us that the Gospel
expounded by the prophets had been “promised afore by God’s prophets in
the Holy Scriptures” (

Romans 1:1-3).
Having affirmed that God had spoken to the fathers by the prophets, the
apostle at once points out that God has now spoken to us by His Son.
“The great object of the Epistle is to describe the contrast between
the old and new covenants. But this contrast is based upon their
unity. It is impossible for us rightly to understand the contrast
unless we know first the resemblance. The new covenant is
contrasted with the old covenant, not in the way in which the light
of the knowledge of God is contrasted with the darkness and
ignorance of heathenism, for the old covenant is also of God, and is
therefore possessed of Divine glory. Beautiful is the night in which
the moon and the stars of prophecy and types are shining; but when
the sun arises then we forget the hours of watchfulness and
expectancy, and in the clear and joyous light of day there is
revealed to us the reality and substance of the eternal and heavenly
sanctuary” (Adolph Saphir).
Let us now examine these opening verses word by word.
“God” (verse 1). The particular reference is to the Father, as the words “by
(His) Son” in verse 2 intimate. Yet the other Persons of the Trinity are not
excluded. In Old Testament times the Godhead spoke by the Son, see

Exodus 3:2, 5;

1 Corinthians 10:9; and by the Holy Spirit, see

Acts 28:26,

Hebrews 3:7, etc. Being a Trinity in Unity, one Person
is often said to work by Another. A striking example of this is found in

Genesis 19:24, where Jehovah the Son is said to have rained down fire
from Jehovah the Father.
“God…. spake.” (verse 1). Deity is not speechless. The true and living
God, unlike the idols of the heathen, is no dumb Being. The God of
Scripture, unlike that absolute and impersonal “first Cause” of philosophers
and evolutionists, is not silent. At the beginning of earth’s history we find
Him speaking: “God said, Let there be light: and there was light”
(

Genesis 1:4). “He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood.20
fast” (

Psalm 33:9). To men He spake, and still speaks. For this we can
never be sufficiently thankful.
“God who at sundry times…. spake” (verse 1). Not once or twice, but
many times, did God speak. The Greek for “at sundry times” literally
means “by many parts,” which necessarily implies, some at one time, some
at another. From Abraham to Malachi was a period of fifteen hundred
years, and during that time God spake frequently: to some a few words, to
others many. The apostle was here paving the way for making manifest the
superiority of Christianity. The Divine revelation vouchsafed under the
Mosaic economy was but fragmentary. The Jew desired to set Moses
against Christ (

John 9:28). The apostle acknowledges that God had
spoken to Israel. But how? Had He communicated to them the fullness of
His mind? Nay. The Old Testament revelation was but the refracted rays,
not the light unbroken and complete. As illustrations of this we may refer
to the gradual making known of the Divine character through His different
titles, or to the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah. It was “here a
little and there a little.”
“God who…. in divers manner spake” (verse 1). The majority of the
commentators regard these words as referring to the various ways in which
God revealed Himself to the prophets — sometimes directly, at others
indirectly — through an angel (

Genesis 19:1, etc.); sometimes audibly,
at others in dreams and visions. But, with Dr. J. Brown, we believe that the
particular point here is how God spake to the fathers by the prophets, and
not how He has made known His mind to the prophets themselves.
“The revelation was sometimes communicated by typical
representations and emblematical actions, sometimes in a continued
parable, at other times by separate figures, at other times — though
comparatively rarely — in plain explicit language. The revelation
has sometimes the form of a narrative, at other times that of a
prediction, at other times that of an argumentative discourse;
sometimes it is given in prose, at other times in poetry” (Dr. J. B.).
Thus we may see here an illustration of the sovereignty of God: He did not
act uniformly or confine Himself to any one method of speaking to the
fathers. He spake by way of promise and prediction, by types and symbols,
by commandments and precepts, by warnings and exhortations..21
“God…. spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets” (verse 1).
Thus the apostle sets his seal upon the Divine inspiration and authority of
the Old Testament Scriptures. The “fathers” here goes right back to the
beginning of God’s dealings with the Hebrews — cf.

Luke 1:55. To
“the fathers” God spake “by,” or more literally and precisely, “in” the
prophets. This denotes that God possessed their hearts, controlled their
minds, ordered their tongues, so that they spake not their own words, but
His words — see

2 Peter 1:21. At times the prophets were themselves
conscious of this, see

2 Samuel 23:2, etc. We may add that the word
“prophet” signifies the mouthpiece of God: see

Genesis 20:7,

Exodus 7:1,

John 4:19 — she recognized God was speaking to her;

Acts 3:21!
“God…. hath in these last days spoken unto us by” — better “in
(His) Son” (verse 2).
“Having thus described the Jewish revelation he goes on to give an
account of the Christians, and begins it in an antithetical form. The
God who spake to ‘the fathers’ now speaks to ‘us.’ The God who
spake in ‘times past,’ now speaks in these ‘last days.’ The God who
spake ‘by the prophets,’ now speaks ‘by His Son.’ There is nothing
in the description of the Gospel revelation that answers to the two
phrases ‘at sundry times,’ and ‘in divers manners’; but the ideas
which they necessarily suggest to the mind are, the completeness of
the Gospel revelation compared with the imperfection of the
Jewish, and the simplicity and clearness of the Gospel revelation
compared with the multi-formity and obscurity of the Jewish” (Dr.
J. Brown).
“This manifesting of God’s will by parts (‘at sundry times,’ etc.), is
here (verse 1) noted by way of distinction and difference from
God’s revealing His will under the Gospel; which was all at one
time, viz., the times of His Son’s being on earth; for then the whole
counsel of God was made known so far as was meet for the Church
to know it while this world continueth. In this respect Christ said,
‘All things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known to
you’ (

John 15:15), and ‘the Comforter shall teach you all things,
and bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you’
(Hebrews 14:26). The woman of Samaria understood this much:
‘When the Messiah is come, He will tell us all things’ (

John.22
4:25). Objection: the apostles had many things revealed to them
later. Answer: those were no other things than what Christ had
revealed before, while He lived” (Dr. Gouge).
The central point of contrast here is between the Old Testament “prophets”
and Christ “the Son.” Though the Holy Spirit has not here developed the
details of this contrast, we can ourselves, by going back to the Old
Testament, supply them. Mr. Saphir has strikingly summarized them under
seven heads.
“First, they were many: one succeeded another: they lived in different
periods.
Second, they gave out God’s revelation in ‘divers manners’ —
similitudes, visions, symbols. Each prophet had his peculiar gift and
character. Their stature and capacity varied.
Third, they were sinful men —

Isaiah 6:5,

Daniel 10:8.
Fourth, they did not possess the Spirit constantly. The ‘word’ came to
them, but they did not possess the Word!
Fifth, they did not understand the heights and depths of their own
message —

1 Peter 1:10.
Sixth, still less did they comprehend the whole of God’s revelation in
Old Testament times.
Seventh, like John the Baptist they had to testify ‘I am not the Light, I
am only sent to bear witness of the Light.’”
Now, the very opposite was the case in all these respects with the “Son.”
Though the revelation which God gave the prophets is equally inspired and
authoritative, yet that through His Son possesses a greater dignity and
value, for He has revealed all the secrets of the Father’s heart, the fullness
of His counsel, and the riches of His grace.
“In these last days” (verse 2). This expression is not to be taken absolutely,
but is a contrast from “in time past.” The ministry of Christ marked “the
last days.” That which the Holy Spirit was pressing upon the Hebrews was
the finality of the Gospel revelation. Through the “prophets” God had
given predictions and foreshadowings; in the Son, the fulfillment and
substance. The “fullness of time” had come when God sent forth His Son.23
(

Galatians 4:4). He has nothing now in reserve. He has no further
revelation to make. Christ is the final Spokesman of Deity. The written
Word is now complete. In conclusion, note how Christ divides history:
everything before pointed toward Him, everything since points back to
Him; He is the Center of all God’s counsels.
“Spoken unto us” (verse 2).
“The pronoun us refers directly to the Jews of that age, to which
class belonged both the writer and his readers; but the statement is
equally true in reference to all, in every succeeding age, to whom
the word of this salvation comes. God, in the completed revelation
of His will, respecting the salvation of men through Christ Jesus, is
still speaking to all who have an opportunity of reading the New
Testament or of hearing the Gospel” (Dr. J. Brown).
“In (His) Son” (verse 2). Christ is the “Son of God” in two respects. First,
eternally so, as the second Person in the Trinity, very God of very God.
Second, He is also the “Son as incarnate.” When He took upon Him sinless
human nature He did not cease to be God, nor did He (as some
blasphemously teach) “empty” Himself of His Divine attributes, which are
inseparable from the Divine Being. “God was manifest in flesh” (

1
Timothy 3:16). Before His Birth, God sent an angel to Mary, saying,
“He (the Word become flesh) shall be called the Son of God”
(

Luke 1:35).
The One born in Bethlehem’s manger was the same Divine Person as had
subsisted from all eternity, though He had now taken unto Him another, an
additional nature, the human. But so perfect is the union between the
Divine and the human natures in Christ that, in some instances, the
properties of the one are ascribed to the other: see

John 3:13,

Romans 5:10. It is in the second of these respects that our blessed
Savior is viewed in our present passage — as the Mediator, the God-man,
God “spake” in and through Him: see

John 17:8, 14, etc.
Summarizing what has been said, we may note how that this opening
sentence of our Epistle points a threefold contrast between the
communications which God has made through Judaism and through
Christianity..24
First, in their respective characters: the one was fragmentary and
incomplete; the other perfect and final.
Second, in the instruments which He employed: in the former, it was
sinful men; in the latter, His holy Son.
Third, in the periods selected: the one was “in time past,” the other in
“these last days,” intimating that God has now fully expressed Himself,
that He has nothing in reserve. But is there not here something deeper
and more blessed? We believe there is. Let us endeavor to set it forth.
That which is central and vital in these opening verses is God speaking. A
silent God is an unknown God: God “speaking” is God expressing,
revealing Himself. All that we know or can now know of God is what He
has revealed of Himself through His Word. But the opening verse of
Hebrews presents a contrast between God’s “speakings.” To Israel He
gave a revelation of Himself in “time past”; to them He also gave another
in “these last days.” What, then, was the character of these two distinct
revelations?
As we all know, God’s Word is divided into two main sections, the Old
and the New Testaments. Now, it is instructive to note that the distinctive
character in which God is revealed in them strikingly corresponds to those
two words about Him recorded in the first Epistle of John; “God is light”
(

Hebrews 1:5); “God is love” (

Hebrews 4:8). Mark attentively the
order of these two statements which make known to us what God actually
is in Himself.
“God is light.” It was in this character that He was revealed in Old
Testament times. What is the very first thing we hear Him saying in His
Word? This: “Let there be light” (

Genesis 1:3). In what character does
He appear to our fallen first parents in Genesis 3? As “light,” as the holy
One, uncompromisingly judging sin. In what character was He revealed at
the flood? As the “light,” unsparingly dealing with that which was evil.
How ‘did He make Himself known to Israel at Sinai? As the One who is
“light.” And so we might go on through the whole Old Testament. We do
not say that His love was entirely unknown, but most assuredly it was not
fully revealed. That which was characteristic of the revelation of the
Divine character in the Mosaic dispensation was God as light.
“God is love.” It is in this character that He stands revealed in New
Testament times. To make known His love. God sent forth the Son of His.25
love. It is only in Christ that love is fully unveiled. Not that the light was
absent; that could not be, seeing that He was and is God Himself. The love
which he exercised and manifested was ever an holy love. But just as “God
is light” was the characteristic revelation in Old Testament times, so “God
is love” is characteristic of the New Testament revelation. In the final
analysis, this is the contrast pointed to in the opening verses of Hebrews.
In the prophets God “spoke” (revealed Himself) as light: the requirements,
claims, demands of his holiness being insisted upon. But in the Son it is the
sweet accents of love that we hear. It is the affections of God which the
Son has expressed, appealing to ours; hence, it is by the heart, and not the
head, that God can be known.
“God…. hath in these last days spoken unto us by (His) Son.” It will be
noted that the word “His” is in italics, which means there is no
corresponding word in the original. But the omission of this word makes
the sentence obscure; nor are we helped very much when we learn that the
preposition “by” should be “in.” “God hath spoken in Son.” Yet really, this
is not so obscure as at first it seems. Were a friend to tell you that he had
visited a certain church, and that the preacher “spoke in Latin,” you would
have no difficulty in understanding what he meant: “spoke in Latin would
intimate that that particular language marked his utterance. Such is the
thought here. “In Son” has reference to that which characterized God’s
revelation. The thought of the contrast is that God, who of old had spoken
prophet-wise, now speaks son-wise. The thought is similar to that
expressed in

1 Timothy 3:16, “God was manifest in flesh,” the words
“in flesh” referring to that which characterized the Divine manifestation.
God was not manifested in intangible and invisible ether, nor did He appear
in angelic form; but “in flesh.” So He has now spoken “in Son,” Son-wisely.
The whole revelation and manifestation of God is now in Christ; He alone
reveals the Father’s heart. It is not only that Christ declared or delivered
God’s message, but that He himself was and is God’s message. All that
God has to say to us is in His Son: all His thoughts, counsels, promises,
gifts, are to be found in the Lord Jesus. Take the perfect life of Christ, His
deportment, His ways; that is God “speaking” — revealing Himself — to
us. Take His miracles, revealing His tender compassion, displaying His
mighty power; they are God “speaking” to us. Take His death,
commending to us the love of God, in that while we were yet sinners, He
died for us; that is God “speaking” to us. Take His resurrection, triumphing.26
over the grave, vanquishing him who had the power of death, coming forth
as the “first fruits of them that slept” — the “earnest” of the “harvest” to
follow; that is God “speaking” to us.
That which is so blessed in this opening sentence of the Hebrews’ Epistle,
and which it is so important that our hearts should lay hold of, is, that God
has come out in an entirely new character — Son-wise. It is not so much
that God speaks to us in the Son, but God addresses Himself to us in Son-like
character, that is, in the character of love. God might have spoken
“Almighty-wise,” as He did at Sinai; but that would have terrified and
overwhelmed us. God might have spoken “Judge-wise,” as He will at the
great white Throne; but that would have condemned us, and forever
banished us from His presence. But, blessed be His name, He has spoken
“Son-wise,” in the tenderest relation which He could possibly assume.
What was the announcement from Heaven as soon as the Son was
revealed? “Unto you is born” — what? Not a “Judge,” or even a
“Teacher,” but “a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (

Luke 2:11). There
we have the heart of God revealed.
It is the character in which God “spoke” or revealed Himself which this
opening sentence of our Epistle emphasizes. He has appeared before us in
the person of His beloved Son, to bring us a knowledge of the Divine
affections, and this in order to engage our affections. In the very nature of
the case there can be nothing higher. Through Christ, God is now fully,
perfectly, finally revealed.
We lose much if we fail to keep constantly in mind the fact that Christ is
God — “God manliest in flesh.” We profess to believe that He is Divine,
the second person of the blessed Trinity. But it is to be feared that often we
forget this when reading the record of His earthly life or when pondering
the words which fell from His lips. How necessary it is when taking up a
passage in the Gospels to realize that there it is God “speaking” to us
“Son-wise,” God’s affections made known.
Take the familiar words of

Luke 19:10, “The Son of man is come to
seek and to save that which is lost.” But who was this “Son of man?” It
was God “manifested in flesh”; it was God revealing Himself in His “Son”
character. Thus, this well-known verse shows us the heart of God,
yearning over His fallen creatures. Take, again, that precious word of

Matthew 11:28, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,.27
and I will give you rest” Those words were uttered by “Jesus of Nazareth,”
yet they illustrate what is said in

Hebrews 1:2: it was God “speaking”
Son-wisely, i.e., bringing to poor sinners a knowledge of Divine affections.
Let us re-read the four Gospels with this glorious truth before us.
Cannot we now discern the wondrous and blessed contrast pointed in the
opening verses of Hebrews? How different are the two revelations which
God has made of His character. In Old Testament times God “spoke,”
revealed Himself, according to what He is as light; and this, in keeping
with the fact that it was “in the prophets” — those who made known His
mind. In New Testament times God has “spoken,” revealed Himself,
according to what He is as love; and this, in keeping with the fact that it
was “in Son” He is now made known. May we not only bow before Him in
reverence and godly fear, but may our hearts be drawn out to Him in
fervent love and adoration..28
CHAPTER 3
THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST OVER THE
PROPHETS.
(

HEBREWS 1:1-3)
That which distinguishes the Hebrews’ Epistle from all other books is that
it has for its subject the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Its theme
is the super-abounding excellency of the new covenant. The method
followed by the Holy Spirit in developing His theme is to take Him who is
the center and circumference, the life and light of Christianity, even Christ,
and hold before Him one object after another. As he does so, elevated,
important, venerated, as some of those objects are, yet, in the presence of
the “Son” their glories fade into utter insignificance.
Someone has suggested an analogy with what is recorded in Matthew 17.
There we see Christ upon the holy Mount, transfigured before His
disciples; and, as they continue gazing on His flashing excellency, they saw
no man “save Jesus only.” At first, there appeared standing with Him,
Moses and Elijah, and so real and tangible were they, Peter said, “If Thou
wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, one for Moses, and
one for Elijah.” But as they looked “a blight cloud overshadowed them.”
and a Voice was heard saying, “This is My Beloved Son: hear Him”
(

Luke 9:35). How significant are the words that immediately followed:
“And when the Voice was passed, Jesus was found alone.” The glory
associated with Moses and Elijah was so eclipsed by the infinitely greater
glory connected with Christ, that they faded from view.
Now it is something very much like this that we see here all through the
Hebrews’ Epistle. The Holy Spirit takes up one object after another, holds
each one up as it were in the presence of the all-excellent “Son,” and as He
does so, their glory is eclipsed, and the Lord Jesus is “found alone.” The
prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua, the Levitical priesthood, the Old
Testament men of faith, each come into view; each is compared with
Christ, and each, in turn, fades away before His greater glory. Thus, the.29
very things which Judaism most highly esteemed are shown to be far
inferior to what God has now made known in the Christian revelation.
In the opening verses the keynote of the Epistle is at once struck. As is
usual in Scripture, the Spirit has placed the key for us over the very
entrance. There we see an antithesis is drawn. There we behold a contrast
between Judaism and Christianity. There we are shown the immeasurable
superiority of the latter over the former. There we have brought before us
the “Son” as the Speaker to whom we must listen, the Object on which to
gaze, the Satisfier of the heart, the One through whom God is now
perfectly and finally made known. God hath, in these last days, “spoken
unto us in Son.” As God is the Source from which all blessings flow, He is
set before us in the very first word of the Epistle. As Christ is the Channel
through which all blessing comes to us, He is mentioned next, and that, in
His highest character, as “Son.” The more these opening verses are
prayerfully pondered, the more will their wondrous depths, exhaustless
contents, and unspeakable preciousness be made apparent.
In the preceding article we pointed out how that in the first two verses of
Hebrews a contrast is drawn between Christ and the prophets. Israel
regarded them with the highest veneration, and justly so, for they were the
instruments Jehovah had condescended to employ in the giving forth of the
revelation of His mind and will in Old Testament times. But Divine as were
their communications, they were but introductory to something better and
grander. The revelation which God made through them was neither
complete nor final, as was hinted at in its fragmentary character: “in many
parts and in many ways” God, of old, spake to the fathers in the prophets.
Over against this, as transcending and excelling the Old Testament
revelation, God has, in these last days “spoken to us in Son,” i.e., in
Christianity has given a new, perfect, final revelation of Himself.
Thus, the superiority over Judaism of Christianity is here denoted in a
twofold way: First, by necessary implication the latter, not being diverse
and fragmentary, is one and complete; it is the grand consummation toward
which the other was but introductory; it is the substance and reality, of
which the former furnished but the shadows and types. Second, by the
instruments employed: in the one God spoke “in the prophets,” in the
other “in (His) Son.” Just as far as the personal glory of the Son excels
that of the prophets, so is the revelation God made through Christ more
sublime and exalted than that which He made under Judaism. In the one He.30
was made known as light — the requirements, claims, demands of His
holiness. In the other, He is manifested as love — the affections of His
heart are displayed.
Now, to prevent the Hebrews from concluding that Christ was nothing
more than another instrument through which God had “spoken,” the Holy
Spirit in the verses which we are now to take up, brings before us some of
the highest and most blessed of our Savior’s personal excellencies. He
there proceeds to exalt the Hebrews’ conception of the Divine Prophet and
Founder of the new economy. This He does by bringing into view seven of
His wondrous glories. To the contemplation of those we now turn. Let us
consider.
1. HIS HEIRSHIP.
“Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things” (verse 2).
There are three things here claiming attention. First, the character in which
Christ is viewed. Second, His appointment unto the inheritance. Third, the
scope of the inheritance.
First, this declaration that God has appointed the Savior “Heir of all
things” is similar in scope to that word of Peter’s on the day of Pentecost.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath
made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and
Christ” (

Acts 2:36).
In both passages the reference is to the honor which has been conferred
upon the Mediator, and in each case the design of speaker or writer was to
magnify the Christian revelation by showing the exalted dignity of its
Author and Head.
That the title “Heir” is similar in force to “Lord” is clear from

Galatians
4:1,
“The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant,
though he be lord of all.”
Yet though there is a similarity between the terms “Heir” and “Lord,” there
is also a clear distinction between them; not only so, we may admire the
Divine discrimination in the one used in

Hebrews 1:2. Strikingly does it.31
follow immediately after the reference to Him as “Son,” in fact furnishing
proof thereof, for the son is the father’s heir.
The word “heir” suggests two things: dignity and dominion, with the
additional implication of legal title thereto. For its force see

Genesis
21:10, 12;

Galatians 4:1, etc.
“An ‘heir’ is a successor to his father in all that his father hath. In
connection with the Father and the Son, the supreme sovereignty of
the One is nowise infringed upon by the supreme sovereignty of the
Other — cf.

John 5:19. The difference is only in the manner: the
Father doeth all by the Son, and the Son doeth all from the Father”
(Dr. Gouge).
The title “Heir” here denotes Christ’s proprietorship. He is the Possessor
and Disposer of all things.
Second, unto an inheritance Christ was “appointed” by God. This at once
shows us that the “Son” through whom God has revealed Himself, is here
viewed not in His abstract Deity, but mediatorially, as incarnate. Only as
such could He be “appointed” Heir; as God the Son, essentially, He could
not be deputed to anything.
This “appointment” was in the eternal counsels of the Godhead. Two
things are hereby affirmed: certainty and valid title. Because God has
predestined that the Mediator should be “Heir of all things,” His
inheritance is most sure and absolutely guaranteed, for “the Lord of hosts
hath purposed, and who shall disannul?” (

Isaiah 14:27); hath He not
said, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (

Isaiah
46:10)! Again: because God has “appointed” the Mediator “Heir” we are
assured of His indubitable right to this supreme dignity. That which is said
of Christ’s being made priest, in

Hebrews 5:5, may also be applied to
this other dignity: Christ glorified not Himself to be an Heir, but He that
saith to Him, “Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee,” also
“appointed” Him Heir.
Above we have said, This appointment was in the eternal counsels of the
Godhead. With our present passage should be compared

Acts 2:23,
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of
God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Thus
there were two chief things to which the Mediator was “appointed”:
sufferings (cf. also

1 Peter 1:19, 20), and glory — cf.

1 Peter 1:11..32
How this shows us that, from the beginning, Christ was the Center of all
the Divine counsels. Before a single creature was called into existence,
God had appointed an “Heir” to all things, and that Heir was the Lord
Jesus. It was the predestined reward of His Voluntary humiliation; He who
had not where to lay His head, is now the lawful Possessor of the universe.
This appointment of Christ to the inheritance was mentioned in Old
Testament prophecy: “Also I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the
kings of the earth” (

Psalm 89:27). “Firstborn” in Scripture refers not so
much to primogeniture, as to dignity and inheritance: see

Genesis 49:3
for the first occurrence. It is remarkable to observe and most solemn to
discover that, in the days of His flesh, Israel recognized Him as such:
“This is the Heir come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be
ours” (

Mark 12:7),
was their terrible language.
Third, a few words now on the extent of that Inheritance unto which the
Mediator has been deputed: “Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things.”
The manifestation of this is yet future, but confirmation of it was made
when the risen Savior said to the disciples, “All power is given unto Me in
heaven and earth” (

Matthew 28:18). At that time we will recall God’s
words,
“I will declare the decree (i.e., the “appointment”), Thou art My
Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give
Thee the heaven for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of
the earth for Thy possession” (

Psalm 2:7, 8).
His proprietorship of mankind will be evidenced when He shall
“sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered
all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a
shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (

Matthew 25:31,
32).
His right to dispose of all will be witnessed at the great white throne. But it
is when this world has passed away that His universal Heirship will be fully
and eternally displayed: on the new earth shall be “the throne of God and
of the Lamb” (

Revelation 22:1)!.33
“How rich is our adorable Jesus! The blessed Lord, when He was
upon the cross, had nothing. He had not where to lay His head;
even His very garments were taken from Him. He was buried in a
grave which belonged not to Him or to His family. On earth He
was poor to the very last; none so absolutely poor as He. But as
man, He is to inherit all things; as Jesus, God and man in one
person. All angels, all human beings upon the earth, all powers in
the universe, when asked, ‘Who is Lord of all?’ will answer, ‘Jesus
the Son of Mary’” (Saphir).
Such is the reward which God has ordained for the once humiliated One.
But most wonderful of all is that word in

Romans 8:16, 17,
“The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the
children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs
with Christ.”
This the angels are not. It is because of their indissoluable union with Him
that His people shall also enjoy the Inheritance which God has appointed
unto the Son. Herein we discover the Divine discrimination and propriety
in here speaking of Christ not as “Lord of all things,” but “Heir.” We can
never be “joint-lords,” but grace has made us “joint-heirs.” Because of this
the Redeemer said to the Father, “the glory which Thou gavest Me I have
given them” (

John 17:22).
2. HIS CREATORSHIP.
“By whom also He made the worlds” (verse 2). The Greek term for the
last word is “aionas,” the primary meaning of which is ages. But here, by
a metonymy, it seems to be applied to matter, and signifies, the universe.
“Aion properly denotes time, either past or future; and then comes
to signify things formed and done in time — the world….The aionas
is plainly the synonym of the ta panta (“all things”) in the preceding
clause” (Dr. J. Brown).
Two things incline us to this view.
First, other scriptures ascribe creation to the Son:

John 1:3;

Colossians 1:16..34
Second, this gives force to the previous clause: He was, in the
beginning, appointed Heir of all things because He was to be their
Creator.

Colossians 1:16 confirms this: “all things were created by
Him and for Him.”
“By whom also He made the worlds.” Here is furnished clear proof of the
Mediator’s Diety: only God can create. This also is brought in for the
purpose of emphasizing the immeasurable value of the new revelation
which God has made. Attention is focused on the One in whom and
through whom God has spoken in the “last days.” Three things are told us
in verse 2 concerning Christ: first, we have His person — He is the “Son”;
second, His dignity and dominion — He is the “Heir of all things”; third,
His work — He has “made the worlds,” heaven and earth. If, then, His
dignity be so exalted, if His glory be so great, what must not be the word
of such a “Son”! what the fullness of truth which God has made known to
His people by Him!
3. HIS EFFULGENCY.
“Who being the brightness of (His) glory” (verse 3). In this verse the Holy
Spirit continues to set forth the excellencies of Christ, and in the same
order as in the preceding one. First, the Divine dignity of His person, His
relation to the Father — He is the Brightness of His glory. The Greek verb
from which “brightness” is derived, signifies “to send forth brightness or
light,” and the noun here used, such brightness as cometh from light, as the
sunbeams issuing from the sun. The term is thus used metaphorically. So
ably has this been developed by Dr. Gouge we transcribe from his excellent
commentary of 1650:
“No resemblance taken from any other creature can more fully set
out the mutual relation between the Father and the Son:
“1. The brightness issuing from the sun is the same nature that the sun
is — cf.

John 10:30.
2. It is of as long continuance as the sun: never was the sun without the
brightness of it — cf.

John 1:1.
3. The brightness cannot be separated from the sun: the sun may as
well be made no sun, as have the brightness thereof severed from it —
cf.

Proverbs 8:30..35
4. This brightness though from the sun is not the sun itself — cf.

John 8:42.
5. The sun and the brightness are distinct from each other: the one is
not the other — cf.

John 5:17.
6. All the glory of the sun is this brightness — cf.

John 17:5;

2
Corinthians 4:6.
7. The light which the sun giveth the world is by this brightness — cf.

John 14:9…. Thus the Son is no whit inferior to the Father, but
every way His equal. He was brightness, the brightness of His Father,
yea, also the brightness of His Father’s glory. Whatever excellency
soever was in the Father, the same likewise was in the Son, and that in
the most transplendent manner. Glory sets out excellency; brightness of
glory, the excellency of excellency.”
That which is in view in this third item of our passage so far transcends the
grasp of the finite mind that it is impossible to give it adequate expression
in words. Christ is the irradiation of God’s glory. The Mediator’s relation
to the Godhead is like that of the rays to the sun itself. We may conceive of
the sun in the firmament, yet shining not: were there no rays, we should not
see the sun. So, apart from Christ, the brightness of God’s “glory” could
not be perceived by us. Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the
dark concerning God. It is in Christ that God is revealed.
4. HIS BEING.
“The express image of His person,” or, more literally, “the impress
of His substance” (verse 3).
The Greek for “express image” is a single word, and the verb from which it
is derived signifies “to engrave,” and in its noun form “that which is
engraved,” as the stamp on a coin, the print pressed on paper, the mark
made by a seal. Nothing can be more like the original mold or seal than the
image pressed out on the clay or wax, the one carrying the very form or
features of the other. The Old Testament saints did not perfectly “express”
God, nor can angels, for they are but finite creatures; but Christ, being
Himself God, could, and did. All that God is, in His nature and character, is
expressed and manifested, absolutely and perfectly, by the incarnate Son..36
“And the very impress of His substance.” Here again we are faced with that
which is difficult to comprehend, and harder still to express. Perhaps we
may be helped to get the thought by comparing

1 Timothy 6:16 with

Colossians 1:15:
“Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no
man hath seen, nor can see,”
“Who is the image of the invisible God.” All true knowledge of God must
come from His approach unto us, for we cannot by “reaching” find Him
out. The approach must come from His side, and it has come,
“the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He
hath declared Him” (

John 1:18).
“The very impress of His substance.” This is the nearest approach to
defining God’s essence or essential existence. The word “substance” means
essential being or essential existence; but how little we know about this!
God — self-existent: One who never had a beginning, yet full of all that we
know of blessed attributes. And Christ, the incarnate Son, is the very
“impress,” as it were, of that substance. As we have said, the original term
is taken from the impress of a seal. Though we had never seen the seal we
might, from beholding the impress of it (that which is exactly like it), form
a true and accurate idea of the seal itself. So Christ is the Impress of the
substance of God, the One in whom all the Divine perfections are found.
Though essentially Light, He is also the Outshining of the “Light”; though
in Himself essentially God, He is also the visible Representation of God.
Being “with God” and being God, He is also the Manifestation of God; so
that by and through Him we learn what God is.
“The very impress of His substance.” It is not enough to read Scripture,
nor even to compare passage with passage; nor have we done all when we
have prayed for light thereon; there must also be meditation, prolonged
meditation. Of whom were these words spoken? Of the “Son,” but as
incarnate, i.e., as the Son of man; of Him who entered this world by
mysterious and miraculous conception in the virgin’s womb. Men doubt
and deny this, and no wonder, when they have nothing but a corrupt reason
to guide them. How can a sin-darkened understanding lay hold of, believe,
and love the truth that the great God should hide Himself in a frail human
nature! That Omnipotence should be concealed in a Servant’s form! That.37
the Eternal One should become an Infant of days! This is the “great
mystery” of godliness, but to the family of God is “without controversy.”
But if the human mind, unaided, is incapable of grasping the fact of the
great God hiding Himself in human form, how much less can it apprehend
that that very hiding was a manifestation, that the concealing was a
revealing of Himself — the Invisible becoming visible, the Infinite
becoming cognizable to the finite. Yet such it was: “And the very impress
of His substance.” Who was? The incarnate Son, the Man Christ Jesus. Of
whose “substance?” Of God’s! But how could that be? God is eternal, and
Christ died! True, yet He manifested His Godhead in the very way that He
died. He died as none other ever did: He “laid down” His life. More, He
manifested His Godhead by rising again: “destroy this temple” (His body)
said He, “And I will raise it again”; and He did. His Godhead is now
manifested in that “He is alive forever more.”
But God is immutable and self-sufficient, and Christ hungered and
thirsted/ True; because He was made “in all things like unto His brethren,”
and because that from actual experience of these things, He might be able
to “succor them that are tempted.” Moreover, He manifested His self-sufficiency
by miraculously feeding the five thousand, and by His absolute
power over all Nature — ruling the winds and waves, blasting the fig tree,
etc.
But God is Lord of all, and Christ was “Led as a lamb to the slaughter”:
He seemed so helpless when arrested and when hanging upon the cross!
But appearances are deceptive; sometimes it is a greater thing to withhold
the putting forth of power than to exert it! Yet glimpses of His Lordship
flashed forth even then. See Him in the Garden, and those sent to
apprehend Him prostrate on the ground (

John 18:6)! See Him again on
the Cross, putting forth His power and “plucking a brand from the
burning”: it was the power of God, for nothing short of that can free one
of Satan’s captives! Yes, Christ was, ever was, the “very impress of His
substance,” “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”
(

Colossians 2:9).
5. HIS ADMINISTRATION.
“Upholding all things by the word of His power” (verse 3). The Spirit of
truth continues to describe the dignity and majesty of Him in whom God
now “speaks” to us. Here is a declaration that is unequivocal in meaning.38
and unlimited in its scope. Against the statement “by whom” God “made
the worlds,” it might be argued that, after all, the “Son” was only a
minister, an agent whom God employed for that great work. In reply it
would be sufficient to point out that there is no hint in Scripture of God
ever having assigned to a mere creature, no matter how exalted his rank, a
work which was in any wise comparable with the stupendous task of
“making the worlds.” But as if to anticipate such an objection, to show that
the “Son” is high above the noblest and most honored of God’s ministers,
it is here affirmed that “He upholdeth all things by the word of His power,”
that is, His own power; we may add that the Greek reads “His own” as in

Matthew 16:26 — “his own soul”; and “His own house” (

Hebrews
3:6). The “upholding” of all things is a Divine work.
We have said that the term “Heir” connotes two things: dignity and
dominion. In the opening clauses of verse 3 the dignity of the Mediator is
set forth; here, it is His dominion which is brought before us. As it was said
that He is appointed Heir of “all things,” so are we now told that He
upholds “all things” — all things that are visible or invisible, in heaven or
earth, or under the earth: “all things” not only creatures, but all events.
The Greek word for “upholding” means to “carry or support,” see

Mark 2:3; it also signifies “to energize or impel,” see

2 Peter 1:21. It
is the word used in the Septuagint for “moved” in

Genesis 1:2. That
which is in view in this fifth glory of Christ is His Divine providence. “The
term ‘uphold’ seems to refer both to preservation and government. ‘By
Him the worlds were made’ — their materials were called into being, and
arranged in comely order: and by Him, too, they are preserved from
running into confusion, or reverting back into nothing. The whole universe
hangs on His arm; His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are
manifested in governing and directing the complicated movements of
animate and inanimate, rational, and irrational beings, to the attainment of
His own great and holy purposes; and He does this by the word of His
power, or by His powerful word. All this is done without effort or
difficulty. He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast” (Dr.
J. Brown). What a proof that the “Son” is God!
He who appeared on earth in servant form, is the Sustainer of the universe.
He is Lord over all. He has been given “power over all flesh” (

John
17:2). The Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem were “His armies”
(

Matthew 22:7). The angels are “His angels,” see

Matthew 13:41;.39
24:31. Every movement in heaven and earth is directed by Jesus Christ: “by
Him all things consist” (

Colossians 1:17). He is not only at the head of
the spiritual realm, but he “upholds all things.” All movements,
developments, actions, are borne up and directed by the word of His
power. Glimpses of this flashed forth even in the days of His flesh. The
winds and the waves were subservient to His word. Sickness and disease
fled before His command. Demons were subject to His authoritative
bidding. Even the dead came forth in response to His mighty fiat. And all
through the ages, today, the whole of creation is directed by the will and
word of its Heir, Maker, and Upholder.
6. HIS EXPIATION.
“When He had by Himself purged our sins” (verse 3). Here is something
still more wondrous. Striking is it to behold the point at which this
statement is introduced. The cross was the great stumbling-block unto the
Jews; but so far was the apostle from apologizing for the death of the
“Son,” he here includes it as among His highest glories. And such indeed it
was. The putting away of the sins of His people was an even greater and
grander work than was the making of the worlds or the upholding of all
things by His mighty power. His sacrifice for sins has brought greater glory
to the Godhead and greater blessing to the redeemed than have His works
of creation or providence.
“Why has this wonderful and glorious Being, in whom all things are
summed up, and who is before all things the Father’s delight and
the Father’s glory; why has this infinite light, this infinite power,
this infinite majesty come down to our poor earth? For what
purpose? To shine? To show forth the splendor of His majesty? To
teach heavenly wisdom? To rule with just and holy right? No. He
came to purge our sins. What height of glory! what depths of
abasement! Infinite in His majesty, and infinite in His self-humiliation,
and in the depths of His love. What a glorious Lord!
And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins
by Himself”! (Saphir).
“By Himself purged our sins.” This has reference to the atonement which
He has made. The metaphor of “purging” is borrowed from the language
of the Mosaic economy — cf. 9:22. The Greek word is sometimes put for
the means of purging (

John 2:6), sometimes for the act itself (

Mark.40
1:44). Both are included here: the merits of Christ’s sacrifice, and the
efficacy thereof. The tense of the verb, the aorist, denotes a finished work,
literally, “having purged.” Another has suggested an additional and
humbling thought which is pointed by this metaphor — the filth of our
sins, which needed “purging” away. The contrastive and superlative value
and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is thus set before us. His blood is here
distinguished from that of the legal and ceremonial purifications. None of
them could purge away sins —

Hebrews 10:4. All they did was to
sanctify to “the purifying of the flesh” (

Hebrews 9:13), not to the
“purifying of the soul!”
“The manner and power of this purification form the subject of this
whole Epistle. But in this short expression, ‘by Himself He purged
our sins,’ all is summed up. By Himself; the Son of God, the eternal
Word in humanity. Himself: the priest, who is sacrifice, yea, altar,
and everything that is needed for full and real expiation and
reconciliation. Here is fulfilled what was prefigured on the day of
atonement, when an atonement was made for Israel, to cleanse
them from all sins, that they may be clean from all their sins before
the Lord (

Leviticus 16:30). Thus our great High Priest saith
unto us, Ye are clean this day before God from all your sins. He is
the fulfillment and the reality, because He is the Son of God. ‘The
blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (

1 John
1:7). The church is purchased by the blood of Him who is God
(

Acts 20:28, with His own blood). Behold the perfection of the
sacrifice in the infinite dignity of the incarnate Son. Sin is taken
away. Oh, what a wonderful thing is this!” (Saphir).
7. HIS EXALTATION.
“Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (verse 3).
Unspeakably blessed is this. The One who descended into such
unfathomable depths of shame, who humbled Himself and became
“obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” has been highly exalted
above all principality and power, and dominion, and every name which is
named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. All-important
is it, too, to mark carefully the connection between these two
wondrous statements: “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down
on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” We cannot rightly think of the
God-man as where He now is, without realizing that the very circumstance.41
of His being there, shows, in itself, that “our sins” are put away for ever.
The present possession of glory by the Mediator is the conclusive evidence
that my sins are put away. What blessed connection is there, then between
our peace of soul, and His glory!
“Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Three things are here
denoted.
First, high honor: “sitting,” in Scripture, is often a posture of dignity, when
superiors sit before inferiors: see

Job 29:7, 8;

Daniel 7:9, 10;

Revelation 5:13.
Second, it denotes settled continuance. In

Genesis 49:24 Jacob said to
Joseph that his “bow sat in strength,” fittingly rendered “abode in
strength.” So in

Leviticus 8:35, “abode” is literally “sit.” Though He
will vacate that seat when He descends into the air (

1 Thessalonians
4:16) to receive His blood-bought people unto Himself, yet it is clear from

Revelation 22:1 that this position of highest honor and glory belongs to
Christ for ever and ever.
Third, it signifies rest, cessation from His sacrificial services and
sufferings. It has often been pointed out that no provision was made for
Israel’s priests to sit down: there was no chair in the Tabernacle’s
furniture. And why? Because their work was never completed — see

Hebrews 10:1, 3. But Christ’s work of expiation is completed; on the
cross He declared, “It is finished” (

John 19:30). In proof of this, He is
now seated on High.
The term “the Majesty on high” refers to God Himself. “Majesty” signifies
such greatness as makes one to be honored of all and preferred above all.
Hence it is a delegated title, proper to kings, cf.

2 Peter 1:16. In our
passage it denotes God’s supreme sovereignty. It is brought in here to
emphasize and magnify the exaltation of the Savior — elevated to the
highest possible dignity and position. The “right hand” speaks of power
(

Exodus 15:6), and honor (

1 Kings 2:19). “On high” is, in the
Greek, a compound word, used nowhere else in the New Testament;
literally, it signifies, “the highest height,” the most elevated exaltation that
could be conceived of or is possible. Thus we are shown that the highest
seat in the universe now belongs to Him who once had not where to lay
His head..42
It is to be observed that in

Hebrews 10:2, 3 the Holy Spirit has, briefly,
set forth the three great offices of the Mediator. First, His prophetic: He is
the final Spokesman of God. Second, His kingly: His royal majesty —
upholding all things, and that, by the word of His power, which affirms His
absolute sovereignty. Third, His priestly: the two parts of which are
expiation of His people’s sins and intercession at God’s right hand.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out how that everything in these
opening verses of Hebrews is in striking contrast from what Israel enjoyed
under the old economy. They had prophets; Christ is the final Spokesman
of Diety. They were His people; He, God’s “Son.” Abraham was
constituted “heir of the world” (

Romans 4:13); Christ is the “Heir” of
the universe. Moses made the tabernacle; Christ, “the worlds.” The law
furnished “a shadow of good things to come”; Christ is the Brightness of
God’s glory. In Old Testament times Israel enjoyed theophanic
manifestations of Christ; now, He is revealed as the Image of God’s
person. Moses bore the burden of Israel (

Numbers 11:11, 12); Christ,
“upholds all things.” The sacrifices of old took not sins away; Christ’s
sacrifice did. Israel’s high priests never sat down; Christ has..43
CHAPTER 4
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 1:4-14)
One of the first prerequisites for a spiritual workman who is approved of
God, is that he must prayerfully and constantly aim at a “rightly dividing”
of the Word of Truth (

2 Timothy 2:15). Preeminently is this the case
when he takes up those passages treating of the person of the Lord Jesus
Christ. Unless we “rightly divide” or definitely distinguish between what is
said of Him in His essential Being, and what is predicated of Him in His
official character, we are certain to err, and err grievously. By His
“essential Being” is meant what He always was and must ever remain as
God the Son. By His “official character” reference is made to what may be
postulated of Him as Mediator, that is, as God incarnate, the God-man. It
is the same blessed person in each case, but looked at in different
relationships.
It is failure to thus rightly divide what is said in the Word of Truth
concerning the Lord Jesus which has caused unregenerate men to entertain
most dishonoring and degrading views of Him, and has led some
regenerate men to err in their interpretation of many passages. As
illustrations of the former we may cite some of the more devout unitarians,
who, appealing to such statements as “My Father is greater than I”
(

John 14:28),
“when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also
Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him”
(

1 Corinthians 15:28), etc.,
have argued that though the Son be superior to all creatures, yet is He
inferior to the Father. But the passages cited do not relate to the “essential
Being” of Christ, but speak of Him in His Mediatorial character. As an
example of the latter we may mention how that such an able exegete as Dr.
John Brown interprets the second half of

Hebrews 1:4 as referring to
the essential Being of the Savior..44
Thus it will be seen that that to which we have drawn attention above is
something more than an arbitrary theological distinction; it vitally affects
the forming of right views of Christ’s person and a sound interpretation of
many passages of Holy Writ. Now in His Word God has not drawn the
artificial lines which man is fond of making. That is to say, the essential and
the official glories of Christ are often found intermingling, rather than being
separately classified. A case in point occurs in the first three verses of
Hebrews 1. First we are told that, at the close of the Mosaic dispensation,
God spoke to the Hebrews by (in) His Son. Obviously this was upon earth,
alter the Word had become flesh. Thus the reference is to Christ in His
Mediatorial character. Second, “whom He hath appointed Heir of all
things” manifestly views Him in the same character, for, in His essential
Being no such “appointment” was needed — as God the Son “all things”
are His. But when we come to the third clause, “by whom also He made
the worlds” there is clearly a change of viewpoint. The worlds were made
long before the Son became incarnate, therefore this postulate must be
understood of Him in His eternal and essential Being.
The inquiring mind will naturally ask, Why this change of viewpoint? Why
introduce this higher glory of the Son in the midst of a list of His
Mediatorial honors? — for it is clear that the Holy Spirit returns to these in
the clauses which follow in verse 3. The answer is not far to seek: it is to
exalt the Mediator in our esteem; it is to show us that the One who
appeared on earth in Servant form was possessed of a dignity and majesty
which should bow our hearts in worship before Him. He who “by Himself
purged our sins” is the same that “made the worlds.” The crucified was the
Creator! But this is not the wonder set forth in this passage. In order to be
crucified it was needful for the Creator to become man. The Son of God
(though never ceasing to be such) became the Son of man, and this Man
has been exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. So beautifully
has the late Mr. Saphir written on this point we transcribe from him at
length: —
“Is it more wonderful to see the Son of God in Bethlehem as a little
babe, or to see the Son of man at the right hand of the Father? Is it
more marvelous to see the Counselor, the Wonderful, the Mighty
God, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, a child born unto
us, and a Son given unto us — or to see the Son of man, and in
Him the dust of earth, seated at the right hand of God? The high
priest entered once a year into the holy of holies, but who would.45
have ventured to abide there, or take up his position next to the
cherubim, where the glory of the Most High was revealed? But
Jesus, the Son of man, ascended, and by His own power, and in His
own right, as well as by the appointment of the Father, He is
enthroned, crowned with glory and majesty. On the wings of
omnipotent love He came down from heaven, but to return to
heaven, omnipotence and love were not sufficient. It was
comparatively easy (if I may use this expression of the most
stupendous miracle) for the Son of God to humble Himself, and to
come down to this earth; but to return to heaven, it was necessary
for Him to be baptized with the baptism of suffering, and to die the
death upon the accursed tree. Not as He came down did He ascend
again; for it was necessary that He who in infinite grace had taken
our position should bow and remove our burden and overcome our
enemies. Therefore was His soul straightened to be baptized with
His baptism; and therefore, from the first moment that He appeared
in Jerusalem, He knew that the temple of His sacred body was to be
broken, and He looked forward to the decease which He should
accomplish on that mount. Not as He came did He ascend again;
for He came as the Son of God; but He returned not merely as the
Son of God, but as the Son of God incarnate, the Son of David,
our brother and our Lord. Not as He came did He ascend again; for
He came alone, the Good Shepherd, moved with boundless
compassion, when He thought of the lost and perishing sheep in the
wilderness; but He returned with the saved sheep upon His
shoulders, rejoicing, and bringing it to a heavenly and eternal home.
He went back again, not merely triumphing, but He who had gone
forth weeping, bearing precious seed, who Himself had been sown,
by His sacrifice unto death, returned, bringing His sheaves with
Him…. It was when He had by Himself purged our sins that He sat
down at the right hand of God; by the power of His blood He
entered into the holy of holies; as the Lamb slain God exalted Him,
and gave Him a name which is above every name.”
Thus that which is prominent, yea dominant, in this opening chapter in
Hebrews is the Mediatorial glories of the Son. True, His essential glory is
referred to in verse 2: “By whom also He made the worlds,” but, as
already stated, this is introduced for the purpose of exalting the Mediator
in our esteem, to prevent us forming an unworthy and erroneous.46
conception of His person. The One who “by Himself purged our sins” is
the same person as made the worlds, it is He who is “the Brightness of
God’s glory, and the express Image of His substance.” What ground, what
cause have we for exclaiming,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches,
and wisdom and strength, and honor and glory, and blessing”
(

Revelation 5:12)?
To this the God-man is entitled. Because of this, God exalted Him to His
own right hand. Having shown His infinite elevation above the prophets we
have next revealed His immeasurable superiority over the angels.
“Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by
inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (verse 4).
Before attempting to expound the details of this verse, it may be well for us
first to inquire, Why does the Holy Spirit here introduce the “angels?”
What was His particular purpose in showing Christ’s superiority over
them? To these questions a threefold answer, at least, may be returned:—
First, because the chief design of the Holy Spirit in this Epistle is to exalt
the Lord Jesus, as the God-man, far above every name and dignity. In the
next section (chapter 3) He shows the superiority of Christ over Moses.
But to have commenced with Moses, would not have gone back far
enough, for Moses the mediator, received the law by “the disposition of
angels” (

Acts 7:53). Inasmuch as angels are described in Holy Writ as
“excelling in strength,” and thus as far raised in the scale of being above
man, it was necessary, in order to establish Christ’s superiority over all
created beings, to show that He was much better than they. To prove that
God the Son was superior to angels were superfluous, but to show that the
Son of man has been exalted high above them was essential if the Hebrews
were to ascribe to Him the glory which is His due.
Second, the object before the Holy Spirit in this Epistle in presenting the
supreme dignity and dominion of the Mediator was to demonstrate the
immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The method He has
followed here is very striking and convincing. The old order or economy
was given by “the disposition of angels” (

Acts 7:53). Exactly what this
means perhaps we cannot be quite sure, though there are several scriptures
which throw light thereon, for in

Deuteronomy 33:2 we read: “The
Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth.47
from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousand of saints” — “holy
ones,” i.e., “angels.” Again,

Psalm 68:17 tells us,
“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of
angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai.”
Finally,

Galatians 3:19 says,
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of
transgressions, till the Seed would come to whom the promise was
made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”
Thus, the glory of Jehovah at Sinai (the beginning of the Mosaic economy)
was an angelic one, and the employment of angels in the giving of the law
stamped a dignity and importance upon it. But the legal dispensation has
been set aside by a new and higher glory revealed in “the Son,” and
Hebrews 1 shows us the angels subservient to Him, and not only so, closes
with the statement that they are now the servants of the present “heirs of
salvation!”
Third, it is necessary to show the superiority of Christ (the Center and Life
of Christianity) over the angels, because the Jews regarded them as the
most exalted of all God’s creatures. And rightly so. It was as “the Angel of
the covenant” (

Malachi 3:1), the “Angel of the Lord” (

Exodus 3:2),
that Jehovah had appeared most frequently unto them. From earliest times
angelic ministration had been a chief instrument of Divine power and
medium of communication. It was “the Angel of the Lord” who delivered
Hagar (

Genesis 16:7), and who appeared to Abraham. Angels delivered
Lot (

Genesis 19:1). It was the Lord’s “angel” who protected Israel on
the pass-over-night (

Numbers 20:16). Thus the Jews esteemed angels
more highly than man. To be told that the Messiah Himself, God the Son
incarnate, had become man made Him, in their eyes, inferior to the angels.
Therefore, was it necessary to show them from their own Scriptures that
the Mediator, God manifest in flesh, possessed a dignity and glory as far
excelling that of the angels as the heavens are higher than the earth.
“Being made so much better than the angels.” This verse may be termed
the text, and the remainder of the chapter, the sermon — the exposition
and application of it. The first key to its meaning and scope lies in its first
two words (which are but one in the Greek), “being made.” Grammatically
it seems almost a blemish to open a new paragraph with a participle; in
truth, it demonstrates the perfection of the Spirit’s handiwork. It illustrates.48
a noticeable difference which ever distinguishes the living works of God
from the lifeless productions of man — contrast the several parts of a chair
or table with the various members of the human body: in the one the
several sections of it are so put together that its pieces are quite distinct,
and the joints between them clearly perceptible; in the other, the ending of
one member is lost in the beginning of the next. Our analogy may be
commonplace, but it serves to illustrate one of the great differences
between the writings of men and the Scriptures of God. The latter is a
living organism, a body of truth, vitalized by the breath of God!
Though verse 4 begins a distinct section of the Epistle it is closely and
inseparably united to the introductory verses which precede, and more
especially to the final clauses of verse 3. Unless this be kept in mind we are
certain to err in our interpretation of it. At the close of verse 3, Christ is
presented as the One who has purged the sins of His people, in other
words, as the Son of man, God incarnate, and it was as such He has been
exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. There is now a Man in the
glory. And it is this Man, the “second Man (

1 Corinthians 15:47) who
has been made better than the angels,” and who has obtained “a more
excellent name than they.” It is this which the opening participle makes
clear, being designed to carry our thoughts back to what has been said at
the close of verse 3.
“Being made so much better than the angels.” To appreciate the force of
this we must, briefly, consider the excellency of the “angels.” Angels are
the highest of all God’s creatures: heaven is their native home (

Matthew
24:36). They “excel in strength” (

Psalm 103:20). They are God’s
“ministers” (

Psalm 104:4). Like a king’s gentlemen-in-waiting, they are
said to “minister unto the Ancient of days” (

Daniel 7:10). They are
“holy” (

Matthew 25:31). Their countenances are like “lightning,” and
their raiment is as white as snow (

Matthew 28:3). They surround God’s
throne (

Revelation 5:11). They carry on every development of nature.
“God does not move and rule the world merely by laws and principles, by
unconscious and inanimate powers, but by living beings full of light and
love. His angels are like flames of fire; they have charge over the winds,
and the earth, and the trees, and the sea (the book of Revelation shows this
— A.W.P.). Through the angels He carries on the government of the
world” (Saphir)..49
But glorious as the angels are, elevated as is their station, great as is their
work, they are, nevertheless, in subjection to the Lord Jesus as Man; for in
His human nature God has enthroned Him high above all.
“The apostle in the former verses proves Christ to be more
excellent than the excellentest of men; even such as God
extraordinarily inspired with his holy Spirit, and to whom he
immediately revealed his will that they might make it known to
others. Such were the priests, prophets, and heads of the people.
But these, as well as all other men, notwithstanding their
excellencies, were on earth mortal. Therefore he ascendeth higher,
and calleth out the celestial and immortal spirits, which are called
angels. Angels are of all mere creatures the most excellent. If Christ
then be more excellent than the most excellent, He must needs be
the most excellent of all. This excellency of Christ is so set out, as
thereby the glory and royalty of His kingly office is magnified. For
this is the first of Christ’s offices which the apostle doth in
particular exemplify: in which exemplification He giveth many
proofs of Christ’s divine nature, and showeth Him to be man as He
is God also; and in the next chapter, so to be God as He is man
also: ‘like to his brethren’ (

Hebrews 2:17)” (Dr. Gouge).
“Being made so much better than the angels.” Through Isaiah God had
promised that the “Man of sorrows” who was to be “cut off out of the land
of the living” for the transgression of His people, should be richly rewarded
for His travail:
“Therefore, will I divide Him a portion with the great and He shall
divide the spoil with the strong” (

Isaiah 53:12).
In

Psalm 68:18, He is represented as ascending “on high,” and that, as a
mighty conqueror leading captives in His train and receiving gifts for men.
In Philippians 2 we learn that He who took upon Him the form of a servant
and was made in the likeness of men, who became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross,
“God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is
above every name, that at (in) the name of Jesus (given to Him at
His incarnation) every knee should bow, of things in heaven and in
earth, and under the earth” (verses 9-11)..50
He has been “made so much better than the angels” first of all, by the
position accorded Him — He is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on
High: angels are “round about the throne” (

Revelation 5:11), the Lamb
is on the Throne!
“As He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they”
(verse 4).
“We who live in the West think a name of slight importance: but
God always taught His people to attach great importance to names.
The first petition in the Lord’s prayer is, ‘Hallowed be Thy name;’
and all the blessings and privileges which God bestowed upon
Israel are summed up in this, that God revealed unto them His
name. The name is the outward expression and the pledge and seal
of all that a person really and substantially is; and when it says that
the Son of God has received a higher name than angels, it means
that, not only in dignity, but in kind, He is high above them” (A.
Saphir).
“The descriptive designation given to Christ Jesus, when contrasted
to that given to angels, marks Him as belonging to a higher order of
beings. Their name is created spirits; His name is the only-begotten
Son of God” (Dr. J. Brown).
“As He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they”
(verse 4). When commenting on the first part of this verse we endeavored
to show that the reference is to the Father rewarding the Mediator for His
sacrificial work, and attention was directed to the parallel supplied in

Philippians 2:9-11. That passage begins by saying: “Wherefore God
also hath highly exalted Him,” and this finds its counterpart here in “being
made so much better than the angels.” Then follows the statement “and
hath given Him a name which is above every name,” the parallel being
found in “a more excellent name than they,” i.e., the highest of all created
beings. Finally, His right to this exalted name is to be owned by every knee
bowing before it; so also the last clause of

Hebrews 1:4 affirms Christ’s
right to His more excellent name. Is it not more than a coincidence that the
corresponding passage to

Hebrews 1:4 is found in one of the apostle
Paul’s Epistles!
“He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” This
affirms the right of Christ to His more excellent name. The English.51
rendering here seems slightly misleading. The Greek for “He hath by
inheritance obtained” is a single word. It is a technical term relating to legal
title, secure tenure. The right of inheritance which Sarah would not that the
son of the bondwoman should have, is expressed by this word: “shall not
the heir” (

Galatians 4:30) “Shall not by inheritance obtain,” or, “shall
not inherit.” Christ’s right to His supreme dignity is twofold: first, because
of the union between His humanity and essential Deity; Second, as a
reward for His mediatorial sufferings and unparalleled obedience to His
Father.
“For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My
Son?” (verse 5).
Having affirmed the superiority of Christ over angels, the Holy Spirit now
supplies proof of this, drawing His evidence from the Old Testament
Scriptures. The first passage appealed to is found in the second Psalm, and
the manner in which it is introduced should be noted. It is put in the form
of a question. This was to stir up the minds of those who read the Epistle.
It is worthy of remark that this interrogative form of instruction is found
quite frequently in the Pauline Epistles e.g.,

1 Corinthians 9:4-10,

Galatians 3:1-5 — and much more so than any other New Testament
writer. This method of teaching was often employed by the Lord Jesus, as
a glance at the Gospels will show. Observe, too, how the question asked in
our text assumes that the Hebrews were familiar with the entire contents
of Scripture. The interrogative way of presenting this quotation was
tantamount to saying: Judge for yourselves whether what I say be true-where
in the Sacred Writings is there any record of God’s addressing an
angel as His “Son”? They could not thus judge unless they were well
versed in the Word.
“Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son”? The
answer is, To none of them. Nowhere in the Old Testament Scriptures is
there a single instance of God’s addressing an angel as “My Son.” It is true
that in

Job 38:7 the angels are termed “sons of God,” but this simply
has reference to their creation. Adam is termed a “son of God” (

Luke
3:38) in the same sense. So, regenerated saints are “sons of God” by virtue
of new creation. But no individual angel was ever addressed by the Father
as “My Son.” The Lord Jesus was, both at His baptism and His
transfiguration. Herein we perceive not only His pre-eminence, but His
uniqueness..52
“Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son,
this day have I begotten Thee” (verse 5)?
This latter expression has occasioned not a little difficulty to some of the
commentators, and, in the past, has been made the battleground of fierce
theological fights. The issue raised was “the eternal Son-ship of Christ.”
Those affirming understood “this day (or “today”) the Greek is the same as
in

Luke 23:43 — to be timeless, and “this day have I begotten Thee” to
refer to the eternal generation of the Son by the Father. Much of the
fighting was merely a strife “about words,” which was to no profit. Though
Scripture clearly teaches the Godhead and absolute Deity of the Son
(

Hebrews 1:8, etc.) and affirms His eternality (

John 1:1, etc.), it
nowhere speaks of His eternal “son-ship,” and where Scripture is silent it
behooves us to be silent too. Certainly this verse does not teach the eternal
son-ship of Christ, for if we allow the apostle to define his own terms, we
read in

Hebrews 4:7, “He limiteth a certain day, saying in David,
Today,” etc. This, it appears to us, illustrates the Spirit’s foresight in thus
preventing “today” in

Hebrews 1:5 being understood as a timeless,
limitless “day” — eternity.
Further proof that the Spirit is not here treating of the essential Deity or
eternal son-ship of Christ is seen by a glance at the passage from which
these words are taken.

Hebrews 1:5 contains far more than the mere
quotation of a detached sentence from the Old Testament. The reference is
to the second Psalm, and if the reader will turn to and read through it, he
should at once see the striking propriety in the apostle’s reference to it
here. This is the first Old Testament passage quoted in Hebrews, and like
the first of anything in Scripture claims special attention because of its
prime importance. Coming as it does right after what has been said in verse
4, namely, that He who, positionally, had been made lower than the angels,
is now exalted above them, an appeal to the 2nd Psalm was most
appropriate. That has two divisions and treats of the humiliation and
exaltation of the Messiah! In verse 3 counsel is taken against Him; in
verses 10-12, kings and judges are bidden to pay homage to Him.
Now it is in this 2nd Psalm that the Father is heard saying to the Messiah,
“Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (verse 7). The whole
context shows that it is the Father addressing the Son in time, not eternity;
on earth, not in heaven; in His mediatorial character, not His essential
Being. Nor is there any difficulty in the “today have I begotten Thee,” the.53
Holy Spirit having explained its force in

Acts 13:33. There the apostle
declared to the Jews that God had fulfilled the promise made unto the
fathers, namely, that He had “raised up Jesus,” i.e. had sent the Messiah
unto them.

Acts 13:33 has no reference to Christ’s resurrection, but
relates to His incarnation and manifestation to Israel — cf.

Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise them up a Prophet”; also

Acts
3:26. It was not until

Acts 13:34, 35 that the apostle brought in His
resurrection “raised Him up from the dead.” Thus in Acts 13 Psalm 2 is
cited to prove the Father had sent the Savior to Israel and His promise so
to do had been fulfilled in the Divine incarnation. We may add that the
word “again” in

Acts 13:33 is not found in the Greek and is omitted in
the Revised Version! If further proof be needed that the “This day have I
begotten Thee” refers to the incarnation of Christ,

Luke 2:11 supplies
it, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ
the Lord” — could so much be said of any but the only-begotten Son of
God? Thus “this day” is here, by an angel’s voice expressly referred to the
day of the Savior’s birth.
“This day have I begotten Thee.” This, then, is another verse which teaches
the virgin-birth of Christ! His humanity was “begotten” by God the Father.
Though the Son of man, He was not begotten by a man. Because His very
humanity was begotten by the Father it was said unto His mother,
“That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son
of God” (

Luke 1:35).
“And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”
(verse 5).
The opening “and” connects this second quotation with the first; what
follows clearly and conclusively fixes the scope of the first part of this
verse. Here is indubitable proof that the Holy Spirit is speaking of Christ
not according to His essential glory, but in His mediatorial character, as
incarnate. Had the first part of verse 5 referred to the eternal relationship
of the Son of the Father as practically all of the older (Calvinistic)
commentators insist, it would surely be meaningless to add the quotation
which follows, “I will be” does not take us back into the timeless past! Nor
was there any occasion for the first Person of the Trinity to assure the
Second that He would be “a Father unto Him.” Clearly, it is the Father
accepting and owning as His Son the One whom the world had cast out..54
“And again, I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to Me a Son.” This
second quotation is from

2 Samuel 7:12-17, which forms part of one of
the great Messianic predictions of the Old Testament. Like all prophecy it
had a minor and major scope and receives a partial and ultimate fulfillment.
Its first reference was to Solomon, who, in many respects, was a
remarkable type of the Lord Jesus. But its chief application was to Christ
Himself. That Solomon did not exhaust its fulfillment is clear enough from
the language of verse 13 itself, for, as Dr. Brown has pointed out, “It refers
to a son to be raised up after David had gone to be with his fathers,
whereas Solomon was not only born but crowned before David’s death;
and the person to be raised up, whosoever he is, was to be settled ‘in
God’s house and kingdom,’ and his throne was to be ‘established
forevermore’, — words certainly not applicable, in their full extent, to
Solomon.” Doubtless none would have argued for an exclusive reference
to Solomon had it not been for the words which follow in

2 Samuel
7:14. But competent Hebrew scholars tell us that “if he commit iniquity”
may fairly be rendered “whosoever shall commit iniquity” and find their
parallel in

Psalm 89:30-33.
“I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son.” This was God’s
promise concerning the Messiah, David’s Son a thousand years before He
appeared on earth. “I will be to Him a Father.” I will own Him as My Son,
I will treat Him accordingly. This He did. In death He would not suffer
Him to see corruption. He raised Him from the dead. He exalted Him to
His own right hand. “And He shall be to Me a Son”: He shall act as such.
And He did. He ever spake of Him as “Father,” He obeyed Him even unto
death. He committed His spirit into His hands.
“And again, when He bringeth in the First-begotten into the world, He
saith, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him’“ (verse 6). This is a
quotation from

Psalm 97:7, which in the Sept. reads, “Worship Him, all
ye His angels.” What a proof was this that the Son had been “made so
much better than the angels”: so far were these celestial creatures from
approaching the glory of the incarnate Son, they are commanded to
worship Him! But before we enlarge upon this, let us mark attentively the
special character in which Christ is here viewed. Many are His titles, and
none of them is without its distinctive significance. It is as “First-begotten”
or “Firstborn” that the angels are bidden to render Him homage. As many
are far from clear as to the precise value and meaning of this name, let us
look at it the more closely. The Greek word, “pro-tokokos,” is found nine.55
times in the New Testament, eight of them referring to the Lord Jesus. It is
manifestly a title of great dignity.
This New Testament title of Christ, like many another, has its roots in the
Old Testament. Its force may be clearly perceived in

Genesis 49:3,
where Jacob says of Reuben,
“Thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my
strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.”
Thus, the primary thought in it is not primogeniture, but dignity, honor,
dominion. Note in

Exodus 4:22, God calls Israel His “firstborn”
because to them belonged the high honor of being His favored people. In
the great Messianic prediction of Psalm 89, after promising to put down
His foes and plague them that hate Him (verse 23), and after the perfect
Servant says “Thou art My Father, My God, and the Rock of My
salvation” (verse 26), the Father declares,
“I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth”
(verse 27).
Clearly, then, this title has no reference whatever to the eternal origin of
His Being, i.e. His “eternal Son-ship,” still less does it intimate His creation
in time as Russellites and others blasphemously affirm; but relates to the
high position of honor and glory which has been conferred upon the Son of
man because of His obedience and suffering.
The first occurrence of this term in the New Testament is in

Matthew
1:25, “she brought forth her firstborn Son,” and the second is parallel —

Luke 2:7. That Mary had other sons is clear from

Matthew 13:55.
The Lord Jesus was not only the first in time, but the Chief, not only
among but over them. In

Romans 8:29 we read, that God has
predestinated His elect to be conformed to the image of His Son in order
that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren, i.e. their Chief and
most excellent Ruler. In

Colossians 1:15, He is designated the
“Firstborn of every creature,” which most certainly does not mean that He
was Himself the first to be created, as many today wickedly teach, for
never does Scripture speak of Him as “the Firstborn of God,” but affirms
that He is the Head and Lord of every creature. In

Colossians 1:18, He
is spoken of as “the Firstborn from the dead,” which does not signify that
He was the first to rise again, but the One to whom the bodies of His saints
shall be conformed — see

Philippians 3:21. In

Hebrews 11:28, this.56
term is applied to the flower and might of Egypt. In

Hebrews 12:23, the
Church in glory is termed “the Church of the Firstborn.” This title then is
synonymous with the “appointed Heir of all things.” It is, however, to be
distinguished from “Only-begotten” in

John 1:18, 3:16. This latter is a
term of endearment, as a reference to

Hebrews 11:17 shows — Isaac
was not Abraham’s only “begotten,” for Ishmael was begotten by him too;
but Isaac was his darling: so Christ is God’s “Darling” — see

Psalm
22:20, 35:17.
“Under the law the ‘firstborn’ had authority over his brethren (cf.

Romans 8:29, A.W.P.), and to them belonged a double portion,
as well as the honor of acting as priests; the firstborn in Israel being
holy; that is to say, consecrated to the Lord. Reuben, forfeiting his
right of primogeniture by his sin, his privileges were divided, so that
the dominion belonging to it was transferred to Judah and the
double portion to Joseph, who had two tribes and two portions in
Canaan by Ephraim and Manasseh (

1 Chronicles 5:1, 2); while
the priesthood and the right of sacrifice was transferred to Levi.
The word ‘firstborn’ also signifies what surpasses anything as of the
same kind, as ‘the firstborn of the poor’“ (

Isaiah 14:30); that is
to say, the most miserable of all; and ‘firstborn of death’ (

Job
18:13), signifying a very terrible death, surpassing in grief and
violence. The term ‘firstborn’ is also applied to those who were
most beloved, as Ephraim is called ‘the firstborn of the Lord’
(

Jeremiah 31:9), that is, His ‘dear son.’ In all these respects the
application of ‘firstborn’ belongs to the Lord Jesus, both as to the
superiority of His nature, of His office, and of His glory” (Robert
Haldane).
“And again when He bringeth in the First-begotten into the world,” etc.
Commentators are divided as to the meaning and placing of the word
“again,” many contending it should be rendered,
“When He shall bring in again into the habitable earth the Firstborn.” There
is not a little to be said in favor of this view. First, the Greek warrants it. In
the second part of verse 5 the translators have observed the order of the
original — “and again, I will be unto Him,” etc. But here in verse 6 they
have departed from it — “And again, when He bringeth in” instead of
“when He shall bring in again.” Secondly, we know of nothing in Scripture
which intimates that the angels worshipped the infant Savior.

Luke.57
2:13, 14 refers to them adoring God in heaven, and not His incarnate Son
on earth. But

Revelation 5:11-14 shows us all heaven worshipping the
Lamb on the eve of His return to the earth, when He comes with power
and glory. Scriptures which mention the angels in connection with Christ’s
second advent are

Matthew 13:41;

16:27;

24:31;

25:31;

2
Thessalonians 1:7.
That verse 6 has reference to the second advent of Christ receives further
confirmation in the expression “when He bringeth in the First-begotten into
the world.” This language clearly looks back to Jehovah putting Israel into
possession of the land of Canaan, their promised inheritance.
“Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine
inheritance” (

Exodus 15:17).
“To drive out the nations from before thee, greater and mightier
than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an
inheritance” (

Deuteronomy 4:38).
In like manner, when Christ returns to the earth, the Father will say to Him,
“Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy
possession” (

Psalm 2:8).
In addition to what has just been said on “when He bringeth in the
firstborn” into the world we would call attention to what we doubt not, is a
latent contrast here. It is set over against His expulsion from the world, at
His first advent. Men, as it were, drove Him ignominiously from the world.
But He will re-enter it in majesty, in the manifested power of God. He will
be “brought into it” in solemn pomp, and the same world which before
witnessed His reproach, shall then behold His Divine dominion. Then shall
He come, “in the glory of His Father” (

Matthew 16:27), and then shall
the angels render gladsome homage to that One whose honor is the
Father’s chief delight. Then shall the word go forth from the Father’s lips,
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
Our minds naturally turn back to the first advent and what is recorded in
Luke 2. But there the angels praised the Sender, not the Sent: God in the
highest was the object of their worship though the moving cause of it was
the lowly Babe. But when Christ comes back to earth it is the Firstborn
Himself who shall be worshipped by them. It was to this He referred when.58
He said, “When He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s and of
the holy angels.” The “glory of the angels,” i.e. the glory they will bring to
Him, namely, their worship of Him. Then shall be seen “the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (

John 1:51). May we
who have been sought out and saved by Him “worship” Him now in the
time of His rejection..59
CHAPTER 5
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 1:7-9)
The verses which are now to be before us continue the passage begun in
our last article. As a distinctive section of the Epistle this second division
commences at 1:4 and runs to the end of the second chapter. Its theme is
the immeasurable superiority of Christ over the angels. But though the
boundaries of this section are clearly defined, yet is it intimately related to
the one that precedes. The first three verses of chapter one contain a
summary of that which is afterwards developed at length in the Epistle,
and, really,

Hebrews 1:4-14 is a setting forth of the proofs for the
various affirmations made in verses 2, 3.
First, in verse 2, the One whom the Jewish nation had despised and
rejected is said to be “Son,” and in verse 5 we are shown that He
against whom the kings of the earth did set themselves and the rulers
take counsel together, is addressed by Jehovah Himself as “Thou art
My Son.”
Second, in verse 2 the One who had been crucified by wicked hands is
said to be “the Heir of all things,” and in verse 6 proof of this is given:
God affirmed that He is the “Firstborn” — the two titles being
practically synonymous in their force.
Thus is will be seen that the method followed here by the Holy Spirit, was
in moving the apostle to first make seven affirmations concerning the
exalted dignity and dominion of Christ, and then to confirm them from the
Scriptures. The proofs are all drawn from the Old Testament. From it He
proceeds to show that the Messiah was to be a person superior to the
angels. Psalm 2 should have led the Jews to expect “the Son” and

Psalm
97:7 ought to have taught them that the promised Messiah was to receive
the adoration of all the celestial hierarchies. In verses 5, 6 the Spirit has
established the superiority of Christ both in name and dignity; in the verses
which follow He shows the inferiority of the angels in nature and rank..60
“And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits” (verse 7).
This is a quotation from Psalm 104, the opening verses of which ascribe
praise unto Jehovah as Creator and Governor of the universe. Its second
and third verses apparently relate to the intermediary heavens, and the
fourth verse to their inhabitants; verse five and onwards treats of the earth
and its earliest history. The fact that the earth is mentioned right after the
angels suggests that they are there viewed as connected with mundane
affairs, as the servants God employs in regulating its concerns.
The Spirit’s purpose in quoting this verse in Hebrews 1 is evident: it was to
point a contrast between the natures of the angels and the Son: they were
“made” — created; He is uncreated. Not only were the angels created, but
they were created by Christ Himself “Who maketh” which looks back to
the last clause of verse 2, “He (The Son) made the worlds:” it is the
making of the worlds that Psalm 104 speaks of. Moreover, they are here
termed not merely “the angels,” but “His angels!” They are but “spirits,”
He is “God;” they are “His ministers,” He is their Head (

Colossians
2:10).
“Who maketh His angels spirits.” The Hebrew word for “spirits” in

Psalm 104:4 and the Greek word rendered “spirits” in

Hebrews 1:7
has both a primary and secondary meaning, namely, spirits and “winds.” It
would seem from the words which follow — “and His ministers a flame of
fire” — that God is not only defining the nature of these celestial creatures,
but is also describing their qualities and activities. Thus we are inclined to
regard the words before us as having a double force. A threefold reason
may be suggested why the angels are likened unto “winds.”
First, their power to render themselves invisible. The wind is one of
the very few things in the natural world which is unseen by the eyes of
man; so the angels are one of the very few classes of God’s creatures
that are capable of passing beyond the purview of man’s senses.
Second, because of their great power. Like as the wind when
commissioned by God, so the angels are able to sweep everything
before them (

2 Kings 19:35).
Third, because of the rapid speed at which they travel. If the reader
will ponder carefully

Daniel 9:21, 23, he will find that during the
brief moments the prophet was engaged in prayer, an angel from the.61
highest heaven reached him here on earth! Other analogies will be
suggested by prayerful meditation.
“And His ministers a flame of fire” (verse 7). Here, as always in Scripture,
“fire” speaks of Divine judgment, and the sentence as a whole informs us
that the angels are the executioners of God’s wrath. A number of passages
supply us with solemn illustrations of this fact. In

Genesis 19:13 we
read that the two angels said to Lot concerning Sodom, “We will destroy
this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the
Lord: and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.” Referring to God’s
judgments which fell upon Egypt we are told,
“He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath and
indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels” (

Psalm 78:49),
by which we do not understand fallen angels but “angels of evil,” i.e. angels
of judgment — compare the word “evil” in

Isaiah 45:7, where it is
contrasted not with “good” but “peace.” Again, in

Matthew 13:41, 42
we read, “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather
out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and
shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of
teeth.” Does not this passage throw light on

Revelation 20:15? — “And
whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake
of fire” — by whom, if not the angels, the executioners of God’s wrath!
“And His ministers a flame of fire.” Doubtless these words refer also to the
brilliant brightness and terrifying appearance of the angels, when
manifested in their native form to mortal eyes. A number of scriptures
confirm this. Note how when Baalam saw the angel of the Lord that he
“fell flat on his face” (

Numbers 22:31). Note how it is said of the angel
who rolled back the stone of the Savior’s sepulcher that “his countenance
was like lightning,” and that
“for fear of him the keepers did shake and become as dead men”
(

Matthew 28:3, 4).
This accounts for the “fear not” with which angels so frequently addressed
different ones before whom they appeared on an errand of mercy: see

Matthew 28:5;

Luke 1:30; 2:10. Note how in proof the angels are
“a flame of fire,” we are told that when the angel of the Lord came to
Peter, “a light shined in the prison” (

Acts 12:7)! Yea, so resplendent is
an angel’s brightness when manifested to men, that the apostle John fell at.62
the feet of one to worship (

Revelation 19:10) — evidently mistaking
him for the Lord Himself, as lie had appeared on the mount of
transfiguration.
“But unto the Son lie saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and
ever” (verse 8).
Here the Holy Spirit quotes from still another Psalm, the 45th, to prove the
superiority of Israel’s Messiah over the angels. How blessed and marked is
the contrast presented! Here we listen to the Father addressing His
incarnate Son, owning Him as “God.” “Unto the Son He saith,” that
others might hear and know it. “Thy throne, O God.” How sharp is the
antithesis! How immeasurable the gulf which separates between creature
and Creator! The angels are but “spirits,” the Son is “God.” They are but
“ministers,” His is the “throne.” They are but “a flame of fire,” the
executioners of judgment, He the One who commands and commissions
them.
“But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God.” This supplies us with one
of the most emphatic and unequivocal proofs of the Deity of Christ to be
found in the Scriptures. It is the Father Himself testifying to the Godhead
of Him who was despised and rejected of men. And how fittingly is this
quotation from Psalm 45 introduced at the point it is in Hebrews 1. In
verse 6 we are told that all the angels of God have received command to
“worship” the Mediator, now we are shown the propriety of them so doing
— He is “God!” They must render Divine honors to Him because of His
very nature. Thus we may admire, once more, the perfect order of
Scripture.
“But unto the Son, He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
Difficulty has been experienced by some concerning the identity of the
“throne” here mentioned. It is clear from what precedes and also from
what follows in verse 9. — “Thy God,” that the Son is here addressed in
His mediatorial character. But is it not also clear from

1 Corinthians
15:24-28 that there will be a time when His mediatorial kingdom will come
to an end? Certainly not. Whatever the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 may or
may not teach, it certainly does not contradict other portions of God’s
Word. Again and again the Scriptures affirm the endlessness of Christ’s
mediatorial kingdom: see

Isaiah 9:7;

Daniel 7:13, 14;

Luke 1:33;
etc. Even on the new earth we read of “The throne of God and of the
Lamb” (

Revelation 22:1)!.63
If then it is not the mediatorial kingdom which Christ shall deliver up to the
Father, what is it? We answer, His Messianic one, His kingdom on this
earth. In

Luke 19:12, (the Gospel which, distinctively, sets forth His
perfect humanity) Christ speaks of Himself as a “Nobleman” going into a
far country to “receive for Himself a kingdom and to return,” after which
He added, “when He was returned, having received the kingdom,” etc.
(verse 15). It is to this

Matthew 25:31 refers,
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy
angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”
As in the days of His first advent, the second Person of the Trinity
(incarnate) was more dishonored than the Father or the Spirit, so,
following His second advent He shall. for a season, be more honored than
They. Following this, then He shall, still in His character as “Son of man”
(see

John 5:27) “execute judgment,” i.e., on His enemies. Then, having
put down (by power, not having reconciled by grace) all opposing forces,
He shall “deliver up the kingdom to God” (

1 Corinthians 15:24) —
observe that it is not “taken from” Him!
That it is not the mediatorial kingdom which Christ shall deliver up to the
Father is clear from

1 Corinthians 15:28, where we are expressly told
“then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him.” As the Godman, the
Mediator, He will be officially subservient to the Father. This should be
evident. Throughout eternity the mediation of Christ will be needed to
preserve fellowship between the Creator and the creature, the Infinite and
the finite, hence five times over (the number of grace) in Holy Writ occur
the words, “Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedek.” But
in His essential Being the Son will not be in subjection to His Father, as is
clear from

John 17:5.
Thus we trust it has been made clear that whereas the Messianic kingdom
of the Son will be but temporal, His Mediatorial kingdom will be eternal.
His kingdom on this earth will continue only for a limited time, but His
kingdom on the new earth will last forever. Blessed is it to observe that,
even as Mediator, Christ is thus owned by the Father “Thy throne, O God,
is forever and ever.” How far above the angels that puts Him!
“A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom” (verse 8). The
apostle is still quoting from the 45th Psalm, and continuing to advance
proofs of the proposition laid down in

Hebrews 1:4. There is no.64
difficulty in perceiving how the sentence here cited contributes to his
argument. The “scepter” is the badge of royalty and the emblem of
authority. An illustration of this is furnished in the book of Esther. When
Ahasuerns would give evidence of his authoritative favor unto Esther, he
held out his scepter to her (see

Esther 5:2; 8:4). So here the “scepter” is
the emblem of royal power. “The Son is the King; the highest dignity
belonging to the angels is that they hold the first rank among His subjects”
(Dr. J. Brown). The suffering Savior is now the supreme Sovereign; the
mighty angels are His servants.
“A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” This is
very blessed. The scepter of Christ’s kingdom then is one not
merely of power, arbitrarily exercised, but a “righteous” one. “The
Greek word joined by the apostle to the scepter signifieth rectitude,
straightness, evenness; it is opposed to wickedness, roughness,
unevenness. So doth the Hebrew word also signify; it is fitly applied
to a scepter, which useth to be straight and upright, not crooked,
not inclining this way or that way; so as that which is set out by a
scepter, namely, government, is hereby implied to be right and
upright, just and equal, not partially inclining to either side” (Dr.
Gouge).
Of old the Triune God declared,
“He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God”
(

2 Samuel 23:3).
This has never yet been perfectly exemplified on earth, but ere long it will
be. When the Lord Jesus shall return to Jerusalem and there establish His
throne, He will order all the affairs of His kingdom with impartial equity,
favoring neither the classes nor the masses. As the Anti-type of
Melchizedek, He will be both “King of righteousness” and “King of peace”
(

Hebrews 7:2). These are the two qualities which will characterize His
reign.
“Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end,
upon the throne of David and upon His Kingdom, to order it and to
establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even
forever” (

Isaiah 9:7).
Then will be fulfilled that ancient oracle..65
“Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David
a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall
execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (

Jeremiah 23:5).
The rewards He will bestow, the judgments He will execute, will be
administered impartially. But let it not be forgotten that this is equally true
of His government even now, though faith alone perceives it; in all
dispensations it remains that “justice and judgment are the habitation of
Thy Throne” (

Psalm 89:14).
“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” (verse 9). The past
tense of the verbs is to be carefully observed. It is still the Father
addressing His Son, owning on high the moral perfections He had
manifested here upon earth. The reference is to the Lord Jesus in the days
of His humiliation. The words before us furnish a brief but blessed
description both of His character and conduct. First, He loved
righteousness. “Righteousness” signifies the doing of that which is right.
The unerring standard is the revealed will of God. From that standard the
incarnate Son never deviated. As a Boy of twelve He said,
“Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”
(

Luke 2:49)
— perform His pleasure, respond to His wishes. When replying to John’s
demur against baptizing Him, He replied,
“Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all
righteousness” (

Matthew 3:15).
When tempted by the Devil to follow a course of self-will, He answered,
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (

Matthew 4:4).
So it was all through: He “became obedient unto death, even the death of
the cross” (

Philippians 2:8).
“Thou hast loved righteousness.” This is much more than doing
righteousness. These words reveal to us the spring of all Christ’s actions,
even devotedness and affection unto the Father. “I delight to do Thy will,
O God” (

Psalm 40:8), was the confession of the perfect One. “O how
love I Thy law! it is My meditation all the day” (

Psalm 119:97),
revealed His attitude toward the precepts and commandments of Holy.66
Writ. Herein we perceive His uniqueness. How often our obedience is a
reluctant one! How often God’s will crosses ours; and when our response
is an obedient one, frequently it is joyless and unwilling. Different far was it
with the Lord Jesus. He not only performed righteousness, but “loved” it.
He could say, “Thy law is within My heart!” (

Psalm 40:8) — the seat
of the affections. When a sinful creature is said to have God’s law in his
heart it is because He has written it there (see

Hebrews 8:10).
Because He loved righteousness, Christ “hated iniquity.” The two things
are inseparable: the one cannot exist without the other (

Amos 5:15).
Where there is true love for God, there is also abhorrence of sin.
Illustrations of the Savior’s hatred of iniquity are found in His action at the
close of the Temptation and in His cleansing of the Temple. Observe how,
after meeting the vile solicitations of the Devil with the repeated “it is
written,” He, with holy abhorrence said, “Get thee hence, Satan”
(

Matthew 4:10). See Him, as the Vindicator of His Father’s house,
driving before Him its profane traffickers and crying,
“Make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise”
(

John 2:16).
What must it have meant for One who thus loved righteousness and hated
iniquity to tabernacle for thirty-three years in such a world as this! And
what must it have meant for such an One to be “numbered with the
transgressors” and “made sin” for His people!
“Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” This is true of Him
still, for He changes not.
“He that hath My commandments, he it is that loveth Me: and he
that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and
will manifest Myself to him” (

John 14:21).
So He still “hates”:
“So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans
which thing I hate” (

Revelation 2:15).
To what extent do these two things characterize you and me, dear reader?
To the extent that we are really walking with Christ: no more, no less. The
more we enjoy fellowship with Him, the more we are conformed to His.67
image, the more shall we love the things He loves, and hate the things He
hates.
“Therefore, God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of
gladness” (verse 9).
The Spirit is still quoting from the 45th Psalm. The enemies of God’s truth
would discover here a “flat contradiction.” In verse 8 the One spoken to is
hailed as “God,” on the throne. But here in verse 9 He is addressed as an
inferior, “Thy God hath anointed Thee.” How could the same person be
both supreme and subordinate? If He Himself had a God, how could He at
the same time be God? No wonder Divine things are “foolishness to the
natural man!” Yet is the enigma easily explained, the seeming contradiction
readily harmonized. The Mediator was, in His own person, both Creator
and creature, God and man. Once we see it is as Mediator, as the God-man,
that Christ is here spoken to, all difficulty vanishes. It is this which
supplies the key to the whole passage. Much in Hebrews 1 cannot be
understood unless it be seen that the Holy Spirit is there speaking not of
the essential glories of Christ, but of His mediatorial dignities and honors.
“Therefore, God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee.” Concerning this Dr.
Gouge has well said,
“Christ is God-man, God may be said to be His God three ways:
1. As Christ’s human nature was created of God, and preserved by Him
like other creatures.
2. As Christ is mediator, he is deputed and sent of God (

John 3:34),
and he subjected himself to God and set himself to do the will of God,
and such works as God appointed him to do (

John 4:34; 9:4). In
these respects also God is his God.
3. As Christ, God-man, was given by God to be a head to a mystical
body, which is the church (

Ephesians 1:22, 23); God, therefore,
entered into covenant with him in the behalf of that body (

Isaiah
42:6; 49:8). Thus he is called the messenger (

Malachi 3:1) and the
mediator of the covenant (

Hebrews 8:6). Now, God is in an especial
manner their God, with whom he doth enter into covenant; as he said
unto Abraham, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee,’
etc., ‘to be a God unto thee’ (

Genesis 17:7). As God made a
covenant with Abraham and his seed, so also with Christ and His seed,.68
which are all the elect of God. This is the ‘seed’ mentioned in

Isaiah
53:10. So by special relation between God and Christ, God is his God
in covenant with him. God also is, in especial manner, the God of the
elect through Christ.”
“Therefore, God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee.” While here on earth the
Mediator owned that God was His God. He lived by His Word, He was
subject to His will, He was entirely dependent on Him. “I will put My trust
in Him” was His avowal (

Hebrews 2:13); yea, did He not declare,
“I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My
mother’s belly” (

Psalm 22:10)!
Many similar utterances of His are recorded in the Psalms. On the cross He
owned His subjection, crying, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Even after His resurrection we hear Him saying,
“I ascend unto My Father and to your Father; and My God, and
your God” (

John 20:17).
So now, though seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, He is there
making “intercession.” So when He returns to this earth in glory, He will
“ask” for the inheritance (

Psalm 2:8). How this brings out the truth of
His humanity, real Man, though true God. Mysterious, wondrous, blessed
Person; upholding all things by the Word of His own power, yet in the
place of intercession; Himself the “Mighty God” (

Isaiah 9:6), yet
owning God as His God!
“Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness.” There is a plain
reference here to the ancient method, instituted by God, whereby the kings
of Israel were established in their office. Their coronation was denoted by
the pouring of oil upon their heads: see

1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13;

1
Kings 1:39, etc. It was in allusion to this the kings were styled “anointed”
(

2 Samuel 19:21) and “the anointed of the Lord” (

Lamentations
4:20).
“The apostle and Psalmist are both speaking of the Messiah as a
prince, and their sentiment is ‘God, even Thy God, hath raised Thee
to a kingdom far more replete with enjoyment than that ever
conferred on any other ruler. He has given Thee a kingdom which,
for extent and duration, and multitude and magnitude of blessings.69
as far exceeds any kingdom ever bestowed on man or angels as the
heaven is above the earth’” (J. Brown).
Though we are assured that this anointing of Christ with the “oil of
gladness” (following the mention of His “scepter” and “kingdom” in verse
8) is a reference to His investiture on High with royal honors — the
“blessing of the Lord” which the King of glory received at the time of His
ascension (

Psalm 24:5, and note carefully the whole Psalm) — yet we
do not think this exhausts its scope. In addition, we believe there is also a
reference to His being honored as our great High Priest, for it is written,
“He shall be a Priest upon His throne” (

Zechariah 6:13). Thus there is
also a manifest allusion in our verse to what is recorded in Psalm 133.
There we read. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to
dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that
ran down upon the beard, Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of
his garments — cf.

Exodus 30:25, 30. This is most precious, though its
beauty is rarely perceived. How few see in these verses of Psalm 133
anything more than a word expressing the desirability and blessedness of
saints on earth dwelling together in concord. But is this all the Psalm
teaches? We trow not. What then is the analogy pointed between what is
said in verse 1 and verse 2? What is the meaning of “how good and how
pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious
ointment upon the head,” etc?
What resemblance is there between brethren dwelling together in unity and
the precious anointing-ointment which ran down from Aaron’s head to the
skirts of his garments? It seems strange that so many should have missed
this point. As the high priest of Israel, Aaron foreshadowed our great High
Priest. The anointing of his “head” prefigured the anointing of our exalted
Head. The running down of the fragrant unguent even to the skirts of
Aaron’s garments, adumbrated the glorious fact that those who are
members of the body of Christ partake of His sweet savor before God. The
analogy drawn in Psalm 133 is obvious: the dwelling together of brethren
in unity is “good and pleasant” not simply for the mere sake of preserving
peace among them, but because it illustrates the spiritual and mystical
union existing between Christ and His people. Our dwelling together in
unity is “good and pleasant” not only, nor primarily, for our own well-being,
but because it gives an outward manifestation, a concrete example
of that invisible and Divine oneness which exists between the Head and the
members of His body..70
“Anointed Thee with the oil of gladness.” As ever in the Old Testament,
the “oil” was an emblem of the Spirit, and the anointing both of Aaron and
of David were typifications of the enduement of Christ with the Holy
Spirit. But the reference here is not (as some of the commentators
suppose) to the coming of the Spirit upon Christ at the time of His
baptism. This should be apparent from the structure of verse 9. The words
“Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity” look back to the earthly
life of the Lord Jesus, as the past tense of the verbs intimate; the
“therefore, God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee,” shows that this was
the reward for His perfect work, the honoring of the humbled One. It is
closely parallel with what we are told in

Acts 2:36, “God hath made
that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ;” and

Acts 5:31, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince
and a Savior.”
“Anointed Thee with the oil of gladness” refers, we believe, to the Holy
Spirit’s being made officially subordinate to the Mediator. Just as the
incarnate Son was subject to the Father, so is the Spirit now subject to
Christ. Just as the Savior when here glorified not Himself, but the Father,
so the Spirit is here to glorify Christ (

John 16:14). There are several
scriptures which plainly teach the present official subordination of the
Spirit to Christ:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from
the Father” (

John 15:26).
That which took place on the day of Pentecost manifested the same fact: as
His forerunner announced, “I indeed baptize with water, but He (Christ)
shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (

Mark 1:8). In

Revelation 3:1
the Lord Jesus is referred to as “He that hath the seven Spirits of God,”
i.e. the Holy Spirit in the fullness of His perfections and the plentitude of
His operations; “hath” to minister the Spirit unto His people. It is further
proof that the suffering Savior has been exalted to the place of supreme
Sovereignty.
“Above Thy fellows.” Opinion is divided among the commentators as to
whether the reference be to angels or to Christians. Both the Hebrew word
in

Psalm 45:7 and the Greek word here signify “such as partake of one
and the same condition.” If it be borne in mind that the Holy Spirit is
speaking here of Christ in His Mediatorial character, we are less likely to
be stumbled by the thought of angels being termed His “fellows.”.71
“They are styled His fellows in regard of that low degree
whereunto the Son of God, Creator of all things, humbled Himself
by assuming a creature nature; so that as He was a creature (Man),
angels are His fellows” (Dr. Gouge).
Nor must we overlook the fact that the chief design of the whole of this
passage is to evidence the Mediator’s superiority over the angels.
As already pointed out, the central thought of verse 9 is the investiture of
Christ with royal honors, following right after the mention of His “scepter”
and “kingdom” in verse 8. Angels are also rulers; great powers are
delegated to them; much of the administration of God’s government is
committed into their hands. But the Man Christ Jesus has been exalted high
above them in this respect too. A close parallel is found in

Colossians
1:18, where it is said of the Lord Jesus, “that in all things He might have
the pre-eminence.” It is Important to note that in the immediate context
there, angels are mentioned in connection with “thrones, dominions,
principalities and powers” (verse 16)! But Christ has been given a
“scepter” and royal honors which exalt Him high above them all.
But what has been said above does not exhaust the scope of these closing
words of

Hebrews 1:9. As is so often the case in Scripture (evidencing
the exhaustless fullness of its words) there is at least a double reference in
the term “fellows:” first to the angels, second to Christians — thus
supplying a link with verse 14, where the “heirs of salvation” are more
directly in view. That the term “fellows” applies also to believers is clear
from

Hebrews 3:14 where “metochos” is specifically used of them: “For
we are made partakers (fellows) of Christ,” if we hold the beginning of our
confidence steadfast unto the end.
Though the wondrous grace of God has so united His people to His
beloved Son that “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (

1
Corinthians 6:17), yet we must carefully bear in mind that He is “the
Firstborn (Chief) among many brethren” (

Romans 8:29). Though
members of His body, He is nevertheless the Head. Though joint-heirs with
Him, He is our Lord! So, too, though Christians have been “anointed” with
the Spirit (

1 John 2:20, 27), yet our blessed Redeemer has been
“anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.” The Spirit is now
subject to His administration; not so to ours. Christ is the one who is
“glorified,” the Spirit is the Agent, we the vessels through which He
works. Thus in all things Christ has “the pre-eminence.”.72
It is indeed striking to see how much was included in the ancient oracle
concerning the Messiah which the Spirit here quoted from Psalm 45. Let us
attempt to summarize the content of that remarkable prophecy.
First, it establishes His Deity, for the Father Himself owns Him as
“God.”
Second, it shows us the exalted position He now occupies: He is on
the throne, and there for ever.
Third, it makes mention of His Kingship, the royal “scepter” being
wielded by Him.
Fourth, it tells of the impartiality of His government and the excellency
of His rule: His scepter is a “righteous” one.
Fifth, it takes us back to the days of His flesh and makes known the
perfections of His character and conduct here on earth: He “loved
righteousness and hated iniquity.”
Sixth, it reveals the place which He took when He made Himself of no
reputation, as Man in subjection to God: “Thy God.”
Seventh, it announces the reward He received for such condescension
and grace: “Therefore…. God hath anointed Thee.”
Eighth, it affirms He has the pre-eminence in all things, for He has
been anointed with the oil of gladness “above His fellows.” May the
Spirit of God stir us up to search more prayerfully and diligently the
volume of that Book in which it is written of Him..73
CHAPTER 6
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 1:10-13)
The closing verses of Hebrews 1 present a striking climax to the apostle’s
argument. They contain the most touching and also the most thrilling
references to be found in this wondrous chapter. In it the Holy Spirit
completes His proof for the superiority of the Mediator over the angels,
proof which was all drawn from Israel’s own Scriptures. Five times He had
cited passages from the Old Testament which set forth the exalted dignities
and glories of the Messiah. A sixth and a seventh is now quoted from the
102nd and the 110th Psalms, to show that He who had passed through
such unparalleled humiliation and suffering, had been greeted and treated
by God as One who was worthy of supremest honor and reward. The
details of this will come before us in the course of our exposition.
It is very striking to observe how that the character of these seven
quotations made by the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament agree perfectly
with the numerical position of each of them. One is the number of
supremacy: see

Zechariah 14:9 — there will be none other in that day
to dispute the Lord’s rule for Satan will be in the Pit. So the first quotation
in Hebrews 1 brings out the supremacy of Christ over the angels as “Son”
(verse 5). Two is the number of witness: see

Revelation 11:3, etc. So
the force of the second quotation in Hebrews 1 is the unique relation of the
Son to the Father borne witness to. Three is the number of manifestation,
and in the third quotation we see the superiority of the Mediator
manifested by the angels “worshipping” Him (verse 6). Four is the number
of the creature, and in the fourth quotation the Holy Spirit significantly
turns from Christ, who is more than creature, and dwells upon the
inferiority of the angels (verse 7) who are “made.” Five is the number of
grace, and the fifth quotation brings before us the “throne” of the Savior
(verse 8), which is “the throne of Grace” (

Hebrews 4:16). Six is the
number of man, and the sixth quotation (verses 10-12) contains God’s
response to the plaint of the Son of Man’s being taken away “in the midst.74
of His days.” Seven is the number of completion and of rest after a finished
work: see

Genesis 2:3; and so the seventh quotation views Christ as
now seated at God’s right hand (verse 13), as the reward of His finished
work. How perfect is every detail of Holy Writ!
The final verse of Hebrews 1 furnishes the fullest demonstration of the
superiority of Christianity over Judaism and the exaltation of Christ above
the celestial hierarchies. So far are the angels below the Savior, they are
sent forth by Him to minister unto His people. The fact of this ministry, as
well as the nature and value of it, are known to but few today. The subject
is a most interesting as well as important one, and will well repay much
fuller study than our limited space here permits us to indulge in. May the
bare outline we attempt stimulate our readers to fill it in for themselves.
“And Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the
earth” (verse 10).
The opening “and” shows that the apostle is continuing to advance proof
of the proposition laid down in verse 4. This proof of Christ’s excellency is
taken from a work peculiar to God, creation. The argument is based upon
a Divine testimony found in the Old Testament. The argument may be
stated thus: The Creator is more excellent than creatures; Christ is the
Creator, angels are creatures; therefore Christ is more excellent than
angels. That Christ is Creator is here proved; that angels are creatures, has
been shown in verse 7. This verse also completes the answer to a question
which verse 4 may have raised in the minds of some, namely, what is the
“more excellent name” which the Mediator has obtained? The reply is
“Son” (verse 5), “God” (verse 8), “Lord” (verse 10).
“And Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth.”
The Psalm from which this is quoted is a truly wondrous one; in some
respects it is, perhaps, the most remarkable of the whole series. It lays bare
before us the Savior’s very soul. Few, if any, of us would have thought of
applying it to Christ, or even dared to, had not the Spirit of God done so
here in Hebrews 1. This Psalm brings before us the true and perfect
humanity of Christ, and depicts Him as the despised and rejected One. It
reveals Him as One who felt, and felt deeply, the experiences through
which He passed. It might well be termed the Psalm of the Man of
Sorrows. In it He is seen opening His heart and pouring out His grief
before God. We lose much if we fail to attend carefully to the context of.75
that portion which the Spirit here quotes. Let us go back to its opening
verses:
“Hear My prayer, O Lord, and let My cry come unto Thee. Hide
not Thy face from Me, in the day when I am in trouble; incline
Thine ear unto Me: in the day when I call answer Me speedily. For
My days are consumed like smoke, and My bones are burned as an
hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget
to eat My bread. By reason of the voice of My groaning
My bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I
am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone
upon the housetop, Mine enemies reproach Me all the day, and they
that are mad against Me are sworn against Me. For I have eaten
ashes like bread, and mingled My drink with weeping. Because of
Thine indignation and Thy wrath: for Thou hast lifted Me up, and
cast Me down. My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am
withered like grass” (verses 1-11).
The above quotation is a longer one than we are accustomed to make, but
it seemed impossible to abbreviate without losing its pathos and its moving
effects upon us. There we are permitted to behold something of the
Savior’s “travail of soul.” How it should bow our hearts before Him! These
plaintive sentences were uttered by our blessed Redeemer either amid the
dark shadows of Gethsemane, or under the more awful darkness of
Calvary. But notwithstanding His awful anguish, mark the perfect
confidence in God of this suffering One:
“But Thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever, and Thy remembrance
unto all generations. Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion:
for the time to favor her, yea, the set time, is come. For Thy
servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof. So
the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the
earth Thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear
in His glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not
despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to
come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.
For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from
heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the
prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the
name of the Lord in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem; when the.76
people are gathered together, and the kingdoms to serve the Lord”
(verses 12-22).
Blessed is it to behold here the Savior looking away from the things seen to
the things unseen: from the dark present to the bright future.
“He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I
said O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days” (verses
23, 24).
Here again we are permitted to hear the “strong crying” (verse 7) of Him
who was “acquainted with grief” as none other ever was. Few things
recorded in the Word are more affecting than this: that the Lord Jesus, the
perfect Man, should, at the age of thirty-three, be deemed by men as unfit
to live any longer. He had hardly entered upon man’s estate when they
crucified Him. Do you think that was nothing to Christ? Ah, brethren, He
felt it deeply. Who can doubt it in the light of this awful plaint: “He
weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My
God, take Me not away in the midst of My days.” As Man He felt acutely
this “cutting off” in His very prime.
Those words of the Savior make manifest what He suffered in His soul. He
was perfect Man, with all the sinless sensibilities of human nature. A very
touching type of Christ’s being cut off in the early prime of manhood is
found in

Leviticus 2:14. Each grade of the meal-offering described in
Leviticus 2 pointed to the humanity of the Redeemer. Here in verse 14
Israel was bidden to take “green ears of corn dried by the fire” and offer it
to the Lord as an offering. The “green ears of corn” (compare

John
12:24 where Christ speaks of Himself under this figure) had not fully
ripened, and so, were “dried by the fire” — symbol of being subjected to
God’s judgment. So it was with Christ. Man’s sickle went over the field of
corn and He was “cut off” in the midst of His days: when He was barely
half of the “three score years and ten” (

Psalm 90:10).
And what was Heaven’s response to this anguished cry of the Savior? The
remainder of the Psalm records God’s answer:
“Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the
foundation of the earth. And the heavens are the work of Thy
hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure, yea, all of them
shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them,.77
and they shall be changed: But Thou art the same, and Thy years
shall have no end” (verses 24-27).
“How marvelous is this! How incomprehensible this union of divine
and human, of eternity and time, sadness and omnipotence! Do not
wonder that such language of anguish, faintness and sorrow, of
agonizing faith, is attributed by the Holy Spirit to Jesus. Remember
the life of Jesus was a life of faith, a real, true, and earnest conflict;
and that, although He constantly took firm hold of the promises of
God, yet His feelings of sorrow, His sense of utter dependence on
God, His anxious looking forward to His last suffering, all this was
a reality. He gained the victory by faith; He knew that He was,
through suffering, returning to the Father. He knew that as Son of
Man and Redeemer of His people He would be glorified with the
glory which He had with the Father before the foundations of the
world were laid” (Saphir).
Let us examine closely the blessed reply of the Father to the plaintive
petition of His suffering Son. “And, Thou, Lord.” Before His incarnation,
David, by the Spirit, called Him “Lord” (

Matthew 22:43). At His birth,
the angels who brought the first glad tidings of His advent to this earth,
hailed Him as “Christ the Lord” (

Luke 2:11). During His earthly
ministry the disciples owned Him as “Lord” (

John 13:13). So, too, is
He often referred to in the Epistles (

Romans 1:3, etc.). But here, it is
none other than the Father Himself who directly addresses as “Lord” that
suffering Man, as He lay on His face in the Garden, sweating as it were
great drops of blood. Thus may, and thus should, every believer also say of
Him, “My Lord, and my God” (

John 20:28), and worship Him as such.
“Thou, Lord, in the beginning.” This phrase sets forth the eternity of the
being of Him who became the Mediator. If Christ “in the beginning” laid
the foundation of the earth, then He must be without beginning, and thus,
eternal; compare (

Proverbs 8:22, 23).
“Hast laid the foundation of the earth.” We have been deeply impressed
with the fact that God has some good reason for referring in His Word to
“the foundation” and “foundations” of the earth or world more than
twenty-five times. We believe it is to safeguard His people from the
popular delusion of the day, namely, that the earth revolves on its axis, and
that the heavenly bodies are stationary, only appearing to our sight to
move, as the banks and trees seem to be doing to one seated in a rowing-.78
boat or sailing ship. This theory was first advanced (so far as the writer is
aware) by Grecian heathen philosophers, echoed by Copernicus in the
fifteenth century, and re-echoed by science “falsely so called” (see

1
Timothy 6:20) today. Alas, that so many of God’s servants and people
have accepted it. Such a conceit cannot be harmonized with “a
foundation” so often predicated of the earth; which, necessarily, implies its
fixity! Nor can such a theory be squared with the repeated statements of
Holy Writ that the “sun moves” (

Joshua 10:12), etc. The writer is well
aware that this paragraph may evoke a pitying smile from some. But that
will not move him. Let God be true and every man a liar. We are content to
believe what He has said. Paul was willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake
(

1 Corinthians 4:10), and we are willing to be thought a fool for the
Scripture’s sake.
“And the heavens are the work of Thine hand” (verse 10).
This seems to bring in an additional thought. In the preceding clause
creation is ascribed to Christ; here the greatness of His power. The heavens
being of so far vaster dimensions than the earth, suggests the omnipotency
of their Maker.
“They shall perish, but Thou remainest” (verse 11).
This verse makes mention of still another perfection of Christ, namely, His
immutability. The earth and the heavens shall perish. The apostle John, in
prophetic vision, saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven
and the first earth were passed away” (

Revelation 21:1). But Christ
“remaineth.” He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
“And they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture
shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed” (verses 11:12).
This emphasizes the mutability of the creature. Two resemblances are
employed: first the earth may be said to “wax old as doth a garment” in
that it is not to last forever, but is appointed to an end: see

2 Peter 3:10.
The longer, therefore, it has continued, the nearer it approaches to that
end; as a garment, the longer it is worn, the nearer it is to its end. May not
the increasing number of earthquakes evidence that “old age” is fast
coming upon it? Second, the heavens may be said to be “folded up as a
vesture,” inasmuch as Scripture declares “the heavens shall be rolled
together as a scroll” (

Isaiah 34:4)..79
“Thou shall fold them up.” This intimates Christ’s absolute control over all
creation. He that made all hath an absolute power to preserve, alter, and
destroy all, as it pleaseth Him. He is the Potter, we are but the clay, to be
molded as He will. Our Lord Jesus Christ, being true God, is the Most
High and supreme Sovereign over all, and He doeth all
“that man may know that Thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the
Most High over all the earth” (

Psalm 83:18).
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made” (

Psalm 33:6); by the
same word shall they be folded up. The practical value of this for our
hearts is plain; such a Lord may be safely trusted; such a Lord should be
revered and worshipped. In what holy awe should He be held!
“But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail” (verse 12).
“The mutability of creatures being distinctly set out, the apostle returneth
to the main point intended, which is Christ’s immutability. It was before
generally set down in the phrase, ‘Thou remaineth.’ Here it is illustrated in
two other branches. Though all these three phrases in general intend one
and the same thing, namely, immutability, yet, to show that there is no
tautology, no vain repetition, of one and the same thing, they may be
distinguished one from another:
“‘Thou remaineth,’ pointeth at Christ’s eternity before all times; for
it implieth his being before, in which he still abides. ‘Thou art the
same’ declares Christ’s constancy. There is no variableness with
him; thus, therefore, he says of himself, ‘I am the Lord, I change
not’ (

Malachi 3:6). ‘Thy years shall not fail’ intendeth Christ’s
everlastingness; that he was before all times, and continueth in all
ages, and will beyond all times so continue” (Dr. Gouge).
“But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” This was God’s
answer to the plaint of Christ’s being “cut off” in the midst of His days. As
man, His “years” should have no end! As God the Son He is eternal in His
being; but as Man, in resurrection, He received “life for evermore” (cf.

Hebrews 7:14-17). Do we really grasp this? For nineteen hundred years
since the Cross, men have been born, have lived, and then died. Statesmen,
emperors, kings have appeared on the scene and then passed away. But
there is one glorious Man who spans the centuries, who in His own
humanity bridges those nineteen hundred years. He has not died, nor even
grown old; He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever!”.80
“But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.” What assurance was
this for the believing of Israel who had been sorely perplexed at the
“cutting off” of the Messiah, in the midst of His days! Humbled as He had
been, yet was He the Creator. In servant form had He appeared among
them, but He was and is the sovereign Disposer of all things. Died he had
on the cross, but He was now “alive for evermore.” Their own Scriptures
bore witness to it: God Himself affirmed it!
And what is the practical application of this wondrous passage for us
today! Surely this: first, such a Savior, who is none other than Him who
made heaven and earth, is a mighty Redeemer, “Able also to save them to
the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” Second, such an One, who is
immutable and eternal, may be safely and confidently trusted; none can
pluck out of His hand! Third, such an One, who is “Lord” over all, is to be
held in holy awe and given the worship, submission, and service which are
His due.
“But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right
hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?” (verse 13).
This completes the proof of what the apostle had said in verses 2, 3. The
Old Testament itself witnessed to the fact that the rejected Messiah is now
seated at God’s right hand, and this by the word of the Father Himself. The
quotation is from the 110th Psalm, a Psalm quoted more frequently in the
New Testament than any other.
Verses 13 and 14 belong together. In them another contrast is pointed
between Christ and the angels. As an argument it may be stated thus: He
that sitteth at God’s right hand is far more excellent than ministers: Christ
sitteth at God’s right hand, and angels are “ministers;” therefore, Christ is
far more excellent than they. The former part is proved in verse 13, the
latter is shown in verse 14.
As D.V. the subject of verse 13 will come before us again in our studies in
this Epistle, we will now offer only the briefest comment. The Speaker here
is the Father; the One addressed is the Son, but in His mediatorial
character, for it was as the Son of Man that God exalted Him. Further
proof of this is supplied by “until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” As
mediatorial King and Priest, Christ is subservient to the Father; He is
subject to Him who has “put all things under Him;’ (

1 Corinthians
15:27)..81
“Until I make.” Christ is not to sit at God’s right hand forever.

1
Thessalonians 4:16 says, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven
with a shout,” etc. He remains there throughout this present Day of Grace.
Then, following a brief interval, His enemies shall be made His footstool.
This will be at His return to the earth: see

Revelation 19:11-21;

Isaiah 63:1-3, etc. Then Christ Himself will subdue His enemies: note
the “He” in

1 Corinthians 15:25; but it will be by the Father’s decree,
see

Psalm 2:6-9.
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of salvation?” (verse 14).
This verse presents a fact which should awaken in every Christian varied
and deep emotions. Alas that, through lack of diligence in searching the
Word, so many of the Lord’s people are largely in ignorance of much that
is said therein, and here referred to.
It should awaken within us a sense of wonderment. The angels are
portrayed as our attendants! When we remember who and what they are
— their exalted rank in the scale of being, their sinlessness, their wondrous
capacities, knowledge and powers — it is surely an astonishing thing to
learn that they should minister unto us. Think of it, the unfallen angels
waiting upon the fallen descendants of Adam! The courtiers of Heaven
ministering to worms of the earth! The mighty angels, who “excel in
strength,” taking notice of and serving those so far beneath them! Could
you imagine the princes of the royal family seeking out dwellers in the
slums and ministering to them, not once or occasionally, but constantly?
But the analogy, altogether fails. The angels of God are sent forth to
minister unto redeemed sinners! Marvel at it.
It should awaken within us fervent praise to God. What an evidence of His
grace, what a proof of His love that He sends forth His angels to “minister”
unto us! This is another of the wondrous provisions of His mercy, which
none of us begin to appreciate as we should. It is another of the blessed
consequences of our union with Christ. In

Matthew 4:11 we read,
“angels came and ministered unto Him.” Therefore, because Divine grace
has made us one with Him, they do so to us too. What a proof is this of
our oneness with Him! Angels of God are sent forth to minister unto
redeemed sinners! Bow in worship and praise..82
It should deepen within us a sense of security. True, it may be abused, but
rightly appropriated, how it is calculated to quiet our fears, counteract our
sense of feebleness, calm our hearts in time of danger! Is it not written,
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and
delivereth them;” then why be afraid? We doubt not that every Christian
has been “delivered” many more times from the jaws of death by angelic
interposition, than any of us imagine. The angels of God are sent forth to
minister unto redeemed sinners. Then let the realization of this deepen
within us a sense of the Lord’s protecting care for entrusting us to His
mighty angels.
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them
who shall be the heirs of salvation?” (verse 14).
Three things are to be considered: those to whom the angels minister, why
they thus minister and the form their ministry takes.
Those to whom the angels minister are here termed “heirs of salvation,” an
expression denoting at least four things. There is an Estate unto which God
has predestined His people, an inheritance — willed to them by God. This
Estate is designated “salvation,” see

1 Thessalonians 5:9, where our
appointment unto it is mentioned. It is the consummation of our salvation
which is in view,

Hebrews 9:28;

1 Peter 1:3,4. Well may this estate
or inheritance be called “Salvation,” for those who enter it are forever
delivered from all danger, freed from all enemies, secured from all evils.
This expression “heirs of salvation” also denotes our legal rights to the
inheritance: our title is an indefeasable one. Further, it presupposes the
coming in of death, Christ’s death. Finally, it implies the perpetuity of it —
“to him and his heirs forever.”
It is to these “heirs of salvation” that the angels minister. To enable us the
better to grasp the relation of angels to Christians, let us employ an
illustration. Take the present household of the Duke of York. In it are
many servants, honored, trusted, loved. There are titled “ladies” and
“lords” of the realm, yet they are serving, “ministering,” to the infant
Princess Elizabeth. At present, she is inferior to them in age, strength,
wisdom and attainments; yet is she superior in rank and station. She is of
the royal stock, a princess, possibly heir to the throne. In like manner, the
heirs of salvation are now in the stage of their infancy; they are but babes in
Christ; this is the period of their minority. The angels far excel us in
strength, wisdom, attainments; yet are they our servants, they “minister”.83
unto us. Why? Because we are high above them in birth, rank, station. We
are children of God, we are joint-heirs with Christ, we have been redeemed
with royal blood, yea, we have been made “kings and priests unto God”
(

Revelation 1:6). O how wonderful is our rank — members of the
Royal family of Heaven, therefore are we “ministered” unto by the holy
angels. What a calling is ours! What provision has Divine love made for us!
Let us now inquire, Why do they thus “minister” unto us? For what reason
or reasons has God ordained that the angels should be our attendants? All
His ways are ordered by perfect wisdom. Let us then reverently inquire as
to His purpose in this arrangement.
First, is it not to exercise the graces of obedience and benevolence in the
angels themselves? Such a task being assigned them constitutes a real test
of their fidelity to their Maker. They are bidden to leave the glories of
Heaven and come down to this poor sin-cursed earth; yes, oftentimes to
seek out children of God in hovels and workhouses. What a test of their
loyalty to God! Not only so, but what an opportunity is thus afforded for
the exercise in them of the spirit of benevolence! As the frail and suffering
children of God, how their sympathies must be drawn out. There are no
such objects in Heaven, there is no distress or suffering there; and me-thinks,
that were the angels to be confined to that realm of unclouded bliss,
they would be stoics — unable to sympathize with us poor afflicted
creatures. Therefore, to cultivate both the spirit of obedience and of
benevolence, God has commissioned them to “minister for them who shall
be heirs of salvation.”
Second, has not God assigned to them this ministry in order to give them a
closer acquaintance with His own wondrous grace and matchless love for
poor sinners? The angels are not simply far-distant spectators of the out-working
of God’s wondrous purpose of mercy, but have been made, in
part, the actual administrators of it! Thus, by virtue of this commission
which they have received from Him, they learn in a practical way how
much He cares for us.
Third, has not God assigned to them this ministry in order that there might
be a closer bond between the different sections of His family? That word in

Ephesians 3:15, refers, we believe, not only to the redeemed of Christ,
but to all of Heaven’s inhabitants — “of whom the whole family in heaven
and earth is named.” Yes, the angels are members of God’s “family” too.
Note how in

Hebrews 12:22, 23 the two great sections of it are placed.84
side by side: “to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” Thus, the angels are commissioned
to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation in order that there may
be formed a closer bond of intercourse and sympathy between the two
great sections of God’s family.
Fourth, has not God assigned them this ministry in order to magnify the
work of the Lord Jesus? The angels are not only subject to Christ as their
Lord, are not only called on to worship Him as God, but they are also
employed in watching over the safety and promoting the temporal interests
of His redeemed. No doubt this fourth named reason is both the primary
and ultimate one. How this magnifies the Savior! Commissioning them to
“minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation” is God’s putting His
imprimature upon the cross-work of Christ.
Let us now consider how the angels “minister” to us.
First, in protecting from temporal dangers. A striking example of this is
found in

2 Kings 6:15-17. Elisha and his servant were menaced by the
king of Syria. His forces were sent out to capture them. An host
compassed the city where they were. The servant was terrified; then the
prophet prayed unto the Lord to open his eyes, “and the Lord opened the
eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of
horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha,” which, in the light of

Psalm 68:17 and

Hebrews 1:7, we know were the protecting angels
of God. In the sequel we learn that the enemy was smitten with blindness,
and thus the servants of God escaped. This was a concrete illustration of

Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that
fear Him, and delivereth them.”
Second, in delivering from temporal dangers. A case in point is that which
is recorded of Lot: “And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened
Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here; lest
thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he fingered, the
men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the
hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him, and they
brought him forth, and set him without the city.” How often angels have
“hastened” us when in the place of danger, and “laid hold” of us while we
lingered, perhaps the Day will reveal..85
Another example is found in the case of Daniel. We refer to the time when
he was cast into the lions’ den. All Bible readers are aware that the prophet
was miraculously preserved from these wild beasts, but what is not
generally known is the particular instrumentality which God employed on
that occasion. This is made known in

Daniel 6:22:
“My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that
they have not hurt me.”
What an illustration is this of

Psalm 34:7,
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him,
and delivereth them!”
Nor is angelic deliverance of God’s people confined to Old Testament
times. In

Acts 5:17-19 we read,
“Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him
(which is the sect of the Sadducees) and were filled with
indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in
the common prison, But the angel of the Lord by night opened the
prison doors, and brought them forth.”
Again, in

Acts 12:6-9 we read,
“The same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound
with two chains; and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light
shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him
up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his
hands…. And he went out, and followed him.”
One other form which the ministry of angels takes in connection with their
custody of God’s children is brought before us in

Luke 16:22:
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the
angels into Abraham’s bosom.”
To our natural feelings, a death-bed scene is often a most painful and
distressing experience. There we behold a helpless creature, emaciated by
disease, convulsed with pain, panting for breath; his countenance pallid, his
lips quivering, his brow bedewed with a cold sweat. But were not the
spiritual world hidden from us by a veil of God’s appointing we should also.86
see there the glorious inhabitants of Heaven surrounding the bed, waiting
for God’s summons, to convoy that soul from earth, through the territory
of Satan, up to the Father’s House. There they are, ready to perform their
last office in ministering for those who shall be heirs of salvation. Then,
Christian, why fear death?
It should be carefully noted that angels are mentioned in the plural number
in

Luke 16:22, so also are they in

Psalm 91:11, 12:
“For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all
thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy
foot against a stone.”
There is nothing whatever in Scripture to support the Romish tradition of a
single guardian angel for each person or Christian: the plural number in the
above passages make directly against it.
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of salvation?” (verse 14).
“This text wears an interrogative form; but it is just equivalent to a
strong affirmation. It is certain that no angel sits on the throne of
God; it is certain that they are all ministering spirits. A minister is a
servant — a person who occupies an inferior place, who acts a
subordinate part, subject to the authority and regulated by the will
of another. The angels are ‘ministering spirits,’ they are not
governing spirits. Service, not dominion, is their province. In the
first phrase there is an expression of their being God’s ministers or
servants; in the second, that He sends forth, commissions these
servants of His to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.
They are His servants, and He uses their instrumentality for
promoting the happiness of His peculiar people. There is a double
contrast. The Son is the co-ruler — they are servants; the Son sits-they
are sent forth” (Dr. J. Brown).
Finally, it should be observed that “ministering spirits” is a title or
designation. Not only do the angels render service to God’s saints, but they
have an office so to do. It is not simply that they “go forth” to minister for
them, but they are “sent forth.” They do not take this work upon
themselves, but have received a definite charge or commission from their
Maker. How this evidences, once more, the preciousness to Christ of those
whom He purchased with.87
His blood! O that our hearts may be bowed in wonderment and worship for
this blessed provision of His love toward us while we are left in this
wilderness scene. O that our fears may be removed, and our hearts
strengthened by the realization that, amid the dangers and perils with which
we are now surrounded, the angels of God are guarding and ministering
both for and to us..88
CHAPTER 7
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:1-4)
The title of this article is based upon the fact that the opening verses of
Hebrews 2 contains an exhortation based upon what has been said in
chapter 1. Thus, our present portion continues the second section of the
Epistle. Inasmuch as it opens with the word “Therefore” we are called
upon to review that which has already been before us.
The first section of the Epistle, contained in its first three verses, may be
looked at in two ways: both as forming an Introduction to the Epistle as a
whole, and as a distinct division of it, in which is set forth the superiority of
Christ over the prophets. In what follows, to the end of the chapter, we are
shown the superiority of Christ over angels. This is affirmed in verse 4, and
the proofs thereof are found in verses 5-14. These proofs are all drawn
from the Old Testament Scriptures, and the completeness and perfection of
the demonstration thus afforded is evidenced by their being seven in
number. Thus, centuries before He appeared on earth, the Word of Truth
bore witness to the surpassing excellency of Christ and His exaltation
above all creatures.
As an analysis and summary of what these seven passages teach concerning
the superiority of Christ over the angels, we may express it thus:
1. He has obtained a more excellent name than they verses 4, 5.
2. He will be worshipped by them as the Firstborn, verse 6.
3. He made them, verse 7.
4. He is the Divine throne-sitter, verses 8, 9.
5. He is anointed above them, verse 9.
6. He is the Creator of the universe, immutable and eternal verses 10-
12..89
7. He has a higher place of honor verses 13, 14.
It is striking to note that these same seven quotations from the Old
Testament also furnish proof of the sevenfold glory of the Mediator
affirmed in verses 2, 3. There He is spoken of, first as the “Son:” proof of
this is supplied in verse 5, by a quotation from the 2nd Psalm.
Second, He is denominated the “Heir:” proof of this is given in verse 6,
where He is owned as the “Firstborn.”
Third, it is said in verse 2 that He “made the worlds:” proof of this is given
in verse 10 by a quotation from the 104th Psalm.
Fourth, He is called “the Brightness of God’s glory:” in verse 9 an Old
Testament Scripture is quoted to show that He has been “anointed with the
oil of gladness above His fellows.”
Fifth, He is the “express Image” of God’s person: in verse 8, Scripture is
quoted to show that the Father owned Him as “God.”
Sixth, in verse 3 it is said that He has “purged our sins”: in verse 14 we
have mention of “the heirs of salvation.”
Seventh, in verse 3 it is affirmed that He has “sat down on the right hand
of the Majesty on high”; in verse 13 the 110th Psalm is quoted in proof of
this. What an example is this of “proving all things” (

1 Thessalonians
5:21), and that, by the Word of God itself!
Having set forth the excellency of Christ’s Divine nature and royal
function, the apostle now, in chapter 2, proceeds to show the reality and
uniqueness of His humanity. In passing from one to the other the Holy
Spirit moves him to make a practical application to his hearers of what he
had already brought before them, for the two things which ever concern
and the two ends at which the true servant of God ever aims, are, the glory
of the Lord and the spiritual good of those to whom he ministers. God’s
truth is not only addressed to our understanding, but to our conscience. It
is designed not only to instruct, but to move us and mould our lives.
In one sense the first four verses of chapter 2 form a parenthesis, inasmuch
as they interrupt the apostle’s discussion of Christ’s relation to angels,
which is resumed in verse 5 and amplified in verse 9. But this digression, so
far from being a literary blemish, is very beautiful. When is it that a well-trained
mind ceases to think logically? or an instructed preacher to speak in.90
orderly sequence? Is it not when his heart is moved? when his emotions are
deeply stirred? So was it here with the apostle Paul. His great heart
yearned for the salvation of his brethren according to the flesh; therefore,
did his mind turn for a moment from the theme he was pursuing, to address
himself to their consciences. He who said to the saints at Rome,
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that
they might be saved” (

Hebrews 10:1),
could not calmly write to the Hebrews without breaking off and making an
impassioned appeal to them. This, we shall, D.V., find he does again and
again.
That which is central in our present parenthesis is an exhortation to give
good heed to the Gospel. This admonition is first propounded in verse 1,
and then enforced in verses 2-4. Two points are noted for the enforcing of
this duty; one is the danger; the other, the vengeance, which is certain to
follow on the neglect of the Gospel. The danger is intimated in the word,
“Lest we should let them slip.”
The vengeance is hinted in the question. “How shall we escape”? This is
emphasized by a solemn warning, namely, despisers of God were
summarily dealt with under the law; therefore, those who shut their ears to
the Gospel, which is so much more excellent, are, without doubt,
treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath (

Romans
2:4, 5). We are now ready to attend to the details of our present portion.
“Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things
which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip”
(verse 1).
In this verse, and in those which immediately follow, the apostle specifies a
duty to be performed in regard of that most excellent Teacher which God
sent to reveal His Gospel unto them. This duty is to give more than
ordinary heed unto that Gospel. Such is the force of the opening,
“Therefore,” which signifies, for this cause: because God has vouchsafed
so excellent a Teacher, He must be the more carefully attended unto. The
“therefore” looks back to all the varied glories which set forth Christ’s
excellency named in the previous chapter. Because He is God’s “Son,”
therefore give heed. Because He is “the Heir of all things,” therefore give
heed. Because He “made the worlds,” therefore give heed; and so on.
These are so many grounds on which our present exhortation is based..91
“Therefore is equivalent to, ‘Since Jesus Christ is as much better
than the angels, as He hath received by inheritance a more excellent
name than they — since He is both essentially and officially
inconceivably superior to these heavenly messengers, His message
has paramount claims on our attention, belief, and obedience’,”
(Dr. J. Brown).
The eminency of an author’s dignity and authority, and the excellency of
his knowledge and wisdom, do much commend that which is spoken or
written by him. If a king, prudent and learned, takes upon himself to
instruct others, due attention and diligent heed should be given thereunto.
“The Queen of the South came from the uttermost parts of the
earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (

Matthew 12:42),
and counted those of his servants who stood continually before him and
heard his wisdom, to be happy (

1 Kings 10:8). But a greater than
Solomon is here referred to by the apostle: therefore, we ought “to give the
more earnest heed.” It was usual with the prophets to preface their
utterances with a “Thus saith the Lord,” and thereby arrest the attention
and awe the hearts of their hearers. Here the apostle refers to the person of
the Lord Himself as the argument for hearing what He said.
“Therefore we ought.”
“It is striking to see how the apostle takes the place of such as
simply had the message, like other Jews, from those who personally
heard Him; so completely was he writing, not as the apostle
magnifying his office, but as one of Israel, who were addressed by
those who companied with Messiah on earth. It was confirmed
‘unto us,’ says he, again putting himself along with his nation,
instead of conveying his heavenly revelations as one taken out from
the people and the Gentiles to which he was sent. He looks at what
was their proper testimony, not at that to which he had been
separated extraordinarily. He is dealing with them as much as
possible on their own ground, though, of course, without
compromise of his own” (William Kelly).
“We ought to give the more earnest heed.” Here the apostle addresses
himself to the responsibility of his readers. Here is an exhortation to the
performing of a specific duty. The Greek verb is very strong and emphatic;
several times it is translated “must.” Thus, in

1 Timothy 3:2, “A bishop.92
must be blameless”; that is, it is his duty so to be. That to which the apostle
here pointed was a necessity lying upon his readers. It is not an arbitrary
matter, left to our own caprice to do or not to do. “Give the more earnest
heed,” is something more than a piece of good advice; it is a Divine
precept, and God has commanded us “to keep His precepts diligently”
(

Psalm 119:4). Thus, in view of His sovereignty, and His power and
rights over us, we “ought to give the more earnest heed” to what He has
bidden us do. Descending to a lower level, it is the part of wisdom so to
do, and that for our own good; we “ought to earnestly heed the things
which we hear” in order to our own happiness.
“To ‘give heed’ is to apply the mind to a particular subject, to
attend to it, to consider it. It is here opposed to ‘neglecting the
great salvation.’ No person can read the Scriptures without
observing the stress that is laid on consideration, and the
criminality and hazards which are represented as connected with
inconsideration. Nor is this at all wonderful when we reflect that
the Gospel is a moral remedy for a moral disease. It is by being
believed it becomes efficacious. It cannot be believed unless it is
understood: it cannot be understood unless it is attended to. Truth
must be kept before the mind in order to its producing an
appropriate effect; and how can it be kept before the mind, but by
our giving heed to it” (Dr. J. Brown).
“The duty here intended is a serious, firm, and fixed settling of the
mind upon that which we hear; a bowing and bending of the will to
yield unto it; an applying of the heart to it, a placing of the
affections upon it, and bringing the whole man into conformity
thereunto. Thus it comprises knowledge of the Word, faith therein,
obedience thereto, and all other due respects that may any way
concern it” (Dr. Gouge).
“To the things which we have heard.” To “hear” is not sufficient, there
must be prayerful meditation, personal appropriation. No doubt the wider
reference was to the Gospel, which these Hebrews had heard; though the
more direct appeal was concerning that which the apostle had brought
before them, in the previous chapter concerning the person and work of
God’s Son. To us, today, it would include all that God has said in His
Word..93
“Lest at any time we should let slip.” There is a difficulty here in making
quite sure of the Spirit’s precise meaning. The expression “we should let
slip” is one word in the Greek, and it occurs nowhere else in the New
Testament. The absence of the pronoun seems to be designed for the
allowing of a double thought: lest we “let slip” the things we have heard,
and, or, lest we ourselves slip away — apostatize.
“Lest at any time we let them slip.” The danger is real. The effects of sin
are stamped on our members; it is easy to recall the things of no value, but
the things of God slip out of our mind. The fault is our own, through
failing to give “the more earnest heed.” Unless we “keep in memory” (

1
Corinthians 15:2), and unless we are duly informed by them, they slip away
like water out of a leaky utensil.
“Lest haply we drift away.” Understood thus, these words sound the first
warning-note of this Epistle against apostasy, and this verse is parallel with
3:14; 4:1; 12:25. Perseverance in the faith, continuance in the Word, is a
prime pre-requisite of discipleship, see

John 8:31;

Colossians 1:23,
etc. Many who heard, and once seemed really interested in spiritual things,
“concerning the faith have made shipwreck” (

1 Timothy 1:19).
Thus, in the light of the whole context four reasons may be mentioned why
we should give the more earnest heed to the things which God has spoken
unto us:
First, because of the glory and majesty of the One by whom He has
communicated His mind and will, the Son.
Second, because the message of Christianity is final.
Third, because of the infinite preciousness of the Gospel.
Fourth, because of the hopeless perdition and terrible tortures awaiting
those who reject or let slip the testimony of God’s wondrous grace.
“For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of
reward” (verse 2).
The apostle here advances another reason why the Hebrews ought to
attend diligently to the Gospel. Having shown that such attention should be
given because of the excellency of its Author and Publisher, and because of
the benefits which would be lost through negligence, he now announces the.94
certain vengeance of Heaven on its neglecters, a vengeance sorer than even
that which was wont to be executed under the Law.
The opening “for” indicates that what follows gives a reason for
persuading the Hebrews. The “if” has the force of “since,” as in

John
8:46; 14:3;

Colossians 3:1, etc. The “word spoken by angels” seems to
refer to the Mosaic law, compare

Acts 7:53;

Galatians 3:19.
“The only difficulty seems to arise out of the express declaration
made by the sacred historian, that Jehovah spake all the words of
the law. But the difficulty is more apparent than real. What lies at
the foundation of the apostle’s whole argument is God spake both
the Law and the Gospel. Both the one and the other are of Divine
origin. It is not the origin, but the medium of the two revelations
which he contrasts. ‘He made known His will by the ministry of
angels in the giving of the law; He made known His will by the Son
in the revelation of mercy.’ It seems probable from these words that
the audible voice in which the revelation from Mount Sinai was
made, was produced by angelic ministry” (Dr. J. Brown).
Because the word spoken, ministerially, by angels was the Word of the
Lord, it was “steadfast” — firm, inviolable, not to be gainsaid. Proof of this
is furnished in the “and every transgression,” etc. The distinction between
“transgression” and “disobedience” is not easy to define. The one refers
more to the outward act of violating God’s law; the other, perhaps, to the
state of heart which produced it. The words “receive a just recompense of
reward” signify that every violation of God’s law was punished according
to its demerits. The term “reward” conveys the thought of “that which is
due.” Punishment for the breaking of God’s law is not always administered
in this life, but is none the less sure: see

Romans 2:3-9.
This verse sets out a most important principle in connection with the
governmental dealings of God: that principle is that the Judge of all the
earth will be absolutely just in His dealings with the wicked. Though the
direct reference be to His administration of the Law’s penalty in the past,
yet, inasmuch as He changes not, it is strictly applicable to the great assize
in the Day to come. There will be degrees of punishment, and those
degrees, the sentence meted out to each rebel against God, will be on this
basis, that every transgression and disobedience shall receive “a just
recompense of reward.” In brief, we may say that punishment will be
graded according to light and opportunity (

Matthew 11:20-24;

Luke.95
12:47, 48), according to the nature of the sins committed (

John 19:11;

Mark 12:38-40;

Hebrews 10:29), according to the number of the
sins committed (

Romans 2:6, etc.).
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (verse 3). This
verse evokes a number of questions to which, perhaps, no conclusive and
final answers may be furnished. Who are referred to by the “we”? How
shall we escape — what? Exactly what is in view in the “so great
salvation?” In pondering these questions several considerations need to be
steadily kept before us.
First, the people to whom this Epistle was directly addressed and the
circumstances in which they were then placed.
Second, the central purpose of the Epistle and the character of its
distinctive theme.
Third, the bearing of the context on this verse and its several
expressions.
Fourth, light which other passages in this Epistle may shed upon it.
The relation between this verse and the preceding ones is evident. The
apostle had just been pressing upon his brethren the need of their more
earnestly giving heed unto the things which they had heard, which is more
or less defined in the second half of verse 3: “which at the first began to be
spoken by the Lord” — the reference being to His preaching of the Gospel.
By a metonymy, the Gospel, that reveals and proclaims God’s salvation, is
here meant. In

Ephesians 1:13 it is styled “The gospel of your
salvation,” in

Acts 13:26 the “word of this salvation,” in

Romans
1:16 it is called “the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth,” and in

Titus 2:11, “the grace of God which bringeth
salvation.” The Gospel dispensation is denominated “the Day of Salvation”
(

2 Corinthians 6:2). Ministers of the Gospel are they “which show unto
us the way of salvation” (

Acts 16:17).
That under this word “salvation” the Gospel be meant, is also evident from
the contrastive expression in verse 2 — “the word spoken by angels.” That
word was spoken before the time of the Gospel’s publication (note that the
term “Gospel” is never once found in the Old Testament), and obviously
signified the Law. Fitly may the Gospel be styled “salvation:” first, because
in opposition to the Law (which was a “ministration of condemnation”.96

2 Corinthians 3:9), it is a ministration of salvation. Second, because the
Author of the Gospel is “salvation” itself: see

Luke 2:30,

John 4:22,
etc., where “salvation” is synonymous with “the Savior.” Third, because
whatever is needful to a knowledge of salvation is contained in the Gospel.
Fourth, because the Gospel is God’s appointed means of salvation: see

1 Corinthians 1:21. True, in Old Testament times God’s elect had and
knew the Gospel —

Galatians 3:16;

Hebrews 4:2 — yet it was not
publicly proclaimed and fully expounded. They had it under types and
shadows, and in promises and prophecies.
The excellency of this salvation is denoted by the words “so great.” The
absence of any co-relative implies it to be so wondrous that its greatness
cannot be expressed. Upon this Dr. J. Brown has well said:
“The ‘salvation’ here, then, is the deliverance of men through the
mediation of Jesus Christ. This salvation is spoken of by the
Apostle as unspeakably great: not merely a great salvation, nor
even the great salvation but ‘so great salvation’ — an expression
peculiarly fitted to express his high estimate of its importance. And
who that knows anything about that deliverance can wonder at the
Apostle using such language?
“What are the evils from which it saves us? The displeasure of God,
with all its fearful consequences in time and eternity; and ‘who
knows the power of His anger?’ We must measure the extent of
infinite power, we must fathom the depths of infinite wisdom,
before we can resolve the fearful question. We can only say,
‘According to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath.’ The most frightful
conception comes infinitely short of the more dreadful reality. A
depravity of nature ever increasing, and miseries varied according
to our varied capacities of suffering — limited in intensity only by
our powers of endurance, which an almighty enemy can enlarge
indefinitely, and protracted throughout the whole eternity of our
being — these are the evils from which this salvation delivers.
“And what are the blessings to which it raises? A full, free, and
everlasting remission of our sins — the enjoyment of the paternal
favor of the infinitely powerful, and wise, and benignant Jehovah —
the transformation of our moral nature — a tranquil conscience —
a good hope down here; and in due time, perfect purity and perfect
happiness for ever in the eternal enjoyment of God..97
“And how were these evils averted from us? — how were these
blessings obtained for us? By the incarnation, obedience, suffering,
and death of the Only-begotten of God, as a sin-offering in our
room! And how are we individually interested in this salvation?
Through the operations of the Holy Spirit, in which He manifests a
power not inferior to that by which the Savior was raised from the
dead, or the world was created. Surely such a deliverance well
merits the appellation, a ‘so great salvation!’”
But this great salvation, which is made known in the Gospel, may be
“neglected.” While it is true that salvation is not only announced, but is
also secured to and effectuated in God’s elect by the Holy Spirit, yet it
must not be forgotten that the Gospel addresses the moral responsibility of
those to whom it comes. There is not only an effectual call, but a general
one, which is made unto “the sons of men” (

Proverbs 8:4). The Gospel
is for the sinner’s acceptance, see

1 Timothy 1:15;

2 Corinthians
11:41. The Gospel is more than a publication of good news, more than an
invitation for burdened souls to come to Christ for relief and peace. In its
first address to those who hear, it is a Divine mandate, an authoritative
command, which is disregarded at the sinner’s imminent peril. That it does
issue a “command” is clear from

Acts 17:30;

Romans 16:25, 26.
That disobedience to this “command” will be punished, is clear from

John 3:18,

1 Peter 4:17,

2 Thessalonians 1:8.
The Greek word here rendered “neglect” is translated “made light of” in

Matthew 22:5. In this latter passage the reference is to the King making
a marriage for His Son, and then sending forth his servants to call them
which were bidden to the wedding. But they “made light of” the King’s
gracious overtures and “went their ways, one to his family, another to his
merchandise.” The parable sets forth the very sin against which the apostle
was here warning the Hebrews, namely, failure to give earnest heed to the
things which were spoken by the Lord, and neglecting His great salvation.
To “neglect” the Gospel, is to remain inattentive and unbelieving. How,
then, asks the apostle, shall such “escape?” “Escape” what? Why, the
“damnation of Hell” (

Matthew 23:33)! Such, we take it, is the first
meaning and wider scope of the searching question asked in verse 3.
Should it be objected, This cannot be, for in the “we” the apostle Paul
manifestly included himself. The answer is, so also does he in the “we” of

Hebrews 10:26! That the “we” includes more than those who had really
believed the Gospel will be clear from verse 4..98
Coming now to the narrower application of these words and their more
direct bearing upon the regenerated Hebrews whom the Holy Spirit was
specifically addressing, we must consider them in the light of the chief
design of this Epistle, and the circumstances in which the Hebrews were
then placed; namely, under sore temptation to forsake their espousal of
Christianity and to return to Judaism. Looked at thus, the “so great
salvation” is only another name for Christianity itself, the “better thing”
(

Hebrews 11:40) which had been brought in by Christ. Judaism was
about to fall under the unsparing judgment of God. If, therefore, they
turned from their allegiance to Christ and went back to that which was on
the eve of being destroyed, how could they “escape” was the question
which they must face?

Hebrews 2:3 must be interpreted in harmony with its whole context. In
the opening verse of chapter 2 the apostle is making a practical and
searching application of all he had said in chapter 1, where he had shown
the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, by proving the exaltation of
Christ — the Center and Substance of Christianity — over prophets and
angels. In

Hebrews 1:14, He had spoken of the “heirs of salvation”
which, among other things, pointed to their salvation as being yet future. In
one sense they had been saved (from the penalty of sin), in another sense
they were still being saved (from the power of sin), in still another sense
they were yet to be saved (from the presence of sin). But God ever deals
with His people as accountable creatures. As moral beings, in contrast
from stock and stones, He addresses their responsibility. Hence, God’s
saints are called upon to give diligence to make their “calling and election
sure” (

2 Peter 1:10) — sure unto themselves, and unto their brethren.
This, among other things, is done, by using the Divinely-appointed means
of grace, and by perseverance and continuance in the faith: see

John
8:31;

Acts 11:23;

13:43;

14:22;

2 Timothy 3:14, etc.
The Christian life is likened unto a “race” set before us:

1 Corinthians
9:24;

Philippians 3:13, 14;

2 Timothy 4:7;

Hebrews 12:1. A
“race” calls for self-discipline, personal exertion, perseverance. The
Inheritance is set before us in promise, but it is written,
“Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
ye might receive the promise” (

Hebrews 10:36).
The “promise” is secured by faith and patience, by actually “running” the
race set before us. In the light of this, “neglect” would signify failure to.99
“give diligence” to make our calling and election sure, failure to “press
forward” and “run the race.” If then we “neglect,” how shall we “escape?”
Escape what? Ah, note how abstractly the apostle worded it. He did not
specify the “what.” It all depends upon the state of the individual. If he be
only a lifeless professor and continues neglecting the Gospel, Hell will be
his certain portion. But if he be a regenerated believer, though a careless
and worldly one, then lack of assurance and joy, profitless and
fruitlessness, will be his portion; and then, how shall he “escape” the
chastening rod of the holy Father? Thus, the question asked in our verse
addresses itself to all who read the Epistle.
“Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was
confirmed unto us by them that heard” (verse 3).
This need not detain us long. Its central design is to emphasize the
importance and need of heeding that which had been spoken by Christ:
with it should be carefully compared

Deuteronomy 18:18, 19:

Luke
9:35. Incidentally, the words “at the first began” intimates that Christ was
the first Gospel-Preacher! The reference is to that which was preached first
by Christ Himself, recorded in the Gospels; then, to that which was
proclaimed by His apostles, reported in the book of Acts. The title here
given to the Savior, “Lord,” emphasizes both His dignity and authority,
and intimates that the responsibility of the Hebrews was being addressed.
Till Christ came and preached, “the people sat in darkness and in the
shadow and region of death;” and when He began to preach, they “saw
great light” (

Matthew 4:16). With the “confirmed unto us” compare

Luke 1:1, 2. The apostle was calling the Hebrews’ attention to the
sureness of the ground on which their faith rested.
“God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers
miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (verse 4).
The reference here is to the miracles wrought by God through the apostles
in the early days of the Christian era. The book of Acts records many
examples and illustrations of what is here said: see

5:9, 10;

13:11;
3:7;

9:40;

19:12, etc. The Gospel was first preached by the Lord
Himself, then it was confirmed by the apostles, and then again by God
Himself in such works as could not be performed by a Divine power.
“Bearing witness with” is a single word in the Greek, but a double
compound. The simple verb signifies to witness to a thing as in

John
1:7; the compound, to add testimony to testimony, or to add a testimony to.100
some other confirmation; the double compound, to give a joint-testimony
or to give-witness-together with one another. A similar compound is used
in

Romans 8:16.
The means employed by God in thus confirming the witness of His servant
are described by four terms: signs, wonders, miracles, gifts. The first three
refer to the same things, though under different aspects. “Signs” denote the
making more simple and evident that which otherwise could hardly be
discerned; compare the use of the terms in

Matthew 12:38; 16:1, and
note the “see” and “show.” “Wonders” points both to the striking nature of
the “signs” and to the effects produced in those who beheld them: compare

Acts 2:19; 7:36. “Miracles” refers to the supernatural power which
produced the “signs” and “wonders.” The Greek word is rendered “mighty
deeds” in

2 Corinthians 12:12. Thus, “miracles” are visible and
wondrous works done by the all-mighty power of God, above or against
the course of nature. Our text speaks of “divers miracles”: many sorts of
supernatural interpositions of God are recorded in the Acts.
An additional means employed by God in confirming the Gospel was “gifts
of the Holy Spirit.” The Greek word here rendered “gifts” means
“divisions” or “distributions”; in the singular number it occurs in

Hebrews 4:12, where it is translated “dividing asunder.” In its verbal
form it is found in

1 Corinthians 7:17, “God hath distributed to every
man.” Because these distributions of the Holy Spirit originated not in those
by whom they were exercised and through whom they were displayed, they
are not unfitly translated “gifts”; the reference being to the gifts
extraordinary, manifested through and by the apostles. These “gifts” may
also be seen in the book of Acts — the day of Pentecost, e.g., also in

1
Corinthians 12:4 and what there follows. We may add that these “divers
miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit” were given by God before the New
Testament was written. Now that the Scriptures are complete they are no
longer needed, nor given.
“According to His own will.” The fore-mentioned divers miracles and
distributions of gifts were ordered and disposed according to the sovereign
pleasure of Deity. The act of distributing is attributed to God the Father in

1 Corinthians 7:17, to the Son in

Ephesians 4:7, to the Spirit in

1
Corinthians 12:11. The Greek signifies, “according to His own will.” The
will of God is the one rule by which all things are ordered that He Himself
doeth, and whereby all things ought to be ordered that His creatures do..101
Scripture distinguishes between the secret and revealed will of God, see

Deuteronomy 29:29, where both are referred to. The secret will of God
is called His “counsel” (

Isaiah 46:10), the “counsel of His will”
(

Ephesians 1:11), His “purpose” (

Romans 8:28), His “good
pleasure” (

Ephesians 1:9). The revealed will of God is made known in
His Word, and is so called because, just as the ordinary means by which
men make known their minds is by the word of their mouth, so the
revelation of God’s will is called “His Word.” This revealed will of God is
described in

Romans 12:2, and is primarily intended in the second
clause of the Lord’s prayer. Here in our text it is the secret will of God
which is meant.
In these days of creature-pride and haughtiness, we need reminding that
God is sovereign, conferring with none, consulting none; doing as He
pleases. God’s will is His only rule. As He creates, governs, and disposes
all things, so He distributes the gifts of His Spirit “according to His own
will.” Should any murmur, His challenge is “Is it not lawful for Me to do
what I will with Mine own?” (

Matthew 20:15). It is important to note
that these gifts of the Spirit were distributed not “according to the faith” of
those who received them — just as in the parable of the talents the
supreme Sovereign distributed them unequally, according to His own good
pleasure. May Divine grace bring both writer and reader into complete
subjection to the secret will of God and obedience to His revealed will.
What has been before us in verses 2, 3 tells us how firm and sure is the
foundation on which our faith rests. In giving earnest heed to the Gospel,
notwithstanding its unique and amazing contents, we are not following
cunningly devised fables, but that which comes to us certified by
unimpeachable witnesses. First, it began to be spoken by the Lord Himself.
Though this was sufficient to make the Gospel “worthy of all acceptation,”
God mercifully, because of our weakness, caused it to be “confirmed” by
those who had heard the Lord for themselves. The witness of these men
was, in turn, authenticated by Divine displays of power through them such
as was never seen before or since. Finally, additional attestation was
furnished in supernatural outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God has
graciously added witness to witness and testimony to testimony. How
thankful we should be for these many infallible proofs! May this
consideration of them result in the strengthening of our faith to the praise
of the glory of God’s grace..102
CHAPTER 8
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:5-9)
The scope, the order of thought, and the logical bearings of our present
passage are not so easily discerned as those we have already gone over.
That it, the first part at least, picks up the thread dropped in

Hebrews
1:14 and continues to exhibit the superiority of Christ over angels, is clear
from verse 5; but when we reach verse 9 we read of Jesus being “made a
little lower than the angels.” At first glance this seems to present a real
difficulty, but, as is generally the case with such passages, in reality verse 9,
taken as a whole, supplies the key to our present portion.
In

Hebrews 1:4-14 the Holy Spirit, through the apostle, has furnished a
sevenfold proof of the superiority of Israel’s Messiah over the angels. This
proof, taken from their own Scriptures, was clear and incontrovertible. In

Hebrews 2:1-4 a parenthesis was made, opportunity being taken to give
a solemn and searching application to the consciences and hearts of the
Hebrews of what had just been brought before them: the authority of the
Gospel was commensurate with its grace, and God would avenge the
slightings of that which was first proclaimed by His Son, as surely as He
had the refractions of that law which he had given by the mediation of
angels. Now here in

Hebrews 2:5 and onwards an objection is
anticipated and removed.
The objection may be framed thus: How could supremacy be predicated of
One who became Man, and died? As we have shown in a previous article,
the Jews actually regarded the angels with a higher veneration than the
greatest of the “fathers” — Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David. And
rightly so; their own Scriptures declared that they “excel in strength.” Thus
a real difficulty was presented to them, in the fact that He whom the
apostle affirmed had, by inheritance, obtained “a more excellent name”
than angels, was known to them as “the Son of man,” for man was a
creature inferior to angels. Moreover, angels do not die, Christ had; how,
then, could He be their superior?.103
The method followed by the Holy Spirit in meeting this objection and
removing the difficulty is as follows: He shows (in verse 9) that so far from
the humiliation and suffering endured by Christ tarnishing His glory, they
were the meritorious cause of His exaltation. In support of this a
remarkable quotation is made from the 8th Psalm to prove that God has
placed man, and not angels, at the head of the future economy — the
“world to come.” The design of God in that economy is to raise “man” to
the highest place of all among His creatures, and that design has been
secured by Christ’s becoming Man and dying, and thus obtaining for
Himself and His people that state of transcendent dignity and honor which
the Psalmist prophesied should be possessed by man in the Age to come.
Thus, those commentators are mistaken who suppose that in

Hebrews
2:5 the apostle begins to advance further proof of Christ’s superiority over
angels. Complete demonstration of this had been made in chapter 1, as the
seven Old Testament passages there cited go to show. True it is that what
the apostle says in verse 5 makes manifest the exaltation of the Savior
above the celestial hierarchies, yet his purpose in so doing was to meet an
objector. What we have in our present section is brought in to show that
the evidence supplied in chapter 1 could not be shaken, and that the very
objection which a Jew might make against it had been duly provided for
and fully met in his own Scriptures. Thus may we admire the wisdom of
Him who knoweth the end from the beginning, and maketh even the wrath
of man to praise Him.
“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to
come, whereof we speak” (verse 5).
In taking up this verse three questions need to be duly pondered: What is
here referred to in “the world to come?” What is meant by its being “put in
subjection?” What bearing has this statement upon the apostle’s argument?
Let us endeavor to deal with them in this order.
Commentators are by no means agreed on the signification of this term
“the world to come.” Many of the older ones, who were post-millennarians,
understood by it a reference to the present Gospel
dispensation, in contrast from the Mosaic economy. Others suppose that it
refers to the Church, of which Christ, and not angels, is the Head. Others
look upon it as synonymous with the Eternal State, comparing it with the
Lord’s words in

Matthew 12:32,.104
“Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be
forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
The objection against this last view is that the Greek word for “world” is
quite different in

Hebrews 2:5 from that which is used in

Matthew
12:32.
We believe the first key to the right understanding of this expression is to
be found in the particular term used here by the Holy Spirit, translated
“world.” It is neither “kosmos,” the common one for “world,” as in

John 3:16, etc.; nor “aion,” meaning “age,” in

Matthew 13:35,

Hebrews 9:26, etc. Instead, it is “oikoumene,” which, etymologically,
signifies “habitable place”; but this helps us nothing. The word is found
fifteen times in the New Testament. In thirteen of them it appears to be
used as a synonym for “earth.” But in the remaining passage, namely,

Hebrews 1:6, light is cast upon our present verse. As we sought to
show in our exposition of that verse, the words “when again He brings in
the Firstborn into the world” (oikoumene) refer to the second advent of
Christ to this earth, and point to His millennial kingdom. This, we are
satisfied, is also the reference in

Hebrews 2:5.
The “world to come” was a subject of absorbing interest and a topic of
frequent conversation among all godly Jews. Unlike us, the object of hope
set before them was not Heaven, but a glorious kingdom on earth, ruled
over in righteousness by their Messiah. This would be the time when
Jerusalem should be no more “trodden doom by the Gentiles,” but become
“a praise in all the earth”; when heathen idolatry should give place to “the
knowledge of the glory of the Lord,” filling the earth as the waters do the
sea. In other words, it would be the time when the kingdom-predictions of
their prophets should be fulfilled. Nor had there been anything in the
teachings of Christ to show these expectations were unwarranted. Instead,
He had said,
“Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration (Millennium)
when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also
shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren for My
name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold,” etc. (

Matthew
19:28-30)..105
Those who had believed in Him as the Savior from sin, eagerly awaited the
establishing of His kingdom on earth: see

Acts 1:6.
The “world to come” is the renovated earth under the reign of the Messiah.
In the spiritual arithmetic of Scripture the number of the earth is four, a
number plainly stamped upon it: note the four seasons of the year, the four
points to its compass. How striking is it to note, then, that the Word
speaks of exactly four earths, namely, the pre-Adamic, the present, the
Millennial (delivered from the curse), the new earth. The “world to come”
is the time when Israel shall dwell in their own land in peace and blessing,
when wars shall be made to cease, when oppression and injustice shall end,
when all the outward creation shall manifest the presence of the Prince of
peace.
Not unto the angels hath God “put in subjection” this world to come. “Put
in subjection” is the translation of a single compound Greek word, meaning
“to put under.” In its simple form it signifies to appoint or ordain; in its
compound, to appoint over. Note the relative “He”: God places in
subjection whom He will and to whom He will. Because God hath not put
the world to come in subjection to angels, therefore angels have no
authority over it.
“It is the good pleasure of God to use an angel where it is a
question of providence, or law, or power; but where it comes to the
manifestation of His glory in Christ, He must have other
instruments more suited for His nature, and according to His
affections” (W. Kelly).
To whom, then, hath God subjected the world to come? Instead of
supplying a categorical answer, the apostle leaves his readers to draw their
answer from what an Old Testament oracle had said.
Ere taking up the point last raised, let us now consider the bearing which
the contents of this 5th verse has upon the apostle’s argument. It opens
with the word “for,” which intimates that there is a glance backwards to
and now a continuation of something said previously. This casual particle
connects not with the first four verses of our chapter, for, as we have
shown, they are of the nature of a parenthesis. The backward glance is to
what was said in

Hebrews 1:14, where we are told,
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them
who shall be heirs of salvation?”.106
The Inheritance will not be governed by angels; they are but ministers to its
“heirs.” “For He (God) hath not put in subjection to angels the world to
come” (the earthly inheritance) whereof we speak. Thus the connection is
clear. The “whereof we speak” takes us back to

Hebrews 1:14, and is
amplified in

Hebrews 2:6-9.
Before turning to that which follows, let us summarize that which has been
before us in verse 5. In

Hebrews 1:14, the apostle had affirmed that the
angels are in a position of subjection to the redeemed of Christ; now he
declares that, in the Millennial era also, not angels, but the “heirs of
salvation,” shall occupy the place of governmental dominion. The “world
to come” is mentioned here because it is in the next Age that the
Inheritance of salvation will be entered into and enjoyed. In view of what
follows from Psalm 8 and

Hebrews 2:5, may possibly set forth a
designed contrast from the pre-Adamic earth, which, most probably, was
placed under the dominion of unfallen Satan and his angels. The practical
bearings of this verse on the Hebrews was: Continue to hold fast your
allegiance to Christ, for the time is coming when those who do so shall
enter into a glory surpassing that of the angels.
“But one in a certain place testified, saying, ‘What is man, that
Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest
him?’” (verse 6).
In seeking to discover the relevancy of this quotation and its bearing upon
the apostle’s argument, the scope and details of this remarkable and little-understood
Psalm from which it is taken, need to be carefully studied. But
observe, first, how the quotation is introduced, “But one in a certain place
testified, saying.” It suggests that the Hebrews were so familiar with the
Holy Scriptures that it was not necessary to give the reference! The “But”
intimates that the apostle is about to point a contrast from the angels: not
“and,” but “but!”
Before proceeding further, let us ponder the doctrinal teaching of Psalm 8.
Upon this we cannot do better than reproduce the summary of it given by
Dr. Gouge: “The main scope of the Psalm is, to magnify the glory of God:
this is evident by the first and last verses thereof. That main point is proved
by the works of God, which in general He declares to be so conspicuous,
as very babes can magnify God in them to the astonishment of His enemies,
verse 2. In particular He first produceth those visible glorious works that
are above; which manifest God’s eternal power and Godhead, verse 3..107
Then He amplifieth God’s goodness to man (who had made himself a
mortal miserable creature, verse 4), by setting forth the high advancement
of man above all other creatures, not the angels excepted, verses 5-7. This
evidence of God’s greatness to man so ravished the prophet’s spirit, as
with an high admiration he thus expresseth it, ‘What is man?’ etc.
Hereupon he concludeth that Psalm as he began it with extolling the
glorious excellency of the Lord.”
The force of the 4th verse of

Psalm 8, the first here quoted in Hebrews
2, may be gathered from the words which immediately precede: “When I
consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars
which Thou hast ordained — What is man, that Thou are mindful of him?
and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” In view of the magnitude of
God’s creation, in contrast from the heavenly bodies, What is man? This is
confirmed by the particular word which the Holy Spirit has here employed.
In the Old Testament. He has used four different words, all rendered “man”
in our English version. The one used here is “enosh,” which signifies “frail
and fallen man.” It is the word used in

Psalm 9:20! What is man, fallen
man, that the great God should be mindful of him? Still less that He should
crown him with “glory and honor?” Ah, it is this which should move our
hearts to deepest wonderment, as it will fill us with ever-increasing
amazement and praise in the ages yet to come.
“What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that
Thou visitest him?” (verse 6).
The latter clause seems to be added in order to emphasize the preceding
thought. “Son of man” is added as a diminution for “man”: compare

Job 25:6 for a parallel. Another reason why this second clause may be
added to verse 6 is to show that it is not Adam who is here spoken of.
From the contents of verses 5-7 many have thought that Psalm 8 was
referring to the father of the human family (see

Genesis 1:26); but this
second part of its fourth verse seems to have been brought in designedly to
correct us. Certainly Adam was not a “son of man!”
“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels” (verse 7).
This supplies additional proof that it is not Adam who is here in view. Both
the Hebrew word used in

Psalm 8:5 and the Greek word in

Hebrews
2:7 signify the failing or falling of a thing from that which it was before..108
“The word ‘made lower’ does not signify to be created originally in
a lower condition, but it signifies to be brought down from a higher
station to a lower” (Dr. J. Brown).
The Hebrew word is used to denote the failing of the waters when Noah’s
flood decreased (

Genesis 8:4); and, negatively, of the widow’s oil that
did not fail (

1 Kings 17:14, 16). The Greek word is used of the Baptist
when he said, “I must decrease” (

John 3:30).
But to what is the Holy Spirit here referring in our 7th verse? First, it
should be pointed out that both the Hebrew and Greek word here for
“little” has a double force, being applied both to time and degree. In

1
Peter 5:10 it is rendered “a while,” that is, a short space of time; so also in

Luke 22:58 and

Acts 5:34. Such, we believe, is in force here, as it
certainly is in the 9th verse. Now in what particular sense has God made
frail and fallen man a “little while” lower than the angels? With Dr. J.
Brown we must answer,
“We cannot doubt that man, even in his best estate, was in some
respects inferior to the angels; but in some points he was on a level
with them. One of these was immortality; and it deserves
consideration, that this is the very point referred to when it is said
of the raised saints, the children of the resurrection, ‘Neither can
they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels’“ (

Luke
20:36).
Thus, for a season, man, through being subject to death, has been made
“lower than the angels.”
“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst
him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy
hands” (verse 7).
Just as in the first part of this verse reference is made to the humiliation of
man, so the second part of it speaks of God’s exaltation of man.
“The verbs being expressed, not in the Future, but in the past tense,
will not be felt as an objection to its being considered as a
prediction, this being quite common in the prophetic style. Most of
the predictions, for example, in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah are
expressed in the past tense” (Dr. J. Brown)..109
To this we may add, all prophecy speaks from the standpoint of God’s
eternal purpose, and so certain is this of accomplishment, the past tense is
used to show it is as sure as if it were already wrought out in time:
compare “glorified” in

Romans 8:30, and see

Romans 4:17. Thus
we understand the second part of this 7th verse as referring to the coming
glorification of Christ’s redeemed.
“Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the
works of Thy hands.” This is applied by the Spirit to the redeemed, the
“heirs” of

Hebrews 1:14, “whereof we speak” (

Hebrews 2:5). That
the redeemed are to be “crowned” is clearly taught in the New Testament.
For example, in

2 Timothy 4:7, 8 the apostle says,
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept
the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give be at
that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His
appearing.”
So also James declares,
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried,
he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to
them that love Him” (

James 1:12).
They are to be crowned with “glory and honor.” In Scripture “glory” is
put for the excellency of a thing: hence, what is here predicted is, that the
dignity which God will place upon His saints will be the most excellent
they could be advanced unto. The Hebrew word means that which is real
and substantial, in contrast from that which is light and vain. The word for
“honor” implies that which is bright: and in

Psalm 110:3 is rendered
“beauty.” Its distinctive thought is that of being esteemed by others. Thus
we have here a striking word upon the glorification of the redeemed. First,
they are to be “crowned,” that is, they are to be elevated to a position of
the highest rank. Second, they are to be crowned with “glory,” that is,
they will be made supremely excellent in their persons. Third, they are to
be crowned with “honor,” that is, they will be looked up to by those below
them.
“And didst set him over the works of Thy hands.” This has reference to the
rule and reign of God’s saints in the Day to come. In

Daniel 7:18, 27
we read,.110
“But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and
possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever…. And the
kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the
whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most
High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions
shall serve and obey Him.”
So also in

Revelation 2:26 we are told, “And he that overcometh and
keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the
nations.”
“Thou hast put all things under his feet” (verse 8). The language here
employed shows plainly the connection between this quotation from the
8th Psalm and what the apostle had declared in verse 5. There he had said,
“For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come
whereof we speak.” Here we learn that unto “man” will the world to come
be placed in subjection. Here we learn that “man,” frail and fallen, but
redeemed and exalted by the Lord, will have, in the world to come, “all
things” put under his feet. It is the blessed sequel to

Genesis 1:26 — the
earthly Paradise regained. The absoluteness of this “subjection” of the
world to come unto redeemed man, is intimated by the figure which is here
used, “under his feet”; lower a thing cannot be put. It is not simply “at his
feet,” but “under.” The scope of the subjection is seen by the “all things.”
This goes beyond the terms of

Psalm 8:7,8, for the last Adam has
secured for His people more than the first Adam lost. All creation, even
angels, will then be “in subjection” to man.
“For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that
is not put under him” (verse 8).
This is the apostle’s comment on his quotation from Psalm 8.
“Thou hast bestowed on man such honors as Thou hast bestowed
on none of Thy creatures. Thou hast set him at the head of the
created universe. From this passage it appears that, with the single
exception of Him who is to put all things under him, i.e., God, all
things are to be put under man. In the world to come even angels
are subordinate to them. Man is next to God in that world” (Dr. J.
Brown).
In

Revelation 21:7 we read,.111
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God,
and he shall be My son.”
Our joint-heirship with Christ (

Romans 8:17) will be manifested in the
world to come. What a prospect! O for faith to lay hold of it and enjoy it,
even now. Were it more real to us, the trifling baubles of this world would
fail to attract us. Were it more real to us, the trials and troubles of this life
would be unable to sadden or move us. May the Lord enable each of His
own to look away from the things seen to the things unseen.
“But now we see not yet all things put under him” (verse 8). This is the
language of an hypothetical objector, which confirms and establishes what
was said in the opening paragraphs of this article. The “him” here is the
“man” of verse 6. Anticipating the objection that Jesus of Nazareth could
not be superior to the angels, seeing that He was Man, the apostle met it by
showing that one of God’s ancient oracles declared that he who, for a short
season, was made lower than the angels, has been crowned with glory and
honor and set over the works of His hands; yea, that all things, and
therefore angels, have been “put in subjection under him.” But how can
this be? says the objector: “Now we see not yet all things put under him.”
What you have said is belied by the testimony of our senses; that which is
spread before our eyes refutes it. Why, so far from “all things” being in
subjection to man, even the wild beasts will not perform his bidding!
Unanswerable as this difficulty might appear, solution, satisfactory and
complete, is promptly furnished. This is given in our next verse.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels….
crowned with glory and honor” (verse 9).
It is most blessed to observe how the apostle meets the objector: he does
so by pointing at once and directly to Him who is the Center of all our
hopes and in whose Person all our interests and blessings are bound up.
“The following appears to me to be the track of the apostle’s
thoughts: ‘In the world to come, men, not angels, are to occupy the
first place. An ancient oracle, which refers to the world to come,
clearly proves this. The place to be occupied by man in that world
is not only a high place, but is the first place among creatures. The
words of the oracle are unlimited. With the exception of Him who
puts all things under man, everything is to be subjected to him. This
oracle must be fulfilled. In the exaltation of Christ, after and in.112
consequence of His humiliation, we have the begun fulfillment of
the prediction, and what, according to the wise and righteous
counsels of heaven, were necessary, and will be the effectual means
of the complete accomplishment of it in reference to the whole
body of the redeemed from among men” (Dr. J. Brown).
“But we see Jesus.” What is meant by this? To what was the apostle
referring? How do we “see Jesus?” Not by means of mysterious dreams or
ecstatic visions, not by the exercise of our imagination, nor by a process of
visualization; but by faith. Just as Christ declared, in

John 8:56,
“Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.” Faith is
the eye of the spirit, which views and enjoys what the Word of God
presents to its vision. In the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation, God has
told us about the exaltation of His Son; those who receive by faith what He
has there declared, “see Jesus crowned with glory and honor,” as truly and
vividly as His enemies once saw Him here on earth “crowned with thorns.”
It is this which distinguishes the true people of God from mere professors.
Every real Christian has reason to say with Job,
“I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye
seeth Thee” (

Job 42:5).
He has “seen” Him leaving Heaven and coming to earth, in order to “seek
and to save that which was lost.” He has “seen” Him as a sacrificial
Substitute on the cross, there bearing “our sins in His own body on the
tree.” He has “seen” Him rising again in triumph from the grave, so that
because He lives, we live also. He has “seen” Him highly exalted,
“crowned with glory and honor.” He has “seen Him thus as presented to
the eye of faith in the sure Word of God. To Him the testimony of Holy
Scripture is infinitely more reliable and valuable than the testimony of his
senses.
The name by which God’s Son is here called is that of His humiliation.
“Jesus” is not a title; “Savior” is an entirely different word in the Greek.
“Jesus” was His human name, as Man, here on earth. It was as “Jesus of
Nazareth” that His enemies ever referred to Him. But not so His own
people: to the apostles He said, “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say
well; for so I am” (

John 13:13). Only once in the four Gospels do we
ever find any of His own speaking of Him as “Jesus of Nazareth” (

Luke
24:19). and that was when their faith had completely given way. It was the.113
language of unbelief! That He is referred to in the narratival form in the
Gospels as “Jesus” is to emphasize His humiliation.
When we come to the Acts, which treats of His exaltation, we read there,
“God hath made this same Jesus…. both Lord and Christ” (

Acts 2:36).
So in the Epistles: God has
“given Him a name which is above every name,” and that name is
“Lord” (

Philippians 2:9, 10).
Thus, it is either as “Christ” which is a title, or as the Lord Jesus Christ,
that He is commonly referred to in the Epistles: read carefully

1
Corinthians 1:3-10 for example. It is thus that His people should delight to
own Him. To address the Lord of glory in prayer simply as “Jesus,” or to
speak of Him to others thus, breathes an unholy familiarity, a vulgar
cheapness, an irreverence which is highly reprehensible.
After the four Gospels the Lord Christ is never referred to in the New
Testament simply as “Jesus” save for the purpose of historical
identification (

Acts 1:11, e.g.), or to stress the humiliation through
which He passed, or when His enemies are speaking of Him. Here in

Hebrews 2:9, “Jesus” rather than “the Lord Jesus” is used to emphasize
His humiliation: it was the One who had passed through such unparalleled
shame and ignominy that had been “crowned with glory and honor.” May
Divine grace enable both writer and reader to entertain such exalted views
of this same Jesus that we may ever heed the exhortation of

1 Peter
3:15: “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord” (Revised Version).
Now that which it is of first importance for us to observe is the use which
the apostle here makes of the Savior’s glorification. The exaltation of Jesus
is both the proof and pledge of the coming exaltation of His redeemed. The
prophecy of Psalm 8 has already begun to receive its fulfillment. The
crowning of Jesus with glory and honor is the ground and guarantee of the
ultimate glorification of all His people. Christ has entered Heaven as the
“First-fruits,” the earnest of the coming harvest. He passed within the veil
as the “Forerunner” (

Hebrews 6:20), so that there must be others to
follow.
Here, then is, we believe, the true interpretation and application of Psalm 8.
The verses quoted from it in Hebrews 2 refer not to Adam, not to mankind
as a whole, nor to Christ Himself considered alone, but to His redeemed.
The Holy Spirit, through the Psalmist, was looking forward to a new order.114
of man, of which the Lord Jesus is the Head. In the Man Christ Jesus, God
has brought to light a new order of Man, One in whom is found not merely
innocence, but perfection. It is of this “man” that

Ephesians 2:15
speaks: “To make in Himself of twain (redeemed from among the Jews and
from the Gentiles) one new man”; and also

Ephesians 4:13:
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of
the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature
of the fullness of Christ.”
As God looks at His incarnate Son He sees, for the first time, a perfect
Man, and us in Him. And as we, by faith, “see Jesus crowned with glory
and honor,” we discover both the proof and pledge of ourselves yet being
“crowned with glory and honor.”
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels…. crowned
with glory and honor,” as the ground and guarantee of our approaching
exaltation. Here then is the Divine answer to the question asked by the
Psalmist long ago: “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which Thou hast made — What is man, that Thou
art mindful of him?” Ah, brethren in Christ, when you go out at night and
view the wondrous heavens, and then think of your own utter
insignificance; when you meditate upon the glory of God’s majesty and
holiness. and then think of your own exceeding sinfulness, and are bowed
into the dust; remember that up there is a Man in the glory, and that that
Man is the measure of God’s thoughts concerning you. Remember, that by
wondrous and sovereign grace, you have been not only predestined to be
conformed to His image, but that you should, as a joint-heir with Him,
share His inheritance. May the Lord grant each Christian reader that faith
which will enable him to grasp that wonderful and blissful prospect which
the Word of God sets before him..115
CHAPTER 9
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:9-11)
In our last article we were obliged, through lack of space, to break off our
exposition of Hebrews 2 in the middle of a verse; to have continued further
would have required us to go to the end of verse 11, and this would have
made it much too long. However, the point at which we left off really
completed the first thought which the apostle establishes in our present
section. As we sought to show, at verse 5 the apostle begins meeting an
objection which might be, and most probably was, made against what he
had set forth in chapter one, namely, the immeasurable superiority of the
Mediator, Israel’s Messiah, above the angels. Over against this, two
difficulties stood in the way, which needed clearing up.
First, How could Christ be superior to angels, seeing that He was
Man?
Second, How could He possess a greater excellency than they, seeing
that He had died?
The difficulty was satisfactorily removed by an appeal to Psalm 8, where
God had affirmed, in predictive language, that He had crowned “man”
with glory and honor and put “all things in subjection under his feet.” To
this the objector would rejoin, “But now we see not yet all things put under
him” (verse 8), how, then, does Psalm 8 prove your point? In this way,
answers the apostle, In that even now, “we see (by faith) Jesus crowned
with glory and honor,” and in His exaltation we find the ground and
guarantee, the proof and pledge, of the coming exaltation of all His people.
In the remainder of this most interesting portion of Hebrews 2, we shall see
how the Holy Spirit enabled the beloved apostle to meet and dispose of the
second difficulty of the Jews in a manner equally convincing and
satisfactory as He had dealt with their first objection. Though it be true that
angels do not and cannot die (

Luke 20:36), and though it be a fact that
Jesus had died, yet this by no means went to show that He was inferior to.116
them. This is the particular point which the apostle is here treating of and
which it will now be our object to consider.
First, he shows why it was necessary for Christ to die, namely, in order
that He should taste death for every son, or, as it reads in the A.V., “for
every man” (verse 9).
Second, he declares that God had a benevolent design in suffering His Son
to stoop so low: it was by His grace that He so “tasted death” (verse 9).
Third, he affirms that such a course of procedure was suited to the nature
and honoring to the glory of Him who orders all things: it “became Him”
(verse 10).
Fourth, he argues that this was inevitable because of Christ’s oneness with
His people (verse 11).
Fifth, he quotes three Old Testament passages in proof of the union which
exists between the Redeemer and the redeemed. Let us now turn to our
passage and attentively weigh its details.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for
the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He, by
the grace of God, should taste death for every man” (verse 9).
The central thought of this verse was before us in the preceding article,
namely, the exaltation of the once-humbled One. Now we must examine its
several clauses and note their relation to each other. Really, there are five
things in this verse, each of which we shall consider
First, the humiliation of the Mediator: “But we see Jesus, who was
made a little lower than the angels.”
Second, the character of His humiliation: “For,” or much better “by
the suffering of death.”
Third, the object of His humiliation: to “taste death for every man,”
better “every son.”
Fourth, the moving cause of His humiliation: “by the grace of God.”
Fifth, the reward of His humiliation: “crowned with glory and honor.”.117
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels.” How
these words should melt our hearts and move our souls to profoundest
wonderment! That He, the Creator of angels, the Lord of them, the One
who before His incarnation had been worshipped by them, should be
“made lower” than they; and this for our sakes! Our hearts must indeed be
dead if they are not thrilled and filled with praise as we ponder that
fathomless stoop. As was pointed out under our exposition on verse 7, the
Greek word here for “little” is used in the New Testament in two senses:
sometimes where it is a matter of degree, at others where it is a case of
time. Here it is the latter, for “a little season.” In what particular sense the
apostle is here contemplating Christ’s being “made lower” than the angels,
the next clause tells us.
“For the suffering of death.” Many have experienced difficulty with this
clause. That which has exercised them is whether the words “for the
suffering of death” state the purpose for which Christ was “made a little
lower than the angels,” or, whether “for the suffering of death” gives the
reason why He has been “crowned with glory and honor.” Personally, we
are fully satisfied that neither of these give the real thought.
The difficulty mentioned above is self-created. It is occasioned by failure to
rightly define the reference to Christ’s being made “a little lower than the
angels.” As already stated, we believe this signified “for a little while.” If
the reader will turn back again to our comments on

Hebrews 2:7 he will
see we have adopted the suggestion of Dr. J. Brown to the effect that the
specific reference is to mortality, the angels being incapable of dying. This,
we are assured, is the meaning of the verse now before us. All ambiguity
concerning this clause of verse 9 disappears if the first word be rendered
“by” instead of “for.” The English translators actually give “by” in the
margin. The Greek preposition is “dia,” and is translated “by” again and
again, both when it governs a noun in the accusative or the genitive case.
Thus by altering “for” to “by” it will be seen that in this third clause the
Holy Spirit has graciously defined His meaning in the second.
(1) “But we see Jesus;”
(2) “who was made a little season lower than the angels;”
(3) “by the suffering of death.”.118
It was in this particular that Jesus was made for a season lower than the
angels, namely, by His passing through a death of sufferings — an
experience which, by virtue of the constitution God had given them, they
were incapable of enduring. Therefore, the point here seized by the Holy
Spirit in affirming that Jesus had been made lower than the angels, was His
mortality. But here we must be very careful to explain our terms. When we
say that Christ, by virtue of His incarnation, became “mortal,” it must not
be understood that He was subject to death in His body as the fallen
descendants of Adam are. His humanity was holy and incorruptible: no
seed or germ of death was in it, or could attack it. He laid down His life of
Himself (

John 10:18). No; what we mean is, and what Scripture teaches
is, that in becoming man Christ took upon Him a nature that was capable
of dying. This the angels were not; and in this respect He was, for a
season, made lower than they.
“By the suffering of death.” This expression denotes that Christ’s exit from
the land of the living was no easy or gentle one, but a death of “suffering”;
one accompanied with much inward agony and outward torture. It was the
“death of the cross” (

Philippians 2:8). It was a death in which He
suffered not only at the hands of men and of Satan, but from God Himself.
It was a death in which He fully satisfied the demands of infinite holiness
and justice. This was a task which no mere creature was capable of
performing. Behold here, then, the wonder of wonders: Christ undertook a
work which was far above the power of all the angels, and yet to effect it
He was made lower than them! If ever power was made perfect in
weakness, it was in this!
“Crowned with glory and honor.” This is the dominant clause of the verse.
Concerning it we cannot do better than quote from Mr. C.H. Welch:
“The crowning with glory and honor is the consecration of Christ
as the Priest after the order of Melchizedek. ‘And no man taketh
this honor unto himself….So also Christ glorified not Himself’
(

Hebrews 5:4, 5). We shall find an allusion to this in

Hebrews 3:3, ‘for this man was counted worthy of more glory
than Moses, inasmuch as He who builded the house hath more
honor than the house. Thus we find Christ superior in honor and
glory to both Moses and Aaron; and when we see Him crowned
with honor and glory we are indeed considering Him who is the
Apostle (Moses) and High Priest (Aaron) of our profession.”.119
Here, then, is the first part of the apostle’s answer to that which was, for
the Jews, the great “stumbling block” (

1 Corinthians 1:23). He who by
the suffering of death had been made, for a little season, lower than the
angels, has, because of His humiliation and perfect atoning sacrifice, been
“highly exalted” by God Himself. He has been “raised far above all
principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is
named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”
(

Ephesians 1:21). It is not simply that this exaltation followed the
Mediator’s suffering and death, but, as the “therefore” in

Isaiah 53:12
and the “wherefore” of

Philippians 2:9 plainly denote, were the
meritorious reward thereof. Thus, so far from the Cross needing an
apology, it has magnified the Savior. So far from Christ’s degradation and
death being something of which the Christian need be ashamed, they are
the very reason why God has so signally rewarded Him. The “crown of
thorns” which man gave Him, has been answered by the “crown of glory
and honor” that God has bestowed upon Him. The humbled Christ is
humiliated no longer; the Throne of the Universe is where He is now
seated.
Ere passing on to the next verse, let us ask the reader, Have you “crowned
with glory and honor” Him whom the world has cast out? Do you, in a
practical way, own Him as your Lord and Master? Is His glory and honor
ever the paramount consideration before you? Is He receiving from you the
devotion and adoration of a worshipping heart? “Worthy is the Lamb.” O
may He, indeed, occupy the throne of our hearts and reign as King over
our lives. In what esteem does the Father hold His once humiliated Son:
He has crowned Him with glory and honor; then what must He yet do with
those who “despise and reject” Him?
“That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Here is
the second part of the apostle’s answer to the Jew’s objection. God had a
benevolent design in permitting His Son, for a season, to become lower
than the angels. The end in view fully justified the means. Only by the Son
tasting death could the sons of God be delivered from the ruins of the fall;
only thus could the righteousness and mercy of God be reconciled. This,
we take it, indicates the relation of this final clause to the remainder of the
verse: God’s design in making His Son lower than the angels was that He
might become the Redeemer of His people. The opening conjunction “that”
(hopos, meaning “to the end that”), expressing purpose, is conclusive..120
There has been considerable discussion as to the precise import of the
expression “tasted death.” Here, as ever in Scripture, there is a fullness in
the language used which no brief definitions of man can ever embrace. The
first and most obvious thought suggested by the language is, that the
Savior consciously, sensibly, experienced the bitterness of death.
“The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was a slow and painful death;
He was ‘roasted with fire’ as was prefigured by the Paschal lamb.
But it was not merely that it lasted a considerable time, that it was
attended with agony of mind as well as pain of body; but that He
came, as no finite creature can come, into contact with death. He
tasted death in that cup which the Lord Jesus Christ emptied on the
cross” (Saphir).
He tasted that awful death by anticipation. From the beginning of His
ministry (yea, before that, as His words in

Luke 2:49 plainly show),
there was ever present to his consciousness the Cross, with all its horror,
see

Matthew 16:21,

John 2:4, 3:16, etc. At Calvary He actually
drained the bitterer cup. The death He tasted was “The curse which sin
brings, the penalty of the broken law, the manifestation of the power of the
devil, the expression of the wrath of God; and in all these aspects the Lord
Jesus Christ came into contact with death and tasted it to the very last”
(Saphir).
“That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” The
opening words of this clause set forth the efficient cause which moved the
Godhead in sending forth the Son to submit to such unparalleled
humiliation: it was free favor of God. It was not because that the ends of
Divine government required mercy should be shown to its rebels, still less
because that they had any claim upon Him. There is nothing whatever
outside God Himself which moves Him to do anything: He “worketh all
things after the counsel of His own will” (

Ephesians 1:11). It was solely
by the grace and good pleasure of God, and not by the violence of man or
Satan, that the Lord Jesus was brought to the Cross to die. The
appointment of that costly sacrifice must be traced back to nothing but the
sovereign benignity of God.
“For every man.” This rendering is quite misleading. “Anthropos,” the
Greek word for “man” is not in the verse at all. Thus, one of the principal
texts relied upon by Arminians in their unscriptural contention for a general
atonement vanishes into thin air. The Revised Version places the word.121
“man” in italics to show that it is not found in the original. The Greek is
“panta” and signifies “every one,” that is, every one of those who form the
subjects of the whole passage — every one of “the heirs of salvation”
(

Hebrews 1:14), every one of the “sons” (

Hebrews 2:10), every one
of the “brethren” (

Hebrews 2:11). We may say that this is the view of
the passage taken by Drs. Gouge and J. Brown, by Saphir, and a host of
others who might be mentioned. Theologically it is demanded by the
“tasted death for every one,” i.e., substitutionally, in the room of, that they
might not. Hence, every one for whom He tasted death shall themselves
never do so (see

John 8:52), and this is true only of the people of God.
What we have just said above is confirmed by many Scriptures. “For the
transgression of My people was He stricken” said God (

Isaiah 53:8),
and all mankind are not His “people.” “I lay down My life for the sheep,”
said the Son (

John 10:10), but every man is not of Christ’s sheep
(

John 10:26). Christ makes intercession on behalf of those for whom He
died (

Romans 8:34), but He prays not for the world (see

John 17:9).
Those for whom he died are redeemed (

Revelation 5:9), and from
redemption necessarily follows the forgiveness of sins (

Colossians
1:14), but all have not their sins forgiven.
“For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all
things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of
their salvation perfect through sufferings” (verse 10).
This gives the third part of the apostle’s reply to the objection which he is
here rebutting, and a most arresting statement it is: he now takes still
higher ground, advancing that which should indeed bow our hearts in
worship. The word “became” means suited to, in accord with, the
character of God. It was consonant with the Divine attributes that the Son
should, for a season be “made lower than the angels” in order to “taste
death” for His people. It was not only according to God’s eternal purpose,
but it was also suited to all His wondrous perfections. Never was God
more Godlike than when, in the person of Jesus, He was crucified for our
sins.
“For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in
bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation
perfect through sufferings.” There are five things in this verse claiming our
reverent and diligent attention..122
First, the particular character in which God is here viewed; as the One
“for whom are all things and by whom are all things.”
Second, the manner in which it “became” the Most High to bring many
sons unto glory by giving up His beloved Son to the awful death of the
cross.
Third, the particular character in which the Son Himself is here
viewed: as “The Captain of our salvation.”
Fourth, in what sense He was, or could be, “made perfect through
sufferings.”
Fifth, the result of this Divine appointment: the actual conducting of
many sons “unto glory.”
First, then, the special character in which God is here viewed. “For it
became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things.” This
expression sets forth the high sovereignty of God in the most unqualified
and absolute manner: “all things” without exception, that is, all creatures,
all events. “For whom are all things” affirms that the Most High God is the
Final Cause of everything: “The Lord hath made all things for Himself”
(

Proverbs 16:4), i.e., to fulfill His own designs, to accomplish His own
purpose, to redound to His own glory. So again we read in

Revelation
4:11,
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and
were created.”
This blessed, basic, yet stupendous truth is to be received with
unquestioning and unmurmuring faith. He who maketh the wrath of man to
praise Him (

Psalm 76:10) will not only vindicate His broken law in the
punishment of the wicked, but His justice and holiness shall be magnified
by their destruction. Hell itself will redound to His glory.
“And by whom are all things.” Every creature that exists, every event
which happens, is by God’s own appointment and agency. Nothing comes
to pass or can do so without the will of God. Satan could not tempt Peter
without Christ’s permission; the demons could not enter the swine till He
gave them leave; not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His decree.
This is only another way of saying that God actually governs the world.123
which He has made. True, there is much, very much in His government
which we cannot understand, for how can the finite comprehend the
Infinite? He Himself tells us that His ways are “past finding out,” yet His
own infallible word declares,
“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom
be glory forever” (

Romans 11:36).
“For whom are all things, and by whom are all things.” Nothing so stirs up
the enmity of the carnal mind and evidences the ignorance, the sin, and the
high-handed rebellion of fallen man as the response which he makes when
this great fact and solemn truth is pressed upon him. People at once
complain, if this be so, then we are mere puppets, irresponsible creatures.
Or worse, they will blasphemously argue, If this be true, then God, and not
ourselves, is to be charged with our wickedness. To such sottish revilings,
only one reply is forthcoming,
“Nay but, O man who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the
thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me
thus?” (

Romans 9:20).
Consider now the appropriateness of this title or appellation of Deity. The
varied manner in which God refers to Himself in the Scriptures, the
different titles He there assumes are not regulated by caprice, but are
ordered by infinite wisdom; and we lose much if we fail to attentively
weigh each one. As illustrations of this principle consider the following. In

Romans 15:5, He is spoken of as “The God of patience and hope”: this,
in keeping with the subject of the four preceding verses. In

2
Corinthians 4:6, He is presented thus: “God who commanded the light to
shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts,” which is in beautiful
keeping with the theme of the five preceding verses. In

Hebrews 13:20,
it is “The God of Peace” that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.
Why? Because His holy wrath had been placated at the cross. So in

Hebrews 2:10 the apostle would silence the proud and wicked
reasoning of the Jews by reminding them that they were replying against
the Sovereign Supreme. For Him are all things and by Him are all things:
His glory is the end of everything, His will the law of the universe;
therefore, to quarrel with His method of bringing many sons unto glory
was insubordination and blasphemy of the worst kind.
And what are the practical bearings upon us of this title of God?.124
First, an acknowledgment of God in this character is due from us and
required by Him. To believe and affirm that “for Him are all things, and by
Him are all things” is simply owning that He is God — high above all,
supreme over all, directing all. Anything short of this is, really, atheism.
Second, contentment is the sure result to a heart which really lays hold of
and rests upon this truth. If I really believe that “all things” are for God’s
glory and by His invincible and perfect will, then I shall receive
submissively, yea, thankfully, whatsoever He ordains and sends me. The
language of such an one must be, “It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth
Him good” (

1 Samuel 3:18).
Third, confidence and praise will be the outcome. God only does that
which “becomes” Him; therefore, whatsoever He does must be right and
best. Those who truly recognize this “know that all things work together
for good to them that love God” (

Romans 8:28). True it is that our
short-sighted and sin-darkened vision is often unable to see why God does
certain things, yet we may be fully assured that He always has a wise and
holy reason.
“For it became Him.” More immediately, the opening “for” gives a reason
for what has been advanced at the close of verse 9. Should it be reverently
inquired why God’s “grace” chose such a way for the redeeming of His
elect, here is the ready answer: it “became Him” so to do. The Greek term
signifies the answerableness or agreement of one thing to another. Thus,
“speak thou the things that become sound doctrine” (

Titus 2:1), i.e.,
that are agreeable thereto. So, too, the Greek term implies the comeliness
of a thing. Thus, “which become women professing godliness (

1
Timothy 2:10). The adorning of Christian women with good works is a
comely thing, yea, it is the beauty and glory of their profession. In like
manner the grace of God which gave Christ to taste death for His people,
answered to the love of His heart and agreed with the holiness of His
nature. Such an appointment was suited to God’s character, consonant
with His attributes, agreeable to his perfections. Never did anything more
exhibit, and never will anything more redound to the glory of God than His
making the Son lower than the angels in order to taste death for His
people. A wide field of thought is here set before us. Let us, briefly, enter
into a few details.
It “became” God’s wisdom. His wisdom is evidenced in all His works, but
nowhere so perspicuously or conspicuously as at Calvary. The cross was.125
the masterpiece of Omniscience. It was there that God exhibited the
solution to a problem which no finite intelligence could ever have solved,
namely, how justice and mercy might be perfectly harmonized. How was it
possible for righteousness to uphold the claims of the law and yet for grace
to be extended to its transgressors? It seemed impossible. These were the
things which the angels desired to look into, but so profound were their
depths they had no line with which to fathom them. But the cross supplies
the solution.
It “became” the holiness of God. What is His holiness? It is impossible for
human language to supply an adequate definition. Perhaps about as near as
we can come to one is to say, It is the antithesis of evil, the very nature of
God hating sin. Again and again during Old Testament times God
manifested His displeasure against sin, but never did the white light of
God’s holiness shine forth so vividly as at Calvary, where we see Him
smiting His own Beloved because the sins of His people had been
transferred to Him.
It “became” His power. Never was the power of God so marvelously
displayed as it was at Golgotha. Wherein does this appear? In that the
Mediator was enabled to endure within the space of three hours what it
will take an eternity to expend upon the wicked. All the waves and billows
of Divine wrath went over Him (

Psalm 42:7). Yet was He not
destroyed. There was concentrated into those three hours of darkness that
which the lost will suffer forever and ever, and nothing but the power of
God could have upheld the suffering Savior. Yea, only a Divine Savior
could have stood up under that storm of outpoured wrath; that is why God
said,
“I have laid help upon One that is mighty” (

Psalm 89:19).
It “became” His righteousness. He can by no means clear the guilty. Sin
must be punished where ever it is found. God’s justice would not abate any
of its demands when sin, through imputation, was found upon Christ: as

Romans 8:32 says, He “spared not His own Son.” Never was the
righteousness of God more illustriously exhibited than when it cried,
“Awake O sword against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is
My Fellow saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd”
(

Zechariah 13:7)..126
It “became” the love and grace of God. Innumerable tokens of these have
and do His children receive, but the supreme proof of them is furnished at
the cross. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and
sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (

1 John 4:10). The
mercy of God is over all His works, but never so fully and so gloriously
was it manifested as when Christ became Man and was made a curse for
His people, that theirs might be the blessing.
We must next consider the special character in which the Savior Himself is
here contemplated: “The Captain of their salvation.” This is one out of
more than three hundred titles given to the Lord Jesus in the Scriptures,
each of which has its own distinctive meaning and preciousness. The Greek
word is “Archegos,” and is found four times in the New Testament. It
signifies the “Chief Leader.” It is the word rendered “Author” in

Hebrews 12:2, though that is an unhappy rendition. It is translated
“Prince” in

Acts 3:15 and

Acts 5:31. Thus, it is a title which calls
attention to and emphasises the dignity and glory of our Savior, yet, in His
mediatorial character.
It needs to be borne in mind that in New Testament days the “captain” of a
regiment did not remain in the rear issuing instructions to his officers, but
took the lead, and by his own personal example encouraged and inspired
his soldiers to deeds of valor. Thus the underlying thoughts of this title are,
Christ’s going before His people, leading His soldiers, and being in
command of them. He has “gone before” them in three respects.
First, in the way of obedience, see

John 13:15.
Second, in the way of suffering, see

1 Peter 2:21.
Third, in the way of glory: He has entered heaven as our forerunner,
so that faith says, “Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus it will be seen that verse 10
continues the same thought as verse 9.
“The Captain of their salvation.” The plain and necessary implication of
this title is that we are passing through a country full of difficulties,
dangers, oppositions, like Israel in the Wilderness on their way to the
promised inheritance; so that we need a Captain, Guide, Leader, to carry
us safely through. This title of Christ’s, then, is for the encouragement of
our hearts: the grace, the faithfulness, and the power of our Leader
guarantees the successful issue of our warfare. It teaches us once more that.127
the whole work of our salvation, from first to last, has been committed by
God into the hands of Christ.
“To make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” This
sentence has occasioned real trouble to many: how can a perfect person be
“made perfect?” But the difficulty is more imaginary than real. The
reference is not to the person of Christ, but to a particular office which He
fills. His character needed no “Perfecting.” Unlike us, no course of
discipline was required by Him to subdue faults and to develop virtues. We
believe that verse 9 supplies the key to the words we are now considering:
“being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all
them that obey Him.” The previous verse speaks of Christ “learning
obedience by the things which He suffered,” which does not mean that He
learned to obey, but rather that He learned by experience what obedience
is. In like manner it was by the experiences through which He passed that
Christ was “perfected,” not experimentally, but officially, to be “the
Captain” of our salvation. A striking type of this is furnished by the case of
Joshua, who, as the result of his experiences in the wilderness, became
experimentally qualified to be Israel’s “captain,” leading them into Canaan.
“To make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Two
other things need to be borne in mind: the particular design of this passage,
and the special purpose and aim of the Epistle as a whole. The special
design of the apostle was to remove the scandal of Christ’s humiliating
death, which was such a stumbling-block to the Jews. Therefore, he here
affirms that the sufferings of Christ eventuated not in ignominy but glory:
they “perfected” His equipment to be the “Captain” of His people, verse 18
amplifies. In regard to the scope of the Epistle as a whole, this word of the
apostle’s was well calculated to comfort the afflicted and sorely-tried
Hebrews: their own Captain had reached glory via sufferings — sufficient
for His soldiers to follow the same path. Thus, this word here is closely
parallel with

1 Peter 4:1.
It should be added that the Greek word for “perfected” is rendered
“consecrated” in

Hebrews 7:28. By His sufferings Christ became
qualified and was solemnly appointed to be our Leader. It was by His
sufferings that He vanquished all His and our foes, triumphing gloriously
over them, and thus He became fitted to be our “Captain.” What reason
have we then to glory in the Cross of Christ! The eye of faith sees there.128
not only consummate wisdom, matchless mercy, fathomless love, but
victory, triumph, glory. By dying He slew death.
“In bringing many sons unto glory.” This is both the Captain’s work and
reward. The term “glory” is one of the most comprehensive words used in
all the Bible. It is almost impossible to define; perhaps “the sum of all
excellency” is as near as we can come to it. It means that the “many sons”
will be raised to the highest possible state and position of dignity and
honor. It is Christ’s own “glory” into which they are brought: “And the
glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even
as we are one” (

John 17:22, and see

Colossians 3:4).
Into this “glory” many sons are to come. Some have difficulty in
harmonizing this word with “many be called, but few chosen” (

Matthew
20:16). In contrast from the vast multitudes which perish, God’s elect are
indeed “few” (

Matthew 7:14); His flock is only a “little” one (

Luke
12:32). Yet, considered by themselves, the redeemed of all generations will
constitute “many.”
Into this “glory” the many sons do not merely “come,” but are “brought.”
It is the same word as in

Luke 10:34 where the Good Samaritan
“brought” the poor man that was wounded and half dead, and who could
not “come” of himself, to the “inn.” Let the reader consult these additional
passages:

Song of Solomon 2:4;

Isaiah 42:16;

1 Peter 3:18. This
“bringing” of the many sons “unto glory” is in distinct stages. At
regeneration they are brought from death unto life. At the Lord’s return
they will be brought to the Father’s House (

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
The whole is summarized in the parable of the lost sheep; see

Luke
15:4-6.
In closing, let us ask the reader, “Are you one of these many “sons” whom
Christ is bringing “unto glory”? Are you quite sure that you are? It is
written, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
God” (

Romans 8:14). Is this true of you? Can others see the evidences
of it? Is your daily life controlled by self-will, the ways of the world, the
pleasing of your friends and relatives, or by the written Word, for that is
what the Spirit uses in leading His sons.
Above we have contemplated that which “became” God; let our final
consideration be that which “becomes” His favored children. “Let your
conversation (manner of life) be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ”.129
(

Philippians 1:27). If we are now light in the Lord, let us “walk as
children of light” (

Ephesians 5:8). Let us seek grace to “walk worthy of
the vocation wherewith we are called” (

Ephesians 4:1)..130
CHAPTER 10
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:11-13)
Inasmuch as we feel led to break up the second half of Hebrews 2 into
shorter sections than is our usual habit (so that we may enter more in
detail), it will be necessary to begin each chapter with a brief summary of
what has already been before us. Though we dislike using valuable space
for mere repetitions, yet this seems unavoidable if the continuity of thought
is to be preserved and the scope of the apostle’s argument intelligently
followed. Moreover, as we endeavor to study the holy Word of God, it is
ever the part of wisdom to heed the Divine injunction, “he that believeth
shall not make haste” (

Isaiah 28:16). To pause and review the ground
already covered, serves to fix in the memory what otherwise might be
crowded out. As said the apostle to the Philippians,
“to write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but
for you it is safe” (

Hebrews 3:1).
In the opening chapter of our Epistle, from verses 4 to 14, seven Old
Testament passages were quoted for the purpose of showing the
superiority of Israel’s Messiah over the angels. The first four verses of
chapter 2 are parenthetical, inasmuch as the argument of that section is
broken off in order to make a searching application to the conscience of
what has already been said. At

Hebrews 2:5 the discussion concerning
the relative positions of the Mediator and the celestial creatures is resumed.
Two objections are now anticipated and dealt with — this is made clear by
the last clause of verse 8, which is the interjecting of a difficulty. The
objections are: How could Christ be superior to angels, seeing that He was
Man? and, How could He possess a greater excellency than they, seeing
that He had died?
In meeting these objections appeal was first made to the 8th Psalm, which
affirmed, in predictive language, that God has crowned “man” (redeemed
man) with “honor and glory,” and that He has put “all things under his.131
feet”; and in the exaltation of Jesus faith beholds the ground and guarantee,
the proof and pledge, of the coming exaltation of all His people (verse 9).
Second, the necessity for the Mediator’s humiliation lay in the fact that He
must “taste death,” as the appointed Substitute, if “every son” was to
receive eternal life (verse 9). Third, the apostle affirmed that God had a
benevolent design in suffering His Son to stoop so low: it was by His
“grace” that He tasted death (verse 9). Fourth, it is announced that such a
course of procedure was suited to the nature and honoring to the glory of
Him who ordains all things: it “became Him” (verse 10). Fifth, the Divine
love and wisdom in causing the Captain of our salvation to be perfected
“through sufferings” was fully vindicated, for the outcome from it is that
many sons are brought “unto glory.”
In

Hebrews 2:11, which begins our present portion, the needs-be for the
Son’s humiliation is made still more evident: “For both He that sanctifieth
and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause He is not
ashamed to call them brethren.” The opening “for” at once intimates that
the Holy Spirit is still advancing confirmation of what He had said
previously, and is continuing to show why the Lord of angels had been
made Man. It may help the reader to grasp the force of this verse if we
state it thus: It was imperative that Christ should be made, for a season,
“lower than the angels” if ever He was to have ground and cause to call us
“brethren.” That is a title which presupposes a common state and standing;
for this He must become “one” with them. In other words, the Redeemer
must identify Himself with those He was to redeem.
We may add that the opening “for” of verse 11 supplies an immediate link
with verse 10: a further reason is now advanced why it “became” God to
make the Captain of His people perfect through sufferings, even because
He and they are “all of one.” Herein lies the equity of Christ’s sufferings. It
was not that an innocent person was smitten in order that guilty ones might
go free, for that would be the height of injustice, but that an innocent
Person, voluntarily, out of love, identified Himself with trangressors, and
so became answerable for their crimes. Therefore, “in all things it
behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren” (

Hebrews 2:17).
How this should endear Him to us!
“All of one,” is very abstract, and for this reason not easy to define
concretely..132
“Observe that it is only of sanctified persons that this is said. Christ
and the sanctified ones are all of one company, men together in the
same position before God; but the idea goes a little further. It is not
of one and the same Father; had it been so, it could not have been
said, ‘He is not ashamed to call them brethren.’ He could not then
do otherwise than call them brethren. If we say ‘of the same mass’
the expression may be pushed too far, as though He and others
were of the same nature as children of Adam, sinners together. In
this case Jesus would have to call every man His brother; whereas it
is only the children whom God hath given Him, ‘sanctified’ ones,
that He so calls. But He and the sanctified ones are all as men in the
same nature and position together before God. When I say ‘the
same’ it is not in the same state of sin, but the contrary, for they are
the Sanctifier and the sanctified, but in the same proof of human
position as it is before God as sanctified to Him; the same as far
forth as man when He, as the sanctified One is before God” (Mr.
J.N. Darby).
Though the above quotation is worded somewhat vaguely, nevertheless we
believe it approximates closely to the thought of the Spirit. They, Christ
and His people, are “all of one.” Perhaps we might say, All of one class or
company. If Christ were to be the Savior of men, He must Himself be Man.
This is what the quotations from the Old Testament, which immediately
follow, go to show. We do believe, however, that the “all of one” is a little
fuller in scope than that brought out by Mr. Darby’s comments. The
remainder of Hebrews 2 seems to show it also has reference to the oneness
in condition between the Sanctifier and the sanctified, i.e., in this world.
The Shepherd went before the sheep (

John 10:4): the path they follow
is the same He trod. Thus, “all of one” in position, in sufferings, in trials, in
dependency upon God.
“For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.”
Many of the commentators have quite missed the meaning of this “all of
one.” Had sufficient attention been given to the context they should have
seen that the apostle is not here treating of the oneness of Christians with
Christ in acceptance before God and in glory — that, we get in such
passages as Ephesians 1 and 2; instead, he is bringing out the oneness of
Christ with His people in their humiliation. In other words, the apostle is
not here speaking of our being lifted up to Christ’s level, but of His coming
down to ours. That which follows clearly establishes this..133
But what is meant by “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified”?
The Sanctifier is Christ Himself, the sanctified are the many sons who are
being brought to glory. “The source and power of sanctification are in the
Son of God our Savior. We who were to be brought unto glory were far
off from God, in a state of condemnation and death. What could be more
different than our natural condition and the glory of God which we are
awaiting? Condemned on account of our transgressions of the law, we
lived in sin, alienated from God, and without His presence of light and
love. We were dead; and by ‘dead’ I do not mean that modern fancy which
explains death to mean cessation of existence, but that continuous, active,
self-developing state of misery and corruption into which the sinner has
fallen by his disobedience. Dead in trespasses and sins, wherein we walked;
dead while living in pleasing self (

Ephesians 2:1, 2,

1 Timothy 5:6).
What can be more opposed to glory than the state in which we are by
nature? and if we are to be brought into glory, it is evident we must be
brought into holiness; we must be delivered and separated from guilt,
pollution, and death, and brought into the presence of God, in which is
favor, light, and life — that His life may descend into our souls, and that
we may become partakers of the Divine nature.
“Christ is our sanctification. ‘By one offering He hath perfected
forever them that are sanctified’ (

Hebrews 10:14). By the
offering of His body as the sacrifice for sin, He has sanctified all
that put their trust in Him. To sanctify is to separate unto God; to
separate for a holy use. We who were far off are brought nigh by
the blood of Christ. And although our election is of God the Father
(who is thus the Author of our sanctification, Jude 4), and the
cleansing and purification of the heart is generally attributed to the
Holy Spirit (

Titus 3:4,5), yet is it in Christ that we were chosen,
and from Christ that we receive the Spirit, and as it is by the
constant application of Christ’s work and the constant
communication of His life that we live and grow, Christ is our
sanctification.
“We are sanctified through faith that is in Him (

Acts 26:18). By
His offering of Himself He has brought us into the presence of
God. By the Word, by God’s truth, by the indwelling Spirit, He
continually sanctifies His believers. He gave Himself for the church,
‘that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by.134
the Word’ (

Ephesians 5:26). ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth’
(

John 17:17; 15:3).
“Christ Himself is the foundation, source, method, and channel of
our sanctification. We are exhorted to put off the old man and to
put on the new man day by day, to mortify our members which are
upon the earth. But in what way or method can we obey the
apostolic exhortations, but by our continually beholding Christ’s
perfect sacrifice for sin as our all-sufficient atonement? In what
other way are we sanctified day by day, but by taking hold of the
salvation which is by Him, ‘The Lamb that is slain’? Jesus is He that
sanctifieth. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is sent by Christ to
glorify Him, and to reveal and appropriate to us His salvation. We
are conformed to the image of Christ by the Spirit as coming from
Christ in His glorified humanity” (Saphir).
“For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (verse 11).
Because Christ became Man, He is not ashamed to own as “brethren”
those whom the Father had given to Him. The community of nature shared
by the Sanctifier and the sanctified furnishes ground for Him to call them
“brethren.” That He did so in the days of His humiliation may be seen by a
reference to

Matthew 12:49;

John 20:17. That He will do so in the
Day to come, appears from

Matthew 25:40. That He is “not ashamed”
to so own them, plainly intimates an act of condescension on his part, the
condescension arising out of the fact that He was more than Man, none
other than “the Lord of glory.” There is, no doubt, a latent contrast in
these words: the world hated them, their brethren according to the flesh
despised them, and called them “apostates”; but the Son of God incarnate
was not ashamed to call them “brethren.” So, too, He owns us. Therefore,
if He is “not ashamed” to own us, shall we be “ashamed to confess Him!”
Moreover, let us “not be ashamed” to own as “brethren” the poorest of the
flock!
“For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Ere passing
from these blessed words, it needs to be said, emphatically, that this grace
on the part of Christ does not warrant His people becoming so
presumptuous as to speak of Him as their “Brother.” Such a thing is most
reprehensible.
“Question, May we by virtue of this relation, call the Son of God
our Brother? Answer, We have no example of any of the saints that.135
ever did so. They usually gave titles of dignity to Him, as Lord,
Master, Savior. Howsoever the Son of God vouchsafes this honor
unto us, yet we must retain in our hearts an high and reverent
esteem of Him, and on that ground give such titles to Him as may
manifest as much. Inferiors do not use to give like titles of equality
to their superiors, as superiors do to their inferiors. It is a token of
love in superiors to speak to their inferiors as equals; but for
inferiors to do the like, would be a note of arrogancy” (Dr. Gouge).
The same principle applies to

John 15:15. Christ in His condescending
grace may call us His “friends,” but this does not justify us in speaking of
Him as our “Friend”!
“Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren” (verse 12). Once more
the apostle appeals to the written Word for support of what he had just
affirmed. A quotation is made from Psalm 22, one which not only
substantiated what had been said in verse 11, but which also made a further
contribution towards removing the objection before him. As is well known,
the 22nd is the great Cross Psalm. In verses 20, 21, the suffering Savior is
heard crying, “Deliver My soul from the sword (of Divine justice, cf.

Zechariah 13:7), My darling from the power of the dog (the Gentiles,
cf.

Matthew 15:24-26). Save Me from the lion’s (the Devil’s, cf.

1
Peter 5:8) mouth.” Then follows faith’s assurance, “For Thou hast heard
Me from the horns of the unicorn.” This is the turning point of the Psalm:
the cries of the Sufferer are heard on High.
What a conclusive and crushing reply was this to the objecting Jew! God’s
own Word had foretold the humiliation and sufferings of their Messiah.
There it was, unmistakably before them. What could they say? The
Scriptures must be fulfilled. No reply was possible.
But more: not only did the 22nd Psalm announce beforehand the sufferings
of the Messiah; it also foretold His victory. Read again the last clause of
verse 21: “Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard Me.”
Christ was “saved,” not from death, but out of death, cf.

Hebrews 5:7.
Now what is the very next thing in Psalm 227 This: “I will declare Thy
name unto My brethren” (verse 22). Here the Savior is seen on
resurrection ground, victorious over every foe. It is this which the apostle
quotes in

Hebrews 2:12..136
Now that which it is particularly important to note is that in this verse from
Psalm 22 Christ is heard saying He would declare the Father’s name unto
His “brethren.” That could only be possible on resurrection ground. Why?
Because by nature they were “dead in trespasses and sins.” But as
“quickened together with Christ” (

Ephesians 2:5) they were made sons
of God, and therefore the “brethren” of the risen Son of God. Hence the
great importance of noting carefully the very point at which verse 22
occurs in the 22nd Psalm. The Lord Jesus never called His people
“brethren” on the other side of the Cross! He spoke of them as “disciples,”
“sheep,” “friends,” but never as “brethren.” But as soon as He was risen
from the dead, He said to Mary,
“Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father
and to your Father” (

John 20:17).
Here, then, was the unanswerable reply to the Jews’ objection: Christ
could reach resurrection ground only by passing through death, cf.

John 12:24.
“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren.” Here the Son is heard
addressing the Father, promising that He would execute the charge which
had been given Him. The Greek word for “declare” is very emphatic and
comprehensive. It means, To proclaim and publish, to exhibit and make
known. To declare God’s “Name” signifies to reveal what God is, to make
known His excellencies and counsels. This is what Christ came here to do:
see

John 17:6,26. None else was competent for such a task, for none
knoweth the Father but the Son (

Matthew 11:27). But only to His
“brethren” did Christ do so. They are the “babes” unto whom heavenly
things are revealed (

Matthew 11:25); they are the ones unto whom are
made known the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (

Matthew
13:11). From all others these blessed revelations are “hid,” to those
“without” they are but “parables.”
“In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (verse 12). This
completes the quotation from

Psalm 22:22. No doubt the first
fulfillment of this took place during the “forty days” of

Acts 1:3: mark
how

Acts 1:4 brings in the assembly; though its ultimate fulfillment is
yet future. The position in which Christ is here viewed is very blessed, “in
the midst”: it is the Redeemer leading the praises of His redeemed.
Strangers to God may go through all the outward forms of mere “religion,”
but they never praise God. It is only upon resurrection ground that.137
worship is possible. A beautiful type of this is found in

Exodus 15:1: it
was only after Israel had crossed the Red Sea, and the Egyptians were dead
upon the shore, that “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this
song.” Note how Moses, the typical mediator, led their praises!
“And again, I will put My trust in Him” (verse 13). The apostle is still
replying to the Jews’ objection, How could Jesus of Nazareth be the
superior of angels, seeing that He was Man and had died? Here, in verses
12, 13, he quotes Messianic passages from the Old Testament in proof of
the statements made in verses 10, 11. First,

Psalm 22:22 is cited, in
which Christ is heard addressing His redeemed as “brethren.” The
implication is unmistakable: that is a title which presupposes a common
position and a common condition, and in order to do that the Lord of glory
had to be abased, come down to their level, become Man. Then, in the
same passage, the Savior is heard “singing praise” unto God. This also
views Him as incarnate, for only as Man could He sing praise unto God!
Moreover, it is not as Lord over the church, but as One “in the midst” of it
He is there viewed. Thus “all of one” is illustrated and substantiated.
A second quotation is now made, from

Isaiah 8:17, according to the
Septuagint version. The passage from which this is taken is a very
remarkable one. Beginning at verse 13 the exhortation is given, “Sanctify
the Lord of Hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your
dread.” This means, give Him His true place in your hearts, recognize His
exalted dignity, bow before His ineffable majesty, submit to His high
sovereignty, tremble at the very thought of quarreling with Him.
Then, in verse 14, the Lord of Hosts is brought before us in a twofold
character: “And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling
and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a
snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” These expressions, Sanctuary and
Stone of stumbling, define the relation of the Lord to the elect and to the
non-elect. To the one He is Refuge, a Resting-place, a Center of worship;
to the other, He is an offense. “The Stone” is one of the titles of Christ,
and it is most interesting and instructive to trace out the various references,
the first being found in

Genesis 49:24. Here in Isaiah 8, it is Christ in
His lowliness which is in view. Israel was looking for One who would be
high among the great ones of the earth, therefore when One who was born
in a manger, who had toiled at the carpenter’s bench, who had not where
to lay His head, appeared before them, they “despised and rejected” Him..138
The figure used here is very affecting. How low a place must the Lord of
glory have taken for Israel to “stumble” over Him, like a stone lying at
one’s feet! Thus, once more, the Holy Spirit refers to an Old Testament
passage in which the Messiah was presented in humiliation, as it were “a
stone” lying on the ground.
It is scarcely necessary to add that the very lowliness into which the Savior
entered, coming here not to be ministered unto but to minister, and give
His life a ransom for many, is that which makes Him a “precious Stone”
(

1 Peter 2:6) to all whose faith sees the Divine glory shining beneath the
humiliation. What is more moving to our hearts, what is mere calculated to
bow them in worship before God as we behold His Son in John 13? —
verily, “a Stone” at the feet of His disciples, washing them! Blessed is it to
know that the very Stone which the builders rejected “is become the head
of the corner” (

Psalm 118:22), that is, has been exalted.
Returning now to Isaiah 8, verse 15 amplifies what was said in the previous
one: “And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be
snared, and be taken.” How solemnly and how literally this was fulfilled in
the history of the Jews we all know. Then, in verse 16, we have stated the
consequences of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah: “Bind up the
testimony, seal the law among My disciples.” Ever since there has been a
veil over Israel’s heart, even when reading the Holy Scriptures (

2
Corinthians 3:15).
Now comes the word in

Hebrews 2:13, “I will put My trust in Him”
(

Isaiah 8:17, Septuagint version). A most blessed word is this. It reveals
the implicit confidence of the Savior in God. Notwithstanding the
treatment which He met with from both the houses of Israel, His trust in
Jehovah remained unshaken; He looked away from the things seen to the
things unseen. The relevancy of this citation in Hebrews 2 is obvious: such
a thing could not have been unless Christ had become Man — considered
simply as God the Son, to speak of Him “trusting” was unthinkable,
impossible. Wonderful proof was this of what had been affirmed in

Hebrews 2:11 concerning the oneness which exists between Christ and
His people: He, like they, was called on to tread the path of faith.
“I will put My trust in Him.” This is indeed a word which should bow our
hearts in wonderment. What a lowly place had the Maker of heaven and
earth taken! How these words bring out the reality of His humanity! The
Son of God had become the Son of Man, and while here on earth He ever.139
acted in perfect accord with the place which He had taken. He lived here a
life of faith, that is, a life of trust in and dependence upon God. In

John
6:57 we hear Him saying, “I live by the Father.” This is what He pressed
on Satan when tempted to manufacture bread for Himself.

Isaiah 8:17 is not the only Old Testament passage which speaks of
Christ “trusting” in God. In

Psalm 16:1, He cries, “Preserve Me, O
God: for in Thee do I put My trust.” As Man it was not fitting that He
should stand independent and alone; nor did He. The whole of this Psalm
views Him in the place of entire dependency — in life, in death, in
resurrection. Strikingly will this appear if verses 10, 11 be compared with

John 2:19 and

John 10:18. In the passages in John’s Gospel, where
His Divine glory shines forth through the veil of His humanity, He speaks
of raising Himself from the dead. But here in Psalm 16, where the
perfections of His manhood are revealed, He is seen trusting in God to
raise Him again. How important it is to get the Spirit’s viewpoint in each
passage!
“I will put My trust in Him.” This perfection of our Lord is not sufficiently
pondered by us. The life which Jesus Christ lived here for thirty-three years
was a life of faith. That is the meaning of that little-understood word in

Hebrews 12:2: “Looking off unto Jesus (His name, as Man), the Author
(Greek, same as “Captain” in 2:10) and Perfecter of faith.” If these words
be carefully weighed in the light of their context, their meaning is plain. In
Hebrews 11 we have illustrated, from the Old Testament saints, various
aspects of the life of faith, but in Jesus we see every aspect of it perfectly
exemplified. As our Captain or Leader, He has gone before His soldiers,
setting before them an inspiring example. The path we are called on to
tread, is the same He trod. The race we are bidden to run, is the same He
ran. And we are to walk and run as He did, by faith.
“I will put my trust in Him.” This was ever the expression of His heart.
Christ could say, and none but He ever could,
“I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My
mother’s belly” (

Psalm 122:10).
Never did another live in such complete dependence on God as He:
“I have set the Lord always before Me; because He is at My right
hand, I shall not be moved” (

Psalm 16:8).140
was His language. So evident was His faith, even to others, that His very
enemies, whilst standing around the Cross, turned it into a bitter taunt:
“He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver
Him, seeing He delighted in Him” (

Psalm 22:8).
How blessed to know that when we are called on to walk by faith, to
submit ourselves unto and live in dependency on God, to look away from
the mists of time to the coming inheritance, that Another has trod the same
path, that in putting forth His sheep, the Good Shepherd went before them
(

John 10:4), that He bids us to do nothing but what He has Himself first
done.
“I will put My trust in Him.” This is still true of the Man Christ Jesus. In

Revelation 1:9 we read of “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ”:
that is the patience of faith, cf.

Hebrews 11:13.

Hebrews 10:12,13
interprets: “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins
forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till
His enemies be made His footstool.” That is the expectation of faith,
awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Ah, dear reader, fellowship with
Christ is no mystical thing, it is intensely practical; fellowship with Christ
means, first of all, walking by faith.
“And again, behold I and the children which God hath given Me”
(verse 13).
This completes the quotation made from

Isaiah 8:17, 18. The
pertinency of these words in support of the apostle’s argument is evident: it
is Christ’s taking His place before God as Mediator, owning the “children”
as His gift to Him; it is Christ as Man confessing His oneness with them,
ranking Himself with the saints — “I and the children,” compare “My
Father and your Father” (

John 20:17). It is the Lord Jesus presenting
Himself to God as His Minister, having faithfully and successfully fulfilled
the task committed to Him. He is here heard addressing the Father,
rejoicing over the fruits of His own work. It is as though He said, “Here
am I, O Father, whom Thou didst send out of Thine own bosom from
Heaven to earth, to gather Thine elect out of the world. I have performed
that for which Thou didst send Me: behold I and the children which Thou
hast given Me.” Though He had proved a stone of stumbling and a rock of
offense to both the houses of Israel, yet was He not left without a people;.141
“children” had been given to Him, and these He owns and solemnly
presents before God.
Who are these “children?” First, they are those whom the Mediator brings
to God. As we read in

1 Peter 3:18,
“For Christ hath also once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God.”
This is what Christ is seen doing here: formally presenting the children to
God. Second, they are here regarded as the “children” of Christ. In

Isaiah 53:10, 11 it was said, “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong
His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands. He shall
see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” In

John 13:33 and

John 21:5 He is actually heard owning His disciples as “children.” Nor
was there anything incongruous in that. Let the reader ponder

1
Corinthians 4:14, 15: if they who are converted under the preaching of
God’s servants may be termed their “children,” how much more so may
they be called “children” of Jesus Christ whom He has begotten by His
Spirit and by His Word!
“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.” Those whom God
hath given to Christ were referred to by Him, again and again, during the
days of His public ministry. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to
Me” (

John 6:37).
“I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me
out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me I pray
for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast
given Me” (

John 17:6, 9).
They were given to Christ before the foundation of the world
(

Ephesians 1:4). These “children” are God’s elect, sovereignly singled
out by Him, and from the beginning chosen unto salvation (

2
Thessalonians 2:13). God’s elect having been given to Christ “before the
foundation of the world,” and therefore from all eternity, throws light upon
a title of the Savior’s found in

Isaiah 9:6: “The everlasting Father.” This
has puzzled many. It need not. Christ is the “everlasting Father” because
from everlasting He has had “children!”
Why were these “children” given to Christ. The first answer must be, For
His own glory. Christ is the Center of all God’s counsels, and His glory the.142
one object ever held in view. Christ will be eternally glorified by having
around Him a family, each member of which is predestined to be
“conformed to His image” (

Romans 8:29). The second answer is, That
He might save them:
“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that
cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (

John 6:37).
“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.” We doubt not that
the ultimate reference of these words looks forward to the time anticipated
by that wonderful doxology found at the close of Jude’s Epistle: “Now
unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless
before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God
our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and
ever.” When the Lord Jesus shall, in a soon-coming Day, gather the
company of the redeemed unto Himself and
“present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or
wrinkle, or any such thing” (

Ephesians 5:27)
then shall He triumphantly exclaim, “Behold I and the children which God
hath given Me.” In the meantime let us seek to take unto our hearts
something of the blessedness of these words that, even now, the “joy of the
Lord” may be our strength (

Nehemiah 8:10).
“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.” Let us endeavor to
point out one or two plain implications. First, how dear, how precious,
must God’s elect be unto Christ! They are the Father’s own “gift” unto
Him. The value of a gift lies not in its intrinsic worth, but in the esteem and
affection in which the giver is held. It is in this light, first of all, that Christ
ever views His people — as the expression of the Father’s own love for
Himself. Second, how certain it is that Christ will continue to care for and
minister unto His people! He cannot be indifferent to the welfare of one of
those whom the Father has given to Him. As

John 13:1 declares,
“having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the
end.” Third, how secure they must be! None of His can possibly perish.
Beautifully is this brought out in

John 18:8, 9, where, to those who had
come to arrest Him, Christ said, “If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their
way: that the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which
Thou gavest Me have I lost none.”.143
Inexpressibly blessed is that which has been before us in

Hebrews 2:12,
13. The Lord’s people are there looked at in a threefold way. First, Christ
owns them as His “brethren.” O the wonder of it! The ambitious worldling
aspires to fleshly honors and titles, but what has he which can, for a
moment, be compared with the honored title which Christ confers upon His
redeemed? Next time you are slandered by men, called some name which
hurts you, remember, fellow-Christian, that Christ calls you one of His
“brethren.” Second, the entire company of the redeemed are here
denominated “the church,” and Christ is seen in the midst singing praise.
There, they are viewed corporately, as a company of worshippers, and He
who is “a Priest forever” leads their songs of joy and adoration. Third, the
Lord Jesus owns us as His “children,” children which have been given to
Him by God. This speaks both of their nearness and dearness to Himself.
Surely the contemplation of these wondrous riches of grace must impel us
to cry,
“To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”
(

Revelation 1:6)..144
CHAPTER 11
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:14-16)
The closing verses of Hebrews 2 are so rich and full in their contents and
the subjects with which they deal are of such importance that we feel the
more disposed to devote extra space for the exposition of them. More and
more we are learning for ourselves that a short portion of Scripture
prayerfully examined and repeatedly meditated upon, yields more blessing
to the heart, more food to the soul, and more help for the walk, than a
whole chapter read more or less cursorily. It is not without reason that the
Lord Jesus said in the parable of the Sower,
“that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good
heart, having heard the Word, keep, and bring forth fruit with
patience” (

Luke 8:15).
The only way in which the Word is “kept” or held fast is through
prolonged meditation and patient or persevering study.
The verses which are to be before us on this occasion form part of the
apostle’s inspired explanation of “the Son’s” becoming Man and suffering
the awful death of the cross. If the reader will turn back to the third
paragraph of the preceding article he will there find five reasons
(substantiated in verses 9, 10), as to why Christ endured such humiliation.
In verses 11-13 four more are advanced. It was necessary for the second
Person of the holy Trinity to be made lower than the angels if He were to
have ground and cause for calling us “brethren” (verses 11, 12), for that is
a title which presupposes a common ground and standing. Then, it was
necessary for the Lord of glory to become “all of one” with His people if,
in the midst of the church, He should “sing praise” unto God (verse 12);
and this, the Old Testament scriptures affirmed, He would do. Again, it
was necessary for Him who was in the form of God to take upon Him “the
form of a servant” if He was to set before His people a perfect example of
the life of faith; and in

Isaiah 8:17, He is heard saying, by the Spirit of.145
prophecy, “I will put My trust in Him” (verse 13). Finally, His exclamation
“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me” (verse 13), required
that He should become Man and thus rank Himself alongside of His saints.
In verses 14-16 we have one of the profoundest statements in all Holy Writ
which treats of the Divine incarnation. For this reason, if for no other, we
must proceed slowly in our examination of it. Here too the Holy Spirit
continues to advance further reasons as to why it was imperative that the
Lord of angels should, for a season, stoop beneath them. Three additional
ones are here given, and they may be stated thus: first, that He might
render null and void him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil
(verse 14); second, that He might deliver His people from the bondage of
that fear which death had occasioned (verse 15); third, Abraham’s children
could only be delivered by Him laying hold of Abraham’s seed (verse 16).
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood
He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death
He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil” (verse 14).
“The connection between this verse and the preceding context may
be stated thus: Since it became Him for whom are all things and by
whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the
captain of their salvation perfect through suffering; and since,
according to Old Testament prophecies, the Sanctifier and the
sanctified, the Savior and the saved, must be of the same race; and
since the saved are human beings, — the Son of God, the appointed
Savior, assumed a nature capable of suffering and death — even the
nature of man, when He came to save, that in that nature He might
die, and by dying accomplish the great purpose of His appointment,
the destruction of the power of Satan, and the deliverance of His
chosen people” (Dr. J. Brown).
The opening words of our verse denote that the Holy Spirit is drawing a
conclusion from the proof-texts just cited from the Old Testament. The
Greek words for “forasmuch then” are rendered “seeing therefore” in

Hebrews 4:6, and their force is, “it is evident hereby” that the Son of
God became the Son of Man for the sake of those whom God had given
Him..146
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood
He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death
He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil” (verse 14).
Here we have the eternal Word becoming flesh, the Son of God becoming
the Son of man. Let us consider,
First, the Wonder of it;
Second, the Needs-be of it;
Third, the Nature of it;
Fourth, the Perfection of it;
Fifth, the Purpose of it.
The tragic thing is that, for the present, our minds are so beclouded and
our understandings so affected by sin, it is impossible for us to fully
perceive the wonder of the Divine incarnation. As the apostle wrote, “But
now we see through a glass darkly” (

1 Corinthians 13:12). But thank
God this condition is not to last for ever; soon, very soon, we shall see
“face to face.” And when by God’s marvelous grace His people behold the
King in His beauty, they will not, we think, be bewildered or dazed, but
instead, filled with such wonderment that their hearts and whole beings will
spontaneously bow in worship.
Another thing which makes it so difficult for us to grasp the wonder of the
Divine incarnation is that there is nothing else which we can for a moment
compare with it; there is no analogy which in any wise resembles it. It
stands unique, alone, in all its solitary grandeur. We are thrilled when we
think of the angels sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of
salvation: that those wondrous creatures, which so far excel us in wisdom
and strength, should have been appointed to be our attendants; that those
holy creatures should be commissioned to encamp round about poor
sinners; that the courtiers of Heaven should wait upon worms of the earth!
Truly, that is a great wonder. But oh my brethren, that wonder pales into
utter insignificance and, in comparison, fades away into nothingness, before
this far greater wonder — that the Creator of angels should leave His
throne on High and descend to this sin-cursed earth; that the very One
before whom all the angels bow should, for a season, be made lower than.147
they; that the Lord of glory, who had dwelt in “light unapproachable,”
should Himself become partaker of “flesh and blood”! This is the wonder
of wonders.
So wonderful was that unparalleled event of the Divine incarnation that the
heavenly hosts descended to proclaim the Savior newly-born. So wonderful
was it that the “glory of the Lord,” the ineffable Shekinah, which once
filled the temple, but had long since retired from the earth, appeared again,
for “the glory of the Lord shone round about” the awestruck shepherds on
Bethlehem’s plains. So wonderful was it that chronology was
revolutionized, and anno mundi became anno domini: the calendar was
changed, and instead of its dating from the beginning of the world, it was
re-dated from the birth of Christ; thus the Lord of time has written His very
signature across the centuries. Passing on now, let us consider the needs-be
for the Divine incarnation.
This is plainly intimated both in what has gone before and in what follows.
If the “children” which God had given to His Son were to be “sanctified”
then He must become “all of one” with them. If those children who are by
nature partakers of flesh and blood were to be “delivered from him that had
the power of death, that is the devil,” then the Sanctifier must also
“likewise take part of the same.” If He was to be a merciful and faithful
High Priest in things pertaining to God, He must in all things “be made like
unto His brethren.” If He is to be able to “succor them that are tempted,”
then He must Himself, “suffer, being tempted”; and, as God Himself
“cannot be tempted,” He had to become Man in order to that experience.
The needs-be was real, urgent, absolute. There was no other way in which
the counsels of God’s grace towards His people could be wrought out. If
ever we were to be made “like Him,” He first had to be made like us. If He
was to give us of His Spirit, He must first assume our flesh. If we were to
be so joined unto the Lord as to become “one spirit” (

1 Corinthians
6:17) with Him, then He must first be joined with our flesh, so as to be “all
of one” with us. In a word, if we were to become partakers of the Divine
nature, He must be made partaker of human nature. Thus we perceive
again the force of the apostle’s reply to the objection which he is here
removing — How could it be that a Man was superior to angels? He has
not only shown from the Jews’ own scriptures that the Man Christ Jesus
had been given a name more excellent than any pertaining to the celestial
hierarchies, but here he shows us the needs-be for the Lord of glory to.148
become Man. If we were to be “conformed to His image” then He must be
“made in the likeness of sin’s flesh.” If the children of Abraham were to be
redeemed, then He must take on Him the “seed of Abraham.”
The nature of the Divine incarnation is here referred to in the words “flesh
and blood.” That expression speaks of the frailty, dependency, and
mortality of man. This is evident from the other passages where it occurs.
The words “flesh and blood” are joined together five times in the New
Testament:

Matthew 16:17,

1 Corinthians 15:50,

Galatians 1:16,

Ephesians 6:12,

Hebrews 2:14. It is a humbling expression
emphasizing the weakness of the flesh and limitations of man: note how in

Ephesians 6:12, “flesh and blood” is contrasted from the mightier foes
against which Christians wrestle.
“Flesh and blood” is the present state in which is found those children
whom God has designed to bring unto glory. By their natural constitution
and condition there is nothing to distinguish the elect from the non-elect.
The Greek noun for “partakers” is derived from the root signifying
“common”: in

Romans 15:27, Gentile believers are said to be
“partakers” of Israel’s spiritual blessings, that is, they enjoy them in
common, one with another. So God’s children are “partakers,” equally
with the children of the Devil, of “flesh and blood.” Nor does our
regeneration effect any change concerning this: the limitations and
infirmities which “flesh and blood” involve still remain. Many reasons for
this might be suggested: that we may not be too much puffed up by our
spiritual standing and privileges; that we might be rendered conscious of
our infirmities, and made to feel our weakness before God; that we might
abase ourselves before Him who is Spirit; that the grace of compassion
may be developed in us — our brethren and sisters are also partakers of
“flesh and blood,” and often we need reminding of this.
In the words “He also Himself likewise took part of the same” we have an
affirmation concerning the reality of the Savior’s humanity. It is not merely
that the Lord of glory appeared on earth in human form, but that He
actually became “flesh and blood,” subject to every human frailty so far as
these are freed from sin. He knew what hunger was, what bodily fatigue
was, what pain and suffering were. The very fact that He was “the Man of
sorrows” indicates that “He also Himself likewise took part of the same.”
Thereby we see the amazing condescension of Christ in thus conforming
Himself to the condition in which the children were. How marvelous the.149
love which caused the Lord of glory to descend so low for us sons of men!
There was an infinite disparity between them: He was infinite, they finite;
He omnipotent; they frail and feeble; He was eternal, they under sentence
of death. Nevertheless, He refused not to be conformed to them; and thus
He was “crucified through weakness” (

2 Corinthians 13:4), which refers
to the state into which He had entered.
The perfection of the Divine incarnation is likewise intimated in the words
“He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” These words emphasize
the fact that Christ’s becoming Man was a voluntary act on His part. The
“children” were by nature subject to the common condition of “flesh and
blood.” They belonged to that order. They had no say in the matter. That
was their state by the law of their very being. But not so with the Lord
Jesus. He entered this condition as coming from another sphere and state
of being. He was the Son who “thought it not robbery to be equal with
God.” He was all-sufficient in Himself. Therefore it was an act of
condescension, a voluntary act, an act prompted by love, which caused
Him to “take part of the same.”
These words also point to the uniqueness of our Lord’s humanity. It is
most blessed to observe how the Spirit here, as always, has carefully
guarded the Redeemer’s glory. It is not said that Christ was a “partaker of
flesh and blood,” but that “He likewise took part of the same.” The
distinction may seem slight, and at first glance not easily detected; yet is
there a real, important, vital difference. Though Christ became Man, real
Man, yet was He different, radically different, from every other man. In
becoming Man He did not “partake” of the foul poison which sin has
introduced into the human constitution. His humanity was not
contaminated by the virus of the Fall. Before His incarnation it was said to
His mother, “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee” (

Luke 1:35).
It is the sinlessness, the uniqueness of our Lord’s humanity which is so
carefully guarded by the distinction which the Holy Spirit has drawn in

Hebrews 2:14.
The purpose of the Divine incarnation is here intimated in the words that
“through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is,
the devil.” It was with this end in view that the Son of God took part in
“flesh and blood.” In the several passages where the Divine incarnation is
referred to in the New Testament different reasons are given and various
designs are recorded. For example,

John 3:16 tells us that one chief.150
object in it was to reveal and exhibit the matchless love of God.

1
Timothy 1:15 declares that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners.” But here in

Hebrews 2:14 it is the destroying of him that had
the power of death that is mentioned.
The object of the Holy Spirit in our present passage is to display the
glorious and efficacious side of that which was most humbling — the
infinite stoop of the Lord of glory. He is pointing out to those who found
the Cross such a stumbling-block, how that there was a golden lining to the
dark cloud which hung over it. That which to the outward eye, or rather
the untaught heart and mind, seemed such a degrading tragedy was, in
reality, a glorious triumph; for by it the Savior stripped the Devil of his
power and wrested from his hands his most awful weapon. Just as the scars
which a soldier carries are no discredit or dishonor to him if received in an
honorable cause, so the cross-sufferings of Christ instead of marking His
defeat were, actually, a wondrous victory, for by them He overthrew the
arch-enemy of God and man.
“That through death He might destroy him that had the power of
death, that is, the devil.” It is most blessed to note the bearing of
this statement upon the special point the apostle was discussing.
The Jews were stumbled by the fact that their Messiah had died.
Here the Holy Spirit showed that so far from that death tarnishing
the glory of Christ, it exemplified it, for by death He overthrew the
great Enemy and delivered His captive people. “Not only is He
glorious in heaven, but He hath conquered Satan in the very place
where he exercised his sad dominion over men, and where the
judgment of God lay heavily upon men” (Mr. J.N. Darby).
“That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death,
that is, the devil.” Three things here claim attention:
First, what is meant by the Devil having “the power of death”?
Second, what “death” is here in view?
Third, in what sense has Christ “destroyed” the Devil?
From the words of the next verse it is clear that the reference is to what
particularly obtained before Christ became incarnate. That it does not mean
the Devil had absolute power in the infliction of physical death in Old
Testament times is clear from several scriptures. Of old Jehovah affirmed,.151
“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill,
and I make alive” (

Deuteronomy 32:39).
Again,
“the Lord killeth, and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave,
and bringeth up” (

1 Samuel 2:6).
And again,
“unto God the Lord belong the issues from death”
(

Psalm 68:20).
These passages are decisive, and show that even during the Mosaic
economy the giving of life and the inflicting of death were in the hands of
God only, no matter what instruments He might employ in connection
therewith.
The particular kind of “death” which is here in view is explained for us in
the words “that through death lie” etc. The death which Christ died was
“the wages of sin” — the penal infliction of the law, suffering the wrath of
a holy God. The point raised here is a deeply mysterious one, yet on it
Scripture throws some light. In

John 8:44, Christ declared that the
Devil was “a murderer” (literally “man-slayer”) from the beginning. In

Zechariah 3:1, we are shown Satan standing at Jehovah’s right-hand to
resist Israel’s high priest. Upon the subject Saphir has said, “But which
death did Christ die? That death of which the Devil had the power. Satan
wielded that death. He it was who had a just claim against us that we
should die. There is justice in the claim of Satan.
“It is quite true that Satan is only a usurper; but in saving men God deals in
perfect righteousness, justice, truth. According to the Jewish tradition the
fallen angels often accuse men, and complain before God that sinful men
obtain mercy. Our redemption is in harmony with the principles of
righteousness and equity, on which God has founded all things. The prince
of this world is judged (

John 16:11); he is conquered not merely by
power, but by the power of justice and truth…. He stood upon the justice
of God, upon the inflexibility of His law, upon the true nature of our sins.
But when Christ died our very death, when He was made sin and a curse
for us, then all the power of Satan was gone…. And now what can Satan
say? The justice, majesty, and perfection of the law are vindicated more
than if all the human race were lost forever. The penalty due to the broken.152
law Jesus endured, and now, as the law is vindicated, sin put away, death
swallowed up, Christ has destroyed the Devil.”
Inasmuch as the Devil is the one who brought about the downfall of our
first parents, by which sentence of death has been passed upon all their
posterity (

Romans 5:12); inasmuch as he goeth about as a roaring lion
“seeking whom he may devour” (

1 Peter 5:8); inasmuch as he
challenged God to inflict upon the guilty the sentence of the law
(

Zechariah 3:1); and, inasmuch as even the elect of God are, before
their regeneration, under “the power of darkness” (

Colossians 1:13 and
cf.

Acts 26:18), dead in trespasses and sins, yet “walking according to
the Prince of the power of the air”; the Devil may be said to have “the
power of death.”
The word “destroy him that had the power of death” does not signify to
annihilate, but means to make null and render powerless. In

1
Corinthians 1:28 this same Greek word is rendered “bring to naught”; in

Romans 3:3 “without effect”; in

Romans 3:31 “make void.” Satan
has been so completely vanquished by Christ the Head that he shall prevail
against none of His members. This is written for the glory of Christ, and to
encourage His people to withstand him. Satan is an enemy bespoiled.
Therefore is it said, “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (

James
4:7). To such as believe there is assurance of victory. If the Devil gets the
upper hand of us, it is either because of our timidity, or lack of faith.
“To ‘destroy him that had the power of death’ is to strip him of his
power. It is said by the apostle John, ‘for this purpose was the Son
of God manifested, to destroy the works of the Devil,’ i.e.
ignorance, error, depravity, and misery. In the passage before us,
the destruction is restricted to the peculiar aspect in which the
Devil is viewed. To destroy him, is so to destroy him as having ‘the
power of death’ — to render him, in this point of light, powerless
in reference to the children; i.e., to make death cease to be a penal
evil. Death, even in the case of the saints, is an expression of the
displeasure of God against sin; but it is not — as but for the death
of Christ it must have been — the hopeless dissolution of his body:
it is not the inlet to eternal misery to his soul. Death to them for
whom Christ died consigns, indeed, the body to the grave; but it is
‘in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection,’ and it.153
introduces the freed spirit into all the glories of the celestial
paradise” (Dr. J. Brown).
This stripping Satan of his power of death was accomplished by the laying
down of the Savior’s life, “that through death He might destroy.”
“The means whereby Christ overcame Satan, is expressly said to be
death. To achieve this great and glorious victory against so mighty
an enemy, Christ did not assemble troops of angels, as He could
have done (

Matthew 26:53), nor did He array Himself with
majesty and terror, as in

Exodus 19:16; but He did it by taking
part of weak flesh and blood, and therein humbling Himself to
death. In this respect the apostle saith, that Christ ‘having spoiled
principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing
over them in the cross’ (

Colossians 2:15), meaning thereby, His
death. The apostle there resembleth the cross of Christ to a trophy
whereon the spoils of enemies were hanged. Of old conquerors
were wont to hang the armor and weapons of enemies vanquished
on the walls of forts and towers.” (Dr. Gouge.)
“That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death,
that is, the devil.” A striking type of this is furnished in

Judges 14:12-19
— will the reader please turn to this, before considering our brief
comments. The riddle propounded by Samson prefigured what is plainly
declared here in

Hebrews 2:14. The greatest “eater” (

Judges 14:14),
or “consumer,” is Death. Yet out of the eater came forth meat: that is, out
of death has come life; see

John 12:24. Note in Judges 14 how,
typically, the natural man is, of himself, utterly unable to solve this mystery.
The secret of the death of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, must be
revealed. Finally, note how that a change of raiment was provided for
those to whom the riddle was explained — a foreshadowment of the
believer’s robe of righteousness!
“And deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time
subject to bondage” (verse 15).
It needs to be carefully borne in mind that throughout this passage the
apostle has in view a particular class of persons, namely, the “heirs of
salvation,” the “sons” of God, the “brethren” of Christ. Here they are
described according to their unregenerate condition: subject to bondage; so
subject, all their unregenerate days; so subject through “the fear of death.”.154
It was to deliver them from this fear of death that Christ died. Such we
take it is the general meaning of this verse.

2 Timothy 1:7 gives the
sequel: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of
love, and of a sound mind.”
The opening “And” and the verb “deliver” (which is in the same mood and
tense as “destroy” in the previous verse) intimate that Christ’s death had in
view these two ends which cannot be separated, namely, destroying the
Devil, delivering us. Just as Abraham destroyed those enemies who had
taken Lot captive together with the other inhabitants of Sodom, that he
might “deliver” them (

Genesis 14:14), and as David destroyed the
Amalekites, that he might “deliver” his wives and children and others out
of their hands (

1 Samuel 27:9), so Christ vanquished the Devil, that he
might “deliver” those who had (by yielding to his temptations) fallen
captive to him. What thanks is due unto Christ for thus overthrowing our
great adversary!
To the “fear of death,” i.e., that judgment of God upon sin, all men are in
much greater bondage than they will own or than they imagine. It was this
“fear” which made Adam and Eve hide themselves from the presence of
God (

Genesis 3:8), which made Cain exclaim, “my punishment is
greater than I can bear” (

Genesis 4:13), which made Nabal’s heart to
die within him (

1 Samuel 25:37), which made Saul fall to the ground as
a man in a swoon (

1 Samuel 28:20), which made Felix to tremble
(

Acts 24:25), and which will yet cause kings and the great men of the
earth to call on the mountains to fall on them (

Revelation 6:15, 16).
True, the natural man, at times, succeeds in drowning the accusations of
his conscience in the pleasures of sin, but
“as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the
fool” (

Ecclesiastes 7:6).
It is from this fearful bondage that Christ delivered His people: through His
grace, by His spirit filling them “with all joy and peace in believing”
(

Romans 15:13).
A beautiful and most complete type of the truth in our present verse is to
be found in 1 Samuel 17. Will the reader turn to that chapter and note
carefully the following details:
First, in verses 4-8 there we have, in figure, Satan harassing the Old
Testament saints..155
Second, where was David (type of Christ) during the time Goliath was
terrifying the people of God? Verses 14, 15 answer: In his father’s house,
caring for his sheep. So through the Mosaic economy Christ remained on
High, in the Father’s house, yet caring for His sheep.
Third, Goliath defied Israel for “forty days,” verse 16 — figure of the
forty centuries from Adam to Christ, when the Old Testament saints lived
in fear of death, for “life and immortality” were only brought “to light
through the Gospel” (

2 Timothy 1:10).
Fourth, next we see David leaving his father’s house, laden with blessings
for his brethren, verses 17, 18. Note the “early in the morning,” verse 20,
showing his readiness to go on this mission.
Fifth, mark the sad reception he met with from his brethren, verse 28: his
efforts were unappreciated, his purpose misunderstood, and a false
accusation was brought against him.
Sixth, in verses 32, 38-49, we have a marvelous type of Christ defeating
Satan in the wilderness: note how David went forth in his shepherd
character (verse 40 and compare John 10). He took “five” stones out of the
brook (the place of running water — figure of the Holy Spirit) but used
only one of them; so Christ in the Wilderness selected the Pentateuch (the
first five books of Scripture) as His weapon, but used only one of them,
Deuteronomy. Note David slew him not with the stone! He stunned him
with that, but slew him with his own sword: so Christ vanquished him that
had the power of death “through death.” Read again verse 51 and see how
accurate is the figure of Christ “bruising” the Serpent’s head. Finally, read
verse 52 and see the typical climax: those “in fear” delivered. What a
marvelous Book is the Bible!
“For verily He took not on angels; but He took on the seed of
Abraham” (verse 16).
This verse, which has occasioned not a little controversy, presents no
difficulty if it be weighed in the light of its whole context. It treats not of
the Divine incarnation, that we have in verse 14; rather does it deal with
the purpose of it, or better, the consequences of Christ’s death. Its opening
“for” first looks back, remotely to verses 9,10; immediately, to verses 14,
15. The Spirit is here advancing a reason why Christ tasted death for every
son, and why He destroyed the Devil in order to liberate His captives;.156
because not angels, but the seed of Abraham, were the objects of His
benevolent favor. The “for” and the balance of the verse also, looks
forward, laying a foundation for what follows in verse 17: the ground of
Christ’s being made like to His brethren and becoming the faithful and
merciful High Priest was because He would befriend the seed of Abraham.
The Greek verb here translated “He took on” or “laid hold” is found
elsewhere in some very striking connections. It is used of Christ’s
stretching out His hand and rescuing sinking Peter,

Matthew 14:31,
there rendered “caught.” It is used of Christ when He “took” the blind man
by the hand (

Mark 8:23). So of the man sick of the dropsy. He “took”
and healed him (

Luke 14:4). Here in

Hebrews 2:16 the reference is
to the almighty power and invincible grace of the Captain of our salvation.
It receives illustration in those words of the apostle’s where, referring to
his own conversion, he said, “for which also I am (was) apprehended (laid
hold) of Christ Jesus” (

Philippians 3:12). Thus it was and still is with
each of God’s elect. In themselves, lost, rushing headlong to destruction;
when Christ stretches forth His hand and delivers, so that of each it may be
said, “Is not this a brand plucked from the burning” (

Zechariah 3:2).
“Laid hold of” so securely that none can pluck out of His hand!
But not only does our verse emphasize the invincibility of Divine grace, it
also plainly teaches the absolute sovereignty of it. Christ lays hold not of
“the seed of Adam,” all mankind, but only “the seed of Abraham” — the
father of God’s elect people. This expression, “the seed of Abraham,” is
employed in the New Testament in connection with both his natural and his
spiritual seed. It is the latter which is here in view:
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith
not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed which
is Christ” (

Galatians 3:16)
— not only Christ personal, but Christ mystical. The last verse of Galatians
3 shows that: “And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs
according to promise.”
This verse presents an insoluble difficulty to those who believe in the
universality of God’s love and grace. Those who do so deny the plain
teaching of Scripture that Christ laid down His life for “the sheep,” and for
them alone. They insist that justice as well as mercy demanded that He
should die for all of Adam’s race. But why is it harder to believe that God.157
has provided no salvation for part of the human race, than that He has
provided none for the fallen angels? They were higher in the scale of being;
they, too, were sinners needing a Savior. Yet none has been provided for
them! He “laid not on” angels.
But more: Our verse not only brings out the truth of election, it also
presents the solemn fact of reprobation. Christ is not the Savior of angels.
“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own
habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the
judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). On this Dr. J. Brown has well said:
“What an overwhelming subject of contemplation is this! He is not
the Savior of angels, but of the elect family of men. We are lost in
astonishment when we allow our minds to rest on the number and
dignity of those whom He does not lay hold of, and the
comparative as well as real vileness of those of whom He does take
hold. A sentiment of this kind has engaged some good, but in this
case not wise men, in an inquiry why the Son of God saves men
rather than angels. On this subject Scripture is silent, and so should
we be. There is no doubt that there are good reasons for this, as for
every other part of the Divine determinations and dispensations;
and it is not improbable that in some future stage of our being these
reasons will be made known to us. But, in the meantime, I can go
no further than, ‘even so, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy
sight.’ I dare not ‘intrude into things, which I have not seen,’ lest I
should prove that I am ‘vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind.’ But I
will say with an apostle, ‘Behold the goodness and severity of God;
on them that fell, severity’ — most righteous severity; ‘but to them
who are saved, goodness’ — most unmerited goodness.” (Dr. J.
Brown.)
May the Lord add His blessing to what has been before us..158
CHAPTER 12
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS.
(

HEBREWS 2:17, 18)
The verses which are now to be before us complete the second main
division of the Epistle, in which the apostle has set forth the superiority of
Christ over angels, and has met and removed a double objection which
might be made against this. In showing that it was necessary for the Son of
God to become Man in order to save His people from their sins, the Holy
Spirit took occasion to bring out some striking details concerning the real
and perfect humanity of Christ. In

Hebrews 2:11 He affirms that Christ
and His people are “all of one.” This receives a sevenfold amplification,
which is as follows:
First, they are one in sanctification, verse 11.
Second, they are one in family relationship, verses 11, 12a.
Third, they are one in worship, verse 12b.
Fourth, they are one in trust, verse 13.
Fifth, they are one in nature, verse 14.
Sixth, they are one in the line of promise, verse 16.
Seventh, they are one in experiencing temptation, verse 18.
It is remarkable to notice, however, that in this very passage which sets
forth Christ’s identification with His people on earth, the Holy Spirit has
carefully guarded the Savior’s glory and shows, also in a sevenfold way,
His uniqueness:
First, He is “the Captain of our salvation” (verse 10), we are those
whom He saves.
Second, He is the “Sanctifier,” we but the sanctified (verse 11)..159
Third, the fact that He is “not ashamed to call us brethren” (verse 11),
clearly implies His superiority.
Fourth, He is the Leader of our praise and presents it to God (verse
12).
Fifth, mark the “I, and the children” in verse 13.
Sixth, note the contrast between “partakers” and “took part of” in
verse 14.
Seventh, He is the Destroyer of the enemy, we but the delivered ones
verses 14, 15. Thus, here as everywhere, He has the pre-eminence in all
things.”
Another thing which comes out strikingly and plainly in the second half of
Hebrews 2 is the distinguishing grace and predestinating love of God.
Christ is His “Elect” (

Isaiah 42:1), so called because His people are
“chosen in Him” (

Ephesians 1:4). Mark how this also is developed in a
sevenfold manner.
First, in “bringing many sons unto glory.” (verse 10).
Second, “the Captain of their salvation” (verse 10).
Third, “they who are sanctified,” set apart (verse 11).
Fourth, “in the midst of the church” (verse 12).
Fifth, “the children which God hath given me” (verse 13).
Sixth, “He took on Him the seed of Abraham” (verse 16), not Adam,
but “Abraham,” the father of God’s chosen people.
Seventh, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (verse 17).
If the reader will turn back to the third paragraph in article 10, and the
second and third in article 11, he will find that we have called attention to
twelve distinct reasons set forth by the apostle in

Hebrews 2:9-16,
which show the meetness and necessity of Christ’s becoming man and
dying. In the verses which we are now to ponder, two more are advanced:
First, the incarnation and death of the Savior were imperative if He was to
be “a merciful and faithful High Priest” (verse 17)..160
Second, such experiences were essential that He might be able to “succor
them that are tempted” (verse 18). Thus, in the fourteen answers given to
the two objections which a Jew would raise, a complete demonstration is
once more given of the two leading points under discussion.
Though our present portion consists of but two verses yet are they so full
of important teaching that many more pages than what we shall now write
might well be devoted to their explication and application. They treat of
such weighty subjects as the incarnation of Christ, the priesthood of Christ,
the atoning-sacrifice of Christ, the temptation of Christ, and the succor of
Christ. Precious themes indeed are these; may the Spirit of truth be our
Guide as we prayerfully turn to their consideration.
“Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His
brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in
things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the
people” (verse 17).
The Holy Spirit here adduces a further reason why it was necessary for the
Son of God to become incarnate and lay down His life for His people: it
behooved Him so to do that He might be an effectual High Priest. As the
priesthood of Christ will come before us again and again in the later
chapters, D.V., we shall not here discuss it at length. Let us now ponder
the several words and clauses of our present verse.
“Wherefore” is the drawing of a conclusion from what has been said in the
previous verses. “It behooved Him”: the Greek word is not the same as for
“it became” Him in

Hebrews 2:10. There the reference is to the Father,
here to the Son; that signified a comeliness or meetness, this has reference
to a necessity, though not an absolute one, but in conjunction with the
order of God’s appointment in the way sinners were to be redeemed, and
His justice satisfied, cf.

Luke 24:46. “To be made like unto His
brethren” is parallel with “all of one” in verse 11 and “He also Himself
likewise took part” in verse 14. The expression goes to manifest the reality
of Christ’s human nature: that He was Man, such a man as we are.
The words “it behooved Him in all things to (His) brethren to be made
like” are not to be taken absolutely. When the writer points out that, in
view of other scriptures, the word “all” must be limited in such passages as

John 12:32,

1 Timothy 2:4, 6, etc., some people think we are
interpreting the Bible so as to suit ourselves. But what will they do with.161
such a verse as

Hebrews 2:17? Can the words “in all things it behooved
Him to be made like unto His brethren” be understood without
qualification? Was He made like unto us in the depravity of our natures?
Did He suffer from physical sicknesses as we do? Emphatically no. How do
we know this? From other passages. Scripture needs to be compared with
Scripture in order to understand any verse or any expression. The same
Greek words here rendered “all things” (kapapanta) occur again in

Hebrews 4:15, where we are told that Christ “was in all points (things)
tempted like as we are sin excepted” for thus the Greek word should be
rendered. Thus the Holy Spirit expressly declares that the “all things” is not
universal!
What then does the “all things” signify and include? We answer, everything
which Scripture does not except or exclude “when people saw Him, they
did not notice in His outward appearance anything super-human, glorious,
free from earthly weakness and dependency. He did not come in splendor
and power. He did not come in the brightness and strength which Adam
possessed before he fell. ‘In all things He became like unto us’ in His body,
for He was hungry and thirsty; overcome with fatigue, He slept; in His
mind, for it developed. He had to be taught. He grew in wisdom
concerning the things around Him; He increased, not merely in stature, but
in mental and normal strength. In His affections, for He loved. He was
astonished; He marveled at men’s unbelief. Sometimes He was glad, and
‘rejoiced in spirit’; sometimes He was angry and indignant, as when He
saw the hypocrisy of the Jews. Zeal like fire burned within Him: ‘The zeal
for the house of God consumed Me’; and he showed a vehement fervor in
protecting the sanctity of God’s temple. He was grieved; He trembled with
emotion; His soul was straightened in Him. Sometimes He was overcome
by the waves of feeling when He beheld the future that was before Him.
“Do not think of Him as merely appearing a man, or as living a
man only in His body, but as Man in body, soul, and spirit. He
exercised faith; He read the Scriptures for His own guidance and
encouragement; He prayed the whole night, especially when He had
some great and important work to do, as before setting apart the
apostles. He sighed when He saw the man who was dumb; tears fell
from His eyes when at the tomb of Lazarus He saw the power of
death and of Satan. His supplications were with strong crying and
tears; His soul was exceeding sorrowful” (Saphir)..162
Thus, the Son of God was made like unto His brethren in that He became
Man, with a human spirit, and soul and body; in that He developed along
the ordinary lines of human nature, from infancy to maturity; and, in that
He passed through all the experiences of men, sin, and sickness excepted.
“That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining
to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” The Son of God
became the Son of Man in order that He might be an High Priest. There
was an absolute necessity for this. First, because of the infinite disparity
there is between God and men: He is of infinite glory and majesty, and
dwells in that light which no man can approach unto (

1 Timothy 6:16);
they are but dust and ashes (

Genesis 18:27). Second, because of the
contrariety of nature between God and men: He is most pure and holy,
they most polluted and unholy. Third, because of the resultant enmity
between God and men (

Romans 5:10;

Colossians 1:21). Hence we
may observe: there is no immediate access for any man to God without a
priest; there is no priest qualified to act for men in things pertaining to
God, but Jesus Christ, the God-man. Thus has He been appointed
“Mediator between God and men” (

1 Timothy 2:5,6).
Because of the perfect union between His two natures, the Lord Jesus is “a
merciful and faithful High Priest”: “merciful” man-wards, “faithful” God-wards.
To be “merciful” is to be compassionate, ever ready, under the
influence of a tender sympathy, to support, comfort, and deliver. Having
trod the same path as His suffering and tried people, Christ is able to enter
into their afflictions. He is not like an angel, who has never experienced
pain. He is Man; nor are His sympathies impaired by His exaltation to
heaven. The same human heart beats within the bosom of Him who sits at
God’s right hand as caused Him to weep over Jerusalem! To be “faithful”
means that His compassions are regulated by holiness, His sympathies are
exercised, according to the requirements of God’s truth. There is a perfect
balance between His maintenance of God’s claims and His ministering to
our infirmities.
“To make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” It is a pity that the
translators of the A.V. rendered this clause as they did. The Revisers have
correctly given: “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The
Greek word here is “Hilaskeothai,” which is the verbal form of the one
found in

1 John 2:2 and

1 John 4:10. The word for “reconciliation”
is “katallage,” which occurs in

2 Corinthians 5:18, 19, and

Romans.163
5:11, though the word is there wrongly rendered “the atonement.” The
difference between the two terms is vital though one which is now little
understood. Reconciliation is one of the effects or fruits of propitiation.
Reconciliation is between God and us; propitiation is solely God-ward.
Propitiation was the appeasing of God’s holy anger and righteous wrath;
reconciliation is entering into the peace which the atoning sacrifice of
Christ has procured.
“To make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Here is the climax of the
apostle’s argument. Here is his all-conclusive reply to the Jews’ objection.
Atonement for the sins of God’s elect could not be made except the Son
became Man; except He became “all of one” with those who had, from all
eternity been set apart in the counsels of the Most High to be “brought
unto glory”; except He took part in “flesh and blood,” and in all things be
“made like unto His brethren.” Only thus could He be the Redeemer of the
“children” which God had given Him.
In Scripture the first qualification of a redeemer was that he must belong to
the same family of him or her who was to be redeemed:
“If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away of his
possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he
redeem that which his brother sold” (

Leviticus 25:25).
The redeemer must be a “kinsman”: this fact is fully and beautifully
illustrated in the book of Ruth (see

Hebrews 2:20; 3:12, 13; 4:1, 4, 6).
Neither pity, love, nor power were of any avail till kinship was established.
The important bearing of this on what immediately follows we shall now
endeavor to show.
“To make propitiation for the sins of the people.” This word, in the light of
its setting, is one of the most vital to be found in all Holy Writ on the
subject of the Atonement, bringing out, as it does, the absolute
righteousness of God in connection therewith. At the back of many minds,
we fear, there lurks the suspicion that though it was marvelous grace and
matchless love which moved God to give His Son to die for sinners, yet
that, strictly speaking, it was an act of unrighteousness. Was it really just
for an innocent person to suffer in the stead of the guilty? Was it right for
One who had so perfectly honored God and kept His law at every point, to
endure its awful penalty? To say, It had to be, there was no other way of.164
saving us, supplies no direct answer to our question; nay, it is but arguing
on the jesuitical basis that “the end justifies the means.”
Sin must be punished; a holy God could not ignore our manifold
transgressions; therefore, if we are to escape the due reward of our
iniquities a sinless substitute must be paid the wages of sin in our stead.
But will not the Christian reader agree that it had been infinitely better for
all of us to be cast into the Lake of Fire, than that God should act
unrighteously to His Own Beloved? Has, then our salvation been secured
at the awful price of a lasting stigma being cast upon the holy name of
God? This is how the theological schemes of many have left it. But not so
the Holy Scriptures. Yet, let us honestly face the question: Was God just in
taking satisfaction from His spotless Son in order to secure the salvation of
His people?
It is at this point that so many preachers have shown a zeal which is not
“according to knowledge” (

Romans 10:2). In their well-meant but
carnal efforts to simplify the things of God, they have dragged down His
holy and peerless truth to the level of human affairs. They have sought to
“illustrate” Divine mysteries by references to things which come within the
range of our senses. God has said,
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for
they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know, because they
are spiritually discerned” (

1 Corinthians 2:14).
Why not believe what He has said? You cannot teach a corpse, and the
natural man is dead in sin. If the Word of God does not bring him life and
light, no words of ours can or will. And to go outside of Holy Writ for our
“illustrations” is a piece of impertinency, or worse. When a preacher
attempts to simplify the mystery of the three Persons in the Godhead by an
illustration from “nature” he only exhibits his foolishness, and helps
nobody.
Thus it has been with the sacred truth and holy mystery of the Atonement.
Good men have not hesitated to ransack the annals of history, both ancient
and modern, to discover examples of those who, themselves innocent of
the crime committed, volunteered to receive the penalty due to those who
were guilty. Sad, indeed, is it to behold this unholy cheapening of the
things of God; but what is far worse, most reprehensible is it to observe
their misrepresentations of the greatest transaction of all in the entire.165
history of the universe. An innocent man bearing the punishment of a guilty
one may meet the requirements of a human government, but such an
arrangement could never satisfy the demands of the righteous government
of God. Such is its perfection, that under it no innocent person ever
suffered, and no guilty person ever escaped; and so far from the atonement
of the Son of God forming an exception to this rule, it affords the most
convincing evidence of its truth.
Once we perceive that the Atonement is founded upon the unity of Christ
and His people, a unity formed by His taking part in flesh and blood, the
righteousness of God is at once cleared of the aspersion which the
illustrations of many a preacher has, by necessary implication cast upon it.
The propitiation rendered unto God was made neither by a stranger, nor an
intimate friend, undergoing what another merited; but by the Head who
was responsible for the acts of the members of His spiritual body, just as
those members had been constituted guilty because of the act of their
natural head, Adam — when “by the offense of one, judgment came upon
all men to condemnation” (

Romans 5:18). It is perhaps worthy of notice
in this connection that, in the over-ruling providence of God, it is the head
of a murderer’s body which is dealt with when capital punishment is
inflicted either decapitation as in France, hanging by the neck as in
England, or being gassed as in some parts of the United States. Thus the
head is held responsible for the feet, which were swift to shed blood, and
the hand which committed the lethal crime.
However great the dignity of the substitute, or however deep his voluntary
humiliation, atonement for us would not have been possible unless that
substitute became actually, as well as legally, one with us. In order to
ransom His church, in order to purge our sins, Christ must so unite Himself
with His people, that their sins should become His sins, and that His
sufferings and death should become their sufferings and death. In short, the
union between the Son of God and His people, and theirs with Him, must
be as real and as intimate as that of Adam and his posterity, who all sinned
and died in him. Thus did He, in the fullness of time, assume their flesh and
blood, bear their sins in His own body on the tree, so that they, having died
to sin, may live unto righteousness, being healed by His stripes. Therefore,
no human transaction can possibly illustrate the surety-ship and sacrificial
death of Christ, and any attempt to do so is not only to darken counsel by
words without knowledge, but is, really, to be guilty of presumptuous.166
impiety. Probably more than one preacher will be led to cry with the writer,
“Father, forgive me, for I knew not what I did.”
Here, then, is the answer to our question: so far from the salvation of
God’s elect having been procured at the unspeakable price of sullying the
holy name of Deity, the manner in which it was secured furnishes the
supremest demonstration of the inexorable justice of God; for when sin
was found upon Him, God “spared not His own Son” (

Romans 8:32).
But it was against no “innocent Victim” that God bade His sword awake.
It was against One who had graciously condescended to be “numbered
with transgressors,” who not only took their place, but had become one
with them. Had He not first had a real and vital relation to our sins, He
could not have undergone their punishment. The justice of God’s
imputation of our sins to the Savior’s account rested upon His oneness
with His people.
It is this fact which is iterated and reiterated all through the immediate
context. “Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of
one” (verse 11), “Behold I and the children which God hath given Me”
(verse 13), “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and
blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (verse 14),
“Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His
brethren” (verse 17). Why? Why? Here is the inspired answer: “To make
propitiation for the sins of the people.” That was only possible, we say
again, because of His union with them. When Christ became one with His
people their guilt became His, as the debts of a wife become by marriage
the debts of the husband. This itself is acknowledged by Christ,
“For innumerable evils hath compassed Me about: Mine iniquities
have taken hold upon Me, so that I am not able to look up; they are
more than the hairs of Mine head: therefore My heart faileth Me”
(

Psalm 40:12).
“To make propitiation for the sins of the people.” In the light of all that has
gone before in the Epistle, this statement is luminous indeed. The whole
context shows us His qualifications for this stupendous work, a work
which none but He could have performed.
First, He was Himself “the Son,” the brightness of God’s glory and the
very impress of His substance. Thus it was the dignity or Deity of His
person which gave such infinite value to His work..167
Second, His moral perfections as Man, loving righteousness and hating
iniquity (

Hebrews 1:9), thus fulfilled every requirement of the law.
Third, His union with His people which caused him “made sin for us, that
we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
The “propitiation” (which is the New Testament filling out of the Old
Testament “to make an atonement”) which Christ made, was the perfect
satisfaction that He offered to the holiness and justice of God on behalf of
His people’s sins, so that they could be righteously blotted out, removed
for ever from before the face of God, “as far as the east is from the west.”
This sacrificial work of the Savior’s was a priestly act, as the words of our
present verse clearly enough affirm.
For “the sins of the people” is parallel with

Matthew 1:21;

John
10:11. They plainly teach that atonement has been made for the sins of
God’s elect only. “The people” are manifestly parallel with the “heirs of
salvation” (

Hebrews 1:14), the “many sons” (

Hebrews 2:10), the
“brethren” (

Hebrews 2:12), the “seed of Abraham” (

Hebrews 2:16).
It is with them alone Christ identified Himself. The “all of one” of

Hebrews 2:11 is expressly defined as being only between “He that
sanctifieth and they who are sanctified.” He laid hold of “the seed of
Abraham,” and not “the seed of Adam.” He is the “Head” not of mankind,
but of “the church which is His body” (

Ephesians 1:21-23). A universal
atonement, which largely fails of its purpose, is an invention of Satan, with
the design of casting dishonor upon Christ, who would thus be a defeated
Savior. A general atonement, abstractedly offered to Divine justice, which
is theoretically sufficient for everybody, yet in itself efficient for nobody, is
a fictitious imagination, which finds lodgment only in those who are vainly
puffed up by a fleshly mind. A particular atonement, made for a definite
people, all of whom shall enjoy the eternal benefits of it, is what is
uniformly taught in the Word of God.
“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted He is able to
succor them that are tempted” (verse 18).
Here is the final reason given why it was necessary for the Son to become
Man and die: He is the better able to succor His tried people. It was not
simply His having been “tempted” that qualified Him, for God Himself may
be tempted (

Numbers 14:22), though not with evil (

James 1:13). So
men may be tempted, yet as to be moved little or nothing thereby. But such.168
temptations as make one suffer, do so work on him, as to draw out his pity
to other tempted ones, and to help them as far as He can. It is this point
which the Spirit has here seized.
“For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted.” The subject of
Christ’s being tempted is an important one, for erroneous conceptions
thereof necessarily produce a most dishonoring conception of His peerless
Person. If the Lord wills, we hope to discuss it more fully when we come
to

Hebrews 4:15, yet feel we must offer a few remarks upon it now.
That the temptations to which our blessed Lord was subjected were real
ones is evidenced from the inspired declaration that He “suffered” from
them, but that they involved a conflict within Him, or that there was any
possibility of His yielding thereto, must be emphatically denied. That He
became Man with a human spirit and soul and body, and therefore
possessed a human will, we fully believe; but that there was the slightest
inclination for His heart or will to yield to evil solicitations, is wicked to so
much as imagine. Not only was His humanity sinless, but it was “holy”
(

Luke 1:35), and His inherent holiness repelled all sin as water does
fire.
The temptations or trials which Christ suffered here on earth must not be
limited to those which came upon Him from Satan, though these are
included.
First, Christ suffered bodily hunger (

Matthew 4:1,2), etc.
Second, His holy nature suffered acutely from the very presence of the
foul Fiend, so that He said, “Get thee hence” (

Matthew 4:10).
Third, the temptations from the Pharisees and others “grieved” Him
(

Mark 3:5)
Fourth, from the words of His own disciples, which were an “offense”
unto Him (

Matthew 16:23).
Fifth, His greatest sufferings were from His Father’s temptings or
tryings of Him. (See

John 12:27;

Matthew 26:38, 39; 27:46).
Note how in

Luke 22:28, “My temptation,” the Savior spoke of His
whole life as one unbroken experience of trial! How real and deep His
“sufferings” were, many of the Messianic Psalms reveal.
The very fact that He suffered when “tempted” manifests His uniqueness..169
“He suffered, never yielded. We do not ‘suffer’ when we yield to
temptation: the flesh takes pleasure in the things by which it is
tempted. Jesus suffered, being tempted. It is important to observe
that the flesh, when acted upon by its desires, does not suffer.
Being tempted it, alas, enjoys. But when, according to the light of
the Holy Spirit and fidelity of obedience, the spirit resists the
attacks of the enemy, whether subtle or persecuting, then one
suffers. This the Lord did, and this we have to do” (Mr. J.N.
Darby).
“He is able to succor them that are tempted.” Having passed through this
scene as the Man of sorrows, He can, experimentally, gauge and feel the
sorrows of His people, but let it be dearly understood that it is not the
“flesh” in us which needs “succoring,” but the new nature, the faithful heart
that desires to please Him. We need “succor” against the flesh, to enable
us to mortify our members which are upon the earth. Not yet has the
promised inheritance been reached. We are still in the wilderness, which
provides nothing which ministers to us spiritually. We are living in a world
where everything is opposed to true godliness. We are called upon to “run
the race which is set before us,” to “fight the good fight of faith,” and for
this we daily need His “succor.”
The Greek word for “He is able” implies both a fitness and willingness to
do a thing. Christ is both competent and ready to undertake for His people.
If we have not, it is because we ask not. The Greek word for “succor” here
is very emphatic, and signifies a running to the cry of one, as a parent
responding to the cry of distress from a child. A blessed illustration of
Christ’s “succoring” one of His own needy people is found in

Matthew
14:30,31, where we read that when Peter saw the wind was boisterous he
was afraid, and began to sink, and cried “Lord save me.” And then we are
told, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him.”
On one occasion the Lord Jesus asked His disciples, “Believe ye that I am
able to do this” (

Matthew 9:28). And thus He ever challenges the faith
of His own. To Abraham He said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
(

Genesis 18:14). To Moses, who doubted whether the Lord would give
flesh to Israel in the wilderness, He asked, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed
short?” (

Numbers 11:23). To Jeremiah the searching question was put,
“Is there anything too hard for Me?” (

Jeremiah 32:27). So He still asks,
“Believe ye, that I am able to do this?” Do what? we may ask. Whatever.170
you are really in need of — give peace, impart assurance, grant
deliverance, supply succor.
“He is able to succor them that are tempted.” Remember who He is, the
God-man. Remember the experiences through which He passed! He, too,
has been in the place of trial: He, too, was tempted — to distrust, to
despondency, to destroy Himself. Yes, He was tempted “in all points like
as we are, sin excepted.” Remember His present position, sitting at the
right hand of the Majesty on high! How blessed then to know that He is
“able” both to enter, sympathetically, into our sufferings and sorrows, and
that He has power to “succor.”
“As Man, a man of sorrows,
Thou hast suffered every woe,
And though enthroned in glory now,
Canst pity all Thy saints below.”
Oh, what a Savior is ours! The all-mighty God; yet the all-tender Man. One
who is as far above us in His original nature and present glory as the
heavens are above the earth: yet One who can be “touched with the feeling
of our infirmities,” One who is the Creator of the universe; yet One who
became Man, lived His life on the same plane ours is lived, passed through
the same trials we experience, and suffered not only as we do, but far more
acutely. How well-fitted is such a One to be our great High Priest! How
self-sufficient He is to supply our every need! And how completely is the
wisdom and grace of God vindicated for having appointed His blessed Son,
to be made, for a season, lower than the angels! May our love for Him be
strengthened and our worship deepened by the contemplation of what has
been before us in these first two chapters of Hebrews..171
CHAPTER 13
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO MOSES.
(

HEBREWS 3:1-6).
Our present portion introduces us to the third division of the Epistle, a
division which runs on to

Hebrews 4:6. The first division, comprising
but the three opening verses of the first chapter, evidences the superiority
of Christ over the prophets. The second division,

Hebrews 1:4 to the
end of chapter 2, sets forth the superiority of Christ over the angels. The
one we are now commencing treats of the superiority of Christ over
Moses.
“The contents of this section may be stated briefly thus: That the
Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, is high above
Moses, the mediator of the old dispensation, inasmuch as Jesus is
the Son of God, and Lord over the house; whereas Moses is the
servant of God, who is faithful in the house. And upon this
doctrinal statement is based the exhortation, that we should not
harden our hearts lest we fail to enter into that rest of which the
possession of the promised land was only an imperfect type. This
section consists of two parts — a doctrinal statement, which forms
the basis, and an exhortation resting upon it” (Saphir).
Of all the godly characters brought before us in the Old Testament
scriptures, there is not one who has higher claims on our attentive
consideration than the legislator of Israel. Whether we think of his
remarkable infancy and childhood, his self-sacrificing renunciation
(

Hebrews 11:24-26), the commission he received from God and his
faithfulness in executing it, his devotion to Israel (

Exodus 32:32), his
honored privileges (

Exodus 31:18), or the important revolutions
accomplished through his instrumentality; “it will be difficult to find,” as
another has said, “in the records either of profane or sacred history, an
individual whose character is so well fitted at once to excite attachment
and command veneration, and whose history is so replete at once with
interest and instruction.”.172
The history of Moses was remarkable from beginning to end. The hand of
Providence preserved him as a babe, and the hand of God dug his grave at
the finish. Between those terms he passed through the strangest and most
contrastive vicissitudes which, surely, any mortal has ever experienced.
The honors conferred upon him by God were much greater than any
bestowed upon any other man, before or since. During the most
memorable portion of their history, all of God’s dealings with Israel were
transacted through him. His position of nearness to Jehovah was
remarkable, awesome, unique. He was in his own person, prophet, priest
and king. Through him the whole of the Levitical economy was instituted.
By him the Tabernacle was built. Thus we can well understand the high
esteem in which the Jews held this favored man of God — cf.

John
9:28, 29.
Yet great as was Moses, the Holy Spirit in this third section of Hebrews
calls upon us to consider One who so far excelled him as the heavens are
above the earth. First, Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in
His own person: Moses was a man of God, Christ was God Himself.
Moses was the fallen descendant of Adam. conceived in sin and shapen in
iniquity; Christ was sinless, impeccable, holy. Again; Christ was the
immeasurable superior of Moses in His Offices. Moses was a prophet,
through whom God spake; Christ was Himself “the Truth,” revealing
perfectly the whole mind, will, and heart of God. Moses executed priestly
functions (

Exodus 24:6; 32:11); but Christ is the “great High Priest.”
Moses was “king in Jeshurun” (

Deuteronomy 33:5); Christ is “King of
kings.” To mention only one other comparison, Christ was the
immeasurable superior of Moses in His work. Moses delivered Israel from
Egypt, Christ delivers His people from the everlasting burnings. Moses
built an earthly tabernacle, Christ is now preparing a place for us on High.
Moses led Israel across the wilderness but not into the Canaan itself; Christ
will actually bring many sons “unto glory.” May the Holy Spirit impress
our hearts more and more with the exalted dignity and unique excellency of
our Savior.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,
consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ
Jesus” (verse 1).
There are three things in this verse which claim our attention: the
exhortation given, the people addressed, the characters in which Christ is.173
here contemplated. The exhortation is a call to “consider” Christ. The
people addressed are “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.”
The characters in which the Savior is viewed are “the Apostle and High
Priest.”
“Wherefore.” This word gives the connecting link between the two
chapters which precede and the two that follow. It is a perfect transition,
for it looks both ways. In regard to that which goes before, our present
verse makes known the use we are to make of it; we are to “consider”
Christ, to have our hearts fixed upon Him who is “altogether lovely.” In
regard to that which follows, this basic exhortation lays a foundation for
the succeeding admonitions: if we render obedience to this precept, then
we shall be preserved from the evils which overtook Israel of old —
hardening of the heart, grieving the Lord, missing our “rest.”
The exhortation given here is, “Wherefore…. consider the Apostle and
High Priest of our profession.” Three questions call for answers: what is
meant by “considering” Him; why we should do so; the special characters
in which He is to be considered. There are no less than eleven Greek words
in the New Testament all rendered “consider,” four of them being simple
ones; seven, compounds. The one employed by the Holy Spirit in

Hebrews 3:1 signifies to thoroughly think of the matter, so as to arrive
at a fuller knowledge of it. It was the word used by our Lord in His
“consider the ravens, consider the lilies” (

Luke 12:24, 27). It is the
word which describes Peter’s response to the vision of the sheet let down
from heaven: “I considered and saw fourfooted beasts” (

Acts 11:6). It
is found again in

Matthew 7:3,

Romans 4:19,

Hebrews 10:24. In

Acts 7:31 “katanoeo” is rendered “to behold.” In

Luke 20:23 it is
translated “perceived.” In all, the Greek word is found fourteen times in the
New Testament.
To “consider” Christ as here enjoined, means to thoroughly ponder who
and what He is; to attentively weigh His dignity, His excellency, His
authority; to think of what is due to Him. It is failure to thoroughly weigh
important considerations which causes us to let them “slip” (

Hebrews
2:1). On the other hand, it is by diligently pondering things of moment and
value that the understanding is enabled to better apprehend them, the
memory to retain them, the heart to be impressed, and the individual to
make a better use of them. To “consider” Christ means to behold Him, not
simply by a passing glance or giving to Him an occasional thought, but by.174
the heart being fully occupied with Him. “Set Me as a seal upon thine
heart” (

Song of Solomon 8:6), is His call to us. And it is our failure at
this point which explains why we know so little about Him, why we love
Him so feebly, why we trust Him so imperfectly.
The motive presented by the Spirit here as to why we should so “consider”
Christ is intimated in the opening “Wherefore.” It draws a conclusion from
all that precedes. Because Christ is the One through whom Deity is now
fully and finally manifested, because He is the Brightness of God’s glory
and the very Impress of His substance; because, therefore, He has by
inheritance obtained a more excellent name than the angels; because He, in
infinite grace, became “all of one” with those that He came to redeem,
having made propitiation for the sins of His people; because He is now
seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and while there is “a
merciful and faithful High Priest;” because He has Himself suffered being
tempted and is able to succor them who are tempted; — therefore, He is
infinitely worthy of our constant contemplation and adoration. The opening
“Wherefore” is also an anticipatory inference from what follows: because
Christ is worthy of more honor than Moses, therefore, “consider” Him.
There are two special characters in which the Holy Spirit here bids us
contemplate Christ. First, as “the Apostle.” This has reference to the
prophetical office of Christ, the title being employed because an “apostle”
was the highest minister appointed in New Testament times. An
apostleship had more honors conferred upon it than any other position in
the church (

Ephesians 4:11): thus the excellency of Christ’s prophetic
office is magnified. The term apostle means one “sent forth” of God,
endowed with authority as His ambassador. In John’s Gospel Christ is
frequently seen as the “Sent One,” 3:34, 5:36, etc. The general function of
Christ as a prophet, an apostle, a minister of the Word, was to make
known the will of His Father unto His people. This He did, see

John
8:26, etc. His special call to that function was immediate: “as My Father
hath sent Me, so send I you” (

John 20:21).
Christ is more than an apostle, He is “the Apostle,” that is why none
others, not even Paul, are mentioned in this Epistle. He eclipses all others.
He was the first apostle, the twelve being appointed by Him. His apostolic
jurisdiction was more extensive than others; Peter was an apostle of the
circumcision. Paul of the Gentiles; but Christ preached both to them that
were nigh and to them that were far off (

Ephesians 2:17). He received.175
the Spirit more abundantly than any other (

John 3:34). With Him the
Messenger was the message: He was Himself “the Truth.” The miracles He
wrought (the “signs of an apostle”

2 Corinthians 12:12) were mightier
and more numerous than those of others. Verily, Christ is “the Apostle,”
for in all things He has the pre-eminence. The special duty for us arising
therefrom is, “Hear ye Him” (

Matthew 17:5) — cf.

Deuteronomy
18:15, 18.
The second character in which we are here bidden to “consider” Christ
Jesus, is as the “High Priest of our profession.” As the priesthood of Christ
will come before us, D.V., in detail in the later chapters, only a few
remarks thereon will now be offered. As we have already been told, the
Lord Jesus is “a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to
God” (

Hebrews 2:17). This at once gives us the principal feature which
differentiates His priestly from His prophetic office. As Prophet, Christ is
God’s representative to His people; as “Priest,” He is their representative
before God.
As the Apostle He speaks to us from God, as our High Priest He speaks
for us to God. The two offices are conjoined in

John 13:3, “He was
from God, and went to God.” Thus He fills the whole space between God
and us: as Apostle He is close to me; as Priest, He is close to God.
“Of our profession.” The Greek word here is a compound and properly
signifies “a consent.” In the New Testament, it is used for the confession of
a thing (

1 Timothy 6:12, 13), and to set forth the faith which Christians
profess (

Hebrews 4:14). Here it may be taken either for an act on our
part — the confessing Christ to be “the Apostle and High Priest,” or, the
subject matter of the faith we profess. Christians are not ashamed to own
Him, for He is not ashamed to own them. The apostleship and priesthood
of Christ are the distinguishing subjects of our faith, for Christianity centers
entirely around the person of Christ. The confession is that which faith
makes, see

Hebrews 10:23. The cognate of this word is found in

Hebrews 11:13 and

Hebrews 13:15, “giving thanks:” these two
references emphasizing the “stranger and pilgrim” character of this
profession, of which Christ Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest.
It remains now for us to notice the people to whom this exhortation is
addressed: they are denominated “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly
calling.” These Hebrews were addressed as “brethren” because they
belonged spiritually to the family of God..176
“He evidently refers to the blessed truth just announced, that Jesus,
the Son of God, is not ashamed to call us brethren”
(

Hebrews 2:11).
He means therefore those who by the Spirit of God have been born again,
and who can call God their Father. He addresses those of God who are in
Christ Jesus, who were quickened together with Him; for when He rose
from the dead He was ‘the first-born among many brethren’. He calls them
‘holy brethren,’ because upon this fact of brotherhood is based their
sanctification: ‘He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of
one’” (Saphir). No doubt the “holy brethren” was also designed to
distinguish them from their brethren according to the flesh, the unbelieving
Jews. By his use of this appellation the apostle to the Gentiles evidenced
his interest in and love for the Hebrews: he acknowledged and esteemed
them as “brethren.”
“What an interesting and delightful view is thus presented to our
minds of genuine Christians scattered all over the earth —
belonging to every kindred, and people, and tongue, and nation —
distinguished from one another in an almost infinite variety of ways,
as to talent, temper, education, rank, circumstances, yet bound
together by an invisible band, even the faith of the truth, to the one
great object of their confidence, and love, and obedience, Christ
Jesus — forming one great brotherhood, devoted to the honor and
service of His Father and their Father, His God and their God! Do
you belong to this holy brotherhood? The question is an important
one. For answer, note Christ’s words in

Matthew 12:50” (Dr. J.
Brown).
“Partakers of the heavenly calling.” This at once serves to emphasize the
superiority of Christianity over Judaism, which knew only an earthly
calling, with an earthly inheritance. The word “partakers” signifies “sharers
of.” The calling wherewith the Christian is called (

Ephesians 4:1) is
heavenly, because of its origin — it proceeds from Heaven; because of the
means used — the Spirit and the Word, which have come from Heaven;
because of the sphere of our citizenship (

Philippians 3:20); because of
the end to which we are called — an eternal Heaven. Thus would the Holy
Spirit press upon the sorely-tried Hebrews the inestimable value of their
privileges..177
Finally, the whole of this appellation should be viewed in the light of the
relation between those addressed and Christ. How is it possible for sinful
worms of the earth to be thus denominated? Because of their union with
the incarnate Son, whose excellency is imputed to them, and whose
position they share. We are partakers of the heavenly calling because He, in
wondrous condescension, partook of our earthly lot. What He has, we
have; where He is, we are. He is the Holy One of God, therefore are we
holy. He has been “made higher than the heavens,” therefore are we
“partakers of the heavenly calling!” Just so far as our hearts really lay hold
of this, shall we walk as “strangers and pilgrims” here. Where our
“Treasure” (Christ) is, there will our hearts be also. That is why we are
here bidden to “consider” Him.
“Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was
in all His house” (verse 2).
“To speak of Moses to the Jews was always a very difficult and
delicate matter. It is hardly possible for Gentiles to understand or
realize the veneration and affection with which the Jews regard
Moses, the man of God. All their religious life, all their thoughts
about God, all their practices and observances, all their hopes of the
future, everything connected with God, is with them also connected
with Moses. Moses was the great apostle unto them, the man sent
unto them of God, the mediator of the old covenant” (Saphir).
Admire then the perfect wisdom of the Holy Spirit so plainly evidenced in
our passage. Before taking up Christ’s superiority over Moses, He points
first to a resemblance between them, making mention of the “faithfulness”
of God’s servant. Ere taking this up let us dwell on the first part of the
verse.
“Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him.” The chief qualification of
an apostle or ambassador is, that he be Faithful. Faithfulness signifies two
things: a trust committed, and a proper discharge of that trust.
“Our Lord had a trust committed to Him… this trust He faithfully
discharged. He sought not His own glory, but the glory of Him that
sent Him; He ever declared His message to be not His own, but the
Father’s; and He declared the whole will or word of God that was
committed unto Him” (Dr. John Owen)..178
Christ was ever faithful to the One who sent Him. This was His chief care
from beginning to end. As a boy, “I must be about My Father’s business”
(

Luke 2:49). In the midst of His ministry, “I must work the works of
Him that sent Me” (

John 9:4). At the finish, “Not as I will, but as Thou
wilt” (

Matthew 26:39).
“As also Moses was faithful in all His house.”
“The key to the whole paragraph is to be found in the meaning of
the figurative term ‘house,’ which so often occurs in it (just seven
times, A.W.P.). By supposing that the word ‘house’ here is
equivalent to edifice, the whole passage is involved in inextricable
perplexity. ‘House’ here signifies a family or household. This mode
of using the word is an exemplification of a common figure of
speech, by which the name of what contains is given to what is
contained. A man’s family usually resides in his house, and hence is
called his house. This use of the word is common in the Bible: ‘The
House of Israel,’ ‘the House of Aaron,’ ‘the House of David,’ are
very common expressions for the children, the descendants, the
families of Israel, Aaron and David. We have the same mode of
speech in our own language, ‘the House of Stuart,’ ‘the House of
Hanover.’ Keeping this remark in view, the verse we have now
read will be found, short as it is, to contain in it the following
statements: — Moses was appointed by God over the whole of His
family: Moses was faithful in discharging the trust committed to
him. Jesus is appointed by God over the whole of His family: Jesus
is faithful in the discharge of the trust committed to Him” (Dr. J.
Brown).
“The house, the building, means the children of God, who by faith,
as lively stones, are built upon Christ Jesus the Foundation, and
who are filled with the Holy Ghost; in whom God dwells, as in His
temple, and in whom God is praised and manifested in glory. The
illustration is very simple and instructive. We are compared unto
stones, and as every simile is defective, we must add, not dead
stones, but lively stones, as the apostle in his epistle to the
Ephesians speaks of the building growing. The way in which we are
brought unto the Lord Jesus Christ and united with Him is not by
building, but by believing. The builders rejected the ‘chief corner-stone’
(

Psalm 118:22); but ‘coming unto Christ’ (

1 Peter.179
2:4, 5), simply believing, ‘ye also, as lively stones, are built up a
spiritual house.’ When we go about the works of the law we are
trying to build, and as long as we build we are not built. When we
give up working, then by faith the Holy Ghost adds us to Christ,
and grafts up into the living Vine, who is also the Foundation. We
are rooted and grounded. The house is one, and all the children of
God are united in the Spirit” (Saphir).
That which the Spirit has here singled out for mention in connection with
Moses, the typical “apostle,” is that he was faithful in all God’s house,
faithful in the discharge of his responsibilities concerning the earthly family
over which Jehovah placed him. Although he failed personally in his faith,
he was faithful as an “apostle.” He never withheld a word which the Lord
had given him, either from Pharaoh or from Israel. In erecting the
tabernacle all things were made “according to” the pattern which he had
received in the mount. When he came down from Sinai and beheld the
people worshipping the golden calf, he did not spare, but called for the
sword to smite them (

Exodus 32:27, 28). In all things he conformed to
the instructions which he had received from Jehovah (

Exodus 40:16).
“For this Man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses,
inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honor than
the house” (verse 3).
The apostle now proceeds to present Christ’s superiority over Moses. But
ere considering this, let us admire again the heavenly wisdom granted him
in the method of presenting his argument. In the previous verse he has
acknowledged the greatness of Moses, and here he also allows that he was
worthy of glory, or praise. This would at once show that Paul was no
enemy of Judaism, seeking to disparage and revile it. Equally striking is it
to note how, in now turning the eyes of the Hebrews to One who is
infinitely greater than Moses, he does not speak of his failures — his
slaying of the Egyptians (Exodus 2), his slowness in responding to the
Lord’s call (Exodus 3,4), his angered smiting of the rock (Numbers 20);
but by presenting the glories of Christ.
This third verse presents to us the first of the evidences here furnished of
the superiority of Christ over Moses: He is the Builder of God’s house;
this, Moses never was. Its opening “For” looks back to the first verse,
advancing a reason or argument why the Hebrews should “consider” the.180
Apostle and High Priest of their confession, namely, because He is worthy
of more glory than Moses the typical apostle.
“The phrase, ‘to build the house,’ is equivalent to, be the founder of
the family. This kind of phraseology is by no means uncommon. It
is said,

Exodus 1:21, that God ‘made houses’ to those humane
women who refused to second the barbarous policy of Pharaoh in
destroying the infants of the Israelites: i.e. He established their
families, giving a numerous and flourishing offspring. In

Ruth
4:11, Rachel and Leah are said to have built the house of Israel.
And Nathan says to David,

2 Samuel 7:11: ‘Also the Lord
telleth thee that He will make thee a house;’ and what the meaning
of that phrase is, we learn from what immediately follows,

Hebrews 5:12’ (Dr. J. Brown).
The contrast thus drawn between Christ and Moses is both a plain and an
immense one. Though officially raised over it, Moses was not the founder
of the Israelitish family, but simply a member of it. With the Apostle of our
confession it is far otherwise. He is not only at the head of God’s family
(

Hebrews 2:10, 13 — His “sons,” His “children”), but He is also the
Builder or the Founder of it. As we read in

Ephesians 2:10, “for we are
His workmanship, created in (or “by”) Christ Jesus.” Moses did not make
men children of God; Christ does. Moses came to a people who were
already the Lord’s by covenant relationship; whereas Christ takes up those
who are dead in trespasses and sins, and creates them anew. Thus as the
founder of the family is entitled to the highest honor from the family, so
Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses.
“For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all
things is God” (verse 4).
Here the Spirit brings in a yet higher glory of Christ. The connection is
obvious. In the preceding verse it has been argued: the builder is entitled to
more honor than the building: as then Christ is the Builder of a family, and
Moses simply the member of one, He must be counted worthy “of more
glory.” In verse 4, proof of this is given, as the opening “for” denotes. The
proof is twofold: Christ has not only built “the house,” but “all things.”
Christ is not only the Mediator, “appointed” by God (verse 2), but He is
God. To how much greater glory then is He justly entitled!.181
“For every house is builded by some one,” should be understood in its
widest signification, regarding “house” both literally and figuratively. Every
human habitation has been built, every human family has been founded, by
some man. So “He that built all things” is to be taken without qualification.
The entire universe has been built (“framed,”

Hebrews 11:3) by Christ,
for “all things were made by Him” (

John 1:3), all things
“that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible”
(

Colossians 1:16).
Therefore Christ made Moses, as the whole family of Israel. “He that built
all things is God.” The Holy Spirit here designedly uses the Divine title
because the work attributed to Christ (building the family of God) is a
Divine work: because it proves, without controversy, that Christ is greater
than Moses; because it ratifies what was declared in the first chapter
concerning the Mediator, that He is true God. Therefore should all “honor
the Son even as they honor the Father” (

John 5:23).
“And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a
testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ
as a Son over His own house” (verses 5, 6).
These words bring before us the next proofs for the superiority of Christ
over Moses: the typical apostle was but a servant, Christ is “Son;” the one
was but a testimony unto the other. The position which Divine grace
allotted to Moses was one of great honor, nevertheless he ministered
before Jehovah only as a “servant.” The words “in all His house” should be
duly pondered: other servants were used in various parts of the family, but
the glory of Moses was that he was used in every part of it; that is to say,
he was entrusted with the care and regulation of the whole family of Israel.
Still, even this, left him incomparably the inferior of the Lord Jesus, for He
was a Son not “in all His house,” but “over His own House.”
“And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant.” Here again
the apostle would subdue the prejudices of the Jews against Christianity.
He was not discrediting the greatness of Moses. So far from it, he repeats
what he had said in verse 2, emphasizing it with the word “verily.” Yet the
faithfulness of Moses was as a “servant,” a reminder to all, that this is the
quality which should ever characterize all “servants.” The word “as a
servant” has the same force as in

John 1:14, “we beheld His glory, the
glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father:” thus the “as” brings out the.182
reality of the character in view. Moses faithfully conducted himself as a
“servant,” he did not act as a lord. This was evidenced by his great
reverence for God (

Exodus 3:6), his earnestly desiring an evidence of
God’s favor (

Exodus 34:9), his preferring the glory of the Lord to his
own glory (

Hebrews 11:24-26,

Exodus 32:10-12), and in his
meekness before men. (

Numbers 12:3).
“For a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after.” This was
a word much needed by the Jews. So far from the revelation of Christianity
clashing with the Pentateuch, much there was an anticipation of it. Moses
ordered all things in the typical worship of the house so that they might be
both a witness and pledge of that which should afterwards be more fully
exhibited through the Gospel. Therefore did Christ say,
“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he
wrote of Me” (

John 5:46).
And on another occasion we are told,
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto
them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”
(

Luke 24:27).
“But Christ as a Son over His own house.” Here is the final proof that
Christ is “counted worthy of more glory than Moses.” The proofs
presented in this passage of our Lord’s immeasurable superiority are seven
in number, and may be set forth thus: Moses was an apostle, Christ “the
Apostle” (verse 1). Moses was a member of an “house:” Christ was the
Builder of one (verse 3). Moses was connected with a single house, Christ
“built all things,” being the Creator of the universe (verse 4). Moses was a
man; Christ, God (verse 4). Moses was but a “servant” (verse 5); Christ,
the “Son.” Moses was a “testimony” of things to be spoken after (verse 5),
Christ supplied the substance and fulfillment of what Moses witnessed
unto. Moses was but a servant in the house of Jehovah, Christ was Son
over His own house (verse 6). The Puritan Owen quaintly wrote, “Here the
apostle taketh leave of Moses; he treats not about him any more; and
therefore he gives him, as it were, an honorable burial. He puts this
glorious epitaph on his grave: “Moses, a faithful servant of the Lord in His
whole house.”
“But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house are we”
(verse 6)..183
Here the “house” is plainly defined: it is a spiritual house, made up of
believers in Christ. Not only are the “brethren” of verse 1, partakers of the
heavenly calling, but they are members of the spiritual family of God, for in
them He dwells. How well calculated to comfort and encourage the sorely-tried
Hebrews were these words “whose house are we!” What
compensation was this for the loss of their standing among the unbelieving
Jews!
“If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm
unto the end” (verse 6).
Do these words weaken the force of what has last been said? In nowise;
they contained a much-needed warning.
“There were great difficulties, circumstances calculated especially
to effect the Jew, who, after receiving the truth with joy might be
exposed to great trial, and so in danger of giving up his hope. It
was, besides, particularly hard for a Jew at first to put these two
facts together: a Messiah come, and entered into glory; and the
people who belonged to the Messiah left in sorrow, and shame, and
suffering here below” (W. Kelly).
The Hebrews were ever in danger of subordinating the future to the
present, and of forsaking the invisible (Christ in heaven) for the visible
(Judaism on earth), of giving up a profession which involved them in fierce
persecution. Hence their need of being reminded that the proof of their
belonging to the house of Christ was that they remained steadfast to Him
to the end of their pilgrimage.
“If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the
end.” As the same thought is, substantially, embodied again in verse 14, we
shall now waive a full exposition and application of these words. Suffice it
now to say that the Holy Spirit is here pressing, once more, on these
Hebrews, what had been affirmed in

Hebrews 2:1,
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things
which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”
Let each Christian reader remember that our Lord has said, “If ye continue
in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed” (

John 8:31)..184
CHAPTER 14
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO MOSES.
(

HEBREWS 3:7-12)
In the first six verses of our present chapter four things were before us.
First, the call to “consider” the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.
Of old, Moses was God’s apostle or ambassador to Israel, Aaron, the high
priest. But Christ combines both these offices in His own person.
Second, the superiority of Christ over Moses: this is set forth in seven
details which it is unnecessary for us to specify again.
Third, the one thing which the Spirit of God singles out from the many
gifts and excellencies which Divine grace had bestowed upon Moses, was
his “faithfulness” (verses 2, 5); so too is it there said of Christ Jesus that He
was “faithful to Him that appointed Him” (verse 2).
Fourth, the assertion that membership in the household of Christ is
evidenced, chiefly, by holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope
firm unto the end (verse 6). That there is an intimate connection between
these four things and the contents of our present passage will appear in our
exposition thereof.
“If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the
end.” The “hope” mentioned here is that made known by the Gospel
(

Colossians 1:23), the hope which is laid up for God’s people in Heaven
(

Colossians 1:5), the hope of glory (

Colossians 1:27). Christians
have been begotten unto a living hope (

1 Peter 1:3), that “blessed hope”
(

Titus 2:13), namely, the return of our God and Savior Jesus Christ,
when He shall come to take us unto Himself, to make us like Himself, to
have us forever with Himself; when all God’s promises concerning us shall
be made good. The reference to the holding fast the confidence of this
hope is not subjective, but objective. It signifies a fearless profession of the
Christian faith. It is to be.185
“ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you, a
reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”
(

1 Peter 3:15).
Stephen is an illustration. Then, this hope is also to be held fast with
“rejoicing” firm unto the end: Paul is an example of this,

Acts 20:24.
What follows in our present portion contains a solemn and practical
application of that which we have briefly reviewed above. Here the apostle
is moved to remind the Hebrews of the unfaithfulness of Israel in the past
and of the dire consequences which followed their failure to hold fast unto
the end of their wilderness pilgrimage the confidence and rejoicing of the
hope which God had set before them. A passage is quoted from the 95th
Psalm which gives most searching point to both that which precedes and to
that which follows. The path in which God’s people are called to walk is
that of faith, and such a path is necessarily full of testings, that is, of
difficulties and trials, and many are the allurements for tempting us to
wander off into “By-path meadow.” Many, too, are the warnings and
danger signals, which the faithfulness of God has erected; unto one of them
we shall now turn.
“Wherefore” (verse 7). This opening word of our present passage
possesses a threefold force.
First, it is a conclusion drawn from all that precedes.
Second, it prefaces the application of what is found in

Hebrews 3:1-6.
Third, it lays a foundation for what follows.
The reader will observe that the remaining words of verse 7 and all of
verses 8-11 are placed in brackets, and we believe rightly so, the sentence
being completed in verse 12: “Wherefore take heed, brethren, lest there be
in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
The reasons for this exhortation have been pointed out above.
First, because of the supreme excellency of our Redeemer, exalted high
above all Israel’s prophets, and given a name more excellent than any ever
conferred on the angels; therefore, those who belong to Him should give
good heed that they harden not their hearts against Him, nor depart from
Him..186
Second, because the Apostle, Christ Jesus, is worthy of more honor than
Moses, then how incumbent it is upon His people to be especially watchful
that they be not, by any means, turned from that obedience which He
requires and which is most certainly due Him.
Third, in view of the lamentable history of Israel, who, despite God’s
wondrous favors to them, hardened their hearts, grieved Him, and so
provoked Him to wrath, that He sware they should not enter into His rest,
how much on our guard we need to be of “holding fast” the confidence and
rejoicing of our hope “firm unto the end!”
“As the Holy Spirit saith.” Striking indeed is it to mark the way in which
the apostle introduces the quotation made from the Old Testament. It is
from the 95th Psalm, but the human instrument that was employed in the
penning of it is ignored, attention being directed to its Divine Author, the
One who “moved” the Psalmist — cf.

2 Peter 1:20, 21. The reason for
this, here, seems to be because Paul would press upon these Hebrews the
weightiness, the Divine authority of the words he was about to quote:
consider well that what follows are the words of the Holy Spirit, so that
you may promptly and unmurmuringly submit yourselves thereunto.
“As the Holy Spirit saith.” Striking indeed is it to mark the way it links up
with

Hebrews 1:1 and

Hebrews 2:3. In the former it is God, the
Father, who “spake.” In

Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape if we
neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the
Lord?” there it is the Son. Here in

Hebrews 3:7 the Speaker is the
Spirit; thus, by linking together these three passages we hear all the
Persons of the Godhead. Observe, next, the tense of the verb used here; it
is not “the Holy Spirit said,” but “saith:” it is an ever-present, living
message to God’s people in each succeeding generation.
“Whatever was given by inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and is
recorded in the Scripture for the use of the Church, He continues
therein to speak it unto us unto this day” (Dr. John Owen).
Let the reader also carefully compare the seven-times-repeated, “he that
hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” in
Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
“As the Holy Spirit saith.” Dr. Gouge has pointed out how that this
sentence teaches us four things about the Holy Spirit. First, that He is true
God: for “God spake by the mouth of David” (

Acts 4:25). “God” spake.187
by the prophets (

Hebrews 1:1), and they “spake as they were moved by
the Holy Spirit” (

2 Peter 1:21). Second, the Holy Spirit is a distinct
person: He “saith.” An influence, a mere abstraction, cannot speak. Third,
the Holy Spirit subsisted before Christ was manifested in the flesh, for He
spake through David. True, He is called, “the Spirit of Christ,” yet that He
was before His incarnation is proven by

Genesis 1:2 and other
scriptures. Fourth, He is the Author of the Old Testament Scriptures,
therefore are they of Divine inspiration and authority.
“Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts”
(verses 7, 8).
Here begins the apostle’s quotation from Psalm 95, the first portion of
which records a most fervent call (verses 1, 6) for the people of God to be
joyful, and come before Him as worshippers. Most appropriate was the
reference to this Psalm here, for the contents of its first seven verses
contain, virtually an amplification of the “consider” of

Hebrews 3:1.
There the Hebrews were enjoined to be occupied with Christ, and if their
hearts were engaged with His surpassing excellency and exalted greatness,
then would they
“come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful
noise unto Him with psalms” (

Psalm 95:2).
Their Apostle and High Priest had “built all things” (

Hebrews 3:4),
being none other than God. The same truth is avowed in

Psalm 95:3-5,
“For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In
His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is
His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the
dry land.”
The apprehension of this will prepare us for a response to what follows,
“O come, let us worship, and bow down: let us kneel before the
Lord our Maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His
pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (

Psalm 95:6,7).
The next thing in the Psalm is, “Today, if ye will hear His voice harden not
your heart.” So the next thing in Hebrews 3 is, “whose house are we if we
hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
Thus the Psalmist admonished those addressed in his day to hearken to the.188
voice of the Lord, and not to harden their hearts against Him as had their
ancestors before them. By quoting this here in Hebrews 3, the apostle at
once intimated what is the opposite course from holding fast their
confidence.
“Today” signifies the time present, yet so as to include a continuance of it.
It is not to be limited to twenty-four hours, instead, this term sometimes
covers a present interval which consists of many days, yea years. In

Hebrews 3:13 it is said, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called
Today.” So in

Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday,
and today and forever.” So in our text. As that present time wherein David
lived was to him and those then alive “today”, so that present time in which
the apostle and the Hebrews lived was to them “today,” and the time
wherein we now live, is to us “today.” It covers that interval while men are
alive on earth, while God’s grace and blessing are available to them. It
spans the entire period of our wilderness pilgrimage. Thus the “end” of

Hebrews 3:6 is the close of the “today” in verse 7.
“If ye will hear His voice.” “Unto you, O men I call; and My voice is to the
sons of man” (

Proverbs 8:4). But no doubt the immediate reference in
our text is unto those professing to be God’s people. The “voice” of God is
the signification of His will, which is the rule of our obedience. His will is
made known in His Word, which is a living Word, by which the voice of
God is now uttered. But, alas, we are capable of closing our ears to His
voice. Of old God complained,
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel
cloth not know. My people cloth not consider” (

Isaiah 1:3).
To “hear” God’s voice signifies to attend reverently to what He says, to
diligently ponder, to readily receive, and to heed or obey it. It is the
hardening of our hearts which prevents us, really, hearing His voice, as the
next clause intimates. To it we now turn.
“If ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It is to the heart God’s
Word is addressed, that moral center of our beings out of which are the
issues of life (

Proverbs 4:23). There may be conviction of the
conscience, the assent of the intellect, the admiration of understanding, but
unless the heart is moved there is no response. A tender heart is a pliable
and responsive one; a hard heart is obdurate and rebellious. Here hardening
of the heart is attributed to the creature: it is due to impenitency.189
(

Romans 2:5), unbelief (

Hebrews 3:12), disobedience (

Psalm
95:8).
“It appears that unto this sinful hardening of the heart which the
people in the wilderness were guilty of, and which the apostle here
warns the Hebrews to avoid, there are three things that do concur:
1. A sinful neglect, in not taking due notice of the ways and means
whereby God calls any unto faith and obedience.
2. A sinful forgetfulness and casting out of the heart and mind such
convictions as God by His word and works, His mercies and
judgments, His deliverances and afflictions, at any time is pleased to
cast into them and fasten upon them.
3. An obstinate cleaving of the affections unto carnal and sensual
objects, practically preferring them above the motives unto
obedience that God proposeth unto us. Where these things are so,
the hearts of men are so hardened, that in an ordinary way, they
cannot hearken unto the voice of God. Such is the nature, efficacy
and power of the voice or word of God, that men cannot withstand
or resist it without a sinful hardening of themselves against it. Every
one to whom the word is duly revealed, who is not converted of
God, doth voluntarily oppose his own obstinancy unto its efficacy
and operation. If men will add new obstinacy and hardness to their
minds and hearts, if they will fortify themselves against the word
with prejudices and dislikes, if they will resist its work through a
love to their lusts and corrupt affections, God may justly leave them
to perish, and to be filled with the fruit of their own ways” (Dr.
John Owen).
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of
temptation in the wilderness” (verse 8).
The reference here is to what is recorded in the early verses of Exodus 17.
There we are told that the congregation of Israel journeyed to Rephidim,
where there was “no water for the people to drink.” Instead of them
counting on Jehovah to supply their need, as He had at Marah (

Exodus
15:25) and in the wilderness of Sin (

Hebrews 16:4), they “did chide
with Moses” (verse 2),.190
“and when they thirsted, the people murmured against Moses, and
said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt,
to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (verse 3).
Though Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord graciously responded by
bringing water out of the rock for them, yet God’s servant was greatly
displeased, for in verse 7 we are told, “And he called the name of the place
Massah (Temptation) and Meribah (Strife), because of the chiding of the
children of Israel and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord
among us, or not”.
Once more we would point out the oppositeness of this quotation to the
case of the Hebrews.
“The thought of Moses (in verses 1-5 A.W.P.) naturally suggests
Israel in the wilderness. Faithful was the mediator, through whom
God dealt with them; but was Israel faithful? God spake: did they
obey? God showed them wonder signs: did they trust and follow in
faith? And if Israel was not faithful unto Moses, and their unbelief
brought ruin upon them, how much more guilty shall we be, and
how much greater our danger, if we are not faithful unto the Lord
Jesus” (Saphir).
It is not only true that the difficulties and trials of the way test us, but these
testings reveal the state of our hearts — a crisis neither makes nor mars a
man, but it does manifest him. While all is smooth sailing we appear to be
getting along nicely. But are we? Are our minds stayed upon the Lord, or
are we, instead, complacently resting in His temporal mercies? When the
storm breaks, it is not so much that we fail under it, as that our habitual
lack of leaning upon God, of daily walking in dependency upon Him, is
made evident. Circumstances do not change us, but they do expose us.
Paul rejoiced in the Lord when circumstances were congenial. Yes, and he
also sang praises to Him when his back was bleeding in the Philippian
dungeon. The fact is, that if we sing only when circumstances are pleasing
to us, then our singing is worth nothing, and there is grave reason to doubt
whether we are rejoicing “in the Lord” (

Philippians 4:4) at all.
The reason Israel murmured at Meribah was because there was no water;
they were occupied with their circumstances, they were walking by sight.
The crisis they then faced only served to make manifest the state of their
hearts, namely, an “evil heart of unbelief.” Had their trust been in Jehovah,.191
they would at once have turned to Him, spread their need before Him, and
counted on Him to supply it. But their hearts were hardened. A most
searching warning was this for the Hebrews. Their circumstances were
most painful to the flesh. They were enduring a great fight of afflictions.
How were they enduring it? If they were murmuring that would be the
outward expression of unbelief within. Ah, it is easy to profess we are
Believers, but the challenge still rings out,
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith,
and have not works?” (

James 2:14).
“When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works
forty years” (verse 9).
The “when” looks back to what is mentioned in the previous verse. The
“Day of Temptation in the wilderness” covered the whole period of Israel’s
journeyings from the Red Sea to Canaan.
“The history of the Israelites is a history of continued provocation.
In the wilderness of Sin they murmured for the want of bread, and
God gave them manna. At Rephidim they murmured for the want
of water, and questioned whether Jehovah was with them and He
gave them water from the rock. In the wilderness of Sinai, soon
after receiving the law, they made and worshipped a golden image.
At Taberah they murmured for want of flesh and the quails were
sent, followed by a dreadful plague. At Kadesh-barnea they refused
to go up and take possession of the land of promise, which brought
down on them the awful sentence referred to in the Psalm; and after
that sentence was pronounced, they presumptuously attempted to
do what they had formerly refused to do. All these things took
place in little more than two years after they left Egypt. Thirty-seven
years after this, we find them at Kadesh again, murmuring for
want of water and other things. Soon after this, they complained of
the want of bread, though they had manna in abundance, and were
punished by the plague of fiery flying serpents. And at Shittim, their
last station, they provoked the Lord by mingling in the impure
idolatry of the Moabites. So strikingly true is Moses’ declaration:
‘Remember, and forget not, how thou provoked the Lord thy God
to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out
of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place ye have been
rebellious against the Lord’,

Deuteronomy 9:7’ (Dr. J. Brown)..192
“When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works
forty years” (verse 9).
Israel’s terrible sins in the wilderness are here set forth under two terms:
they “tempted” and “proved” Jehovah, the latter being added as an
explanation of the former. To tempt one is to try or prove whether he be
such as he is declared to be, or whether he can or will do such and such a
thing. By tempting God Israel found out by experience that He was indeed
the God He had made Himself known to be. In this passage the tempting of
God is set down as a sin which provoked Him, and so is to be taken in its
worst sense. Instead of believing His declaration, Israel acted as though
they would discover, at the hazard of their own destruction, whether or not
He would make good His promises and His threatenings.
“In particular men tempt God by two extremes: one is presumption, the
other is distrustfulness. Both these arise from unbelief. That distrustfulness
ariseth from unbelief is without all question. And however presumption
may seem to arise from overmuch confidence, yet if it be narrowly
searched into, we shall find that men presume upon unwarrantable courses,
because they do not believe that God will do what is meet to be done, in
His own way. Had the Israelites believed that God in His time and in His
own way would have destroyed the Canaanites, they would not have
presumed, against an express charge, to have gone against them without
the ark of the Lord and without Moses, as they did,

Numbers 14:40,
etc. Alas, what is man!
“Men do presumptuously tempt God, when, without warrant, they
presume on God’s extraordinary power and providence; that
whereunto the devil persuaded Christ when he had carded Him up
to a pinnacle of the temple, namely, to cast Himself down, was to
tempt God; therefore, Christ gives him this answer, ‘Thou shalt not
tempt the Lord thy God,’

Matthew 4:5-7. Men distrustfully
tempt God when in distress they imagine that God cannot or will
not afford sufficient succor. Thus did the king of Israel tempt God
when he said, ‘The Lord hath called these three kings together, to
deliver them into the hand of Moab,’

2 Kings 3:13. So that
prince who said ‘Behold, if the Lord would make windows in
heaven, might this thing be’,

2 Kings 7:2’ (Dr. W. Gouge).
“And saw My works forty years.” This brings out the inexcusableness and
heinousness of Israel’s sin. It was not that Jehovah was a Stranger to them,.193
for again and again He had shown Himself strong on their behalf. The
“works” of God mentioned here are the many and great wonders which He
did from the time that He first took them up in Egypt until the end of the
wilderness journey. Some of them were works of mercy. In delivering them
from enemies and dangers, and in providing for them things needful. Others
were works of judgment, as the plagues upon the Egyptians, their
destruction at the Red Sea, and His chastening of themselves. Still others
were manifestations which He made of Himself, as by the Cloud which led
them by day and by night, the awesome proofs of His presence on Sinai,
and the Shekinah glory which filled the tabernacle. These were not “works”
done in bygone ages, or in far-distant places, of which they had only heard;
but were actually performed before them, upon them, which they “saw.”
What clearer evidence could they have of God’s providence and power?
Yet they tempted Him! The clearest evidences God grants to us have no
effect upon unbelieving and obdurate hearts.
An unspeakably solemn warning is this for all who profess to be God’s
people today. A still more wonderful and glorious manifestation has God
now made of Himself than any which Israel ever enjoyed. God has been
manifested in flesh. The only-begotten Son has declared the Father. He has
fully displayed His matchless grace and fathomless love by coming here and
dying for poor sinners. When He left the earth, He sent the Holy Spirit, so
that we now have not a Moses, but the third Person of the Trinity to guide
us. God made known His laws unto Israel, but His complete Word is now
in our hands. What more can He say, than to us He has said! How great is
our responsibility; how immeasureably greater than Israel’s is our sin and
guilt, if we despise Him who speaks to us!
A further aggravation of Israel’s sin is that they saw God’s wondrous
works for “forty years.” God continued His wonders all that time: despite
their unbelief and murmuring the manna was sent daily till the Jordan was
crossed! Man’s incredulity cannot hinder the workings of God’s power:
“What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of
God without effect? God forbid” (

Romans 3:3).
An incredulous prince would not believe that God could give such plenty
as He had promised when Samaria by a long siege was famished; yet, “it
came to pass as the man of God had spoken” (

2 Kings 7:18). Nor
would the Jews, nor even the disciples of Christ, believe that the Lord
Jesus would rise again from the dead: yet He did so on the third day. O the.194
marvelous patience of God! May the realization of it melt and move our
hearts to repentance and obedience.
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation” (verse 10).
In these words, and those which follow, we learn the fearful consequences
of Israel’s sin.
“When God says He ‘was grieved’ He means that He was
burdened, vexed, displeased beyond that forbearance could extend
unto. This includes the judgment of God concerning the greatness
of their sin with all its aggravations and His determinate purpose to
punish them. Men live, speak and act as if they thought God very
little concerned in what they do, especially in their sins; that either
He takes no notice of them, or if He do, that He is not much
concerned in them; or that He should be grieved at His heart —
that is, have such a deep sense of man’s sinful provocations — they
have no mind to think or believe. They think that, as to thoughts
about sins, God is altogether as themselves. But it is far otherwise,
for God hath a concernment of honor in what we do; He makes us
for His glory and honor, and whatsoever is contrary thereunto
tends directly to His dishonor. And this God cannot but be deeply
sensible of; He cannot deny Himself. He is also concerned as a God
of Justice. His holiness and justice is His nature, and He needs no
other reason to punish sin but Himself” (Dr. John Owen).
“And said, They do always err in their heart” (verse 10).
To err in the heart signifies to draw the wicked and false conclusion that
sin and rebellion pay better than subjection and obedience to God. Through
the power of their depraved lusts, the darkness of their understandings, and
the force of temptations, countless multitudes of Adam’s fallen
descendants imagine that a course of self-will is preferable to subjection
unto the Lord. Sin deceives: it makes men call darkness light, bitter sweet,
bondage liberty. The language of men’s hearts is,
“What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit
should we have, if we pray unto Him?” (

Job 21:15).
Note Israel “always erred in their hearts,” which evidenced the
hopelessness of their state. They were radically and habitually evil. As
Moses told them at the end,.195
“Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew
you” (

Deuteronomy 9:24).
“And they have not known My ways” (verse 10). The word “ways” is used
in Scripture both of God’s dispensations or providences and of His
precepts. A way is that wherein one walks. It is not God’s secret “ways”
(

Isaiah 55:9,

Romans 9:33), but His manifest ways are here in view.
His manifest ways are particularly His works, in which He declares Himself
and exhibits His perfections, see

Psalm 145:17. The works of God are
styled His “ways” because we may see Him, as it were, walking therein:
“they have seen Thy goings, O God” (

Psalm 68:24). Now it is our duty
to meditate on God’s works or “ways” (

Psalm 143:5), to admire and
magnify the Lord in them (

Psalm 138:4,5), to acknowledge the
righteousness of them (

Psalm 145:17). God’s precepts are also termed
His way and “ways” (

Psalm 119:27, 32, 33, 35), because they make
known the paths in which He would have us walk. Israel’s ignorance of
God’s ways, both His works and precepts, was a willful one, for they
neglected and rejected the means of knowledge which God afforded them;
they obstinately refused to acquire a practical knowledge of them, which is
the only knowledge of real value.
“So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest”
(verse 11).
This was the fearful issue of Israel’s sin. The patience of God was
exhausted. Their inveterate unbelief and continued rebellion incensed Him.
The sentence He pronounced against them was irrevocable, confirmed by
His oath. The sentence was that they should not enter into Canaan, spoken
of as a “rest” because entrance therein would have terminated their
wilderness trials and travels; “God’s rest,” because it would complete His
work of bringing Israel into the land promised their fathers, and because
His sojournings (see

Leviticus 25:23) with His pilgrims would cease.
“We may observe,
1. When God expresseth great indignation in Himself against sin, it
is to teach men the greatness of sin in themselves.
2. God gives the same stability unto His threatenings as unto His
promises. Men are apt to think the promises are firm and stable,
but as for the threatenings, they suppose some way or other they
may be evaded..196
3. When men have provoked God by their impenitency to decree
their punishment irrevocably, they will find severity in the
execution.
4. It is the presence of God alone that renders any place or
condition good or desirable, ‘they’ shall not enter into My rest”
(Dr. John Owen).
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of
unbelief, in departing from the living God” (verse 12).
Here the apostle begins to make a practical application to the believing
Hebrews of the solemn passage which has just been quoted from the 95th
Psalm. He warns them against the danger of apostatizing. This is clear from
the expression “in departing from the living God.” The same Greek verb is
rendered “fall away” in

Luke 8:13, and in its noun form signifies
“apostasy” in

2 Thessalonians 2:3. Such apostasy is the inevitable
outcome of giving way to an “evil heart of unbelief,” against which the
apostle bids those to whom he was writing to “take heed.”
Thus the contents of this verse at once bring before us a subject which has
been debated in Christendom all through the centuries — the possibility or
the impossibility of a true child of God apostatizing and finally perishing.
Into this vexed question we shall not here enter, as the contents of the
verses which immediately follow will oblige us taking it up, D.V. in our
next article. Suffice it now to say that what is here in view is the testing of
profession; whether the profession be genuine or spurious, the ultimate
outcome of that testing makes evident in each individual’s case.
“Take heed brethren.” The introducing here of this blessed and tender title
of God’s saints is very searching. Those unto whom the apostle was
writing, might object, “The scripture you have cited has no legitimate
application to us; that passage describes the conduct of unbelievers,
whereas we are believers.” Therefore does the apostle again address them
as “brethren;” nevertheless, he bids them “take heed.” They were not yet
out of danger, they were still in the wilderness. Those mentioned in Psalm
95 began well, witness their singing the praises of Jehovah on the farther
shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 15). They too had avowed their fealty to
the Lord:
“all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath
spoken we will do” (

Exodus 19:8);.197
yet the fact remains that many of them apostatized and perished in the
wilderness. Therefore the searching relevancy of this word, “take heed
brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.”
“In departing from the living God.” The reference here is plainly to the
Lord Jesus Himself. In

Matthew 16:16 the Father is denominated “the
living God,” here and in

1 Timothy 4:10 the Son is, in

2 Corinthians
6:16 (cf.

1 Corinthians 3:16) the Holy Spirit is. The reason for the
application of this Divine title to the Savior in this verse is apparent: the
temptation confronting the Hebrews was not to become atheists, but to
abandon their profession of Christianity. The unbelieving Jews denounced
Jesus Christ as an impostor, and were urging those who believed in Him to
renounce Him and return to Judaism, and thus return to the true God,
Jehovah. That Christ is God the apostle had affirmed here, in verse 4, and
he now warns them that so far from the abandonment of the Christian
profession and a return to Judaism being a going back to Jehovah, it would
be the “departing from the living God.” That Christ was the true and living
God had been fully demonstrated by the apostle in the preceding chapters
of this epistle.
The extent to which and the manner in which the warning from Psalm 95
and the admonition of

Hebrews 3:12 applies to Christians today, we
must leave for consideration till the next chapter. In the meantime let us
heed the exhortation of

2 Peter 1:10,
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling
and election sure,”
and while attending to this duty, let us pray the more frequently and the
more earnestly for God to deliver us from “an evil heart of unbelief.”.198
CHAPTER 15
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO MOSES.
(

HEBREWS 3:13-19)
There are two great basic truths which run through Scripture, and are
enforced on every page: that God is sovereign, and that man is a
responsible creature; and it is only as the balance of truth is preserved
between these two that we are delivered from error. The Divine
sovereignty should not be pressed to the exclusion of human responsibility,
nor must human responsibility be so stressed that God’s sovereignty is
either ignored or denied. The danger here is no fancied one, as the history
of Christendom painfully exhibits. A careful study of the Word, and an
honest appropriation of all it contains, is our only safeguard.
We are creatures prone to go to extremes: like the pendulum of a clock in
motion, we swing from one side to the other. Nowhere has this tendency
been more sadly exemplified than in the teachings of theologians
concerning the security of the Christian. On the one hand, there have been
those who affirmed, Once saved, always saved; on the other hand, many
have insisted that a man may be saved today, but lost tomorrow. And both
sides have appealed to the Bible in support of their conflicting contentions!
Very unwise and unguarded statements have been made by both parties.
Some Calvinists have boldly declared that if a sinner has received Christ as
his Savior, no matter what he does afterward, no matter what his
subsequent life may be, he cannot perish. Some Arminians have openly
denied the efficacy of the finished Work of Christ, and affirmed that when a
sinner repents and believes in Christ he is merely put in a salvable state, on
probation, and that his own good works and faithfulness will prove the
deciding factor as to whether he should spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.
Endless volumes have been written on the subject, but neither side has
satisfied the other; and the writer for one, is not at all surprised at this.
Party-spirit has run too high, sectarian prejudice has been too strong. Only
too often the aim of the contestants has been to silence their opponents,
rather than to arrive at the truth. The method followed has frequently been.199
altogether unworthy of the “children of light.” One class of passages of
Scripture has been pressed into service, while another class of passages has
been either ignored or explained away. Is it not a fact that if some
Calvinists were honest they would have to acknowledge there are some
passages in the Bible which they wish were not there at all? And if some
Arminians were equally honest, would they not have to confess that there
are passages in Holy Writ which they are quite unable to fit into the creed
to which they are committed? Sad, sad indeed, is this. There is nothing in
the Word of God of which any Christian needs be afraid, and if there is a
single verse in it which conflicts with his creed, so much the worse for his
creed.
Now the subject of the Christian’s security, like every other truth of
Scripture, has two sides to it: into it there enters both God’s sovereignty
and human responsibility. It is failure to recognize and reckon upon this
which has wrought such havoc and created so much confusion. More than
once has the writer heard a renowned Bible-teacher of orthodox reputation
say, “I do not believe in the perseverance of saints, but I do believe in the
preservation of the Savior.” But that is to ignore an important side of the
truth. The New Testament has much to say on the perseverance of the
saints, and to deny or ignore it is not only to dishonor God, but to damage
souls.
There have been those who boldly insisted that, if God has eternally elected
a certain man to be saved, that man will be saved, no matter what he does
or does not do. Not so does the Word of God teach. Scripture says,
“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through
sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (

2
Thessalonians 2:13),
and if a man does not “believe the truth” he will never be saved. The Lord
Jesus declared, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (

Luke
13:3); therefore, if a sinner, does not “repent,” he will not be saved. In like
manner, there are those who have said, If a man is now a real Christian, no
matter how he may live in the future, no matter how far or how long he
may backslide, no matter what sins he may commit, he is sure of Heaven.
Put in such a way, this teaching has wrought untold harm, and, at the risk
of our own orthodoxy being suspected, we here enter a solemn and
vigorous protest against it..200
The writer has met many people who profess to be Christians, but whose
daily lives differ in nothing from thousands of non-professors all around
them. They are rarely, if ever, found at the prayer-meeting, they have no
family worship, they seldom read the Scriptures, they will not talk with you
about the things of God, their walk is thoroughly worldly; and yet they are
quite sure they are bound for heaven! Inquire into the ground of their
confidence, and they will tell you that so many years ago they accepted
Christ as their Savior, and “once saved always saved” is now their comfort.
There are thousands of such people on earth today, who are nevertheless,
on the Broad Road, that leadeth to destruction, treading it with a false
peace in their hearts and a vain profession on their lips.
It is not difficult to anticipate the thoughts of many who have read the
above paragraphs: “We fully agree that there are many in Christendom
resting on a false ground of security, many professing the name of Christ,
who have never been born again; but this in nowise conflicts with the
declaration of Christ that no sheep of His shall ever perish.” Quite true.
But what we would here point out and seek to press on our readers is this:
I have no right to appropriate to myself the blessed and comforting words
of the Savior found in

John 10:28, 29, unless I answer to the
description of His “sheep” found in

John 10:27; and I have no warrant
for applying His promise to those who give no evidence of being
conformed to the characters of those He there has in view. Let no man
dare separate what God Himself has there joined together.
The passage begins with, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and
they follow Me.” That is the Lord’s own description of those whom He
owns as His “sheep.” Now if, to the contrary, I am “hearkening” to the
seductive voice of this world, if I am “following” a course of self-will, self-seeking,
self-gratification, what right have I to regard myself as one of the
“sheep” of Christ? None at all. And if, notwithstanding, I do profess to be
one of His, then my walk gives the lie to my profession. And any one who
comes to me with words of comfort, pressing upon me the promises of
God to His people, is only encouraging me in a course of wrong-doing and
bolstering me up in a false hope.
It may be replied, “Yet a real Christian may leave his first love.” True, and
before a church that had done so, the Lord Jesus appeared and said — not,
“It will be alright in the end,” but —.201
“Repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee
quickly, and will remove thy candlestick” (

Revelation 2:5).
“But a real Christian may backslide, and in a large measure become worldly
again.” Then if he does, his need is not to hear about the eternal security of
God’s saints, but the eternal and fearful consequences of giving way to an
evil heart of unbelief if such a course be continued in. “Yes, but if he is one
of God’s people, he will be chastened, and grace will restore him; and
therefore I cannot see the need or propriety of giving him to believe there
is a danger of his being lost.”
Ah, it is not without reason that the Lord Jesus declared, more than once,
“he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” And let it not be forgotten
that in

Matthew 13:20, 21. He spoke of some who “but endureth for a
while”! Again it may be objected, “Such a pressing of the need of
perseverance of God’s elect is uncalled for: if a man be a Christian, he will
persevere, and if he persevere then there is no need of urging him to
persevere.” Not so did the apostles think or act. In

Acts 11:22, 23 we
read, “they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who
when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad and exhorted them
all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” Again, in

Acts 13:43 we read,
“Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to
continue in the grace of God.”
Once more, in

Acts 14:21, 22 we are told
“And when they had preached the Gospel to that city, and had
taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and Iconium, and
Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to
continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation
enter into the kingdom of God.”
According to the views of some, such earnestness on the part of the
apostles was quite unnecessary. But the impartial Christian reader will
gather from the above passages that the apostles believed in no mechanical
salvation, wherein God dealt with men as though they were stocks and
stones. No, they preached a salvation that needed to be worked out with
“fear and trembling” (

Philippians 2:12); in a salvation which calls human
responsibility into exercise; in a Divine salvation effectuated by the use of
the means of grace which God has mercifully provided for us. True we are.202
“kept by the power of God,” but the very next words afford us light on
how God keeps — “through faith” (

1 Peter 1:5). And not only does
faith feed on the promises of God, but it is stirred into healthful exercise
and directed by the solemn warnings of Scripture.
A real need then is there for such words as these,
“But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if
we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the
end” (

Hebrews 3:6).
“Oh, blessed word and promise of God, that He will keep us unto
the end. But how is it that we are kept? Through faith, through
watchfulness, through self-denial, through prayer and fasting,
through our constant taking heed unto ourselves according to His
Word. ‘Hold fast’ if you desire it to be manifested in that day that
you are not merely outward professors, not merely fishes existing in
the net, but the true and living disciples of One Master.” (Saphir).
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of
you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (verse 13).
“There is need of constant watchfulness on the part of the
professors of Christianity, lest under the influence of unbelief they
‘depart from the living God.’ ‘Take heed,’ says the apostle. There
is nothing, I am persuaded, in regard to which professors of
Christianity fall into more dangerous practical mistakes than this.
They suspect everything sooner than the soundness and firmness of
their belief. There are many who are supposing themselves believers
who have no true faith at all, — and so it would be proved were the
hour of trial, which is perhaps nearer than they are aware, to arrive;
and almost all who have faith suppose they have it in greater
measure than they really have it. There is no prayer that a Christian
needs more frequently to present than, ‘Lord, increase my faith’;
‘deliver me from an evil heart of unbelief.’
“All apostasy from God, whether partial or total, originates in
unbelief. To have his faith increased — to have more extended, and
accurate and impressive views of ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’ —
ought to be the object of the Christian’s most earnest desire and
unremitting exertion. Just in the degree in which we obtain
deliverance from the ‘evil heart of unbelief’ are we enabled to.203
cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart, to follow Him fully,
and, in opposition to all the temptations to abandon His cause, to
‘walk in all His commandments and ordinances blameless.’ To
prevent so fearful and disastrous a result of apostasy from the living
God, the apostle calls on them to strengthen each other’s faith by
mutual exhortation, and thus oppose those malignant and deceitful
influences which had a tendency to harden them in impenitence and
unbelief” (Dr. J. Brown).
To “exhort one another daily” is to call attention to and stir up one another
for discharging our mutual duties. But in performing this obligation we are
sadly lax: like the disciples upon the mount of transfiguration (

Luke
9:32) and in Gethsemane (

Luke 22:45), we too are very dull and
drowsy and in constant need of both exhortation and incitation. As fellow
pilgrims in a hostile country, as members of the same family, we ought to
have “care for one another” (

1 Corinthians 12:25), to “love one
another” (

John 13:34), to “pray one for another” (

James 5:16), to
“comfort one another” (

1 Thessalonians 4:18), to “admonish one
another” (

Romans 15:14), to “edify one another” (

1 Thessalonians
5:11), to have “peace one with another” (

Mark 9:50). Only thus are we
really helpful one to another. And, note, the exhorting is to be done
“daily,” for we must not be weary in well doing. While it is called “Today”
warns us that our sojourn in this scene is but brief; the night hastens on
when no man can work.
“Lest any of you be hardened” adds force to the duty enjoined. In verse 8
the terrible damage which hardness of heart produces had been pointed
out; here it is warned against. The implication is unmistakable: hardness of
heart is the consequence of neglecting the means for softening it — “lest.”
Clay and wax which are naturally hard, melt when brought under a
softening power, but when the heat is withdrawn they revert again to their
native hardness. The same evil tendency remains in the Christian. The flesh
is “weak,” our heart “deceitful”; only by the daily use of means and
through fellowship with the godly are we preserved. Oftentimes the failure
of a Christian is to be charged against his brethren as much as to his own
unfaithfulness. How often when we perceive a saint giving way to hardness
of heart we go about mentioning it to others, instead of faithfully and
tenderly exhorting the offending one!.204
“Through the deceitfulness of sin.” Here is the cause of the evil warned
against and upon which we need to be constantly upon our guard. It is the
manifold deceits of sin which prevail over men so much. The reference here
is to the corruption of our nature, with which we are born, and which we
ever carry about with us. It is that which, in Scripture, is designated the
“flesh,” the lustings of which are ever contrary to the Spirit. God’s Word
speaks of “deceitful lusts” (

Ephesians 4:22), the “deceitfulness of
riches” (

Matthew 13:22), for their innate depravity causes men to prefer
material wealth to vital godliness and heavenly happiness. So we read of
the “deceivableness of unrighteousness” (

2 Thessalonians 2:10);
philosophy (the proud reasoning of that carnal mind which is enmity
against God) is termed “vain deceit” (

Colossians 2:8); and the
lascivious practices of formal professors are called “their own deceivings”
(

2 Peter 2:13). This is one of the principal characteristics of sin: it
deceives.
“All the devices of sin are as fair baits whereby dangerous hooks
are covered over to entice silly fish to snap at them, so as they are
taken and made a prey to the fisher” (Dr. Gouge).
This deceitfulness of sin should serve as a strong inducement to make us
doubly watchful against it, and that because of our foolish disposition and
proneness of nature to yield to every temptation. Sin presents itself in
another dress than its own. It lyingly offers fair advantages. It insensibly
bewitches our mind. It accommodates itself to each individual’s particular
temperament and circumstances. It clothes its hideousness by assuming an
attractive garb. It deludes us into a false estimate of ourselves. One great
reason why God has mercifully given us His Word is to expose the real
character of sin. By the deceitfulness of sin the heart is hardened.
“To be hardened is to become insensible to the claims of Jesus
Christ, so that they do not make their appropriate impression on the
mind, in producing attention, faith, and obedience. He is hardened
who is careless, unbelieving, impenitent, disobedient” (Dr. J.
Brown).
In the light of the whole context the specific reference in the exhortation of
verse 13 constitutes a solemn caution against apostasy. What we
particularly need to daily exhort one another about is to cleave fast to
Christ, lest something else supplant Him in our affections. The whole trend
of our sinful natures is to depart from the living God, to grasp at the.205
shadows and miss the substance. This was the peculiar danger of the
Hebrews. Sin was trying to deceive them. It was seeking to draw them
back to Judaism as the one true and Divinely-appointed religion. To guard
against the insidious appeals being made, the apostle urges them to “exhort
one another daily,” that is, promptly and frequently. The importance of
taking heed to this injunction is placed in its strongest light by what
immediately follows.
“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of
our confidence steadfast unto the end” (verse 14).
These words complete the exhortation commenced at verse 12. They are
added as a motive to enforce the dissuasion from apostasy (verse 12), and
also the warning against that which occasions it (verse 13). The contents of
this verse are similar in their force to that which was before us in verse 6:
in both instances it is profession which is being put to the proof. There are
two classes on which such exhortations have no effect: the irreligious who
are dead in trespasses and sins, and have no interest in such matters; and
the self-righteous religionist, who, though equally dead spiritually, yet has
an intellectual interest. Many a professing Christian, who is infected by the
Laodicean spirit of the day, will shrug his shoulders, saying, Such warnings
do not concern me, there is no danger of a real child of God apostatizing.
Such people fail to get the good of these Divine warnings, their conscience
never being reached. But where there is a heart which is right with God,
there is always self-distrust, and such an one is kept in the place of
dependency through taking heed to the solemn admonitions of the Spirit. It
is these very warnings against departure from God which curb the
regenerate.
“Persistency in our confidence in Christ unto the end is a matter of
great endeavor and diligence, and that unto all believers. It is true
that our persistency in Christ doth not, as to the issue and event,
depend absolutely on our own diligence. The unalterableness of
union with Christ, on the account of the faithfulness of the
covenant of grace, is that which doth and shall eventually secure it.
But yet our own diligent endeavor is such an indispensable means
for that end as that without it, it will never be brought about.
Hence are many warnings given us in this and other epistles, that
we should take heed of apostasy and falling away; and these
cautions and warnings are given unto all true believers, that they.206
may know how indispensably necessary, from the appointment of
God, and the nature of the thing itself, is their watchful diligence
and endeavor unto their abiding in Christ” (Dr. John Owen).
But it should be pointed out that these solemn warnings of Scripture ought
not to be pressed upon weak Christians, who though anxious to walk
acceptably before God, are lacking in assurance.
“Observe here — for Satan, and our own conscience when it has
not been set free often make use of this epistle — that doubting
Christians are not here contemplated, or persons who have not yet
gained entire confidence in God: to those who are in this condition
its exhortations and warnings have no application. These
exhortations are to preserve the Christian in a confidence which he
has, and to persevere, not to tranquillise fears and doubts. This use
of the epistle to sanction such doubts is but a device of the enemy.
Only I would add here that, although the full knowledge of grace
(which in such a case the soul has assuredly not yet attained) is the
only thing that can deliver and set it free from its fears, yet it is very
important in this case practically to maintain a good conscience, in
order not to furnish the enemy with a special means of attack”
(J.N.D.).
For the right understanding of this verse it is of first importance that we
should note carefully the tense of the verb in the first clause: it is not “we
shall be made partakers of Christ if” — that would completely overthrow
the gospel of God’s grace, deny the efficacy of the finished Work of Christ,
and make assurance of our acceptance before God impossible before death.
No, what the Spirit here says is, “We are made partakers of Christ,” and in
the Greek it is expressed even more decisively: “For partakers we have
become of the Christ.” The word “partakers” here is the same as in

Hebrews 3:1, “partakers of the heavenly calling,” and at the end of

Hebrews 1:9 is rendered, “fellows.” Perhaps, “companions” would be a
better rendering. It means that we are so “joined unto the Lord,” as to be
“one spirit” with Him (

1 Corinthians 6:17). It is to be so united to
Christ that we are “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”
(

Ephesians 5:30). It is to be made by grace, “joint-heirs” with Him
(

Romans 8:17). The word “made partakers of Christ” shows there was
a time when Christians were not so. They were not so born naturally; it.207
was a privilege conferred upon them when they “received” Him as their
Savior (

John 1:12).
“If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” This
does not express a condition of our remaining partakers of Christ in the
sense of its being a contingency.
“What is the one thing which the Christian desires? What is the one
great thing which he does? What is the one great secret which he is
always endeavoring to find out with greater clearness and grasp
with firmer intensity? Is it not this: ‘my Beloved is mine, and I am
His’? The inmost desire of our heart and the exhortation of the
Word coincide. To the end we must persevere; and it is therefore
with great joy and alacrity that we receive the solemn exhortations:
‘He that endureth unto the end shall be saved’; ‘No man, having
put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of
God.’ We desire to hear constantly the voice which saith from His
Heavenly throne, ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with
Me in My kingdom, even as I also overcame, and am set down with
My Father in His throne’” (Saphir).
To hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end is to furnish
evidence of the genuineness of our profession, it is to make it manifest both
to ourselves and others that we have been made “partakers of Christ.”
Difficulties in the path are presupposed, severe trials are to be expected:
how else could faith show itself? Buffetings and testings do but provide
occasions for the manifestation of faith, they are also the means of its
exercise and growth. The Greek word for “confidence” here is not the
same as in verse 6: there the “confidence” spoken of is to make a bold and
free confession of our faith; here, it is a deep and settled assurance of
Christ’s excellency and sufficiency, which supports our hearts. The one is
external, the other is internal. To “hold fast the beginning of our
confidence” signifies to “continue in the faith, grounded and settled”
(

Colossians 1:23). It is to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I
trust in Him.” (

Job 13:15).
“Firm unto the end.” This is the test. At the beginning of our Christian
course, our confidence in Christ was full and firm. We knew that He was a
mighty Savior, and we were fully persuaded that He was able to keep that
which we have committed unto Him against that day. But the roughness of
the way, the darkness of the night, the fierceness of the storm into which,.208
sooner or later, we are plunged, tends to shake our confidence, and
perhaps (much to our sorrow now) we cried, “Lord, carest Thou not”?
Yet, if we were really “partakers of Christ” though we fell, yet were we not
utterly cast down. We turned to the Word, and there we found help, light,
comfort. In it we discovered that the very afflictions we have experienced
were what God had told us would be our portion for “we are appointed
thereunto” (

1 Thessalonians 3:3). In it we learned that God’s
chastenings of us proceeded from His love (Hebrews 12). And now,
though we have proved by painful experience to have less and less
confidence in ourselves, in our friends, and even in our brethren, yet, by
grace, our confidence in the Lord has grown and become more intelligent.
Thus do we obtain experimental verification of that word, “Better is the
end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (

Ecclesiastes 7:8).
“While it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your
hearts, as in the provocation” (verse 15).
The apostle continues to make practical application of the solemn passage
he had been quoting from Psalm 95, pressing upon them certain details
from it. That which is central in this verse is its directions for cleaving fast
to Christ. Two things are to be observed: the duty to be performed,
positively to “hear His voice,” negatively not to “harden their hearts.” This
duty is to be performed promptly, “Today,” and is to be persevered in —
“whilst it is said today” i.e. to the end Of our earthly pilgrimage. The
opportunity which grace grants us is to be eagerly redeemed, the
improvement of it is to be made as long as the season of opportunity is
ours. The admonition is again pointed by the warning of Israel’s failure of
old. Thus the sins of others before us are to be laid to heart, that we may
avoid them.
“When we hear God’s voice — and, oh, how deafly and sweetly
does He speak to us in the person of His Son Jesus, the Word
incarnate, who died for us on Golgotha! — the heart must
respond…. By this expression is meant the center of our spiritual
existence, that center out of which thoughts and affections proceed,
out of which are the issues of life, that mysterious fount which God
only can know and fathom. Oh that Christ may dwell there! God’s
voice is to soften the heart. This is the purpose of the divine word
— to make our hearts tender. Alas, by nature we are hard-hearted:.209
and what we call good and soft-hearted is not so in reality and in
God’s sight
When we receive God’s word in the heart, when we acknowledge
our sin, when we adore God’s mercy, when we desire God’s
fellowship, when we see Jesus, who came to save us, to wash our
feet and shed His blood, for our salvation, the heart becomes soft
and tender. For repentance, faith, prayer, patience, hope of heaven,
all these things make the heart tender: tender towards God, tender
towards our fellow-men” (Saphir).
“For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that
came out of Egypt by Moses” (verse 16).
The apostle here begins to describe the kind of persons who sinned in the
provocation, amplification being given in what follows. His purpose in
making mention of these persons was to more fully evidence the need for
Christian watchfulness against hardness of heart, even because those who
of old yielded thereto provoked God to their ruin. The opening “for” gives
point to what has preceded. The unspeakably solemn fact to which He here
refers is that out of six hundred thousand men who left Egypt, but two of
them were cut off in the wilderness, Caleb and Joshua.
The Greek word “provoke” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament,
but the Sept. employs it in

Psalm 78:17, 40; 106:7, 33;

Jeremiah
44:8, etc. They “vexed” Him (

Isaiah 63:10), and this because of their
contempt of His word. Hereby they showed they were not of God, see

John 8:47,

1 John 4:6. Should any unsaved man or woman read
these lines, we would say, Beware of provoking God by thine obstinacy.
To them that believe not, the gospel becomes “a savor of death unto
death.”
“But with whom was He grieved forty years”? (verse 17). This being put in
the form of a question was designed to stir up the conscience of the reader,
cf.

Matthew 21:28,

James 4:5, etc. “Was it not with them that had
sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness”? (verse 17).
“He doth not say ‘they died,’ but their ‘carcasses fell,’ which
intimates contempt and indignation. God sometimes will make men
who have been wickedly exemplary in sin, righteously exemplary in
their punishment. To what end is this reported? It is that we may
take heed that we ‘fall not after the same example of unbelief’.210
(

Hebrews 4:11). There is then an example in the fall and
punishment of unbelievers” (Dr. John Owen).
“And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest,
but to them that believeth not”? (verse 18).
Having reminded the Hebrews in the previous verse that sin was the cause
of Israel’s destruction of old, he now specifies the character of that sin,
Unbelief. The order is terribly significant: they harkened not to God’s
voice; in consequence, their hearts were hardened; unbelief was the result;
destruction, the issue. How unspeakably solemn! The Greek word here
rendered “believed not” may, with equal propriety, be rendered “obeyed
not”; it is so translated in

Romans 2:8; 10:21. It amounts to the same
thing, differing only according to the angle of view-point: looked at from
the mind or heart, it is “unbelief”; looked at from the will, it is
“disobedience.” In either case it is the sure consequence of refusal to heed
God’s voice.
“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (verse 19).
“The apostle does not single out the sin of making and worshipping
the golden calf; he does not bring before us the flagrant
transgressions into which they fell at Beth-peor. Many much more
striking and to our mind more fearful sins could have been pointed
out, but God thinks the one sin greater than all is unbelief. We are
saved by faith; we are lost through unbelief. The heart is purified by
faith; the heart is hardened by unbelief. Faith brings us nigh to God;
unbelief is departure from God” (Saphir).
There is no sin so great but it may be pardoned, if the sinner believe; but
“he that believeth not shall be damned.”
The application of the whole of this passage to the case of the sorely-tried
and wavering Hebrews was most pertinent and solemn. Twice over the
apostle reminded them (verses 9, 17) that the unbelief of their fathers had
been continued for “forty years.” Almost that very interval had now
elapsed since the Son had died, risen again, and ascended to heaven. In
Scripture, forty is the number of probation. The season of Israel’s testing
was almost over; in A.D. 70 their final dispersion would occur. And God
changeth not. He who had been provoked of old by Israel’s hardness of
heart, would destroy again those who persisted in their unbelief. Then let
them beware, and heed the solemn warning, “Take heed, brethren, lest.211
there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living
God.” May God grant us hearts to heed the same admonitory warning..212
CHAPTER 16
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO JOSHUA.
(

HEBREWS 4:1-3).
The exhortation begun by the apostle in

Hebrews 3:12 is not completed
till

Hebrews 4:12 is reached, all that intervenes consisting of an
exposition and application of the passage quoted from Psalm 95 in

Hebrews 3:7-11. The connecting link between what has been before us
and that which we are about to consider is found in

Hebrews 3:19, “So
we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” These words form
the transition between the two chapters, concluding the exhortation found
in verses 12, 13, and laying a foundation for the admonition which follows.
Ere proceeding, it may be well to take up a question which the closing
verses of Hebrews 3 have probably raised in many minds, namely, seeing
that practically all the adults who came out of Egypt by Moses perished in
the wilderness, did not the promises of God to bring them into Canaan fail
of their accomplishment?
In

Exodus 6:6-8, Jehovah said unto Moses, “Wherefore say unto the
children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the
burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will
redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: and I will
take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God… and I will bring
you in unto the land, concerning the which I did sware to give it to
Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it you for an heritage: I am
the Lord.” We quote now from the helpful comments of Dr. J. Brown
upon these verses:
“This is a promise which refers to Israel as a people, and which does not
by any means necessarily infer that all, or even that any, of that generation
were to enter in. No express condition was mentioned in this promise —
not even the believing of it. Yet, so far as that generation was concerned,
this, as the event proved, was plainly implied; for, if it had been an
absolute, unconditional promise to that generation, it must have been
performed, otherwise He who cannot lie would have failed in.213
accomplishing His own word. There can be no doubt that the fulfillment of
the promise to them was suspended on their believing it, and acting
accordingly. Had they believed that Jehovah was indeed both able and
determined to bring His people Israel into the land of Canaan, and, under
the influence of this faith, had gone up at His command to take possession,
the promise would have been performed to them.
“This was the tenor of the covenant made with them: ‘Now therefore, if ye
will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a
peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: and ye
shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation’ (

Exodus
19:5, 6). ‘Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and
to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him, and
obey His voice, provoke Him not; for He will not pardon your
transgressions: for My name is in Him. But if thou shalt indeed obey His
voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an Enemy unto thine enemies,
and an Adversary unto thine adversaries’ (

Exodus 23:20-22).
“Their unbelief and disobedience are constantly stated as the reason why
they did not enter in. ‘Because all those men have seen My glory, and My
miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me
now these ten times, and have not harkened to My voice; surely they shall
not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them
that provoked Me see it’ (

Numbers 14:22, 23), cf.

Joshua 5:6. God
promised to bring Israel into the land of Canaan; but He did not promise to
bring them in whether they believed and obeyed or not. No promise was
broken to those men, for no absolute promise was made to them.
“But their unbelief did not make the promise of God of none effect. It was
accomplished to the next generation: ‘And the Lord gave unto Israel all the
land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and
dwelt therein’ (

Joshua 21:43). Joshua appealed to the Israelites
themselves for the completeness of the fulfillment of the promise, see

Joshua 23:14. That generation believed the promises that God would
give Canaan, and under the influence of this fact, went forward under the
conduct of Joshua, and obtained possession of the land for themselves.”
This same principle explains what has been another great difficulty to
many, namely, Israel’s actual tenure of Canaan. In

Genesis 13:14, 15
we are told, “And the Lord said unto Abraham, after that Lot was
separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place from.214
where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for
ever.” This promise was repeated again and again, see

Genesis 7:8, etc.
How then came it that the children of Israel occupied the land only for a
season?
Their descendants, for the most part are not in it today. Has, then, the
promise of God failed? In no-wise. In His promise to Abraham God did not
specify that any particular generation of his descendants should occupy the
land “for ever” and herein lies the solution to the difficulty.
God’s promise to Abraham was made on the ground of pure grace; no
condition whatever was attached to it. But grace only superabounds where
sin has abounded. Sovereign grace intervenes only after the responsibility
of man has been tested and his failure and unworthiness manifested. Now it
is abundantly clear from many passages in

Deuteronomy 31:26-29, that
Israel entered Canaan not on the ground of the unconditional covenant of
grace which Jehovah made with Abraham, but on the ground of the
conditional covenant of works which was entered into at Sinai (

Exodus
24:6-8). Hence, many years after Israel had entered Canaan under Joshua,
we read,
“And an Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and
said, I made you to go up out of the land of Egypt, and have
brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I
said, I will never break My covenant with you. And ye shall make
no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down
their altars; but ye have not obeyed My voice: Why have ye done
this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before
you; but they shall be a thorn in your sides, and their gods shall be a
snare unto you” (

Judges 2:1-3).
The same principles are in exercise concerning God’s fulfillment of His
gospel promises.
“The gospel promise of eternal life, like the promise of Canaan, is a
promise which will assuredly be accomplished. It is sure to all ‘the
seed.’ They were ‘chosen in Christ before the foundation of the
world.’ Eternal life was promised in reference to them before the
times of the ages, and confirmed by the oath of God. They have
been redeemed to God by ‘the blood of the Lamb,’ and are all.215
called in due time according to His purpose. Their inheritance is
‘laid up in heaven’ for them, and ‘they are kept for it by the mighty
power of God, through faith unto salvation.’ And they shall all at
last ‘inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of
the world.’
“But the Gospel revelation does not testify directly to anyone that
Christ so died for him in particular, that it is certain that he shall be
saved through His death: neither does it absolutely promise
salvation to all men; for in this case all must be saved, — or God
must be a liar. But it proclaims, ‘he that believeth shall be saved —
he that believeth not shall be damned.’ It is as believers of the truth
that we are secured of eternal life; and it is by holding fast this faith
of the truth, and showing that we do so, that we can alone enjoy
the comfort of this security. ‘The purpose of God according to
election must stand,’ and all His chosen will assuredly be saved; but
they cannot know their election — they cannot enjoy any absolute
assurance of their salvation independent of their continuance in the
faith, love, and obedience of the Gospel, see

2 Peter 1:5-12.
And to the Christian, in every stage of his progress, it is of
importance to remember, that he who turns back, turns ‘back to
perdition’; and that it is he only who believes straight onward —
that continues in the faith of the truth — that shall obtain ‘the
salvation of the soul’” (Dr. J. Brown).
Our introduction for this article has already exceeded its legitimate limits,
but we trust that what has been said above will be used of God in clearing
up several difficulties which have exercised the minds of many of His
beloved people, and that it may serve to prepare us for a more intelligent
perusal of our present passage. The verses before us are by no means easy,
as any one who will really study them will quickly discover. The apostle’s
argument seems to be unusually involved, the teaching of it appears to
conflict with other portions of Scripture, and the “rest” which is its central
subject, is difficult to define with any degree of certainty. It is with some
measure of hesitation and with not a little trepidation that the writer himself
now attempts to expound it, and he would press upon every reader the
importance and need of heeding the Divine injunction of

1
Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”.216
It should be evident that the first thing which will enable us to understand
our passage is to attend to the scope of it. The contents of this chapter are
found not in Romans or Corinthians or Ephesians, but in Hebrews, the
central theme of which is the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, and
there is that in each chapter which exemplifies this. The theme is developed
by the presentation of the superlative excellencies of Christ, who is the
Center and Life of Christianity. Thus far we have had Christ’s superiority
over the prophets, the angels, Moses. Now it is the glory of Christ which
excels that attaching to Joshua.
Our next key must be found in noting the connection between the contents
of chapter four and that which immediately precedes. Plainly, the context
begins at

Hebrews 3:1, where we are bidden to “consider the Apostle
and High Priest of our profession.” All of chapter 3 is but an amplification
of its opening verse. Its contents may be summarized thus: Christ is to be
“considered,” attended to, heard, trusted, obeyed: first, because of His
exalted personal excellency:
He is the Son, “faithful” over His house; second, because of the direful
consequences which must ensue from not “considering” Him, from
despising Him. This second point is illustrated by the sad example of those
Israelites who hearkened not unto the Lord in the clays of Moses, and in
their case the consequence was that they failed to enter into the rest of
Canaan.
In the first sections of Hebrews 4, the principal subject of chapter 3 is
continued. It brings out again the superiority of our “Apostle,” this time
over Joshua, for he too was an “apostle” of God. This is strikingly brought
out in

Deuteronomy 34:9,
“And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for
Moses had laid hands upon him; and the children of Israel
hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses”
— the prime thought of the “laying on of hands” in Scripture being that of
identification. Let the reader compare

Joshua 1:5, 16-18. The
continuation of the theme of Hebrews 3 in chapter 4 is also seen by the
repeated mention of “rest,” see

Hebrews 3:11, 18 and cf.

Hebrews
4:1, 3, etc. It is on this term that the apostle bases his present argument.
The “rest” of

Hebrews 3:11, 18 refers to Canaan, and though Joshua
actually conducted Israel into this (see marginal rendering of

Hebrews.217
4:8), yet the apostle proves by a reference to Psalm 95 that Israel never
really (as a nation) entered into the rest of God. Herein lies the superiority
of the Apostle of Christianity; Christ does lead His people into the true
rest. Such, we believe, is the line of truth developed in our passage.
“Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into
His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (verse 1).
The opening words of this chapter bid us seriously take to heart the solemn
warning given at the close of verse 3. God’s judgment upon the wicked
should make us more watchful that we do not follow their steps. The “us”
shows that Paul was preaching to himself as well as to the Hebrews. “Let
us therefore fear” has stumbled some, because of the “Fear thou not” of

Isaiah 41:10, 43:1, 5, etc. In

John 14:27, Christ says to us, “Let not
your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And in

2 Timothy 1:7,
we read,
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of
love, and of a sound mind.”
On the other hand, believers are told to “Fear God” (

1 Peter 2:17), and
to work out their own salvation “with fear and trembling” (

Philippians
2:12). How are these two different sets of passages to be harmonized?
The Bible is full of paradoxes, which to the natural man, appear to be
contradictions. The Word needs “rightly dividing” on the subject of “fear”
as upon everything else of which it treats. There is a fear which the
Christian is to cultivate, and there is a fear from which he should shrink.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and in

Proverbs 14:26,
27 we read, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence…. The fear of the
Lord is a fountain of life”; so again, “Happy is the man that feareth always”
(

Proverbs 28:14). The testimony of the New Testament inculcates the
same duty: Christ bade His disciples, “Fear Him who is able to destroy
both soul and body in Hell” (

Matthew 10:28). To the saints at Rome
Paul said, “Be not high-minded, but fear” (

Romans 11:20). To God’s
people Peter wrote, “Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (

1
Peter 1:17). While in Heaven itself the word will yet be given:
“Praise our God all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him both small
and great” (

Revelation 19:5)..218
Fear may be called one of the disliking affections. It is good or evil
according to the object on which it is placed, and according to the ordering
of it thereon. In

Hebrews 4:1 it is placed on the right object — an evil
to be shunned. That evil is unbelief, which, if persisted in, ends in apostasy
and destruction. About this the Christian needs to be constantly on his
guard, having his heart set steadily against it. Our natural proneness to fall,
the many temptations to which we are subject, together with the
deceitfulness of sin, the subtlety of Satan, and God’s justice in leaving men
to themselves, are strong enforcements of this duty. Concerning God
Himself, we are to fear Him with such a reverent awe of His holy majesty
as will make us careful to please Him in all things, and fearful of offending
Him. This is ever accompanied by a fearsome distrust of ourselves. The
fear of God which is evil in a Christian is that servile bondage which
produces a distrustful attitude, kills affection for Him, regards Him as a
hateful Tyrant. This is the fear of the demons (

James 2:19).
“Let us therefore fear.”
“It is salutary to remember our tendency to partiality and one-sidedness
in our spiritual life, in order that we may be on our guard,
that we may carefully and anxiously consider the ‘Again, it is
written’; that we may be willing to learn from Christians who have
received different gifts of grace, and whose experience varies from
ours; above all, that we may seek to follow and serve the Lord
Himself, to walk with God, to hear the voice of the Good
Shepherd. Forms of godliness, types of doctrine, are apt to become
substitutes instead of channels, weights instead of wings.
“The exhortations of this epistle may appear to some difficult to
reconcile with the teachings of Scripture, that the grace of God,
once received, through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith, can
never be lost, and that they who are born again, who are once in
Christ, are in Christ for ever. Let us not blunt the edge of earnest
and piercing exhortations. Let us not pass them over, or treat them
with inward apathy. ‘Again it is written.’ We know this does not
mean that there is any real contradiction in Scripture, but that
various aspects of truth are presented, each with the same fidelity,
fullness and emphasis. Hence we must learn to move freely, and not
to be cramped and fixed in one position: we must keep our eyes
clear and open, and not look at all things through the light of a.219
favorite doctrine. And while we receive fully and joyously the
assurance of our perfect acceptance and peace, and of the
unchanging love of God in Christ Jesus, let us with the apostle
consider also our sins and dangers, from the lower yet most real
earthly and time-point of view.
“When Christ is beheld and accepted, there is peace; but is there
not also fear? ‘With Thee is forgiveness of sin, that Thou mayest be
feared’ (

Psalm 130:4). Where do we see God’s holiness and the
awful majesty of the law as in the cross of Christ? Where our own
sin and unworthiness, where the depths of our guilt and misery, as
in the atonement of the Lord Jesus? We rejoice with fear and
trembling…. It is because we know the Father, it is because we are
redeemed by the precious blood of the Savior, it is as the children
of God and as the saints of Christ, that we are to pass our earthly
pilgrimage in fear. This is not the fear of bondage, but the fear of
adoption; not the fear which dreads condemnation, but the fear of
those who are saved, and whom Christ has made free. It is not an
imperfect and temporary condition; it refers not merely to those
who have begun to walk in the ways Of God. Let us not imagine
that this fear is to vanish at some subsequent period of our course,
that it is to disappear in a so-called ‘higher Christian life.’ No; we
are to pass the time of our sojourn here in fear. To the last moment
of our fight of faith, to the very end of our journey, the child of
God, while trusting and rejoicing, walks in godly fear” (Saphir).
“Lest a promise being left us.” It is very striking to observe how this is
expressed. It does not say, “lest a promise being made” or “given.” It is put
thus for the searching of our hearts. God’s promises are presented to faith,
and they only become ours individually, and we only enter into the good of
them, as we appropriate or lay hold of them. Of the patriarchs it is said
concerning God’s promises (1) “having seen them afar off, (2) and were
persuaded of them, (3) and embraced them”

Hebrews 11:13). Certain
promises of Jehovah were “left” to those who came out of Egypt. They
were not “given” to any particular individuals, or “made” concerning that
specific generation. And, as the apostle has shown in Hebrews 3, the
majority of those who came out of Egypt failed to “embrace” those
promises, through hearkening not to Him Who spake, and through
hardening their hearts. But Caleb and Joshua “laid hold” of those promises
and so entered Canaan..220
When the apostle here says, “Let us fear therefore lest a promise being left”
— there is no “us” in the Greek — he addresses the responsibility of the
Hebrews. He is pressing upon them the need of walking by faith and not by
sight; he is urging them to so take unto themselves the promise which the
Lord has “left,” that they might not seem to come short of it. But to what
is the apostle referring when he says, “lest a promise being left”? Surely in
the light of the context the primary reference is clear: that which the
Gospel makes known. The Gospel proclaims salvation to all who believe.
The Gospel makes no promise to any particular individuals. Its terms are
“whosoever believeth shall not perish.” That promise is “left,” left on
infallible record, left for the consolation of convicted sinners, “left” for
faith to lay hold of. This promise of salvation looks forward, ultimately, to
the enjoyment of the eternal, perfect, and unbroken rest of God in heaven,
of which the “rest” of Canaan, as the terminal of Israel’s hard bondage in
Egypt and their wearisome journeyings in the wilderness, was the
appropriate figure.
“Any of you should seem to come short of it.” Passing over the word
“seem” for a moment, let us inquire into the meaning of “to come short of
it.” Here again the language of

Hebrews 11:13 should help us. As
pointed out above, that verse indicates three distinct stages in the faith of
the patriarchs. First, they saw God’s promises “afar off.” They seemed too
good to be true, far beyond their apprehension. Second, they were
“persuaded of them” or, as the Revised Version renders it, “greeted them,”
which signifies a much closer acquaintance of them. Third, and “embraced
them”; they did not “come short,” but took them to their hearts. It is thus
the awakened and anxious sinner has to do with the Gospel promise.
Wondrous, unique, passing knowledge as it does, that promise is “left”
him, and the Person that promise points to is to be “greeted” and
“embraced.” “That which was from the beginning (1), which we have heard
(2), which we have seen with our eyes (3), which we have looked upon
(4), and our hands have handled of the Word of Life” (

1 John 1:1).
At this stage perhaps, the reader is ready to object against what has been
advanced above, “But how can the ‘promise’ here refer to that presented in
the Gospel before poor sinners, seeing that the apostle was addressing
believers? Is not the ‘promise’ plainly enough defined in the ‘of entering
into His rest’?” Without attempting now to enter into a fuller discussion of
God’s “rest,” it should be clear from the context that the primary reference.221
is to the eternal sharing of His rest in heaven. This is the believer’s hope
which is laid up for you in heaven,
“whereof ye heard before in the Word of the truth of the Gospel”
(

Colossians 1:5).
At first this “hope” appears “afar off,” but as faith grows it is “greeted” and
“embraced.” But only so as faith is in exercise. If we cease hearing and
heeding the Voice which speaks to us from heaven, and our hearts become
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, the brightness of our hope is
dimmed, we “come short” of it; and if such a course be continued in, hope
will give way to despair.
The whole point of the apostle’s exhortation here is a pressing upon
Christians the imperative need of persevering in the faith. Israel left Egypt
full of hope, as their song at the Red Sea plainly witnessed, see

Exodus
15:13-18. But, alas, their hopes quickly faded. The trials and testings of the
wilderness were too much for them. They walked by sight, instead of by
faith; and murmuring took the place of praising, and hardness of heart
instead of listening to the Lord’s voice. So too the Hebrews were still in
the wilderness: their profession of faith in Christ, their trust in the Lord,
was being tested. Some of their fellows had already departed from the
living God, as the language of

Hebrews 10:25 dearly implies. Would,
then these whom the apostle had addressed as “holy brethren” fail, finally,
to enter into God’s rest? So it is with Christians now. Heaven is set before
them as their goal: toward it they are to daily press forward, running with
perseverance the race that is set before them. But the incentive of our hope
only has power over the heart so long as faith is in exercise.
What is meant by “seeming to come short” of the Gospel promise of
heaven?
First, is not this word inserted here for the purpose of modifying the
sharpness of the admonition? It was to show that the apostle did not
positively conclude that any of these “holy brethren” were apostates, but
only that they might appear to be in danger of it, as the “lest” warned.
Second, was it not to stir up their godly fear the more against such
coldness and dullness as might hazard the prize set before them?
Third, and primarily, was it not for the purpose of showing Christians the
extent to which they should be watchful? It is not sufficient to be assured.222
that we shall never utterly fall away; we must not “seem” to do so, we
must give no occasion to other Christians to think we have departed from
the living God. The reference is to our walk. We are bidden to “abstain
from all appearance of evil” (

1 Thessalonians 5:22). Note how this
same word “seem” signifies “appeared” in

Galatians 2:9. The very
appearance of backsliding is to be sedulously avoided.
“For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but
the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith
in them that heard” (verse 2).
The contents of this verse unequivocally establish our definition of the
“promise” in verse 1, namely, that it has reference to the Gospel promise,
which, in its ultimate application, looks forward to the eternal rest in
heaven. Here plain mention is made of the “gospel.” The obvious design
of the apostle in this verse is to enforce the admonition of us fearing a like
judgment which befell the apostate Israelites, by avoiding a like course of
conduct in ourselves — unbelief.
The Gospel preached unto Israel of old is recorded in

Exodus 6:6-8,
and that it was not “mixed with faith in them that heard it” is seen from the
very next verse, “And Moses so spake unto the children of Israel, but they
hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.”
We need hardly say that was not the only time a gospel message was
proclaimed to them, see

Numbers 13:26, 27, 30; and for their unbelief,

Numbers 14:1-4.
“But the word preached did not profit them.” “They were none the
better for it. They did not obtain the blessing in reference to which
a promise was given them: they did not enter into Canaan: they
died in the wilderness” (Dr. J. Brown).
The reason for this was, because they did not receive the good news in
faith. The mere hearing of the Gospel is not enough: to profit, it must be
believed. Thus

Hebrews 4:2 is parallel with

Hebrews 2:3.
“For we which have believed do enter into rest” (verse 3). Failure to rightly
understand these words led many of the commentators right off the track
of the apostle’s argument in this passage. It pains us to have to take issue
here with some eminent expositors of Scripture, but we dare not call any
man, however spiritual or well-instructed, our “father.” We must follow.223
the light which we believe God has granted us, though we would again
press upon the reader his responsibility for “proving all things” for himself.
“For we which have believed do enter into rest.” Many have taken these
words as referring to a spiritual rest into which believers enter here and
now. But we believe this is a mistake. The apostle did not say, “We which
believe have entered into rest.” To which it may be replied, “Nor did he
say, ‘We which have believed shall enter into rest.’“ True, for to have put
it thus would have weakened his argument. Moreover, it would be to
evacuate the exhortation of verse 11 of its significance, “Let us labor
therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of
unbelief.” If then verse 3 does not refer to a spiritual rest into which
believers now enter, what is its meaning?
Bagster’s Interlinear (and we know of no English translation which is its
equal) gives, “For we enter into the rest, who believe.” This is a literal
word for word rendering of the Greek into English. Put thus, the historical
tense is avoided, and we have simply an abstract statement of a doctrinal
fact. This verse gives us the positive side of verse 2, defining the characters
of those who will enter God’s rest, namely, Believers. Unbelieving
Israelites did not, believing Christians shall. It is important to remember
that the “rest” of this whole passage is as yet only “promised,” verse 1.
“For we which have believed do enter into rest.”
“The apostle speaks of believers of all ages as a body, to which he
and those to whom he was writing belonged, and says, ‘It is we
who believe, and we alone, who under any dispensation can enter
into the rest of God’” (Dr. J. Brown).
The opening “for” signifies that what follows is added as a reason to
confirm what has been previously stated. The reason is drawn from the law
of contraries, the inevitable opposites. Of contraries there must be opposite
consequences. Now faith and unbelief are contraries, therefore their
consequences are contraries. As then unbelievers cannot enter into God’s
rest (

Hebrews 3:18), believers must (

Hebrews 4:3), that is their
privilege. Such we believe is the force of this abstract declaration.
“The qualification of such as reap the benefit of God’s promise is
thus set down, ‘Which have believed.’ To believe is to yield such
credence to the truth of God’s promise, as to rest on Him for
participation of the thing promised. We can have no assurance of.224
the thing promised till we do believe the promise: ‘After that ye
believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise’
(

Ephesians 1:13). ‘I know whom I have believed,’ saith the
apostle, and thereupon maketh this inference, ‘and I am persuaded
that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him
against that day’ (

2 Timothy 1:12). This, Christ manifested by
the condition which He required of those whom He cured, thus, ‘If
thou canst believe, all things are possible,’

Mark 9:23.” (Dr.
Gouge).
The second half of verse 3 we must leave for the next chapter. In the
meantime, “Let us therefore fear.”
“The absolute safety, the fixed and unchanging portion of the
chosen people of God can never be doubted. From the eternal,
heavenly, divine point of view, saints can never fall; they are seated
in heavenly places with Christ; they are renewed by the Spirit, and
sealed by Him unto everlasting glory. But who sees the saints of
God from this point of view? Not the world, not our fellow-Christians.
They only see our character and walk…. From our point
of view, as we live in time, from day to day, our earnest desire must
be to continue steadfast, to abide in Christ, to walk with God, to
bring forth fruit that will manifest the presence of true and God-given
life. Hence the apostle, who says to the Philippians, ‘Being
confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work
in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (

Hebrews
1:6), adds to a similar thought in another epistle, ‘If ye continue in
the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the
hope of the gospel.’ In the one passage Paul’s point of view is the
heavenly, eternal one; in the other he looks from earth
heavenwards, from time to eternity. And in what other way could
he think, speak, exhort, and encourage both himself and his fellow-Christians
but in this manner? For it is by these very exhortations
and warnings that the grace of God keeps us. It is in order that the
elect may not fall, it is to bring out in fact and time the (ideal and
eternal) impossibility of their apostasy, that God in His wisdom and
mercy has sent to us such solemn messages and such fervent
entreaties, to watch, to fight, to take heed unto ourselves, to resist
the adversary” (Saphir)..225
CHAPTER 17
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO JOSHUA.
(

HEBREWS 4:3-10)
There has been so much confusion in the minds of commentators, so many
conflicting interpretations of Hebrews 4 in the past, that we deem it the
more necessary to go slowly, and endeavor to supply full proof of the
exposition which we are here advancing. That which appears to have
occasioned the most difficulty for many is the statement made at the
beginning of verse 3, “For we which have believed do enter into rest,” or,
more literally, “for we enter into the rest, who believed.” Having regarded
this verse as setting forth a spiritual rest into which believers now enter,
they have altogether failed in their understanding of the second part of
verse 1. That sinners do enter into rest upon believing is clear from the
promise of Christ in

Matthew 11:28. That the measure in which this is
enjoyed, subsequently, will be determined by the degree and frequency
with which faith is kept in exercise, we fully allow. But these things are not
the subjects of which Paul is treating here in Hebrews 4.
Considering that

Hebrews 4:3 speaks of the believer’s present rest,
many expositors have read this into the opening verse of the chapter, and
have regarded its admonition as meaning, Let Christians be on their guard
lest, through carelessness and backsliding, they “seem to come short” in
their experimental enjoyment of Christ’s rest. In other words, they look
upon the “rest” of the opening verses of Hebrews 4 as signifying
communion with the Lord. They argue that this must be what was in the
apostle’s mind, for he was not addressing the unconverted, but “holy
brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” With considerable ingenuity
they have appealed to the context, the contents of the closing verses of
Hebrews 3, as supporting their contention. Those who failed to enter into
Canaan (which they consider was a figure of the saints’ present portion)
were not heathen, but Israelites, the covenant-people of God. We must
therefore expose the error of this interpretation before proceeding farther..226
First, we would remind the reader once more that the apostle was not here
writing to Gentile Christians, but to Hebrews, whose circumstances and
temptations were peculiar, unique. There was a very real and grave danger
menacing them, not so much of interrupting their spiritual fellowship with
Christ, but of shaking their faith in Him altogether. The temptation
confronting them was the total abandonment of their Christian profession,
of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth, now exalted at the right hand of God;
and returning to Judaism. This fact must be kept in mind as we take up the
study of each chapter of this Epistle. To lose sight of it, courts certain
disaster in our interpretation.
Second, while it is true that the apostle’s warning in Hebrews 3 is taken
from the history of Israel, the covenant people of God, it needs to be borne
in mind that in connection with Israel there was an election within an
election, a spiritual one within the national.

Romans 9:7, 8 distinctly
affirms, “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all
children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the
children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of
the promise are counted for the seed.” Unless this fact be steadily
remembered, much misunderstanding and error will ensue. The fact is that
Israel as a Nation, in Old Testament times, is not a type of God’s elect in
this New Testament dispensation (as so many have wrongly supposed), but
a figure of Christendom as a whole. It was only the spiritual remnant, the
elect of God within the nation, who foreshadowed His saints of today.
Third, close attention to what is said of the Israelites in Hebrews 3 shows
conclusively that they were an illustration not of true Christians out of
communion with God, but instead, of nominal professors who were never
born again. In proof of this note in

Hebrews 3:10 it is said of them,
“They do always err in heart;” now though believers err frequently they do
not so “always;” then it is added, “they have not known My ways” —
could this be said of the spiritual election of God? Surely not. Again, in
verse 11, We are told, “So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into
My rest:” but God is never wrathful with His own children. Further, in
verse 17 it is not simply said that “they died” but that their “carcasses fell”
in the wilderness, sure proof is such language that they were not children
of God, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”
(

Psalm 116:15). Finally, the words of the apostle in

Hebrews 3:19
admit of no misunderstanding, “So we see that they could not enter in.227
because of unbelief.” Thus, they were “children in whom is no faith”
(

Deuteronomy 32:20).
Now at the beginning of chapter 4 the apostle applies this solemn warning
to test the profession of those who were in danger of “departing from the
living God.” First he says, “Let us therefore fear.” The “therefore” would
have no real force if after referring to unbelievers he should apply their
example to warn believers, of the tendency and danger of ceasing to have
communion with the Lord; in such a case his illustration would be strained
and irrelevant. No, when he says, “Let us therefore fear” he obviously has
in mind the danger of an empty profession, and sets them to a testing of
their faith, which test is answered by perseverance. “Lest a promise being
left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of
it.” It was not a “rest” of communion into which they had entered but were
warned against leaving, or failing to enjoy; but instead, a rest that was
promised. What follows clearly defines “His rest” and confirms what we
have said above. It has to do with the Gospel, and not with precepts to
saints! And the point insisted on is the presence or absence of faith.
The order of thought in Hebrews 4, so far as we discern it, is as follows:
First, there is a searching exhortation made (verse 1) to all who profess to
be Christians, that they should work out their salvation with fear and
trembling, and that their walk should be such as to give no one the
impression that they “seem” to be departing from Christ. This is followed
by a solemn warning (verse 2) that, the mere hearing of the Gospel is not
enough; to profit us, it must be received by faith. Third, this is followed by
the declaration that only believers enter into the rest of God. In the
remainder of our passage the Spirit makes further comment on Psalm 95
and shows (by negative inference) what the “rest” of God is, and how that
the believer’s entrance into it is yet future.
“For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, As I
have sworn in My wrath, if they should enter into My rest”
(verse 3).
The relation of these two clauses the one to the other, is denoted by “as He
said,” what follows being a quotation from the 95th Psalm; their
connection with the opening words of the verse being that they supply
proof of what is there said. As pointed out in the previous article, “For we
enter into the rest, who believed,” simply informs us who are privileged to
enter God’s rest, namely, Believers. Corroboration of this is now furnished..228
Upon the second clause of this verse we cannot do better than quote from
Dr. Gouge:
“These words ‘as He said’ may have a double reference. One
immediate, to the words next before. Considered thus, they furnish
a proof by the rule of contraries. The force of the argument resteth
on that ruled case, which the apostle taketh for granted, verse 6,
namely, that ‘some must enter’ into that rest which God hath
promised. Hereupon this argument may be made: If some ‘must
enter,’ then believers or unbelievers: But not unbelievers, for God
by oath hath protested against them; Therefore believers shall
enter.”
“The other reference is more remote to the latter part of the former
verse. If the first clause of verse 3 be included in a parenthesis, the
reference of this unto the former verse will appear to be the more
fit. For it showeth unbelievers reap no benefit by the word of
promise, because God hath sworn that such shall not enter His rest.
The relative ‘He’ is to God. That which He said was in and by
David, in

Psalm 95:11.”
Upon the words here quoted from the Psalm, Dr. J. Brown said,
“According to the Hebrew idiomatical elliptical mode of expressing
an oath, ‘they shall not enter into My rest’.”
“Although the works were finished from the foundation of the
world” (verse 3).
It is at this point the real difficulty of our passage begins, due in part to its
peculiar grammatical structure. “The passage that follows wears a
peculiarly disjointed appearance, and has occasioned perplexity to
interpreters. I apprehend that the last clause of the 3rd verse should be
disconnected from the words immediately preceding, and should be
connected with those which immediately follow. Along with the 4th and
5th verses, it appears to be a kind of explanatory note on the expression,
‘the rest of God’.” With this explanation the writer is in full accord, indeed,
it seems to him impossible to see in the passage any connected sense unless
it be taken thus. Continuing to quote from Dr. Brown:
“A promise is left us of entering into His rest. The ‘rest’ of God, in
its primary use in the Old Testament scriptures, is descriptive of.229
that state of cessation from the exercise of creating energy, and of
satisfaction in what He hath created, into which God is represented
as entering on the completion of His six days’ work, when in the
beginning ‘He formed the heavens and the earth, and all their
hosts.’ In this sense the phrase was plainly not applicable to the
subject which the apostle is discussing; but in these words he shows
that the phrase, the rest of God is not in the scriptures so
appropriated to the rest of God after the creation as not to be
applicable, and indeed applied, to other subjects.
“Verses 4, 5. Although the works were finished from the
foundation of the world (for He spake in a certain place of the
seventh day on this wise, ‘And God did rest the seventh day from
all His works’), yet in this place again, ‘If they shall enter into My
rest.’ In this way the three apparently disjointed members are
formed into one sentence; and that one sentence expresses a
sentiment calculated to throw light on the language which the
apostle has employed.”
“Although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
This sentence is introductory to what immediately follows, in which the
apostle, step by step, leads the Hebrews to the consideration of an higher
and better rest than ever was enjoyed in this world. There were two “rests”
frequently mentioned in the Old Testament as special pledges of God’s
favor: the Sabbath and the land of Canaan: the former being styled “the
Sabbath of rest to the Lord” (

Exodus 35:2), and “the Sabbath of the
Lord” (

Exodus 20:10); the latter, “the rest which the Lord gave them”
(

Deuteronomy 12:9;

Joshua 1:15). In view of these the Hebrews
might well say, We have always enjoyed the Lord’s Sabbath, and our
fathers have long occupied Canaan, why then do you speak so much about
entering into God’s rest? The verses which follow meet this objection,
showing that neither of those “rests” was meant by David in Psalm 95, nor
by himself here in Hebrews 4.
The “rest” to which the apostle was pointing the Hebrews was so blessed,
so important, so far surpassing anything that Judaism had known, that he
was the more careful they should not be mistaken in connection with its
nature and character..230
First, he clears the way for a definition of it by pointing out what it
does not consist of. He begins with the Sabbath which is the first “rest”
mentioned in Scripture.
Second, he passes on to the rest of Canaan. The rest of the Sabbath did
foreshadow the heavenly rest, and Canaan was, in an important sense, a
figure of it too; but Paul would turn them from types and shadows to
contemplate and have them press forward to the antitype and substance
itself.
This reference to “the works” being “finished from the foundation of the
world” takes us back to

Genesis 2:1, 2. It is the works of creation and
restoration, detailed in Genesis 1. The word “foundation” here carries with
it a double thought: stability and beginning. As pointed out in our remarks
upon

Hebrews 1:10, “foundation” denotes the fixity of that which is
reared upon it: it is the lowest part of an edifice, upon which the whole of
the structure rests. As the “foundation” is the first thing attended to in
connection with a building, so this term is used here to denote the
beginning of this present world system.
“For He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise,
And God did rest the seventh day from all His works” (verse 4).
God’s rest on that primitive seventh day possesses at least a fourfold
significance.
First, it denoted His own complacency, His satisfaction in what He had
made: “And God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very
good.”
Second, it was the Creator setting before His creatures an example for
them to follow. Why had God taken “six days” to make what is described
in Genesis 1? Had He so pleased, all could have been done in one day, yea,
in a moment! Obviously it was for the purpose of teaching us. Just as the
great God employed in works of usefulness, in providing for the temporal
necessities of His creatures, so should we be. And just as God has ceased
from all the works of those six days and on the seventh day “rested,” so
must we.
Third, that primitive Sabbath was the prophetic pledge of the “rest” which
this earth shall enjoy during the reign of Christ. Fourth, it was a.231
foreshadowing and earnest of the eternal Sabbath, when God shall “rest in
His love” (

Zephaniah 3:17).
Perhaps it needs to be added that the words “and God did rest” do not
signify, absolutely, that He remained in a state of inactivity. The “rest” of
Scripture is never a condition of inertia. The words of our Savior in

John 5:17 respecting the Sabbath day, “My Father worketh hitherto” in
nowise conflict with

Genesis 2:3. God’s “rest” there was from creating
new kinds of creatures; what Christ speaks of is His work in doing good to
His creatures; it concerns God’s providences, which never cease day or
night, preserving, succoring, governing His creatures. From this we learn
that our keeping of the Sabbath is not to consist of a state of idleness, but
is forebearing from all the ordinary works of the preceding six days. The
Savior’s own example in the Gospels teaches us that works of absolute
necessity are permissible, and works of mercy proper.

Isaiah 58:13, 14
informs us how the Sabbath is to be kept.

John 5:17 linked to

Genesis 2:3 also contains a hint of the eternal “rest” of heaven: it will be
a ceasing from all the carnal works in which we were engaged here, yet it
will not be a state of idleness as

Revelation 22:3 proves.
“And in this again, If they shall enter into My rest” (verse 5). The line of
argument which the apostle is here pursuing will the more readily be
perceived if due attention be paid to the word “again”. He is proving that
there was another “rest” of God beside that which followed upon His
works of creation. This is evident from the language of Psalm 95, upon
which he comments in the next verse. Thus the Holy Spirit warns us that
each expression used in Holy Writ must be interpreted strictly in harmony
with its context. A great deal of unnecessary confusion had been avoided if
expositors heeded this simple but fundamental rule. Take the oft-quoted
words of

James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
available much.” How often the “righteous man” here is regarded as
synonymous with “Christian,” one who is “righteous” in Christ. But such
a view ignores the context. This statement is found not in Romans, but
James. The epistle of James does not give us the believer’s standing, so
much as his state. The prayers of a Christian whose ways are not “right”
before God, “avail” little or nothing. So all through the book of Proverbs
the “righteous” man is not regarded there as one who is righteous
imputatively, but practically..232
Take again the believer’s present experimental “rest.” There are numbers
of passages in the New Testament where the same word “rest” is found,
but they by no means all refer to the same thing or experience. Each
reference needs to be studied in the light of its immediate context, in the
light of the particular book in which it is found, (remembering the special
theme of that book), and in connection with what is predicated of that
“rest”.
“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will
give you rest. 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”
(

Matthew 11:28, 29).
Here it is obvious, almost at first glance, that two distinct “rests” are
before us. The first may be designated rest of conscience, which the
convicted sinner, groaning beneath the intolerable load of his conscious
sins, obtains when he casts himself on the mercy of Christ. The second is
rest of soul, which alas, many professing Christians know very little, if
anything, about. It is obtained by taking Christ’s “yoke” upon us and
“learning” of Him.
“Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and
they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of
unbelief” (verse 6).
The first words give intimation of an inference being drawn from what has
gone before. In verse 5, God’s protestation against unbelievers is recorded,
here the apostle infers therefrom that there is a rest for believers to enter
into. Since God has made promise of some entering into His rest, then they
must do so: if no unbelievers, then believers. The words, “it remaineth”
here signify “it followeth,” for no word of God can fall to the ground. No
promise of His can be utterly made void. Though many reap no good
thereby, yet others shall be made partakers of the benefit of it. Though the
vast majority of the adult Israelites perished in the wilderness, yet Caleb
and Joshua entered Canaan.
“And they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of
unbelief.” The word “preached” here means “evangelize.” The same root
word is rendered “gospel” in verse 2. This shows us,.233
First, that God has employed only one instrument in the saving of sinners
from the beginning, namely, the preaching of the gospel, cf.

Galatians
3:8.
Second, that the demand of the Gospel from those who hear it is faith,
taking God at His word, receiving with childlike simplicity and gladness the
good news He has sent us.
Third, that “unbelief” shuts out from God’s favor and blessing. In

Hebrews 11:31 we are told, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not
with them that believed not.” It was not because the others were
Canaanites, heathen, wicked people, but because they believed not that
they “perished.” Solemn warning was this for the Hebrews whose faith was
waning.
“Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today” (verse 7). It is
evident that

Hebrews 5:6 is an incomplete sentence, finished, we
apprehend, in

Hebrews 5:11. What follows in verses 7-10 is a
parenthesis, and to its consideration we must now turn. The purpose of this
parenthesis is to establish the principle on which the exhortation is based,
namely, that since there is a “rest of God” for believers to enter, and seeing
that Israel of old failed to enter therein, it behooves us today to give the
more earnest heed to the word of the Gospel which we have heard, and to
“labor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of
unbelief.”
“Again He limiteth a certain day, saying, in David, Today, after so
long a time, as it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not
your hearts” (verse 7).
This may be called the text which the apostle goes on to expound and
apply. The Revised Version rendering of it is much to be preferred: “He
again defineth a certain day, Today, saying in David, so long a time
afterward (even as hath been said before), Today if ye will hear” etc.
Having drawn an argument from

Psalm 95:11 to show that the promise
of rest which is “left” (verse 1) Christians, is not the same as that
mentioned in

Genesis 2:3, the apostle now proceeds to point out that
there is another “rest” to be sought after than the land of Canaan — let us
not deem the demonstration of this needless, lest we be found impugning
the wisdom of the Holy Spirit..234
The apostle’s argument here turns on the word “Today” found in

Psalm
95:7. This was what was “limited” or “defined.” The “after so long a time”
refers to the interval which elapsed after the Israelites perished in the
wilderness and the writing of that Psalm, which contained a Divine
exhortation for God’s people living then. Betwixt Moses and David was a
period of five centuries (

Acts 13:20).
“The apostle’s argument may thus be framed: That rest wherewith
men are invited to enter four hundred and fifty years after a rest
possessed, is another rest than that which Israel possessed. But the
rest intended by David is a rest wherein he inviteth men to enter
four hundred and fifty years after Canaan was possessed. Therefore
Canaan is not that rest” (Dr. Gouge).
“For if Joshua had given them rest, then would He not afterward
have spoken of another day” (verse 8).
It is plain that the apostle is here anticipating a Jewish objection, which
may be stated thus: Though many of the Israelites which were in the
wilderness entered not into Canaan, yet others did; for Joshua conducted
their children thither. To obviate this, the apostle proves that the Old
Testament Scriptures spoke of another “rest” besides that. He does not
deny Canaan to be a rest, but he denies that it was the only rest, the rest to
be so rested in as no other was to be sought after. The “then would he have
not afterward have spoken of another day” is the proof that Joshua did not
settle God’s people in the “rest” which David mentioned.
It is right here that we may discern the point to which the apostle would
direct the Hebrews’ attention, though to spare their feelings he does not
state it explicitly. It was a glorious thing when Joshua led Israel’s hosts out
of the wilderness, across the Jordan, into the promised land. Truly that was
one of the outstanding epochs in their national history. Nor would the
apostle, directly, deprecate it. Yet if the Hebrews would but meditate for a
moment on the nature of that rest into which the illustrious successor of
Moses led their fathers, they must see that it was very far from being the
perfect state. It was only an earthly inheritance. It was filled with enemies,
who had to be dispossessed. Its continued tenure was dependent on their
own faithfulness to God. It was enjoyed comparatively only a short time.
Different far is the rest of God into which the Apostle of Christianity will
yet lead His people. Listen to His own words,.235
“In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would
have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto
Myself; that, where I am, there ye may be also” (

John 14:2, 3).
Here, then, we may see the superiority of Christ over Joshua, as the rest
into which He brings His people excels that into which Joshua conducted
Israel.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (verse 9). This
verse gives the conclusion drawn from the preceding argument. The
apostle had shown that the “rest” mentioned by David was neither the rest
of the primitive Sabbath in Genesis 2 nor the rest of Canaan into which
Joshua had conducted the second generation of Israel. Therefore there
“remaineth a rest to the people of God:” that is, there is some other rest for
God’s people to look forward to. Thus, the “therefore” here is, first of all,
a general inference drawn from all that precedes. A “promise is left” of
entering into God’s rest (verse 1). That promise must be appropriated,
“mixed with faith” in those who hear it (verse 2). Only believers will enter
that rest, for God hath sworn that unbelievers shall not enter therein (verse
3). Although there is a rest of God mentioned in Genesis 2 (verses 2,3),
and although Joshua led Israel into the rest of Canaan (verse 8), yet neither
of these “rests” was what is promised Christians (verse 8). Hence, we can
only conclude there is another “rest” for God’s people (verse 9).
That the Christian’s perfect “rest” is yet future is clear from the language
of verse 11, where the Hebrews were admonished to “labor therefore to
enter into that rest.” Thus, regarding verse 9, first, as a general conclusion
drawn from the whole of the context, we understand it to mean: “Thus it is
evident there is a rest for the people of God.” These words were designed
to reassure the hearts of the Hebrews. In turning their backs on Judaism
the “rest” of Canaan was relinquished, but this did not mean that they had,
because of their faith in Christ, ceased to be “the people of God,” nor did
it involve the forfeiture of all privileges and blessings. Nay, the apostle had
warned them in

Hebrews 3:6, 12, 14 that it was impossible to retain the
privilege of belonging to the people of God except through faith in Christ.
Now he assures them that only for such people was there a rest of God
remaining.
Above, we have pointed out that the “therefore” of verse 9 denotes, first of
all, that the apostle is here drawing a general conclusion from all he had.236
said in the context. We would now call attention to a more specific
inference pointed by that word. It needs to be most carefully observed that
in this verse the Holy Spirit employs an entirely different word for “rest”
than what he had used in verses 1, 3-5, 8. There the Greek word is rightly
rendered “rest,” but here it is “sabbatismos” and its meaning has been
properly given by the translators in the margin — “keeping of a Sabbath.”
The Revised Version gives the text itself, “There remaineth therefore a
Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
The purpose of the Holy Spirit in employing this term here is not difficult
to discover. He was writing to Hebrews, Jews who had professed to
become Christians, to have trusted in the Lord Jesus. Their profession of
faith involved them in sore trials at the hands of their unbelieving brethren.
They denounced them as apostates from the faith of their fathers. They
disowned them as the “people of God.” But as we have said the apostle
here reassures them that now only believers in Christ had any title to be
numbered among “the people of God.” Having renounced Judaism for
Christ the question of the “Sabbath” must also have exercised them deeply.
Here the apostle sets their minds at rest. A suitable point in his epistle had
now been reached when this could be brought in: he was speaking of
“rest,” so he informs them that under Christianity also, “there remaineth
therefore a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.” The specific reference
in the “therefore” is to what he had said in verse 4: God did rest on the
seventh day from all His works, there]ore as believers in Christ are the
“people of God” they must rest too.
“There remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.” The
reference is not to something future, but to what is present. The Greek
verb (in its passive form) is never rendered by any other English equivalent
than “remaineth.” It occurs again in

Hebrews 10:26. The word “remain”
signifies “to be left after others have withdrawn, to continue unchanged.”
Here then is a plain, positive, unequivocal declaration by the Spirit of God:
“There remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping.” Nothing could be simpler,
nothing less ambiguous. The striking thing is that this statement occurs in
the very epistle whose theme is the superiority of Christianity over
Judaism; written to those addressed as “holy brethren, partakers of the
heavenly calling.” Therefore, it cannot be gainsaid that

Hebrews 4:9
refers directly to the Christian Sabbath. Hence we solemnly and
emphatically declare that any man who says there is no Christian Sabbath
takes direct issue with the New Testament scriptures..237
“For he that is entered into his rest he also hath ceased from his
own works, as God from His” (verse 10).
In this verse the apostle expressly defines the nature of that excellent rest
of which he had been speaking: it is a cessation from our works, as God
from His. The object in thus describing our rest is to show that it is not to
be found in this world, but is reserved for the world to come. The
argument of this verse — its opening “for” denotes that further proof is
being supplied to confirm what has been said — is taken from the self-evident
principle that rest is not enjoyed till work is ceased from. This
world is full of toil, travail and trouble, but in the world to come there is
full freedom from all these.
“Thy commandment is exceedingly broad” (

Psalm 119:96).
There is a breadth and fullness to the words of God which no single
interpretation can exhaust. Just as verse 9 has at least a double application,
containing both a general conclusion from the whole preceding argument,
and also a specific inference from what is said in verse 4, so is it here. Not
only does verse 9 state a general principle which serves to corroborate the
apostle’s inference in verse 9, but it also has a specific reference and
application. The change in number of the pronoun here is not without
meaning. In verse 1 he had used a plural, “us,” so in verse 3 “we,” and
again in verse 11 he uses “us,” but here in verse 10 it is “he and his.”
“It appears to me that it is the rest of Christ from His works, which
is compared with the rest of God from His works in creation.” (Dr.
John Owen).
The reference to Christ in verse 10 (remember the section begins at

Hebrews 3:1 and concludes with

Hebrews 4:14-16) completes the
positive side of the apostle’s proof of His superiority over Joshua. In verse
8 he had pointed out that Joshua did not lead Israel into the perfect rest of
God; now he affirms that Christ, our Apostle, has entered it, and His
entrance is the pledge and proof that His people shall — “whither the
Forerunner is for us entered” (

Hebrews 6:20). But more: what is said
of Christ in verse 10 clinches our interpretation of verse 9 and gives
beautiful completeness to what is there said: “There remaineth therefore a
Sabbath-keeping to the people of God. For He that is entered into His rest,
He also hath ceased from his own works, as God from His.”.238
Thus, the Holy Spirit here teaches us to view Christ’s rest from his work of
Redemption as parallel with God’s work in creation. They are spoken of as
parallel in this respect: the relation which each “work” has to the keeping
of a Sabbath! The opening “for” of verse 10 shows that what follows
furnishes a reason why God’s people, now, must keep the Sabbath. That
reason invests the Sabbath with a fuller meaning than it had in Old
Testament times. It is now not only a memorial of God’s work of creation,
and a recognition of the Creator as our Proprietor, but it is also an emblem
of the rest which Christ entered as an eternal memorial of His finished
work; and inasmuch as Christ ended His work and entered upon His “rest”
by rising again on the first day of the week, we are thereby notified that the
Christian’s six work-days must run from Monday to Saturday, and that his
Sabbath must be observed on Sunday. This is confirmed by the additional
fact that the New Testament shows that after the crucifixion of Christ the
first day of the week was the one set apart for Divine worship. May the
Lord bless what has been before us..239
CHAPTER 18
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO JOSHUA.
(

HEBREWS 4:11-16)
The verses which are to be before us complete the present section of our
Epistle, a section which begins at

Hebrews 3:1 and which has two main
divisions: the first, setting forth the superiority of Christ over Moses; the
second, His superiority over Joshua. In the last six verses of chapter 4 a
practical application is made of what had previously been said. That
application begins with an exhortation for Christians to “labor therefore to
enter into that rest.” Both the nature and the place of this “rest” have been
defined in the earlier verses. As the opening verse of the chapter shows, it
is the “rest of God” which is, in promise, set before us. Beautifully has
another said:
“But what did God mean by calling it His rest? Not they enter into
their rest, but His Own. Oh, blessed distinction! I hasten to the
ultimate and deepest solution of the question. God gives us
Himself, and in all His gifts He gives us Himself. Here is the
distinction between all religions which men invent, which have their
origin in the conscience and heart of man, which spring up from the
earth; and the truth, the salvation, the life, revealed unto us from
above, descending to us from heaven. All religions seek and
promise the same things: light, righteousness, peace, strength, and
joy. But human religions think only of creature-light, creature-righteousness,
of a human, limited, and imperfect peace, strength
and blessings. They start from man upwards. But God gives us
Himself, and in Himself all gifts, and hence all His gifts are perfect
and divine.
“Does God give us righteousness? He Himself is our righteousness,
Jehovah-Tsidkenu. Does God give us peace? Christ is our peace.
Does God give us light? He is our light. Does God give us bread?
He is the bread we eat. As the Son liveth by the Father, so he that
eateth Me shall live by Me (John 6). God Himself is our strength..240
God is ours, and in all His gifts and blessings He gives Himself. By
the Holy Spirit we are one with Christ, and Christ the Son of God
is our righteousness, nay, our life. Do you want any other real
presence? Are we not altogether ‘engodded,’ God dwelling and
living in us, and we in Him? What more real presence and
indwelling, awful and blessed, can we have than that which the
apostle described when he said: ‘I live; yet not I, But Christ liveth
in me?’ Or again, ‘I can do all things through Christ which
strengtheneth me.’ Thus God gives us His rest as our rest”
(Saphir).
Following the exhortation to labor to enter into God’s rest, reference is
made to the living, powerful, and piercing character of the Word of God,
and the effects it produces in regeneration. In the light of the solemn
warning which follows in verse 13, the contents of verse 12 seem to be
brought in for the purpose of enabling the Hebrews to test the genuineness
of their Christian profession: sufficient is there said for them to discover
whether or not they had been born again. Then the chapter closes with one
of the most precious passages to be found in our Epistle, or indeed in the
whole of the New Testament. It makes known the gracious provisions
which God has made for His poor people while they are yet in the place of
testing. It brings before us the sufficiency and sympathy of our great High
Priest, in view of which Christians are bidden to “come boldly unto the
throne of grace,” that they “may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in
time of need.” May the Spirit of God condescend to open up to us this
portion of His Word.
“Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after
the same example of unbelief” (verse 11).
As pointed out in the preceding article, this verse completes the sentence
begun at verse 6. It is in view of the solemn fact that the great majority of
those Israelites to whom the Gospel of Rest was first preached did not
receive it in faith, and so perished in the wilderness, and hence because that
only true believers will enter into God’s rest, the Hebrews were now
enjoined to spare no efforts in making sure that they would not fail and
miss it. This 11th verse is also the complement to verse 1.
The verb for “let us labor” is derived from another verb meaning “to make
haste.” It is designed to point a contrast from “any of you should seem to
come short of it” in verse 1. There the word is derived from a root meaning.241
“afterwards,” and some able linguists declare that the word for “come short
of” means, literally, “be a day late.” We believe the Spirit’s designed
reference is to what is recorded in Numbers 14. Israel had already crossed
the wilderness, and had reached Kadesh-barnea. From thence Moses had
sent the twelve spies to view the land of Canaan. They had returned with a
conflicting report. Ten of them magnified the difficulties which lay ahead,
and discouraged the people but Caleb said, “Let us go up at once, and
possess it” (

Numbers 13:30). The congregation listened only to the ten,
and
“wept that night” and “murmured against Moses and against
Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God we
had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this
wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us into this land,
to fall by the Sword, that our wives and children should be a prey?
were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to
another, Let us make us a captain and let us return into Egypt”
(

Numbers 14:1-3).
Then it was that the wrath of Jehovah was kindled against His unbelieving
people, saying,
“How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur
against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel,
which they murmur against Me. Say unto them, As truly as I live,
saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you:
Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness” (

Numbers 14:27-
29).
But instead of bowing to the Lord’s solemn sentence, we are told,
“And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the
top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto
the place which the Lord hath promised” (verse 40).
Moses faithfully expostulated with them, “Wherefore now do ye transgress
the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the
Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten.” But they heeded him not:
“They presumed to go up unto the hill top… Then the Amalekites
came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote
them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah” (verses 44, 45)..242
They were a day late! They had delayed, they had failed to trust the Lord
and heed His voice through Caleb the previous day, and now they “came
short” of entering the promised rest of Canaan.
It was in view of Israel’s procrastination at Kadesh-barnea that the apostle
admonished the Hebrews, “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left
of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” As
we pointed out the word “seem” regarded their walk: let there be nothing
in their ways which gave the appearance that they were halting, wavering,
departing from Christ. For Christians to seem to come short, be a day late,
in laying hold of the promise “left” them of entering into God’s rest, means
to sink to the level of the ways of the world, to settle down here, instead of
going forward as “strangers and pilgrims.” It means to look back to and
long for the flesh-pots of Egypt. Ah, my reader, to which does your daily
life witness? to the fact that you have not yet entered your “rest,” or that
you have found a substitute for it here? If so, heed that solemn word,
“Arise ye, and depart for this is not your rest: because it is polluted,
it shall destroy, even with a sore destruction” (

Micah 2:10).
Having then warned the Hebrews in verse 1 what to avoid, the apostle now
tells them in verse 11 what to essay. They were to “labor” to enter into
that rest. As stated above, the Greek word is derived from another verb
meaning “to make haste;” the one used here signifies to “give diligence”
and is so rendered in the Revised Version. In

2 Timothy 2:15 it is
translated “study.”
“The word ‘labor’ is equivalent to ‘eagerly and perseveringly seek.’
The manner in which the Hebrew Christians were to ‘labor to enter
unto that rest,’ was by believing the truth, and continuing ‘steadfast
and unmoveable’ in the faith of the truth, and in the natural results
of the faith of the truth” (Dr. J. Brown).
It is human responsibility which is here being addressed again, and

Hebrews 4:11 is closely parallel with the exhortations of

1
Corinthians 10:10-12 and

2 Peter 1:5-10.
Our real “rest” is yet to come, it is but “promised” (verse 1); in the
meantime we are to press forward to it.
“This world is not a fit place, nor this life a fit time, to enjoy such a
rest as is reserved in heaven. Rest here would glue our hearts too.243
much to this world, and make us say, ‘It is good to be here’
(

Matthew 17:4). It would slack our longing desire after Christ in
heaven. Death would be more irksome, and heaven the less
welcome. There would be no proof or trial of our spiritual armor,
and of the several graces of God bestowed on us. God’s
providence, prudence, power, mercy, could not be made so well
discerned. This rest being to come, and reserved for us, it will be
our Wisdom, while here we live, to prepare for trouble, and to
address ourselves to labor: as the soldiers in the field and as the
laborers in the daytime. Yet withal to have our eye upon this rest to
come; that thereby we may be the more encouraged and incited to
hold out to the end” (Dr. Gouge).
“Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” To enforce the
previous exhortation the apostle points out the danger and damage that
would follow a neglect thereof. The “rest” is a word of caution and calls
for circumspection as a preventative against apostasy. The “lest any man”
intimates that this care and circumspection is not to be restricted to one’s
own self, but extended to our fellow-pilgrims. The word “fall” signifies to
fall utterly: it is used in

Romans 11:22. Professors may fall away; many
have done so (see

1 John 2:19, etc.); then let us be on our guard. The
“example” of others having fallen through unbelief should make us wary.
“We may well observe from this exhortation,
1. That great oppositions will and do arise against men in the work of
entering into God’s rest… But notwithstanding all these difficulties, the
promise of God being mixed with faith will carry us safely through
them all.
2. That as the utmost of our endeavor and labors are required to our
obtaining an entrance into the rest of Christ, so it doth very well
deserve that they should be laid out therein. Men are content to lay
themselves out to the utmost and to spend their strength for the ‘bread
that perisheth,’ yea ‘for that which is not bread.’ But the rest of the
Gospel deserves our utmost diligence and endeavor. To convince men
thereof is one of the chief ends of the preaching of the Gospel” (Dr.
John Owen).
As was the case with the contents of verses 9, 10, so we are assured there
is a double reference to the words of verse 11: a general and a specific..244
The general, refers to the future and perfect rest of the Christian in heaven;
the specific, being to that which is the emblem and type of it, namely, the
weekly sabbath. This, we believe, is why the Holy Spirit here says, “Let us
give diligence therefore to enter into that rest,” rather than “into His rest,”
as in verse 1. “That rest” designedly includes both the eternal rest of God,
and the sabbath rest, spoken of in verse 10. This we are to “give diligence”
to enter, not only because the sabbath-desecration of worldlings is apt to
discourage us, but also because there are professing Christians who loudly
insist that there is no such thing as a “Christian sabbath.” Beware lest we
fail to heed this word of God, and “fall through the same example of
unbelief” as Israel in the wilderness, who failed to listen to God.
“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any
two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart” (verse 12).
The first word of this verse (which has the force of “because”) denotes that
the apostle is here furnishing further reason why professing Christians
should give diligence in pressing forward to the rest which is set before
them. That reason is drawn from the nature of and the effects produced by
the Word of God. This verse and the one which follows appear to be
brought in for the purpose of testing profession and enabling exercised
souls to discover whether or not they have been born again.
“Let us give diligence therefore to enter into that rest…. For the Word of
God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints
and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It
should be evident that the first thing emphasized here is that Christianity
consists not so much of external conduct, as the place which the Word of
God has within us. The Word of God “piercing even to the dividing
asunder of soul and spirit” is the effect which it produces, under the
application of the Lord, when a sinner is regenerated. Man is a tripartite
being, consisting of spirit and soul and body. This, we believe, is the first
and deepest meaning of

Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man
in Our image, after Our likeness.” God Himself is a Trinity in Unity, and
such He made man to be.
The “spirit” is the highest part of man, being the seat of God-consciousness.
The “soul” is the ego, the individual himself, and is the seat.245
of self-consciousness; man has a “spirit,” but he is “a living soul.” The
“body” is his house or tabernacle, being the seat of sense-consciousness. In
the day that man first sinned, he died spiritually. But in Scripture “death”
never means extinction of being; instead, it always signifies separation (see

Luke 15:24). The nature of man’s spiritual “death” is intimated in

Ephesians 4:18, “alienated from the life of God.” When Adam
disobeyed his Maker, he became a fallen creature, separated from God.
The first effect of this was that his “spirit” no longer functioned separately,
it was no more in communion with God. His spirit fell to the level of his
soul.
The “soul” is the seat of the emotions (

1 Samuel 18:1,

Judges 10:16,

Genesis 42:21, etc.). It is that part of our nature which stirs into
exercise the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
The unregenerate man is termed “the soulical man” (

1 Corinthians
2:14), the Greek word there being the adjectival form of “psyche” or
“soul.” That is to say, the unregenerate man is entirely dominated by his
soul, his lusts, his desires, his emotions. Spiritual considerations have no
weight with him whatsoever, for he is “alienated from the life of God.”
True, he has a “spirit,” and by means of it he is capable of perceiving all
around him the evidences of the “eternal power and godhead” of the
Creator (

Romans 1:20). It is the “candle of the Lord” (

Proverbs
20:27) within him; yet has it, because of the fall, no communion with God.
Now at regeneration there is, literally, a “dividing asunder of soul and
spirit.” The spirit is restored to communion with God, made enrapport
with Him, “reconciled.” The spirit is raised from its immersion in the soul,
and once more functions separately: “For God is my witness, whom I serve
with my spirit” (

Romans 1:9); “my spirit prayeth” (

1 Corinthians
14:14) etc.
The first consequence of this is intimated in the closing words of verse 12,
“And is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of
God now exposes his innermost being. Having eyes to see, he discovers,
for the first time, what a vile, depraved and hell-deserving creature he is.
Though, in the mercy of God, he may have been preserved from much
outward wickedness in his unregenerate days, and so passed among his
fellows as an exemplary character, he now perceives that there dwelleth
“no good thing” in him, that every thought and intent of his desperately
wicked heart had, all his life, been contrary to the requirements and claims
of a holy God. The Word has searched him out, and discovered him to.246
himself. He sees himself a lost, ruined, undone sinner. This is ever the first
conscious effect of the new birth, for one who is still “dead in trespasses
and sins” has no realization of his awful condition before God.
Ere passing on let us earnestly press upon the reader what has just been
before us, and ask, has the Word of God thus “pierced” you? Has it
penetrated, as no word from man ever has, into your innermost being? Has
it exposed the workings of your wicked heart? Has it detected to you the
sink of iniquity which dwells within? Make no mistake about it, dear friend,
the thrice holy God of Scripture “requireth truth in the inward parts”
(

Psalm 51:6). If the Word of God has searched you out, then you cried
with Isaiah “Woe is reel for I am undone” (

Hebrews 6:5); with Job, “I
abhor myself” (Hebrews 42:6); with the publican, “God be merciful to me
the sinner” (

Luke 18:13). But if you are a stranger to these experiences,
no matter what your profession or performances, no matter how highly you
may think of yourself or Christians think of you, God says you are still
dead in sin.
Let it not be supposed that we have attempted to give above a complete
description of all that takes place at the new birth; not so, we have
confined ourselves to what is said in

Hebrews 4:12. Nor let it be
thought that the language of this verse is to be restricted to what occurs at
regeneration, not so, that is only in initial reference. The activities of the
Word of God therein described are repeated whenever a Christian gets out
of communion with Him, for then he is dominated to a large extent by his
soul rather than his spirit. It should not need pointing out, yet the terrible
ignorance of Scripture prevailing today makes it necessary, that when a
child of God is walking in communion with Him, His word does not come
to him as a “sword”; rather is it “a lamp” unto his feet. If the reader will
compare

Revelation 2:12 and

Revelation 19:15 he will obtain
confirmation of this.
The relation of this 12th verse to the whole context is very striking, and its
contents divinely appropriate. It brings out the dignity and Deity of “The
Apostle” of our profession. It shows the sufficiency of His Word. It is
striking to note that just seven things are here said of it.
First, it is the “Word of God.”
Second, it is living, or “quick.”
Third, it is mighty, “powerful.”.247
Fourth, it is effectual, “sharper than any two edged sword.”
Fifth, it is penetrating, “piercing.”
Sixth, it is regenerative, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit.”
Seventh, it is revealing and exposing, bringing to light the “thoughts
and intents of the heart, etc.”
The reference to the Word piercing to the dividing asunder of “the joints
(external) and marrow” (internal) tells of its discriminating power over
every part of our being. The more we submit ourselves unto its searching
and convicting influence the more shall we be blest.
“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but
all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom
we have to do” (verse 13).
The rendering of the A.V. here is faulty, the opening “Neither” being quite
misleading. The Revised Version gives “And there is no creature that is not
manifest in His sight” etc. Thus the first word denotes that a reason is
being given for the power and efficacy of the Word, a reason which is
drawn from the nature of Him whose Word it is, namely, God; who being
Himself the Searcher of the heart and the Discerner of all things, is pleased
to exercise that power in and by the ministry and application of His Word.
The two verses taken together supply a further reason why Christ’s voice
should be heeded, even because, as God, He is the omniscient One.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into
the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession”
(verse 14).
The connection between this and what has gone before is most blessed.
The closing verses of our chapter contain precious words of
encouragement. They tell of the wondrous provisions of God’s grace for
His people while they are still in the place of testing. They assure us that
none of those who are really the people of God shall, finally, miss the
perfect and eternal rest.
The Revised Version reads, “Having then a great High Priest”; Bagster’s
interlinear gives, “Having therefore a High Priest, great.” The general
reference is back to what was said in 1:3, 2:17, 3:1: the Divine sonship, the.248
incarnation, the exaltation of Jesus, our High Priest, is the supreme motive
for holding fast our profession. The particular reference is to the apostle’s
main point in this chapter: if the question be asked, What hope have we
poor sinners got of entering into God’s rest? The answer is, Because
Christ, our High Priest, has already entered heaven, and we also must do
so in and by Him. The immediate reference is to what had been said in
verses 12, 13: we shall be assuredly found out if we fall from our
profession, therefore it becomes us to hold it fast.
As the priesthood of Christ will, D.V., come before us more fully in the
chapters that follow, we shall offer here only a few brief remarks on the
verse now before us. First, it is to be noted that the Holy Spirit here
designates Christ the “great High Priest”; no other, neither Aaron nor
Melchizedek, is so denominated. Its use emphasizes the supreme dignity,
excellency, and sufficiency of our High Priest. Second, He has “passed in
(Greek “through”) the heavens.”
“This word signifies to pass through notwithstanding any
difficulties that may seem to hand. Thus it is said that an angel and
Peter ‘passed the first and second wards’ (

Acts 12:10). Our
Lord Christ having assumed our nature, passed through the virgin’s
womb; and being born, in His infancy, childhood, and manhood,
passed through many difficulties, temptations, afflictions,
persecutions, yea, death itself and the grave; after His resurrection
He passed through the air and the stellar heavens, entering the
heaven of heavens. Thus we see that nothing could hinder Him
from that place where He intended to appear as our Priest before
His Father” (Dr. Gouge).
“For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we
are, yet without sin” (verse 15).
Most blessed is this. The third thing said in verse 14 of our exalted High
Priest is that He is “the Son of God.” Well may poor sinners, conscious of
their unworthiness and vileness, ask, How may we, so weak and worthless,
approach unto and seek the mediation of such an One? To reassure our
poor hearts, the Holy Spirit at once reminds us that albeit Christ is such a
great and glorious Priest, yet, withal, He is full of sympathy and tender
compassion for His afflicted people. He is “merciful” (

Hebrews 2:17),.249
as well as omnipotent. He is Man, as well as God. He has Himself been
tempted in all things, like ourselves, sin excepted.
“But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” or literally,
“who has been tempted in all things according to our likeness, apart from
sin” i.e. in spirit, and soul, and body.
“He was tempted — tried, exercised — for no more doth the word
impart. Whatever is the moral evil in temptation is due to the
depraved intention of the tempter, or from the weakness and sin of
the tempted. In itself, it is but a trial, which may have a good or bad
effect. He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Sin may be
considered as to its principle, and as to its effect. Men are tempted
to sin by sin, to actual sin by habitual sin, to outward sin, by
indwelling sin. And this is the greatest source of sin in us who are
sinners. The apostle reminds us of the holiness and purity of Christ,
that we may not imagine that He was liable unto any such
temptations unto sin from within as we find ourselves liable unto,
who are never free from guilt and defilement. Whatever temptation
He was exposed unto or exercised withal, as He was with all and of
all sorts that can come from without, they had none of them in the
last degree any effect unto Him. He was absolutely in all things
‘without sin’; He neither was tempted by sin, such was the holiness
of His nature; nor did His temptation produce sin, such was the
perfection of His obedience” (Dr. John Owen).
The Man Christ Jesus was the Holy One of God, and therefore He could
not sin. But were not Satan and Adam created without sin, and did not
they yield to temptation? Yes; but the one was only a created angel the
other merely man. But our Lord and Savior was not a created being;
instead, He was “God manifest in flesh.” In His humanity He was “holy”
(

Luke 1:35) and, as such, as high above unfallen Satan or Adam as the
heavens are above the earth. He was not only impeccable God, but
impeccable Man. The prince of this world came, but found nothing in Him
(

John 14:30). Thus, He is presented before us not only as an example to
be followed, but as an Object upon which faith may rest with unshaken
confidence.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we
may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (verse
16)..250
This verse sets before us the second use we are to make of the priesthood
of Christ. The first is named in verse 14, to “hold fast our profession”;
here, to “come boldly unto the throne of grace.” In relation to the whole
context this verse makes known the wondrous and blessed provision God
has made for His wilderness people. Herein, too, we may behold again the
immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The Israelites were
confined to the outer court; none at all save the high priest was permitted
to draw near to God within the vail. But all Christians, the youngest,
weakest, most ignorant, have been “made nigh” (

Ephesians 2:13); and
in consequence, freedom of access to the very throne of Deity is now their
rightful and blessed portion.
“And having such a High Priest in heaven, can we lose courage?
Can we draw back in cowardice, impatience, and faintheartedness?
Can we give up our profession, our allegiance, our obedience to
Christ? Or shall we not be like Joshua and Caleb, who followed the
Lord fully? Let us hold fast our profession; let us persevere and
fight the good fight of faith. Our great High Priest in the highest
glory is our righteousness and strength. He loves, He watches, He
prays, He holds us fast, and we shall never perish. Jesus is our
Moses, who in the height above prays for us. Jesus our true Joshua,
who gained the victory over our enemies. Only be strong, and of a
good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed. In that
mirror of the Word in which we behold our sin and weakness, we
behold also the image of that perfect One who has passed through
the conflict and temptation, who as the High Priest bears us on His
loving heart, and as the Shepherd of the flock holds us in safety
forever more. Boldly we come to the throne of grace. In Jesus we
draw near to the Father. The throne of majesty and righteousness is
unto us a throne of grace. The Lord is our God. There is not merely
grace on the throne, but the throne is altogether the throne of
grace. It is grace which disciplines us by the sharp and piercing
Word, it is grace which looks on us when we have denied Him, and
makes us weep bitterly. Jesus always intercedes: the throne is
always a throne of grace. The Lamb is in the midst of the throne.
Hence we come boldly.
“Boldly is not contrasted with reverently and tremblingly. It means
literally ‘saying all,’ with that confidence which begets thorough
honesty, frankness, full and open speech. ‘Pour out your heart.251
before Him.’ Come as you are, say what you feel, ask what you
need. Confess your sins, your fears, your wandering thoughts and
affections. Jesus the Lord went through all sorrows and trials the
heart of man can go through, and as He felt affliction and
temptation most keenly, so in all these difficulties and trials He had
communion with the Father. He knows therefore, how to succor
them that are tempted, how fully and unreservedly, then, may we
speak to God in the presence and by the mediation of the man
Christ Jesus!
“The Lord Jesus is filled with tender compassion and the most
profound, lively, and comprehensive sympathy. This belongs to the
perfection of His high-priesthood. For this very purpose He was
tempted. He suffered. Our infirmities, it is true, are ultimately
connected with our sinfulness; the weakness of our flesh is never
free from a sinful concurrence of the will; and the Savior knows
from His experience on earth how ignorant, poor, weak, sinful, and
corrupt His disciples are. He loved them, watched over them with
unwearied patience; prayed for them that their faith fail not; and
reminded them the spirit was willing, but the flesh is weak. He
remembers also His own sinless weakness; He knows what constant
thought, meditation, and prayer are needed to overcome Satan, and
to be faithful to God. He knows what it is for the soul to be
sorrowful and overwhelmed, and what it is to be refreshed by the
sunshine of Divine favor, and to rejoice in the Spirit. We may come
in to Him expecting full, tender, deep sympathy and compassion.
He is ever ready to strengthen and comfort, to heal and restore, He
is prepared to receive the poor, wounded, sin-stained believer; to
dry the tears of Peter weeping bitterly; to say to Paul, oppressed
with the thorn in the flesh, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’
“We need only understand that we are sinners, and that He is High
Priest. The law was given that every mouth may be shut, for we are
guilty. The High Priest is given that every mouth may be opened….
We come in faith as sinners. Then shall we obtain mercy; and we
always need mercy, to wash our feet: to restore to us the joy of
salvation, to heal our backslidings, and bind up our wounds. We
shall obtain help in every time of need. For God may suffer Satan
and the world, want and suffering, to go against us; but He always
causes all things to work together for our good. He permits the.252
time of need, that we may call upon Him, and, being delivered by
Him, may glorify His name” (Saphir).
“We should come therefore with boldness to the throne of grace”
(Bagster). Then let us do so, in the full confidence of our acceptance
before God in the person of His Beloved (

Ephesians 1:6). The verb in

Hebrews 4:16 is not in the aorist tense, but the present — let us “come”
constantly, continually; let us form the habit of doing so. This is the first of
seven occurrences of this blessed word in our epistle: the other references
are

Hebrews 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22. To “obtain mercy” is
passive, and refers to past failures. “Finding grace” is active, and signifies
that we humbly, earnestly, and believingly seek it. To “help in time of
need:” this is daily, yea, hourly. But whenever the need may be, spiritually
or temporal, grace all-sufficient is ever-available. May it be ours to
constantly seek it, for the unchanging promise is, “Seek, and ye shall find.”.253
CHAPTER 19
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO AARON.
(

HEBREWS 5:1-4).
We are now to enter upon the longest section of our Epistle (

Hebrews
5:1-10,39), and a section which is, from the doctrinal and practical
viewpoints, perhaps the most important of all. In it the Holy Spirit treats of
our Savior’s priesthood. Concerning this most blessed and vital subject the
utmost confusion prevails in Christendom today. Yet this is scarcely to be
wondered at. For not only has the time now arrived when the majority of
those who profess the name of Christ “will not endure sound doctrine,”
who after their own fleshly and worldly lusts have heaped to themselves
teachers that tickle their itching ears with God-dishonoring novelties, but
they have turned away their ears from the truth, and are “turned unto
fables” (

2 Timothy 4:3, 4). Never was there a time when true God-fearing
Christians more needed to heed that Divine admonition, “Prove all
things, hold fast that which is good” (

1 Thessalonians 5:21). Our only
safeguard is to emulate the Bereans and search the Scriptures daily to
ascertain whether or not the things we hear and read from men — be their
reputation for scholarship, piety, and orthodoxy never so great — are
according to the unerring Word of God.
Romanists, and with them an increasing number of Anglicans
(Episcopalians), virtually set aside the solitary grandeur of the Priesthood
of Christ and the sufficiency of His Atonement, by bringing in human
priests to act as mediators between God and sinful men. Arminians are in
fundamental error by representing the priestly office and ministry of Christ
as having a relation to and a bearing upon the whole human race. Most of
the leaders among the Plymouth Brethren have wrested the Scriptures by
denying the priestly character of Christ’s death by insisting that He only
entered upon His priestly office after His ascension, and by affirming that it
bears no direct relation to sin or sins, but is only a ministry of sympathy
and succor for weakness and infirmities. But as it will serve no profitable.254
purpose to deal with the errors of others, let us turn to the positive side of
our subject.
Three references to the High Priesthood of Christ have already been before
us in the preceding chapters of our Epistle.
First, in

Hebrews 2:17 we read, “Wherefore, in all things it behooved
Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and
faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the
sins of the people.” This, of itself, is quite sufficient to expose the
sophistries of those who teach that the priestly work of Christ has nothing
to do with “sins.”
Second, in

Hebrews 3:1 we have been exhorted to, “consider the
Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
Third, in

Hebrews 4:14 we are told, “We have a great High Priest, that
is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” Here again is a single
statement which is alone sufficient to prove that our Savior entered upon
His priestly office before His ascension, for it was as the “great High
Priest” He “passed into the heavens.”
Supplementing our previous comments on

Hebrews 4:14 and
introducing what is to be before us, let us note that the Lord Jesus is
designed a “great High Priest.” This word at once emphasizes His
excellency and pre-eminency. Never was there, never can there be another,
possessed of such dignity and glory. The “greatness” of our High Priest
arises,
First, from the dignity of His person: He is not only Son of man, but Son
of God (

Hebrews 4:14).
Second, from the purity of His nature: He is “without sin” (

Hebrews
4:15), “holy,” (

Hebrews 7:26).
Third, from the eminency of His order: that of Melchizedek (

Hebrews
5:6).
Fourth, from the solemnity of his ordination: “with an oath” (

Hebrews
7:20, 21) — none other was.
Fifth, from the excellency of His sacrifice: “Himself, without spot”
(

Hebrews 9:14)..255
Sixth, from the perfection of His administration (

Hebrews 7:11, 25) —
He has satisfied divine justice, procured Divine favor, given access to the
Throne of Grace, secured eternal redemption.
Seventh, from the perpetuity of His office: it is untransferable and eternal
(

Hebrews 7:24). From these we may the better perceive the
blasphemous arrogancy of the Italian pope, who styles himself “pontifex
maximus” — the greatest high priest.
“No part of the Mosaic economy had taken a stronger hold of the
imaginations and affections of the Jews than the Aaronical High-priesthood,
and that system of ritual worship over which its
occupants presided. The gorgeous apparel, the solemn investure,
the mysterious sacredness of the high priest, the grandeur of the
temple in which he ministered, and the imposing splendor of the
religious rites which he performed, — all these operated like a
charm in riveting the attachment of the Jews to the now overdated
economy, and in exciting powerful prejudices against that simple,
spiritual, unostentatious system by which it had been superceded.
In opposition to those prejudices, the apostle shows that the
Christian economy is deficient in nothing excellent to be found in
the Mosaic; on the contrary, that it has a more dignified High
Priest, a more magnificent temple, a more sacred altar, a more
efficacious sacrifice; and that, to the spiritually enlightened mind, all
the temporary splendors of the Mosaic typical ceremonial, wax dim
and disappear amid the overwhelming glories of the permanent
realities of the Christian institution” (Dr. John Brown).
But once more we could fain pause and admire the consummate wisdom of
the Spirit of God as exhibited in the method pursued in presenting the truth
in this Epistle. Had it opened with the declaration of Christ’s superiority
over Moses and Aaron, the prejudices of the Jews had been at once
aroused. Instead, the personal dignity of the mediatorial Redeemer has
been shown (from their own Scriptures) to be so great, that the glory of
the angels was so far below His, it follows as a necessary consequence
that, the honor attaching to the illustrious of earth’s mortals must be so
too. Moreover, at the close of chapter 4, the High Priesthood of Christ is
presented in such a way that every renewed heart must be won by and to it.
There the apostle had announced not only that our High Priest is Divine
(verse 14), holy, (verse 15), and had passed into the heavens, but also that.256
He is One filled with tender sympathy toward our infirmities, having
Himself been tempted in all points like as we are (sin excepted); and,
moreover, that through Him we have obtained free access to God’s throne
of grace, so that there we may obtain mercy (the remitting of what is due
us) and find grace (the receiving that to which we are not entitled) to help
in time of need. How we should welcome such a Priest! How thankful we
should be for Him!
Having thus comforted the hearts of God’s children by assuring them of
the tender compassion of Christ as the pledge of His effectual intercession
for them on high, the apostle now proceeds to set forth more precisely the
nature and glory of the priesthood of the Incarnate Son. He pursues the
same method as was followed in the previous sections. As in Hebrews
chapters 1 and 2, He has been compared and contrasted with angels, and in
Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, with Moses and Joshua, so now in the present
and succeeding chapters the order and functions of the Aaronic priesthood
are examined, that the way may be paved for a setting forth of the more
excellent order to which our High Priest belongs.
“In the course of the section he makes it evident that whatever was
essential to the office of a high priest was to be found in Christ
Jesus, that whatever imperfections belonged to the Aaronical high
priesthood were not to be found in Him, and that a variety of
excellencies were to be found in Him of which none of the
Aaronical priests were possessed,” (Dr. J. Brown).
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men
in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and
sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and
on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is
compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for
the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh
this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron”
(verses 1-4).
Here we have defined the intrinsic nature of the priestly office.
The verses just quoted above contain a general description of the Levitical
high priests. Five things are here said concerning them.
First, he must be “taken from among men,” that is, he must partake of
the nature of those on whose behalf he acts..257
Second, he acted not as a private individual, but as a public official: “is
ordained for men.”
Third, he came not empty-handed before God, but furnished with
“gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
Fourth, for he himself was not exempt from infirmity, so that he might
the more readily succor the distressed (verses 2, 3).
Fifth, he did not presumptuously rush into his office of himself, but
was chosen and approved of God (verse 4). Let us look at each of
these more closely.
“For every high priest taken from among men.” First, then, his humanity is
insisted upon. An angel would be no fitting priest to act on behalf of men,
for he possesses not their nature, is not subject to their temptations, and
has no experimental acquaintance with their sufferings; therefore is he
unsuited to act on their behalf: therefore is he incapable of having
“compassion” upon them, for the motive-spring of all real intercession is
heart-felt sympathy. Thus, the primary qualification of a priest is that he
must be personally related to, possess the same nature as, those for whose
welfare he interposes.
“For every high priest taken from among men.” Bearing in mind to whom
this Epistle was first addressed, it is not difficult for us to discern why our
present section opens in this somewhat abrupt manner. As was pointed out
so frequently in our articles upon Hebrews 2, that which so sorely
perplexed the Jews was, that the One who had appeared and tabernacled in
their minds in human form should have claimed for Himself divine honors
(

John 5:23, etc.). But if the Son of God had never become man, He
could never have officiated as priest, He could never have offered that
sacrifice for the sins of His people which Divine justice required. The
Divine Incarnation was an imperative necessity if salvation was to be
secured for God’s elect.
“It was necessary for Christ to become a real man, for as we are
very far from God, we stand in a manner before Him in the person
of our Priest, which could not be were He not one of us. Hence,
that the Son of God has a nature in common with us does not
diminish His dignity, but commends it the more to us; for He is
fitted to reconcile us to God, because He is man” (John Calvin)..258
“Is ordained for men.” This tells us the reason why and the purpose for
which the high priest was taken “from among men:” it was that he might
transact on behalf of others, or more accurately, in the stead of others. To
this position and work he was “ordained” or appointed by God. Thereby,
under the Mosaic economy, the Hebrews were taught that men could not
directly and personally approach unto God. They were sinful, He was holy;
therefore was there a breadth between, which they were unable to bridge.
It is both solemn and striking to observe how at the very beginning, when
sin first entered the world, God impressed this awful truth upon our fallen
parents. The “tree of life,” whose property was to bestow immortality
(

Genesis 3:22), was the then emblem and symbol of God Himself.
Therefore when Adam transgressed, we are told,
“So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden
of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to
keep the way of the tree of life” (

Genesis 3:24).
Thereby man was taught the awful fact that he is “alienated from the life
of God.” (

Ephesians 4:18).
The same terrible truth was pressed unto the Israelites. When Jehovah
Himself came down upon Sinai, the people were fenced off from Him:
“And thou shalt set bounds upon the people round about, saying,
Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch
the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put
to death” (

Exodus 19:12).
There was the Lord upon the summit, there were the people at the base:
separated the One from the other. So too when the Tabernacle was set up.
Beyond the outward court they were not suffered to go; into the holy
place, the priests alone were permitted to enter. And into the holy of
holies, where God dwelt between the cherubim, none but the high priest,
and he only on the day of atonement, penetrated. Thus were the Hebrews,
from the beginning, shown the awful truth of

Isaiah 59:2 — “Your
iniquities have separated between you and your God.”
But in the person of their high priest, through his representing of them
before God, Israel might approach within the sacred enclosure. Beautifully
is that brought out in the 28th chapter of Exodus, that book whose theme
is redemption. There we read,.259
“And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the
names of the children of Israel… and thou shalt put the two stones
upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the
children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the
Lord… And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment and thou
shalt set in it setting of stones… and the stones shall be with the
names of the children of Israel…. And Aaron shall bear the names
of the children of Israel in the breast-plate of judgment upon his
heart when he goeth in unto the holy, for a memorial before the
Lord continually” (verses

9, 12, 15, 17, 21, 29).
Concerning the high priest being “ordained for men” we are told,
“Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and
confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all
their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of
the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the
wilderness” (

Leviticus 16:21).
“Is ordained for men.” The application of these words to the person and
work of Christ is patent. He not only became Man, but had received
appointment from God to act on behalf of, in the stead of, men: “Lo I
come, to do Thy will, O God” (

Hebrews 10:9), announce both the
commission He had received from God and His own readiness to discharge
it. What that commission was we learn in the next verse: “By the which
will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all.” He came to do what men could not do — satisfy the claims of
Divine justice, procure the Divine favor. Note, in passing “ordained for
men,” not mankind in general, but that people which God had given Him
— just as Aaron, the typical high priest, confessed not the sins of the
Canaanites or Amalekites over the head of the goat, but those of Israel
only.
“In things pertaining to God,” that is, in meeting the requirements of His
holiness. The activities of the priests have God for their object: it is His
character, His claims, His glory which are in view. In their application to
Christ these words, “in things pertaining to God” distinguishes our Lord’s
priesthood from His other offices. As a prophet, He reveals to us the mind
and will of God. As the King, He subdues us to Himself, rules over and
defends us. But the object of His priesthood is not us, but God..260
“That He may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” To “offer” is the
chief function of the high priest. He offers to God for men. He offers both
gifts and sacrifices; that is, eucharistic or thanksgiving offerings, and
sacrificial or propitiatory sacrifices.
“The first word includes, as I think, various kinds of sacrifices, and
is therefore a general term; but the second denotes especially the
sacrifices of expiation. Still the meaning is, that the priest without a
sacrifice is no peace-maker between God and man, for without a
sacrifice sins are not atoned for, nor is the wrath of God pacified.
Hence, whenever reconciliation between God and man takes place
this pledge must ever necessarily precede. Thus we see that angels
are by no means capable of obtaining for us God’s favor, because
they have no sacrifice” (John Calvin).
“That He may offer both gifts and sacrifice for sins.” The application of
these words to the Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, calls attention to a
prominent and vital aspect of His death which is largely lost sight of today.
The sacrificial death of Christ was a priestly act. On the Cross Christ not
only suffered at the hands of men, and endured the punitive wrath of God,
but He actually “accomplished” (

Luke 9:31) something: He offered
Himself as a sacrifice to God. At Calvary the Lord Jesus was not only the
Lamb of God bearing judgment, but He was also His Priest officiating at
the altar.
“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices:
wherefore it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to
offer” (

Hebrews 8:3).
As

Hebrews 9:14 also tells us, He “offered himself without spot to
God.”
Christ on the Cross was far more than a willing victim passively enduring
the stroke of Divine judgment. He was there performing a work, nor did
He cease until He cried in triumph, “It is finished.” He “loved the Church
and gave Himself for it” (

Ephesians 5:25). He “laid down His life” for
the sheep (

John 10:11, 18) — which is the predicate of an active agent.
He “poured out His soul unto death” (

Isaiah 53:12). He “dismissed His
spirit” (

John 19:30).
“Hell’s utmost force and fury gathered against Him: heaven’s
sword devouring Him, and heaven’s God forsaking Him: earth, and.261
hell, and heaven, thus in conspiring action against Him, unto the
uttermost of heaven’s extremest justice, and earth’s and hews
extremest injustice: — what is the glory of the Cross if it be not
this: that with such action conspiring to subdue His action, His
action outlasted and outlived them all, and He did not die subdued
and overborne in the dying, He did not die till He gave Himself in
death” (H. Martin on “The Atonement”).
“Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are
out of the way; for that he himself is compassed with infirmity”
(verse 2).
Passing now from the design of the Levitical priesthood, we have a word
upon their qualifications, the first of which is compassion unto those for
whom he is to act.
“The word here translated ‘have compassion’ is rendered in the
margin ‘reasonably bear with.’ A person could not be expected to
do the duties of a high priest aright if he could not enter into the
feelings of those whom he represented. If their faults excited no
sentiments in his mind but disapprobation — if they moved him to
no feeling but anger, he would not be fit to interpose in their behalf
with God — he would not be inclined to do for them what was
necessary for the expiation of their sins, and the accomplishment of
their services. But the Jewish high priest was one who was capable
of pitying and bearing with the ignorant and erring; for ‘he himself
also was compassed with infirmity.’ ‘Infirmity,’ here, plainly is
significant of sinful weakness, and probably also of the disagreeable
effects resulting from it. The Jewish high priest was himself a
sinner. He had personal experience of temptation, and the tendency
of man to yield to it — of sin, and of the consequences of sin; so
that he had the natural capacity, and ought to have had the moral
capacity, of pitying his fellow-sinners” (Dr. J. Brown).
And what, we may enquire, was the Spirit’s design in here making mention
of this personal qualification in the Levitical high priest? We believe His
purpose was at least fourfold.
First, implicitly, to call attention to the failure of Israel’s high priests. It is
very solemn to mark how that the last of them failed, most signally, at this
very point. When poor Hannah was “in bitterness of soul,” and while she.262
was in prayer, weeping before the Lord, Eli, because her lips moved not
thought that she was drunken, and spoke roughly to her (

1 Samuel 1:9-
14). Thus, instead of sympathizing with her sorrows, instead of making
intercession for her, he cruelly misjudged her. True, it is “human to err;”
equally evident is it that the ideal priest would never be found among the
sons of men.
Second, was not the Spirit of God here paving the way for a contrast of
the superiority of our great High Priest over the Aaronical?
Third, does not this statement of verse 2 show, once more, that the value
and efficacy of his work was inseparably connected with the personal
qualifications of the priest himself, namely, his moral perfections, his
human sympathy?
Fourth, thus there was emphasized again the necessity for the Son of God
becoming man, only thus could He acquire the requisite human
compassion.
“This compassionate, loving, gentle, all-considerate and tender
regard for the sinner can exist in perfection only in a sinless one.
This appears at first sight paradoxical; for we expect the perfect
man to be the severest judge. And with regard to sin, this is
doubtless true. God charges even His angels with folly. He beholds
sin where we do not discover it. And Jesus, the Holy One of Israel,
like the Father, has eyes like a flame of fire, and discerns everything
that is contrary to God’s mind and will. But with regard to the
sinner, Jesus, by virtue of His perfect holiness, is the most merciful,
compassionate, and considerate Judge. For we, not taking a deep
and keen view of sin, that central essential evil which exists in all
men, and manifests itself in various ways and degrees, are not able
to form a just estimate of men’s comparative guilt and
blameworthiness. Nay, our very sins make us more impatient and
severe with regard to the sins of others. Our vanity finds the vanity
of others intolerable, our pride finds the pride of others excessive.
Blind to the guilt of our own peculiar sins, we are shocked with
another’s sins, different indeed from ours, but not less offensive to
God, or pernicious in its tendencies. Again, the greater the
knowledge of Divine love and pardon, the stronger faith in the
Divine mercy and renewing grace, the more hopeful and the more
lenient will be our view of sinners. And finally the more we possess.263
of the spirit and heart of the Shepherd, the Physician, the Father,
the deeper will be our compassion on the ignorant and wayward.
“The Lord Jesus was therefore most compassionate, considerate,
lenient, hopeful in His feelings toward sinners, and in His dealings
with them. He was infinitely holy and perfectly clear in His hatred
and judgment of sin; but He was tender and gracious to the sinner.
Beholding the sinful heart in all, esteeming sin according to the
Divine standard, according to its real inward character, and not the
human, conventional, and outward measure; Jesus, infinitely holy
and sensitive as He was, saw often less to shock and pain Him in
the drunkard and profligate than in the respectable, selfish, and
ungodly religionists. He looked upon sin as the greatest and most
fearful evil, but on the sinner as poor, lost, and helpless. Thus,
while Jesus, in perfect holiness, judges most truly, lovingly, and
tenderly of us, He knows by experience the weakness of the flesh,
and the difficulty and soreness of the struggle. What a marvelous
fulfillment of the Priest’s requisite, that he should be taken from
men! one to whom we can look with full and calm trust, our
Representative, the Man Christ Jesus, possessed of perfect, Divine
love and compassion” (Abbreviated from Adolph Saphir).
Those for whom the high priest was deputed to act are here described as
“the ignorant and them that are out of the way.” These are not two
different classes of people, instead, those words give a twofold description
of sinners. It has been rightly said that “in the Bible all sin is represented as
the result of ignorance, but of blameable ignorance.” “The way of the
wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (

Proverbs
4:19). “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after
God” (

Romans 3:11). Every sinner is a fool. “Out of the way” means
that men have turned aside from the path which the Word of God has
marked out for them to walk in:
“All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to
his own way” (

Isaiah 53:6).
“And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for
himself, to offer for sins” (verse 3).
“There was none who could offer sacrifice for the sins of the high
priest; therefore, he must do it for himself. He was to offer for.264
himself in the same way and for the reasons as he offered for the
people, and this was necessary, for he was encompassed with the
same infirmities and was obnoxious as to sin, and so stood in no
less need of expiation or atonement than did the people” (Dr. John
Owen).
For scriptures where the high priest was bidden to present an offering for
his own sin, let the reader consult

Leviticus 4:3, 9:7, 16:6, 24.
“And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for
himself, to offer for sins” (verse 3).
Here again we may observe the Spirit of God calling attention to the
imperfections of the Levitical priests that the way may be prepared for
presenting the infinitely superior perfections of Christ. But that is not all
we have in this verse. It is the personal qualifications of the one who
exercises his office which is now before us. Before Aaron could present an
offering on behalf of Israel, he must first bring a sacrifice for his own sins,
that he might be purified and stand accepted before Jehovah. In other
words, the one who was to come between a holy God and a sinful people
must himself have no guilt resting upon him, and must be an object of
Divine favor. Thus, personal fitness was an essential qualification of the
priest: in the case of the Levitical, a ceremonial fitness; with Christ, a
personal and inherent.
“And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of
God, as was Aaron” (verse 4).
“The foregoing verses declare the personal functions of a high
priest, but these alone are not sufficient to invest any one with that
office; for it is required that he be lawfully called thereunto. Aaron
was called of God immediately, and in an extraordinary way. He
was called by the command of God given to Moses, and entrusted
to him for execution; he was actually separated and consecrated
unto the office of high priest, and this was accomplished by special
sacrifices made by another for him; and all these things were
necessary unto Aaron, because God, in his person, erected a new
order of priesthood” (Dr. John Owen).
“And no man taketh this honor to himself.” The expression “this honor”
refers to the high priestly office, for one to approach unto the Most High,
to have personal dealings with Him, to transact on behalf of others before.265
Him, obtaining His favor toward them, is a signal privilege and great favor
indeed. To mark this distinguishing honor, Aaron was clothed in the most
gorgeous and imposing vestments (Exodus 28). Looking beyond the type
to the Antitype, we may discern how that the Spirit is, once more, bringing
before the Hebrews that which was designed to remove the offense of the
Cross. To carnal reason the death of Christ was a humiliating spectacle; but
the spiritually enlightened see at Calvary One performing the functions of
an office with high “honor” attached to it.
“But he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” This was the ultimate and
most important qualification: no man could legitimately act as high priest
unless he was Divinely called to that office.
“The principle on which the necessity of a Divine calling to the
legitimate exercise of the priesthood rests is an obvious one. It
depends entirely on the will of God whether He will accept the
services and pardon the sins of men; and suppose again that it is His
will to do so, it belongs to Him to appoint everything in reference
to the manner in which this is to be accomplished. God is under no
obligation to accept of every one, or of any one who, of his own
accord, or by the choice of his fellow-men, takes it upon him to
offer sacrifices or gifts for himself or for others; and no man in
these circumstances can have reason to expect that God will accept
of his offerings, unless He has given him a commission to offer
them, and a promise He will be appeased by them. This, then, from
the very nature of the case, was necessary to the legitimate
discharge of the functions of a high priest” (Dr. J. Brown).
What the apostle is here leading up to was the proof that God was the
Author of Christ’s Priesthood. As that will come before us in the verses
which follow, we pass it by now.
“But he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” That which makes an office
lawful is the personal call of God. A most important principle is this to
recognize, but one which, in these days of abounding lawlessness, is now
flagrantly ignored. The will of man is to be entirely subordinated to the will
of God. Everything connected with His work is to be regulated by the
Divine appointments. Expediency, convenience, popular customs, are ruled
out of court. Nor is any one justified in rushing into a holy office uncalled
of God. To elect myself, or to have no higher authority than the election of
fellow-sinners, is to usurp the authority of God..266
All ministry is in the hand of Christ (

Revelation 2:1). He appointed the
twelve apostles, and later the seventy disciples, to go forth. He bids us
“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send forth
laborers into His harvest” (

Matthew 9:38).
When He ascended on high He
“gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers” (

Ephesians 4:11).
In the days of Paul it was said, “How shall they preach, except they be
sent?” (

Romans 10:15). But in these days, how many there are who run
without being “sent!” Men have taken it upon themselves to be evangelists,
pastors, teachers, who have received no call from God to such a work. The
absence of His call, is evidenced by the absence of the qualifying gift.
When God calls, He always equips.
Returning to the call of Aaron, we may observe that a time came when his
official authority was challenged (

Numbers 16:2). The manner in which
God vindicated His servant is worthy of our most thoughtful attention. The
record of it is found in Numbers 17: Aaron’s rod budded and brought forth
almonds. Supernatural fruit was the sign and pledge that he had been
called of God. Let this be laid well to heart. Judged by this standard, how
many today stand accredited as God’s sent-servants? When God calls a
man, He does not send him forth on any fruitless errand.
It is a solemn thing for one to obtrude himself into a sacred office. The
tragic case of Uzzah (

2 Chronicles 26:16-21) is a lasting warning. Alas,
how rarely is it heeded; and how grievously is God dishonored! There are
those who decry a “one-man ministry,” and cut themselves off from many
an edifying message from God’s true servants; but after twenty years’
experience on three continents, the writer much prefers that which some so
unchristianly condemn, to the lawlessness and fleshly exhibitions of an
“every-man ministry” which is their alternative. Again: how many are
urged to become Sunday School teachers and open-air speakers who have
received neither call nor qualification from God to such work! Again: how
many go forth as missionaries, only a few years later, at most, to abandon
the work: what a proof that they were not “sent” or “called by God!” Let
every reader weigh well

Hebrews 5:4. Unless God has called you, enter
not into any work for Him. Let restless souls seek grace to heed that
Divine command, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak” (

James 1:19)..267
CHAPTER 20
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO AARON.
(

HEBREWS 5:5-7)
The central design of the Holy Spirit in this Epistle needs to be kept
steadily before the mind of the reader: that design was to prove the
superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The center and glory of Judaism
was the divinely appointed priesthood: what, then, had Christianity to offer
at this point?
“The unbelieving Jews would be apt to say to their Christian
brethren, ‘your new religion is deficient in the very first requisite of
a religion — you have no high priest. How are your sins to be
pardoned, when you have none to offer expiatory oblations for
you? How are your wants to be supplied, when you have none to
make intercession for you to God?’ The answer to this cavil is to be
found in the apostle’s word ‘We have a High Priest’

Hebrews
4:14,” (Dr. J. Brown).
That God has provided His people with a High Priest is the fulfillment of
His own promise. On the demonstrated failure of the Aaronical priesthood
in the days of Eli and his sons (

1 Samuel 1:14, 2; 12-17, 22), the Lord
declared,
“And I will raise Me up a faithful Priest, that shall do according to
that which is in Mine heart and in My mind: and I will build Him a
sure house” (

1 Samuel 2:35).
The fulfillment of this is found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus
Christ. But in taking up the study of the priesthood of Christ it is of the
greatest possible importance to perceive that both the typical persons of
Aaron and Melchizedek were required to prefigure the varied actions, and
excellencies of the great High Priest who is the center and heart of
Christianity. It was failure to recognize this which has resulted in so many
inadequate and faulty treaties on the subject..268
Both Aaron and Melchizedek were needed to set forth the various phases
of Christ’s priestly ministry. But before the apostle could take up the latter,
he had first to show that Christ fulfilled all which was adumbrated by the
former: before he could dwell upon the points in which Christ’s excelled
the Levitical priesthood, he must first establish its parallels and similarities.
This the apostle does in Hebrews 5. In its first four verses we have a
description of the Levitical high priest: first with respect to his nature
(verse 1), second his employment (verse 1), third his qualification (verse
2), fourth his duty (verse 3), fifth his call (verse 4). In the verses which
immediately follow, an application of this is made, more directly, to Christ.
In so doing the Holy Spirit had before Him a double design:
He first shows the fulfillment of the type. God’s purpose in appointing
Israel’s high priests was to foreshadow the person and work of the Lord
Jesus. Thus, there must be some resemblance between the one and the
other. Second, that the Hebrews might know that the ministry and service
of the Levitical order had terminated. Their purpose having been served,
they were no longer needed; now that the Substance had come, the
shadows were superfluous. Nay, more, their very retention would
repudiate the design of their institution: they were prefigurative, therefore
to perpetuate them would deny that the Reality had come. For the Levitical
priesthood to go on functioning would argue that it had a value and a use
apart from Christ. Hence the necessity of showing the relation of Aaron’s
priesthood to Christ’s, that it might the more plainly appear that a
continuance of the former was not only useless but pernicious.
That there was a close connection between the priesthood of Aaron and
that of Christ is evident from the opening verse of our present passage.
Having stated, “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called
of God, as Aaron,” the apostle now adds, “So also Christ” (verse 5), or,
“In like manner Christ.” Thus, unmistakably, a parallel is here drawn. As it
was with the Levitical high priests in all things necessary to that office, so,
in like manner, was it with the Christ. In verses 5-10 the same five things
(personal sin excepted) predicated of Aaron and his successors were found
in our great High Priest. That there were, also, dissimilarities was
inevitable from the personal imperfections that appertained to Aaron and
his descendants: had there been anything in Christ which corresponded to
their blemishes and failures, He had been disqualified..269
“So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest” (verse 5).
In 2:17, 3:1, 4:14 it had been affirmed that Christ is High Priest. A
difficulty is now anticipated and met. Considering the strictness of God’s
law, and the specified requirements for one entering the priestly office, and
more especially seeing that Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi, how
could He be said to be “Priest?” In meeting this difficulty, the apostle
emphasizes the fact that the chief requirement and qualification was a
Divine call: “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of
God” (verse 4): applying that rule the apostle now shows, from Scripture
itself, our Lord’s right and title to this office. Ere weighing the proof for
this, let us note that He is here designated “the Christ”: the apostle’s design
was to demonstrate that the promised Messiah, the Hope of the fathers,
was to be High Priest forever over the house of God. The “Anointed One”
signified His unction unto this office.
“So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest.” He did not
take this dignity unto Himself; He did not obtrude Himself into office. As
He declared,
“If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing: it is My Father that
honoureth Me.” (

John 8:54).
No, He had made Himself of no reputation; He had taken upon Him the
form of a servant (

Philippians 2:7), and He ever acted in perfect
subjection to the Father. Nor was there any need for Him to exalt Himself:
He had entered into a covenant or compact with the Father, and He might
be safely trusted to fulfill His part of the agreement. “He that shall humble
Himself shall be exalted” (

Matthew 23:12) was no less true of the Head
than of His members.
“So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest.” He to
whom the authority belonged, invested Christ with the honors of
priesthood, as He had Aaron. An ellipsis needs supplying to complete the
implied antithesis: “But He glorified Him,” or He (God) made Him to be
High Priest.” That Christ was glorified by being invested with the high
priesthood is here plainly inferred. It was a high honor bestowed upon His
mediatorial person, that is, upon His humanity (united unto His deity).
Scripture plainly teaches that His mediatorial person was capable of being
glorified, with degrees of glory, by augmentation of glory: see

John
17:1;

1 Peter 1:21. This honor appears more plainly when we come to
consider the nature of the work assigned Him as Priest: this was no less.270
than healing the breach which sin had made between God and men, and this
by “magnifying the law and making it honorable.” It appears too when we
contemplate the effects of His work: these were the vindicating and
glorifying of the thrice holy God, the bringing of many sons unto glory, and
the being Himself crowned with glory and honor. By that priestly work
Christ has won for Himself the love, gratitude, and worship of a people
who shall yet be perfectly conformed to His image, and shall praise Him
world without end.
How wonderful and blessed it is to know that the honor of Christ and the
procuring of our salvation are so intimately connected that it was His glory
to be made our Mediator! There are three chief offices which Christ holds
as Mediator: He is prophet, priest and potentate. But there is an
importance, a dignity and a blessedness (little as carnal reason may be able
to perceive it) attaching to His priestly office which does not belong to the
other two. Scripture furnishes three proofs of this. First, we never read of
“our great prophet,” or “our great King,” but we do of “our great High
Priest” (

Hebrews 4:14)! Second, the Holy Spirit nowhere affirms that
Christ’s appointment to either His prophetic or His kingly office “glorified”
Him; but this is insisted upon in connection with His call to the sacerdotal
office (

Hebrews 5:5)! Third, we read not of the dread solemnity of any
divine “oath” in connection with His inauguration to the prophetic or the
kingly office, but we do His priestly —
“The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest
forever.” (

Psalm 110:4)!
Thus the priesthood of Christ is invested with supreme importance.
“So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but
he that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten
Thee.” (verse 5).
The apostle here cites the testimony of the 2nd Psalm: but how does this
quotation confirm the priesthood of Christ or prove His “call” to that
office? That the quotation here is adduced as proof-text is clear from the
next verse — “As He saith also in another Psalm,” which is given as
further confirmation of His call. In weighing carefully the purpose for
which

Psalm 2:7 is here quoted, observe,
First, it is not the priesthood but His call thereunto which the apostle has
before him..271
Second, his object was simply to show that it was from God Christ had all
His mediatorial authority.
Third, in

Psalm 2:7, God declares the incarnate Christ to be His Son.
The proclamation. “Thou art My Son,” testified to the Father’s acceptance
of Him in the discharge of all the work which had been committed to Him.
This solemn approbation by the Father intimated that our Redeemer
undertook nothing but what God had appointed. The Father’s owning of
Christ in human nature as “My Son,” acclaimed Him Mediator — Priest
for His people. In other words, Christ’s “call” by God consisted of the
formal and public owning of Him as the incarnate Son.

Psalm 2:7
describes the “call.”
It is to be observed that

Psalm 2:7 opens with the words, “I will
declare the decree,” which signifies a public announcement of what had
been eternally predestinated and appointed in the everlasting covenant. It
was God making known that the Mediator had received a Divine
commission, and therefore was possessed of all requisite authority for His
office. The deeper meaning, in this connection, of the proclamation, “Thou
art My Son,” tells us that Christ’s sufficiency as Priest lies in His Divine
nature. It was the dignity of His person which gave value to what He did.
Because He was the Son, God appointed Him High Priest: He would not
give this glory to another. Just as, because He is the Son, He has made
Him “Heir of all things.” (

Hebrews 1:2.)
“Thou art My Son.” The application of these words to the call which
Christ received to His priestly office, refers, historically, we doubt not to
what is recorded in

Matthew 3:16, 17. There we behold a shadowing
forth on the lower and visible plane of that which was to take place, a little
later, in the higher and invisible sphere. There we find the antitype of what
occurred on the occasion of Aaron’s induction to the priestly office. In
Leviticus 8 we find three things recorded of the type:
First, his call (verses 1, 2).
Second, his anointing (verse 12).
Third, his consecration, (verse 22)
These same three things, only in inverse order again (for in all things He
has the pre-eminence) are found on the occasion of our Savior’s baptism,
which was one of the great crises of His earthly career. For thirty years He.272
had lived in retirement at Nazareth. Now the time had arrived for His
public ministry. Accordingly, He consecrates, dedicates Himself to God —
presenting Himself for baptism at the hands of God’s servant. Second, it
was at the Jordan He was anointed for His work: “God anointed Jesus of
Nazareth with the Holy Spirit” (

Acts 10:38). Third, it was there and
then He was owned of God. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well
pleased.” That was the Father’s attestation to His acceptance of Christ for
His priestly office and work.
Above, we have pointed out the first historical fulfillment of the prophetic
word recorded in

Psalm 2:7. As all prophecy has at least a double
accomplishment, we find, accordingly, this same word of the Father’s
approbation of the Son recorded a second time in the Gospel narratives. In

Matthew 17:5 we again hear the Father saying, “Thou art my Son,” or
“This is My Beloved Son.” Here it was upon the mount, when Christ stood
glorified before His disciples. It was then that God provided a miniature
tableau of Christ’s glorious kingdom. As Peter says, “We are eye-witnesses
of His majesty” (

2 Peter 1:16). And no doubt this is the profounder
reference in

Hebrews 5:5, for the 2nd Psalm, there quoted, foretells the
setting up of Christ as “King.” Yet, let it not be forgotten that the
priesthood of Christ is the basis of His kingship: “He shall be a priest upon
His throne.” (

Zechariah 6:13). It is as the “Lamb” He holds His title to
the throne (

Revelation 22:1) — cf. the “wherefore” of

Philippians
2:9. He is a Priest with royal authority, a King with Priestly tenderness.
“As He saith also in another, Thou art a priest forever after the
order of Melchizedek” (verse 6).
A further proof of God’s call of Christ to the priestly office is now given,
the quotation being from the 110th Psalm, which was owned by the Jews
as a Messianic one.
There the Father had by the Spirit of prophecy, said these words to His
incarnate Son. Thus a double testimony was here adduced. The subject was
of such importance that God deigned to give unto these Hebrews
confirmation added to confirmation. How graciously He bears with our
dullness: compare the “twice” of

Psalm 62:11, the “again” of the Lord
Jesus in

John 8:12,21 etc., the “many” proofs of

Acts 1:3. “As He
saith” is another evidence that God was the Author of the Old Testament.
Here, the Father is heard speaking through David; in

Psalm 22:1, the
Son; in

Hebrews 3:7, the Spirit. “As He saith,” namely unto the Son..273
The Father’s here speaking to Him was His “call,” just as in

Hebrews
7:21, it is His “oath.” “Thou art a priest” was declarative of His eternal
decree, of the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son,
wherein He was designated unto this office. Thus was Christ “called of
God as was Aaron.”
“Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and
supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able
to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (verse 7).
In seeking to expound this verse three things require attention. To
ascertain its scope, or theme, to discover its relation to the context and its
own contribution unto the apostle’s argument, and to define its solemn
terms. Its theme is the priestly ministry of Christ: this is evident from the
expression “offered up.”
“As the theme of verses 4-6 is, ‘Jesus Christ has been divinely
appointed to the priestly office, so the theme of verses 7-9 is Jesus
Christ has successfully executed the priestly office.’” (Dr. J.
Brown).
Its relation to the context is that the apostle was here showing the
“compassed with infirmity” (verse 2) is found in the Antitype: the “strong
crying and tears” being the proof. Its terms will be weighed in what
follows. Ere submitting our own interpretations, we first subjoin the helpful
analysis of Dr. Brown.
“The body of the sentence (verses 7-10) divides itself into two
parts: 1. ‘He’ Christ in the character of a Priest ‘learned obedience
by the things which He suffered.’ 2. ‘He’, in the same character,
‘has become the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him.’
The clauses, ‘In the days of his flesh,’ and ‘though He were a Son,’
qualify the general declaration, ‘He learned obedience by the things
which He suffered,’ and the clauses, ‘when He had offered up,’
‘prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him
that was able to save Him from death,’ and ‘when He had heard’ —
or having been heard — ‘in that He feared,’ contain in them
illustrations both of the nature and extent of those sufferings by
which Christ learned obedience; whilst the clause, ‘being made
perfect,’ qualifies the second part of the sentence, connecting it
with the first, and showing how His ‘learning obedience by the.274
things which He suffered,’ led to His being ‘the Author of eternal
salvation to all who obey Him.’”
In this 7th verse two other of the qualifications of Israel’s high priest are
accommodated to Christ.
First, his being “compassed with infirmity” (verse 2) so as to fit him for
having compassion on those for whom he transacted. In like manner was
the Son, when He entered upon the discharge of His office, compassed
with sinless infirmity. This is here exemplified in a threefold way.
First, the time when He fulfilled the Aaronic type, namely, “in the days
of His flesh,” which was before He was “crowned with glory and
honor.”
Second, from His condition, “in the days of His flesh,” which signifies
a state of weakness and humiliation.
Third, from the manner of His deportment: “with strong crying and
tears,” for these proceed from the “infirmity” of our nature — angels
do not weep.
Second, Israel’s high priest was appointed to “offer.” (verses 1, 2). This is
what Christ is here seen doing: offering up to God — “to Him that was
able to save Him.” This was a sacerdotal act, as is clear from the fact that
the declaration of verse 7 is immediately preceded (verse 6), and succeeded
(verse 10) by a reference to His priesthood. Let us now examine our verse
clause by clause.
“Who in the days of His flesh.”
“Flesh as applied to Christ, signifies human nature not yet glorified,
with all its infirmities, wherein He was exposed unto — hunger,
thirst, weariness, labor, sorrow, grief, fear, pain, death itself.
Hereby doth the apostle express what he had before laid down in
the person of the high priest according to the law — he was
‘compassed’ with infirmity.” (Dr. John Owen.)
The word “flesh” is often used in Scripture of man as a poor, frail, mortal
creature:

Psalm 78:39, 65:2. The “days of His flesh” is antithetical to
“made perfect.” They cover the entire period of our Lord’s humiliation,
from the manger to the grave — cf.

2 Corinthians 5:16. During that
time Christ was “a man of sorrows,” filled with them, never free from.275
them; “and acquainted with grief,” as a companion that never departed
from Him. No doubt there is special reference to the close of those days
when His sorrows and trials came to a head.
“The ‘days of His flesh’ mean the whole time of His humiliation —
that period when He came among men as one of them, but still the
Son of God, whose majesty was hid. As applied to Christ ‘flesh’
intimates that He put on a true humanity, but a humanity under the
weight of imputed guilt, with the curse that followed in its train —
a sinless, yet a sin-bearing humanity. The Lord felt the weakness of
the flesh in His whole vicarious work, and though personally
spotless, was in virtue of taking our place, subjected to all that we
were heir to. We do not, indeed, find in Him the personal
consequences of sin, such as sickness and disease, but the
consequences which could competently fall to the sinless substitute;
for He never was in Adam’s covenant, but was Himself the last
Adam. As He took flesh for an official purpose, He submitted to
the consequences following in the train of sin-bearing — hunger
and thirst, toil and fatigue in the sweat of His brow, persecution
and injustice, arrest and sufferings, wounds and death.” (Professor
Smeaton on the Atonement.)
“When He had offered up prayers and supplications.” The Greek word for
“offer up” signifies “to bear toward.” It occurs in this Epistle sixteen times,
and always as a priestly act. See

Hebrews 8:3, 9:7, 14, 10:11, 14, 18,
etc. Prayers and supplications are expressive of the frailty of human nature,
for we never read of angels praying. “Prayers” are of two kinds: petitions
for that which is good, requests for deliverance from that which is evil:
both are included here. The Greek word for “supplications” occurs
nowhere else in the New Testament; in its classical usage it denotes an
olive bough, lifted up by those who were supplicating others for peace.
What is here in view is Christ “offering” Himself unto God (

Hebrews
9:14), His offering being accompanied with priestly prayers and
supplications. These are mentioned to exemplify His “infirmity,” and to
impress upon us how great a work it was to make expiation for sin. These
prayers and supplications are not to be restricted to the agony of
Gethsemane, or the hours of torture on the Cross; they must be regarded
as being offered by Him through the entire period of His humiliation..276
“The pressure of human guilt habitually weighed down His mind
and He was by way of eminence a Man of prayer, as well as a Man
of sorrows.” (Dr. Brown.)
“With strong crying and tears.” These words not only intimate the intensity
of the sufferings endured by our Priest, but also the extent to which He felt
them. The God-man was no stoic, unmoved by the fearful experiences
through which He passed. No, He suffered acutely, not only in body, but in
His soul too. The curse of the law, under which He had spontaneously
placed Himself, smote His soul as well as His body, for we had sinned in
both, and He redeemed both. These crying and tears were evoked not by
what He received at the hands of man, but what imputed guilt had brought
down upon Him from the hand of God. He was overwhelmed by the
pressure of horror and anguish, caused by the Divine anger against sin.
“With strong crying and tears.” These were, in part, the fulfillment of that
prophecy in

Psalm 22:1: “the words of My roaring.” A part of those
“strong cryings” are recorded in the Gospels. To His disciples He said,
“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (

Matthew 26:38).
To the Father He prayed, “If Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me”
(

Luke 22:42). There we read of Him “being in an agony,” that “He
prayed more earnestly,” that “His sweat was as it were great drops of
blood falling down to the ground.” Such was the “travail of His soul” that
He cried for deliverance. He voluntarily entered the place into which sin
had brought us: one of misery and wretchedness. No heart can conceive
the terribleness of that conflict through which our Blessed Substitute
passed.
“Jesus cried with a loud voice, My God, My God, Why hast Thou
forsaken Me?” (

Matthew 27:46):
here again we witness the “strong crying” accompanying His sacrifice. And
what is the application of this to us? If His sacrifice was offered to God
with “strong crying and tears” let none of us imagine we are savingly
interested therein if our hearts are unmoved by the awfulness of sin, and
are in the coldness of impenitence and the sloth of unbelief. Let him who
would approach unto Christ ponder well how He approached unto God on
behalf of sinners.
“Unto Him that was able to save Him from death.” The particular character
in which our suffering Surety here viewed God, calls for close attention..277
These words reveal to us how Christ contemplated Deity at that time:
“unto Him that is able.” Ability or power is either natural or moral. Natural
power is strength and active efficacy; in God, omnipotence. Moral power is
right and authority; in God, absolute sovereignty. Christ looked toward
both. In view of God’s omnipotence He sought deliverance; in view of His
sovereignty, He meekly submitted. The former was the object of His faith;
the latter, of His fear. These two attributes of God should ever be before us
when we approach unto His footstool. A sight of His omnipotence will
encourage our hearts and strengthen our faith: a realization of His high
sovereignty will humble us before Him and check our presumption.
“Unto Him that was able to save Him from death.” This also makes known
the cause of His “strong crying and tears:” it was His sight of death. What
“death?” Not merely the separation of the soul from the body, but the
“wages of sin,” that curse of the law which God, as a just judge, inflicts on
the guilty. As the Surety of the covenant, as the One who had voluntarily
taken upon Himself the debts of all His people, the wrath of a holy God
must be visited upon Him. To this Christ referred when He said,
“I am afflicted and ready to die from youth up; I suffer Thy terrors,
I am distracted” (

Psalm 88:15).
Fiercer grew the conflict as the end was neared, and stronger were His
cries for deliverance:
“The sorrows of death compassed Me, and the pains of hell gat
hold upon Me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the
name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver My soul”
(

Psalm 116:34).
But what was the “deliverance” which He sought? Exemption from
suffering this death? No, for He had received commandment to endure it
(

John 10:18,

Philippians 2:8). What then? Note carefully that Christ
prayed not to be delivered from dying, but from “death.” We believe the
answer is twofold. First, He sought to be sustained under it. When death as
the penal visitation of God’s anger upon Him for our sins was presented to
His view, He had deep and dreadful apprehension of the utter inability of
frail human nature bearing up under it, and prevailing against it. He was
conscious of His need of Divine succor and support, to enable Him to
endure the incalculable load which was upon Him. Therefore it was His
duty, as perfect yet dependent Man, to pray that He might not be.278
overwhelmed and overborne. His confidence was in “Him that is able.” He
declared,
“For the Lord God will help Me, therefore shall I not be
confounded” (

Isaiah 50:17).
“And was heard in that He feared.” The best commentators differ in their
understanding of these words. Two interpretations have been given, which,
we believe, need to be combined to bring out the full meaning of this
clause. Calvin gave as its meaning that the object of Christ’s “fear” was the
awful judgment of God upon our sins, the smiting of Him with the sword
of justice, His desertion by God Himself. Arguing against the “fear” here
having reference to Christ’s own piety, because of which God answered
Him, this profound exegete points out the absence of the possessive “His
fear;” that the Greek preposition “apo” (rather than “huper”) signifies
“from,” not “on account of;” and that the word “fear” means, for the most
part, anxiety — “consternation” is its force as used in the Sept. His words
are, “I doubt not that Christ was ‘heard’ from that which He feared, so that
He was not overwhelmed by His evils or swallowed up by death. For in
this contest the Son of God had to engage, not because He was tried by
unbelief (the source of all our fears), but because He sustained as a man in
the flesh the judgment of God, the terror of which could not have been
overcome without an arduous effort” — and, we may add, without a
Divine strengthening.
The sufferings of Christ wrung His soul, producing sorrow, perplexity,
horror, dread. This is shown by His exercises and agony in Gethsemane.
While He suffered God’s “terrors,” He was “distracted” (

Psalm 88:15).
“I am poured out like water,” He exclaimed,
“and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax, it is melted
in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd;
and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws” (

Psalm 22:14, 15).
And again, He cried,
“Save Me, O God; for the waters are come in unto My soul. I sink
in deep mire, where there is no standing…. Let not the water-flood
overflow Me, neither let the deep swallow Me up”
(

Psalm 69:1, 2, 15)..279
Fear, pain, torture of body and soul, were now His portion. He was then
enduring that which shall yet cause the damned to weep and wail and gnash
their teeth. He was deserted by God. The comforting influences of His
relation to God were withdrawn. His relation to God as His God and
Father were the fount of all His comfort and joy. The sense of this was
now suspended. Therefore was He filled with heaviness and sorrow
inexpressible, and, “and with strong crying and tears” He prayed for
deliverance.
“And was heard.” This means, first of all, God’s approval or acceptance of
the petitioner himself. Christ’s prayer here was answered in the same way
as was Paul’s request for the removal of the thorn in his flesh — not by
exemption, but by Divine succor which gave enablement to bear the trial.
In Gethsemane
“There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening
Him” (

Luke 22:43).
So too on the Cross.
“His mind and heart were fortified and sustained against the dread
and terror which His humanity felt, so as to come to a perfect
composure in the will of God. He was heard insofar as He desired
to be heard; for although He could not but desire deliverance from
the whole, as He was man, yet He desired it not absolutely as the
God-man, as He was wholly subject to the will of the Father” (Dr.
John Owen).
“And was heard in that He feared.” Other commentators have rightly
pointed out that the Greek word for “fear” here signifies godly reverence
or piety: cf.

Hebrews 12:28, where it is found in its noun form. Having
from godly fear offered up prayers and supplications, He was heard. His
personal perfections made His petition acceptable. This was His own
assurance, at the triumphant completion of His sufferings: “Thou hast
heard Me from the horns of the unicorns” (

Psalm 22:21). This brings us
to the second and ultimate meaning of the Savior’s petition to be delivered
“from death,” and the corresponding second response of the Father.
“To ‘save from death’ means, to deliver from death after having
died. God manifested Himself as ‘Him who was able to save Him
from death,’ when, as ‘The God of peace’ — the pacified Divinity
— ‘He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus that great.280
Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant’.

Hebrews 13:20” (Dr. J. Brown).
Thus, to summarize the contents of this most solemn and wonderful verse,
we here learn:
First, that our blessed Substitute, in the discharge of His priestly work,
encountered that awful wrath of God which is the wages of sin — “death.”
Second, that He encountered it in the frailty of human nature, compassed
with infirmity — “in the days of His flesh.”
Third, that He felt, to an extent we are incapable of realizing, the visitation
of God’s judgment upon sin — evidenced by His “strong crying and tears.”
Fourth, that He cried for deliverance: for strength to endure and for an
exodus from the grave.
Fifth, that God answered by bestowing the needed succor and by raising
Him from the dead.
Many are the lessons which might be drawn from all that has been before
us. Into what infinite depths of humiliation did the Son of God descend!
How unspeakably dreadful was His anguish! What a hideous thing sin must
be if such a sacrifice was required for its atonement! How real and terrible
a thing is the wrath of God! What love moved Him to suffer so on our
behalf! What must be the portion of those who despise and reject such a
Savior! What an example has He left us of turning to God in the hour of
need! What fervor is called for if our prayers are to be answered! Above
all, what gratitude, love, devotion and praise are due Him from those for
whom the Son of God died!.281
CHAPTER 21
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO AARON.
(

HEBREWS 5:8-10).
The first ten verses of Hebrews 5 present to us a subject of such vast and
vital importance that we dare not hurry over our exposition of them. They
bring to’ our view the person of the Lord Jesus and His official work as the
great High Priest of God’s people. They set forth His intrinsic sufficiency
for the discharge of the honorous but arduous functions of that office.
They show us His right and title for the executing thereof. They reveal His
full qualifications thereunto. They make known the nature and costliness of
His sacrificial work. They declare the triumphant issue thereof. Yet plain as
is their testimony, the subject of which they treat is so dimly apprehended
by most Christians today, that we deem it necessary to devote a lengthy
introduction to the setting forth of the principal features belonging to the
Priesthood of Christ.
Let us begin by asking the question, Why did God ordain the office of
priesthood? Wherein lay the necessity for it? The first and most obvious
answer is, Because of sin. Sin created a breech between a holy God and
His sinful creatures. Were God to advance toward them in His essential
character it could only be in judgment, involving their sure destruction; for
He “will by no means clear the guilty” (

Exodus 34:7). Nor was the
sinner capable of making the slightest advance toward God, for he was
“alienated from the life of God” (

Ephesians 4:18), and thus, “dead in
trespasses and sins” (

Ephesians 2:1); and as such, not only powerless to
perform a spiritual act, but completely devoid of all spiritual aspirations.
Looked at in himself, the case of fallen man was utterly hopeless.
But God has designs of grace unto men, not unto all men, but unto a
remnant of them chosen out of a fallen race. Had God shown grace to all
of Adam’s descendants, the glory of His grace had been clouded, for it
would have looked as though the provisions of grace were something
which were due men from God, because of His having failed to preserve
them from falling into sin. But grace is unmerited favor, something to.282
which no creature is entitled, something which he cannot in any wise claim
from God.
Therefore it must be exercised in a sovereign manner by the Author of it
(

Exodus 33:19), that grace may appear to be grace (

Romans 11:6).
But in determining to show grace unto that people whom He had chosen in
Christ before the foundation of the world (

Ephesians 1:4,

2 Timothy
1:9), God must act in harmony with His own perfections. The sin of His
people could not be ignored. Justice clamored for its punishment. If they
were to be delivered from its penal consequences, it could only be by an
adequate satisfaction being made for them. Without blood shedding there is
no remission of sins. An atonement was a fundamental necessity. Grace
could not be shown at the expense of justice; no, grace must “reign
through righteousness” (

Romans 5:21). Grace could only be exercised
on the ground of accomplished redemption (

Romans 3:24).
And who was capable of rendering a perfect satisfaction unto the law of
God? Who was qualified to meet all the demands of Divine holiness, if a
sinful people were to be redeemed consistently with its claims? Who was
competent both to assume the responsibilities of that people, and discharge
them to the full satisfaction of the Most High? Who was able both to honor
the rights of the Almighty, and yet enter sympathetically into the weakness
and needs of those who were to be saved? Clearly, the only solution to this
problem and the only answer to these questions lay in a Mediator, one who
had both ability and title to act on God’s behalf and on theirs. For this
reason was the Son of God appointed to be made in the likeness of sin’s
flesh, that as the God-man He might be a “merciful and faithful High
Priest” (

Hebrews 2:17); for mediatorship is the chief thing in
priesthood.
Now this is what is brought before us in the opening verse of Hebrews 5.
There we are shown three parties: on the one side God, on the other side
men, and the high priest as the connecting link between:
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men
in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and
sacrifices for sins” (verse 1).
No correct conception of priesthood can exist where this double relation
and this double service are not perceived. In Christ alone is this perfectly
made good. He is the one connecting link between Heaven and earth, the.283
only Mediator between God and “men” (

1 Timothy 2:5). From Deity
above, He is the Mediator downward to men beneath; and from men
below, He is the Head upward to God. Priesthood is the alone channel of
living relationship with a holy God. Solemn and awful proof of this is
found in the fact that Satan, and then Adam, fell because there was no
Mediator who stood between them and God, to maintain them in their
standing before Him.
Above we have said, that Christ is the one connecting link between Heaven
and earth, that He alone bridges the chasm between God and His people,
considered as fallen and mined sinners. Our last sentence really sums up the
whole of Hebrews chapters 1 and 2. There we have a lengthy argument
setting forth the relation between the two natures in Christ, the Divine and
the human, and the needs-be of both to fit Him for the priestly office. He
must be the Son of God in human nature. He must “in all things be made
like unto His brethren” in order that He might be “a merciful and faithful
High Priest;” in order that He might “make propitiation for the sins of the
people;” and in order that He might be “able to succor them that are
tempted.”

Hebrews 2:17, 18 brings us to the climax of the apostle’s
argument in those two chapters.
The priestly work of Christ was to “make propitiation for the sins of the
people.” It was to render a complete satisfaction to God on behalf of all
their liabilities. It was to “magnify the law and make it honorable.”
(

Isaiah 42:21). In order to do this it was necessary for the law to be
kept, to be perfectly obeyed in thought, word and deed. Accordingly, the
Son of God was “made under the law” (

Galatians 4:4), and “fulfilled”
its requirements (

Matthew 5:17). And this perfect obedience of Christ,
performed substitutionally and officially, is now imputed to His people: as
it is written, “By the obedience of One shall many be (legally) made
righteous” (

Romans 5:19). But “magnifying the law” also involved His
enduring its penalty on the behalf of His peoples’ violation of its precepts,
and this He suffered, and so “redeemed us from the curse of the law” by
“being made a curse for us” (

Galatians 3:13).
To sum up now the ground we have covered.
1. The occasion of Christ’s priesthood was sin: it was this which alienated
the creature from the Creator..284
2. The source of Christ’s priesthood was grace: rebels were not entitled to
it; such a wondrous provision proceeded solely from the Divine favor.
3. The Junction of Christ’s priesthood is mediation, to come between, to
officiate for men God-wards.
4. The qualification for perfect priesthood is a God-man: none but God
could meet the requirements of God; none but Man could meet the needs
of men.
5. The work of priesthood is to make propitiation for sin. To these we may
add:
6. The design of priesthood is that the claims of God may be honored, the
person of Christ glorified, and His people redeemed.
7. The outcome of His priesthood is the maintaining of His people in the
favor of God. Other subsidiary points will come before us, D.V., in the
later chapters.
Verses 8, 9 of Hebrews 5 complete the passage which was before us in the
preceding article. That we may the better perceive their scope and
meaning, let us recapitulate the teaching of the earlier verses. In this first
division of Hebrews 5 the apostle’s design was to show how that Christ
fulfilled the Aaronic type.
First, He had been Divinely called or appointed to the priestly office
(verses 4-6).
Second, to fit Him for compassion on behalf of those for whom He
officiated, He was “compassed with (sinless) infirmity” (verses 3, 7).
Third, He had “offered” to God, as Priest, “as for the people so also for
himself” (verse 3), “strong crying and tears” (verse 7). That which is now
to be before us, brings out still other perfections of Christ which qualified
Him to fill the sacerdotal office, and also makes known the happy issues
therefrom.
“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things
which He suffered” (verse 8).
In view of His unspeakable humiliation, portrayed in the previous verse,
the Divine dignity of our High Priest is here mentioned both to guard and
enhance His glory..285
“The things discoursed in the foregoing verse seem to have an
inconsistency with the account given us concerning the person of
Jesus Christ at the entrance of this Epistle. For He is therein
declared to be the Son of God, and that in such a glorious manner
as to be deservedly exalted above all the angels in heaven. Here He
is represented as in a low, distressed condition, humbly, as it were,
begging for His life, and pleading with ‘strong crying and tears’
before Him who was able to deliver Him. These things might seem
unto the Hebrews to have some kind of repugnancy unto one
another. And, indeed, they are a ‘stone of stumbling, and a rock of
offense,’ unto many at this day; they are not able to reconcile them
in their carnal minds and reasonings…. “The aim of the apostle in
this place is, not to repel the objections of unbelievers, but to
instruct the faith of those who do believe in the truth of these
things. For He doth not only manifest that they were all possible,
upon the account of His participation of flesh and blood, who was
in Himself the eternal Son of God; but also that the whole of the
humiliation and distress therein ascribed unto Him was necessary,
with respect unto the office which He had undertaken to discharge,
and the work which was committed unto Him. And this he doth in
the next ensuing and following verses” (Dr. John Owen).
“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things
which He suffered” (verse 8).
First, what relation does this statement bear to the passage of which it is a
part?
Second, what is the particular “obedience” here referred to?
Third, in what sense did the Son “learn obedience”?
Fourth, how did the things “which He suffered” teach Him obedience?
Fifth, what are the practical lessons here pointed for us? These are some of
the questions raised by our verse which call for answer.
“Though He were a Son” looks back more immediately to verse 5, where a
part of

Psalm 2:7 is quoted.
“That quotation has also reminded us of the Divine dignity and
excellence of Christ as the ground of His everlasting priesthood..286
Jesus had a Divine commission; He was appointed by the Father
because He was the Son; and thus He was possessed of all requisite
qualifications for His office. Nevertheless the Son had to ‘learn
obedience.’ He must not only possess authority and dignity, but be
able to sympathize with the condition of sinners. By entering the
circle of human experience He was made a merciful and faithful
High Priest, and through suffering fitted for compassionately
guiding our highest interests, as well as conducting our cause. The
bond of brotherhood, the identity of suffering and sorrow, fitted
Him to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He was made
like unto His brethren (

Hebrews 2:17); He suffered, that He
might be in a position to succor them that are tempted (

Hebrews
2:18); He was made in all respects like us, with the single exception
of personal sinfulness (

Hebrews 4:15); and He learned
obedience by what He suffered. The design of all this was, that He
might be a compassionate and sympathizing High Priest” (Professor
Smeaton).
Here then is the answer to our first question. In the 8th verse the Holy
Spirit is still showing how that which was found in the type (verse 3), is
also to be seen in the Antitype. What could more emphatically exemplify
the fact that our High Priest was “compassed with infirmity” than to inform
us that He not only felt acutely the experiences through which He passed,
but also that He “learned obedience” by those very experiences? Nor need
we hesitate to go as far as the Spirit of truth has gone; rather must we seek
grace to believe all that He has said. None were more jealous of the Son’s
glory than He, and none knew so well how His glory had been displayed by
His voluntary descent into such unfathomable depths of shame. While
holding firmly to Christ’s absolute deity, we must not (through a false
conception of His dignity) shrink from following Him in thought and
affection into that abyss of humiliation unto which, for our sakes, He came.
When Scripture says, “He learned obedience” we must not whittle down
these words to mean anything less than they affirm.
“Yet learned He obedience” brings out, very forcibly, the reality of the
humanity which the Son assumed. He became true Man. If we bow to the
inspired statement that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor
with God and man” (

Luke 2:52), why balk — as many have — at He
“learned obedience?” True, blessedly true, these words do not signify that
there was in Him a will which resisted the law of God, and which needed.287
severe discipline to bring it into subjection. As Calvin well says, “Not that
He was driven to this by force, or that He had need of being thus exercised,
as the case is with oxen or horses when their ferocity is to be tamed; for He
was abundantly willing to render to His Father the obedience which He
owed.” No, He declared, “I delight to do Thy will, O God” (

Psalm
40:8). And again, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me”
(

John 4:34).
But what is “obedience?” It is subjection to the will of another: it is an
owning of the authority of another; it is performing the pleasure of another.
This was an entirely new experience for the Son. Before His incarnation,
He had Himself occupied the place of authority, of supreme authority. His
seat had been the throne of the universe. From it He had issued commands
and had enforced obedience. But now He had taken the place of a servant.
He had assumed a creature nature. He had become man. And in this new
place and role He conducted Himself with befitting submission to Another.
He had been “made under the law,” and its precepts must be honored by
Him. But more: the place He had taken was an official one. He had come
here as the Surety of His people. He had come to discharge their liabilities.
He had come to work out a perfect righteousness for them; and therefore,
as their Representative, He must obey God’s law. As the One who was
here to maintain the claims of God, He must “magnify the law and make it
honorable,” by yielding to it a voluntary, perfect, joyous compliance.
Again; the “obedience” of Christ formed an essential part of His priestly
oblation. This was typified of old — though very few have perceived it —
in the animals prescribed for sacrifice: they were to be “without spot,
without blemish.” That denoted their excellency; only the “choice of the
flock” (

Ezekiel 24:5) were presented to God. The antitype of this
pointed to far more than the sinlessness of Christ — that were merely
negative. It had in view His positive perfections, His active obedience, His
personal excellency. When Christ “offered Himself without spot to God”
(

Hebrews 9:14), He presented a Sacrifice which had already fulfilled
every preceptive requirement of the law. And it was as Priest that He thus
offered Himself to God, thereby fulfilling the Aaronic type. But in all things
He has the pre-eminence, for at the cross He was both Offerer and
Offering. Thus there is the most intimate connection between the contents
of verse 8 and its context, especially with verse 7..288
“Yet learned He obedience.” The incarnate Son actually entered into the
experience of what it was to obey. He denied Himself, He renounced His
own will, He “pleased not Himself” (

Romans 15:3). There was no
insubordination in Him, nothing disinclined to God’s law; instead, His
obedience was voluntary and hearty. But by being “made under the law” as
Man, He “learned” what Divine righteousness required of Him; by
receiving commandment to lay down His life (

John 10:18), He
“learned” the extent of that obedience which holiness demanded. Again; as
the God-man, Christ “learned” obedience experimentally. As we learn the
sweetness or bitterness of food by actually tasting it, so He learned what
submission is by yielding to the Father’s will.
“But, moreover, there was still somewhat peculiar in that obedience
which the Son of God is said to learn from His own sufferings,
namely, what it is for a sinless person to suffer for sinners, ‘the Just
for the unjust.’ The obedience herein was peculiar unto Him, nor
do we know, nor can we have an experience of the ways and paths
of it” (Dr. John Owen).
“By the things which He suffered” announces the means by which He
learned obedience. Everything that Christ suffered, from first to last, during
the days of His flesh, is here included. His entire course was one of
suffering, and He had the experience of obedience in it all. Every scene
through which He passed provided occasion for the exercise of those
graces wherein obedience consists. Meekness and lowliness (

Matthew
11:29), self-denial (

Romans 15:3), patience (

Revelation 1:9), faith
(

Hebrews 2:13), were habitually resident in His holy nature, but they
were only capable of exercise by reason of His suffering. As His suffering
increased, so His obedience grew in extent and intensity, by the very
pressure brought to bear upon it; the hotter the conflict grew, the more His
inward submission was manifested outwardly (compare

Isaiah 50:6, 7).
There was not only sufferings passively endured, but obedience in
suffering, and that the most amazing and unparalleled.
To sum up now the important teachings of this wonderful verse: He who
personally was high above all obedience, stooped so low as to enter the
place of obedience. In that place He learned, by His sufferings, the actual
experience of obedience — He obeyed. Hereby we learn what was required
to the right discharge of Surety-ship: there must needs be both an active
and a passive obedience vicariously rendered. The opening word “though”.289
intimates that the high dignity of His person did not exempt Him from the
humiliation which our salvation involved. The word “yet” is a note of
exclamation, to deepen our sense of wonderment at His infinite
condescension on our behalf, for in His place of servitude He never ceased
to be the Lord of glory.
“He was no less God when He died, than when He was ‘declared to
be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead,’

Romans 1:4’ (Dr. John Owen).
And what are the practical lessons here pointed for us?
First, our Redeemer has left us an example that we should follow His
steps. He has shown us how to wear our creature nature: complete and
unquestioning subjection to God is that which is required of us.
Second, Christ has hereby taught us the extent to which God ought to be
submitted unto: He was “obedient unto death.”
Third, obedience to God cost something: “Yea, and all that will live godly
in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (

2 Timothy 3:12).
Fourth, sufferings undergone according to the will of God are highly
instructive. Christ Himself learned by the things which He suffered; much
more may we do so, who have so much more to learn (

Hebrews 12:10,
11).
Fifth, God’s love for us does not exempt from suffering. Though the Son
of His love, Christ was not spared great sorrows and trials: sufficient for
the disciple to be as his Master.
“And being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal
salvation unto all them that obey Him” (verse 9).
“The apostle having declared the sufferings of Christ as our High
Priest, in His offering of Himself, with the necessity thereof,
proceeds now to declare both what was effected thereby, and what
was the especial design of God therein. And this in general was
that, the Lord Christ, considering our lost condition, might be every
way fitted to be a ‘perfect cause of eternal salvation unto all that
obey Him,’ There are, therefore, two things in the words, both
which God aimed at and accomplished in the sufferings of Christ. 1.
On His own part, that He might be ‘made perfect;’ not absolutely,.290
but with respect unto the administration of His office in the behalf
of sinners. 2. With respect unto believers, that He might be unto
them the ‘Author of eternal salvation’” (Dr. John Owen).
This is a good epitome of the teaching of the 9th verse, but a number of
things in it call for fuller elucidation.
“And being made perfect.” The word, “perfect” is one which is found
frequently in this Epistle. It signifies “to consummate” or “complete.” It
also means “to dedicate” or “fully consecrate.” Our present passage
contains its second occurrence, the first being in

Hebrews 2:10, to
which we must refer the reader. There the verb is used actively with
respect to the Father: it became Him to “make perfect” the Captain of our
salvation. Here it is used passively, telling of the effect of that act of God
on the person of Christ; by His suffering He was “perfected.” It has
reference to the setting apart of Christ as Priest.
“The legal high priests were consecrated by the sufferings and
deaths of the beasts which were offered in sacrifice at their
consecration (Exodus 29). But it belonged unto the perfection of
the priesthood of Christ to be consecrated in and by His own
sufferings” (Dr. John Owen).
It is most important to note that the reference here is to what took place in
“the days of His flesh,” not at His resurrection or ascension — verses 7-9
form one complete statement. The Greek is even more emphatic than the
A.V.: “And having been perfected became to those that obey Him all, the
Author of salvation eternal.” It was not in heaven that He was
“perfected,” but before He “became the Author of salvation” — cf.

Hebrews 10:14, which affirms our oneness with Him in His approved
obedience and accomplished sacrifice.
“And being made perfect” does not contemplate any change wrought in
His person, but speaks of His being fully qualified to officiate as Priest, to
present Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. His
official “perfecting” was accomplished in and by means of His sufferings.
By His offering up of Himself He was consecrated to the priestly office,
and by the active presentation of His sacrifice to God He discharged the
essential function thereof. Thus, the inspired declaration we are now
considering furnishes another flat contradiction (cf.

Hebrews 2:17) of
those who affirm that Christ was not constituted and consecrated High.291
Priest till His resurrection. True, there were other acts and duties
pertaining to His sacerdotal office yet to be performed, but these depend
for their efficacy on His previous sufferings; those He was now made meet
for. The “being made perfect” or “consecrated” to the priestly office at the
Cross, finds a parallel in our Lord’s own words, “For their sakes I sanctify
(dedicate) Myself” (

John 17:19). “Here is the ultimate end why it was
necessary for Christ to suffer: that He might thus become initiated into His
priesthood” (John Calvin).
“He became the Author of eternal salvation.”
“Having thus been made perfect through such intense, obediental,
pious suffering — having thus obtained all the merit, all the power
and authority, all the sympathy, which are necessary to the
discharge of the high priestly functions of Savior, ‘He is become the
Author of eternal salvation.’ This is the second statement which the
apostle makes in illustration of the principle, that our Lord has
proved Himself qualified for the office to which He has been
divinely appointed by a successful discharge of its functions, the
subsidiary clause, ‘being made perfect,’ connects this second
statement with the first; showing how our Lord’s ‘learning
obedience by the things which He suffered in the days of His flesh’
— His humbled state led to His being now, in His exalted state,
‘the Author of salvation to all who obey Him’…. ‘Being made
perfect’ is just equivalent to ‘having thus obtained’ every necessary
qualification for actually saving them” (Dr. J. Brown).
The “Author of salvation” conveys a slightly different thought than the
“Captain of salvation” in

Hebrews 2:10. There it is Christ actually
conducting many sons, by the powerful administration of His Word and
Spirit, unto glory. Here it is the work of Christ as the meritorious and
efficient Cause of their salvation. It was the perfect satisfaction which He
rendered to God, the propitiatory sacrifice of Himself, which has secured
the eternal deliverance of His people from the penal consequences of their
sins. By His expiation He became the purchaser and procurer of our
redemption. His intercession and His gift of the Spirit are the effects and
fruits of His perfect oblation.
“He has done everything that is necessary to make the salvation of
His people consistent with, and illustrative of, the perfections of the
Divine character and the principles of the Divine government; and.292
He actually does save His people from guilt, depravity and misery
— He actually makes them really holy and happy hereafter” (Dr. J.
Brown).
The salvation which Christ has procured and now secures unto all His
people, is here said to be an “eternal” one.
First of all, none other was suited unto us. By virtue of the nature which
we have received from God, we are made for eternal duration. But by sin
we made ourselves obnoxious to eternal damnation, being by nature “the
children of wrath, even as others” (

Ephesians 2:3). Therefore an eternal
salvation was our deep and dire need.
Second, the merits of our Savior being infinite, required from the hand of
Justice a corresponding salvation, one infinite in value and in duration: cf.

Hebrews 9:12.
Third, the salvation procured by our great High Priest is here contrasted
with that obtained by the Levitical high priest: the atonement which Aaron
made, held good for one year only (Leviticus 16); but that which Christ has
accomplished, is of eternal validity.
“To all them that obey Him” describes those who are the
beneficiaries of our High Priest’s atonement. “The expression is
emphatical. To all and every one of them that obey Him; not any
one of them shall be exempted from a share and interest in this
salvation; nor shall any one of any other sort be admitted
thereunto” (Dr. John Owen).
It is not all men universally, but those only who bow to His scepter. The
recipients of His great salvation are here spoken of according to the terms
of human accountability. All who hear the Gospel are commanded to
believe (

1 John 3:23); such is their responsibility. The “obedience” of
this verse is an evangelical, not a legal one: it is the “obedience of faith”
(

Romans 16:26). So also in

Acts 5:32 we read of the Holy Spirit
“whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” But this “obedience” is
not to be restricted to the initial act, but takes in the whole life of faith. A
Christian, in contradistinction from a non-Christian, is one who obeys
Christ (

John 14:23). The “all them that obey Him” of

Hebrews 5:9 is
in opposition to “yet learned He obedience” in the previous verse: it
identifies the members with their Head!.293
Before taking up the next verse, let us seek to point out how that the
passage which has been before us, not only shows Christ provided the
substance of what was foreshadowed by the Levitical priests, but also how
that He excelled them at every point, thus demonstrating the immeasurable
superiority of Christ over Aaron.
First, Aaron was but a man (verse 1); Christ, the “Son.”
Second, Aaron offered “sacrifices” (verse 1); Christ offered one perfect
sacrifice, once for all.
Third, Aaron was “compassed with infirmity” (verse 2); Christ was the
“mighty” One (

Psalm 89:19).
Fourth, Aaron needed to offer for his own sins (verse 3); Christ was
sinless.
Fifth, Aaron offered a sacrifice external to himself; Christ offered
Himself.
Sixth, Aaron effected only a temporary salvation. Christ secured an
eternal one.
Seventh, Aaron’s atonement was for Israel only; Christ’s for “all them
that obey Him.”
“Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (verse 10).
This verse forms the transition between the first division of Hebrews 5, and
its second which extends to the end of chapter 7 — the second being
interrupted by a lengthy parenthesis. In the first section treating of our
Lord’s priesthood, the apostle has amplified his statement in

Hebrews
2:17, 18, and has furnished proof that Christ fulfilled the Aaronic type. In
the second section wherein he treats of our Lord’s sacerdotal office, he
amplifies his declaration in

Hebrews 4:15, and shows that in Christ we
have not only an High Priest, but “a great High Priest.” The different
aspects of his theme treated of in these two divisions of Hebrews 5 is
intimated by the variation to be noted in verses 6,10. In the former he says,
“Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” but in verse 10
he adds, “Called of God an High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Greek word for “called” in verse 10 is entirely different from the one
used in verse 4, “called of God.” The former signifies to ordain or appoint;
the latter to salute or greet. To the right understanding of the purport of.294
verse 10, it is essential to observe carefully the exact point at which this
statement is introduced: it is not till after the declarations that Christ had
“offered up” (verse 7), had “learned obedience” (verse 7), had been “made
perfect,” and had become “the Author of salvation” (verse 9), we are told
that God saluted Christ as “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
What is found in verse 6 does not in any wise weaken the force of this, still
less does it clash with it. In verses 5, 6 the Spirit is not treating of the order
of Christ’s priesthood, but is furnishing proof that He had been called to
that office by God Himself.
We do not propose to offer an exposition of the contents of this 10th verse
on the present occasion, but content ourselves with directing attention to
the important fact that it was consequent upon His being officially “made
perfect” and becoming “the Author of eternal salvation,” that Christ was
saluted by God as “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.” This act of
God’s followed the Savior’s death and resurrection. It was God’s greeting
of the glorious Conqueror of sin and death. Hence the propriety of His new
title. If the reader refers to Genesis 14 he will find that the historical
Melchizedek first comes on the scene to greet Abraham after his notable
conquest of Chedorlaomer and his allies. It was upon his “return from the
slaughter” of the kings, that Melchizedek appeared and blessed him. Thus
he owned Abraham’s triumph. In like manner, God has greeted the mighty
Victor. May the Spirit of God fit our hearts and minds for a profounder
insight of His living oracles..295
CHAPTER 22
CHRIST SUPERIOR TO AARON.
(

HEBREWS 5:11-14)
At the close of our last article we pointed out that the 10th verse of
Hebrews 5 forms the juncture of the two divisions of that chapter. In the
first section, verses 1-9, the apostle has shown how Christ fulfilled that
which was typified of Him by the Levitical high priests, and also how that
He excels Aaron in His person, His office, and His work. The second
section, which begins at verse 10 and extends, really, to the end of chapter
10, continues to display the superiority of Christ over Aaron, principally by
showing that the Lord Jesus exercises a priesthood pertaining to a more
excellent order than his. In substantiation of this the apostle, in verse 10,
makes reference to

Psalm 110:4. His purpose in so doing was twofold:
first, to allow that Christ was not a high priest according to the
constitution, law, and order of the Aaronic priesthood; second, to remind
the Hebrews there was a priesthood antecedent unto and diverse from that
of Aaron; which had also been appointed of God, and that for the very
purpose of prefiguring the person of our great High Priest.
But at this point a difficulty has been presented to many students. We
might state it thus: Seeing that this Epistle expressly declares, again and
again, that Christ is priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” how can it be
true that Aaron, who belonged to a totally different order, could pre-figure
His priestly office and work? This difficulty has largely resulted from
failure to observe that the Holy Spirit has not said Christ is “an high priest
of the order of Melchizedek,” but, “alter the order of,” etc. The difference
between the two expressions is real and radical. The word “of” would have
necessarily limited His priesthood to a certain order. For when we say, as
we must, that Phineas and Eli were “high priests of the order of Aaron,”
we mean that they had the very same priesthood that Aaron had. But it is
not so with Christ. His priesthood is not restricted to any human order, for
no mere man could possibly sustain or perform the work which pertains to
Christ’s priesthood..296
As we have pointed out on previous occasions, it is of the very greatest
importance, in order to a clear understanding of the priesthood of God’s
Son, to perceive that both Aaron and Melchizedek were needed to
foreshadow His sacerdotal office. The reason for this was, that the priestly
work of Christ would be performed in two distinct stages: one in the days
of His humiliation, the other during the time of His exaltation. Aaron
prefigured the former, Melchizedek the latter. In perfect keeping with this
fact Christ is not said to be a high priest “after the order of Melchizedek”
in

Hebrews 2:17; 3:1, or 4:15. It was not until after the apostle has
shown in

Hebrews 5:5-9 that Christ fulfilled that which Aaron typified
(

Hebrews 5:1-4), that He is “saluted of God” as an high priest after the
order of Melchizedek. And, we would here point out again that, this was
wondrously and blessedly adumbrated in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek is
seen coming to meet and greet the victorious Abraham.
There were various things, peculiar to the person of Melchizedek, above
and beyond what appertained to Aaron, which rendered him an illustrious
type of our great High Priest; and when Christ is designated Priest “after
the order of Melchizedek,” the meaning of that expression is, according to
the things revealed in Scripture concerning that Old Testament character.
“Because of the especial resemblance there was between what Melchizedek
was and what Christ was to be, God called His priesthood
Melchizedekecian” (Dr. Owen). “After the order of Melchizedek” does not
mean a limitation of His priesthood to that order — else it had said “of the
order of Melchizedek” — but points to the particulars in which his
priesthood also prefigured that of Christ’s. The various details of which
that resemblance consisted are developed in Hebrews 7; all that we would
now call attention to is, that nowhere in Scripture is Melchizedek ever seen
offering a sacrifice, instead, we read, he “brought forth bread and wine”
(

Genesis 14:18) — typically, the memorials of the great Sacrifice
already offered, once for all.
It was in death that Christ fulfilled the Aaronic type, making a full and
perfect atonement for the sins of His people. It is in resurrection that He
assumed the character in which Melchizedek foreshadowed Him — a royal
Priest. It was after He had been officially “perfected” and had become “the
Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” that the Lord
Jesus announced, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”
(

Matthew 28:18). There was first the Cross and then the Crown: first
He “offered up Himself” (

Hebrews 7:27), then He entered “into heaven.297
itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (

Hebrews 9:24);
and there He is seated “a Priest upon His throne” (

Zechariah 6:13).
“Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (verse 10). A
most important point had now been reached in the apostle’s argument, the
central design of which was to exhibit the immeasurable superiority of
Christianity over Judaism. The very center of the Jewish economy was its
temple and priesthood; so too, the outstanding glory of Christianity, is its
Priest who ministers in the heavenly sanctuary, officiating there in
fulfillment of the Melchizedek type. But though the apostle had now
arrived at the most important point in this treatise, it was also one which
required the most delicate handling, due to the fleshly prejudices of his
readers. To declare that, following His exodus from the grave, God
Himself had greeted Christ as priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” was
tantamount to saying that the Aaronic order was thus Divinely set aside,
and with it, all the ordinances and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. This was
the hardest thing of all for a Hebrew, even a converted one, to bow to; for
it meant repudiating everything that was seen, and cleaving to that which
was altogether invisible. It meant forsaking that which their fathers had
honored for fifteen hundred years, and following that which the great
majority of their brethren according to the flesh denounced as Satanic. In
view of the difficulty created by this prejudice, the apostle interrupts the
flow of his argument, and pauses to make a lengthy parenthesis.
“The apostle has scarcely entered on the central and most important
part of his epistle, when he feels painfully the difficulty of
explaining the doctrine of the heavenly and eternal priesthood of
the Son, and this not merely on account of the grandeur and depth
of the subject, but on account of the spiritual condition of the
Hebrews, whom he is addressing. He had presented to their view
the Lord Jesus, who after His sufferings was made perfect in His
exaltation to be the High Priest in heaven. When he quotes again
the 110th Psalm, ‘Thou art a priest, forever after the order of
Melchizedek,’ the solemn and comprehensive words which are
addressed by the Father to the Son, he has such a vivid and
profound sense of the exceeding riches of this heavenly knowledge,
of the treasures of wisdom and consolation which are hidden in the
heavenly Priesthood of our ascended Lord, that he longs to unfold
to the Hebrews his knowledge of the glorious mystery; especially as
this was the truth which they most urgently needed. Here and here.298
alone could they see their true position as worshippers in the true
tabernacle, the heavenly sanctuary. Here and here alone was
consolation for them in the trial which they felt on account of their
excision from the temple and the earthly service in Jerusalem; while
from the knowledge of Christ’s heavenly priesthood they would
also derive light to avoid the insidious errors, and strength to
overcome the difficulties which were besetting their path” (Adolph
Saphir).
In the course of his parenthesis which we are now about to begin, the
apostle strikes two distinct notes: first he sounds a solemn warning, and
then he gives forth a gracious encouragement. The warning is found in

Hebrews 5:11–6:8, the encouragement is contained in 6:9-20. Just so
long as Christians have the flesh in them and are subject to the assaults of
the Devil, do they need constant warning; and just so long as they are
harassed by indwelling sin and are left in an hostile world, do they stand in
need of heavenly encouragement. All effective ministry to the saints
proceeds along these two lines, alternating from the one to the other.
Preachers will do well to make a careful note of this fact, fully exemplified
in all the Epistles of the apostles; and every Christian reader will do well to
take to heart the solemn and searching passage we are now to take up.
“Of whom we have many things to say” (verse 11). “Of whom:”
concerning Christ as the fulfiller of the Melchizedek type, the apostle had
much in mind, much that he desired to bring before his brethren. There
were many things pertaining to this order of priesthood which were of deep
importance, of great value, and most necessary to know; things which
concerned the glory of Christ, things which concerned the joy and
consolation of His people. But these things were “hard to be uttered,” or as
the Revised Version has, “hard of interpretation.’ This does not mean that
the apostle himself found it difficult to grasp them; nor does it mean they
were of such a nature that he labored to find language for expressing
himself clearly. No, it was because the things themselves were unpalatable
to the Hebrews, that the spirit of the apostle was straitened. This is seen
from the next clause.
“And hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing” (verse 11).
“To be ‘dull of hearing’ is descriptive of that state of mind in which
statements may be made without producing any corresponding
impression, without being attended to, without being understood,.299
without being felt. In a word, it is descriptive of mental listlessness.
To a person in this state, it is very difficult to explain anything; for,
nothing, however simple in itself, can be understood if it be not
attended to” (Dr. J. Brown).
The Revised Version is again preferable here; “ye are become dull of
hearing.” They were not always so. Time was when these Hebrews had
listened to the Word with eagerness, and had made diligent application
thereof.
“When the Gospel was first preached to them, it aroused their
attention, it exercised their thoughts; but now with many of them it
had become a common thing. They flattered themselves that they
knew all about it. It had become to them like a sound to which the
ear had been long accustomed — the person is not conscious of it,
pays no attention to it” (Dr. J. Brown).
The Greek word for “dull” is translated “slothful” in

Hebrews 6:12. It
signifies a state of heaviness or inertia. These Hebrews had become
mentally and spiritually what loafers are in the natural world — too
indolent to bestir themselves, too lazy to make any effort at improvement.
They were spiritual sluggards; slothful. Let the reader turn to

Proverbs
12:27, 19:24, 21:25, 24:30-34, 26:13-16, and remember these passages all
have a spiritual application. To become, “dull of hearing” or “slothful,” is
the reverse of “giving diligence” in

2 Peter 1:5, 10. In such a condition
of soul, the apostle found it difficult to lead the Hebrews on to the
apprehension of higher truth. He had many things to say unto them, but
their coldness, lethargy, prejudice, restrained him. And this is recorded for
our learning; it has a voice for us; may the Spirit grant us a hearing ear.
“Ye are become dull of hearing.” Of how many Christians is this true
today! “Ye did run well; who did hinder you?” (

Galatians 5:7). This is a
cause of mourning unto all the true servants of God. Because iniquity
abounds, the love of many waxes cold. Affections are set upon things
below, rather than upon things above. Many who are deluded into thinking
their eternal salvation is secure, evidence no concern over their present
relationship to God. And Christians who mingle with these lifeless
professors are injuriously affected, for “evil communications corrupt good
manners” (

1 Corinthians 15:33). There is little “reaching forth unto
those things which are before” (

Philippians 3:13) and, consequently,.300
little growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. By the very law of
our constitution, if we do not move forward, we slip backward.
There are few who seem to realize that truth has to be “bought”
(

Proverbs 23:23), purchased at the cost of subordinating temporal
interests to spiritual ones. If the Christian is to “increase in the knowledge
of God” (

Colossians 1:10), he has to give himself whole-heartedly to
the things of God. It is impossible to serve God and mammon. If the heart
of the professing Christian be set, as the heart of the nominal professor is,
upon earthly comforts, worldly prosperity, temporal riches, then the “true
riches” will be missed — sold for “a mess of pottage” (

Hebrews 12:16).
But if, by Divine grace, through the possession of a new nature, there is a
longing and a hungering for spiritual things, that longing can only be
attained and that hunger satisfied by giving ourselves entirely to their
ceaseless quest. “The loins of our minds” (

1 Peter 1:13) have to be
girded, the Word has to be “studied” (

2 Timothy 2:15), the means of
grace have to be used with “all diligence” (

2 Peter 1:5). It is the diligent
soul which “shall be made fat” (

Proverbs 13:4).
How many who sit under the ministry of a true servant of God are “dull of
hearing!” There is little waiting upon God, little real exercise of heart,
before the service, to prepare them for receiving His message. Instead, the
average hearer comes up to the house of God with a mind full of worldly
concerns. We have to “lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of
naughtiness” if we are to “receive with meekness the engrafted Word”
(

James 1:21). We have to listen unto God’s Word with a right motive;
not out of idle curiosity, not merely to fulfill a duty, still less for the
purpose of criticizing; but that we “may grow thereby” (

1 Peter 2:2) —
grow in practical godliness. And, if what we have heard is not to be
forgotten, if it is really to profit the soul, it must be meditated upon
(

Psalm 1:2), and accompanied with earnest prayer for grace to enable
us to “heed” what has been heard.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that
one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of
God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong
meat” (verse 12).
The opening “for” intimates that the apostle is here substantiating the
charge which he had preferred against the believing Hebrews at the close
of the preceding verse. His reproof was with the object of emphasizing the.301
sad state into which their inertia had brought them. Their condition was to
be deplored from three considerations.
First, they had been converted long enough to be of help to others.
Second, instead of being useful, they were useless, needing to be
grounded afresh in the ABC’s of the Truth of God.
Third, so far from having the capacity to masticate strong food, their
condition called for that which was suited only to a stunted babyhood.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers.” This, it seems to us, is
only another way of saying, Consider how long you have been Christians,
how long you have known the Truth, and what improvement of it ought to
have been made! It was a rebuke for their having failed to “redeem the
time” (

Ephesians 5:16). Most probably among these Hebrews were
some who had been called during the days of Christ’s public ministry,
others no doubt were among the three thousand saved on the day of
Pentecost, since which, about thirty years had passed. During that time
they had the Old Testament Scriptures which clearly testified to all they
had been taught concerning Christ. The Gospel had been preached and
“confirmed” unto them (

Hebrews 2:1-3). Moreover, as the book of
Acts shows, the apostles had labored hard and long among them, and much
of the New Testament was now in their hands. Hence, in

Hebrews 6:7
they are likened to the earth which drinketh in the rain that “cometh oft
upon it.” Thus, every privilege and opportunity had been theirs.
“Ye ought to be teachers.” This tells us the improvement which should
have been made of, and the use to which they ought to have put, the
teaching they had received. The Gospel is given by God to the Christian,
not only for his own individual edification and joy, but as a “pound” to be
traded with for Christ’s glory (

Luke 19:13), as a “light” for the
illumination of others (

Matthew 5:15, 16). “You ought to be teachers”
shows that this was a duty required of them. How little is this perceived by
Christians today! How few listen to the ministry of the Scriptures with an
ear not only for their own soul’s profit, but also with the object of being
equipped to help others. Instead, how many attend the preaching of the
Word simply as a matter of custom, or to satisfy their conscience. Two
aims should be prayerfully sought by every Christian auditor: his own
edification, his usefulness to others..302
“Ye ought to be teachers.” Let not the searching point of this be blunted
by saying, God does not want all His people to be public preachers. The
New Testament does not limit “teaching” to the pulpit. One of the most
important spheres is the home, and that should be a Christian seminary.
Under the law God commanded the Israelite to give His words to the
members of his household:
“And Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt
talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou
walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou
risest up” (

Deuteronomy 6:7).
Does God require less from us now, in this dispensation of full light? No,
indeed. Note, again, how in

Titus 2:3-5, the older sisters are bidden to
“teach the young women:” never was there a greater need for this than
now. So in

2 Timothy 2:2, the brethren are to “teach others also.” Yes,
every Christian “ought to be” a teacher.
“Ye have need that one teach you again.” The apostle continues his reproof
of the listless Hebrews, and presses upon them the inevitable consequence
of becoming “dull of hearing.” Spiritual sloth not only prevents practical
progress in the Christian’s life, but it produces retrogression. It was not
that they had lost, absolutely, their knowledge of Divine truth, but they had
failed to lay it to heart, and live in the power of it. In 2 Peter 1, Christians
are called on to add to their faith “virtue, and to virtue, knowledge; and to
knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience,
godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness,
love;” and then the apostle adds, “For if these things be in you, and
abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
On the other hand, we are solemnly warned, “But he that lacketh these
things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was
purged from his old sins.” This was the condition of the Hebrews.
“Which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” Because of their
unresponsiveness of heart, they had gone back so far that they were only fit
to be placed in the lowest form of learners; they needed to be re-taught
their ABC’s. Clear proof was this of their dullness and lack of proficiency.
The “first principles of the oracles of God” signify the rudiments of our
faith, the first lessons presented to our learning, the elementary truths of.303
Scripture. Until these are grasped by faith, and the heart and life are
influenced by them, the disciple is not ready for further instructions in the
things of God. In the case of the Hebrews, those “first principles” or
elementary doctrines were, that the Old Testament economy was strictly a
typical one, that its ordinances and ceremonies foreshadowed the person
and work of God’s Son, who was to come here and make an atonement for
the sins of His people. He had thus come: the types had given place to the
great Antitype, and therefore the shadows were replaced by the Substance
itself. True, he had left this scene, gone into heaven, itself, there to appear
in the presence of God for His people. Thither their faith and affections
should have followed Him. But instead, they wanted to go back again to
the temple-services in Jerusalem. They were setting their hearts upon the
now effete types and figures, which the apostle hesitated not to call “the
weak and beggarly elements” (

Galatians 4:9).
Instead of walking by faith, the Hebrews were influenced by the things of
sight. Instead of looking forward to an ascended and glorified Savior, they
were occupied with a system which had foreshadowed His work in the
days of His humiliation. Thus they needed to be taught afresh the “first
principles of the oracles of God.” They needed to be reminded that that
which is perfect had come, and therefore that which was in part had been
done away. And what is the present-day application of this expression to
Christians? This: the elementals of our faith are, that Christ Jesus came into
this world to save sinners; that His salvation is perfect and complete,
leaving nothing for us to add to it; that the only fitness He requires from
sinners is the Spirit’s discovery to them of their need of Him. The greater
the sinner I know myself to be, the greater my need of Christ, and the more
I am suited to Him, for He died for “the ungodly” (

Romans 5:6). It was
the realization of my ruin and wretchedness which first drew me to Him. If
I cast myself, in all my want and poverty, upon Him, then He has received
me, for His declaration is, “him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast
out.” Believing this, I go on my way rejoicing, thanking Him, praising Him,
living on Him and for Him.
But instead of living in the joyous assurance of their acceptance in the
Beloved, many give way to doubting. They question their “interest in
Christ;” they wonder, “Am I His, or am I not?” They are continually
occupied with self, either their good self or their bad self. And thus their
peace is at an end. Instead of affections set upon Christ, their attention is
turned within, occupied with their faith or their lack of it. Instead of.304
walking in the glorious sunshine of the conscious favor of God, they dwell
in “Doubting Castle,” or flounder in the “Slough of Despond.” Thus,
instead of themselves being teachers of others, they have need that one
teach them again “which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” They
are fit only for the kindergarten. They require to be told once more that
faith looks away from self, and is occupied entirely with Another. They
need to be told that Christ, not faith, is the sinner’s Savior; that faith is
simply the empty hand extended to receive from Him.
This clause is susceptible of various legitimate applications. Let us consider
its bearing upon another class of Christians, among which may be numbers
of our readers. Time was when, in the “far country,” you sought to be
filled with the husks which the swine fed on (Luke 15). But you found your
quest was in vain. To change the figure, you sampled one after another of
the world’s cisterns, only to find that “whosoever drinketh of this water
shall thirst again” (

John 4:13). You discovered that the things of the
world could not meet your deep need. Then, weary and heavy-laden, you
were brought to Christ, and found in Him that “altogether lovely” One. O
the joy that was now yours! “Thou O Christ art all I want,” was your
confession. But is this the language of your heart today? Alas, “thou hast
left thy first love” (

Revelation 2:4), and with it, peace and contentment
are also largely a thing of the past. Like a sow that returns to her
wallowing in the mire, many go back to the world for recreation, then for
satisfaction. Ah, have not you, my reader, need to be taught again “which
be the first principles of the oracles of God?” Do you not need reminding
that nothing in this scene can minister to the new nature, a nature which
has been created for heaven? Do you not need to relearn that Christ alone
can satisfy your heart?
The “oracles of God” is one of many names given to the Holy Scriptures.
Stephen called them the “living oracles” (

Acts 7:38).
“They are so in respect of their Author, — they are the oracles of
‘the living God;’ whereas the oracles with which Satan infatuated
the world were most of them at the shrines and graves of dead men.
They are so in respect of their use and efficacy: they are ‘living’
because life-giving oracles unto them that obey them
(

Deuteronomy 32:47). Because they are ‘the oracles of God,’
they have supreme authority over the souls and consciences of us
all. Therefore are they also infallible truth” (Dr. John Owen)..305
“And are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Here
the apostle continues to rebuke the Hebrews for their laxity, and sets
before them their deteriorated condition under a figure designed to humble
them: he likens them to infants. The same similitude is used in

1
Corinthians 3:1,2. “Milk” here signifies the same thing as the “first
principles of the oracles of God.” The “strong meat” had reference to the
offices of Christ, especially His priesthood, as suited to our needs and
affections. “Milk” is appropriate for babes, but Christians ought to grow
and become strong in the Lord. They are exhorted to “be not children in
understanding” (

1 Corinthians 14:20). They are bidden to “quit ye like
men” (

1 Corinthians 15:13).
“For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of
righteousness: for he is a babe” (verse 13).
“Useth milk” means, lives on nothing else. By the “word of righteousness”
is meant the Gospel of God’s grace. In

1 Corinthians 1:18 it is termed
“the Word of the Cross,” because that is its principal subject. In

Romans 10:8 it is designated “the Word of Faith,” because that is its
chief requirement from all who hear it. Here, the Word of Righteousness,
because of its nature, use and end. In the Gospel is “the righteousness of
God revealed” (

Romans 1:16, 17), for Christ is “the end of the law for
righteousness unto every one that believeth” (

Romans 10:4). Now the
Hebrews are not here said to be ignorant of or utterly without the Word of
Righteousness, but “unskillful” or “inexperienced” in the use of it. They
had failed to improve it to its proper end. Did they clearly apprehend the
Gospel, they had perceived the needlessness for the perpetuation of the
Levitical priesthood with its sacrifices.
The one unskilled in the Word of Righteousness is a “babe.” This term is
here used by way of reproach. A “babe” is weak, ignorant. A spiritual
“babe” is one who has an inadequate knowledge of Christ, i.e. an
experimental knowledge and heart-acquaintance with Him. Let the reader
note that a state of infancy was what characterized God’s people of old
under Judaism (

Galatians 4:1-6). They were looking forward to the
Christ that was to come, and whose person and work was represented to
their eyes by typical pictures and persons. Such was the ground to which
these Hebrews had well-nigh slipped back. Earthly things were engrossing
their attention. So it is still. A person may have been a Christian twenty or
thirty years, but if he is not forgetting the things which are behind, and.306
constantly pressing to the things before, he is, in actual experience and
spiritual stature, but “a babe.”
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, those who
by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good
and evil” (verse 14).
Here the apostle completes the antithesis begun in the preceding verse, and
describes the character of those to whom strong meat is suited. By
necessary implication his statement explains to us why the Hebrews had
become “dull of hearing.” There is much here of deep practical importance.
“Strong meat” is contrasted from “milk” or the “first principles” of God’s
Word, which we have defined above. This “strong meat” is the appropriate
portion of those who have left infancy behind, who have so assimilated the
“milk” of babyhood they have “grown thereby,” grown in faith and love.
This growth is produced and promoted by using our spiritual “senses” or
faculties. Infants have “senses,” but they know not how to exercise them to
advantage. The proper use of our spiritual faculties enables us to
distinguish between “good and evil”. It was here the Hebrews had failed so
lamentably.
“A child is easily imposed upon as to its food. Its nurse may easily
induce it to swallow even palatable poison. But a man, ‘by reason
of use,’ has learned so to employ his senses as to distinguish
between what is deleterious and what is nourishing”
(Dr. J. Brown).
The same holds good in the spiritual realm. There is in the new man that
which corresponds to our “five senses” naturally, namely, understanding,
conscience, affections. But these have to be trained and developed. It is
only by the constant and assiduous exercise of minds upon spiritual things,
by the diligent study of the Word, by daily meditation thereon, by the
exercise of faith therein, by earnestly supplicating the Spirit for light, that
we acquire the all-important discernment to distinguish between good and
evil, Truth and error. “Senses exercised” means ability or fitness acquired,
as a disciplined soldier is equipped for his duty, or a trained athlete is for
his work. Such capacity is only attained by the Christian through a constant
and sedulous application of himself to the things of God. “By reason of
use” refers not to spasmodic effort, but to a regular practice, a confirmed
habit. The outcome is a spiritual ability to judge rightly of all that is
presented to his notice..307
It was here the Hebrews had failed, as, alas, so many Christians do now.
“Their senses had not been exercised; that is, they had not walked
closely with God, they had not followed the Master, listening
earnestly to His voice, and proving what is that good, and
acceptable, and perfect will of God. They had not conscientiously
applied the knowledge which they had, but allowed it to remain
dead and unused. If they had really and truly partaken of the milk,
they would not have remained babes” (Adolph Saphir).
Because of their slothfulness, they were unable to distinguish between
“good and evil,” i.e., between Truth and error, the promptings of the Spirit
and the solicitations of Satan, the desires of the new nature and the lustings
of the old. They were like babes are in the natural world, unable to
discriminate between what is wholesome and what is hurtful; therefore
were they unable to see the difference between what was right under the
Judaic economy, and what was now suited to Christianity.
“Senses trained to discern both good and evil” has reference to what is set
before a believer as food for his soul. The “good” is that which is nutritious
and suited to his nourishment, “evil” is that which tends not to his
edification, but to his destruction. Scripture itself is “evil” when wrongly
divided and misapplied. This is seen in Satan’s misuse of Scripture with
Christ (

Matthew 4:6). Truth becomes “evil” when it is not presented in
its due and Divine proportions. The enemies of the Hebrews were
appealing to the Old Testament Scriptures, as Romanists now do to favor
their elaborate form of worship and priesthood. In many other ways is
Satan active today in setting before God’s people both “good and evil,”
and unless their spiritual faculties have been diligently trained, through
much waiting upon God, they fall easy victims to his half-lies.
“If people really loved and cherished what they so fondly called
‘the simple gospel,’ their knowledge and Christian character would
deepen, and all the truths which are centered in Christ crucified
would become the object of their investigation and delight, and
enrich and elevate their experience There are no doctrines more
profound than those which are proclaimed when Christ’s salvation
is declared. All our progress consists in learning more fully the
doctrine which at first is preached unto us” (Adolph Saphir)..308
It is using the light we already have, putting into practice the truth already
received, which fits us for more. Unless this is done, we retrograde, and
the light which is in us becomes darkness. Manna not used breeds worms
(

Exodus 16:20)! Milk undigested — not taken up into our system —
ferments. A backslidden state deprives us of a sound judgment. The secret
of “senses trained to discern good and evil” is revealed in

Hosea 6:3,
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” May His grace
stir us up so to do..309
CHAPTER 23
INFANCY AND MATURITY.
(

HEBREWS 6:1-3)
The interpretation which we shall give of the above verses is not at all in
accord with that advanced by the older writers. It differs considerably from
that found in the commentaries of Drs. Calvin, Owen and Gouge, and more
recently, those of A. Saphir, and Dr. J. Brown. Much as we respect their
works, and deeply as we are indebted to not a little that is helpful in them,
yet we dare not follow them blindly. To “prove all things” (

1
Thessalonians 5:21) is ever our bounden duty. Though it is against our
natural inclination to depart from the exposition they suggested (several,
with some diffidence), yet we are thankful to God that in later years He has
granted some of His servants increased light from His wondrous and
exhaustless Word. May it please Him to vouchsafe us still more.
The writers mentioned above understood the expression “the principles of
the doctrine of Christ,” or as the margin of the Revised Version more
accurately renders “the word of the beginning of Christ,” to refer to the
elementary truths of Christianity, a summary of which is given in the six
items that follow in the second half of verse 1 and the whole of verse 2;
while the “Let us go on unto perfection,” they regarded as a call unto the
deeper and higher things of the Christian revelation. But for reasons which
to us seem conclusive, such a view of our passage is altogether untenable.
It fails to take into account the central theme of this Epistle, and the
purpose for which it was written. It does not do justice at all to the
immediate context. It completely breaks down when tested in its details.
As we have repeated so often in the course of this series of articles, the
theme of our Epistle is the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over
Judaism. Unless the interpreter keeps this steadily in mind as he proceeds
from chapter to chapter, and from passage to passage, he is certain to err.
This is the key which unlocks every section, and if attempt be made to
open up any portion without it, the effect can only be strained and forced.
The importance of this consideration cannot be overestimated, and several.310
striking exemplifications of it have already been before us in our survey of
the previous chapters. Here too it will again stand us in good stead, if we
but use it. The apostle is not contrasting two different stages of
Christianity, an infantile and a mature; rather is he opposing, once more,
the substance over against the shadows. He continues to press upon the
Hebrews their need of forsaking the visible for the invisible, the typical for
the antitypical.
That in taking up our present passage it is also of first importance to study
its connection with the immediate context, is evident from its very first
word, “Therefore.” The apostle is here drawing a conclusion from
something said previously. This takes us back to what is recorded in

Hebrews 5:11-14, for a right understanding of which depends a sound
exposition of what immediately follows. In these verses the apostle rebukes
the Hebrews for their spiritual sloth, and likens them to little children
capacitated to receive nothing but milk. He tells them that they have need
of one teaching them again “which be the first principles of the oracles of
God,” which denoted they had not yet clearly grasped the fact that Judaism
was but a temporary economy, because a typical one, its ordinances and
ceremonies foreshadowing Him who was to come here and make an
atonement for the sins of His people. Now that He had come and finished
His work the types had served their purpose, and the shadows were
replaced by the Substance.
The spiritual condition in which the Hebrew saints were at the time the
Holy Spirit moved the apostle to address this Epistle to them, is another
important key to the opening of its hortatory sections. As we showed in
our last article, the language of

Hebrews 5:11-14 plainly intimates that
they have gone backward. The cause of this is made known in the 10th
chapter, part of which takes us back to a point in time prior to what is
recorded in chapter 5. First in

Hebrews 10:32 we read, “But call to
remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye
endured a great flight of afflictions.” This “great flight of afflictions” they
had, as verse 34 tells us, taken “joyfully.” Very remarkable and rare was
this. How was such an experience to be accounted for? The remainder of
verse 34 tells us, “Knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better
and an enduring substance.”
But this blessed and spiritual state which characterized the Hebrews in the
glow of “first love” had not been maintained. While affections were set.311
upon things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, whilst
faith was in exercise, they realized that their real portion was on High. But
faith has to be tested, patience has to be tried, and unless faith be
maintained “hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (

Proverbs 13:12).
Alas, their faith had wavered, and in consequence they had become
dissatisfied to have nothing down here; they became impatient of waiting
for an unseen and future inheritance. It was for this reason that the apostle
said to them,
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great
recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye
have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise”
(

Hebrews 10:35, 36).
Now it was this discontented and impatient condition of soul into which
they had fallen, which accounts for the state in which we find them in

Hebrews 5:11, 12. So too it explains the various things referred to in
chapter 6. That is why the apostle was moved to set before them the most
solemn warning found in verses 4-6. That is why we find “hope” so
prominent in what follows: see verses 11, 18, 19. That is why reference is
made to “patience” in verse 12. That is why Abraham is referred to, and
why his “patience” is singled out for mention in verse 15. And that is why
in our present passage the Hebrews are urged to “go on unto perfection,”
and why the apostle interposes a doubt in the matter: “This will we do, if
God permit” (verse 3), for there was good reason to believe that their past
conduct had provoked Him. Thus we see again how wondrously and how
perfectly Scripture interprets itself, and how much we need to “compare
spiritual things with spiritual” (

1 Corinthians 2:13).
The sixth chapter of Hebrews does not commence a new section of the
Epistle, but continues the digression into which the apostle had entered at

Hebrews 5:11. In view of the disability of those to whom he was
writing receiving unto their edification the high and glorious mysteries
which he desired to expound, the apostle goes on to set before them
various reasons and arguments to excite a diligent attention thereunto.
First, he declares his intention positively: to “go on unto perfection”
(verse 1).
Second, he names, what he intended to “leave,” namely, “the word of
the beginning of Christ” (verses 1-3)..312
Third, he warns of the certain doom of apostates (verses 4-8).
Fourth, he softens this warning in the case of the converted Hebrews
(verses 9-14).
Fifth, he gives an inspiring encouragement to faith, taken from the life
of Abraham (verses 15-21).
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ” (verse 1). As
already pointed out, the first word of this verse denotes that there is a close
link between what has immediately preceded and what now follows. This
will appear yet more clearly if we attend closely to the exact terms here
used. The word “principles” in this verse is the same as rendered “first” in

Hebrews 5:12. The word “doctrine” is found in its plural form and is
translated “oracles” in

Hebrews 5:12. The word “perfection” is given as
“of full age” in

Hebrews 5:14. Thus it is very evident that the apostle is
here continuing the same subject which he began in the previous chapter.
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ.” The rendering
of the A.V. of this clause is very faulty and misleading. The verb is in the
past tense, not the present. Bagster’s Interlinear correctly gives
“Wherefore having left.” This difference of rendition is an important one,
for it enables us to understand more readily the significance of what
follows. The apostle was stating a positive fact, not pleading for a
possibility. He was not asking the Hebrews to take a certain step, but
reminding them of one they had already taken. They had left the “principles
of the doctrine of Christ,” and to them he did not wish them to return.
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ.” More
accurately, “Wherefore having left the word of the beginning of Christ.”
Bagster’s Interlinear, which gives a literal word for word translation of the
Greek, renders it, “Wherefore, having left the of the beginning of the Christ
discourse.” This expression is parallel with the “first principles of the
oracles of God” in

Hebrews 5:12. It has reference to what God has
made known concerning His Son under Judaism. In the Old Testament two
things are outstandingly prominent in connection with Christ: first,
prophecies of His coming into the world; second, types and figures of the
work He should perform. These predictions had now received their
fulfillment, those shadows had now found their substance, in the
incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Son of God. This,
the “holy brethren” (

Hebrews 3:1) among the Jews had acknowledged..313
Thus they had “left” the ABC’s, for the Word Himself, the pictures for the
Reality.
“Let us go on unto perfection.” There is the definite article in the Greek,
and “The Perfection” is obviously set in apposition to “The word of the
beginning of Christ:” note, not of “the Lord Jesus,” but of “Christ,” i.e.,
the Messiah. It is the contrast, once more, between Judaism and
Christianity. That which is here referred to as “The Perfection” is the full
revelation which God now made of Himself in the person of His incarnate
Son. No longer is He veiled by types and shadows, His glory is seen fully in
the face of Jesus Christ (

2 Corinthians 4:6). The only begotten Son has
“declared” Him here on earth (

John 1:18); but having triumphantly
finished the work which was given Him to do, He has been “received up
into glory” (

1 Timothy 3:16), and upon an exalted and enthroned Christ
the affection of the believer is now to be set (

Colossians 3:1).
“Wherefore having left… let us go on unto perfection.” The first word
looks back to all that the apostle had said. It is a conclusion drawn from
the contents of the whole preceding five chapters. Its force is: In view of
the fact that God has now spoken to us in His Son; in view of who He is,
namely, the appointed Heir of all things, the Maker of the worlds, the
Brightness, of God’s glory, and the very Impress of His substance, the One
who upholds all things by the word of His power; in view of the fact that
He has by Himself “purged our sins,” and, in consequence, has sat down at
the right hand of the Majesty on high, having been made so much better
than angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than
they; in view of the further fact that He was made in all things like unto His
brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things
God-ward, to make propitiation for the sins of the people, and having, in
consequence of His successful prosecution of this stupendous work been
“crowned with glory and honor;” and, seeing that He is immeasurably
superior to Moses, Joshua and Aaron; — let us give Him His due place in
our thoughts, hearts and lives.
“Let us go on unto perfection” has reference to the apprehension of the
Divine revelation of the full glory of Christ in His person, perfections, and
position. It is, from the practical side, a “perfection” of knowledge,
spiritually imparted by the Holy Spirit to the understanding and heart. It
refers to the mysteries and sublime doctrine of the Gospel. It is a perfection
of knowledge in revealed truth. Yet, of course, it is only a relative.314
“perfection,” for an absolute apprehension of the things of God is not
attainable in this life. Now “we know in part” (

1 Corinthians 13:9).
“If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing
yet as he ought to know” (

1 Corinthians 8:2).
Even the apostle Paul had to say,
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one
thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching
forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark
for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”
(

Philippians 3:13, 14).
“Let us go on unto perfection.” Students are not agreed as to the precise
force of the plural pronoun here. Some consider it to be the apostle linking
on the Hebrews to himself in the task immediately before him; others
regard the “us” as the apostle graciously joining himself with them in their
duty. Personally, we think that both these ideas are to be combined. First,
“let us go on:” it was his resolution so to do, as the remaining chapters of
the Epistle demonstrate; then let them follow him. Thus considered it
shows that the apostle did not look upon the condition of the Hebrews as
quite hopeless, notwithstanding their “dullness” (

Hebrews 5:11) — I
shall therefore go on to set before you the highest and most glorious things
concerning Christ. Second, the apostle condescends to unite himself with
them in their responsibility to press forward. “Wherefore:” in view of the
length of time we have been Christians, let us be diligent to grow in grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was, thus, a call to stir
them up.
“Let us go on” is passive, “be carried on.” It is a word taken from the
progress which a ship makes before the wind when under sail. Let us,
under the full bent of our will and affections be stirred by the utmost
endeavors of our whole souls, be borne onwards. We have abode long
enough near the shore, let us hoist our sails, pray to the Spirit for His
mighty power to work within us, and launch forth into the deep. This is the
duty of God’s servants, to excite their Christian hearers to make progress
in the knowledge of Divine truth, to urge them to pass the porch and enter
the sanctuary, there to behold the Divine glories of the House of God.
Though the verb is passive, denoting the effect — “Let us be carried on”
— yet it included the active use of means for the producing of this effect..315
“All diligence” is demanded of the Christian (

2 Peter 1:5). Truth has to
be “bought” (

Proverbs 23:23). That which God has given us must be
put into practice (

Luke 8:18).
“Let us go on unto perfection.” What, we may ask, is the application of
this to Christians today? To the Hebrews it meant abandoning the
preparatory and earthly system of Judaism, (which occupied their whole
attention before believing in Christ as the sent Savior) and, by faith, laying
hold of the Divine revelation which has now been made in and through
Him: set your affection on an ascended though invisible Christ, who now
serves in the Heavenly Sanctuary on your behalf. For Christians it means,
Turn away from those objects which absorbed you in the time of your
unregeneracy, and meditate now on and find your joy and satisfaction in
things above. Lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets,
and run with perseverance the race that is set before us, “looking off unto
Jesus” — the One who while here left us an example to follow, the One
who is now enthroned on High because of the triumphant completion of
His race.
To the Hebrews, this much-misunderstood exhortation of

Hebrews 6:1
was exactly parallel with the word which Christ addressed to the eleven
immediately prior to His death: “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me”
(

John 14:1): Ye have long avowed your faith in “God,” whom, though
invisible, ye trust; now “believe also in Me,” as One who will speedily pass
beyond the range of your natural vision. I am on the point of returning to
the Father, but I shall still have your interests at heart, yea, I am going to
“prepare a place for you;” therefore, trust Me implicitly: let your hearts
follow Me on high: walk by faith: be occupied with an ascended Savior.
For us today, the application of this important word signifies, Be engaged
with your great High Priest in heaven, dwell daily upon your portion in
Him (

Ephesians 1:3). By faith, behold Christ, now in the heavenly
sanctuary, as your righteousness, life, and strength. See in God’s
acceptance of Him, His adoption of you, that you have been reconciled to
Him, made nigh by the precious blood. In the realization of this, worship in
spirit and in truth; exercise your priestly privileges.
Thus, the “perfection” of

Hebrews 6:1 is, strictly speaking, scarcely
doctrinal or experimental, yet partakes of both. “The law made nothing
perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did” (

Hebrews 7:19). It is
Christ who has ushered in that which is “perfect.” It is in Him we now have.316
a full revelation and manifestation of the eternal purpose and grace of God.
He has fully made known His mind (

Hebrews 1:2). And, by His one all-sufficient
offering of Himself, He has “perfected forever” (

Hebrews
10:14), them whom God set apart in His everlasting counsels. Christ came
here to fulfill the will of God (

Hebrews 10:9). That will has been
executed; the work given Him to do, He finished (

John 17:4). In
consequence, He has been gloriously rewarded, and in His reward all His
people share. This is all made known to us for “the hearing of faith.”
“Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works”
(verse 1).
It is most important to see that the contents of the second half of verse 1.
and the whole of verse 2 are a parenthesis. The “Let us be carried on to
perfection” is completed in “this will we do if God permits” in verse 3.
That which comes in between is a definition or explanation of what the
apostle intended by his “Having left the word of the beginning of Christ.”
The six items enumerated — “repentance from dead works,” etc. — have
nothing to do with the “foundations of Christianity,” nor do they describe
those things relating to the elementary experiences of a Christian. Instead,
they treat of what appertained to Judaism, considered as a rudimentary
system, paving the way for the fuller and final revelation which God has
now made in and by His beloved Son. Unless the parenthetical nature of
these verses is clearly perceived, interpreters are certain to err in their
exposition of the details.
“Not laying again the foundation,” etc. It is to be remarked that there is no
definite article in the Greek here, so it should be read, “a foundation,”
which is one of several intimations that it is not the “fundamentals of
Christianity” which are here in view. Had these verses been naming the
basic features of the new and higher revelation of God, the Holy Spirit had
surely said, “the foundation;” that He did not, shows that something less
important was before Him. As said above, this “foundation” respects
Judaism. Now there are two properties to a “foundation,” namely, it is
that which is first laid in a building; it is that which bears up the whole
superstructure. To which we may add, it is generally lost to sight when the
ground floor has been put in. Such was the relation which Judaism
sustained to Christianity. As the “foundation” precedes the building, so had
Judaism Christianity. As the “foundation” bears the building, so the truth of
Christianity rests upon the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament,.317
of which the New Testament revelation records the fulfillment. As the
“foundation” is lost to sight when the building is erected on it, so the types
and shadows of the earlier revelation are superseded by the substance and
reality.
“Not laying again a foundation,” etc. This is exactly what the Hebrews
were being sorely tempted to do. To “lay again” this foundation was to
forsake the substance for the shadows; it was to turn from Christianity and
go back again to Judaism. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were being
harassed by Judaisers,
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we
might be justified by faith” (

Hebrews 3:24).
To which he at once added, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer
under a schoolmaster.” Thus, under a different figure, he was here in

Hebrews 6:1 simply saying, Let us be carried on to maturity, and not go
back again to the things which characterized the days of our childhood.
“Not laying again a foundation,” etc. It will be noted that the apostle here
enumerates just six things, which is ever the number of man in the flesh.
Such was what distinguished Judaism. It was a system which appertained
solely to man in the flesh. Its rites and ceremonies only “sanctified to the
purifying of the flesh” (

Hebrews 9:13). Had the fundamentals of
Christianity been here in view, the apostle had surely given seven, as in

Ephesians 4:3-6. The first which he specifies is “repentance from dead
works.” Observe that it is not “repentance from sins.” That is not what is
in view at all. This expression “dead works” is found again in

Hebrews
9:14 (and nowhere else in the New Testament), where a contrast is drawn
from what is said in verse 13: the blood of bulls and goats sanctified to the
purifying of the flesh, then much more should the blood of Christ cleanse
their conscience from dead works. Where sins are in question the New
Testament speaks of them as “wicked works” (

Titus 1:16), and
“abominable works” (

Colossians 1:21). The reference here was to the
unprofitable and in-efficacious works of the Levitical service: cf.

Hebrews 10:1, 4. Those works of the ceremonial law are denominated
“dead works” because they were performed by men in the flesh, were not
vitalized by the Holy Spirit, and did not satisfy the claims of the living God.
“And of faith toward God.” Of the six distinctive features of Judaism here
enumerated, this one is the most difficult to define with any degree of.318
certainty. Nevertheless, we believe that if due attention be given to the
particular people to whom the apostle was writing all difficulty at once
vanishes. The case of the Jew was vastly different from that of the Gentiles.
To the heathen, the one true God was altogether “unknown” (

Acts
17:23). They worshipped a multitude of false gods. But not so was it with
Israel. Jehovah had revealed Himself to their fathers, and given to them a
written revelation of His will. Thus, “faith toward God” was a national
thing with them, and though in their earlier history they fell into idolatry
again and again, yet were they purified of this sin by the Babylonian
captivity. Still, their faith was more of a form than a reality, a tradition
received from their fathers, rather than a vital acquaintance with Him: see

Matthew 15:8, 9, etc.
Israel’s national faith “toward God” had, under the Christian revelation,
given place to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A few references from the
New Testament epistles will establish this conclusively. We read of “the
faith of Jesus Christ,” and “the faith of the Son of God” (

Galatians 2:16,
20); “your faith in the Lord Jesus” (

Ephesians 1:15); “by faith of Jesus
Christ” (

Philippians 3:9); “your faith in Christ” (

Colossians 2:5);
“the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (

1 Timothy 3:13). As another has
said, “All the blessings of the gospel are connected with ‘faith,’ but it is
faith which rests in Christ. Justification, resurrection-life, the promises, the
placing of sons, salvation, etc., are all spoken of as resulting from faith
which rests upon Christ… ‘Hebrews’ reveals Christ as the ‘one Mediator
between God and men.’ It reveals Christ as ‘a Priest forever after the order
of Melchizedek,’ and urges the divine claim of the Son of God. The apostle
is directing his readers to look away from self to Christ, the Center, the
Sum of all blessing. This is not merely ‘faith toward God,’ but it is faith
which comes to God by the way of the mediation and merits of His Son.”
“Of the doctrine of baptisms” (verse 2). Had the translators understood the
scope and meaning of this passage it is more than doubtful if they had
given the rendering they did to this particular clause.
It will be observed that the word “baptism” is in the plural number, and if
scripture be allowed to interpret scripture there will be no difficulty in
ascertaining what is here referred to. It is neither Christian baptism
(

Matthew 28:19), the baptism of the Spirit (

Acts 1:5), nor the
baptism of suffering (

Matthew 20:23), which is here in view, but the
carnal ablutions which obtained under the Mosaic economy. The Greek.319
word is “baptismos.” It is found but four times on the pages of the New
Testament: in

Mark 7:4, 5 and

Hebrews 6:2; 9:10. In each of the
other three instances, the word is rendered “washings.” In Mark 7 it is the
“washing of cups and pans.” In

Hebrews 9:10 it is “meats and drinks
and divers washings and carnal (fleshly) ordinances,” concerning which it is
said, they were “imposed until the time of reformation.”
It is to be noted that our verse speaks of “the doctrine of baptisms.” There
was a definite teaching connected with the ceremonial ablutions of
Judaism. They were designed to impress upon the Israelites that Jehovah
was a holy God, and that none who were defiled could enter into His
presence. These references in

Hebrews 6:2 and

Hebrews 9:10 look
back to such passages as

Exodus 30:18, 19;

Leviticus 16:4;

Numbers 19:19, etc. Typically, these “washings” denoted that all the
defiling effects of sin must be removed, ere the worshipper could approach
unto the Lord. They foreshadowed that perfect and eternal cleansing from
sin which the atoning blood of Christ was to provide for His people. They
had no intrinsic efficacy in themselves; they were but figures, hence, we are
told they sanctified only “to the purifying of the flesh” (

Hebrews 9:13).
Those “washings” effected nought but an external and ceremonial
purification; they
“could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the
conscience” (

Hebrews 9:9).
“And of laying on of hands.” The older commentators quite missed the
reference here. Supposing the previous clause was concerned with the
Christian baptisms recorded in the Acts, they appealed to such passages as

Acts 8:17; 19:6, etc. But those passages have no bearing at all on the
verse before us. They were exceptional cases where the supernatural
“gifts” of the Spirit were imparted by communication from the apostles.
The absence of this “laying on of hands” in

Acts 2:41; 8:38; 16:33, etc.,
shows plainly that, normally, the Holy Spirit was given by God altogether
apart from the instrumentality of His servants. The “laying on of hands” is
not, and never was, a distinctive Christian ordinance. In such passages as

Acts 6:6; 9:17; 13:3, the act was simply a mark of identification, as is
sufficiently clear from the last reference.
“And of laying on of hands.” The key which unlocks the real meaning of
this expression is to be found in the Old Testament, to which each and all
of the six things here mentioned by the apostle look back. Necessarily so,.320
for the apostle is here making mention of those things which characterized
Judaism, which the Hebrews, upon their profession of their personal faith
in Christ had “left.” The “laying on of hands” to which the apostle refers is
described in

Leviticus 16:21, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon
the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the
children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them
on the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man
into the wilderness.” This was an essential part of the ritual on the annual
Day of Atonement. Of this the Hebrews would naturally think when the
apostle here makes mention of the “doctrine (teaching)… of laying on of
hands.”
“And of resurrection of the dead.” At first glance, and perhaps at the
second too, it may appear that what is here before us will necessitate an
abandonment of the line of interpretation we are following. Surely, the
reader may exclaim, you will not ask us to believe that these Hebrews had
“left” the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead! Yet this is exactly what
we do affirm. The difficulty which is seemingly involved is more imaginary
than real, due to a lack of discrimination and failure to “rightly divide the
Word of Truth.” The resurrection of the dead was a clearly revealed
doctrine under Judaism; but it is supplanted by something far more
comforting and blessed under the fuller revelation God has given in
Christianity. If the reader will carefully observe the preposition we have
placed in italic type, he will find it a valuable key to quite a number of
passages.
“We make a great mistake when we assume that the resurrection as
taught by the Pharisees, held by the Jews, believed by the disciples,
and proclaimed by the apostles, was one and the same” (C.H.W.).
The great difference between the former and the latter may be seen by a
comparison of the scriptures that follow.
“After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my
fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the
prophets: and have hope toward God, which they themselves also
allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just
and unjust” (

Acts 24:14, 15).
That was the Jewish hope:.321
“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the
resurrection at the last day” (

John 11:24).
Now in contrast, note,
“He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had
seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept
that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the
rising from the dead should mean” (

Mark 9:9, 10).
It is this aspect of resurrection which the New Testament epistles
emphasize, an elective resurrection, a resurrection of the redeemed before
that of the wicked: see

Revelation 20:5, 6;

1 Corinthians 15:22, 23;

1 Thessalonians 4:16.
“And of eternal judgment.” In the light of all that has been before us, this
should occasion no difficulty. The Jewish church, and most of Christendom
now, believed in a General Judgment, a great assize at the end of time
when God would examine every man’s life,
“For God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret
thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (

Ecclesiastes
12:14).
This is described in fullest detail in the closing verses of Revelation 20. It is
the Great White Throne judgment.
Let us now, very briefly, summarize what has just been engaging our
attention. The Hebrews had confessed their faith in Christ, and by so doing
had forsaken the shadows for the Substance. But hope had been deferred,
faith hath waned, persecutions had cooled their zeal. They were being
tempted to abandon their Christian profession and return to Judaism. The
apostle shows that by so doing they would be laying again “a foundation”
of things which had been left behind. Rather than this, he urges them to be
carried forward to “perfection” or “full growth.” That meant to substitute
“repentance unto life” (

Acts 11:18), for “repentance from dead works;”
trust in the glorified Savior, for a national “faith toward God;” the all-cleansing
blood of the Lamb, for the inefficacious “washings” of the law;
God’s having laid on Christ the iniquities of us all, for the Jewish high-priest’s
“laying on of hands;” a resurrection “from the dead,” for “a
resurrection of the dead;” the Judgment-seat of Christ, for the “eternal.322
judgment” of the Great White Throne. Thus, the six things here mentioned
belonged to a state of things before Christ was manifested.
“And this will we do if God permit” (verse 3). Here we learn of the
apostle’s resolution as to the occasion before him, and the limitation of his
resolution by an express subordination of it to the good pleasure of God.
The “this will we do” has reference to “Let us go on unto perfection.” The
use of the plural pronoun is very blessed. Though a spiritual giant when
compared with his fellow Christians, the apostle Paul never imagined he
had “attained” (

Philippians 3:12). “This will we do” means, I in
teaching, you in learning. In the chapters that follow, we see how the
apostle’s resolution was carried out. In

Hebrews 5:10 he had said, “an
High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, of whom we have many things
to say.” By comparing

Hebrews 6:3 with

Hebrews 5:11,12 we learn
that no discouragement should deter a servant of God from proceeding in
the declaration of the mystery of Christ, not even the dullness of his
hearers.
“And this will we do, if God permit.” This qualifying word may have
respect unto the unknown sovereign pleasure of God, to which all our
resolutions must submit: “I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord
permit” (

1 Corinthians 16:7 and cf.

James 4:13-15). Probably the
apostle also had before him the sad state into which the Hebrews had fallen
(

Hebrews 5:11-14), in view of which this was a solemn and searching
word for their conscience: because of their sloth and negligence there was
reason to fear they had provoked God, so that He would grant them no
further light (

Luke 8:18). Finally, we believe the apostle looked to the
Divine enablement of himself; were He to withdraw His assistance the
teacher would be helpless: see

2 Corinthians 3:5. To sum up — in all
things we must seek God’s glory, bow to His will, and recognize that all
progress in the Truth is a special gift from Him (

John 3:27)..323
CHAPTER 24
APOSTASY.
(

HEBREWS 6:4-6)
The passage which is now to occupy our attention is one of the most
solemn in the Hebrews’ epistle, yea, to be met with anywhere in the New
Testament. Probably few regenerate souls have read it thoughtfully without
being moved to fear and trembling. Careless professors have frequently
been rendered uneasy in conscience as they have heard its awe-inspiring
language. It speaks of a class of persons who had been highly privileged,
who had been singularly favored, but who, so far from having improved
their opportunities, had wretchedly perverted them; who had brought
shame and reproach on the cause of Christ; and who were in such a
hopeless condition that it was “impossible to renew them again unto
repentance.” Well does it become each one of us to earnestly lift up his
heart to God, beseeching Him to prevent us making such a shipwreck of
the faith.
As perhaps the majority of our readers are aware, the verses before us have
proved one of the fiercest theological battlegrounds of the centuries. It is at
this point that the hottest fights between Calvinists and Arminians have
been waged. Those who believe that it is possible for a real Christian to so
sin and backslide as to fall from grace and be lost eternally, have
confidently appealed to these verses for proof of their theory. It is much to
be feared their theory prejudiced them so much, that they were incapable of
examining impartially and weighing carefully its varied terms. With their
minds so biased by their views of apostasy, they have rather taken it for
granted that this passage describes a true child of God, who, through
turning his back upon Christ, ultimately perishes. But Scripture bids us
“Prove all things” (

1 Thessalonians 5:21), and this calls for something
more than a superficial and hurried investigation of what is, admittedly, a
difficult passage.
If on the one hand, Arminians have been too ready to read into this passage
their unscriptural dogma of the apostasy of a Christian, it must be.324
confessed that many Calvinists have failed to grapple successfully with and
interpret satisfactorily the most knotty points in these verses. They are
right in affirming that Scripture teaches, most emphatically and
unequivocably the Divine preservation and the human perseverance of the
saints, as they have also wisely pointed out that the Word of God does not
and cannot contradict itself. If our Lord asserted that His sheep should
“never perish” (

John 10:28), then certainly Hebrews 6 will not teach
that some of them do. If through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit assures us
that nothing can separate the children from the love of their Father
(

Romans 8:35-39), then, without doubt, the portion now before us does
not declare that something will. It may not always be easy to discover the
perfect consistency of one scripture with another, yet we must hold fast to
the unerring harmony and integrity of God’s Truth.
The chief difficulty connected with our passage is to make sure of the class
of persons who are there in view. Is the Holy Spirit here describing
regenerated or unregenerated souls? The next thing is to ascertain what is
meant by, “If they shall fall away.” The last, what is denoted by “It is
impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Anticipating our
exposition, we are fully assured that the “falling away” which is here
spoken of signifies a deliberate, complete and final repudiation of Christ —
a sin for which there is no forgiveness. So too we understand the
“impossible” to renew them again to repentance, announces that their
condition and case is beyond hope of recovery. Because of this, Calvinists
have, generally, affirmed that this passage is treating of mere professors.
But over against this there are two insuperable objections: first, mere
professors have nothing from which to “fall away”; second, mere
professors have never been “renewed” unto repentance.
In addition to the controversy which these verses have occasioned, not a
few have turned them unto an unwarrantable use.
“Misapprehension of this passage has also, I believe, in many cases
occasioned extreme distress of mind to two classes of persons, —
to nominal professors, who, after falling into gross sin, have been
awakened to serious reflection; and to real Christians, on their
falling under the power of mental disease, sinking into a state of
spiritual languor, or being betrayed into such transgressions of the
Divine law as David and Peter were guilty of: and this has thrown
all but insurmountable obstacles in the way of both ‘fleeing for.325
refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them’ in the Gospel. All
this makes it the more necessary that we should carefully inquire
into the meaning of the passage. When rightly understood, it will be
found to give no countenance to any of the false conclusions which
have been drawn from it, but to be like every other part of inspired
Scripture, ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness’, — well-fitted to produce caution, no
way calculated to induce despair” (Dr. J. Brown).
Before attempting an elucidation of the above-mentioned difficulties, and
to prepare the way for our exposition of these verses, the contents of
which have so sorely puzzled many, let us recall, once more, the condition
of soul into which these Hebrew Christians had fallen. They had “become
dull of hearing” (

Hebrews 5:11), “unskillful in the Word of
Righteousness” (

Hebrews 5:13), unable to masticate “strong meat”
(

Hebrews 5:14). This state was fraught with the most dangerous
consequences. “The Hebrews had become lukewarm, negligent, and inert;
the gospel, once dearly seen and dearly loved by them, had become to them
dull and vague; the persecutions and contempt of their countrymen a
grievous burden, under which they groaned, and under which they did not
enjoy fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Darkness, doubt, gloom, indecision,
and consequently a walk in which the power of Christ’s love was not
manifest, characterized them. Now, if they continued in this state, what
else could be the result but apostasy? Forgetfulness, if continued, must end
in rejection, apathy in antipathy, unfaithfulness in infidelity.
“Such was their danger. And if they succumbed to it their state was
hopeless. No other gospel remains to be preached, no other power
to rescue and raise them. They had heard and known the voice
which saith, ‘Come unto Me, and I will give you rest’. They had
professed to believe in the Lord who died for sinners, and to have
chosen Him as their Savior and Master. And now they were
forgetting and forsaking the Rock of their Salvation. If they
deliberately and wilfully continued in this state, they were in danger
of final impenitence and hardness of heart.
“The exhortation must be viewed in connection with the special
circumstances of the Hebrews. After the rejection of the Messiah by
Israel, the gospel had been preached unto the Jews by the apostles,
and the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit had been manifested.326
among them. The Hebrews had accepted the gospel of the once
crucified and now glorified Redeemer, who sent down from heaven
the Spirit, a sign of His exaltation, and a pledge of the future
inheritance. Having thus entered into the sphere of new covenant
manifestation, any one who willfully abandoned it could only
relapse into that phase of Judaism which crucified the Lord Jesus.
There was no other alternative for them, but either to go on to the
full knowledge of the heavenly priesthood of Christ, and to the
believer’s acceptance and worship through the Mediator in the
sanctuary above, or fall back into the attitude, not of the godly
Israelites before Pentecost, such as John the Baptist and those who
waited for the promised redemption, nor even into the condition of
those for whom the Savior prayed, ‘for they know not what they
do’; but into a state of willful conscious enmity against Christ, and
the sin of rejecting Him, and putting Him to an open shame”
(Adolph Saphir).
“The danger to which this spiritual inertness exposed the Hebrews was
such as to justify the strongest language of expostulation and reproof.
Apostasy from Christ was a step more easy and natural to a Jewish than to
a Gentile believer, because the way was always open and inviting them, as
men, to return to those associations which once carried with them the
outward sanctification of Jehovah’s name, and which only the power of
grace had enabled them to renounce. When heavenly realities became
inoperative in their souls, the visible image was before them still, and here
was the danger of their giving it the homage of their souls. If there were
not an habitual exercise of their spiritual senses, the power of discernment
could not remain: they would call evil good, and good evil. The ignorance
which springs from spiritual neglect begins its own punishment of apathetic
dullness on the once clear mind, and robs the spirit of its power to detect
the wily methods of the Devil. It is in the presence of God alone that the
Christian can exert his spiritual energies with effect. Abiding in Christ,
maintains us in that presence. A more unhappy error cannot befall a
believer than to separate, in the habit of his mind, acquired knowledge from
the living Christ. Faith dies at once when separated from its object.
Knowledge indeed is precious, but the knowledge of God is a progressive
thing (

Colossians 1:10), whose end is not obtained this side of the glory
(

1 Corinthians 8:2). The extreme experience of an advancing Christian
is that of continual initiation. With a prospect ever-widening he has a daily.327
deepening apprehension of the grace wherein he stands, and in which he is
more and more established, by the word of righteousness….
“A clear and growing faith, in heavenly things was needed to
preserve Jewish Christians from relapse. To return to Judaism was
to give up Christ, who had left their house ‘desolate’ (

Matthew
23:38). It was to fall from grace, and place themselves not only
under the general curse of the law, but that particular imprecation
which had brought the guilt of Jesus’ blood on the reprobate and
blinded nation of His murderers” (A. Pridham).
It should be pointed out, however, that it is just as easy, and the attraction
is just as real, for a Gentile Christian to return to that world out of which
the Lord has called him, as it was for a Jewish Christian to go back again
to Judaism. And just in proportion as the Christian fails to walk with God
daily, so does the world obtain power over his heart, mind and life; and a
continuance in worldliness is fraught with the most direful and fatal
consequences.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened” etc. (verse 4).
Here the apostle continues the digression which he began at

Hebrews
5:11. The parenthesis has two divisions: the first,

Hebrews 5:11-14 is
reprehensible; the second,

Hebrews 6:1-20 is hortatory. In chapter 6 he
exhorts the Hebrews unto two duties: to progress in the Christian course
(verses 1-11); to persevere therein (verses 12-20). The first exhortation is
proposed in verses 1,2 and qualified in verse 3. The motive to obedience is
drawn from the danger of apostasy (verses 4-6). The opening “For” of
verse 4 intimates the close connection of our present passage with that
which immediately precedes. It draws a conclusion from what the apostle
had been saying in

Hebrews 5:11-14. It amplifies the “if” in verse 3. It
points a most solemn warning against their continuance in their present
sloth. It draws a terrible contrast from the possibility of verse 3.
“The apostle regards the retrogression of the Hebrews with dismay.
He sees in it the danger of an entire, confirmed, wilful, and
irrecoverable apostasy from the truth. He beholds them on the brink
of a precipice, and he therefore lifts up his voice, and with
vehement yet loving earnestness he warns them against so fearful
an evil” (Adolph Saphir)..328
Three things claim our careful attention in coming closer to our passage:
the persons here spoken of, the sin they commit, the doom pronounced
upon them. In considering the persons spoken of it is of first importance to
note that the apostle does not say, “us who were once enlightened”, nor
even “you”, instead, he says “those”. In sharp contrast from them, he says
to the Hebrews, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you”.
“Afterwards, when the apostle comes to declare his hope and
persuasion concerning these Hebrews that they were not such as
those whom he had before described, nor such as would fall away
unto perdition, he doth it upon three grounds whereon they were
differenced from them as:
1. That they had such things as did ‘accompany salvation’; that is,
such as salvation is inseparable from. None of these things therefore
had he ascribed unto those whom he describeth in this place (verses
4-6); for if he had so done, they would not have been unto him an
argument and evidence of a contrary end, that these should not fall
away and perish as well as those. Wherefore he ascribes nothing to
these here in the text that doth peculiarly ‘accompany salvation’.
2. He describes them by their duties of obedience and fruits of faith.
This was their ‘work and labor of love’ towards the name of God,
verse 10. And hereby, also, doth he differentiate them from those in
the text, concerning whom he supposeth that they may perish
eternally, which these fruits of saving faith and sincere love cannot
do.
3. He adds, that, in the preservation of those there mentioned, the
faithfulness of God was concerned: ‘God is not unrighteous to
forget’. For they were such he intended as were interested in the
covenant of grace, with respect whereunto alone there is any
engagement on the faithfulness or righteousness of God to preserve
men from apostasy and ruin; and there is so with an equal respect
unto all who are so taken into the covenant. But of those in the text
he supposeth no such thing; and thereupon doth not intimate that
either the righteousness or faithfulness of God was anyway engaged
for their preservation, but rather the contrary” (Dr. John Owen).
It is scarcely accurate to designate as “mere professors” those described in
verses 4,5. They were a class who had enjoyed great privileges, beyond any.329
such as now accompany the preaching of the Gospel. Those here portrayed
are said to have had five advantages, which is in contrast from the six
things enumerated in verses 1, 2, which things belong to man in the flesh,
under Judaism. Five is the number of grace, and the blessings here
mentioned pertain to the Christian dispensation. Yet were they not true
Christians. This is evident from what is not said. Observe, they were not
spoken of as God’s elect, as those for whom Christ died, as those who
were born of the Spirit. They are not said to be justified, forgiven, accepted
in the Beloved. Nor is anything said of their faith, love, or obedience. Yet
these are the very things which distinguish a real child of God.
First, they had been “enlightened”. The Sun of righteousness had shone
with healing in His wings, and, as

Matthew 4:16 says, “The people
which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region
and shadow of death light is sprung up”. Unlike the heathen, whom Christ,
in the days of His flesh, visited not, those who came under the sound of His
voice were wondrously and gloriously illumined.
The Greek word for “enlightened” here signifies “to give light or
knowledge by teaching”. It is so rendered by the Septuagint in

Judges
13:8,

2 Kings 12:2, 17:27. The apostle Paul uses it for “to make
manifest”, or “bring to light” in

1 Corinthians 4:5,

2 Timothy 1:10.
Satan blinds the minds of those who believe not, lest “the light of the
gospel should shine unto them” (

2 Corinthians 4:4), that is, give the
knowledge of it. Thus, “enlightened” here means to be instructed in the
doctrine of the gospel, so as to have a clear apprehension of it. In the
parallel passage in

Hebrews 10:26 the same people are said to have
“received the knowledge of the truth”, cf. also

2 Peter 2:20, 21. It is,
however, only a natural knowledge of spiritual things, such as is acquired
by outward hearing or reading; just as one may be enlightened by taking up
the special study of one of the sciences. It falls far short of that spiritual
enlightenment which transforms (

2 Corinthians 3:18). An illustration of
a unregenerate person being “enlightened”, as here, is found in the case of
Balaam;

Numbers 24:4.
Second, they had “tasted” of the heavenly gift. To “taste” is to have a
personal experience of, in contrast from mere report.
“Tasting does not include eating, much less digesting and turning
into nourishment what is so tasted; for its nature being only thereby
discerned it may be refused, yea, though we like its relish and.330
savor, on some other consideration. The persons here described,
then, are those who have to a certain degree understood and
relished the revelation of mercy; like the stony-ground hearers they
have received the Word with a transcient joy” (John Owen).
The “tasting” is in contrast from the “eating” of

John 6:50-56.
Opinion is divided as to whether the “heavenly gift” refers to the Lord
Jesus or the person of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is not possible for us to
be dogmatic on the point. Really, the difference is without a distinction, for
the Spirit is here to glorify Christ, as He came from the Father by Christ as
His ascension “Gift” to His people. If the reference be to the Lord Jesus,

John 3:16,

4:10, etc., would be pertinent references: if to the Holy
Spirit,

Acts 2:38,

8:20,

10:45,

11:17. Personally, we rather
incline to the latter. This Divine Gift is here said to be “heavenly” because
from Heaven, and leading to Heaven, in contrast from Judaism — cf.

Acts 2:2,

1 Peter 1:12. Of this “Gift” these apostates had “tasted”,
or had an experience of: compare

Matthew 27:34 where “tasting” is
opposed to actual drinking. Those here in view had had an acquaintance
with the Gospel, as to gain such a measure of its blessedness as to greatly
aggravate their sin and doom. An illustration of this is found in

Matthew 13:20, 21.
Third, they were “made partakers of the Holy Spirit”. First, it should be
pointed out that the Greek word for “partakers” here is a different one
from that used in

Colossians 1:12 and

2 Peter 1:4, where real
Christians are in view. The word here simply means “companions”,
referring to what is external rather than internal. It is to be observed that
this item is placed in the center of the five, and this because it describes the
animating principle of the other four, which are all effects. These apostates
had never been “born of the Spirit” (

John 3:6), still less were their
bodies His “temples” (

1 Corinthians 6:19). Nor do we believe this verse
teaches that the Holy Spirit had, at any time, wrought within them,
otherwise

Philippians 1:6 would be contravened. It means that they had
shared in the benefit of His supernatural operations and manifestations:
“The place was shaken” (

Acts 4:31) illustrates. We quote below from
Dr. J. Brown:
“It is highly probable that the inspired writer refers primarily to the
miraculous gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit by which the
primitive dispensation of Christianity was administered. These gifts.331
were by no means confined to those who were ‘transformed by the
renewing of their minds’. The words of our Lord in

Matthew
7:22, 23 and of Paul in

1 Corinthians 13:1, 2 seem to intimate,
that the possession of these unrenewed men was not very
uncommon in that age; at any rate they plainly show that their
possession and an unregenerate state were by no means
incompatible”.
Fourth, “And have tasted the good Word of God”.
“I understand by this expression the promise of God respecting the
Messiah, the sum and substance of all. It deserves notice that this
promise is by way of eminence termed by Jeremiah ‘that good
word’ (

Jeremiah 33:14). To ‘taste’, then, this ‘good Word of
God’, is to experience that God has been faithful to His promise —
to enjoy, so far as an unconverted man can enjoy the blessings and
advantages which flow from that promise being fulfilled. To ‘taste
the good Word of God’, seems, just to enjoy the advantages of the
new dispensation” (Dr. J. Brown).
Further confirmation that the apostle is here referring to that which these
apostates had witnessed of the fulfillment of God’s promise is obtained by
comparing

Jeremiah 29:10,
“After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you,
and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to
this place”.
Observe how studiously the apostle still keeps to the word “taste”, the
better to enable us to identify them. They could not say with Jeremiah,
“Thy words were found and I did eat them” (

Jeremiah 15:16).
“It is as though he said, I speak not of those who have received
nourishment; but of such as have so far tasted it, as that they ought
to have desired it as ‘sincere milk’ and grown thereby” (Dr. John
Owen).
A solemn example of one who merely “tasted” the good Word of God is
found in

Mark 6:20: “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just
man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many
things, and heard him gladly”..332
Fifth, “And the powers of the world to come,” or “age to come.” The
reference here is to the new dispensation which was to be ushered in by
Israel’s Messiah according to Old Testament predictions. It corresponds
with “these last days” of

Hebrews 1:2, and is in contrast from the “time
past” or Mosaic economy. Their Messiah was none other than the “mighty
God” (Isaiah 9), and wondrous and glorious, stupendous and unique, were
His miraculous works. These “powers” of the new Age are mentioned in

Hebrews 2:4, to our comments on which we would refer the reader. Of
these mighty “powers” these apostates had “tasted”, or had an experience
of. They had been personal witnesses of the miracles of Christ, and also of
the wonders that followed His ascension, when such glorious
manifestations of the Spirit were given. Thus they were “without excuse”.
Convincing and conclusive evidence had been set before them, but there
had been no answering faith in their hearts. A solemn example of this is
found in

John 11:47, 48.
“If they shall fall away”. The Greek word here is very strong and emphatic,
even stronger than the one used in

Matthew 7:27, where it is said of the
house built on the sand, “and great was the fall thereof”. It is a complete
falling away, a total abandonment of Christianity which is here in view. It is
a wilful turning of the back on God’s revealed truth, an utter repudiation of
the Gospel. It is making “shipwreck of the faith” (

1 Timothy 1:19). This
terrible sin is not committed by a mere nominal professor, for he has
nothing really to fall away from, save an empty name. The class here
described are such as had had their minds enlightened, their consciences
stirred, their affections moved to a considerable degree, and yet who were
never brought from death unto life. Nor is it backsliding Christians who are
in view. It is not simply “fall into sin”, this or that sin. The greatest “sin”
which a regenerated man can possibly commit is the personal denial of
Christ: Peter was guilty of this, yet was he “renewed again unto
repentance”. It is the total renunciation of all the distinguishing truths and
principles of Christianity, and this not secretly, but openly, which
constitutes apostasy.
“If they shall fall away”.
“This is scarcely a fair translation. It has been said that the apostle
did not here assert that such persons did or do ‘fall away’; but that
if they did — a supposition which, however, could never be
realized — then the consequence would be they could not be.333
‘renewed again unto repentance’. The words literally rendered are,
‘And have fallen away’, or, ‘yet have fallen’. The apostle obviously
intimates that such persons might, and that such persons did, ‘fall
away’. By ‘falling away’, we are plainly to understand what is
commonly called apostasy. This does not consist in an occasional
falling into actual sin, however gross and aggravated; nor in the
renunciation of some of the principles of Christianity, even though
those should be of considerable importance; but in an open, total,
determined renunciation of all the constituent principles of
Christianity, and a return to a false religion, such as that of
unbelieving Jews or heathens, or to open infidelity and open
godlessness” (Dr. J. Brown).
“It is impossible…. if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance”.
Four questions here call for answer. What is meant by “renewed unto
repentance”? What is signified by “renewed again unto repentance”? Why
is such an experience “impossible”? To whom is this “impossible”?
Repentance signifies a change of mind:

Matthew 21:29,

Romans
11:29 establish this. It is more than a mental act, the conscience also being
active, leading to contrition and self-condemnation (

Job 42:6). In the
unregenerate, it is simply the workings of nature; in the children of God it
is wrought by the Holy Spirit. The latter is evangelical, being one of the
things which “accompany salvation”. The former is not so, being the
“sorrow of the world”, which “worketh death” (

2 Corinthians 7:10).
This kind of “repentance” or remorse receives most solemn exemplification
in the case of Judas:

Matthew 27:3, 5. Such was the repentance of these
apostates. The Greek verb for “renew” here occurs nowhere else in the
New Testament. Probably “restore” had been better, for the same word is
used in the Sept., for a Hebrews verb meaning to renew in the sense of
restore:

Psalm 103:5; 104:30;

Lamentations 5:21. Josephus applies
it to the renovation of the Temple!
But what is meant by “renewing unto repentance”?
“To be ‘renewed’ is a figurative expression for denoting a change, a
great change, and a change for the better. To be ‘renewed’ so as to
change a person’s mind is expressive of an important and
advantageous alteration of opinion, and character and service. And
such an alteration the persons referred to had undergone at a
former period. They were once in a state of ignorance respecting.334
the doctrines and evidences of Christianity, and they had been
‘enlightened’. They had once known not of the excellency and
beauty of Christian truth, and they had been made to ‘taste of the
heavenly gift’. They once misunderstood the prophecies respecting
the Messiah, and were unaware of their fulfillment, and, of course,
were strangers to that energetic influence which the New
Testament revelation puts forth; and they had been made to see that
that ‘good word’ was fulfilled, and had been made partakers of the
external privileges and been subjected to the peculiar energies of
the new order of things. Their view, and feelings, and
circumstances, were materially changed. How great the difference
between an ignorant, bigoted Jew, and the person described in the
preceding passage! He had become as it were a different man. He
had not, indeed, become, in the sense of the apostle, a ‘new
creature’, His mind had not been so changed as unfeignedly to
believe ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’; but still, a great and so far as it
went, a thorough change had taken place” (Dr. J. Brown).
Now it is impossible to “renew again unto repentance” those who have
totally abandoned the Christian revelation. Some things are “impossible”
with respect unto the nature of God, as that He cannot lie, or pardon sin
without satisfaction to His justice. Other things which are possible to
God’s nature are rendered “impossible” by His decrees or purpose: see

1 Samuel 15:28, 29. Still other things are “possible” or “impossible”
with respect to the rule or order of all things God has appointed. For
example, there cannot be faith apart from hearing the Word (

Romans
10:13-17). “When in things of duty God hath neither expressed command
thereon, nor appointed means for the performance of them, they are to be
looked upon then as impossible [as, for instance, there is no salvation apart
from repentance,

Luke 13:3. (A.W.P.)]; and then, with respect unto us,
they are so absolutely, and so to be esteemed. And this is the
‘impossibility’ here principally intended. It is a thing that God hath neither
commanded us to endeavor, nor appointed means to attain it, nor promise
to assist us in it. It is therefore that which we have no reason to look after,
attempt, or expect, as being not possible by any law, rule, or constitution
of God.
“The apostle instructs us no further in the nature of future events
but as our own duty is concerned in them. It is not for us either to
look or hope, or pray for, or endeavor the restoration of such.335
persons unto repentance. God gives a law unto us in these things,
not unto Himself. It may be possible with God, for aught we know,
if there be not a contradiction in it unto any of the holy properties
of His nature; only He will not have us to expect any such thing
from Him, nor hath He appointed any means for us to endeavor it.
What He shall do we ought trustfully to accept; but our own duty
toward such persons is absolutely at an end. And indeed, they put
themselves wholly out of our reach” (Dr. John Owen).
It needs to be carefully observed that in the whole of this passage from

Hebrews 5:11 onwards the apostle is speaking of his own ministry. In
God’s hands, His servants are instruments by which He works and through
whom He accomplishes His evangelical purpose. Thus Paul could properly
say “I have begotten you through the gospel” (

1 Corinthians 4:15). And
again,
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be
formed in you” (

Galatians 4:19).
So the servants of God had, through the preaching of the Gospel,
“renewed unto repentance” those spoken of in

Hebrews 6:4. But they
had apostatised; they had totally repudiated the Gospel. It was therefore
“impossible” for the servants of God to “renew them again unto
repentance”, for the all-sufficient reason that they had no other message to
proclaim to them. They had no other Gospel in reserve, no further motives
to present. Christ crucified had been set before them. Him they now
denounced as an Imposter. There was “none other name” whereby they
could be saved. Their public renunciation of Christ rendered their case
hopeless so far as God’s servants were concerned. “Let them alone”
(

Matthew 15:19) was now their orders: compare Jude 22. Whether or
not it was possible for God, consistently with His holiness, to shame them,
our passage does not decide.
“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh”
(verse 6).
This is brought in to show the aggravation of their awful crime and the
impossibility of their being renewed again unto repentance. By renouncing
their Christian profession they declared Christ to be an Imposter. Thus they
were irreclaimable. To attempt any further reasoning with them, would
only be casting pearls before swine. With this verse should be carefully.336
compared the parallel passage in

Hebrews 10:26-29. These apostates
had “received the knowledge of the truth”, though not a saving knowledge
of it. Afterward they sinned “wilfully”: there was a deliberate and open
disavowal of the truth. The nature of their particular sin is termed a
“treading under foot the Son of God (something which no real Christian
ever does) and counting (esteeming) the blood of the covenant an unholy
thing”, that is, looking upon the One who hung on the Cross as a common
malefactor. For such there “remaineth no more sacrifice for sins”. Their
case is hopeless so far as man is concerned; and the writer believes, such
are abandoned by God also.
“Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to
an open shame”.
“They thus identify themselves with His crucifiers — they
entertained and avowed sentiments which were He on earth and in
their power, would induce them to crucify Him. They exposed Him
to infamy, made a public example of Him. They did more to
dishonor Jesus Christ than His murderers did. They never professed
to acknowledge His divine mission; but these apostates had made
such a profession — they had made a kind of trial of Christianity,
and, after trial, had rejected it” (Dr. J. Brown).
Such a warning was needed and well calculated to stir up the slothful
Hebrews. Under the Old Testament economy, by means of types and
prophecies, they had obtained glimmerings of truth as to Christ, called “the
word of the beginning of Christ”. Under those shadows and glimmerings
they had been reared, not knowing their full import till they had been
blessed with the full light of the Gospel, here called “perfection”. The
danger to which they were exposed was that of receding from the ground
where Christianity placed them, and relaxing to Judaism. To do so meant
to re-enter that House which Christ had left “desolate” (

Matthew
23:38), and would be to join forces with His murderers, and thus “crucify
to themselves the Son of God afresh”, and by their apostasy “put Him to an
open (public) shame”. We may add that the Greek word here for “crucify”
is a stronger one than is generally used: it means to “crucify up”. Attention
is thus directed to the erection of the cross on which the Savior was held
up to public scorn.
Taking the passage as a whole, it needs to be remembered that all who had
professed to receive the Gospel were not born of God: the parable of the.337
Sower shows that. Intelligence might be informed, conscience searched,
natural affections stirred, and yet there be “no root” in them. All is not gold
that glitters. There has always been a “mixt multitude” (

Exodus 12:38)
who accompany the people of God. Moreover, there is in the real Christian
the old heart, which is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”,
and therefore is he in constant need of faithful warning. Such, God has
given in every dispensation:

Genesis 2:17;

Leviticus 26:15, 16;

Matthew 3:8;

Romans 11:21;

1 Corinthians 10:12.
Finally, let it be said that while Scripture speaks plainly and positively of
the perseverance of the saints, yet it is a perseverance of saints, not
unregenerate professors. Divine preservation is not only in a safe state, but
also in a holy course of disposition and conduct. We are “kept by the
power of God through faith”. We are kept by the Spirit working in us a
spirit of entire dependency, renouncing our own wisdom and strength. The
only place from which we cannot fall is one down in the dust. It is there the
Lord brings His own people, weaning them from all confidence in the flesh,
and giving them to experience that it is when they are weak they are
strong. Such, and such only, are saved and safe forever..338
CHAPTER 25
THE TWOFOLD WORKING OF THE SPIRIT
(

HEBREWS 6:4-6)
In our last article we attempted little more than an explication of the terms
used in

Hebrews 6:4-6. Lack of space prevented us from throwing upon
these verses the light which other portions of God’s Word affords, yet this
is necessary if we are to form anything like a true and adequate conception
of the particular characters which are there in view. One chief reason why
students of Scripture continue to experience difficulty in ascertaining the
meaning of any verse therein, is because they fail to prayerfully and
patiently compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (

1 Corinthians 2:13).
All of us are in far too much a hurry, and for this reason miss the best of
what God has provided — true both of temporal and spiritual things.
Probably few of our readers considered that we had succeeded in clearing
away all the difficulties raised by this solemn passage, therefore the need of
a further article thereon.
On the present occasion we propose to take up our passage more from a
topical viewpoint than an expository, seeking (as God may be pleased to
graciously enable) to open up more fully that in it which has caused the
most trouble, namely, the precise relation of the Holy Spirit to the
characters therein mentioned. They who “fall away” and whom it is
“impossible to renew again unto repentance”, are said to have been “made
partakers of the Holy Spirit”. We ask now, On what has the Spirit
wrought? What was the character of His work toward them? How had they
been made “partakers” of Him? To what extent? This leads us to point out
that Scripture reveals a twofold working of God’s Spirit with men: with
the elect, and with the non-elect. It is of the latter we shall here treat.
Concerning the Spirit’s work with the non-elect, we begin by enquiring,
Upon what does He work? We answer, Upon the faculties of men’s souls.
First, He works upon the understanding. There are in all men natural
faculties of understanding, will, and affection. A man could not love God
unless he had in him the faculty of affection — a stone could never love.339
God! So a man could never understand spiritual things unless he had the
faculty of understanding. With the elect, the Holy Spirit “renews” the
understanding (

Romans 12:2 compared with

Titus 3:5); but with the
non-elect, He only enlightens or educates it. The understanding of fallen
and unregenerate men, which is enlightened by the Spirit, is capable of
knowing, in some measure, both the Godhead, and parts of His law. Let us
give Scripture proof of this.
In

Romans 1:18 we read of men who “hold the truth in
unrighteousness”, and what is there referred to is explained in what
follows: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them;
for God hath showed unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the
creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made: His eternal power and Godhead” (verses 19, 20). The reference
there, as the later verses show, is to the Heathen. Now what we would
press upon the attention of the reader is, that in addition to poor fallen
nature, God has granted to men a manifestation of Himself; that which
“may be known of God”, which He “hath showed unto them”. It is not
merely that creation reveals a Creator, but that the Creator has revealed
Himself — “when they knew God” (verse 21), and that must have been by
the Spirit’s enlightening their natural understanding.
Again, in

Romans 2:14, 15 we read,
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the
things contained in the law, these, having not the law are a law unto
themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts,
their conscience also bearing witness”.
The Holy Spirit is speaking here of men according to “nature”, not grace.
In his natural heart there is written “the work of the law” — by whom but
by the finger of God! Except for this, man would be destitute of moral
light, for the Fall robbed him of all light.
The understanding in man, or the principle of reason, may, by education
and contact with others, be developed to a considerable extent, so that a
man may become exceeding wise; nevertheless, his knowledge and wisdom
is only natural, even though his understanding be exercised upon
supernatural objects. But let now the light of reason and the light of
conscience be brought to the Scriptures for instruction, and man’s
knowledge will be much further increased, yet still his light is but natural,.340
it rises not to the level of what grace produces. Proof of this is seen in the
case of the Jews:
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest
thy boast of God; and knowest His will, and approvest the things
that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and are
confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them
which are in darkness” (

Romans 2:17-19).
How like thousands of unregenerate souls in Christendom today!
From the last-quoted passage we learn what is the effect of the light of
nature (reason) being brought to the law of God: it is increased and
improved. As we have seen above, a man has some light by nature that
there is a God; let that light be brought to Scripture, and he becomes
“confident” there is. A man by nature has some light about the duties which
God requires of him; let him bring that light to the Scriptures and he will
have “the form (systematized) of knowledge, and of the truth in the law”
(

Romans 2:20). When the understanding of the natural man is illumined
by the Scriptures, his light is both ratified and added unto, yet is it still
natural light which he has; it is but the educating of his natural reason.
Second, the Holy Spirit works upon the affections of the natural man.
There is in fallen man a natural devotion to a deity. This is evidenced by the
fact that practically all of the heathen worship some god or other. In

Acts 13:50 we read of “devout women” being stirred up against Paul
and Barnabas: they had a devotion in them which is common to mankind.
Now let men bring their natural devotion to the Scriptures and they will
come to know of the true God, and learn to reverence Him too; yet is that
only nature improved. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit may (usually,
does) convince its reader that the Maker of heaven and earth is the true
God, and therefore worthy of honor and homage. The fact is, though very
few indeed recognize it, the identical principle which causes a Hindu to
worship Buddha, causes the Anglo-Saxon to worship the Father of Jesus
Christ.
Again; there is in every sinner the natural recognition that his sins deserve
eternal death, and that God, unless He be appeased, will punish him.
Doubtless many of our readers will feel inclined to call into question this
last statement; let our appeal again be to the Word of Truth. There we
read,.341
“Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they might commit such
things are worthy of death” (

Romans 1:32).
That, be it noted, is said of the heathen. No bring one having such
knowledge to the law of God, and what will follow? This,
“But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth
against them which commit such things” (

Romans 2:2).
There it is the Jews speaking. The natural man enlightened from the Word
has his conviction deepened.
Again, if a man is conscious of his sins, and realizes that the justice of God
calls for their punishment, is it not natural for him to think next of a
mediator, to desire someone to intercede for him with God? Such a
concept is by no means a sure evidence of regeneration.
This too is found in mere nature. Every heathen religion, with the
propitiatory offerings which are brought to their gods, exemplifies it.
Romanism with its mediating priests demonstrates the same fact in this
land. Illustrations are also to be found in the Holy Scriptures. When
Pharaoh was convicted of his sins, he entreated Moses to intercede for him
(

Exodus 10:16, 17). So too wicked Simon Magus desired Peter to pray
for him (

Acts 8:24).
Once more; there is in the heart of every natural man a desire for
happiness, and for a greater happiness than this poor world can provide. It
is plainly evident that man rests not in anything down here, for like a bee
which goes from one flower to another, so the heart of man cannot be
satisfied with any earthly object. When Balaam saw the blessedness of
God’s people, he exclaimed, “Let me die the death of the righteous”
(

Numbers 23:10). The most abandoned wretch does not want to go to
hell, and to the very end he hopes that he will be taken to heaven.
So, likewise, is the matter of believing that a man really is a child of God.
There is such self-love and self-flattery in the fallen heart that if an
unregenerate man hears, out of the Word of God, the good news that
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, he at once concludes that
he is the man God will honor, as wicked Haman imagined that he was the
man king Ahasuerus would honor. So when the Holy Spirit has terrified a
man’s conscience, by giving it a sight of sin before a holy God, when he
learns about remission of sins through Christ, he at once fondly imagines.342
that his own sins are pardoned. Alas, in the vast majority of cases it has to
be said, “the pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Obadiah 3).
Now let us take note of how the Holy Spirit may work upon there natural
principles of the human soul, mightily raising them, and yet not changing a
man’s heart. Just as the rays of the sun shining upon plants in a garden
adds no new nature to them, but serves to aid their best development, so
the Holy Spirit when He deals with the reprobate communicates nothing
new to them, yet raises their natural faculties to their highest point. The
principles or faculties of man’s soul are capable of being wrought upon
without the impartation of regenerating grace. As we have seen, man’s
understanding is illuminated by the light of conscience, but let the Holy
Spirit — without imparting a new eye — still further enlighten that
conscience, bring before it the exalted claims of the thrice holy God, and its
knowledge will be greatly increased. Nevertheless, this educated
conscience falls far below the level of the spiritual discernment possessed
by one who has been brought out of death into life. Let us particularize:
1. THE SPIRIT RESTRAINS THE CORRUPTIONS OF MEN.
In

Genesis 20:6 we read of how God bound the lust of Abimeleck when
Sarah was at his mercy, “I also withheld thee from sinning against Me:
therefore suffered I thee not to touch her”. So in

2 Peter 2:20 we read
of some “having escaped the pollutions of the world through the
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, yet from what follows in
the next two verses it is clear they were never regenerated. There the
apostle uses the similitude of a sow being washed from her filth, and being
kept for a while, after she is washed, from going back again into the mire;
yet is there no changing or “renewing” of the swine’s nature.
Contrast now what is said of the Lord’s people in

2 Peter 1:3, 4,
“According as His Divine power hath given unto us all things
pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that
that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us
exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be
partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that
is in the world through lust”.
In

2 Peter 2:20, the Greek word for the “pollutions” of the world,
signifies the gross and outward defilements into which the irreligious run;.343
but in

2 Peter 1:4, the regenerated are said to have escaped “the
corruption” that is in the world through lust or “desire”, i.e. the inward
disposition toward evil. Moreover, the Lord’s people are made “partakers
of the Divine nature”, which means, the Divine image is stamped upon
them: “life and godliness” are seen in them.
Again; in the similitude used in

2 Peter 2:20, the apostle likens those
who have known “the way of righteousness” to a dog that has been made
sick, but which turns to its own vomit again. The figure is very striking and
forcible. When the Holy Spirit brings the Word of God to bear upon an
unregenerate man’s conscience, he is made sick at heart. Of Christians it is
said, “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear”
(

Romans 8:15), but to the non-elect He often becomes a Spirit of
“bondage” by binding their sins upon their conscience. Whereas before
they had a glimmering light that the judgment of God is against sinners,
their conscience now is set on fire, and the temporary consequence is that
sins are refused with loathing, vomited out. Yet, like a dog, such a one
loves them still, and ultimately returns thereto.
2. THE SPIRIT CAUSES MEN TO TURN NATURALLY TOWARD
THE REDEEMER.
When conscience is wrought upon by a few sparks of God’s wrath falling
upon it, what saith the soul next? This, O for a physician! There is, as we
have pointed out above, a natural principle in men which causes them to
make use of a mediator unto God — a witch-doctor, a priest, or a
preacher, as the case may be. Now a man who has lived under the sound of
the Gospel learns that Christ is the one Mediator. Scriptural education has
taught him this, just as the heathen education teaches a Turk that Mahomet
is the one mediator. And, by the same principle that Agrippa believed
Moses and the prophets, the unregenerate “Christian” (?) believes in
Christ. Nay further, the light of the Spirit shining upon him, as the sun on
the plants, develops his natural understanding and causes him to now
remember that Redeemer which before he ignored.
A scripture clearly to the point of what we have just said above is

Psalm
78:34, 35,
“When He slew them, then they sought Him: and they returned and
enquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their
Rock, and the high God their Redeemer”..344
Yet what immediately follows? This, “Nevertheless they did flatter Him
with their mouth”. And what signifies this “flattering”? Why, they sought
Him merely out of self-love, simply because they felt their very lives were
in imminent danger. There is a seeking out of friendship, out of love to the
object. But if one seek unto an enemy because he hath need of him, that is
but “flattery” or self-love. So if sinful man feels he is in extremity, if his
conscience remains sick, mere nature will call for the Physician.
Self-love is the predominant principle in the natural man: he loves himself
more than he loves God; it is this which lies at the root of depravity and
sin. Now when a man’s conscience is convicted so that he perceives his
need of a physician, and recognizes that happiness comes from Christ, such
good news appeals to his self-love. Satan, who knows human nature so
well was right when he said, “skin for skin yea, all that a man hath will he
give for his life” (

Job 2:4). Make the self-love of the natural man
conscious of the wrath of God, and he is ready to “accept Christ”, or do
anything else which the preacher bids him; yet that is only the workings of
nature, he is still unregenerate.
When the storm arose and threatened to sink the ship in which Jonah lay
asleep we read, “Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto
his god”; then the captain awoke Jonah and said.
“Arise, call upon thy God, if so be God will think upon us that we
perish not” (

Hebrews 1:5,6).
So a conscience terrified by the prospect of Hell, will cause a man to seek
Christ after a natural way. It is but the instinct of self-preservation at work.
Add to this, the craving for happiness which self-love ever seeks, and
hearing that such happiness is to be found only in Christ, little wonder that
multitudes seek Him now for what they can get from Him, as of old they
sought Him for the sake of the loaves and fishes.
In

John 6:33, we are told that Christ announced,
“For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and
giveth life unto the world”.
What was their response? This, “Then they said unto Him, Lord, evermore
give us this bread”. Yet their eager request sprang not from a renewed
heart, but from the corrupt spring of self-love. Proof of this is found in the
immediate sequel. In verse 36 the Lord tells them plainly, ye “believe not”..345
In verse 41 we are told that they “murmured at Him”. Yet that very same
people said to the Lord, “Evermore give us this Bread”! Ah, all is not gold
that glitters.
An enlightened understanding, moved by self-love, is prepared to take up
Divine duties never practiced before, yea, to walk in the commandments of
God. This was demonstrated plainly at Sinai. When Jehovah appeared
before Israel in His awesome majesty, and their conscience was smitten by
His manifested holiness, they said to Moses, “Go thou near, and hear all
that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord
our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear and do”. They were
prepared to receive and obey the Lord’s statutes. Yet mark what God said
of them, “Oh, that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear
Me, and keep all My commandments always”. They still lacked the
principle of regeneration!
3. THE SPIRIT ELEVATES THE NATURAL
FACULTIES OF MAN.
Just as the shining of the sun causes plants to grow higher and fruits to be
sweeter than would be the case were the heavens to remain cloudy and
overcast, so the Spirit works upon the faculties of the unregenerate and
causes them to bring forth that which left to themselves they would not
produce. Or, just as fire will raise the temperature and level of water,
causing it to bubble up and ascend in steam, though the principle of heat is
in the fire and not in the water, for when the fire is withdrawn the water
returns to its natural coldness again; so the Spirit enlightens the
understandings of the non-elect, stirs their affections, and moves their wills
to action, without communicating a new principle to them, without
regenerating them.
He elevates the understanding. In

Numbers 24:2 we read that the Spirit
of God came upon Balaam, the consequence of which he has told us:
“The man who had his eyes shut, but now opened, hath said: he
hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of
the Almighty, falling but having his eyes opened: How goodly are
thy tents, O Jacob, thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (verses 3-5).
Thus Balaam had a vision of the Almighty, and perceived the blessed estate
of His people; yet was he still unregenerate!.346
He elevates the affections. In

1 Samuel 11:1-3 we read of how the
enemies of Jehovah insulted His people. Then we are told,
“And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard these
tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly” (verse 6).
That was holy indignation, yet it proceeded from a reprobate! As the winds
blowing upon the sea will, at times, raise its waters to a great height, so the
Spirit, under a faithful sermon, will blow upon the affections of the
unregenerate, and elevate them to nobler objects and occupations. Yet, He
stops short of making them new creatures in Christ Jesus.
Again; as we have seen, there is in man a natural desire for real happiness,
hence, when Christ is presented in the Gospel, many receive Him “with
joy”; yet, are they, for the most part, but stony-ground hearers, destitute of
any root of vital godliness (

Matthew 13:20, 21). Nature may be so
raised by the light which the Holy Spirit brings to it, that unregenerate men
may taste of the heavenly gift, Christ, see

John 4:10. So too they are
enabled to taste of the “powers of the world to come”. As in their
conscience, they get a taste of Hell, and so know for a certainty that there
is a Hell, the same natural principle which desires a happiness which is
beyond this world, is confirmed and comforted when they have a “taste” of
what belongs to the world to come.
He elevates the will and sets it to work in the way of obedience to God.
The Holy Spirit is the Author of all moral and civil righteousness which
there is in the world. The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to issue a
proclamation for the building of His house (

Ezra 1:1, 2); and He also
moved Caiaphas to prophesy of Christ (

John 11:51). Of wicked Herod
we read that, when he heard John “he did many things, and heard him
gladly” (

Mark 6:20). And God will be no man’s Debtor: every act of
obedience, performed by him in obedience to His Word, shall be rewarded:
a temporary joy shall be the portion of such. The tragic thing is that so
many conclude from such an experience that they are in a state of grace,
and therefore become loud in their professions of assurance, being fully
persuaded that they are really born-again persons.
Now we trust that what has been said will enable some of our readers to
understand the better what is found in

Hebrews 6:4-6. One eminent
commentator suggested that these verses describe neither the regenerate
nor the unregenerate, but a third condition, midway between; because there.347
must be a third state between that of mere nature and that of supernatural
grace. Nor are we at all surprised that he arrived at this conclusion. Few
indeed have perceived the force of

1 Corinthians 12:6, “And there are
diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all”.
There are operations of the Spirit upon men’s hearts which are above
nature, which are works of Divine power, which produces that in and from
unregenerate men which leads multitudes of them to fondly imagine that
they have been actually born again, and yet this work of the Spirit falls far
short of that “exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe”
(

Ephesians 1:19).

Hebrews 6:4-6 supplies a most striking example of
this, for there we have men who are made “partakers of the Holy Spirit”.
There we see a work which is above nature, for they taste of the “heavenly
Gift”. It is a work of power, for they taste of the “powers of the world to
come”. As

1 Corinthians 12:4 tells us, “There are diversities of gifts,
but the same Spirit”. And why is this?

1 Corinthians 12:11 answers,
“But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every
man severally as He will”: He proportions His power as He pleases, to an
inferior or a superior work. Note carefully, there are “good gifts” from
above, as well as “perfect gifts” (

James 1:17)!
Of old Jehovah said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man”
(

Genesis 6:3). There we find the Spirit putting forth power upon man,
for He “strives” with him; yet, not in the fullness of His power, or it had
not been resisted. In other cases He puts forth power and men yield thereto
(as did Balaam), yet is that power simply directed to the winding up of
man’s natural faculties to their greatest height, and comes far short of
regenerating them. This is clearly illustrated in the parable of the Sower.
There is the stony-ground hearer, who received the Word with joy, yet falls
away in time of persecution. There is also the thorny-ground hearer, who
withstands persecution, and brings forth fruit, yet not “to perfection”. And
both of them represent unregenerate souls.
And why does God put forth His power upon the reprobate, yet not the
“exceeding greatness” of His power? God has seen well to test men in
various ways. First, He gave them the light of nature, the work of the law
written in their hearts, augmented by the light of conscience — a light
which enabled men to know there was a God and of their duties toward
Him. And Socrates, who knew nothing of the Scriptures, went so far as to.348
die for the truth that there was One God. But this light of nature did not
regenerate men, nor enable them to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.
Again; He tried the Jews with His Law. He would make it evident how far
the light of nature, improved by the light of His Law, would go. And let it
not be forgotten that of Israel under the Law it is said. “Thou gavest also
Thy good Spirit to instruct them” (

Nehemiah 9:20). Nevertheless, the
law was “weak through the flesh” (

Romans 8:3): it could not bring
forth that which was truly spiritual. And just as God gave Socrates as the
highest product of what the light of nature could produce, so He gave Saul
of Tarsus — a man who walked blamelessly (

Philippians 3:6) — as the
highest product under the Law.
But now He is trying men with the Gospel, to show how far human nature
as such can go. That Gospel is accompanied with the Spirit, and

Hebrews 6:4-6 shows us the highest point which can be attained under
it, by man in the flesh. He may be enlightened, renewed unto repentance,
enjoy the Word of God, be made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and yet
apostatize and perish forever. So too the same characters are said to have
“done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (

Hebrews 10:26). The tragic
thing is that the vast majority in Christendom look upon these inferior
workings of the Spirit as evidence of His new-creating grace.
And what, we may enquire, is God’s purpose in these secondary operations
of His Spirit? It is manifold. We can barely mention the leading designs.
First, it is to exhibit the excellency of Grace. Every thing in nature hath
either its counterfeit or counterfoil. If there are stationary stars, there are
also shooting stars. If there are precious stones, there are pebbles which
closely resemble yet differ widely from them. The one serves to set off the
other. So there is a natural faith —
“Many believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He
did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them”
(

John 2:23, 24);
“The demons believe” (

James 2:19) — and there is a supernatural faith,
“the faith of God’s elect” (

Titus 1:1), called “precious faith” (

2
Peter 1:1)! So there are common operations of the Spirit, and special
operations; inferior workings upon the flesh, and superior workings that
beget “spirit” (

John 3:6). By virtue of this contrast, God says to each of
His elect, See how much I have wrought on mere nature in the reprobate!.349
yet it was not grace; I might have done no more for you, but I showed the
“exceeding greatness of My power” (

Ephesians 1:19) toward you.
Second, to show the depravity of human nature. No matter under what
trial God places man, that which is born of the flesh remains naught but
flesh. The Law was weak through the flesh; so too is the Gospel,
notwithstanding the shining of God’s Spirit upon men. The conscience may
be convicted, the understanding enlightened, the affections raised, and the
will moved, yet it still remains true that “every man at his best state is
altogether vanity” (

Psalm 39:5). Men may be instructed in the truth,
believe in the living God, “accept Christ as their personal Savior”, contend
for the faith once delivered to the saints, and pass among men for devout
Christians, yet be no better than “whited sepulchers, full of dead men’s
bones”.
Third, to place bounds upon sin. The general workings of God’s Spirit
upon the reprobate serve to curb the risings of man’s corrupt nature. As it
is His presence here upon earth which hinders the full manifestation of the
mystery of iniquity in the appearing of the anti-Christ (2 Thessalonians 2),
so His operations upon the non-elect prevent many outbursts of
wickedness. In the time of Israel’s apostasy the Holy Spirit (the “glory”)
withdrew gradually, stage by stage (Ezekiel 11), so as the apostasy of
Christendom increases, the restraining operations of the Spirit are
decreasing and hence the rising tide of lawlessness.
Fourth, to afford protection for the elect. God’s flock is only “the little”
one (

Luke 12:32), very, very much smaller than is commonly supposed.
Christ Himself declared that only “FEW” are in the Narrow Way which
leadeth “unto life” (

Matthew 7:14). Nor must

Revelation 7:9 be
made to contradict these clear passages; instead, the “great multitude
which no man could number” is to be compared with and interpreted by the
expressions found in

Judges 6:5, 7:12;

2 Chronicles 12:3;

Joel
1:6. Now suppose that only the elect had been reformed by the Gospel, and
all the rest of the world had remained in utter enmity against it, then the
fruits of the Gospel had been too bare, being without leaves. The leaves of
a tree, though not fit for the table, are serviceable to the fruit, and
ornamental to the tree, for without them the fruit would be exposed to
ripen on bare twigs.
An acknowledgement of the doctrine of the Gospel, where it is not
accompanied by regeneration of heart, may indeed be suitably compared to.350
the leaves of a tree which shelter and protect the fruit. Thus they are
serviceable, though not valuable in God’s account. The leaf of the vine
does more good to the grapes against a scorching sun, than the leaf of any
other fruit tree — how much we may learn from God’s creatures if only we
have eyes to see! So God’s elect have been outwardly shaded by the
multitude of nominal Christians around them. For this we may well thank
the kind providence of our Lord. Moreover, God has rewarded the
doctrinal faith of the great crowd of unregenerate professors by preserving
our public liberties, which the little handful of the regenerate could never,
humanly speaking, have enjoyed, without the others.
Again; the operations of the Spirit upon the reprobate have shamed the
wicked, increased sobriety, promoted morality, and caused nominal
professors to support externally the preaching of the Gospel, the carrying
on of the ministry, and thus providing for the benefit of common hearers.
This is all useful in its season, but will reap no reward in eternity. The
writer most seriously doubts if there be a single church on earth today,
having in it sufficient of God’s elect to support a preacher, were all the
unregenerate in it excluded.
Yea, most probably, most of God’s own sent-servants, would be so
completely dismayed if they could but see into the hearts of those who
have a name to live and are dead, that they would be in despair. Yet though
we cannot see into the hearts of professors, we can form an accurate idea
of what is in them, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh”. And the worldliness and emptiness of the ordinary speech of the
majority shows plainly Who is not in their hearts.
We sincerely trust and earnestly pray that it may please our God to strike
terror into the souls of many who read this article, that their false peace
may be disturbed, and their worthless profession be exposed. Should some
of the more thoughtful exclaim with the apostles, “Who then can be
saved”? we answer in the words of our Lord, “With men this is
impossible” (

Matthew 19:26). Conclusive proof is this, my reader, that
no sinner can be saved by any act of his own; and faithfulness requires us
to tell you frankly that if your hope of Heaven is resting upon your act of
“accepting Christ”, then your house is built upon the sand. But blessed be
His name, the Redeemer went on to say, “But with God all things are
possible”. “Salvation is of the Lord” (

Jonah 2:9), not of the creature
(

Romans 9:16). Then marvel not that Christ said, “Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (

John 3:3)..351
CHAPTER 26
THE TWO CLASSES OF PROFESSORS
(

HEBREWS 6:7,8)
Our preceding article was entitled “The Twofold Working of the Spirit”.
This was suggested by the contents of the first six verses of Hebrews 6. In
them we find persons belonging to two entirely different classes are spoken
of. The former, one in whom a work of Divine grace had been wrought,
effectually applying to them the “great salvation” of God. The latter, one
upon whom a work of Divine grace was also wrought, transforming its
objects to a considerable degree, yet falling short of actually regenerating
them.
“The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His
works” (

Psalm 145:9),
but the richness of His “mercy” is reserved for the objects of His great love
(

Ephesians 2:4). So too God puts forth His power in varying degrees,
proportioned to the work which He has before Him. Thus, Christ referred
to His casting out of demons “with the finger of God” (

Luke 11:20).
Speaking to Israel, Moses said, “With a strong hand hath the Lord brought
thee out of Egypt” (

Exodus 13:9). When referring to the amazing
miracle of the Divine incarnation Mary said, “He hath showed strength
with His arm” (

Luke 1:51). But when Paul prayed that God would
enlighten His saints to apprehend His stupendous miracle of grace in
salvation, it was that they might know “the exceeding greatness of His
power to us-ward”.
God’s power was put forth and is displayed in the natural creation
(

Romans 1:20). It will be made known in Hell, upon the vessels of
wrath fitted to destruction (

Romans 9:22). It is exercised upon the
reprobate in this life (in some more than in others, according to His
sovereign pleasure) in subduing their corruptions, restraining their sins,
reforming their characters, causing them to receive the doctrine of the
Gospel. But the greatest excellency and efficacy of His power is reserved.352
for His beloved people. His power toward them is such that it exceedeth all
our thoughts:
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”
(

Ephesians 3:20).
The recognition of only one of the two distinct operations of God’s Spirit
upon men has divided theologians into two opposing camps. On the one
hand, are the Arminians, who insist that Scripture teaches a common grace
of God toward all men, a grace which may be despised. So far they are
right, for Jude 4 expressly speaks of a class who turn “the grace of our
God into lasciviousness”. But they err when they teach there is no special
grace, which is always efficacious upon those in whom it works. On the
other side, the majority of modem Calvinists (the older ones did not) deny
a common grace of God to all men, and insist in distinguishing grace to
the elect only. In this they are wrong, and hence their unsatisfactory
interpretations of

Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26.
Now as we have shown in our last article,

James 1:17 tells us “Every
good gift and every perfect gift is from above” etc. Two distinct “gifts” are
here referred to. Scripture draws a clear line of distinction between that
which God calls “good”, and that which He designates “perfect”. The main
difference between them being that, usually, “good” is applied to
something which is temporal, “perfect” to that which is spiritual. The
operations of the Spirit upon the non-elect produces that which is “good”,
that which accomplishes a useful purpose in time, that which is serviceable
to God’s elect. But His operations upon the children of God produces that
which is “perfect”, i.e. spiritual, supernatural, eternal. The difference
between these two classes and their relation to God in time, was clearly
foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The commonwealth of Israel was the
type of Christendom as a whole; the “remnant according to the election of
grace” in Israel (

Romans 11:5), represented the regenerated people of
God now. Hence in both the Tabernacle and the Temple there were two
distinct grades of worshippers; so there are today. Those who are merely
nominal Christians are the outer-court worshippers; the regenerated
Christians, who have been made “kings and priests unto God”
(

Revelation 1:6), worship in the holy place (

Hebrews 10:19). Both
classes are contemplated in Hebrews 6..353
In the short passage which is to be before us on this present occasion, the
apostle sums up and makes a searching application of all that he has been
writing about in the preceding verses, and this in the form of a parable or
similitude. In the context two different classes of people are viewed,
though at first it is by no means easy to distinguish between them, the
reason for this being that they have so much in common. They had both
enjoyed the same external privileges, had been enlightened under the same
Gospel ministry, had alike been made “partakers of the Holy Spirit”, and
had all made a good profession. Yet, of the second class it had to be said,
as Christ said to the young ruler, “One thing thou lackest”, namely, the
shedding abroad of God’s love in their hearts, evidenced by leaving all and
following Christ.
The first class is addressed in the opening verses of our chapter, where the
apostle bids the truly regenerated people of God “Go on unto perfection”,
i.e. having left the temporal shadows, seek to apprehend that for which
they had been apprehended — live in the power and enjoyment of the
spiritual, supernatural, and eternal. This, the apostle had said, “will we do,
if God permit” (verse 3). Divine enablement was needed if they were to
“possess their possessions” (

Obadiah 1:17), for the regenerate are just
as dependent upon God as are the unregenerate. The second class are
before us in verses 4-6, where we have described the principal effects
which the common operations of the Spirit produce upon the natural
faculties of the human soul. Though those faculties be wound up to their
highest pitch, yet the music which they produce is earthly not heavenly,
human not Divine, fleshly not spiritual, temporal not eternal. Consequently,
they are still liable to apostatize, and even though they should not, they are
certain to perish eternally.
The apostle’s design in this 6th chapter was to exhort the Hebrews to
progress in the Christian course (verses 1-3), and to persevere therein
(verses 12-20). The first exhortation is presented in verse 1 and qualified in
verse 3. The motive to obedience is drawn from the danger of apostacy:
(verses 4-6, note the opening “for”). His purpose in referring to this second
class (of unregenerate professors, who apostatize) was, to warn against the
outcome of a continuance in a state of slothfulness. Here in the similitude
found in verses 6,7, he continues and completes the same solemn line of
thought, showing what is the certain and fearful doom of all upon whom a
regenerating work of grace is not wrought. First, however, he describes the
blessedness of the true people of God..354
“For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it
and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whom it is dressed,
receiveth blessing from God; But that which beareth thorns and
briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be
burned” (verses 7,8).
In taking up these verses we shall endeavor to give, first, an interpretation
of them; second, make an application of their contents. The interpretation
respects, in its direct and local reference the Jews, or rather, two classes
among the Jews; the application belongs to all who come under the sound
of the Gospel.
The two verses quoted above are designed to illustrate and confirm the
solemn admonition found in the six preceding verses, therefore are they
introduced with the word “for”. In the context two classes of people are in
view, both of which were, according to the flesh, Jews. This we have
sought to establish in our previous expositions. With the first class the
apostle identified himself, note the “we” in verse 3; from the second class
Paul dissociates himself, note the words “those” in verse 4 and “they” in
verse 6. So, too, two different pieces of ground are now described: first,
fruitful ground, which depicts those who have been truly regenerated, and
who in consequence, had received the Word into good and honest hearts.
Second, unfruitful ground, which represents that class against whose sin
and doom the apostle was warning the Hebrews; namely, those who,
however great their privileges and fair their professions, bring forth only
thorns and briers, who, being rejected by God, are overtaken with swift
and terrible destruction.
“For the earth which drinketh in the rain”. The prime reference is to the
Jewish nation. They were God’s vineyard (see

Isaiah 5:7,8;

Jeremiah
2:21 etc.). It was unto them God had sent all His servants, the prophets,
and last of all His Son (see

Matthew 21:35-37). The “rain” here
signifies the Word, or Doctrine which the Lord sent unto Israel: “My
doctrine shall drop as the rain” (

Deuteronomy 32:2 and cf.

Isaiah
55:10, 11). Note how when Ezekiel was to prophesy or preach, his
message would “drop” as the rain does (

Ezekiel 21:2 and cf.

Amos
7:16). The figure is very beautiful. The rain is something which no man can
manufacture, nor is the Word of human origin. Rain comes down from
above, so is the Gospel a heavenly gift. The rain refreshes vegetation, and
causes it to grow, so too the Doctrine of God revives His people and.355
makes them fruitful. The rain quickens living seeds in the ground, though it
imparts no life to dead ones; so the Word is the Spirit’s instrument for
quickening God’s elect (

John 3:5;

James 1:18), who previously had
(federal) life in Christ.
There is nothing in nature that God assumes the more into His own
prerogative than the giving of rain. The first reference to it in Scripture is
as follows,
“For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth”
(

Genesis 2:5).
All rain is from God, who gives or withholds it at His pleasure. The
sending of rain He appeals to as a great pledge of His promises and
goodness:
“Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did
good, and gave us rain from heaven” etc. (

Acts 14:17).
Whatever conclusions men may draw from the commonness of it, and
however they may imagine they are acquainted with its causes, nevertheless
God distinguishes Himself from all the idols of the world in that none of
them can give rain:
“Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause
rain?” (

Jeremiah 14:22).
Hence the prophet said, “Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth
rain” (

Jeremiah 5:24).
The high sovereignty of God is also exhibited in the manner of His
bestowal and non-bestowal of rain:
“Also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet
three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city,
and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained
upon, and the piece whereon it rained not withered” (

Amos
4:7).
Thus it is absolutely in connection with His providential sending of the
Gospel to nations, cities, and individuals: it is of God’s disposal alone, and
He exercises a distinguishing authority thereon..356
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of
Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word
in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into
Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not” (

Acts 16:6, 7).
God sends His Gospel to one nation and not to another, to one city and not
to another — there are many large towns both in England and the United
States where there is no real Gospel preached today — and at one season
and not at another.
The natural is but a shadowing forth of the spiritual. What a contrast was
there between Egypt (figure of the world), and Canaan (type of the
Church)!
“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land
of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed,
and waterest with thy foot, as a garden of herbs. But the land,
whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and
drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy
God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it,
from the beginning of the year unto the end of the year… I will give
you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the
latter rain” (

Deuteronomy 11:11, 12, 14).
Thus, — there were two special wet seasons: the first in October (the
beginning of Israel’s year), when their seed was cast into the ground: the
other in March when their corn was nearly grown. Hence we read, “Jordan
overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest” (

Joshua 3:15, and cf.

1 Chronicles 12:15). Besides these, were many “showers” (

Psalm
65:10).
“The rain that cometh oft upon it”. The reference is to the repeated
and frequent ministerial showers with which God visited Israel. To
them He had called, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the
Lord!” (

Jeremiah 22:29).
It was looking back to these multiplied servants which Jehovah had sent to
His ancient people that Christ said,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them
which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy
children together” (

Matthew 23:37)..357
This then was the “earth” in which were the plants of God’s husbandry.
In what follows to the end of the passage the apostle distributes the plants
into two classes: “herbs” (verse 7), “thorns and briers” (verse 8). The
former, represent those who, having believed and obeyed the Gospel,
brought forth the fruits of practical godliness. These constituted that
“remnant according to the election of grace” (

Romans 11:5), which
obtained mercy, when the rest of their brethren according to the flesh were
blinded. These still continued to be the vineyard of the Lord, a field which
He cared for. They formed the first Gospel church, gathered out from the
Hebrews, which brought forth fruit to the glory of God, and was blessed by
Him. The latter, were made up of obstinate unbelievers on the one hand,
who persistently rejected Christ and His Gospel; and on the other hand, of
those who embraced the profession of the Gospel, but after a season
returned again to Judaism. These were rejected of God, fell under His
curse and perished.
“And bringeth forth herbs”. Several have noted the close resemblance
which our present passage bears to the parable of the Sower, recorded in
the Gospels. There are some notable parallels between them; the one of
most importance being, to observe that in both places we have men looked
at, not from the standpoint of God’s eternal counsels (as for example,

Ephesians 1:3-11), but according to human responsibility. The earth
which receives the rain, is a figure of the hearts and minds of the Jews, to
whom the Word of God had been sent, and to whom, in the days of Christ
and His apostles, the Gospel had been preached. So our Lord compared
His hearers unto several sorts of ground into which the seed is cast —
observe how the word “dressed” or “tilled” presupposes the seed. What
response, then, will the earth make to the repeated rains? or, to interpret
the figure, What fruit is brought forth by those who heard the Gospel? That
is the particular aspect of truth the Holy Spirit here has before Him.
“And bringeth forth herbs”. The verb here properly signifies the bringing
forth of a woman that hath conceived with child, cf.

Luke 1:31. So here
the earth is said to bring forth as from a womb impregnated, the rains
causing the seeds to issue in fruit. The Greek word for “herbs” occurs
nowhere else in the New Testament. It appears to be a general term for
vegetables and cereals. It is found frequently in the Sept. as the equivalent
of the Hebrews “eseb”, which has the same extensive meaning. Now just as
the cultivator of land has a right to expect that, under the providential.358
blessings of God, his toils shall be rewarded, that the seed he has sown and
the ground he has tilled, should yield an increase, so had Jehovah the right
to expect fruit from Israel:
“And He looked that it (His vineyard) should bring forth grapes”
(

Isaiah 5:4).
“Meet for them by whom it is dressed”. The Greek may be rightly rendered
thus: equally so, as in the margin, “for whom” it is dressed: either makes
good sense. “By whom” would look to the actual cultivator; “for whom,”
the proprietor. The apostle’s design here is to show the importance of
making a proper use of receiving God’s Word: a “meet” or suitable
response should be forthcoming.
The ministry of the Gospel tests the state of the hearts of those to whom it
comes, just as the fallen rain does the ground which receives it; tests it by
exhibiting its character from what is brought forth by it. As it is in nature,
so it is in grace; the more frequently the rain falls, and the more the ground
be cultivated, the better and heavier should be the yield. Thus it is with
God’s elect. The more they sit under the ministry of the Word, and the
more they seek grace to improve what they hear, the more fruit will they
yield unto God. Thus it had been with the godly in Israel.
“Receiveth blessing from God.” The “blessing” here is not antecedent in
the communication of mercies, for that we have at the beginning of the
verse; rather is it a consequent upon the bringing forth of “herbs” or fruit.
What we have here is God’s acceptation and approbation, assuring His
care unto a further improvement:
“A vineyard of red wine: I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every
moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day”
(

Isaiah 27:2, 3).
Three things then are included in God’s blessing of this fruitful field:
First, His owning of it: He is not ashamed to acknowledge it as His.
Second, His watch-care over it, His pruning of the branches that they
may bring forth more fruit (

John 15:2).
Third, His final preservation of it from evil, as opposed to the
destruction of barren ground. All this was true of that part of Israel
spoken of in

Romans 11:5..359
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected” (verse 8). It is
important to note that in the similitude there is a common subject of the
whole, which is then divided into two parts, with very different events
ascribed unto each. The common subject is “the earth,” of the nature
whereof both parts are equally participant. Originally, and naturally, they
differ not. On this common subject, on both parts or branches of it, the
“rain” equally falls. And too both are equally “dressed.” The difference
between them lies, first, in what each part of “the earth” (Israel) produced;
and secondly, God’s dealings with each part. As we have seen, the one part
brought forth “herbs” meet for the dresser or owner: a suitable response
was made to the rain given and the care expended upon it. The other,
which we are now to look at, is the very reverse.
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected.” Everything here is in
sharp antithesis from the terms of the preceding verse. There, the good
ground, “bringeth forth”, the Greek word signifying a natural conception
and production of anything in due order and season. But the evil ground
“beareth” thorns and briers, the Greek verb signifying an unnatural and
monstrous production, a casting out in abundance of that which is not only
without the use of means, but actually against it. As God said of His
Israelitish vineyard,
“He looketh that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth
wild grapes” (

Isaiah 5:2).
The Greek for “thorns and briers” is identical with the Sept. rendering of

Genesis 3:18, which, in our Bibles, is rendered, “thorns and thistles”.
Three thoughts seem suggested by the term here given to the product of
this evil ground.
First, it brought forth that which was of no profit to its owner, that
which promoted not the glory of God.
Second, “thorns and briers” are of a hurtful and noxious nature: see

Ezekiel 28:24, etc.
Third, these terms tell us that all which is brought forth by the natural
man is under the curse of God:

Genesis 3:18, 4:11, 12.
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected”. Land which, after
cultivation, brings forth only such products, is abandoned by the farmer as
worthless. The Greek word here for “rejected”, signifies the setting aside.360
as useless after trial has been made of a thing. The application of it here is
to by far the greater part of the Jewish people.
First, Christ had warned them
“the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation
bringing forth the fruits thereof” (

Matthew 21:43).
Second, after their full and open rejection of Himself and His Gospel,
Christ told them, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate”
(

Matthew 23:38).
Third, proof that the Nation as a whole had been “rejected” by God, is
found in

Acts 2:40, when, on the day of Pentecost, Peter bade the
believing remnant, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation”.
“And is nigh unto cursing”. This is in sharp contrast from what was said of
the good ground: “receiveth blessing from God”. The word “cursing” here,
means, “given over to execration”, or “devoted to destruction”. It was
given over to be “burned”, which, according to the analogy of faith, means,
it would be visited with Divine judgment. Israel had become a barren tree,
a cumberer of the ground, and the word had gone forth, “Cut it
down”(

Luke 12:7, 9). Further proof that Israel as a nation was given
over to “execration”, is found in the solemn incident of Christ’s cursing of
the “fig tree” (

Matthew 21:19), figure of the Jews, see

Matthew
24:32. True, a short respite had been granted — another “year” (

Luke
13:8) — hence the “nigh unto cursing”.
“Whose end is to be burned”. In Eastern lands, when a husbandman
discovers that a piece of ground is worthless, he neglects it, abandons it.
Next, he breaks down its fences, that it may be known it is outside the
bounds of his possession. Finally, he sets fire to its weeds, to prevent their
seeds being blown on to his good ground. Thus it was with Israel. In the
last chapter of Acts we see how the apostle Paul warned the Jews how that
God had set them aside (

Acts 28:25-28), and shortly after, the solemn
words of Christ in

Matthew 22:7 were fulfilled, “He sent forth His
armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city”.
The contents of

Hebrews 6:7, 8 are not to be restricted to the
regenerated and unregenerated Jews, for “as in water face answereth to
face, so the heart of man to man” (

Proverbs 27:19). “This is a similitude
most appropriate to excite a desire to make progress in due time; for as the.361
earth cannot bring forth a good crop in harvest except it causes the seed as
soon as it is sown to germinate, so if we desire to bring forth good fruit, as
soon as the Lord sows His Word, it ought to strike roots in us without
delay; for it cannot be expected to fructify, if it be either choked or perish.
But as the similitude is very suitable, so it must be wisely applied to the
design of the apostle.
“The earth, he says, which be sucking in the rain produces a blade
suitable to the seed sown, at length by God’s blessing produces a
ripe crop; so they who receive the seed of the Gospel into their
hearts and bring forth genuine shoots, will always make progress
until they produce ripe fruit. On the contrary, the earth, which after
culture and irrigation, brings forth nothing but thorns, affords no
hope of a harvest; nay, the more that grows which is its natural
produce, the more hopeless is the case. Hence the only remedy the
husbandman has is to burn up the noxious and useless weeds. So
they who destroy the seed of the Gospel, either by their indifference
or by corrupt affections, so as to manifest no sign of good progress
in their life, clearly show themselves to be reprobates, from whom
no harvest can be expected. The apostle then, not only speaks here
of the fruit of the Gospel, but also exhorts us promptly to embrace
it, and he further tells us, that the blade appears presently after the
seed is sown, and that grain follows the daily irrigations”. (Dr. John
Calvin).
The Lord Jesus completed His parable of the Sower by saying, “Take heed
therefore how ye hear” (

Luke 8:18): how you profit by it, what use you
make of it; be sure that you are a good-ground hearer. Such, are those in
whom, first, the Word falls, as into “an honest and good heart” (

Luke
8:15), i.e., they bow to its authority, judge themselves by it, are impartial
and faithful in applying it to their own failures. Second, they “receive” the
Word (

Mark 4:20): they make personal appropriation of it, they take it
home to themselves, they apply it to their own needs. Third, they
“understand” it (

Matthew 13:23): they enter into a spiritual and
experimental acquaintance with it. Fourth, they “keep” it (

Luke 8:15):
they retain, heed, obey, practice it. Fifth, they “bring forth fruit with
patience” (

Luke 8:15), they persevere, overcome all discouragements,
triumph over temptations, and walk in the paths of obedience. Upon such
the “blessing” of God rests..362
Now in contrast from the good-ground hearer, are the wayside, stony, and
thorny-ground hearers. These, we believe, are they who come under the
common or inferior operations of the Holy Spirit, spoken of in our last
article. Let it be carefully noted,
First, that even of the wayside hearer (the lowest grade of all) Christ said
the Seed was “sown in his heart” (

Matthew 13:19).
Second, that of the stony-ground hearers it is said, “the same is he that
heareth the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it” (

Matthew 13:20), and
“for a while believeth, and in time of temptation falls away” (

Luke
8:13).
Third, that of the stony-ground hearer Christ said, “Which when they have
heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this
life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (

Luke 8:14). Yet none of them had
been born of the Spirit. All that they had brought forth, under His gracious
operations, was but the works of the flesh — “thorns and briers”.
Above, in our interpretation, we called attention to the difference between
the “bringeth forth” of herbs in verse 7, and the “beareth” thorns in verse 8.
There is a like producing, but an unlike manner and measure. The former
“Bring forth in their lives what was before conceived and cherished
in their hearts. They had the root in themselves of what they bring
forth. So doth the word here used signify, viz., to bring forth the
fruit of an inward conception. The doctrine of the gospel as cast
into their hearts, is not only rain but seed also. This is cherished by
grace, as precious seed, and as from a spiritual root or principle in
their hearts, bringeth forth precious fruit. And herein consists the
difference between the fruitbearing of the true believers, and the
works of hypocrites or false professors. These latter bring forth
fruit like mushrooms, they come up suddenly, have oft-times great
bulk and goodly appearance, but are merely a forced excrescence,
they have no natural seed or root in the earth. They do not proceed
from a living principle in the heart”. (Dr. John Owen).
Thus, it should be most carefully borne in mind that the “thorns and briers”
of verse 8 have reference not to sins and wickedness as men view things,
but to the best products of the flesh, as cultivated by “religion”, and that,
as instructed out of the Scriptures, and “enlightened” by the Holy Spirit.
This is evident from the fact that the thorns and briers, equally with the.363
“herbs”, are occasioned by the same “rain” which had come oft upon the
earth, and from which they sprang. However fair the professions of the
unregenerate may appear in the eyes of their fellows, no matter what
proficiency they may reach in an understanding of the letter of Scripture,
nor what their zeal in contending for the faith, loyalty to their church, self-sacrifice
in their service; yet, in the sight of Him who searcheth the heart
and taketh note of the root from which things spring, all is worthless.
These products or works are only the fruits of a nature which is under the
curse of a holy God.
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected” i.e., of God. Little
did the Jews believe this when Paul penned those words. Their great boast
was that they were God’s people, that He preferred them above all others.
Nevertheless, though He yet withheld His wrath for a little space, He had
disowned them. The sad analogy to this is found everywhere in
Christendom today. Countless thousands who bear the name of Christ, and
who have no doubts but that they are among the true people of God, are
yet “rejected” by Him. Are you, my reader, among them?
What need is there for every professing Christian to heed that word in

2
Peter 1:10, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure”! Those
who sit under the ministry of God’s Word are upon trial, and it is high time
that many of us who have been so long privileged, should call on ourselves
to a strict account with respect to our improvement thereof. What are we
bringing forth? Are we producing “the fruits of righteousness which are by
Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (

Philippians 1:11)? If
so, all praise to Him who has made us fruitful. Or are we, though not
notoriously wicked persons, yet so far as fruit for God is concerned,
cumberers of the ground? If upon inquiry we find ourselves at a loss to be
sure of which sort of ground we belong unto, and this because of our
barrenness and leanness, unless we are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,
we shall give ourselves no rest until we have better evidences of our
bearing spiritual fruit.
O let these solemn words search our hearts: “And is nigh unto cursing,
whose end is to be burned”. Such is the awful fate confronting multitudes
of professing Christians in the churches today, who resist all exhortations
to produce the fruit of godly living. Corrupt desires, pride, worldliness,
covetousness, are as plainly to be seen in their lives, as are thorns and
briers on abandoned ground. O what a thought! professing Christians,.364
“nigh unto cursing”! Soon to hear their last sermon. Soon to be cut off out
of the land of the living. Afterwards to hear from the lips of Christ the
fearful sentence,
“Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the
Devil and his angels” (

Matthew 25:41)..365
CHAPTER 27
TWO CHRISTIANS DESCRIBED
(

HEBREWS 6:9-11)
The passage which is to be before us is in strong and blessed contrast from
what we found in verses 4-6. There we beheld a class of people highly
favored, blest with grand external privileges, richly gifted, and wrought
upon by the Holy Spirit. There we see the faculties of the natural man’s
soul wound up to their highest pitch: the conscience searched, the
understanding enlightened, the affections drawn out, and the will moved to
action. There we have described the character of a class which constitutes
a very large proportion of those who profess the name of Christ. Yet,
though they have never been born again, though they are unsaved, though
their end is destruction, nevertheless, it is by no means an easy matter for a
real child of God to identify them. Oftentimes their head-knowledge of the
truth, their zeal for religion, their moral qualities, put him to shame. Still, if
he weigh them in the balances of the sanctuary, they will be found wanting.
The careful reader of the four Gospels, will discover that in the days of His
flesh, the Lord Jesus healed those concerning whom nothing is recorded of
their faith. The blessings which He dispensed were not restricted to His
disciples. Temporal mercies were bestowed upon natural men as well as
upon spiritual. And, be it carefully noted, this was something more,
something in addition to, the providential goodness of the Creator, which is
extended to all of Adam’s race:
“He maketh His sun to rise, on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (

Matthew 5:45).
Rather did those gracious acts of Christ unto the unbelieving, foreshadow
that which we designated in the preceding article, the inferior operations of
His Spirit. On a few Christ bestowed spiritual blessings, saving mercies; to
others, He imparted temporal blessings, mercies which came short of
saving their recipients..366
In our last article we made reference to

James 1:17: “Every good gift
and every perfect gift is from above”. We believe that, in keeping with the
character, theme and purpose of that epistle, those words have reference to
two distinct classes of gifts, for two different classes of people: the “good”
referring to those bestowed, under Gospel-ministry on the non-elect; the
“perfect” imparted to God’s own people. A scripture which we believe
supplies strong corroboration of this is found in

Psalm 68:18. There, in
a Messianic prophecy concerning the ascension of Christ, we read, “Thou
hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also”: gifts are bestowed
by Christ on two distinct classes. It is to be particularly observed that a
part of this verse is quoted by the Spirit in

Ephesians 4:8; part of it we
say, for its closing words, “the rebellious also” are there omitted. And
why? Because in Ephesians it is the elect of God (see

Hebrews 1:3, 4
etc.) who are in view. Yet, in addition to them, Christ has received “gifts”
for the “rebellious also”; that is, for the non-elect too.
Few indeed have perceived that there is a double work of GOD being
prosecuted under the ministry of the Gospel. Plain intimation of this is
found in the words of Christ in

Matthew 22:14, “For many are called,
but few chosen.” Half of the human race has never heard the Gospel; those
who have, are divided into four classes, as Christ has taught us in His
parable of the Sower. The “wayside” hearers are those upon whom the
preaching of the Gospel produces no effect. The “stony” and the “thorny”
ground hearers are they which form a very large percentage of “church
members” or who are “in fellowship” with those known as “the Brethren”.
Of these it is said that they “for a while believe” (

Luke 8:13); nor are
they unproductive, yet they “bring no fruit to perfection” (

Luke 8:14).
In them the “enmity” of the carnal mind is, to a considerable extent,
subdued; yet it is not vanquished. There is a work of the Spirit upon them,
yet it falls short of the new creation. They are “called” but not “chosen”.
Only as due attention is paid to the distinction just noted, are we really able
to appreciate the point and meaning of the qualifying language which the
Spirit of God has used when speaking of the saving call of God’s elect. For
example, in

Romans 8:28, they are denominated the called “according
to His purpose”, which notes a distinction from others who receive an
inferior “call” according to His providence, under the general proclamation
of the Gospel. So too in

2 Timothy 1:9 we read of those “called with a
holy calling… according to His own purpose and grace”, which is the
language of discrimination, signifying there are others called yet not with.367
“a holy calling”. So again in

1 Peter 5:10, “The God of all grace, who
hath called us unto His eternal glory”, is in antithesis from the many who
are only called unto a temporal righteousness in this world.
It needs to be very carefully noted that the “us” of the Epistles is frequently
used with a far narrower discrimination than from all the rest of the world:
very often the “us” is in contrast from the great crowd of lifeless professors
which ever surrounds the little handful of God’s true people — professors
which, though spiritually lifeless, are yet to be distinguished from the vast
multitudes of non-professors; distinguished by a real work of the Holy
Spirit upon them, but still an abortive work. Of this class the Epistle of
James has much to say. Concerning them John, in his first Epistle, declares
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had
been of us, they would have continued with us” (

Hebrews 2:19).
A work of “calling” must have been wrought upon them, for they had once
separated from the world, and united themselves with the true people of
God. Moreover, that work of “calling” must have produced such a change
in them that they had been accounted real Christians, or otherwise they had
not been admitted among such.
The occasion of Christ’s uttering those words “For many are called, but
few chosen” (

Matthew 22:14) is exceedingly solemn and searching. The
context records the parable of the wedding-feast of the King’s Son. First,
the invitation to it had been given to the Jews, but they despised it,
mistreated God’s servants, and, in consequence, their city was destroyed.
Then God’s servants are sent forth into the Gentile highways to bring in
others. But when the King inspects the guests, He sees a man “which had
not on a wedding-garment”. The awful sentence goes forth, “Bind him
hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness.”
Immediately after, Christ said, “For many are called, but few chosen”.
Now in sharp and blessed contrast from the many professing the name of
Christ who have received only the inferior call of God through the Gospel
— a call which, yet, leads them to assent to the doctrine of His word,
which brings them to espouse the outward cause of Christ in this world,
which produces a real reformation in their ways, so that they become
respectable and useful members of their community, as well as provide a
measure of protection to the few of God’s “chosen” from the openly
antagonistic world; — our present passage treats of “the remnant.368
according to the election of grace” (

Romans 11:5). This is clear from its
opening words, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.” The
“But” sets these “beloved” ones in opposition from those mentioned in
verse 8. The “better things” also points an antithesis. “Better” is an
adjective in the comparative degree, set over against something which is
merely “good”. Those described in verses 4, 5 had good things, yet these
possessed something far better. Mark how this confirms what we have said
on

James 1:17!
In verses 9-12 we find the apostle doing three things: first, he expresses his
good will towards the Hebrew saints; second, he declares his judgment
concerning their state; third, he gives the grounds upon which his judgment
was based. His aim was that they should make a proper use of what he had
set before them in the first eight verses, so that on the one hand they might
not be discouraged, and on the other hand not become careless. We subjoin
Dr. J. Brown’s summary of our passage.
“The general meaning of this paragraph, all the parts of which are
closely connected together, plainly is: The reason why I have made
these awful statements about apostates, is not because I consider
you whom I am addressing as apostates for your conduct proves
that this is not your character, and the promise of God secures that
this doom shall not be yours; but that you may be stirred up to
persevering steadiness in the faith, and hope, and obedience of the
truth, by a constant continuance in which alone you can, like those
who have gone before you, obtain in all their perfections the
promised blessings of the Christian salvation.”
“But, beloved” (verse 9). This term testified to the apostle’s good will
toward and affection in the Hebrew saints. Such an expression was more
than the formal language of courtesy; it revealed the warmth of Paul’s
heart for God’s people. Though he had spoken severely to them in

Hebrews 5:11-14, it was not because he was unkindly disposed toward
them. Love is faithful, and because it seeks the highest good of its objects,
will reprove, rebuke, admonish, when occasion calls for it. Spiritual love is
regulated not by impulse, but by principle. Herein it differs from the
backboneless amiability and affability of the flesh, and from the maudlin
sentimentality of the day. “We hence conclude, that not only the reprobates
ought to be reproved, severely, and with sharp earnestness, hut also the.369
elect themselves, even those whom we deem to be children of God” (John
Calvin).
“The apostle hastens to comfort and encourage, lest the Hebrews
should be overwhelmed with fear and sorrow, or lest they should
think that their condition was regarded by him as hopeless. The
affection of the writer is now eager to inspire hope, and to draw
them with the cords of love. The word ‘beloved’ is introduced here
most appositely, a term of endearment which occurs frequently in
other epistles, but only once in ours; not that the apostle was not
filled with true and fervent love to the Hebrew Christians, but that
he felt obliged to restrain as it were his feelings, by reason of the
prejudices against him. But here the expression bursts forth, as in a
moment of great danger or of anxious suspense the heart will speak
out in tender language (Adolph Saphir).
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you”. In these words the
apostle sets forth his judgment concerning the spiritual state of the
Hebrews (cf.

Hebrews 3:1). The “persuasion” here did not amount to
an infallible certitude, but was a strong confidence based on good grounds.
It is similar to what we find in

Romans 15:14,
“I myself also am persuaded of you my brethren, that ye also are
full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish
one another”.
So again in

2 Timothy 1:5,
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee,
which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice;
and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
However low the spiritual condition of these Hebrews (

Hebrews 5:11-
14), there had been, and still was found in them, fruit, such as manifested
them to be truly regenerated souls. It ever holds good that a tree is known
by its fruits, hence, the genuineness of my Christian profession is evidenced
by what I bring forth, or its worthlessness by what I fail to produce. There
may be a “form of godliness” (

2 Timothy 3:5), but if the power thereof
be “denied” by my works (

Titus 1:16) then is it profitless and vain.
“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you.” It is the bounden
duty of every pastor to ascertain the spiritual condition of his people: “Be.370
thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks” (

Proverbs 27:23). This is
very necessary if the servant of God is to minister suitably and seasonably.
While he is ignorant of their state, he knows not when or how to rebuke or
console, to warn or encourage. A general preaching at random is little
more than a useless formality. A physician of bodies must acquaint himself
with the condition of his patients, otherwise he cannot prescribe
intelligently or effectually. Equally so it is with a physician of souls. The
same principle holds good in the fellowship of Christians one with another.
I cannot really love a brother with the Gospel-love which is required of me,
unless I have a well-grounded persuasion that he is a brother.
“And things that accompany salvation” (verse 9). The word “accompany”
signifies “conjoined with”, or inseparable from, that which has a sure
connection with “salvation”. The principal things that “accompany
salvation” are sorrow for and hatred of sin, humility or self-abnegation, the
peace of God comforting the conscience, godly fear or the principle of
obedience, a diligent perseverance in using the appointed means of grace
and pressing forward in the race set before us, the spirit of prayer, and a
joyous expectation of being conformed to the image of Christ and spending
eternity with Him. True Gospel faith and sincere obedience are far “better
things” than the most dazzling gifts ever bestowed on unregenerate
professors.
To believe on Christ is very much more than my understanding assenting
and my will consenting to the fact that He is a Savior for sinners, and ready
to receive all who will come to Him. To be received by Christ, I must come
to Him renouncing all my righteousness (

Romans 10:3), as an empty-handed
beggar (

Matthew 19:21). But more; to be received by Christ, I
must come to Him forsaking my self-will and rebellion against Him
(

Psalm 2:11, 12;

Proverbs 28:13). Should an insurrectionist and
seditionist come to an earthly king seeking his sovereign favor and pardon,
then, obviously, the very law of his coming to him for forgiveness requires
that he should come on his knees, laying aside his hostility. So it is with a
sinner who comes to Christ for pardon; it is against the law of faith to do
otherwise.
An “unfeigned faith” (

2 Timothy 1:5) in Christ, is one which submits to
His yoke and bows to His authority. There is no such thing in Scripture as
receiving Christ as Savior without also receiving Him as Lord:.371
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in
Him” (

Colossians 2:6).
If it be an honest and genuine faith, it is inseparably connected with a spirit
of obedience, a desire to please Him, a resolve to not henceforth live unto
self, but unto Him which died for me (

2 Corinthians 5:15). The man
who really thinks he has a saving faith in Christ, but yet has no concern for
His glory and no heart for His commandments, is blinded by Satan. There
are things which “accompany salvation”, that have a certain connection
therewith. As light is inseparable from the shining of the sun, as heat is
inseparable from fire, so good works are inseparable from a saving faith.
“Though we thus speak” (verse 9). The reference is to what the apostle
had said about apostates in verses 6, 8, and which had been written to
these Hebrews as a solemn and searching warning for them to take to
heart.
“In the visible professing church, all things outwardly seemed to be
equal. There are the same ordinances administered unto all, the
same profession of faith is made by all, the same outward duties are
attended unto, and scandalous offenses are by all avoided. But yet
things are not internally equal. In a great house, there are vessels of
wood and stone, as well as of gold and silver. All that eat
outwardly of the bread of life, do not feed on the hidden manna. All
that have their names enrolled in the church’s book, may yet not
have them written in the Lamb’s book. There are yet better things
than gifts, profession, participation of ordinances and whatever is of
the like nature. And the use hereof in one word is to warn all sorts
of persons, that they rest not in, that they take not up with an
interest in, or participation of the privileges of the church, with a
common profession, which may give them a name to live; seeing
they may be dead or in a perishing condition in the meantime” (Dr.
John Owen).
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work” (verse 10).
Here the apostle makes known the ground on which his “persuasion”
rested, and that was, the unchanging faithfulness of God toward His
covenant promises unto His people, and why he believed that these
Hebrews were numbered among them. The foundation on which
confidence should rest concerning my own security unto eternal glory, as.372
that of my fellow-Christians, is nothing in the creature. “It is of the Lord’s
mercies that we are not consumed” (

Lamentations 3:22). The believer’s
perseverance is not the cause but the consequence of God’s preservation.
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work”. A scripture which
enables us to understand the force of these words is

1 John 1:9, “If we
confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”. God is
“faithful” to His covenant engagements with us in the person of His Son;
“just”, to the full satisfaction which He rendered unto Him. The very
justice of God is engaged on the behalf of those whom Christ redeemed.
His veracity towards us is pledged:
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised
before the world began” (

Titus 1:2).
And because God is immutable, without variableness or shadow of turning,
He cannot go back on His own oath:
“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are
not consumed” (

Malachi 3:6).
Therefore have we the absolute assurance that
“He which hath begun a good work in you will finish it”
(

Philippians 1:6).
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work”. Some have found a
difficulty here, because these words seem to teach that heaven is a reward
earned by good works. But the difficulty is more seeming than real. What
God rewards is only what He Himself hath wrought in us: it is the Father’s
recognition of the Spirit’s fruit.
“The act of a benefactor in entering into engagements with his
beneficiary may be wholly gratuitous, and yet, out of his act, rights
may grow up to the beneficiary. The advantages thus acquired are
not the less gracious, because they have become rights; for they
originated in free grace” (Dr. Sampson, 1857).
It may look now as though God places little value on sincere obedience to
Him, that in this world the man who lives for self gains more than he who
lives for Christ; yet, in a soon-coming day it shall appear far otherwise.
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your works”..373
“God does not pay us a debt, but performs what He has of Himself
freely promised, and not so much on our works, as on His own
grace in our works; nay, He looks not so much on our works, as on
His own grace in our works. And this is to be ‘righteous’, for He
cannot deny Himself…. God is righteous in recompensing works,
because He is true and faithful; and He has made Himself a debtor
to us, not by receiving anything from us, but, as Augustine says, by
freely promising all things” (John Calvin).
They who imagine there is an inconsistency between the God of all grace
“rewarding” His people, will do well to ponder carefully the Reformer’s
words.
“Your work”. We believe the reference here is to their faith.
First, because he is here speaking of the “things that accompany
salvation”, and faith is inseparable therefrom.
Second, because faith “worketh by love” (

Galatians 5:6), and the very
next thing mentioned in our verse is their “labor of love”.
Third, because in

1 Thessalonians 1:3 we read of the “work of faith,
and labor of love, and patience of hope”, and in

Hebrews 6:11, we have
their “hope” mentioned. Should it be inquired, Why did the apostle omit
the express mention of “faith” here? We answer, Because their faith was so
small and feeble. To have commended their faith directly, would have
weakened the force of his repeated exhortations in

Hebrews 3:12, 4:1,
2, 6:12, 12:1 etc. “Your work” refers not to any single work, but to a
course of working, i.e., the whole course of obedience to God, of which
faith is the principle moving thereunto. Evangelical obedience is thus
denominated “your work” because this is what they had been regenerated
unto (see

Ephesians 2:10), and because such a course calls for activity,
pains, toil; cf. “all diligence” (

2 Peter 1:5).
A living faith is a working faith (

James 2:17). Two things are plainly
and uniformly taught throughout the New Testament. Justification is by
faith, and not by works, (Romans 4, etc.). Yet, such justifying faith is a
living, operative, fruitful faith, evidencing itself by obedience to the
commands of God (

1 John 2:4, etc.). Christ gave Himself for us that
“He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works” (

Titus 2:14)..374
This greatly needs emphasizing today and pressing repeatedly upon those
professing to be believers in the Lord Jesus, for multitudes of these have a
name to live, but “art dead” (

Revelation 3:1). Their faith is not that of
God’s elect (

Titus 1:1), but nothing better or different than that which
the demons have (

James 2:19).
“Your faith and the labor of love”, for so the Greek reads. These were the
evidences upon which the apostle grounded his confidence concerning the
Hebrew saints. Five things are to be noted. First this distinguishing grace,
their “labor of love”: let the reader turn to and ponder carefully

1 John
3:16-19; 4:7-12.
“Mutual love among believers is a fruit of the Spirit of holiness, and
an effect of faith, whereby being knit together in the bond of entire
spiritual affection, on the account of their joint interest in Christ;
and participation of the same, new, divine, spiritual nature from
God, they do value, delight and rejoice in one another, and are
mutually helpful in a constant discharge of all those duties whereby
their eternal, spiritual and temporal good may be promoted” (Dr.
John Owen).
Note “labor of love”: a lazy love, like that of

James 2:15, 16, is no
evidence of saving faith. True love is active, diligent, untiring.
“Which ye have showed”. This gives us the second feature of their love. It
was not a secret and un-manifested love: but one that had been plainly
evidenced in a practical way. In

James 2:18 the professor is challenged
to “show” his faith, today it would also be pertinent to ask many of those
who bear the name of Christ to “show” their love, especially along the line
of

1 John 5:2. “Which ye have showed toward His name,” defines,
third, the end before them in the exercise of their ardent love in ministering
to the saints. The words last quoted have a threefold force. Objectively,
because God’s name is upon His people (

Ephesians 3:15). It is both
blessed and solemn to know that whatever is done unto the people of God,
whether it be good or evil, is done toward the name of Christ:

Matthew
25:34-45. Formally: they ministered to the saints as the people of God.
This it is which gives spiritual love its distinctive character: when it is
exercised to souls because God’s name is on them. Efficiently: the “name
of God” stands for His authority. God requires His people to love one
another, and when they do so out of obedience to Him, it is, necessarily,
done “toward His name”, having respect to His will..375
“In that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister”. This tells us,
fourth, the manner in which their love had been exercised: in an untiring
service. Fifth, it announces, the objects of their love, God’s “saints”. Many
of God’s people are in various kinds of temporal distress, and one reason
why their loving Father permits this is, that their brethren and sisters in
Christ may have the holy privilege of ministering to them: see

Romans
15:25-27,

2 Corinthians 8:21, 9:11-15. But let such ministry be
rendered not from sentimental considerations, nor to satisfy an uneasy
conscience, still less with the object of vain glory, to gain a reputation for
benevolence; rather let it be “shown toward His name”. It is the owning of
His authority, the conscious performance of His will, which alone gives
life, spirituality and acceptance unto all those duties of love which we are
able to perform to others.
In summing up the teaching of verses 9, 10, let us observe how the apostle
justified the Hebrews according to his Master’s rule in

Matthew 7:15-
20. Genuine Christians give plain evidence that their profession of the
Gospel is accompanied by transforming grace. The obedience of faith and
the labor of love toward the saints — not from human instincts, but out of
submission to the revealed will of God — both in the past and in the
present, were the visible ground of Paul’s good persuasion concerning
them. It is important to note what were the particular graces singled out for
mention. The apostle says nothing about their clear views of the truth, their
missionary activities, zeal for “their church” — which are the things that
many formal professors boast in.
“And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence
to the full assurance of hope unto the end” (verse 11).
The apostle looks back to the exhortation of v. 1 and also the solemn
warning pointed in verses 4-8. His purpose had been to excite them unto a
diligent persevering continuance in faith and in love, with the fruits thereof.
All he had said was unto this end. The closer connection of this verse with
the preceding one is: having expressed his conviction about their spiritual
state, and having assured them of a blessed issue of their faith from the
fidelity of God, he now presses upon them their responsibility to answer to
the judgment he had formed of them, by diligent progress unto the end.
In this verse (11) the apostle, with heavenly wisdom, makes known the
proper use and end of Gospel threatenings (verses 6-8), and Gospel
promises (verses 9, 10): either may be, and often are, abused. Many have.376
looked upon threatenings as serving no other purpose than a terrifying of
the minds of men, causing them to despair; as if the things threatened must
inevitably be their portion. Few have known how to make a right
application of them to their consciences. On the other hand, many have
abused the promises of God: those who had no title to such have suffered
themselves to be deceived, and to be so falsely comforted by them to lie
down in a carnal security, imagining that no evil could befall them. But
here the apostle reveals the proper end of each, both to believers and
unbelievers: the threatenings should stir up to earnest examination of the
foundation of our hope; the promises should encourage unto a constant
and patient diligence in all the duties of obedience. What wisdom is needed
by a minister of the Gospel to make a proper and due use of both upon his
hearers!
“And”, or rather (Greek) “But we desire”. In verses 9,10 the apostle had
told them what was not his object in making to them the statements of
verses 4-8; now he tells them what it was. The word “desire” here signifies
an intense longing; without this, preaching is cold, formal, lifeless. “That
every one of you”: the loving care and untiring efforts of the minister
should be extended to all the members of his flock. The oldest, as much as
the youngest, is in need of constant exhortation. “Do show the same
diligence… unto the end”. Unless this be done, our profession will not be
preserved nor God glorified. Paul knew nothing of that half-heartedness
and sluggish neglect of the means of grace which today satisfies the
generality of those bearing the name of Christ. “Give thyself wholly to
them” (1 Timothy 4–15).
Many are very “diligent” in their worldly business, still more are most
punctual in prosecuting their round of pleasure and fleshly gratification; but
there are very few indeed who exercise a godly concern for their souls. To
an earnest endeavor after personal holiness, the work of faith and labor of
love, the vast majority of professors are strangers, nor can they be
persuaded that any such things are required or expected from them. They
may be regular attenders of “church” from force of custom; they may
perform certain acts of charity for the sake of their reputation; but to be
really exercised in heart as to how they may please and honor God in the
details of their lives, they know nothing and care still less. Such are
destitute of those things which “accompany salvation”; they are deluded
and lost souls. Make no mistake, my reader, unless there is in you a work
of faith in keeping God’s commandments, and a labor of love toward His.377
saints as such, then “the root of the matter” (

Job 19:28) is not in you.
This is the test of profession, and the rule whereby each of us shall be
measured.
Nor can this work of faith and labor of love be persisted in without
studious diligence and earnest endeavor. It calls for the daily searching of
the Scriptures, and that, not for intellectual gratification, but to learn God’s
will for my walk. It calls for watchfulness and prayer against every
temptation which would turn me aside from following Christ. It requires
that I should rightly abstain from “fleshly lusts that war against the soul”
(

1 Peter 2:11), yielding myself unto God as one that is passed from
death unto life, and my members “as instruments of righteousness unto
God” (

Romans 6:13). It requires that I “lay aside every weight”
(whatever hinders vital godliness) and the sin which doth so easily beset
(the love of self), and run (which calls for the putting forth of all our
energies) the race that is set before us” (

Hebrews 12:1, 2),and that race
is a fleeing from the things of this doomed world, with our faces set
steadfastly towards God. Those who despise, or even continue to neglect
such things, are only nominal Christians.
This “diligence” is to be shown “to the full assurance of hope”. Full
assurance here signifies a firm conviction or positive persuasion. “Hope” in
the New Testament means an ardent desire for and strong expectation of
obtaining its object. Faith looks to the Promiser, hope to the things
promised. Faith begets hope. God has promised His people perfect
deliverance from sin and all its troubles, and full enjoyment of everlasting
glory with Himself. Faith rests on the power and veracity of God to make
good His word. The heart ponders these blessings, and sees them as yet
future. Hope values and anticipates the realization of them. Like faith,
“hope” has its degrees. “Full assurance of hope” signifies a steady
prevailing persuasion, a persuasion which issues from faith in the promises
made concerning “good things to come”. The “diligence” before
mentioned, is God’s appointed means toward this full assurance: compare

2 Peter 1:10, 11. To cherish a hope of Heaven while I am living to
please self is wicked presumption. “Unto the end”: no furloughs are
granted to those called upon to “fight the good fight of faith” (

1
Timothy 6:12); there is no discharge from that warfare as long as we are
left upon the field of battle. No spiritual state is attainable in this life, where
“reaching forth unto those things which are before” (

Philippians 3:13)
becomes unnecessary..378
CHAPTER 28
CHRISTIAN PERSEVERANCE
(

HEBREWS 6:12-15)
Two exhortations were set before the Hebrew Christians in the 6th chapter
of this epistle• First, they were bidden to turn their backs upon Judaism and
go on unto a full embracing of Christianity (verse 1). The application to
God’s people today of the principle contained in this exhortation is,
Abandon everything which enthralled your hearts in your unregenerate
days, and find your peace, joy, satisfaction in Christ• In contemplating the
peculiar temptation of the Hebrews to forsake the Christian position and
path for a return to Judaism, let us not lose sight of the fact that a danger
just as real menaces the believer today. The flesh still remains within him,
and all that Satan used in the past to occupy his heart, still exists in the
present• Though Israel came forth from the House of Bondage, passed
through the Red Sea, and started out joyfully (

Exodus 15:1) for the
promised land, yet it was not long ere their hearts went back to Egypt,
lusting after its fleshpots (

Exodus 16:3).
It is worse than idle to reply to what has been pointed out above by saying,
Real Christians are in no “danger”, for God has promised to preserve them.
True, but God has promised to preserve His people in a way of holiness,
not in a course of sinful self-will and self-gratification. Those whom Christ
has declared shall “never perish” are they who “hear His voice and follow
Him” (

John 10:27, 28). The apostles were not fatalists, neither did they
believe in a mechanical salvation, but one that required to be worked out
“with fear and trembling” (

Philippians 2:12). Therefore Paul, moved by
the Holy Spirit, did not hesitate to refer to the Israelites who were
“overthrown” in the wilderness, and say,
“Now these things were our examples to the intent that we should
not lust after evil things as they also lusted• Neither be ye idolators,
as were some of them;… Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of
them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents…. Now all these
things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for.379
our admonition….Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take
heed lest he fall” (

1 Corinthians 10:6-12).
The second exhortation of Hebrews 6 is found in verses 11, 12, the first
part of which was before us at the close of our last chapter. There the
apostle says, “And we desire that everyone of you do show the same
diligence”. This, together with the verses that follow, is a call to
perseverance in the path of godliness. To a church which had left its “first
love” Christ said, “Repent, and do the first works” (

Revelation 2:4, 5).
What are these “first works”? A submitting of ourselves unto God, an
humbling of ourselves before Him, a throwing down of the weapons of our
hostility against Him. A turning unto Christ as our only hope, a casting of
ourselves upon Him, a trusting in the merits of His precious blood. A
taking of His yoke upon us, bowing to His Lordship, owning His authority,
earnestly seeking grace to do His commandments.
Now the Christian is to continue as he began. He is to daily own his sins
before God. He is to daily renew the same acts of faith and trust in Christ
which he exercised at the first. Instead of counting upon some experience
in the past, he is to maintain a present living upon Christ. If he continues to
cast himself upon the Redeemer, putting his salvation wholly in His hands,
then He will not, cannot, fail him. But in order to cast myself upon Christ, I
must be near Him; I cannot do so while I am following Him afar off. To be
near Him, I must be in separation from all that is contrary to Him.
Communion is based upon an obedient walk: the one cannot be without the
other. For the maintenance of this, I must “show the same diligence” I did
when I was first convicted of my lost estate, saw Hell yawning at my feet
ready to receive me, and fled to Christ for refuge.
This same diligence which marked my state of heart and regulated my
actions when I first sought Christ, is to be continued “unto the end”. This
means persevering in a holy living, and unto this the servants of God are to
be constantly urging their hearers.
“Ministerial exhortation unto duty, is needful even unto them who
are sincere in the practice of it, that they may abide and continue
therein. It is not easy to be apprehended how God’s institutions are
despised by some, neglected by others, and by how few, duly
improved; all for want of taking right measures for them. Some
there are, who, being profoundly ignorant, are yet ready to say, that
they know as much as the minister can teach them, and therefore, it.380
is to no purpose to attend unto preaching. These are the thoughts,
and this is too often the language, of persons profane and
profligate, who know little, and practice nothing of Christianity.
Some think that exhortations unto duty, belong only unto them
who are negligent and careless in their performance; and unto them,
indeed they do belong, but not unto them only, as the whole
Scripture testifieth. And some, it may be, like well to be exhorted
unto what they do, and do find satisfaction therein, but how few are
there (it was the same then! A.W.P.) who look upon it as a means
of God whereby they are enabled for, and kept up unto their duty,
wherein, indeed, their use and benefit doth consist. They do not
only direct unto duty, but through the appointment of God, they are
means of communicating grace unto us, for the due performance of
duties” (Dr. John Owen, 1680).
“Do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end”.
Hope is a spiritual grace quite distinct from faith or love. Faith casts me
upon God. Love causes me to cleave to and delight in pleasing Him. Hope
sustains under the difficulties and discouragements of the way. It supports
the soul when the billows of trouble roll over it, or when we are tempted to
despair, and give up the fight. That is why, in the Christian’s armor, Hope
is called “the helmet”(

1 Thessalonians 5:8), because it wards off the
sharp blows or bears the weight of those strokes which befall the saint in
trials and afflictions. Hope values the things promised, looks forward to the
clay of their realization, and thus is nerved to fresh endeavor. Hope views
the Promised Land, and this gives alacrity to the weary pilgrim to continue
pressing forward. Hope anticipates the welcome and the glorious fare
awaiting us at the Heavenly Port, and this gives courage to go on battling
against adverse winds and waves. There is the test.
Many pretend to the possession of a good hope who yet have no faith.
Others make a profession of faith who yet have no real hope. But real faith
and real hope are inseparable. A spiritual faith eyes the Promiser, and is
assured that He cannot lie. A spiritual hope embraces the promises,
esteems them above all silver and gold, and confidently anticipates their
fulfillment. But between the present moment and the actual realization of
our hope lies a rugged path of testing, in which we encounter much that
wearies, disheartens and retards us. If we are really walking in the path of
God’s appointment, there will be oppositions to meet, fierce persecutions
to be endured, grievous troubles to be borne. Yet, if our valuation of.381
God’s promises be real, if our anticipation of their fulfillment be genuine,
the comfort and joy they afford will more than offset and over-balance the
effects of our trials. The exercise of hope will alone deliver from fainting
and despondency under continued afflictions.
Now to be in the enjoyment of “the full assurance of hope unto the end”,
the Christian must continue giving “the same diligence” to the things of
God and the needs of his soul, as he did at the beginning. When the terrors
of God first awakened him from the sleep of death, when he was made to
feel his own awful danger of being cast into the eternal burnings, when he
learned that Christ was the only Refuge, no half-hearted seeker was he.
How diligently he searched the Word! How earnestly he cried unto God!
How sincere was his repentance! How gladly he received the Gospel! How
radical was the change in his life! How real did Heaven seem unto him, and
how he longed to go there! How bright was his “hope” then! Alas, the fine
gold has become dim; the manna has lost much of its sweetness, and he has
become as one who “cannot see afar off” (

2 Peter 1:9). Why? Ah,
cannot the reader supply the answer from his own experience?
But we dare not stop short at the point reached at the close of the
preceding paragraph. Backsliding is dangerous, so dangerous that if it be
persisted in, it is certain to prove fatal. If I continue to neglect the Divine
means of grace for spiritual strength and support, if I go back again into
the world and find my delight in its pleasures and concerns, and if I am not
recovered from this sad state, then that will demonstrate that I was only the
subject of the Holy Spirit’s inferior operations, that I was not really
regenerated by Him. The difference between thorny-ground and the good-ground
hearers is, that the one brings forth no fruit “to perfection”
(

Luke 8:14), whereas the other brings forth fruit “with patience” or
perseverance (

Luke 8:15). It is continuance in Christ’s word which
proves us His disciples indeed (

John 8:31). It is continuing in the faith,
grounded and settled, and being “not moved away from the hope of the
Gospel” (

Colossians 1:23) which demonstrates the reality of our
profession.
“He said to the end that they might know they had not yet reached
the goal, and were therefore to think of further progress. He
mentioned diligence that they might know they were not to sit
down idly, but to strive in earnest. For it is not a small thing to
ascend above the heavens, especially for those who hardly creep on.382
the ground, and when innumerable obstacles are in the way. There
is, indeed, nothing more difficult than to keep our thoughts fixed on
things in heaven, when the whole power of our nature inclines
towards, and when Satan by numberless devices draws us back to
earth” (John Calvin).
Once more would we press upon our hearts that it is only as “diligence” in
the things of God is continually exercised that a scriptural “hope” is
preserved, and the full assurance of it attained.
First, because there is an inseparable connection between these two which
is of Divine institution: God Himself has appointed “diligence” as the
means and way whereby His people shall arrive at this assurance: cf.

2
Peter 1:10, 11.
Second, because such “diligence” has a proper and necessary tendency
unto this end. By diligence our spiritual faculties are strengthened, grace is
increased in us, and thereby we obtain fuller evidence of our interest in the
promises of the Gospel.
Third, by a faithful attention to the duties of faith and love we are
preserved from sinning, which is the principal evil that weakens or impairs
our hope.
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith
and patience inherit the promises” (verse 12).
These words confirm what we have said above concerning the force of the
exhortation found in verse 11. There the apostle, is giving a call to
perseverance in the path of practical holiness. But there are multitudes of
professing Christians that cherish a hope of heaven, who nevertheless
continue in a course of self-will and self-pleasing.
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not
washed from their filthiness” (

Proverbs 30:12).
Christ came here to save His people “from their sins” (

Matthew 1:21)
not in them. No presumption is worse than entertaining the idea that I am
bound for Heaven while I live like a child of Hell.
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and
patience inherit the promises”. This verse forms the connecting link
between the preceding section and the closing one of this chapter. The.383
apostle here warns against any evil, indolence and inertia, which stands
opposed to giving “diligence”: they are the opposite virtue and vice.
Slothfulness persisted in would effectually prevent the performance of the
duty just enjoined. In

Hebrews 5:11 Paul had charged the Hebrews with
being “dull (slothful — the same Greek word) of hearing”, not absolutely,
but relatively; they were not as industrious in heeding “the word of
righteousness” (

Hebrews 5:13) as they ought to have been. Here he
bids them be not slothful in good works, but emulators of the saints who
had gone before.
“That ye be not slothful”.
“He knew that the utmost intention of our spirits, the utmost
diligence of our minds, and endeavors of our whole souls, are
required unto a useful continuance in our profession and obedience.
This, God requireth of us; this, the nature of things themselves
about which we are conversant, deserveth; and necessary it is, unto
the end which we aim at. If we faint or grow negligent in our duty,
if careless or slothful, we shall never hold out unto the end; or if we
do continue in such a formal course as will consist with this sloth,
we shall never come unto the blessed end which we expect or look
for. The oppositions and difficulties which we shall assuredly meet
with, from within and without, will not give way unto feeble and
languid endeavors. Nor will the holy God prostitute eternal rewards
unto those who have no more regard unto them, but to give up
themselves unto sloth in their pursuits. Our course of obedience is
called running in a race, and fighting as in a battle, and those who
are slothful on such occasion will never be crowned with victory.
Wherefore, upon a due compliance with this caution, depends our
present perseverance, and our future salvation” (Dr. John Owen).
The slothfulness against which the apostle warns, is in each of us by nature.
The desires of the “old man” are not toward, but away from the things of
God. It is the “new man” which is alone capacitated to love and serve the
Lord. But in addition to the two natures in the Christian, there is the
individual himself, the possessor of those natures, the “I” of

Romans
7:25, and he is held responsible to “make not provision for the flesh”
(

Romans 13:14) on the one hand, and to “desire” the sincere milk of the
Word that he may grow thereby” (

1 Peter 2:2) on the other. It is the
consciousness of this native sloth, this indisposition for practical holiness,.384
which causes the real saint to cry out, “Draw me, we will run after Thee”
(

Song of Solomon 1:4); “Make me to go in the path of Thy
commandments, for therein do I delight”;
“Order my steps in Thy Word, and let not any iniquity have
dominion over me” (

Psalm 119:35, 133).
It is this which distinguishes the true child of God from the empty
professor — his wrestling with God in secret for grace to enable him to
press forward in the highway of holiness.
“But followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the
promises”. The reference here is to the believing forefathers of the
Hebrews, who, by continuing steadfast in faith and persevering in hope
amidst all the trials to which they were exposed, had now entered into the
promised blessings — Heaven. Dr. J. Brown has pointed out that there is
no conflict between this declaration and what is said in

Hebrews 11:13.
Though during their lives they had “not received the promises”, yet at
death, they had entered into their rest, and are among “the spirits of just
men made perfect” (

Hebrews 12:23). The word “inherit” denotes their
right thereto.
The example which the apostle here sets before the Hebrews was that of
the Old Testament patriarchs. Just as in the 3rd chapter he had appealed to
one portion of the history of their fathers in warning, so now he makes
reference to another feature of it in order to encourage. Two things are
here to be taken to heart: the happy goal reached by the patriarchs and the
path of testing which led thereto. Two things were required of them: faith
and patience. Their faith was something more than a general faith in God
and the inerrancy of His Word (

James 2:19); it was a special faith which
laid hold of the Divine promises concerning the covenant of grace in Christ
Jesus. Nor was this a mere notional faith, or bare mental assent to the
Truth: it was marked by a practical and influential acknowledgement that
they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” see

Hebrews 11:13.
Such is the faith which God requires of us today.
The second grace ascribed unto the patriarchs is their “patience” or
“longsuffering” as the word is usually rendered. A different word is
employed in

Hebrews 10:36 and

Hebrews 12:1, where an active
grace is in view. Here it is more of a passive virtue, hence it is used of the
“longsuffering” of God in

Romans 9:22,

1 Peter 3:20 etc..385
“It is a gracious sedate frame of soul, a tranquility of mind on holy
grounds with faith, not subject to take provocation, not to be
wearied with opposition” (Dr. John Owen).
It is a spirit which refuses to be daunted by the difficulties of the way,
which is not exasperated by trials and oppositions encountered, so as to
desert the course or flee from the path of duty. In spite of man’s hatred,
and of the seeming slowness of God’s deliverance, the soul is preserved in
a quiet waiting upon Him.
“These were the ways whereby they came to inherit the promises.
The heathen of old fancied that their heroes, or patriarchs, by great,
and, as they were called, heroic actions, by valor, courage, the
slaughter and conquest of their enemies, usually attended with
pride, cruelty and oppression, made their way into heaven. The way
of God’s heroes unto their rest and glory, unto the enjoyment of the
Divine promises, was by faith, longsuffering, humility, enduring
persecution, self-denial, and the spiritual virtues generally reckoned
in the world unto pusillanimity, and so despised. So contrary are
the judgments and ways of God and men even about what is good
and praiseworthy” (Dr. John Owen).
As reasons why the apostle was moved to set before the Hebrews the noble
example of their predecessors, we may suggest the following. First, that
they might know he was exhorting them to nothing but what was found in
those who went before them, and whom they so esteemed and admired.
This, to the same end, he more fully confirms in chapter 11. Second, he
was urging them to nothing but what was needful to all who shall inherit
the promises. If “faith and patience” were required of the patriarchs,
persons who were so high in the love and favor of God, then how could it
be imagined that these might be dispensed with as their observance! Third,
he was pressing upon them nothing but what was practicable, which others
had done, and which was therefore possible, yea, easy for them through the
grace of Christ.
Ere turning from this most important verse, we will endeavor to anticipate
and dispose of a difficulty. Some of our readers who have followed
attentively what has been said in the last few paragraphs, may be ready to
object, but this is teaching salvation by works; you are asking us to believe
that Heaven is a wage which we are required to earn by our perseverance
and fidelity. Observe then how carefully the Holy Spirit has, in the very.386
verse before us, guarded against such a perversion of the gospel of God’s
grace. First, in the preposition He used: it is not “who for faith and
patience inherit the promises”, but “through”. Salvation is not bestowed
because of faith and patience, in return for them; yet it does come
“through” them as the Divinely appointed channel, just as the sun shines
into a room through its windows. The windows are in no sense the cause
of the sun’s shining; they contribute nothing whatever to it; yet are they
necessary as the means by which it enters.
Another word here which precludes all ground of human attainment and
completely excludes the idea of earning salvation by anything of ours, is the
verb used. The apostle does not say “purchase” or “merit”, but “inherit”.
And how come we to “inherit”? By the same way as any come to an
inheritance, namely, by being the true heirs to it. And how do we become
“heirs” of this inheritance? By God’s gratuitous adoption.
“Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we
are the children of God: and if children, then heirs”
(

Romans 8:15-17).
God, by an act of His sovereign will, made us His children (

Ephesians
1:4, 5). This Divine grace, this free assignment, is the foundation of all; and
God’s faithfulness is pledged to preserve us unto our inheritance (verse
10). Yet, we are such heirs as have means assigned to us for obtaining our
inheritance, and we are required to apply ourselves thereunto.
“For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could sware
by no greater, He sware by Himself” (verse 13)
The opening “For” denotes that the apostle is here giving a reason why he
had appealed to the example of the patriarchs, as those who “through faith
and patience inherit the promises”: that they really did so, he now proves
by a most illustrious instance. Paul here cites the case of one whom he
knew would be most notable and forcible. God made promise to Abraham,
but he did not obtain the fulfillment thereof until after he had “patiently
endured” (verse 15).
The one to whom God made promise was Abraham. He was originally
called “Abram”, which signifies “an exalted father”. Upon Jehovah’s
renewal of the covenant to him, his name was changed to Abraham, God
giving as the reason “for a father of many nations have I made thee”.387
(

Genesis 17:5). The reference was not only to those nations which
should proceed naturally from him — the descendants of Ishmael
(

Genesis 17:20) and of Keturah’s sons (

Genesis 25:1-4) — but to
the elect of God scattered throughout the world, who should be brought to
embrace his faith and emulate his works. Therefore is he designated “the
father of all them that believe”, and “the father of us all” (

Romans 4:11,
16).
“Because he could sware by no greater, He sware by Himself”. The
assurance which was given to Abraham was the greatest that Heaven itself
could afford: a promise and an oath. We say the greatest, for in verse 16
the apostle declares that amongst men an “oath” is an end of strife; how
much more when the great God Himself takes one! Moreover, observe He
swear “by Himself”: He staked Himself; it was as though He had said, I
will cease to be God if I do not perform this. The Lord pledged His
veracity, declared the event should be as certain as His existence, and that
it should be secured by all the perfections of His nature. Dr. J. Brown has
rightly pointed out,
“The declaration was not in reality made more certain by the
addition of an oath, but so solemn a form of asseveration was
calculated to give a deeper impression of its certainty”.
“Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will
multiply thee” (verse 14).
It seems strange that almost all of the commentators have quite missed the
reference in the preceding verse. There we read, “God made promise to
Abraham”. Some have regarded this as pointing back to the first promise
Jehovah made to the patriarch in

Genesis 12:2, renewed in

Genesis
15:5; others have cited

Genesis 17:2, 6; still others, the promise
recorded in

Genesis 17:15,16; and thus they limit the “patiently
endured” (

Hebrews 6:15) to a space of twenty-five years, and regard
the “he obtained the promise” as finding its fulfillment at the birth of Isaac.
But these conjectures are completely set aside by the words of our present
verse, which are a direct quotation from

Genesis 22:17, and that was
uttered after Isaac was born.
That which God swore to was to bless Abraham with all blessings, and that
unto the end: “Surely, blessing I will bless thee”. The phrase is a Hebrew
mode of expression, denoting emphasis and certainty. Such reduplication is.388
a vehement affirmation, partaking of the nature of an oath: where such is
used, it was that men might know God is in earnest in that which He
expressed. It also respects and extends the thing promised or threatened: I
will do without fail, without measure, and eternally without end. It is
indeed solemn to note the first occurrence in Scripture of this mode of
expression. We find it in the awful threat which the Lord God made unto
Adam:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not
eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die”
(

Genesis 2:17).
It is

Genesis 2:17 which supplies the first key that unlocks the meaning
of

Genesis 22:17. These are the first two occurrences in Holy Writ of
this unusual form of speech. They stand in direct antithesis the one to the
other. The first concerned the curse, the second respected the blessing. The
one was the sentence of irrevocable doom, the other was the promise of
irreversible bliss. Each was uttered to an individual who stood as the head
and representative of a family, upon whose members the curse and the
blessing fell. Each head sustained a double relationship. Adam was the
head of the entire human family, and the condemnation for his sin has been
imputed to all his descendants (

Romans 5:12, 18, 19). But in a
narrower sense Adam was the head of the non-elect, who not only share
his condemnation, partake of his sinful nature, but also suffer his eternal
doom. In like manner, Abraham was the head of a natural family, that is, all
who have descended from him; and they share in the temporal blessings
which God promised their father. But in a narrower sense Abraham (type
of Christ as the “everlasting Father”

Isaiah 9:6 and cf.

Isaiah 53:10,
“His seed”, and His “children” in

Hebrews 2:13) was the head of God’s
elect, who are made partakers of his faith, performers of his works, and
participants of his spiritual and eternal blessings.
It was through their failing to look upon Abraham as the type of Christ as
the Head and Father of God’s elect, which caused the commentators to
miss the deeper and spiritual significance of God’s promise and oath to him
in Genesis 22. In the closing verses of Hebrews 6 the Holy Spirit has
Himself expounded the type for us, and in our next article (D.V.) we shall
seek to set before the reader some of the supporting proofs of what we
have here little more than barely asserted. The temporal blessings
wherewith God blessed Abraham — “God hath blessed Abraham in all.389
things” (

Genesis 24:1 and cf.

Hebrews 5:35) — were typical of the
spiritual blessings wherewith God has blessed Christ. So too the earthly
inheritance guaranteed unto Abraham’s seed, was a figure and pledge of
the Heavenly inheritance which pertains to Christ’s seed. Let the reader
ponder carefully

Luke 1:70-75 where we find the type merging into the
antitype.
“Surely, blessing I will bless thee” is further interpreted for us in

Galatians 3:14, where we read, “That the blessing of Abraham might
come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ”. Thus, in blessing Abraham,
God blessed all the heirs of promise, and pledges Himself to bestow on
them what He had sworn to give unto him: “If ye be Christ’s then are ye
Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (

Galatians 3:29).
That the deeper and ultimate signification of

Genesis 22:17 had
reference to spiritual and future “blessing” is not only established,
unequivocally, by

Romans 9:7, 8, but also by the fact that otherwise
there had been no relevancy in Paul’s setting before the Hebrews, and us,
the example of Abraham.
That with which God promised to bless Abraham and his seed was faith,
holiness, perseverance, and at the end, salvation (

Galatians 3:14). That
which God pledged Himself unto with an oath was that His power, His
long-suffering, should be engaged to the uttermost to work upon the hearts
of Abraham and his spiritual children, so that they would effectually attain
unto salvation. Abraham was to live on the earth for many long years after
God appeared unto him in Genesis 22. He was to live in an adverse world
where he would meet with various temptations, much opposition, many
discouragements; but God undertook to deliver, support, succor, sustain
him unto the end, so that His oath should be accomplished. Proof of this is
given in our next verse.
“And so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise”
(verse 15).
This means that, amid all the temptations and trials to which he was
exposed, Abraham studiously persevered in believing and expecting God to
make good His word. The emphatic and all-important word here is “And
so” which joins together what was said in verses 13, 14 and what follows
here in verse 15. It was in this way and manner of God’s dealing with him;
it was in this way of conducting himself. He “patiently endured”, which
covers the whole space from the time that God appeared to him in Genesis.390
22 until he died, at the age of one hundred and seventy-five years
(

Genesis 25:7). It is this exercise of hope unto the end which Paul was
pressing upon the Hebrews. They professed to be Abraham’s children, let
them, then, manifest Abraham’s spirit.
“He obtained the promise”: by installments.
First, an earnest of it in this life, having the blessing of God in his own
soul; enjoying communion with Him and all that that included — peace,
joy, strength, victory. By faith in the promise, he saw Christ’s day, and was
glad (

John 8:56).
Second, a more complete entering into the blessing of God when he left
this world of sin and sorrow, and departed to be with Christ, which is “far
better” (

Philippians 1:23) than the most intimate fellowship which may
be had with Him down here. Abraham had now entered on the peace and
joy of Paradise, obtaining the Heavenly Country (

Hebrews 11:16), of
which Canaan was but the type.
Third, following the resurrection, when the purpose of God shall be fully
realized in perfect and unending blessing and glory..391
CHAPTER 29
THE ANCHOR OF THE SOUL
(

HEBREWS 6:16-20)
In our last article we saw that the Holy Spirit through Paul exhorted the
people of God to “be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith
and patience inherit the promises” (verse 12). This declaration was
illustrated and exemplified from the history of one who has been highly
venerated both by Jews and believing Gentiles, namely, Abraham, of whom
it is here declared, “after he had patiently endured, he received the
promise” (verse 16). We cannot but admire again the heavenly wisdom
given to the apostle, inspiring him to bring in Abraham at this particular
point of his epistle. In chapter 3 we saw how that, before he set forth the
superiority of Christ over Moses, he first made specific mention of the
typical mediator’s faithfulness (verse 5); so here, ere setting forth the
superiority of Christ over Abraham (which is done in

Hebrews 7:4), he
first records his triumphant endurance. How this shows that we ought to
use every lawful means possible in seeking to remove the prejudices of
people against God’s truth!
The mention of Abraham in Hebrews 6 should occasion real searchings of
heart before God on the part of all who claim to be Christians. Abraham is
“the father of all them that believe” (

Romans 4:11), but as Christ so
emphatically declared to those in His day who boasted that Abraham was
their father, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do (not merely “ye
ought to do”!) the works of Abraham” (

John 8:39), and as

Romans
4:12 tells us, Abraham is “the father of circumcision (i.e., spiritual
circumcision:

Colossians 2:11) to those who are not of the (natural)
circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of their
father Abraham”. In his day (1680) John Owen said,
“It is a sad consideration which way and by what means some men
think to come to Heaven, or carry themselves as if they think so.
There are but Jew who deem more than a naked profession to be
necessary thereunto, but living in all sorts of sins, they yet suppose.392
they shall inherit the promises of God. This was not the way of the
holy men of old, whose example is proposed to us. True, some
think that faith at least be necessary hereunto, but by faith they
understand little more than a mere profession of true religion”.
It behooves us, if we value our souls, to examine closely the Scriptural
account of the nature and character of Abraham’s faith. It was far more
than a bare assenting to the veracity of God’s Word. It was an operative
faith, which caused him to separate himself from the world (

Hebrews
11:8,9), which led him to take the place of a stranger and pilgrim down
here (

Hebrews 11:13), which enabled him to patiently endure under
severe trials and testings. In the light of other scriptures, the words,
“patiently endured” (

Hebrews 6:15) enable us to fill in many a blank in
the Genesis history. Patiently “endured” what? Mysterious providences, the
seeming slowness of God to make good His promises, that which to sight
and sense appeared to repudiate His very love (

Genesis 22:2). Patiently
“endured” what? The attacks of Satan upon his faith, the insinuations of
the Serpent that God had ceased to be gracious, the temptation of the
Devil to be enriched by the king of Sodom (

Genesis 14:21). Patiently
“endured” what? The cruel sneers, the biting taunts, the persecution of his
fellow-men, who hated him because his godly walk condemned their
ungodly ways. Yes, like his Redeemer afterwards, and like each one of his
believing children today, “he endured the contradiction of sinners against
himself”.
But the Holy Spirit had another design here in referring to the case of
Abraham. Having so faithfully warned us of the danger of apostasy, having
so earnestly set before us the imperative need of faithful perseverance, He
now closes this lengthy parenthesis with a most glorious message of
comfort, which is designed to set the hearts of God’s children at perfect
rest, allay their fears of uncertainty as to their ultimate issue, strengthen
their faith, deepen their assurance, and cause them to look forward to the
future with the most implicit confidence. It is ever God’s way to wound
before He heals, to alarm the conscience before He speaks peace to it, to
press upon us our responsibility ere He assures of His preserving power.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good
pleasure”, is preceded by “work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling” (

Philippians 2:12, 13)..393
And what is it that the Holy Spirit here uses to comfort the hearts of God’s
tried and troubled and trembling people? Why, the wondrous and glorious
Gospel of His grace. This He does by now making known the deeper
design and significance of His reference to Abraham. He shows that the
promise which God made to “the father of all that believe”, to which
promise He designed to add His oath, concerned not Abraham alone, but
is, without fail, to be made good to all his spiritual seed. Yea, He shows
how God’s dealings with Abraham in time, were but a shadowing-forth on
this earth-plane of His covenant-transactions with Christ and His seed in
Heaven ere time began. May the Lord grant the much-needed wisdom,
guidance and grace, that both the writer and reader may be led to a fight
and clear apprehension of this most blessed subject.
Ere turning to verse 16 let us attempt to show the connection of our
present passage with its context, by giving a brief analysis of the verses
which were before us in the preceding article.
1. Abraham is set before us as an example: verse 12 and the opening
“For” of verse 13.
2. God made promise to Abraham: verse 13.
3. That promise had immediate reference to Christ and the benefits of
His mediation:

Galatians 3:16.
4. In addition to His promise, God placed Himself on oath to Abraham:
verse 13.
5. The peculiar nature of that oath: God sware by Himself: verse 13.
6. God sware by Himself because there was none greater to whom He
might appeal: verse 13.
7. Abraham’s faith, resting on the ground of God’s promise and oath,
patiently endured and obtained the promise: verse 15.
The emphatic and important words of verse 15 are its opening “And so”,
or “And thus”, the reference being to the absolute faithfulness of the divine
promise, followed by the divine oath, namely “Surely, blessing I will bless
thee” (verse 14). In other words, God’s oath to Abraham was the
guarantee that He would continue to effectively work in him and invincibly
preserve him to the end of his earthly course, so that he should infallibly
enter into the promised blessing. Though Abraham was to be left in the.394
place of trial and testing for another seventy-five years, his entrance was
not left contingent upon his own mutable will. Though it is only through
“faith and patience” any inherit the promises (verse 12), yet God has
solemnly pledged Himself to sustain these graces in His own unto the end
of their wilderness journey and right across Jordan itself, until entrance into
Canaan is secured: “These all died in faith” (

Hebrews 11:13).
“For men verily sware by the greater: and an oath for confirmation
is to them an end of all strife” (verse 16).
The design of this verse is to give us an explanation of why it is that the
great God has placed Himself on oath. When we consider who He is and
what He is, we may well be amazed at His action. When we remember His
exalted majesty, that he “humbles” Himself to so much as “behold” the
things that are in heaven (

Psalm 113:6), there is surely cause for
wonderment to find Him “swearing” by Himself. When we remember that
He is the God of Truth, who cannot lie, there is reason for us to enquire
why He deemed not His bare word sufficient.
“For men verily sware by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to
them an end of all strife”. The opening “for” looks back to God “sware by
Himself” of verse 13. The apostle here appeals to a custom which has
obtained among men in all ages. When one party avers one thing, and
another, another, and each stands firmly by what he says, there is not only
mutual contradiction, but endless strife. Where matters of interest and
importance are concerned between two or more men, the difference
between them can only be settled by them being placed on oath. In such
cases an oath is necessary for the governing and peace of mankind, for
without it strife must be perpetual, or else ended by violence. Thus, the
purpose or design of oaths among men is to place bounds upon their
contradictions and make an end of their contentions.
Strikingly has Dr. John Owen pointed out in his remarks upon verse 16:
“As these words are applied to or are used to illustrate the state of things
between God and our souls, we may observe from them: First, that there
is, as we are in a state of nature (looking at the elect as the descendants of
fallen Adam — A.W.P.), a difference and strife between God and us.
Second, the promises of God are gracious proposals of the only way and
means for the ending of that strife. Third, the oath of God interposed for
the confirmation of these promises (better, “in addition to” the promises —
A.W.P.) is every way sufficient to secure believers against all objections.395
and temptations in all straits and trials, about peace with God through
Jesus Christ”.
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise
the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by oath” (verse 17). The
relative “wherein” or “wherefore” has, we believe, both an immediate
connection with verse 16, and a more remote one to what has been
declared in verse 13. Regarding it, first, as a conclusion drawn from the
general principle enunciated in the preceding verse, its force is this: since
an oath serves to establish man’s words among his fellows, the great God
has condescended to employ this means and method to confirm the faith of
His people. Because an oath gives certainty among men unto the point
sworn to, God has graciously deigned that the heirs of promise shall have
the comfort of a Divine dual certainty. The more remote connections with
verse 13 will appear in the course of our exposition: it is to here give
assurance that what God so solemnly pledged Himself to do for and give
unto Abraham, is equally sure and certain to and for all his children — the
“wherein” signifies “in which” oath.
God’s design in swearing by Himself was not only that Abraham might be
fully persuaded of the absolute certainty of His blessing, but that the “heirs
of promise” should also have pledge and proof of the immutability of His
counsel concerning them; for the mind and will of God was the same
toward all of the elect as it was toward the patriarch himself. Though we
are lifted to a much greater height in these closing verses of Hebrews 6, yet
the application which the apostle is here led to make of God’s dealings
with Abraham, is identical in principle with what we find in Romans 4.
There we read of Abraham believing God and that it was counted unto him
for (better “unto”) righteousness, and in verse 16 the conclusion is drawn:
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise
might be sure to all the seed”; while in verses 23, 24 we are told, “Now it
was not written for his sake alone, that it was reckoned to him, but for us
also, to whom it shall be reckoned, if we believe on Him that raised up
Jesus our Lord from the dead” — cf.

Galatians 3:29.
We come now to enquire, What is the “immutability of His counsel” which
God determined to show the more abundantly unto the heirs of promise?
To ascertain this, we need first to consider God’s “counsel”. Like the
expression the “will of God”, His “counsel” has a double reference and
usage in the New Testament. There is the revealed “will” of God, set forth.396
in the Scriptures, which defines and measures human responsibility (

1
Thessalonians 4:3, e.g.,), but which “will” is perfectly done by none of us;
there is also the secret and invincible will of God (

Romans 9:19, etc.,),
which is wrought out through each of us. So we read, on the one hand,
that “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against
themselves” (

Luke 7:30); while on the other hand, it is said of the
crucifiers of Christ, they
“were gathered together for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy
counsel determined before to be done” (

Acts 4:27, 28).
The “immutability of His counsel” declares plainly in which of the two
senses the term is to be taken in Hebrews 6.
The “counsel” of God in

Hebrews 6:17 signifies His everlasting decree
or eternal purpose. It is employed thus of Christ’s death in

Acts 2:23,
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel, and foreknowledge of
God”. It bears the same meaning in Ephesians 1, as is abundantly clear if
verse 9 be compared with verse 11: in the former we read, “Having made
known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure
which He hath purposed in Himself”; in the latter it is said, “being
predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after
the counsel of His own will”. Both of those verses take us back to the
Divine determination before this world was created; equally plain is it that
both of them are treating of the eternal resolutions of God concerning the
salvation of His people: cf.

1 Thessalonians 2:13.
Still more specially the “counsel” of God in

Hebrews 6:17 concerns the
holy and wise purpose of His will to give His Son Jesus Christ to be of the
seed of Abraham for the salvation of all the elect, and that, in such a way,
and accompanied by such blessings, as would infallibly secure their faith,
perseverance, and entrance into Glory. In other words, the “counsel” of
God respects the agreement which He entered into with Christ in the
Everlasting Covenant, that upon His fulfillment of the stipulated
conditions, the promises made to Him concerning His seed should most
certainly be fulfilled. Proof of this is found in comparing

Luke 1:72, 73,
with

Galatians 3:16, 17. In the former we read of Zacharias
prophesying that God was “to remember His holy covenant, the oath
which He sware to our father Abraham”. In the latter, the Holy Spirit
brings out the hidden meaning of God’s dealings with the patriarch: “Now
to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to.397
seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this
I say, the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ”.
Referring to the covenants made by Jehovah with the patriarchs, as
affording so many types of that Everlasting Covenant (

Hebrews 13:20)
made with Christ, Mr. Hervey (1756) when refuting the terrible heresies of
John Wesley, wrote: “True, it is recorded that God made a covenant with
Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob, and with David: but were they in a
capacity to enter into a covenant with their Maker? to stand for themselves
or be surety for others? I think not. The passages mean no more than the
Lord’s manifesting, in an especial manner, the grand Covenant to them,
ratifying and confirming their personal interest in it, and further assuring
them that Christ, the great Covenant-Head, should spring from their seed.
This accounts for that remarkable and singular mode of expression which
often occurs in Scripture: ‘I will make a covenant with them’. Yet there
follows no mention of any conditions but only a promise of unconditional
blessings”.
Now what is particularly important to note here is, that God was “willing
more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of His
counsel”, and therefore, “confirmed it by (or as the margin much more
accurately renders it “interposed Himself by”) an oath”. This leads us to
call attention to the distinction between God’s “counsel” and His
“promise”. His “counsel” is that which, originally, was a profound and an
impenetrable secret in Himself; His “promise” is an open and declared
revelation of His will. It is most blessed to perceive that God’s promises
are but the transcripts of His eternal decrees; His promises now make
known to us in words the hitherto secret counsels of His heart. Thus, “the
immutability of His counsel” is that from which His sure promises proceed
and by which it is expressed.
But in addition to His promise, God was willing “more abundantly” to
“show”, or reveal, or make known to His people, the unchangeableness of
His counsel. All proceeds from the will of God. He freely purposed to give
unto the elect, while they are in this world, not only abundant, but “more
abundant” proofs of His everlasting love (

Jeremiah 31:3), His gracious
concern for their assurance, peace and joy. This He did by “interposing
Himself by an oath”. The Greek word which the A.V. has rendered in the
text “confirmed”, has for its prime meaning “to mediate” or “intervene”.
This at once directs our thoughts to the Mediator, of whom Abraham was.398
the type. It was to Christ that the original Promise and Oath were made.
Hence, in

Titus 1:2 we read,
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before
the world began”:
as the elect were not then in existence, the promise must have been made
to their Head. Concerning God’s oath to Christ we read,
“The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest
forever after the order of Melchizedek” (

Psalm 110:4).
Now it is not unto all mankind, but only unto a certain number of persons
to whom God designs to manifest the immutability of His counsel, and to
communicate the effects thereof. These are here denominated “the heirs of
promise” which includes all the saints of God both under the Old and New
Testament. They are called “heirs of promise” on a double account: with
respect unto the promise itself, and the thing promised. They are not yet
the actual possessors, but waiting in expectation (cf.

Hebrews 1:14):
proof of this is obtained by comparing

Hebrews 11:13, 17, 19. In this
the members are conformed to their Head, for though Christ is the “Heir of
all things” (

Hebrews 1:2), yet He, too, is “expecting” (see

Hebrews
10:13). The “heirs of promise” here are the same as “the children of
promise” in

Romans 9:8.
“That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God
to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge
to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (verse 18).
In order to simplify our exposition of this verse, we propose taking up its
contents in their inverse order, and doing so under a series of questions.
First, what is “the hope set before us?” Where is it thus “set before us”,
What is meant by “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope”? What is the
“strong consolation”? How do the “two immutable things” supply this
strong consolation?
In seeking to ascertain the character of “the hope” of verse 18 it needs to
be carefully distinguished from the “strong consolation”, which at once
intimates that it is not the grace of hope within the heart of the believer.
Further corroboration of this is found in the words, “set before us”, which
clearly speaks of what is objective rather than subjective; and too, it is to
be “laid hold of”. Moreover, what is said of this “hope” in verse 19.399
excludes the idea of an internal expectation. The needed help is found in 7-
19 where of the “better hope” it is said, “by the which we draw nigh unto
God”:

John 14:6,

Ephesians 2:18, etc. In

1 Timothy 1:1, the
Lord Jesus Christ is distinctly designated “our Hope”, and is He not the
One whom God hath “set before” His people? Is not “that blessed Hope”
for which we are to be “looking” (

Titus 2:13), Christ Himself?
Where is it that Christ is “set before us” as “the hope”? Surely, in the
Gospel of God’s grace. It is there that the only hope for lost sinners is
made known. The Gospel of God is “the Gospel of Christ” (

Romans
1:16), for it exhibits the excellencies of His glorious person and proclaims
the efficacy of His finished work. Therefore in

Romans 3:25, it is said
of Christ Jesus, “Whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith in
His blood”; while to the Galatians Paul affirmed, “before whose eyes Jesus
Christ hath been evidently (openly) set forth among you — crucified”. In
the Gospel, Christ is presented both as an Object of Faith and an Object of
Hope. As an Object of Faith it is what He has done for the elect, providing
for them a perfect legal standing before God: this is mainly developed in
Romans. As an Object of Hope it is what Christ will yet do for His people,
bring them out of this wilderness into the Promised Land. In Hebrews we
are seen as yet in the place of trial, moving toward the Inheritance.
What is meant by “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us”?
It expresses that which the Gospel requires from those who hear it —
appropriating it unto one’s self. Saving faith is explained under various
figures. Sometimes as “believing”, which means the heart resting upon
Christ and His finished work. Sometimes as “coming to Christ”, which
means a turning from every other refuge and closing with Him as He is set
forth in the Gospel. Sometimes as a “setting to our seal that God is true”
(

John 3:33 cf.

Isaiah 44:5), which means ratifying His testimony by
our receiving it. Sometimes as the committal of our soul and its eternal
interests into the hands of the Lord (

2 Timothy 1:12). Sometimes as a
“submitting ourselves unto the righteousness of God” (

Romans 10:3),
which means repudiating our own works and resting upon the vicarious
obedience and sacrifice of Christ. Here, it is pictured as a “fleeing for
refuge”, the figure being taken from an Old Testament type.
Under the Law, God made merciful provision for the man who had
unintentionally slain another: that provision was certain cities appointed for
refuge for such. Those cities are spoken of in Numbers 35, Deuteronomy.400
19, Joshua 20. Those cities were built on high hills or mountains
(

Joshua 20:7), that those seeking asylum there, might have no difficulty
in keeping them in sight. So the servants of Christ who hold Him up, are
likened unto “a city which is set upon a hill” (

Matthew 5:14). They
were a refuge from “the avenger of blood” (

Joshua 20:3): cf., “flee
from the wrath to come” (

Matthew 3:7). They had a causeway of
stones approaching them as a path to guide thereto (

Deuteronomy
19:3): so in the Gospel a way of approach is revealed unto Christ. Those
who succeeded in entering these cities secured protection and safety
(

Numbers 35:15): so Christ has declared “him that cometh to Me I will
in no wise cast out” (

John 6:37).
Now the particular point to be noted in the above type is that the one who
desired shelter from the avenger of blood had to personally flee to the city
of refuge. The figure is very impressive. Here was a man living in peace
and comfort, fearing none; but having now slain another at unawares,
everything is suddenly changed. Fear within, and danger without, beset on
either hand. The avenger of blood threatens, and nothing is left but to flee
to the appointed place of refuge, for there alone is peace and safety to be
found. Thus it is with the sinner. In his natural condition, a false serenity
and comfort are his. Then, unawares to him, the Holy Spirit convicts him
of sin, and he is filled with distress and alarm, till he cries, “What must I do
to be saved”? The Divine answer is, “Flee for refuge and lay hold of the
hope set before us”.
But let us not fail to note here the immeasurable superiority of Christianity
over Judaism as seen in the vast difference between the “refuge” under the
Law, and that made known in the Gospel. The cities of refuge were
available only for those who had unintentionally killed a person. But we
have been conscious, deliberate, lifelong rebels against God; nevertheless
Christ says, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I
will give you rest”. Again, the manslayer in the city was safe, yet his very
refuge was a prison: it is the very opposite with the believer — Christ
opened for him the prison-door and set him at liberty (

Isaiah 61:2),
Christ “makes free” (

John 8:36). Again, in entering the city of refuge he
turned away from his inheritance, his land and cattle; but the one who lays
hold of Christ obtains an inheritance (

1 Peter 1:4). For the manslayer to
return to his inheritance meant death; for the Christian, death means going
to his inheritance..401
Those who have fled to Christ to “lay hold on eternal life” (

1 Timothy
6:12), are entitled to enjoy “strong consolation”. On this the Puritan
Manton said, “There are three words by which the fruits and effects of
certainty and assurance is expressed, which imply so many degrees of it:
peace, comfort, and joy. Peace, denotes rest from accusations of
conscience. Comfort, a temperate and habitual confidence. Joy, an actual
feeling, or high-tide of comfort, an elevation of the saints”. Strong
consolation is a firm and fixed persuasion of the love of God toward us,
and the assurance that
“our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far
more exceeding eternal weight of glory” (

2 Corinthians 4:17).
“David encouraged himself in the Lord his God”
(

1 Samuel 30:6).
It remains for us now to consider what it is which supplies and supports
the “strong consolation” in the believer. This is stated at the beginning of
our verse: “That by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God
to lie”. These are, His promise and His oath. The assurance of the believer
rests upon the unchanging veracity of God. Were He influenced by His
creatures, God would be constantly changing His plans (as we do), willing
one thing today and another tomorrow; in such case who could confide in
Him? None, for no one would know what to expect; thus, all certainty
would be at an end. But, blessed be His name, our God is “without
variableness or shadow of turning” (

James 1:17), and therefore the
immutability of His counsel is the very life of our assurance.
For the stay of our hearts and the full assurance of our faith, God has