[* This exposition is from chapter three of the author’s book “Govett on Hebrews”, (pages 125-144).]






Chapter 5: 1.  “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things respecting God, that they may offer both gifts

and sacrifices for sins; who can have compassion in the

ignorant and erring, since he himself also is

compassed with infirmity; and because

of this, he ought, as for the people,

so also for himself, to offer for sins




The comparison of our Lord with Aaron began at the fourteenth verse of the last chapter.  Israel’s High Priest could only minister on earth.  Our High Priest has passed through the heavens, of loftier original by far than Aaron.  He is possessed of prefect sympathy, superior to the Aaronic priests, as being without sin.  And we who [believe and] trust the Son of God can draw with boldness near the throne of God on high; while Israel, and even the chief priests, dared not approach the Holiest below, save on one day, and after a set form, and with fear.



Jesus, as High Priest of men, needed to be, and is, a Son of man.  It was fitting it should be so.  “Take thou to thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office” (Exodus 28: 1).  In Hebrews the case is stated more broadly - “Taken” - not “from the children of Israel - but “from men” - and “for men  The necessity of the office originated in the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God.  Of great grace was it, that the Lord would appoint any to act for men’s benefit.  Christ is High Priest, in relation to us His ransomed, who are only consecrated as priests.



A priest is one appointed to stand between God and sinners, to bear God’s communications to men, and to carry men’s offerings to God.  His especial service is to appease the wrath of God against sin, and to procure His favour.  He represents men, because they may not come directly to God, even to present their offerings.  The necessity of priesthood, and the peril of going to God without the priesthood of his choice, is shown impressively in the rebellion of Korah and his two hundred and fifty princes, who were cut off by fire under the wrath of Jehovah, because of their presumptuous daring, in offering incense to Jehovah after setting Aaron aside.



In the case of the Jewish priests there was a special service of consecration.  But in the Christian scheme there are no atoning priests.  Christ is the one High Priest who has brought in perfect peace with God, through His one offering.  But all believers are priests to God, and are consecrated and welcome to go to God, in the perfect forgiveness of sins through Christ [Jesus].  The Revised Version removes, and rightly, the word “ordained;” as the Holy Spirit puts here only “appointed  The word “ordained” was used in obedience to King James, to shelter the idea that Christian ministers need a special service of consecration by men, before they have any right to preach.  For the Prayer Book speaks of “Priests” and “Deacons;” and hence many imagine, that the old office of priesthood belongs now to “ordained” men.  But this is a mistake, arising out of the evil use of the same word made to signify things quite different.  The Gospel owns the service of certain believing men, called “Presbyters” (or elders), watching over the flock.  Out of “Presbyter” was formed the word “priest”, which perpetuates the confusion between the Jewish and the Christian systems.



Let the reader mark, then, that ALL BELIEVERS [born again by the Holy Spirit] ARE PRIESTS!  Revelation 1: 6; 5: 10; 1 Peter 2: 5, 9) AND THAT NONE BUT BELIEVERS [called and chosen by God] ARE PRIESTS.  Vain, then, is the assumption of the title of “priest” by any one of a special class, as if he had a peculiar nearness to God, arising out of a special consecration to this office.  If the man be not a [regenerate] believer, he is no “priest” in any spiritual sense.  And if he imagines that he is consecrated to draw near to God, in order to offer prayers and sacrifices for “the laity,” he is denying the foundation-principle of the Gospel.



The Old Testament priest was appointed to offer to God “gifts  God would not receive anything, save through His appointed and consecrated servant.  He was appointed to offer “sacrifices for sins  Sins were committed by Israel under the Law.  And some kinds of sin might be forgiven.  In what way?  By the sacrifice and the priest.  A perfect animal of an appointed kind must be put to a violent death, and its blood presented at the altar by the priest.  For the Law is wrath with sin, and the soul that sins shall die.  But the Most High permitted that a substitute should bear, in certain cases, the sins of the offender, that the ox or sheep might die in his stead, and himself be forgiven.  But, since many now deny wrath in God, let the reader just look in the Concordance, as the multitudes of places in which God declares He is wroth; and, if he will believe the Word of God, his doubts will soon be set at rest.  What said God to Moses at the sin of the Calf?  “Let me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them” (Exodus 32: 10).  And had not Moses, His chosen, stood in the gap, the whole nation had been swept away (Psalm 106: 23).  But though the prayer of Moses prevailed to put off God’s indignation, the sin has never been forgiven; and is to be avenged in the awful day of wrath that is coming on the world of living sinners, and specially on Israel (Exodus 32: 34).  For, without shedding of blood, even unto death, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9: 22).  And there is no sacrifice that could be offered for the forgiveness of the wilful sin of idolatry.  The Law knew only of the forgiveness of sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4.).  And that was by atoning blood offered through the priest.  “The priest shall make an atonement for him [the sinner], and it shall be forgiven him” (verse 31).  But now, Christ our High Priest has brought in, by His blood once shed, forgiveness of all sins: for sins against “light and knowledge as well as those committed in ignorance.  And all those who come to God through this High Priest “forgiven them all trespasses” (Colossians 1.).



The High Priest must have compassion, and sympathy for sinners; for his office is one of mercy, provided for the benefit of those who deserve only wrath.  Sinners, in this view, may be classed in two divisions, the “ignorant” and the “erring  Towards each of these the High Priest, must be forbearing.  He was to feel compassion, and to exercise forbearance; because, as a man, he was sensible of his own infirmity, and his need of mercy himself.  Our great High Priest, by His plea on behalf of the ignorance of His murderers, has prevailed with God to this day (Luke 23: 34).



The Aaronic high priest was commanded to offer for the sins of the people, and God would hear.  But in the great Day of Atonement, which was the chief day of his office, he was commanded first to offer for himself and the priesthood generally.  “Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin-offering, which is for himself, and made an atonement [covering] for himself, and for his house” (Leviticus 16: 6).  Before he could atone for others, he must be reminded that he himself was a sinner, who also needed forgiveness through atoning blood.  Had he attempted to draw near to the God of Israel without this, he would himself have been cut off in wrath.  But our High Priest, as sinless, could present a perfect offering, and needed no sacrifice for Himself.



4. “And none taketh this honour to himself, but One called of God, as

was Aaron.  So also the Christ glorified not Himself to become High

Priest, but He that spake to Him, ‘My Son art Thou, I to-day

begat Thee  As also in another place He saith, ‘Thou art

a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec.’”



Beside the requisite fitness through personal qualities, there must be also an appointment on God’s part.  It was the sin of Korah, that he, and his companion thought that they were as fit to draw near Jehovah, as Aaron and his sons.  They dared to try the matter, by standing before His tabernacle, and offering incense before God; which was a part of the priest’s office.  The Most High was so offended with this, and with Dathan’s refusal of Moses that He would, but for the intercession of Moses and Aaron, have destroyed the whole people.  “And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (verse 35).  High-churchmen and clergy in our day imagine, that dissenters and nonconformist ministers of the Gospel are guilty of this sin.  In “Ballads” by the Rev. J. Neale, you have these words: “Why don’t you go to Meeting  (The child’s answer.)


“Oh no! I dare not turn away,

As you would have me do;

I dare not leave God’s House to-day

To go to meeting too.


In Church God always waits, I know,

To hear His people’s prayer;

But in the place that you go to

His presence is not there.


God’s Priest in Church for God doth stand,

And when the prayers begin,

The Lord will give me at his hand

Forgiveness for my sin!


Do not the Holy Scriptures show, -

(We know the story well)

Why Korah once, and Dathan, too,

Went down alive to hell [Sheol]?


And Saul’s sad end might make us wise

Whom God in anger slew,

Because he offered sacrifice

Which only priests might do



This supposes that buildings of brick and mortar are “God’s house,” while Scripture tells us, that the Most High is not dwelling in houses made with hands (Acts 7: 48).  His house now is a spiritual one, made up of living stones, and [regenerate] believers are a “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2; 4-10).  This clergyman trusted that he was an atoning priest, capable of drawing near to God than others, and offering the prayers of others to God, because he was a consecrated “priest” according to the Prayer Book; and was considered to be so by the law of England.  But he was no priest towards God, unless he were a [regenerate] believer.  God consecrated Aaron to be His priest, and owned his priesthood: but the Lord does not own the Prayer Book and its consecration, as His.  So that, whosoever lifts himself up as an atoning priest like Aaron, is guilty of the very sin of Korah.  [Regenerate] believers now are only Levites, servants of God.  And it was the Levite’s attempt to take the place of the sacrificing and atoning priest, which God visited in wrath.  Whoever regards himself, and acts, as an atoning priest, now [after] that Christ has, once for all, brought in forgiveness; and not only brought peace with God, is guilty of Korah’s sin.  For he is setting aside the completed work of a greater than Aaron.



Christ then did not appoint Himself to the Highpriesthood but God did; as truly as He appointed Aaron.  This point the Apostle proves by two passages.  One from the second psalm: “Thou art My Son, this day I begat Thee  But how does that passage prove God’s appointment of Christ to the Priesthood?  This second generation of Christ by the Father took place at His rising our Lord [out] from the dead; after His having accomplished the sacrifice of Himself, which the Saviour offered as High Priest elect.  He was the first victim that was raised up, after its atoning blood had been shed.  Of a victim’s resurrection after death the Law could only give a distinct hint, such as we find in the commandment concerning the Passover-Lamb; that no part of it was to be left to corruption, but all that was not eaten was to be consumed by fire (Exodus 12: 10).  Now no sacrifice however perfect, could be accepted, save at the hand of a priest.  The [out] resurrection then of Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” proves Him to be God’s perfect Priest.  And that Priest, and that Sacrifice was God’s own [or ‘only begotten’] Son!* Jesus through His resurrection [“out of dead ones” (Acts 4: 2. lit. Gk. trans.)] entered not only into a new relation to God, but to us also.  As the Righteous Jew, He stood, during all His life, apart from all others, whether Jew or Gentile (John 12.).  But, by His rising again, He becomes a New Man, sin put away.  He can make over to us, by His will and testament, all His merits.  He has a higher title, and a larger field that was given even to Moses.  How vast the difference between “My faithful servant and “My Beloved Son


*These two points, Jesus is Son, and High Priest, have both been assumed before in chapter 4: 14.


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But a second passage is adduced by the Apostle as proof, from Psalm 110.  This directly states our Lord’s being constituted Priest by God.  “Thou art  It is a present thing.  “A Priest for ever* Therefore neither Aaron, nor David, is the person meant.  The priesthood, too, is of another and a higher order than Aaron’s.  The priest after Melchizedec’s order is higher than the High Priest of Aaron’s order.  Melchizedec was both king and priest.  Now this union of office was not allowed under the Law.  They did not meet even in Moses.  A king of Israel was struck with leprosy for daring to intrude on the priest’s place of office.


[* “A Priest for the age,” is, in my opinion, a better translation.  It is a Divine reference to a time yet future, when our Lord Jesus Christ will be manifested as both King and Priest in His Temple, during His Messianic Kingdom. Mark 11: 17; Isaiah 56: 7; Jeremiah 7: 11. cf. Ezekiel 43: 7: “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever.” That is, for an “age  There is no mention of any temple or sacrifices in God’s “New” Creation, Revelation 21: 1: because, - “The tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (verse3).   


And again: “From His place (i.e., presumably the Millennial Temple at Jerusalem) He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord, He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both:” (Zechariah 6: 12, 13).  Christ’s own throne (as both King and High Priest), will be manifested within His Messianic and Millennial Temple for an “Age”.  “Never before in the Bible had another Hebrew king - David, Solomon, Josiah - ruled on a throne from inside the holy temple; always they executed their royal duties from within the palace” (Temple, pp. 184). ]



But the Son of God is declared both King of kings, and God’s High priest.  Aaron possessed the shadow of resurrection in the miracle of the flowering of the dry and dead rod.  By that sign God would prove that Aaron alone was His accepted priest: and the broad plates on the altar, made out the censers of Korah and his company - “those sinners against their own soul” - were a sign, that none was to venture to offer to God, save through His appointed priest.  But the real resurrection of Jesus was a far greater miracle [sign]; and His ascent to God’s Holiest in heaven was a far nobler entry on the tabernacle above, than Aaron’s entrance into the tent made my man’s hands.



“A priest for ever  That must begin after death.  Flesh and blood are not built for eternity; and only through a violent death could that shedding of the blood be made, without which is no forgiveness of sins.  Moreover, Jesus’ manifest Priesthood was only to be enacted in heaven [until He returns to this earth, and claims His promised inheritance here (Psalm 2: 8), and sits upon His throne in the Holy City of “Jerusalem” (Luke 1: 32).  See also Jeremiah 3: 17; Isaiah 52: 8b, 9, R.V. etc.)].  On earth - [during Old Testament times] - there were priests, who offered sacrifices in the copies of the heavenly things.



Without a perfect priesthood, and a perfect sacrifice, all men must be destroyed in justice, or God’s Law and Word be dishonoured.  But Jesus, our High Priest, slain for sin, but risen [out] from the dead, and Minister of the true temple above, glorifies God, and saves men.



7. “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with loud outcry of tears, to Him Who was able to

Save Him out of death, and was delivered from His fear;

though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience

by the things which He suffered



The time of the Saviour’s life on earth in the infirmities of the flesh, contributes to the perfection of His Priesthood.  He is exalted, and far above suffering now.  But He remembers His trials and sufferings while He was a [impeccable] man, in [a body of] fresh and blood.  These sufferings our Lord could only experience as incarnate.  “Flesh and in its “days are the time of infirmity.  “All flesh is as grass  “He remembered that they were but flesh” (Isaiah 40: 6; Psalm 78: 39).



While on earth, Jesus was the Priest undergoing consecration; not clad in the garments of beauty and glory, but in the white-linen dress of humiliation.  He “offered” - the priestly word - even then acceptable gifts and sacrifices to God, in the way of “prayers and supplications  These offerings are past, as the tense of the word “offered” shows.  They were acceptable to God; as He manifested by an immediate answer: (1) At His baptism.  “It came to pass that Jesus, having been immersed, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, which said, ‘Thou art My Beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased’” (Luke 3: 21).  (2) At His transfiguration.  Jesus had expressed His intention to surrender His soul to death.  “And as He prayed [on the mount] the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and glistering” (Luke 9: 29).  And the Father again attested Him as His Beloved Son.  (3) Also, when His last hour was close at hand, as soon as He says, “Father, glorify Thy Name there came a voice out of heaven saying: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12.).



What is the difference between “prayers” and “supplications”?  I do not know, if it be that the latter word signifies prayer for deliverance, as the following context seems to show.



The prayers of the Saviour were sometimes uttered with “loud outcry and tears  This seems to refer to His prayers in the night of agony in Gethsemane, and His cry on the cross.  The last of these so astonished the centurion of the execution, that it drew from Him the memorable confession: “Truly this Man was the Son of God” (Mark 15: 39).



Instead of saying that these prayers were directed to God, the Apostle uses a paraphrase, to bring out the power of the Most High, in the special direction in which our Lord appealed to Him.  He cried “to Him that was able to save Him out of death” (ek).* Jesus must die, and did not pray to be delivered from suffering death; but He prayed that He might not be left in Hades, or in the place that is called ‘Death.’  “Thou hast laid Me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.  Thy wrath lieth hard upon Me, and Thou hast afflicted Me with all Thy waves” (Psalm 88: 6).  But if once He went down into Death, how should He get out of it?  “Let not the deep swallow Me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon Me” (Psalm 69: 15).


* Great is the difference, between being “saved from”, and being “saved out of” (ek).  He who is saved from a pit [i.e., ‘Sheol’ = ‘Hades’], does not fall into it.  But he who is saved out of one, must first be in it.  God raised Jesus “[out] from among the dead” (ek [= out]) (Romans 10: 9).  See also Judges 2: 16, 18; 8: 23; Psalm 107: 13; Exodus 36: 29; Isaiah 20: 6.



“And was delivered from His fear



The Established Version here gives: “And was heard in that He feared  The margin has: “Was heard for His piety  The Greek is susceptible of several meanings, and all give a good sense.  But which was the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit?



1. “He was heard because of [His] piety  If this were the meaning, we should expect another preposition, and the word “His” to be added to “piety  We should probably have, too, the word commonly used by Paul for “piety* And in the other passages in which the word here occurs in this epistle, it signifies fear.  “With reverence and godly fear” (12: 28.  See also Acts 23: 10; Hebrews 11: 7).


* See Acts 3: 12; 1 Timothy 2: 2, &c.



2. But, even if we translate it “fear,” there are still two meanings which may be given to it.  It may signify “the inward sentiment of fear  Then it will mean the Saviour was oppressed by the fear of death; which was doubtless true.  He was to suffer death from the hand of the Just Governor, as the penalty of sin.  It was to come on Him as a curse from God.  No wonder that He feared!  For then the loving face of His Father was turned away, as His bitter words on the cross testify.  Then we shall understand the sentiment of the present clause to be: “He prayed to be delivered from this overwhelming feeling of fear.  And He was heard; for His fear was taken away, and He went boldly to meet the armed men who sought Him, and surrendered Himself into their hands.”  This gives a good sense.  But here too we should expect the “His” with “fear  It is clear that it does not mean, “He was saved from death as Israel expected; for He died.



3. I doubt not, then, that the true rendering is: “He was delivered from the object of fear  “Fear” is taken as the external object causing fear - Death and Hadees.  The Greek word for “hearing” is one used often by the Septuagint to render the Hebrew “was answered* See also Psalm 118: 5; Luke 1: 13; Acts 10: 31.  Thus we have here what is called a pregnant construction.  “He was answered from the fear  The result of His petition was, His deliverance from the object which occasioned fear.  Thus, too, we account for the absence of the pronoun, which would otherwise be added to “fear if it were considered as an inward feeling of our Lord.


* See Psalm 22: 26; 40: 2.


This, therefore, signifies the Saviour’s rescue [out] from among the dead, by [His] resurrection.  The absence of this great truth, on which Paul usually lays much stress, has been made one of the probabilities against the Epistle being composed by that Apostle.  But here is the link supposed to be missing.  And we are, by this signification, thrown into connection with Scripture passages relating to this [resurrection-] redemption of our Lord [as our Forerunner and First-born Son of God “out of dead ones” (Acts 4: 2, Greek.).]  As in the Crucifixion-Psalm: “For He [God] hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when He cried to Him He heard” (Psalm 22: 24).  Then follows a passage referring to our lord as risen [“out of dead ones”].  “My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation  This is entirely parallel with the words quoted by Paul a little above: “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee” (verse 22).  But the passage most distinctly pointed at is Psalm 18., composed, as we have seen, by David, when “the Lord delivered Him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (Hadees).  There we find: “The sorrows of Death compassed me, the floods of Belial [margin] made me afraid.  The sorrows of Sheol [= Gk. Hades] compassed me about, the snares of Death [the place] prevented [surrounded] me  Then comes the prayer: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears  Then we have the earthquakes, at the Saviour’s death, and at His resurrection.  “Then the earth shook and trembled: the foundation also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth  Then the resurrection: “He sent from above [the two angels], He took me, He drew me out of many waters” (verses 4-16).



“Son though He was and therefore vastly superior to the dying and sinful priests of the Law - “Son though He was He was not kept out of these sore trials, as we should not have naturally expected from a Father’s love.  It is indeed a wonderous contrast, to mark the Creator of all, possessed of every perfection of glory that can be found in His Father, yet brought low, distressed even to tears, cries, and bloody sweat, and death, begging for restored life, and redemption out of death!  But thus we learn how sore the weight of those sins which oppressed Him; and that none but Himself could rescue us.  And what will be the horrors of death to him that suffers for his own sins?



“He learned obedience by the things He suffered



The Saviour, as Creator and Sustainer of all, ruled, and did not bow to a superior’s command.  But, on becoming man, He learned what it is to obey, especially the difficulties of obedience, when suffering and death must be endured.  Submission was the new duty entailed on Him from that difficult path; first, by the baits of the flesh and the world, and then he sought to terrify Him from the Father’s will, by the suffering that lay before Him.  Thus the Lord Jesus has learned, by experience, the difficulties which man finds in obeying God.



Unitarians and others would present to us God as simply benevolence.  “His creatures, though offenders against Him and His law, need no atonement; for there is no wrath in God.  The Saviour came to take away from us the fear of God.”  Did He?  How, then, was it, that His Perfect Son was so overwhelmed with fear and anguish, and the hiding of His Father’s face?  If God can, without injustice, lay such woe upon the Sinless One, how terrible He must be to wilful transgressor!  And who is not a wilful transgressor (Romans 3: 9-19)?  How comes it, that martyrs have been so much calmer, while suffering unto death, than the Perfect One?  We can tell!  They did not suffer the sting of death!



“And being perfected, He became to all that obey Him the author of eternal [Gk. “aionian” i.e., in this context ‘age-lasting’] salvation*


[* By an examination of the context, and by looking at a literal word for word translation from the Greek text of verses 7b-11:-


“and having been heard from the [His] piety, 8 though being a Son, learned, from what things He suffered; 9 And having been perfected, became a Cause of salvation age-lasting to all THOSE WHO OBEY Him; 10 having been declared by the

God a high priest, according to the order of Melchizedek. 11 Concerning Whom great to us the word and hard to

be explained to say (Rendered: “in our discourse we have much to say, and of difficult interpretation”),

since sluggish ones you have become in the hearing (Rendered:

“since you have become sluggish hearers.”)


- the Greek word “aionian,” as shown above, must, in this context, be understood and translated as “age-lasting”.  – Ed.]



The Saviour’s sufferings over, and Himself being raised out of His lowly lot, and crowned with glory at the right hand of God His twofold  perfection for His office - (1) in Himself, and (2) in His position and power arrived.  As come out of Death, He is the “Rock” for evermore, on which His people build.* His sufferings and their atonement, procuring salvation for the lost; as the words which ensure testify.  He is the meritorious cause of their [eternal] salvation.  Their salvation is not of the temporary character of salvation out of the Law.  And as derived from oneness with the Second Adam, it is eternal life in [and after] resurrection.


*Compare Matthew 16: 18 with Deuteronomy 32: 15.  Christ is not yet to Israel “the Rock of his salvation  Rather, He is the “Stone” of Stumbling, on which they are broken. [See Acts 4: 11, 12.]



But the difficulty faces us in the remaining words of this verse; a difficulty passed by, by nearly every commentator.  Christ is author of eternal aionian salvation “TO ALL THEM THAT OBEY HIM  We should have expected, “to all that believe on Him  And most writers on the Epistle quietly read it so. “He is a High Priest of salvation to all who believe,” says Pridham.  But are faith and obedience the same thing?  Did not Israel believe when they left the land of Egypt, yet were they not shut out of Canaan, because of disobedience?  “Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered  “He is the Saviour of those that obey Him  Yet it is true also, that eternal life is the gift of God to every one that believes (John 5: 24 [Romans 6: 23]).  Salvation is here spoken of as a future thing; and the eternal aionian salvation of obedient believers will begin for them a thousand years before it embraces the disobedient believers.



10. “Saluted by God as High Priest after the order of Melchizedec



After the Perfect Son has perfectly glorified the Father, by His obedience unto death, He is saluted by Him, on his rising [out] from the dead, as High Priest (Psalm 2.).  He was, according to God’s counsels, High Priest before His incarnation and death, but He was formally saluted as such, after His sacrifice was evidenced to be accepted, in His resurrection [“out of dead ones” Acts 4: 2, (Greek.)].  It is related of the first Emperor Napoleon, that on one occasion, having dropped the reins, his horse ran away with him.  A common soldier, stepped out of the ranks, caught the reins, and presented them to him.  “Thank you, Captain,” said the Emperor.  That salutation made the private at once an officer.  He accepted the word at once, and asked: “of what regiment, Sire  “Of my own Guards


[Page 138]




11. “Concerning whom [Melchizedec] we have much to say, and difficult of interpretation, since ye are become dull of hearing.  For when, in consideration of the [length of]

time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you the

first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as

have need of milk, and not of solid food*


* The translation “strong meat,” has led astray the thoughts of not a few.  They have supposed it meant some indigestible kind of flesh.  But no!  “Meat” is old English for “food  And here it is adults’ food; the opposite of milk, the infant’s.



The Apostle checks himself.  They were unready to listen to his proofs concerning the [‘gospel of the] glory’ of Christ,* drawn from the history of Abraham.  With advancing years they had become slow to accept deeper views of the Scriptures and their revelations.  It was not so once.  Once they listened to the glory of Christ, as reflected in the Old Testament, with great interest.  But they were now, through persecution and other causes, like their fathers under Pharaoh, when they heard the promises of deliverance.  Moses spake the promises, as Jehovah commanded: “But they hearkened not to Moses for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage


[* The reference here is, I believe, what we find written concerning the gospel (good news) concerning Messiah’s future, manifested, and millennial “glory,” which Satan seeks to keep hidden from regenerate Christians! “But and if our gospel (good news) is veiled - (says Paul in his epistle “unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in the whole of Achaia” 2 Cor. 2: 1, R.V.) - “it is veiled to them that are perishing: in whom the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel (good news) of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should not dawn upon them:” (2 Cor. 4: 3-4, R.V.).]



They had long been Christians; some, probably, for thirty years.  They had listened to Christ Himself, and His Apostles.  They had seen their words backed by deeds of wonder and power.  They ought to have so profited as to be masters of [much more, especially prophetical] Christian truth, able to impart it to others.  Hence we learn, that, teaching Christian truth under the Gospel does not require ordination.  But, instead of being teachers of Christ, they had need to be taught the first principles of the “oracles of God  “Oracles” were answers given to those who inquired of the heathen gods.  They were oft dictated by inspiration.  Of course, not inspiration by the Holy Spirit, but by evil spirits.  They were the god’s reply to his inquirer.



The Scriptures are “the oracles” of the true God, given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost.  In this passage the word seems to refer principally, if not entirely, to the Old Testament.  (1) For Paul is about to expound the history of Genesis in its application to us.  (2) And the expression is certainly applied to the Old Testament in more than one place of the New.  Of Moses it is said: “Who received living oracles to give unto us” (Acts 7: 38).  (So the Revised Version.)  What was the Jews’ advantage?  Chiefly, because that unto them were committed “the oracles of God” (Romans 3: 2).  1 Peter 4: 11 may have a more general application.  But it is very remarkable, that, while by the time this Epistle was penned of the New Testament writings of inspiration had been published, there is no appeal to those writings in this exhortation to the Hebrew Christians.



What are the “first principles of the oracles of God” which the Hebrews needed to be taught?  They are, I believe, the very same at which British Christians are stumbling now.  (1) There is partial unbelief concerning the inspiration of the Bible.  (2) There is, consequently, great difficulty in persuading believers concerning the typical meaning of the Old Testament, and its application to us.  They will not credit it, that this book differs from all others in being God’s book, and therefore possessed of powers vastly beyond man’s.  “The style is so simple  It is; but beneath that simplicity is couched a vast profundity of meaning.  The words concerning the Serpent and the Woman in Eden are very simple; but the whole history of the world thenceforth lies couched in them.  It is remarkable, how much this Epistle makes of the Word of God, and how zealously the Apostle inculcates its powers and depths.  “Thus saith the Holy Ghost



The Apostle is here teaching us that Holy Scripture has two aspects.



These are Moses’ simple words to Israel.  They are the “letter but beneath them lies the “spirit and that teaches us Christians, if our eyes are truly opened, that Moses in the Law wrote of the glory of the Son of God, “for Whom are all things as well as “by Whom are all things  “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He [Christ] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself  “All things must be fulfilled, which are written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me” (Luke 24: 27, 44).  This Paul also teaches, in the third chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.  There he tells us, that the Law (“the letter”) condemns, and sentences to death.  The glory of Moses’ face was designed to pass away.  But he put a veil on, when he spoke with his people.  When he turned to the Lord, the veil was taken off.  So there was a veil of unbelief on Israel’s heart, and a veil on Moses’ writings when they read them.  They halted at the letter, and were unable to see beyond the veil.  But the Lord Jesus is the “spirit” of that “letter  And when the veil of unbelief is off the heart, the veil is also taken off from Moses.  We then, with unveiled face, looking into the Old Testament glass, behold the glory of the Christ; and, as the face of Moses shone with the glory he looked upon, so we, beholding in the Word the glory of the Son, are by the [Holy] Spirit of God changed [if obedient] into His likeness, from glory to glory continually (2 Corinthians 3).



We, see then, the state of the Church at Jerusalem, some thirty years or so after Pentecost.  The first generation of believers had died off; and those then alive, instead of advancing in truth and grace, had gone back; and needed light from a distance, and an appeal from that Apostle, whose “peculiar views” about Gentiles and the Law, made him especially an object of dislike, even to Christians.  This may remind us of a like state of things in Israel, after the entry on the land under Joshua (Judges 2: 1-7).



Instead of turning to see Christ’s glory in Moses, they were attendants on the Law and its sacrifices, its feasts and fasts, from which Christ came to lead them out.  “All were zealous of the law and that was incompatible with advance in the knowledge of Christ, and the principles and practice of His truths.  The faith being come, they were to be no longer under the schoolmaster, and students of the alphabet of truth, but “men in Christ  “Ye are observing days and months, and times and years; I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labour in vain



They were short-sighted, and unable to see afar off, and had forgotten their purging from their old sins.  Hence the Apostle must teach them Christ in His present Priesthood after the pattern of Aaron, atoning for sin, and cleansing from it, which lies at the foundation of Christianity, instead of [focusing attention upon His coming, (and the numerous Divine promises – (see Psalm 2: 8; 110: 1-3; 72. etc,) of] the glory to come, in His Melchizedec* aspect.


[* That is, in His future role upon this earth, as His Father’s Anointed King-Priest.]



Let us then be unlike the men of our day.  Learned Germans will not believe in the truth if inspiration.  When they find a Psalm quoted, as written of Christ, they set themselves to inquire what David meant in penning it.  They then guess, what must have been the occasion which drew forth the Psalm.  And often their guess was foolish.  Take the Crucifixion-Psalm (Psalm 22.).  What event in David’s life was like the scene there depicted?  None!  It was inspired David, writing of his Son on the cross.  It was God’s hand that guided David’s pen.  Scripture is on no private interpretation.  “Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost  Only by faith in this truth can we understand and be fed by God’s Word.



“Ye have become such as have need of milk, and not solid food



The “milk” was the simple principle concerning priesthood which lay upon the surface.  The “solid food” was the deeper truths concerning His Son, which God had hid under the letter of the Old Testament history of Abraham.  To the advanced Christian, firmly grounded in the earlier doctrines of the faith, Paul could teach deep mysteries of God.  But, to the babe in Christ, he knew it was wise to present only milk.  Therefore the proud and philosophic believers of Corinth he would instruct only in the cross of Jesus.  They could bear no more (1 Corinthians 1: 3).  To the learned and proud Athenians he could only testify about the being of a [just] God, and judgment to come!



13. “For every one that partaketh of milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe



What is “the word of righteousness”?  Some regard it as the Gospel [of grace].  But no!  Paul is staying this course of his argument, to teach concerning the Old Testament, and its bearing on Christians.  And the Law has for its foundation-principle, “righteousness  “Righteousness, righteousness shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live says Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy 16: 20 [Heb.].  “Hearken unto Me, ye that follow after righteousness says Jehovah to the Jews (Isaiah 51: 1, 7).  “Israel, which followeth after the law of righteousness, hath not attained says Paul, “to the law of righteousness” (Romans 9: 31; Exodus 23: 7; Psalm 1: 5, 6; Leviticus 19: 36; Psalm 4: 5; 23: 3; Isaiah 45: 23; 63: 1).  “All the words of My mouth are in righteousness” (Proverbs 8: 8).  “Mine eyes fail for Thy salvation, and the word of Thy righteousness” (Psalm 119: 1, 2, 3; Matthew 5: 10).



On the contrary, the Gospel of God is “the word of His grace” (Acts 14: 3; 13: 43).  “The ministry says Paul, “which I have received, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God  “I commend you to God, and the word of His grace” (Acts 20: 24, 32).



All then, who go not beyond the letter of the Old Testament, are “users of milk,” “and babes in Christ  Only those find the “solid food,” suited to the experienced Christian, who will look through the veil of the letter, and find beneath it the glory of Christ, the Son of God.  This requires both strength and skill, but especially the teaching of the Spirit of God, Who is “the Spirit of grace



Now here is just the character of the teaching of our day.  There is a call foe “simple truth,” - which is “milk  Most desire any the ABC if Christianity.  All beyond is “fanciful,” “cabalistic,” and “injudicious  Paul himself does not escape these charges, where he dares to set upon the board [for examination] some “solid food”; as when he shows us the lessons accruing to Christians from the history of Abraham (Galatians 4).  Look at the books upon the Christian faith which sell in are day; they are those which keep close in shore, and refuse to know anything [about God’s responsibility and accountability truths] but just the way of [initial and eternal] salvation by faith [alone].  Hence the danger of the falling away, or apostacy from Christ, is becoming more and more imminent.



14. “But solid food belongeth unto adults, who by reason of habit have their senses exercised to the discrimination of good and evil



The Hebrew Christians were adult in age, if we reckon the length of time in which they had been converted.  But they had been going back in knowledge and in grace.  They were still but old “babes  Scripture speaks of the inability of the very young to discriminate between good and evil.  “Your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in” (Deuteronomy 1: 39; Isaiah 7: 15; Romans 9: 11).



Let us take an example of this deeper truth.



(1) The history of Eliezer’s mission to obtain a wife for Isaac, when taken in the letter, may give instruction to one desirous of finding a [good] wife.  But, taken in its deeper sense, we have in it a picture of the mission of the Holy Ghost, by the Father and the Son, to lead [out from amongst the “body” of] the Church as a BRIDE to Christ.  (2)  The law concerning the leprous house taught the Jew how to behave himself in that special case, according to the letter.  But, viewed in New Testament light, it tells of Christ’s coming into the world, of John the Baptist’s preparing the house for Him, and the present day of God’s patience; while it testifies also concerning the coming millennial day, and the world’s final destruction (Leviticus 14: 33-45).



On this topic indeed, - of the senses of Scripture, - there is great need of a word of caution, lest we should imagine, that, those who talk most about “the letter” and “the spirit” must be sure to be well instructed in it.  Some years ago, a grocer put out strong warnings to the public, against the adulteration of tea: but soon after, the police seized upon a great quantity of sloe leaves, which he was palming off upon the public, in place of the genuine article.



Swedenborg talks much of the senses of Scripture, and pities ordinary Christians, as those who are “slaves of the letter.”  He talks much of “the Science of Correspondences,” and of the profound wisdom which lies in his system of anti-Christianity.  But this is only deceit and folly.  Take an example.  Does Scripture so teach?  “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have NO UNDERSTANDING” (Psalm 32: 9).



And “the Fathers of the Church,” so called, utter all sorts of extravagances, as their explanation of the deeper meanings of the Word of God, especially when they would put down “heretics;” of which take a specimen from the “Commentary on the Four Gospels, collected out of the works of the Fathers;” edited by Puseyites, in their earlier days.



“He [Jesus] departed into Galileei.e., from figure to verity!  “Or into the Church, which is passing from vice to virtue



That is said, mark, of Christ!



“‘Nazareth’ is interpreted ‘a flower;’ ‘Capernaum,’ ‘the beautiful village  He left therefore, therefore, ‘the flower’ of figure (in which was mystically intended the fruit of the Gospel), and came into the Church, which was beautiful with Christ’s virtues.  It is ‘by the sea-coast;’ because, placed near the waves of this world it is daily beaten by the storms of persecution” (Vol. i. p. 132).



I suppose the reader will be quite satisfied with this brief extract.