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This photograph of Mr. G. H. Lang was kindly supplied by the late Mr. Jack Green, Skipsea, East Yorkshire, England.

 

THE EPISTLE TO HEBREWS

 

 

 

A PRACTICAL TREATISE

 

For

 

PLAIN AND SERIOUS READERS

 

 

 

 

 

BY

 

G. H. LANG

 

 

 

 

CONLEY & SCHOETTLE PUBLISHING CO., INC.

P.P. BOX 660594

MIAMI SPRINGS, FLORIDA 33166

 

 

 

 

 

1985

 

 

-------

 

[Page 5]

 

CONTENTS

 

 

FOREWORD  Page 13

 

 

PART I. THE SON

 

 

CHAPTER I 

GOD HAS SPOKEN (1: 1, 2)  Page 17

 

 

CHAPTER II 

THE GLORIES OF THE SON (1: 1-4)  Page 21

 

 

1. Whom God appointed Heir. i. The Father the Appointer. ii. The property devised - the universe. iii. This appointment made before creation.

 

2. Through Whom He made the worlds.  i. Creation subsequent to the appointment.

ii. “Through” the accurate translation.  iii. The ages.  iv. The universe a creation, not eternal.

 

3. The effulgence of His glory.

 

4. The Very Image of His substance.

 

5. Upholding All Things.

 

6. Purification of Sins.

 

7. He sat Down in the Heights.  i. Sacrifice completed.  ii. The locality “in the heights

iii. The Majesty, a visible Person.

 

Notes A.  On the Subordination of the Son, p. 31.  B. Sonship is eternal, p. 32.  C. Localization.  Time and Space, p. 33.  D. Unity of God and manifestation.  Interpretation, metaphorical or actual? p. 34. 

E. On the word “Personp. 35.  These subjects belong to the Epistle. 

It is little children who receive knowledge of truth, p. 36.

 

 

CHAPTER III 

CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS (1: 5-14) Page 37

 

 

1. Ps. 2: 7. This day have I begotten thee.

 

2. 2 Sam. 7: 14. I will be to Him Father.

 

3. Dent. 32: 43. Let all the angels worship Him.  i. God only to be worshipped.

ii. Rev. 5 the occasion for this worship.  iii. The oikoumene is the universe.

 

4. Ps. 104: 4. Angels are winds and flames.

 

5. Ps. 45: 6, 7. Thy throne, O God.

 

(1) The Son is styled God by the Father.

(2) The Father is God to the Son.

(3) The Son is enthroned.

(4) The ground of this is His character.

(5) The Son has companions.

 

6. Ps. 102: 25-27. Thou, Lord, didst lay the foundation of the earth.

No angel did this.  Gnosticism is false.

 

7. Ps. 110: 1. Sit on My right hand.  i. A position of divine glory.  ii. A service in heaven.

iii. A future triumph.

[Page 6]

 

CHAPTER IV 

THE FIRST EXHORTATION AND WARNING (2: 1-4) Page  43

 

 

1. “Salvation” here is future, an inheritance.

 

2. Heirship implies childship.

 

3. This salvation is great.

 

4. This salvation first announced by Christ: confirmed by apostles.

i. Christ revealed God as Father. ii. The disciples’ prospect is in heaven.

 

5. The Exhortation to give earnest heed.

 

6. The Danger of drifting.

 

7. The Warning against neglect.

8. The Penalty of neglect; a just recompense.

 

 

CHAPTER V 

THE SUFFERING SON OF MAN (2: 5-18)

 

 

1. The subject resumed from 1: 14. i. The subject defined as future.

ii. Angels control the present oikoumene.  iii. Man its future ruler.

 

2. This destiny for man taught in the Old Testament.  i. Man and the Redeemer made lower than the angels.

ii. Christ does for man what he cannot do for himself.  (1) Man defeated by temptation.  (2) Christ bore his iniquities. (3) Delivered him from Satan.  The personal fitness of the Redeemer and Priest.

 

3. Many sons brought to glory. i. “unto glory  ii. “many sons unto glory

 

4. The Son Perfected by Suffering.  i. Its Necessity.  ii. Its Nature.

 

5. His Exaltation as Man assures salvation for man.

 

6. The Son and His Brethren.  i. One Father.  ii. The Redeemer human, not angelic.

iii. Praise is His and their chief service.

 

 

CHAPTER VI

THE SECOND EXHORTATION AND WARNING (Ch. 3: 1-4: 13) Page 62

 

 

1. The Faithful Apostle  i. Those addressed: (1) holy, (2), brethren, (3) heavenly.  ii. The Apostle of our Confession: our Moses.  iii. The High Priest of our Confession: here Moses the type, not Aaron.

iv. Fidelity, the supreme quality.  v. The House of God.  Israel.  The Church.  House may

mean household.  Moses a servant, Jesus the Son.

 

2. The Warnings.  i. We are God’s house IF.  (1) Israel this later than redemption, (2) Indwelling of Spirit may be at conversion or later, (3) Israel nearly missed this privilege, (4) Later Israel forfeited it.  (5) So a church may forfeit the Lord’s presence.  ii. Messiah’s Companions, in His place and glory.  Note on eanper.  iii. Reaching Canaan.  Antitype of Millennium.  iv. The Rest of God: (1) Rest a quality of God, (2) Rest and activity, (3) Recreating the earth, (4) Sin disturbed God’s rest, causing resumed work in redemption, (5) Sabbath rest to come in Millennium, (6) Israel did not reach that rest, (7) It is still future, (8) Abraham and Moses foresaw it, (9) It is inherited through Abraham by faith, not under Sinai and its covenant of law.

(10) The covenant with Abraham was conditional and may be revoked.

 

3. Practical Applications.  i. Harden not your hearts.  ii. Christians may turn back.  iii. Sin beguiles.  iv. “To-day” is our opportunity.  v. The word of God dissects and criticizes: carnal, soulish, spiritual life.

 

[Page 7]

PART II. THE PRIEST

 

 

CHAPTER VII

THE PREPARATION OF THE PRIEST (Ch. 4: 14 - 5: 10) Page 84

 

 

1. Incarnation. Temptation.

 

2. The Fact and Use of the Priest.  i. He exists,  ii. is great,  iii. is high priest,  iv. is before God, having passed through the heavens,  v. is Jesus, the man,  vi. is Son of God,  vii. is without sin.

 

3. Our Response.  i. hold fast.  ii. draw near.

 

4. The High Priest.  i. taken from among men,  ii. appointed for men,  iii. the things of God his sphere,  iv. presented offerings,  v. personal infirmity,  vi. can deal gently,  vii. can act for the ignorant and erring, not the wilful,  viii. offered for Himself,  ix. God-appointed.  x. in the flesh; prayer,  xi. He learned obedience.

 

Note on ek thanatou, out of death.

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

THE THIRD WARNING (Ch. 5: 11 - 6: 20) Page 93

 

 

1. The Persons warned.

 

2. The Need for Warning.

 

3. Exhortation: let us Press on, from Old Testament to full knowledge.  (1, 2) Repentance, Faith; (3, 4) washings, laying on of hands; (5, 6) Resurrection, judgment. “IF GOD PERMIT

 

4. The Warning.  Kadesh Barnea.  i. Enlightenment,  ii. Heavenly gift; (1) tasted, meaning of; (2) Israel ate spiritual food.  iii. Living Water.  iv. Word of God.  v. The Coming Age.  vi. Falling away.

 

5. Real Christians meant, (1) to (6).  i. Hardness of heart.  ii. Its penalties.  iii. Not eternal destruction.

 

6. Consolation and Exhortation.

 

7. An encouraging example, Abraham.

 

8. The Hope:  i. a refuge.  ii. an anchor.  iii. Christ the Forerunner.  Our part to press on.

 

 

CHAPTER IX

THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD (Ch. 7) Page 111

 

 

1. Priest of God Most High, El Elyon, not Jehovah.

 

2. A Priest-king.

 

3. i. Head of an order.  ii. The Son of God the archetype.

iii. Melchizedek not high priest,  iv. but priest in perpetuity.

 

4. Abraham and Melchizedek.

 

5. Levi and Melchizedek.  i. Levitical priesthood temporary because inadequate.  ii. Its priests died.

iii. were infirm.  iv. their offerings inadequate.

 

6. The Aaronic law transitory.  i. The ceremonial law is meant.  ii. The moral law good but weak.

iii. A priesthood and its law fall together.  Present “Christian” priesthoods tested.

 

7. Christ is the only High Priest.  i. He is the original Royal Priest.  ii. Reappointed as Son of Man.

iii. Appointed by oath.  iv. Acts in heaven.  v. Beyond death.  vi. Perpetual not passing.

 

8. Our response -.conflict with the Devil.

 

[Page 8]

PART III. THE BETTER COVENANT

 

 

CHAPTER X

THE HEAVENLY TENT (Ch. 8) Page 123

 

 

1. Recapitulation.  The fitness of our High Priest in  i. position - set down,  ii. Dignity - on the throne.

iii. Service in the true tabernacle (1) offers gifts and sacrifices, (2) the heavenly Tent is (a) a dwelling,

(b) temporary, (c) movable, (d) built by God, (e) the real dwelling of God.

 

2. The Copy of this Dwelling, the Tabernacle of Moses;  i. of value as a picture of the true.  ii. The shadow shows the substance. iii. Every detail ordained by God. iv. Moses saw only a pattern.

 

3. The Old Covenant.  i. A covenant is a contract, implied or expressed.  That of Sinai here in view.

ii. That covenant annulled and void.  Anglo-Israelism, an error.

 

4. The New Covenant.  i. Goes back to Abraham.  ii. That covenant centred on the Seed, Christ.

iii. The Church arises out of that covenant.

 

5. Differences between Old and New Covenants.  i. Faith changes the man in heart.

ii. Inward knowledge of God causing love and holiness.

 

6. Iniquity cancelled by  i. propitiation.  ii. This brings permanency of pardon.  iii. The order of blessing.

 

7. Israel and Judah.  i. Jer. 30 and 31 refer to the literal Israel and Judah.  ii. It does not refer to their return under Cyrus (1) to (6).  iii. All prophecy foretells a literal future restoration.  iv. The New Testament confirms this.  v. Other nations similarly named for restoration. vi. This to continue in the eternal kingdom.

vii. Entrance to the covenant is individual.

 

8. Jesus the Surety and Mediator.

 

 

CHAPTER XI

THE TWO SANCTUARIES AND SERVICES (Ch. 9) Page 140

 

 

1. Recapitulation.  i. The details of the former covenant were of Divine ordination.  ii. The sanctuary was suited to the earth.  iii. The building was triple - the most holy place was closed. iv. Other details - lamp, bread, incense, ark, manna, Aaron’s rod, tables of the law, cherubim.

 

2. “But Christ  i. Recapitulation (1) to (5).  ii. His sacrifices, (1) What Christ offers, (2) His entry to the Most Holy place is permanent.  iii. His gift is Himself.  iv. The Benefits: (1) a cleansed conscience;

(2) capacity to serve God; (3) an eternal inheritance.

 

3. The New Testament.  Here testament (will), not covenant reasons (1) to (3).

 

4. The Blood of the Covenant.  i. Proof of death. 

ii. Substitution - the law satisfied by voluntary act of substitute.

 

5. Added Details.  i. Water,  ii. scarlet wool,  iii. hyssop,  iv. sprinkling with blood.

 

6. Necessity of Sacrifice.  i. Holiness of God,  ii. heavens unclean,  iii. why sacrifices (plural).

 

7. Summary.  i. Aaronic offerings of effect only on earth.  ii. Christ’s sacrifice sufficient and final.  iii. Earth the final battleground against Satan.  iv. The Coming again of Christ. (1) Death certain, (2) judgment follows, (3) “of many” - the world, (4) Christ’s coming will be (a) visible, (b) apart from sin,

(c) will complete salvation, (d) for those who expect Him.

 

[Page 9]

CHAPTER XII

THE WILL OF GOD (Ch. 10: 1-25) Page 159

 

 

1. Recapitulation.  i. The law only a shadow.  ii. It perfected nothing.  iii. Was a constant reminder of sin.

 

2. The Will of God.  i. The Old Testament had repudiated the old sacrifices.  ii. The quotation from Psalm 40. Lessons (1) to (4).  iii. Messiah did the will of God.  iv. Sanctification. v. The Seated Priest.

vi. The Witness of the Spirit.

 

3. Exhortations.  i. Let us draw near: (1) present boldness, (2) the open way, (3) its dedication, (4) is new and living, (5) The Veil, His flesh, (6) Priest over God’s house, (7) let us use these privileges and draw near, (8) Conditions for drawing near: (a) a true heart, (b) fulness of faith, (c) a sprinkled heart, (d) body washed,

the laver.  ii. Let us hold fast our hope.  iii. Let us consider one another, (1) love, (2) fellowship,

(3) co-operation, (4) the day dawns.

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

THE FOURTH WARNING (Ch. 10: 26-39) Page 170

 

 

1. The persons addressed.  i. “We” - Christians,  ii. they knew the truth,

iii. had accepted the blood,  iv. had suffered,  v. are styled “His people

 

2. The Sin.  i. Wilful,  ii. maintained,  iii. against knowledge,  iv. like to defiance of law.  v. The sin defined;

(1) against the Son of God, (2) His atoning death, (3) His Holy Spirit. (4) Believers can so sin.

 

3. The Penalty Denounced.  i. Is inescapable - David;  ii. is severe, scourging, burning - as Nadab, Korah, and others;  iii. New Testament instances: (1) Ananias and Sapphira, (2) and (3) Corinthians, (4) James (5) 1 John 5.  iv. Sorer punishment than: (1) Stoning, or burning - what is this?  (2) Christ and Gehenna, (3) punishment after death.  I - Gehenna and the Reality: (1) the matter left indefinite, (2) Dives and Lazarus (a) to (d), (e) a “certain” expectation, means something undefined. vi. Purgatory (1) to (4).

vii. A Living God - David’s expression.

 

4. Encouragement. Gains in Christ.  i. Light.  ii. Endurance.  iii. Sympathy.  iv. Heavenly realities. 

v. Liberty.  vi. joy.  vii. The Promise: (1) of the Coming One, (2) its certainty, (3) no delay,

(4) the interval very brief - sense of this, (5) living by faith.

 

5. The Peril of the Man of Faith.  i. To shrink back.  ii. To fail to please God.

 

6. The Conclusion.  i. We have faith.  ii. Saying the soul.  iii. Perdition.

 

Note A on Eternal Security.

 

Note B on Limoria.

 

Note C on Roman Law.

 

 

CHAPTER XIV

FAITH (Ch. 11) Page 203

 

 

1. Faith defined.  i. Faith and Hope.  ii. Faith the Basis of hope.  iii. Promise the basis of faith.

 

2. Faith illustrated.  i. The elders.  ii. Faith and understanding.  iii. Abel.  iv. Enoch.  v. Noah.  vi. Abraham: (1) obedience, (2) separation, (3) the future, (4) walking in the dark, (5) sojourning, (6) the tent, (7) faith and the future.  vii. Sarah.  viii. Strangers and Pilgrims.  Faith’s (1) endurance, (2) vision, (3) perseverance, (4) reward.  ix. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.  x. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.  xi. Moses: (1) his parents, (2) choice,

(3) renunciation, (4) the passover, (5) Red Sea.  xii. Jericho.  xiii. Rahab.  xiv.  Faith s variety. 

xv. Faith’s testings.  xvi. Faith’s perfecting – at resurrection, not at death.

 

[Page 10]

PART IV. THE KINGDOM

 

 

CHAPTER XV

CHASTISEMENT (Ch. 12: 1-13) Page 232

 

1. The Race.  i. The course.  ii. Cloud of witnesses.  iii. Jesus our Example in faith.  Three requisites: (1) lay aside weights, (2) and the entangling sin, (3) staying power.  iv. Discipline: (1) our antagonist.

(2) forgetfulness, (3) sonship, (4) chastisement proves (a) childship, (b) or a bastard,

(c) the Father of spirits, (d) holiness, (e) exercise - scourging, (f) Exhortation: press on.

 

 

CHAPTER XVI

THE FIFTH WARNING (Ch. 12: 14-17) Page 242

 

 

1. The Christian Course.  i. Its principle - peace.  ii. Its character - holiness.  iii.  Its goal - seeing the Lord.

(1) “Lord” here is the Father. (2) Sense of “to see” - an actual vision.

iv.  The prize is conditional on sanctity, purity of heart.

 

2. Three Perils.  i. Falling short.  ii. Bitterness.  iii. sinful bodily indulgence: (1) irregular sexual intercourse. Reuben. (2) Profanity - preferring the body to the spirit, present to future - the birthright.

 

3. The Loss is Irrecoverable.  Esau - no change of mind.  Kadesh Bamea - Reuben.

 

Note on Esau and Mal. 1: 2-5.

 

 

CHAPTER XVII

THE FIFTH WARNING (continued).  THE PRIVILEGES INVOLVED (Ch. 12: 18-24) Page 255

 

 

1. The Saved concerned.  Israel at Sinai.

 

2. The Prospects of the Christian.  i. The sprinkled blood.  ii. Jesus the Mediator.  iii. Perfected spirits.

iv judging angels and men.  v. The Firstborn heirs.  vi. The angelic concourse.  vii. The Heavenly Jerusalem.

 

3. The Bride, the City.  i. The saints God’s capital city.  ii. The apostles the foundation.

iii. The Nations blessed.  iv. Israel the chief nation on earth.  v. The River of life.

 

4. Mount Zion, the place of thrones, of government.  A sevenfold blessedness.

 

 

CHAPTER XVIII

THE FINAL WARNING (Ch. 12: 25-29) Page 265

 

 

1. Emphatic Recapitulation.  Judgment inescapable if Christ’s word rejected.

 

2. The Past.  God’s Word rejected at Sinai.

 

3. The Future.  i. The same Person speaks as at Sinai.  ii. Warnings are promises, sure of fulfilment.  iii. Future judgments will affect the heavens.  iv. The period indicated: (1) Jerusalem’s full glory, (2) The temple built by Messiah, (3) all nations involved, (4) the day of the Lord, (5) this shaking is at the pre-millennial coming of Christ, (6) it will he the final judgment by shaking.

 

4. A Vital Principle.  All things must be tested; all weak elements removed;

only the divine and eternal may remain.

 

5. Summary of the Five Warnings.

 

6. Exhortation. “Let us have grace  God a consuming fire.

 

Note on the Warning Words employed.

 

[Page 11]

PART V. CONCLUSION

 

 

CHAPTER XIX

CONCLUDING EXHORTATIONS (Ch. 13) Page 472

 

 

1. Brotherly Love.

 

2. Hospitality.

 

3. Befriending Christ’s Prisoners.

 

4. Sexual Purity.  The Lord an Avenger.

 

5. Covetousness or Contentment.

 

6. Honouring Leaders.  i. Guides.  ii. Jesus Christ unchangeable.  iii. Divergent Teachings. 

iv. An Established heart.  v. The Altar.  vi. “Outside the Camp

vii. Spiritual sacrifices - Praise and Benevolence.

viii. Rule and Submission.  The true marks of a shepherd.

 

7. Prayer.  Its features:  i. a good conscience,  ii. power over circumstances, (iii.) intensity of spirit needed.

 

8. The Benediction.  i. The God of peace.  ii. God controls death.  Faith brings resurrection union with Christ. iii. This guaranteed in the new covenant.  iv. This covenant is eternal.  v. This covenant is “ours 

vi. The Shepherd is LORD.  vii. Perfection - its meaning.  viii. Good works. 

ix. God-wrought willingness in us.  x. All is wrought “through Jesus Christ

xi. God alone glorified.

 

9. Exhortation, is the character of the Letter.

 

10. Timothy.

 

11. Salutations.

 

12. Conclusion. “Grace be with you

 

 

*       *       *

 

[Page 13]

FOREWORD

 

 

THIS book has been written with the hope that it may help the general reader to grasp the arguments of the Epistle and to feel their force.

 

 

This last important end is not very well served by the type of treatise that scholars write for scholars.  These are indeed valuable for aiding those who teach others.  For such the minute examination of verses, phrases, words, parts of speech is helpful.  I have myself profited by it.  But the plain reader is embarrassed by technical disquisitions and the elaborate weighing of all possible or impossible meanings, and is left barren by quotations from ancient writers in dead languages.

 

 

For the readers here in view it has seemed more useful to give usually conclusions reached as to the meaning of the Writer rather than the processes and grounds of the conclusions.  But exception has been made where anything fresh or unusual is advanced.  Then something at least is offered in support by way of fuller discussion of words or sentences.  Readers able to profit by the full discussions of the learned will naturally turn to such works as those by Alford, Delitzsch, Govett, William Kelly, or Westcott.

 

 

For the same reason Greek words are printed in ordinary type; a practice I now dislike, only I remember the hindrance and annoyance I found in the Greek characters in the years when I could not read them.

 

 

On the same grounds certain much-discussed questions are here left almost untouched, as for example:

 

 

1. Who was Melchizedek?  In my early years a pamphlet came to me which sought to establish, what I now know to have been a very ancient notion, that Melchizedek was Shem.  The writer proceeded to argue the wholly useless idea that Shem was the architect of the Great Pyramid!

 

 

Much wiser and far more spiritual are these words of the learned Dr. Adolf Saphir in his Lectures on the Hebrews, ch. 7.

 

 

But the Scripture purposely does not mention who he was.  Genesis abounds in genealogies, and in full and minute genealogies; but the genealogy of this man is not given.  If we knew who he was, should we not counter-act thereby the meaning of the Holy Ghost in this instructive omission?  If he was Shem, then we know who [Page 14] his father was, and when he lived, and how old he was; and this is just the very point the Holy Ghost does not wish us to know ... all we are told is, Melchizedek was one of those still left on earth, who retained the primeval knowledge of God, who worshipped Him, and who ruled in righteousness.  With regard to all other circumstances, our ignorance is knowledge.  The negative element is a positive element.  Let no man attempt to supp1y that which the Holy Ghost has purposely left out: for, in the first place, he must be unsuccessful; in the second place, if he were successful, it would only militate against the purpose and the word of God, and only hinder us from learning those lessons which the Scripture intends us to derive. ...

 

 

Instead of indulging in morbid and fanciful speculations about the historical individual, let us look at the important spiritual realities which in the inspired commentary are given us in this parable or type.  Let us learn also from this instance and the other New Testament comments on Old Testament types that the typical meaning is always deduced from what the Scripture itself says concerning them.

 

 

2. A second question, much disputed and laboured, is Who was the Writer of Hebrews?  For me the question is idle, for we have no data by which to determine it, but only inference and conjecture, which can lead only to mere opinion.  The above remarks of Saphir apply here also.  Hence in this treatise the question is almost unnoticed.

 

 

3. But a third matter requires attention, namely, the title of the Epistle.  Of course, the titles of the books of the Bible are human additions and of no authority, unless a book contains its own proof as to the writer, or of the person or church to whom it was addressed, as is the case with Philippians, Colossians, and some others.

 

 

The giving to this Epistle the title “To the Hebrews” is merely a matter of tradition and is without warrant.  It has formed one support for the misleading theory that certain parts of the New Testament are “Jewish,” for “Jewish Christians,” not Gentile believers.  No such class of Christians is known to the New Testament.  The theory is contrary to Eph. 2: 11-18, and to the fundamental position of the Word of God that, in this age, in Christ Jesus, “there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision ... but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3: 11).

 

[Page 15]

The title as it stands is plainly misleading, for it does not even suggest that the readers were Christian at all.  It implies simply that they were Hebrews, not Hebrew Christians, which is plainly wrong.

 

 

The fact that the Writer had a deep and extensive acquaintance with the Old Testament and that he presumed on a similar knowledge in his readers, is no proof that he and they were Jews.  Perhaps the present treatise may show that its writer has some real acquaintance with the Old Testament and that he presumes on such in his readers, but it were a false inference that he and they are Jews.

 

 

The believers at Rome and in Galatia were at least mainly Gentiles, yet Paul presumed on much knowledge of Old Testament Scriptures and their histories.  See Rom. 4 on Abraham and David: chs. 9 to 11 on the problem of Israel’s lapse, where the argument dealt with Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Pharaoh, and freely quoted psalms and prophets.  And see especially in Gal. 4 the treatment of Sarah and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Sinai and Zion as containing an allegory.  The apostles were careful to illuminate their Gentile converts as to the contents and meaning of the Old Testament.

 

 

Therefore in this treatise we dismiss the title and regard the Epistle as addressed to Christians as such, both its comforts and its warnings.  They who reject its warnings as not for believers ought to be consistent and refuse its comforts, such as that of the new covenant and the priestly ministry of Christ.

 

 

4. As regards the warning passages, special attention has been given to these.  They can be treated in three ways.

 

 

(1) As addressed to true [regenerate] believers, children of God by the new birth, and as teaching that such may so apostatize as to lose salvation entirely and eternally.  We accept the former part of the proposition, but reject the latter as being contrary to many other passages which declare that eternal life is the free gift of God and is unforfeitable.  This is discussed in Note A at the end of ch.13, p. 196.

 

 

(2) Others say that the passages are to warn those who profess to be Christians, falsely or by being deceived, but who have never been born of God.  We reject this also as being contrary to the plain terms and clear arguments used.

 

 

(3) The alternative is to take the warnings as applying to the really regenerate and to show how their solemn terms can find fulfilment without challenging the final and eternal bliss [Page 16] of the saved.  This is the line here taken and which the reader is earnestly invited to ponder with candour and prayer.

 

 

In Scripture quotations and references the Revised Version is used, except where a stricter rendering seemed needful and helpful.

 

 

Words in square brackets [ ] are mine.*

 

[* That is, used by Mr. G. H. LANG.]

 

 

If the God of all grace shall use this book to enlighten hearts, establish faith, and kindle devotion to Christ His Son, to Him shall be all the glory for ever.

 

                                                                                                                           G. H. LANG.

 

1951.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 17]

 

PART I: THE SON

(Ch. 1-4: 13)

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

GOD HAS SPOKEN

(1: 1, 2)

 

 

GOD, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these day’s spoken unto us in his Son (Gk., a Son).

 

 

THIS late portion of Holy Scripture begins where the first portion begins, with God.  Knowledge of God and of His actings and plans is the basic need of man.  Such knowledge slays self-importance, for in the presence of God even the saint says, “I am but dust and ashes ... I was as a beast before Thee ... I abhor myself” (Gen. 1: 27; Ps. 73: 22; Job 42: 6).  It kills pride of knowledge, for “who can utter the mighty acts of Jehovah” (Ps. 106: 2), seeing that “His ways are past tracing out” (Rom. 11: 33), that we know but the outskirts of them (Job 26: 14), and, as a truly great student of nature said, are but as a child that has found a shell on the shore and the vast ocean remains unexplored?  And this knowledge destroys self-sufficiency, for one who had been granted a far deeper insight into the mysteries of God than is usual exclaimed, “who is sufficient for these things? ... we are not sufficient of ourselves ... but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2: 16; 3: 5, 6).  Blessed is he whose self-esteem has been annihilated by the knowledge of God.

 

 

But though the Writer begins with God he does not go back so far in the workings of God as did Moses.  He commences with the fact, necessarily far later than the act of creating the universe, that God has spoken to man. God might have left man to plunge and flounder in ever deeper darkness, the ignorance into which he wandered by rebellion against the light he had.  But Love would not suffer this, so God spoke.

 

 

Speaking is the method by which God puts forth His energy.  Perhaps this results from the fact that His substance is spirit, as Christ said: “spirit God is”* for in the realm of spirit words are energy, and so here in ver. 3, “the word of His Power

 

* 1 John 4: 24; no article before “spirit”: and comp. 1 John 1: 5 “God light is” and 4: 8 “God love is”.

 

 

Consequently, “the worlds were framed by the word of [Page 18] God (11: 3), “For He spake, and it was” (Ps. 33: 9).  Darkness settled over that original earth: the Light withdrew because of sin.  It was by speaking that God disturbed that dreadful pall: “God said, Let light be, and light was” (Gen. 1: 3).  The vibration which light is was set in motion by the voice of the Almighty.  We are familiar with the power of the human voice to set in motion that amount of vibration which we know as sound.  The voice of God started that higher vibration which we know as light.

 

 

It is thus that all direct Divine activities are effected, in the subtler realm of spirit as in that of matter.  The angels are “mighty in strength” for they “hearken unto the voice of His word” (Ps. 103: 20), for “the King’s word hath power” (Eccles. 8: 4).  It is when an honest and good heart receives something that God says that new life starts in the dead spirit of man, for “we are begotten again through the word of God, which liveth and abideth” (1 Pet. 1: 23), being the vehicle of the eternal life of Him who speaks it, even as the Son of God said, “The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life” (John 6: 63).

 

 

It is by speaking to us that God imparts knowledge, information, light, for “the opening of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119: 130); and His word is also the energizing medium for victorious conflict against sin and Satan, “because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2: 14).

 

 

Therefore for the Christians addressed in this Epistle, and all to whom it comes, and so to myself, the primary and the final practical question is, Am I of those who tremble at God’s word? (Isa. 66: 2).  If [note the condition] I am, then to me, though less than the least, and because I know myself this, God will look attentively and compassionately, with even me He will dwell, and will thus grant reviving to the humble and contrite heart (Isa. 57: 15).  And so shall be healed the backsliding in heart of these believers; so shall be averted the threatening danger of apostasy; and so only shall healing and safety be secured by any one of us.  For this is the means of actual daily holiness: “ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15: 3).

 

 

God has spoken: let me “make haste and delay not to keep His commandments” (Ps. 1: 19: 60).*

 

* A word is an audible or visible expression of something inaudible and invisible, that is, a thought.  In this sense the Son is a personal revelation of a Person otherwise unseen by man, God the Father, and is called “the Word  But this does not alter the fact stated in ver. 1 and other passages that God also spoke in words.

 

 

God spoke of old, but not to all the world.  As far as the [Page 19] record shows, in the long stretch of sixteen centuries before the Flood God spoke only to Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, and to the world at large through Enoch (Jude 14).  Early after the Flood our race abandoned God deliberately and persistently, and in consequence God abandoned them (Rom. 1: 21-24, 26, 28) and only rarely addressed them.  Abraham was a prophet, as God personally told the heathen king Abimelech (Gen. 20: 7).  God sent Moses and Aaron to the powerful king of Egypt, also a heathen, and by His dealings with him forced upon all the nations a warning as to Himself the true God.  Later all the earth came to Jerusalem to hear the Divinely given wisdom of Solomon, and at rare intervals God sent messages to Gentiles through Jonah, Jeremiah (ch. 25), Daniel; but in general, through 2000 years the world was left in its self-inflicted darkness.

 

 

But to “the fathers” God spake often.  The description “fathers” is found at John 7: 22; Rom. 9: 5 and 15: 8, and means the patriarchal ancestors of Israel.  But here it means the whole Jewish people, for to them through a thousand years God spake through a succession of prophets from Moses to Malachi, and so to them “were intrusted the oracles of God” (Rom. 3: 2).

 

 

But thus it was not to every Israelite direct that God spake.  In the coming [millennial] age of Messiah, with all Israel regenerate, and the Spirit of God poured upon all, they shall not need to teach one another to know the Lord, for they shall all know Him (Jer. 31: 34): there shall be no prophets.  But of old such susceptibility to direct knowledge of God was not found, and God spoke through men whom He chose, fitted, taught, and empowered for this high and perilous task (Acts 7: 51-53).

 

 

It was not the prophet who originated his message.  It was God who spake “in” the prophet, i.e. first in his mind and then in his speech (For “in” see LXX. Zech. 1: 9; 7: 12 bis).  Speech being the use of words to express thought the words thus spoken must have been from God; and so in the passage just cited the last but one of the Old Testament messengers spoke of “the words which Jehovah of hosts had sent by His Spirit by the former prophets  There is no other explanation of how a prophet could deliver a message which he did not himself fully understand, for of necessity a man comprehends ideas which he himself originates (1 Pet. 1: 10-12).  This renders untenable the theory that God gave to the prophets great general ideas and they struggled to express these as best they could; so that while the ideas were right the expression of them was imperfect.  Referring to the whole Old Testament as the “law” the Lord Jesus affirmed that not the smallest particle of any word should fail of fulfilment (Matt. 5: 17, 18). [Page 20] Similarly Paul asserted that he spake divine things “not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth but which the Spirit teacheth” (1 Cor. 2: 13).  These men knew inspiration by God as an experience.  It is more reasonable to accept their view of the same than the opinions of moderns who theorize about inspiration but have no experience of it.

 

 

Truth has never been communicated by God as one complete body of divinity.  There is no Divine scheme of theology or our study.  Truth was imparted for immediate practical ends, and therefore as men needed it and as they were able to bear it.  Hence the revelation of old was “in many parts and by many methods  Being thus fragmentary, piecemeal, it was of necessity always incomplete, and required and led on to further unfoldings.  In consequence there was advance in revelation.  But there was no evolution of knowledge or of the true religion.  The advance in knowledge of God and His purposes did not come by self-cogitations of the human mind over an original all-inclusive germ of knowledge; it came by successive acts of revelation as God saw fit.

 

 

Still less true is the notion that mankind started with a low conception of religion and, by the mental effort of stronger thinkers and moralists, gradually developed nobler conceptions of God.  This is abundantly false to secular history and to Holy Scripture.  The evidence of the former is in line with the statements of the latter that at the beginning men knew God and lapsed from that knowledge.  Rom. 1: 18-32, esp. 28, “they did not approve to have (echein to hold, keep, retain) God in knowledge

 

 

Such assertions as that the first conceptions that Israel had of Jehovah were of a base type, as of a tribal god of a barbarous clan, are wholly false.  It was “the God of glory” who made Himself known to Abram (Acts 7: 2), and declared Himself to be El Shaddai, God All-sufficing (Gen. 17: 1).  Abraham calls Jehovah “the judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18: 25), and this is in a part of the Pentateuch which even the documentary theorists ascribe to “J,” their oldest “stratum” in the Pentateuch.  It was the self-existing, unchanging, eternal I AM, the covenant-keeping Jehovah, who revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 3: 14, 15), and the descriptions He gave at the first of His character and ways are full of majesty and perfection, nor are they surpassed by later declarations. See, e.g. Ex. 33: 19; 34: 6, 7.  The endeavour to break the force of this fact by bringing the early histories down to a late date and then using them as proof of the alleged evolution of Israel’s religious conceptions, is a palpable and unworthy device, a sheer distorting of history and falsifying of documents.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 21]

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE GLORIES OF THE SON

(1: 1-4)

 

 

Ch. 1: 1.  God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners; 2 hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in (his) Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 having become by so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.

 

 

YET being given in the manner stated all former revelation required completing, which God did by sending as the afore-promised Prophet (Deut. 18: 15-19; Acts 7: 37) One who was in the special relationship to Himself of Son.  See Darby, New Translation, note “c” in loco: “en huio, literally ‘in Son,’ is not exactly ‘as Son,’ because that would be the character of the speaking, yet is perhaps the nearest to an adequate expression. ... On the whole, I have paraphrased it, “in [the person of the] Son,” See also Rotherham.  It is upon the Person, offices, glories, and entire supremeness of the Son that the Writer now enlarges.  The uplifted Son is God’s centre of attraction for all creation (John 12: 32).  To yield to that attraction is to be withdrawn from all that is not of God.  This is salvation.  To see Him as exalted is to overcome the world, that system of things which lies in the evil one as its all-pervading atmosphere (1 John 5: 4, 5, 19).  To see Him as the Man in heaven is to have the heart detached from earth and attached to heaven as its native, its eternal realm.  Christ is God’s Saviour for us from every peril, His supply for every need, His reservoir of every blessing.  All is in Him, nothing is apart from Him.  To Him the Writer points.  Really to know Him will deliver his readers from every danger, and therefore he expatiates upon the glories of the Son of God.  A sevenfold description is given.

 

 

1. “Whom God appointed heir of all things” (ver. 2).

 

 

i. The father who appoints his heir is the superior of the heir.  Therefore the Son said “the Father is greater than I” [Page 22] (John 14: 28).  This superiority is one of position, not of capacity.  A son may be fully the equal of his father in ability and energy; but in the sphere of the family, the business, the estates, the father is the senior, and the son acts under, for, by the authority of the father.  So the Son of God taught plainly that it is by the gift of the Father that He has inherent life, authority to judge, power to raise the dead, and the right (granted to no other person) to surrender and to resume His human life (John 5: 19-29; 10: 17, 18).  From this follows the place that prayer had in His life on earth and still has in resurrection (John 14: 1: 6; Acts 2: 33; Ps. 2: 7, 8).  See Note A at end of this chapter, p. 31.

 

 

ii. The property devised by this appointment as heir is “all things,” the universe.  How can He be less than God who can receive and control so vast an estate?  Here is shown the primary reason why the universe was brought into being: it exists that the Father may show His love for the Son and Heir (John 3: 35): all other reasons are subordinate to and included in this.  The Son explained that the basic ground for the working of the Father is “that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father” (John 5: 23); and the basic evil of sin is that it disputes the purpose and donation of the Father; even as the Son added: “The one not honouring [as a permanent practice] the Son honoureth not the Father that sent Him  By consequence, the one who has ceased this rebellion, and entered into harmony with the Father as to the Son, hath eternal life; whereas upon the one who obeys not the Son there abides the wrath of God.  How can it be otherwise? (John 3: 36).

 

 

The syllogism stands thus: All the universe belongs to the Son: I am part of the universe: therefore I belong to the Son.  Am I, then, giving to Him His proprietary rights? or am I, with Satan, robbing Him of them?  All Unitarianism, ancient or modem, oriental or western, of whatever name, Islamic, or Jewish, or “Christian” (falsely so-called), denies to the Son the nature and glory and title which the Father gave to Him before the worlds were.  It is of strict consequence that “whosoever denieth the Son the same hath not the Father,” for no person is a father if he have no child.  It is foolish to speak of God as Father while denying the Son, and equally so to allow deity to the Father while denying it to the Son, since father and son must be of the same essential nature.  It is of equally strict consequence that “he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also” (1 John 2: 23).  To “confess” the Son means to give Him by mouth and in practice the rights that the Father has given Him.

 

 

The Jews voiced the claim that unregenerate men are by [Page 23] nature sons of God: “we have one Father, even God” (John 8: 41).  Jesus cut the notion to pieces by the one terrible sword-thrust: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do” (ver. 44).

 

 

iii. This appointment as heir was made before the universe was made.  The translation here of the aorist by the perfect (“hath appointed”, A.V.) obscures this, for it does not indicate how great or how brief a time before the Writer’s date the appointment may have been made.  The perfect intimates that the appointment was in force when the Writer was writing, but it might have been made only just before that time.  The statement here by the aorist tense, taken in its context, puts the appointment back before time began, for it precedes the next clause as to the creating of the universe, even as this precedes the radiating of the glory of God upon the universe after it had been made.

 

 

God works not by afterthoughts.  It was not that the universe was made and then He considered what to do with it.  No; in advance of the creating it was decided that all that should ever be brought into existence should belong to the Son, He should inherit it.  Therefore, as He was the Heir before time and creation, so was He then the Son, for the universal rule is “if children, then heirs” (Rom: 8. 17).  One may by will devise his property to what persons he pleases, but if they are not of his family they are legatees, not heirs.  The pre-creation heirship requires the pre-creation Sonship.  See Note B at end of this chapter, p. 32.

 

 

2. “Through whom also He made the worlds” (Gr. ages) (ver. 2).

 

 

i. The “also” shows that the act of creating was additional to the appointment to heirship, and confirms that the latter preceded.

 

 

ii. “Through” (R.V.) is accurate; “by” (A.V.) is inadequate.  The latter does not so closely link the activity of the Son with the volition of the Father.  The Son did not act of Himself, but from and on behalf of the Father. He has Himself said distinctly that “the Son is not able to do anything from Himself [self-originated], except He see the Father doing it” (John 5: 19).  It is the habit of Scripture to trace all things through the Son up to the Father as the fountain.  In reference to creation this is seen in John 1: 3: “All things through [the Word] came to be”; and in 1 Cor. 8: 6: “One God, the Father, out of whom are all things ... and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things  Here the Source and the Agent are clearly distinguished.

 

 

There are other connexions where “through” should be given, especially in relation to Divine messages, as [Page  24] Acts 28: 25; Rev. 1: 1.  Thus is the tongue also regarded as the instrument through which the man speaks (1 Cor. 14: 9.  In this place, as in Rev. 1: 1, “by” should be “through.”)  Or again, in reference to redemption, see Col. 1: 20 (three times).  The whole paragraph is dependent upon ver. 12, “giving thanks to the Father” Who has done the numerous things next specified, including “through Him [the Son] to reconcile all things unto Himself” (ver. 20).

 

 

Thus are creation, inspiration, redemption all traced up to the Father, and the Son is shown as the Agent of the Father for effecting all His designs.  Hence He said “I am the way … no one cometh unto the Father but through Me” (John 14: 6).  The matter is deeply important.  The Son did not first become the Mediator between God and the universe when He became man: it was His office from the beginning of creation.  Therefore, when there entered the matter of reconciling to God realms estranged and defiled, this stupendous task devolved upon the Son as part of His office, and not only because “There was none other good enough, To pay the price of sin,” nor another powerful enough to crush the rebel prince and host.  In resurrection the Son holds the same office and pursues the same purposes, but now as man, glorified with the same glory which as Son He had with the Father before the world was (John 17: 5).

 

 

The understanding of this truth was vital to the purpose of the Epistle.  It is the object of the Son “to bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3: 18), to recover the sinner from that legal and moral alienation from Him, and to establish us in His favour (Rom. 5: 1, 2), yea, in His fellowship (1 John 1: 3), and finally to set us before the presence of His glory in exceeding joy (Jude 24, 25; Eph. 1: 4; Col. 1: 22; Heb. 2: 10, etc.).  It is the object of our Adversary to prevent this at one or more of its stages.  He will prevent faith in the message, so that the heart may never rest in Christ as justified by His blood; or he will hinder the justified from enjoying fellowship with the Father and the Son; or he will deter us from continuing steadfast in faith and hope, and so rob the [regenerate] believer of his crown.  It was principally to this last end that he was labouring with the Christians here addressed.  In part he would by persecution frighten them from continuing to espouse the rejected and absent Jesus: in part he sought to beguile them by an interposing of angels, of priests, of ceremonies, as having mediatorial value.  The same wiles were tried with the believers at Colossae (Col. 2: 8-19) and in Galatia (Gal. 3: 1-5).  They have ever since been spread before the feet of saints, and they abound to-day.

 

 

The safety of the Christian lies wholly in a just [Page 25] apprehension of the Son of God in His office as the Mediator of the Father to the universe, and that since He has now come forth to the earth as such, no other mediator is permissible or possible.  We must now adhere to Him alone with full contentment and full determination, or have no mediator at all.  Therefore there is this presentation of Him as the original Mediator of the wisdom, will, and power of the Father for the creating of all things, expressed here by the term “through,” that is, that by the agency of His Son God created them.

 

 

iii. “the ages  The ancient discussion as to whether this means (1) time or (2) the material universe may surely be resolved by including both.

 

 

The notion of time is that of period succeeding period, whether a minute or a millennium.  This dividing of eternal duration into defined periods, each having a commencement and a conclusion, is indispensable to the finite mind, for without it the creature could not retain any sense of the order of events or accurate remembrance of them, or form any clear anticipations of the future.  The mind would be chaotic.  The infinite mind of the Eternal does not need this device, this subdividing of eternity into sections for purposes of thought.  Hence, the necessity for time, for period after period, arose only with the creation of finite creatures, and it must exist for ever.  For us eternity is “ages of ages

 

 

In reference to such finite beings, and by virtue of His fore-knowledge of His own purposes and of what would develop in the creation to be made, God planned out the ages as spheres of time in which various developments would and should take place.  He is “the King of the ages” (1 Tim. 1: 17; Rev. 15: 3); His purpose runs through and controls all the ages (Eph. 3: 11), which purpose was all foreordained before time began; and it includes the glory of saints (1 Cor. 2: 7).

 

 

It was for the fulfilment of this Divine programme, embracing all the ages that were to be, that the material universe was required and made; so that the making of the ages includes of necessity the making of all things which are to contribute to the purpose of the ages.  And it was by the agency of the Son that time and all things connected with time came to be.  This implies that the Son is before time, is eternal, and so Col. 1: 17 says of Him unequivocally, “He is before the all things” (ta panta), and therefore He cannot be one of the “things,” a creature.  This is stated absolutely in John 1: 3: “All things through Him came to be, and apart from Him not one thing came to be that has come to be  Unitarianism is merely a philosophy, a speculation about God, and it never ought to have been claimed that it is according to the Bible.  It is the direct contradiction thereof.

 

[Page 26]

iv. “He made  The universe entire is a creation.  Once it did not exist; it is not eternal, as some have conceived.  Neither is it co-substantial with its Creator, as pantheism alleges.  God is not the universe and the universe is not God.  He himself in His essential deity, substance, trinity of persons, was what He is before the universe existed.  Its creation added nothing to, changed nothing in His essential Being.  Had He annihilated it when sin entered He would have remained what He was and is and must ever be: “I Jehovah change not” (Mal., 3: 6).  He who changes as to his essence is not eternal; he who is not eternal is not God, for with Him to be eternal is an essential attribute.  The created universe is a sphere in which is displayed His eternal power and Godhead (Rom. 1: 20), and which is interpenetrated by His universal presence (Acts 17: 27, 28; Ps. 139: 5-10); but from it He personally is distinct and it from Him: He made it.  How He did this will be stated at 11: 3.

 

 

3. “Who being the effulgence of His glory  As it is by means of its rays that the sun diffuses its light, heat, and benefits to the region of the universe it affects, so through the Son God displays His glory and dispenses His grace to the whole universe.

 

 

The participle “being” states the permanency of the fact.  It has always been the case that the Son rayed forth the splendour of the Father; it will always be the case; only now it is His human form that is the focal point of that radiance (2 Cor. 4: 3-6; Col. 1: 15-19; Acts 22: 6, 14; 26: 13-15).  Therefore the “God of glory” who appeared to Abram (Acts 7: 2) was the Son of God, and He is “Jesus” who appeared to Saul of Tarsus.  How can He be less than God whose person can endure to be the vehicle of the concentrated glory of God?

 

 

4. “The very image of His substance  “Substance” means that which underlies, the substratum, the real existence which gives character to what is displayed.  “Image” (here only as the rendering of Gr. charakter) means the indelible form taken from and exhibiting the underlying reality, as the moulding exhibits in permanent, changeless form the shape of the mould from which it was cast.  Thus, as it has been translated, the Son is “the exact representation of God’s very being,” or by Grimm (Lex.) “precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile) From the moulded article we learn the shape of the die we have not seen; from the Son we learn the truth as to God: “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14: 9).  Philip felt that such knowledge of the Father would “suffice,” would cover all possible needs.  This it does.  So, then, if these tempted believers shall truly know the Son, [Page 27] they shall forthwith feel no need of those earthly types of Him to which they were being enticed back, for in Him they will know the all-sufficing Father.

 

 

“I have seen the face of Jesus,

Tell me not of aught beside;

I have heard the voice of Jesus,

All my soul is satisfied

 

 

And he who is satisfied is safe.

 

 

These two clauses, 3 and 4, are properly one double statement, governed by the one participle “being” and joined by the copulative “and  It is convenient to consider them separately, but in fact they are inseparable. The one teaches the relationship of the Son to the Father in itself, the other describes this as seen by the creature.  The rays correspond to the size, shape, and splendour of the sun and would do so were there no eyes to see it; but to the seeing eye those rays represent the sun in exact visible resemblance.

 

 

5. “Upholding all things by the word of His power  On words as the vehicle of energy see the opening paragraphs above.  Man searches the universe in vain to discover the force by which it coheres and is orderly. Colossians 1: 17 gives the thoroughly rational account of this.  It is “in Him,” the Son of God, who is Himself “before the all things” [ta Panta] the sum total, the whole, but regarded as a vast total of co-ordinated units), that “the all things [ta Panta] hold together  The self-existing almighty Creator who brought all things into existence by commanding them to be, maintains them in existence by commanding them to continue.

 

 

The application of this to the soul is seen at 12: 25: “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh  Since it is His word that keeps all things in order, he who refuses that word in any portion of his life lapses into disorder, confusion, misery in that portion of life, and may do so entirely.

 

 

6. “Having made purification of sins  Thus far the Son has been contemplated in His essential, eternal Person, glory, and creatorial activity.  The thought now advances to His becoming man and His work on this earth.  This stupendous change is described in only five words (in Greek by only four), declaring its chief purpose and effect.

 

 

In the universe which He had made and maintained there arose a foreign element and energy.  This showed its baneful presence by declining to give longer to Him the glory due and to submit to His word.  It affected heaven first and later the earth.  Its inevitable consequence was disorder, darkness, ruin.  In nature it was rebellion, in character treason.  It was an outrage not only against the Son, but also against the [Page 28] Father who had appointed the Son to be Heir, for this appointment was now disregarded by the rights of the Son being violated.

 

 

There was no one qualified to vindicate the rights of the Father and the title of the Son save the Son.  To effect this, as the sole Mediator of God and the universe, He renounced His original form and glory, stepped down into the realm of created things, took into indissoluble union with His divine nature the nature of His creature man, and, thus incarnate, by the sacrifice of Himself even unto death He dealt with this awful situation, and dealt with it to the full glory of God.  This work of grace will be elaborated later by the Writer.  Here it is the unutterably wondrous fact that is alone mentioned.

 

 

The work was a “purification,” for sin is defiling, and the Holy One cannot tolerate defilement.  The gloss “our” sins (A.V.) is a most regrettable limitation of the scope of the Mediator’s work.  Thank God it includes our sins, but the range of the work of the cross, is far wider and grander.  In Christ God was effecting a world - (kosmos universe) reconciling work (2 Cor. 5: 19).  The heavenly things as well as the earthly, and before these latter, had been defiled by the rebellion and must be cleansed (Heb. 9: 23).  The Mediator of the Father to the whole universe grappled with the entire situation and settled it: “He made purification of sins

 

 

The terms upon which each individual sinner may obtain the benefit of this work, the possibility of it being finally rejected by some, and all other subordinate questions, are not here noticed.  The sublime work itself is set forth in its solitary sufficiency and glory.  The blessed and the solemn implications and applications will arise later in the Epistle.  Again, he whose heart feels the power of this perfect and reconciling work is safe from all the perils which beset the Christian.

 

 

For it is a perfected work, done once for all and of permanent virtue, as the aorist participle shows: “having made purification” He sat down.  And that it is solely His work, in which none other shares, is shown by the participle being in the middle voice.  This truth occasioned the gloss “by Himself” (A.V.); but the insertion is unnecessary, being expressed by the middle form.  These two features will be the basis used by the Writer to urge that the heart should rest on Christ and His sacrifice alone, without the aid of other mediators and victims (chs. 7 to 10).

 

[Page 29]

7. “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights

 

 

i. “He sat down” for His work as sacrificing priest was completed (ch. 10).

 

 

ii. There is a locality described as “in the heights  The fact of locality is inescapable, for the glorified Son of Man retains a body of limited form, and He cannot in that [bodily] form be everywhere in general but must be somewhere in particular.  Therefore there is a spot in the universe where He sits.  “In the heights” is the abode of Jehovah: “The Lord is wonderful in the heights” (Ps. 93: 4, LXX).  In 4: 14 it is said that our High Priest has “passed through the heavens,” where dia-erchomai may retain its full force of passing right through and beyond a region,* as in Matt. 19: 24; Luke 4: 30; 19: 1; 1 Cor. 10: 1; 2 Cor. 1: 16.  In the last passage the idea is emphasized by repetition: “through you to pass through (dielthein, fr. Dia-erchomai) into Macedonia  In my book The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Ch. 4, it is suggested that the location of the supreme dwelling of God is beyond the created universe, whereas the throne described in that chapter is an administrative throne within the universe, the heavenly part thereof.  If that supreme throne were not beyond the realm of things created how would it fare when the heavens and the earth are dissolved by fire? (2 Pet. 3: 10).  Rev. 20: 11 pictures the earth and the heaven as fleeing away from before the throne and Him Who sits thereon, which involves the feature that the throne is outside of creation.  When writing thus, and when writing the draft of this present chapter, I was not aware that others had pointed this out, but have since read the remarks of Canon Evans, in the Speaker’s Commentary on 1 Cor. 15: 47, to much the same effect, where Delitzsch is cited in support.

 

* So Isaacs: “We have a mighty High Priest who has passed through all the heavens and beyond them  Epistle to the Hebrews, 4: 14.

 

 

On the right hand of the supreme throne the Son “sitsi.e., has His proper and permanent place: He is only “before” the latter throne, and “comes” and “is brought” there (Dan. 7: 13), and is seen as “standing,” (Rev. 5: 6) with a view to receiving publicly and officially the chief administrative authority.  At the supreme throne He is acting as Priest, and all through this age: at the latter [millennial] throne He is installed as Ruler, and only at the end of this age, for only then comes the time when His enemies are to be made the footstool of His feet (Psa. 110: 1; Heb. 1: 13).

 

 

For the security and steadfastness of His people, still harassed in the conflicts of earth, it is of much importance that their Representative is at the highest throne, from the decisions of which there lies no appeal and the mandates of which cannot be frustrated.  “We have an Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2: 1, 2).  It will be seen shortly (chap III, 3, iii) that the distinction here shown throws light upon ver. 6.

 

 

iii. The Father is here described by the august title “The [Page 30] Majesty”; not simply “Your Majesty” or “His Majesty,” as men speak of kings each in his own realm; but “The Majesty,” One of solitary, incomparable dignity and glory.

 

 

As the Son is distinct from the Father (though inseparable as to deity), so is the Father distinct from the Son; for the one sits at the right hand of the other, which presents the latter as equally distinct and local as the former.  The theological denial to the Father of any form and locality would make impossible that One, the Son, having form and locality should sit at His right hand.  One formless and un-localized could have no right hand at which one with local form could sit.  That both in their deity are universally present seems no more a barrier to a local manifestation of the Father than of the Son.*  In the heights “is a place:” “The Majesty” there is a “Person,”** displaying inconceivable splendour, a light unapproachable by man as he is.  The situation here described is as plain as when Solomon “sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand” (1 Kings 2: 19).

 

* See Note D at end of chapter.  

 

**See Note E at end of chapter.

 

 

The Son himself attributed form to the Father, and voice (John 5: 37).  That the latter is actual is proved by its having been three times heard on earth (Matt. 3: 17; 17: 5; John 12: 28).  He spake also of the Father’s face, which also must be actual, or finite beings (angels) could not see it (Matt. 18: 10.  Comp. 2 Sam, 14: 28, 32; Esther 1: 14).  That His glory has a local manifestation is shown by the fact that glorified men are to be set in its presence (Jude 24: etc.).

 

 

The importance of this question lies in (1) The emphasis it places upon the unique position and dignity accorded to the Son in His glorified humanity.  This is vital to the argument and the appeal of the Epistle.  (2) The consequent emphasis upon the reality and value of His intercession.  He is transacting with the Father literal business for the safeguarding of those “who draw near to God through Him” (7: 25).  The sense of the reality of this advocacy is vital to the Christian finding courage to approach that Majesty.  (3) If the Person of the Father be delocalized into one universal diffused Spirit He becomes to our minds virtually undifferentiated from the Holy Spirit, with a consequent loss of vividness and reality in speaking with Him in prayer.  Scripture nowhere contemplates men addressing their petitions to the Spirit.  If the believer who knows this holy experience of speaking with and listening to God as Father will analyse the state of his mind at such moments he will find that, whatever be his [Page 31] theory on the matter, or if he have no theory, he does actually think of the Father as a local presence into which he enters, and a localized Person to Whom he speaks, by the enabling of the indwelling Spirit of God.*

 

* See Note C at end of this chapter.

 

 

In these few sentences the Writer thus presents to the meditative reader a striking picture of the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of God, as the central Figure of that wondrous realm above whence the government of the universe proceeds, whence flow all heavenly supplies for the present life, and where lie all the highest eternal prospects which redemption opens for faith to attain.  If the believer will only sit long and quietly and contemplate this royal scene; if by serious discipline of mind he will “still and quieten his soul, like a weaned child with his mother” (Ps. 131: 2), then will the Spirit of truth gladly fulfil His gracious office to take of these things of Christ and declare them to that heart (John 16: 13, 14).  He will make them actual, operative, effective; and in such experimental knowledge of the Son of God thus reached shall be found healing for every sickness of the soul, deliverance from every danger, defeat of every foe.

 

 

Christ, I am Christ’s, and let the name suffice you,

Ay, for me too He greatly hath sufficed. (Myers, St. Paul.)

 

 

 

 

Note A. It may be disputed that the subordination of the Son to the Father inheres in their eternal relationship. It may be asserted that it belongs only to the Son as incarnate.  It is highly significant that it is the Son Himself Who gave the fullest statements upon His relations to the Father, and John 5: 26, 27 is here specially important.

 

26. For as the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave (aorist eddken) He to the Son also to have life in Himself;

 

27. and He gave (aorist edbken) Him authority to execute judgment, because He is Son of man.

 

Here is an instructive example of how the aorist tense denotes an act done at one time but leaves open the question of when that time is.

 

This must be learned from the context or from the nature of the subject.  In ver. 27 the gift of authority to judge is connected with the Son of God having become Son of Man; though it was possible that the grant was before His incarnation but made in view of the Divine and certain purpose that He would become Son of man.  The aorist would allow this, though the emphatic “is” (estin) looks the other way.

 

But as to ver. 26, the whole preceding argument has dealt only with the status of the Son of God, not of the Son of man; and, in the nature of the case, the gift of inherent vitality, of “life in Himself,” must of necessity have been from eternity, being inherent in the begetting of the Son by the Father.

 

For were the “begetting” not eternal, then the Son must have had a beginning, as all Arians assert; in which case He would not be equal with God, being destitute of an essential quality of God, even eternal [Page 32] existence.  But His claim to equality with God, by virtue of relationship, is the very point which the Jews challenged and which the Son is here maintaining.

 

Further, had the gift of inherent life not been co-existent with the eternal begetting, then there was a period down to the time of this gift during which the Son lacked this other essential quality of God, self-existence, and thus, again, He would not, during that period, have been equal with God.  Moreover, this would have involved, at the time of the gift, an essential change within the Godhead; but God is unchangeable because eternal.  Nor does it seem conceivable that a father can beget a son and not impart to him all his own essential qualities, whether the father be man or God.

 

So that whereas the gift of authority was granted, or perhaps confirmed, in connexion with the incarnation, the gift of inherent life was from eternity, involved in the eternal generation of the Son by the Father.

 

By most of the early fathers, and by Stier, Olshausen, Alford, Westeott, and Govett, this “gave” in ver. 26 is taken to refer to the pre-incarnate relation.  But that the Son derives from the Father His eternal inherent life plainly involves, as to relative status, dependence and subordination.  It is part of the reality which He Himself declares in the words, “I can of Myself do nothing ... the Father is greater than I” (John 5: 19, 30; 14: 28).

 

 

 

 

Note B. They who deny the eternal Sonship must deny the eternal generation, since one who is generated by another is son to that other.  This denial confuses the whole doctrine of the nature of the Godhead.  That the relationship of Father and Son did not commence with the Son becoming man, but preceded creation itself and is therefore inherent in the Deity and eternal, is further involved in the fact considered above that the Son was the Father’s heir before anything was created.

 

That the relationship was certainly prior to Christ’s incarnation He Himself made clear in the parable of the wicked husbandmen: “And the Lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do? (Luke 20: 13). ... He had yet one, a beloved son, He sent him last unto them” (Mark 12: 6).  In view of the past tense “He had yet one,” this cannot mean that the one sent became son only when sent.  He is set in manifest contrast to the “servants” who had been sent earlier.  It were equally unreasonable to say that they became servants by being sent as that He became Son by being sent.  They were already servants and He already Son.

 

J. N. Darby (Coll. Writ., vol. XXX, p. 340) wrote:

 

It is of immense import, because I have not the Father’s love sending the Son out of heaven, if I have Him not as Son before born into the world. ... I lose all that the Son is, if He is only so as incarnate, and you have lost all the love of the Father in sending the Son as well.

 

And on Col. 1 he wrote (Synopsis, vol. V. p. 15):

 

The Son is here presented to us as Creator. ... Inasmuch as born in this world by the operation of God through the Holy Ghost, He is the Son of God (Psa. 2: 7; Luke 1: 35).  But this is in time. ... But the Son is also the name of the proper relationship of His glorious Person to the Father before the world was.  It is in this character that He created all things. ... In the epistle to the Colossians that which is set before us is the proper glory of His Person as the Son before the world was.  He is the Creator as Son.  It is important to observe this.

 

On the same chapter, ver. 15, Ellicott, in his Commentary, wrote:

[Page 33]

Christian antiquity has ever regarded the expression “image of God” as denoting the eternal Son’s perfect equality with the Father in respect of His substance, nature, and eternity. [Observe: “the eternal Son.”]

 

It were no great theological journey from denying the relationships between the three Persons of the Godhead to denying the distinctions of personality in the Deity, and so to arrive at the Unitarian* error of Sabellianism (cent. 3), that the terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not import the relationships of three distinct Divine Persons Who yet are one God, but only three different ways in which one Being manifests Himself at different times.

 

* Adolf Harnack (Enc. Brit., vol. XIX, 790): “Sabellianism, in fact. became a collective name for all those Unitarian doctrines in which the divine nature of Christ was acknowledged

 

 

 

 

Note C.  A friendly critic writes that “God does not dwell in time or space. ... To say that Christ must be ‘somewhere’ not ‘everywhere’ is correct provided you make it clear that the definition of ‘somewhere’ is not the physical one.  That is what is wrong in your remarks on ‘the Majesty on high  You are doubtless right in insisting on localization, but you do not make it clear that it is a localization outside time and space as we know them

 

This makes a demand on thought and definition which surely no finite mind can meet; at least, mine cannot meet it.  I believe my friend the writer could offer no clear notion of what he means by God dwelling “outside space  He admits localization, which feature itself demands the idea of space.  Very certainly the glorified human body of Christ cannot be “outside time and space,” for it had a commencement in time and it occupies space, and is in only one place at a time.  It left the earth and is at the right hand of God: it is later to leave the latter and to descend to the earth.

 

Saying above that the localized presence of God is “beyond the created universe” I have, I think, said as much as seems clear and warranted by Scripture. I do not, and cannot, define that “beyond” in relation to “space” for the latter word is itself indefinable by man.

 

It was a notion of Kant that “Space and time, the two essential conditions of sense-perception, are not data given by things, but universal forms of intellect into which all data of sense must be received” (Enc. Brit., vol. XIII, p. 270).  This implies that primarily time and sense are the product of the human mind, which is contrary to the fact of creation as revealed in Scripture. God is eternal and infinite, therefore while He was the only Existence time and space did not exist.  But at the moment when He created something time and space began, for that “something” had a beginning and so is not eternal, and it was of limited size and therefore not infinite.  Therefore time and space are not a product of human thought but a fact inherent in creation: they so existed before man existed to think about them.

 

By consequence it is evident that as long as finite objects exist (which will be for ever) time and space must continue, for the finite can never become eternal or infinite. Hence, for angels and men the future is not absolute eternity, as for God, but “ages of ages,” that is, endless succession of periods.  When perfected, man may well be able to comprehend vaster stretches of space and time than now, yet finite minds cannot conceive eternity or infinity, but demand time and space.  But these are not creations of finite minds, but are facts inseparable from creation, “data given by things,” antecedent to finite minds though objects of thought to be considered by them.

[Page 34]

The Holy Spirit not having come into the Epistle thus far I have not spoken of Him above; but for the stimulating of meditation, it may be here remarked that to Him also the Scripture attributes localization, and not only universality.  The latter is clear in, for example, Ps. 139: 7-12: “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence  Here universality is attributed equally to God and His Spirit; what is true of the one is true of the other, for, with the Son, they are one God.

 

It is thus with localization.  In the Revelation the Father is shown as seated upon a throne and the Spirit is stated to be “before His throne” (Rev. 1: 4, 5; 4: 5; 5: 6).  The term “seven spirits” must be a figurative expression, meaning the one Divine Spirit, for it were blasphemy to conjoin seven created spirits with the Father and the Son as the source of grace and peace to men. Thus the Spirit is given as localized a presence “before the throne” as is given to the Son “in the midst of the throne” (Rev. 5: 6) and to the Father “on the throne”; and to this localized presence of the Spirit visibility is attributed, as it is to the Father and the Son, for He is represented by “lamps of fire

 

Into the mystery of this the mind of man cannot penetrate nor can unfold its harmony, but whoever desires to comprehend God as far as He is revealed in His written Word must include these features in his meditation.

 

 

 

 

Note D.  The unity of God is as fundamental an article of the Christian faith as is the tri-unity of Persons: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah” (Deut. 6: 4; Mark 12: 29): “I and the Father are one” (John 10: 30).  Before creation the Father, the Son, and the Spirit did not need to manifest themselves each to the other; but this need arose with the creation of beings who, though intelligent, could not apprehend God in essence but only through manifestation.  Now the manifestation of God in the Son in no way altered the essential unity of the Godhead: why, then, should it be held that a manifestation of the Father or of the Spirit should impair that unity? They are Three if un-manifested; they remain One when manifested.  Manifestation does not alter essence.  Therefore there seems no valid objection to taking in their literal sense the statements of Scripture as to a manifestation of the Father.  Nor is there any other sense which yields any meaning at all to the statements.

 

Here in truth is the real crux as to interpretation.  Treat the relevant statements as “metaphorical” and they are etherealized into nothing that the mind can grasp.  This is virtually admitted by those who so take them, for they say that the realities behind the statements are incomprehensible.  In support they will cite Matt. 11: 27: “no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son,” but they overlook the accompanying words, “and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him Therefore the statements of Scripture are intended to reveal the truth as to God, and they do so reveal it to the “little children  What intelligent child will take other than literally such a statement as that one is “sitting at the right hand” of another?

 

Take such statements as they stand, and at once we learn something concerning the world above.  We learn of a local presence of the universal God, of the intercourse with Him there of the heavenly beings, who “see His face,” and of the administration of His kingdom.  He is seen and heard, and the presence there of His Son, and His advocacy for His people, become a reality to their heart.

 

Granted fully that the mode of that reality is heavenly and spiritual, [Page 35] yet it is a reality, actually existing at a given place in the heavens.  The angels are real beings; the Son of man glorified is there in His real resurrection body [of “flesh and bones” (Lk. 24: 39, R.V.)] in which He ascended to the Father; and to that place glorified saints are to be just as certainly removed in their resurrection bodies and to be “presented” (Eph. 5: 27; Col. 1: 22, 28; 2 Cor. 4: 14; 11: 2), which terms means just what is meant by being “presented at court

 

Treated “metaphorically” all this prospect fades into an indistinct blur.  The sons are to be in the Father’s house, yet will never see their Father!

 

 

 

 

Note E. John 14: 1: “believe also in Me  The “also” is emphatic.  George Rogers, the first Principal of Spurgeon’s College, pointed out that it is (1) disjunctive; it distinguishes the Son from God as an object of faith: (2) adjunctive, it adds the Son to God as an object of faith: (3) subjunctive; the Son is the second object of faith, the Father the first object: (4) conjunctive; it joins the Son to God as an object of faith, being Himself essentially one with God.

 

As to the use of the word “Person” of God see Westcott on John 1: 1: “The absolute, eternal, immanent relations of the Persons of the Godhead furnish the basis for revelation.  Because the Word was personally distinct from ‘God’ and yet essentially ‘God’ He could make Him known.” So Alford on the same verses: “Again this logos is undoubtedly in our prologue, personal:- not an abstraction merely, nor a personification ... but a PERSON.” So the Concise Oxford Dict.: “person.  Individual human being ... the three persons (modes of being) of the Godhead, Father, Son, Holy Spirit  And Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology, p. 31: “The term Person is also sometimes objected to.  Like all human language, it is liable to be accused of inadequacy and even positive error.  It certainly must not be pressed too far, or it will lead to Tritheism.  While we use the term to denote distinctions in the Godhead, we do not imply distinctions which amount to separateness, but distinctions which are associated with essential mutual coherence or inclusiveness.  We intend by the term ‘Person’ to express those real distinctions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which are found amid the oneness of the Godhead, distinctions which are no mere temporary manifestations of the Godhead, but essential and permanent elements within the Divine unity.

 

“While, therefore, we are compelled to use terms like ‘substance’ and ‘Person’, we are not to think of them as identical with what we understand as human substance and personality.  The terms are not explanatory, but only approximately correct, as must necessarily be the case with any attempt to define the nature of God.  As already noted, it is a profound spiritual satisfaction to remember that the truth and experience of the Trinity is not dependent upon theological terminology, though it is obviously essential for us to have the most correct terms available.”

 

Discussion of these high and difficult themes is by no means outside the scope of such a treatise as this.  The phrases which tell that the Son of God “passed through the heavens,” is made “higher than the heavens,” entered into “the heaven itself,” and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights” are in the Epistle and are intimately associated with His priestly work.  It is clearly the duty of the expositor to show how he understands them, and to explain them in line with the plain principle of the Epistle that the heavenly regions are the archetype of which earthly things are Divinely appointed copies. How can there be a literal copy of something purely metaphorical?

[Page 36]

If it be urged that the view offered of that heavenly world creates difficulties for such as give themselves to scientific research, as to atomic energy and the like themes, we remark that the understanding of the Word of God is not dependent upon man’s inquiries into the works of God.  The first readers of this Epistle were surely intended to grasp its meaning, though they knew nothing of modem investigations into nature.  Man’s understanding of the universe and its laws is still fragmentary, imperfect, and often contradictory, and is no safe guide to the interpreting of Holy Scripture.  The word is still very true that the “natural man [man at his best, man intellectual and honest] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he is not able to know them, because they are spiritually judged” (1 Cor. 2: 14).  Man may investigate the kingdom of nature: it is only little children who enter into the kingdom of God and to whom its mysteries are revealed (Matt. 18: 1-4; 11: 25-30; 13: 10-17; Jer. 9: 23, 24; 1 Cor. 1: 26-31).

 

 

*       *       *

 

[Page 37]

CHAPTER III

 

CHRIST SUPERIOR TO ANGELS

(1: 5-14)

 

 

Ch. 1: 5. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again,

 

I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son?

 

6. And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7. And of the angels he saith,

Who maketh his angels winds, And his ministers a flame of fire:

 

8 but of the Son he saith,

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

 

9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

 

10. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands:

 

11 They shall perish; but thou continuest: and they shall all wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

 

13 But of which of the angels hath he said at any time, Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet?

 

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?

 

 

THE dignity and glory of Christ is next displayed by proving Him to be superior to the most exalted of created beings, the angels.  These are greater in power and might than man, but Christ is greater than they.  This superiority follows from His heirship as the Son of God: “He hath inherited a more excellent name than they  For He is “the Son” by original uncreated derivation from the Father; they are only “sons” (Job 38: 7; 1: 6; 2: 1; Gen. 6: 4) by having been created by the Son and given a nature which is spirit and so akin to God Who is spirit.

 

 

As the glory of the Son was set forth in a sevenfold statement, so is His superiority to angels enforced by seven quotations from the Old Testament.

 

[Page 38]

1. Ps. 2: 7. “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee To no angel did God ever say this.  To Christ only was it said, and to Him in resurrection.  It is only of an act in time that God could say, “This day” have I done this or that.  Therefore the eternal rights of the Son by heirship are here renewed to Him in manhood and resurrection.  Now no angel has died and been begotten from that state into resurrection life.  Christ only is the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1: 18), and therefore He is the only Head of that body of persons, the church, which shares in His resurrection through having accepted fellowship with His sufferings and death.

 

 

Those who, through grace and faith, have obtained association with Him in that resurrection life share potentially in His superiority to angels, and are to share it actually when actually sharers in body - of His resurrection and ascension (1 Cor. 6: 3).  Being thus seated with Christ above all principalities and powers (Eph. 1: 18-23; 2: 4-7; 1 Pet. 3: 21, 22), it is not for them to relinquish their supreme position and turn to angels with worship (Rev. 19: 10; 22: 8, 9) or with requests for their intercession with God.  In Christ the believer is a son of God with a nearer relationship than they who know only their created standing, not a relationship in regeneration and resurrection.

 

 

The argument from silence is to be much observed.  God did not say to or of an angel that which He did say to His Son.  It is not permissible to read into God’s word what He has not said.  His silence is to be noted and respected.  His Word is perfect (Ps. 19: 7), and a work or a statement which is already perfect is spoiled as much by addition as by subtraction.  Comp. the same argument from silence at 7: 14, and note Gal. 3: 16 to the effect that a singular noun must not be treated as a plural.  In the Preface to The Epistles of St. John Westcott said: “I do not venture to pronounce that any variation is trivial or unimportant.  The exact words are for us the decisive expression of the Apostle’s thought

 

 

2. 2 Sam. 7: 14; 1 Chron. 17: 13. “I will be to Him (a) Father, and He shall be to Me (a) Son  Darby and Isaacs translate “For father ... for son  Thus was declared in advance that the taking of humanity by the Son should not alter the eternal relationship, for in the new status Each should be to the Other what Each had been before it. The emphasis is upon the relationship which Each should bear to the Other.  In this relationship no angel ever stood.

 

 

The application of this sentence from Old Testament history to Christ is a signal example of how the full, the spiritual intent of many Old Testament statements may go beyond their first application.  The words applied firstly to the man Solomon, [Page 39] as is clear from the clause: “If he commit iniquity I will chasten him  But it is equally plain that some further descendant of David is required for the fulfilment of that portion of the promises which was not fulfilled in Solomon: “I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever ... thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure for ever before thee; thy throne shall be established for ever  And the words “before thee” demand that the fulfilment shall be in resurrection, for only so can David see it.  It is Messiah raised from the dead in and to Whom all shall be accomplished.  The next quotation points to the time for this.

 

 

3. Deut. 32: 43, LXX; Ps. 97: 7. “And when He again bringeth in the Firstborn into the world He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him  I take the force of this to be that when the time shall have come that the Father shall bring the Son again into the created regions He will command all angels to worship Him, i.e. the Son.

 

 

i. Since God only is to be worshipped (Deut. 6: 13; Matt. 4: 10; Rev. 19: 10; 22: 8, 9), He whom God commands to be worshipped must be God.  Thus there must be two (at least) Persons in the Godhead, since One commands that the other is to be worshipped.  But He who brings forward the Other and commands that He be worshipped must as to relationship be the senior of that Other.  See ch. II, i, above, p. 21.  Again - which is the special point here - He who is to be worshipped must be the divine Superior of those who are to worship Him, the angels.

 

 

ii. The occasion of this is to be when the Father shall compel universal subjection to the Son: see on 1. 13 below.  The prophetic vision of this is seen in Rev. 5, where all the heavenly orders, the living creatures, the elders, and the angels are seen worshipping God and the Lamb.

 

 

iii. The last-mentioned event takes place in heaven at the installation of the Lamb as supreme Ruler, prior to the opening by Him of the Seals.  As when He opens these He is still in heaven, it is well before He comes to the earth; which shows that the oikoumene of this passage in Hebrews, into which the Father will again bring the Son, cannot be limited to this earth.  In any case it must include the realm of the angels. See ch. II, 7, ii above, where it is suggested that the present location of the Son at the right hand of the Father is beyond the created universe.

 

 

It is a loss that many have not seen that this word oikoumene can mean far more than conceited Greeks and Romans meant, i.e. their own empires.  Derived from oikeo to dwell, inhabit, it can mean any habitable region, heavenly or earthly, and it was occasionally so used.  In Prov. 8: 27-31, Wisdom [Page 40] speaks of having been present at the creation, distinguishes the heavens, the skies, and the earth, and appears to embrace them all in the statement after the LXX) that God “was rejoicing in His oikoumene and especially rejoicing among the sons of men.  It is obvious that the whole universe in its original pure and lovely condition must have been a source of joy to its Creator, not only this earth, though for special reasons, connected with His purposes for men, it and they were a special subject of joy when made.  Moses (Ps. 90: 2) seems to have distinguished the earth from the oikoumene by saying that God existed eternally “before (the) earth and (the) world were formed,” where again the LXX used oikoumene.  The repetition in the LXX of the article (“the world”) stresses the distinction.  Similarly in the uninspired Wisdom of Solomon, in the Apocrypha (1: 7), a proof of the omniscience of God is His omnipresence: “Because the spirit of the Lord hath filled the oikoumene, and that which holdeth all things together hath knowledge of every voice”: therefore let man be cautious in speech, for, He who is everywhere hears everything. Here oikoumene is the equivalent of ta panta, the all things, the universe, as in Col. 1; etc.

 

 

The necessity of this widest possible meaning will be seen at 2: 5.

 

 

4. Ps. 104: 4. “Who maketh His angels winds, His ministers a flame of fire  Here is information as to the nature of the angelic substance.  It is subtle, pervasive, mobile, energetic as wind: it is intense, brilliant, powerful as fire, and can be as destructive, when angels are employed as ministers of the divine wrath.  This their nature and service are of Divine appointment.  They are created thus, (ho poion the One making = the Creator), and they continue thus.  Because of this nature they control the elemental forces, wind (Rev. 7: 1), fire (Rev. 8: 5; 14: 18; Acts. 7: 30).  In these activities they are messengers (angelous) and “high commissioners” (Isaacs).  On this second description (leilourgous) Westcott says: “The word seems always to retain something of its original force as expressing a public, social service.”  See 7, p. 42

 

 

Yet granting the greatness of angels in form and service, they are still infinitely below the Son in dignity, for to Him the Father has said:

 

 

5. Ps. 45: 6, 7: “Thy throne, O God, is unto the age of the age [= for ever],

 

 

And the rod [sceptre, as often in Old Testament] the straight [i.e. symbol of rule without crookedness] is the rod of Thy Kingdom. [Fallen angels rule: Satan is the Prince of this world - John 14: 30; and see Dan. 10: 13; etc.; but their rod (rule) is crooked: see Ps. 82.]

 

[Page 41]

Thou lovedst [aorist: throughout His life on earth, viewed as one complete action] righteousness and hatedst lawlessness: Therefore God, thy God, anointed Thee [at His ascension; see Ps. 16: 9-11] with oil of ecstatic delight [exultation] above Thy companions” (metochoi).

 

 

(1) The Son is addressed by the Father as God: yet impious men deny that He is God.  (2) The Father is His God.  The Son on earth, in resurrection, owned this: “I ascend unto my Father ... my God.” (John 20: 17.)  (3) The Son is enthroned, and eternally: but even senior angelic rulers have thrones only temporally: see on 2. 5. (4) The ground of this supreme exaltation and exultation is the state of heart, the inner character of the Son when in this scene and atmosphere of lawlessness: He abhorred it, but loved righteousness.  (5) The Son exalted has companions.  See on 3: 14, p. 71.

 

 

6. Ps. 102: 25-27.

“Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the works of Thy hands:

They shall perish, but Thou continuest:

And they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

And as a mantle shall Thou roll them up,

As a garment, and they shall be changed:

But Thou art the same,

And Thy years shall not fail

 

 

The title “Lord” was inserted by the LXX and continued by the Writer here.  The psalm was addressed to the Lord (Jehovah), as the inscription shows, and the great Name is repeated eight times to ver. 22.  Now this “Lord” is the One who, as is foreseen by the psalmist when speaking of millennial days, “has built up Zion, and appeared in His glory” (ver. 16), which work and display are elsewhere attributed to Messiah.  It is Messiah, as having become man in humiliation, Who cries (ver. 24), “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days,” and only to Him as man can the words be addressed, “Thy years are throughout all generations ... Thy years shall have no end  Only God could promise this to His Servant whose life was to be cut short in the midst, at thirty-three years out of seventy: so that it is here the Father Who is answering the cry of the Son in humiliation and weakness.  Thus (1) The Son is given by the Father the divine title Lord (in LXX - Jehovah in Hebrew); and (2) is declared to have been the Creator; and (3) is assured of eternal, unchangeable duration, whereas creation is ever changing and shall be at last completely changed.

 

 

No pious Jew ever attributed such divine dignities to angels; but by the time of the Writer there was already developing that deceitful blend of pagan and cabbalistic thought known later [Page 42] as Gnosticism, which sought to combine these false systems with Christianity, for the corrupting and destroying of the last.  This satanic attempt persists in our day, exhibited in all those “parliaments of religion” and other endeavours to combine Bible truth with human error and Satanic lies.

 

 

Gnosticism taught that the things material were a creation of lower angelic powers, themselves a descending emanation from God, not a distinct creation by Him and distinct from Him.  This pantheistic, soul-blinding system was definitely denied in advance by the psalm before us, and condemned by the psalm being quoted here.

 

 

Against this wholly false philosophy Scripture presents the true nature of Christ as being Himself, with the Father, essentially God, and as the sole Creator of all things, and therefore of the angels.  The same errors are combated by Paul in Colossians: see 2: 18, 19 in the light of the noble presentation of the Son in 1: 13-20; and they are silently refuted by John in all his writings, with their exposition of the Son in relation to the Father, and as being personally the eternal life.  Really to know Him is salvation from every error, for He is the Truth.

 

 

7. Ps. 110: 1.

“Sit Thou on My right hand,

Till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet

 

 

The quoting of this sentence completes and clinches the demonstration of the superiority of the Son to angels. The words, and their context in the psalm, grant to the One addressed a position, a service, and a future such as no created being could hold.

 

 

i. A position of divine glory: “sit at My right hand  Christ himself pointed out to the opponents of His claim to be divine that, by the sentence preceding those here quoted, God accorded a divine title to the Priest-King addressed: “The Lord said unto my Lord”: in Hebrew, “Jehovah said unto my Adon” (Matt. 22: 41-46).

 

 

ii. A service in heaven both royal and priestly, such as that of Melchizedek.  This will later be made the basis of an exposition and appeal of vast weight. See 4: 14 - 10: 39.

 

 

iii. A future of triumph over all enemies.

 

 

No angel could endure that glory, or fill that high office, or secure that universal victory.  Their office, noble but subordinate, is to serve the counsels of that Sovereign; and at present these counsels concern chiefly certain objects of the grace of God who are yet to inherit salvation.  What is meant by “inheriting salvation” is a principal theme of the New Testament.  It is a design and task parts of which require angelic activity and are worthy of it.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 43]

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE FIRST EXHORTATION AND WARNING

(2: 1-4)

 

 

Ch. 2: 1. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 3 how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.

 

 

THE word “salvation” may mean, I have been saved, or I am being saved, or I am about to be saved.

 

 

1. It is of first importance to discern to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage refers.  It is the first, e.g. in Eph. 2: 5, 8, “for by grace ye are having been saved,” which union of the present indicative of the verb substantive with the perfect participle passive means that the believer has already and as a fact reached a state of salvation which is abiding: “you have already been saved and are in that status  It is the second in, e.g. 1 Cor. 1: 18: “For the word of the cross to those indeed perishing foolishness is; but to those being saved, even us, power of God it is.” It is the third aspect in our present passage, the recognition of which has important bearing upon the interpretation of the whole Epistle.

 

 

That this is the aspect of salvation is clear from the statement that angels are rendering service to those “being about to inherit salvation” (1: 14).  The present participle shows that the prospect of this salvation is already theirs; but the salvation itself is theirs in expectation only, not in possession; that is, it is a boon awaited in the future.

 

 

This is emphasized by the fact that the salvation is to be inherited; for it is only of something future that one can be an heir; as soon as the property is received one ceases to be heir and becomes owner.

 

 

2. Moreover, as we have seen above in the case of the Son of God, an heir must be child of the owner: “if children, then heirs” (Rom. 8: 17).  Thus at the very outset of the Epistle [Page 44] it is shown clearly that the Writer is addressing [regenerate] children of God.  This gives character to all his instruction, encouragement, and warnings. He is not addressing the unregenerate, even though professed believers: he writes to the children of God, to actual heirs, and this must be kept steadfastly in mind however severe and solemn some things he says may be.  The child of God deals deceitfully with the word of his Father, and with his own soul, when he refuses medicine because it is bitter.  He may but show thereby how desperately he needs the sharp and purging draught.

 

 

The aspect of the Epistle is therefore exactly that of Peter’s first epistle (Pet. 1: 3-7).  He too wrote to those who had been “begotten again,” and were therefore children of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They had been made children with a view to the future, “unto a living hope” based on the “resurrection of Jesus Christ out of the dead  This living hope was an heirship, it was “unto an inheritance”; one of unique quality, differing from all lesser possessions in being, unlike them, incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading.  This inheritance is held in reserve in heaven, where it is safe from all influences that could possibly corrupt, defile, and waste.  In the meantime the children are under the guardianship of their all-powerful Father, with a view to entering upon “a salvation ready to be revealed in the final season” of the dealings of God with His affairs.

 

 

In this magnificent prospect the heirs of God exult, even in the midst of manifold present griefs.  But, adds the apostle, this guardian care of God is experienced “through faith”; the child must trust the Father, stay at home, and submit dutifully to all parental discipline; for only so can the Father care for His child, train it for its high future, and confer at last the purposed inheritance.

 

 

3. In view of the high realm where this property is situate, in heaven, and in view of its noble qualities, and of the glowing contrast with the dismal prospects of men before they become children and heirs of God, this [future] salvation may well be called great.  Indeed it is the greatest thing that God can ever design or grant; for its essence is the sharing the relationship of son to the eternal Father (c. 2: 10; 2 Cor. 6: 17, 18; Rev. 21: 7); and it includes external conformity of body to the glorified Son of God (Rom. 8: 29; 1 John 3: 1-3), co-heirship with Him of the entire universe (Rom. 8: 14-17; 1 Cor. 3: 21-23), Co-authority with Him as its Sovereign and Blesser (Luke 22: 28-30; Rev. 2: 26-28; 3: 21), and co-residence with Him in the heavenly habitation (John 14: 1-3; 1 Thes. 4: 16-18; Rev. 7: 15; 14: 1; 15: 2-4), rather than dwelling with others of the saved on this earth, whether the present earth in the Millennium [Page 45] or the new earth in eternity (Is. 65: 17-25; 66: 22-24; Rev. 21: 1).

 

 

4. It is much to be observed that this great salvation was first announced by the Lord Jesus: “which a beginning received to be spoken through the Lord  This excludes from the meaning here that present aspect of salvation which consists in the forgiveness of sins, justification, and the new birth unto eternal life; for though the Lord Jesus did indeed speak of these initial, indispensable, and immeasurable benefits, He was by no means the first to announce these.  Not to go back earlier, Moses in the law, fourteen centuries before Christ, had conveyed to Israel the divine assurance of forgiveness, e.g. Lev. 4: 20, 26, 31, 35; 5: 10, 16, 18.  A thousand years before Christ David rejoiced in that free forgiveness (Ps. 32).  Christ confirmed this earlier message of mercy, declaring that the repentant confessing sinner, who sought mercy on the ground of the propitiatory sacrifice, “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18: 14); but He was not the first so to teach.

 

 

The Lord forgave sins, as those of the man let down through the roof (Luke 5), and of the woman who wept at His feet (Luke 7).  He declared that it was His own blood that would procure this remission (Matt. 26: 28).  He commanded that remission of sins should be preached in His name (Luke 24: 47).  He strongly emphasized the duty that the forgiven must forgive (Matt. 6: 12-15; 18: 21-35); and He warned solemnly against one fatal sin which for ever precludes forgiveness (Mark 3: 28-30).* But if any one will go through in the concordance the words forgiveness and remission he may be surprised to learn that these are almost all the occasions and connexions when Christ is reported as having touched on the subject.

 

[* That is,  “… has no forgiveness to the age, but liable to Aionian Judgment” verse 29b, Gk.]

 

 

It was thus as to the new birth and life.  Every saint of earlier ages must have received that life, or saint he never could have been; for the carnal Adam nature of man’s first birth “is not able to please God” (Rom. 8: 6-8), yet ch. 11 of our Epistle will recount how very many before Christ walked well-pleasing to God by faith.  This teaching also Christ confirmed, and showed the place of His own person and death as the basis of the new life (John 3); but so far was the Lord from being the first so to teach that He rather censured Nicodemus for not knowing these things, seeing that Old Testament scriptures taught the doctrine, as e.g. in Ezek. 37: 1-14, and Jer. 31: 31-34.

 

 

Let the student extend his survey into the Acts and the Epistles and he can find how those who confirmed the teaching of Christ, and saw it confirmed by the supernatural workings of God and the Spirit, maintained the same features as before [Page 46] noted.  They taught forgiveness and regeneration plainly and emphatically, as Christ had done, and on the same ground of His atoning blood, but the records of this are similarly few.  It was the foundation of their message, its opening topic, but by no means its sole or even its most distinguishing feature.  In this particular much modem evangelizing has been rather a contrast to than a continuation of the preaching of Christ and His apostles.

 

 

But let the earnest searcher turn now to the word kingdom and trace it through the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and the Revelation, and he will be struck with the frequency and intensity with which the Lord and the apostles enlarged upon this theme.  And not simply as to that earthly government by Messiah of which the prophets had sung in such glowing strains, but with the introduction of fresh elements which Christ was the first to announce and which constituted the distinctive topics of His ministry.

 

 

The Old Testament prophets had foretold that God would re-establish His sovereign rights on this earth. John the Immerser had enforced this and had directed men to Christ, and to His sacrifice as the Lamb of God, saying that repentance for sin and faith in Christ would give preparation for the judgment that the King would execute.  But when the Lord Jesus took up John’s ministry He introduced elements additional to what had been taught before.

 

 

i. He taught those who became His disciples that they were to regard God as their Father (Matt. 5: 16, 43-48; 6: 1, 4, 6-18, 26, 32; John 14 to 17).  Thus He raised those who truly received and who followed Him to a share in His own relationship of Son to Father.  This culminated in His first message to them after His resurrection, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20: 17).

 

 

In former times it had been God in His majesty and power Whom the godly knew; the mention of Him as Father was most infrequent and exceptional.  In the whole Old Testament there seem to be only nine or ten places where this relationship is mentioned, and the third, fifth and sixth of these are prophetic of Israel’s experiences in days to come (2 Sam. 7: 14; 1 Chron. 22: 10; Ps. 89: 26; 103: 13; Isa. 63: 16 twice; 64: 8; Jer. 3: 4, 19; Mal. 1: 6; 2: 10).

 

 

But by Christ this was lifted into relief and given emphasis.  He insisted that His followers must walk worthily of this high calling; it must be a regulating factor in their heart and ways.  And this note is struck early in our Epistle: God is “bringing many [not all] sons unto glory” (2: 10).

 

 

ii. From the eleventh chapter (2-10, 13-16) we learn that [Page 47] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been told of a heavenly city, that they embraced the prospect, became heirs of the promise of it, and regulated their life on earth accordingly.  In this activity of faith Abraham became the ancestor of spiritual descendants of the time since the coming of Christ.  This cannot be learned from the histories, and there is no mention that their descendants after the flesh expected that heavenly portion.  Resurrection was but occasionally mentioned, as in Isa. 26: 19; Ezek. 37; Dan. 12: 2, 3, 12, 13; and then rather with a view to a portion in the kingdom of God on this earth.

 

 

This also Christ confirmed, as in Luke 13: 28, 29; etc.  But to His faithful followers He opened up the earlier prospect and enlarged its details, and He was the first to do this.  He told them that, if they were persecuted for His sake, their reward would be great in heaven (Matt. 5: 12): that they should set their hearts there, not here, and accumulate treasure there (Matt. 6: 19-21; 19: 21; Comp. Col. 3: 1, 2).  He promised them that if they thus lived for that world He would confess their names there, as belonging to that world (Matt. 10: 24-33). This line of teaching and promise, up till that time peculiar to His own ministry, culminated in the new and mighty assurance that He was going back to that realm above to prepare an abode there for them, and that He would duly return thence to take them thither to be in His company there (John 14: 1-3).

 

 

As regards any express teaching of this aspect of salvation, it had its beginning from the lips of the Lord.  The rest of the New Testament shows how fully and earnestly it was confirmed and enlarged by them that heard Him.  See 1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15; 1 Pet. 1 before quoted; 1 John 3: 1-3.  The stress of the apostolic teaching fell upon the dominant note of Christ, that not this earth, even when renewed in Messiah’s day, but the heavenly side of God’s great empire is the proper sphere, prospect, and hope of the followers of Christ, their reward for suffering for Him now.

 

 

It is this supernal prospect that gives point to the passage before us.  It is not here that salvation is great: salvation in its lesser range than this is indeed great (megas); but the adjective used here is rare in the New Testament, and very emphatic.  Telikoutos means “so great  Its only other places are: Jas. 3: 4; the ship that is so great as compared with its small rudder: 2 Cor. 1: 10; “so great a death” as threatened Paul in Asia, something more terrible than men ordinarily face; and Rev. 16: 18; where the full force of the word is seen by its describing “so great an earthquake, so violent (megas), such as was not seen since there were men upon the earth

 

 

Thus the point in our passage is that the future salvation in view is something as wholly unexampled as was that earthquake.  It is not that “common salvation” in which all the saved must share, or they would not be saved in any sense, but it is that highest height and splendour of glory to which the God of all grace is in this age calling us in Christ, even “unto His eternal [aionian] glory” (1 Pet. 5: 10)*; yea, “into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2: 12); so that such shall obtain nothing less than “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2: 14), and be part of that company which, under the figure of a city, is seen by John as coming down out of heaven “having the glory of God” (Rev. 21: 11).

 

[*NOTE. This verse has be translated: “And that God of all favour, who called you to his AIONIAN (i.e. age-lasting) Glory, by the Anointed One, when you have suffered a short time, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen you]

 

 

It did not demand unusual wonders and signs to assure repentant men of the pardon of a gracious God.  David, the tax-gatherer, the woman that was a sinner, and millions more, of old and of to-day, have obtained the bliss of justification by believing the bare word of God.  But the proposal that men should be elevated bodily from earth, man’s natural home, to the heavens above, should share the glory of God Himself, and the sovereignty of the universe with the Son of God, this was so startling, so unimaginable, that God confirmed it as His message by exceptional signs, wonders, various powerful workings, and especially by distributions of His own Spirit, without Whose in-working aid it were scarcely possible to grasp the proposal or think it credible.

 

 

5. The Exhortation.  The Messenger of God to us is immeasurably nobler than those He sent to earlier generations: “because of this it behoves us more abundantly to direct our attention to the things heard” through Him.  It was always incumbent on men to heed a message from God, whoever might bring it; much more it is incumbent on us to Whom His own Son has been sent (Matt. 21: 33-44), and sent with an immeasurably higher message.

 

 

6. The Danger is that we may drift away from these things heard.  In Isa. 44: 4 (LXX) the word used pararheo describes running water, water which is flowing by.  In Prov. 3: 21 (LXX) it is used of not letting good counsel and understanding slip from one’s attention.  By Greek authors it was used in this same sense: a thing escapes me, slips from my mind.  In our passage the danger in view may be compared to a ship being caught by wind and tide, and through negligence being thus carried past the desired haven.  In this case the sailors will pay the penalty of missing the profits, comforts, and pleasures expected in port, and may also be exposed to further perils of the sea.

 

 

7. The Warning is given by a comparison.  The message of God given through angels at Sinai (Acts 7: 53) took effect.  Its solemn sanctions against wilful transgression and careless [Page 49] disobedience were enforced.  The history of Israel through over 3,000 years exhibits this.  The Messenger sent to us is far nobler in rank, the message far richer in content: how, then, shall we escape if we neglect Him and it?

 

 

The word neglect is important.  It is found in three other places.  At 8: 9 it is said that the Lord disregarded Israel because they turned away from Him.  If one party violates a covenant, the other party may treat it as null and void.  This God did, deliberately and definitely, as the aorist tense here intimates.  This shows that the word neglect involves deliberate action, not mere inadvertence.  We are warned lest we with intention, even more than by carelessness, disregard this so great salvation offered to us as children of God.  It is not here the sinner being indifferent to the first aspect of salvation, nor the unwatchful, prayerless Christian falling before common temptations, though such indifference will assuredly bring its penalties; but it is the [regenerate] believer putting from his mind the final privileges offered.  This is seen in ch. 12 in Esau despising his birthright privileges.

 

 

1 Tim. 4: 14: “Be not neglectful of the gift that is in thee  Here the imperfect tense stresses the continuousness of the neglect.  If we once turn from the hope of the gospel, the hope of this “great salvation,” the attitude may easily become permanent.

 

 

Matt. 22: 5: “But they made light of it,” and went off about their personal affairs.  Made light of what?  Of a royal invitation to a royal wedding!  Here the tense of the verb is the same as in our passage, which illuminates the latter.  They deliberately disregarded the invitation, made light of the King and His Son, and showed they preferred lesser interests.  It was precisely the sin of Esau: choosing a meal instead of a birthright.  This is to he noted.  The same elements and motives will be further stressed by [the Holy Spirit] our Writer.

 

 

8. The Penalty. “How shall we escape” - escape what?  Obviously that “just recompense of reward” mentioned immediately before, such as followed under the law spoken through angels.  The same analogy and warning will be enlarged in ch. 10: 26-31.  Misthos, the root of the word used, means wages for work done: “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10: 7; 1 Tim. 5: 1: 8; Jas. 5: 4), and is used frequently of the reward the godly shall receive in heaven (Matt. 5: 12; Luke 6: 23; 1 Cor. 3: 8; Rev. 22: 12).  The derived word in our passage misthapodosia is peculiar to our Writer, being found elsewhere only at 10: 35 and 11: 26, with the cognate misthapodotes at 11: 6 only.  The force of the compound word is, to give back an equivalent, hence a “just recompense

 

 

Oh, let this be grasped.  God is a Rewarder of them that [Page 50] seek after Him (11: 6).  He gives back according to the earnestness and faith of the seeker.  It was by paying regard to the day of Christ, and the reward then to become available, that Moses was strengthened to throw up the honours and prospects of the royal house of Egypt (11: 26).  Men of this world have their portion in this life (Ps. 17: 14; Matt. 6: 2, 5, 16); the prospects of the disciple of Christ lie where Christ’s prospects lie, in the future; they are known by faith and hope.  It is for us to be courageous and bold as was Moses, for this will “receive great recompense of reward” (10: 35).

 

 

The word recompense is a good translation.  It means to make the scales even: to give back in goods the exact value received.  The day of Christ will be a period of the administration of justice, and rewards will be strictly equivalent to service and, suffering now.  So also will be the penalty attached to “neglect” by the Christian of the high privileges possible of attainment by faith.

 

 

Westcott says the word misthapodosia “appears to emphasize the idea of an exact requital of good or evil by a sovereign judge  Kelly translates it by “just retribution.” “Exact requital,” “just retribution”: Let us face this seriously, for it is a serious prospect for the un-heavenly believer.  Something of what this retribution may mean will be opened out in later warnings.  In this first and brief warning the basic elements of privilege and responsibility are concentrated, to be afterward expanded.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 51]

 

CHAPTER V

 

THE SUFFERING SON OF MAN

(2: 5-18)

 

 

Ch. 2: 5. For not unto angels did he subject the world to come whereof we speak. 6 But one hath somewhere testified saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him?  Or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

 

7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, And didst set him over the works of thy hands:

 

8 Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet.  For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him.  But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. 9 But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, of whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bring many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  11 For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying,

 

I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.

 

13 And again, I will put my trust in him.  And again, Behold, I and the children which God hath given me. 14 Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily not of angels doth he take hold, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

 

 

Verse 5. “For not to angels did He subject the oikoumene the about to be, concerning which we speak (i.e. which is our present subject).

 

 

1. After the foregoing exhortation the “for” resumes the [Page 52] chief subject from 1: 14, but gives it a deeper meaning and ground.

 

 

i. Again the Writer defines clearly his subject. He is speaking (a) of things future, “about to be,” not of the present aspect of salvation; and (b) of the inhabited universe which is to be. See par. iii above, p. 39.  This widest meaning of oikoumene is evidently intended here, for the argument to be developed is that man is the destined ruler of the whole universe.  Comp. 1 Cor. 3: 21-23: “all things are yours ... [the] kosmos”; either condition of existence in the kosmos, life or death; either period of time, present or future, which last idea is here expressed by the same term as in our passage “about to be” “all things are yours

 

 

That the heavens are to pass under the rule of man is seen at 1 Cor. 6: 2, 3: “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the kosmos? ... Do you not know that the saints shall judge angels?” the inhabitants of the heavenly portion of the kosmos.  Alas, that comparatively few Christians do know this; which is not surprising seeing that only a few teachers of the faith seem to know it with intelligence.

 

 

ii. The existing oikoumene is under the control of angels.  At the summit of the things invisible to man there are thrones (Col. 1: 16), and beneath these sovereign rulers are lower orders, lordships, princedoms, and general authorities.  These thrones had been seen in vision by Daniel (7: 9, “thrones were placed”), and later they were shown more distinctly to John (Rev. 4: 4).  The subject has been greatly obscured by the twenty-four elders being [mistakenly] regarded as men.  In my Revelation on that place it is shown, I trust conclusively, that they are heavenly beings.  The archangel has an army of subordinates (Rev. 12: 7, “Michael and his angels”).  Satan, the fallen cherub, likewise has subordinates: see the same ver. and ver. 9.  This angelic rule extends to the earth, as Daniel exhibits at large 4: 13, 23; the judgment scene of ch. 7: 10, 13, 22; 12: 1).  See also 2 Chron. 18: 12-22, and the Revelation.

 

 

iii. In the purpose of God the oikoumene of the future has not been put under the control of angels, but of men. This is a key thought, the resolving of many obscurities and perplexities which hinder believers from grasping the exact significance of the plans of God and the final and highest outcome of redemption.  It is the key to some present enigmas also.  At present God is not saving the human race entire and its affairs corporate, but is selecting from it the company that are to rule the universe, superseding the existing government.  He is preparing for a complete reorganizing of His entire empire, and is giving to these future rulers the severe training which is indispensable to fitting them for such responsible duties and [Page 53] high dignities.  The gospel has not failed, but is fulfilling the purpose God plainly announced, though not the end that many preachers have mistakenly proposed, namely, the conversion of the whole race.  That general and most desirable betterment of this sin-cursed earth is in the plans of God, but falls for accomplishment in the next period of the divine programme, not in this [evil] age.  There is manifest wisdom in a great Leader first training a body of efficient subordinates before seeking to reorganize society at large.

 

 

As with this whole salvation, so with this branch of it, it was the Lord Jesus who first began to announce it.  Of the servant who was faithful while his lord was from home Christ (Matt. 24: 46, 47) said that, on his return, “he will set him over all that he hath even as it was said later, “all things are yours  And again: “thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many things” (Matt. 25: 21, 23): and again: “thou wast found faithful ... have thou authority” (Luke 19: 17): and again: “ye have continued with Me in My trials, and I appoint unto you kingdomi.e. (as the absence of the article intimates) royal status and authority, “ye shall sit on thrones” (Luke 22: 29-30).  See also the promises to overcomers in the battles of [having to do with] the kingdom; especially Rev. 2: 26, “to him will I give authority over the nations,” and 3: 21, “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne

 

 

2. It is next shown that this destiny for man is foretold in the Old Testament in Psalm 8: “Thou didst put all things in subjection under his (man’s) feet  As usual, the Writer quotes from the LXX, whose rendering emphasizes the notion of subjection implied in the Hebrew “put under.”  The psalm is based on Gen. 1: 26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion  Man is made to rule; the whole universe is his realm.  His lust for power is the degraded survival of this grant from God; but alas, as a corrupted being he seeks his destiny by tyranny and cruelty, and in the pursuit of this ambition he destroys his kingdom and himself.  Moreover, his utmost endeavours fail of their goal; he can destroy but not improve his domains; nor can he thoroughly subdue his subjects, but beasts, birds, fishes, and creeping things defy and destroy him in turn, as he does them, and the forces of nature now serve, now blast him.  Indeed, “we see not yet all things subjected” to man (ver. 8).

 

 

In Gen. 1, Ps. 8, and Heb. 2 it is thus far man simply as man, not Messiah, that is in view; but our Writer widens the scope of the psalm to take the term “all things” in its fullest possible sense, that is, the universe entire.  But though this subjection [Page 54] is not yet a fact, it is God’s grant and purpose, “For in that He subjected all things unto him [man], He left nothing that is not subject unto him” (man).  Is, then, this original purpose of God to be frustrated?  Is man for ever to be deceived by Satan and oppressed by the fear of death? (14, 15).  By no means: for there is one Man in Whom this purpose of God is in process of fulfilment: “we behold Jesus crowned with glory and honour  His name as man is chosen with design.  In this Man the lost situation is recovered, and

 

 

“In Him the sons of Adam boast

More blessings than their father lost

 

 

i. In the grading of the universe man was made a little lower than the angels: comp. 2 Pet. 2: 11, angels “are greater in might and power” than man.  Therefore to fulfil the purpose of God for man the Redeemer must become man.  This He did.  He took a truly human nature, partook of “blood and flesh” - the vital element, the seat of bodily life, the blood, being named first to emphasize that the humanity of our Lord was vitally human, and not (as the Docetic heresy afterward affirmed) only externally and apparently human.  Thus in divine grace “He took the form of a bondservant, becoming in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man” (Phil. 2: 6-8).  “Being originally in the form of God” He became what before He was not, a man, born of a woman.  To deny this is to wreck the purpose of God for man, for only in His humanity can Christ fulfil that purpose.  Nor can any other man do this, for through rebellion every other man has lost the dominion granted, nor is able to regain it, being unable either to expiate the guilt of his rebellion or to bring his nature into subjection to the will of God (Rom. 8: 7, 8).

 

 

ii. Christ became man to do as man and for man what man cannot do for himself.  The sinner’s condition includes a triple misery.  (1) He is easily overcome by temptation.  (2) Through thus yielding and sinning he lies under sentence of death.  (3) He thus has the terror of a slave in relation to the executioner-in-chief of that sentence, the devil.  The vast majority of mankind have always worshipped demons for fear that these should injure or destroy them, and in man in general there is an instinctive reluctance to die.

 

 

He who would deliver man must meet effectually this threefold state.  This Christ did.

 

 

(1) Being truly man He submitted to the temptations and trials to which man is liable: “He hath been in all points tempted like as we are, sin apart” (4: 15).  This experience caused Him suffering (ver. 18); He felt the severity of the [Page 55] temptations; the suffering was real, acute.  Thus He understands our feelings, and now, in resurrection life, He is able to help us effectually, by sympathy, and by infusing into our enfeebled spirits His own moral energy, communicated by His Spirit sent forth into our hearts.

 

 

(2) But more was needed than moral improvement, even a work that should make that improvement possible. Man must die as the legal penalty of his sin (Gen. 7: 17; Rom. 6: 23): that is, the soul, the ego, must part from the body in which alone he can act on this earth, and the body must lose that animating principle, spirit, without which it will dissolve into dust.  Thereupon the soul must descend to a distinct and altogether lower realm and state of existence [in Hades].  This bitter and humiliating experience, including banishment from God and endurance of His holy wrath, man’s Redeemer must accept as if He had personally incurred our penalty by personally committing our sins.  This also Christ did: “Jehovah hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all”; “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”; “Who His own self bare our sins in His body on the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by Whose stripes ye were healed” (Isa. 53: 6; 1 Cor. 15: 3; 1 Pet. 2: 24).

 

 

By thus cancelling our guilt, as he who pays a debt thereby cancels it, Christ delivers from death those who by faith avail themselves of His sacrifice.  This deliverance is available for all: “that He might deliver all them” that feared death: but each must personally accept the Son of God and His atonement or not benefit by it (Gal. 3: 22; “all ... them that believe”).

 

 

(3) Now he who cancels a debt by paying it thereby delivers the debtor from the hand of the bailiff, for he deprives the latter of legal right to touch the former debtor.  That Satan, under authority from God and restraint by God, acts as the executioner of the penalties of the law, lesser and greater, Scripture shows.  He acts personally, as in Job’s case (Job 1 and 2); and see 1 Kings 22: 21 “the spirit”); or he acts through subordinates (Ex. 12: 23; 2 Sam. 24: 16; 2 Kings 19: 35; Acts 12: 23; Rev. 9: 11).

 

 

Of this power, as against the people of Christ, he has been deprived by Christ through His atoning death (Col. 2: 13-15).  At death the believer now commits his spirit to the Lord, as Stephen did (Acts 7: 59); he “falls asleep” and this “through Jesus” (1 Thess. 4: 14), not through Satanic action, unless indeed he foolishly place himself again under Satan’s authority by living in wilful sin as formerly, when he served the Devil (1 Cor. 5: 5; 11: 30; 1 Tim. 1: 20).  And while believers do die, as to the body, and go [as a disembodied soul] to that ‘paradise’ which is part of Hades, the world of the dead (Luke 23: 43; Eph. 4: 9), yet their [Page 56] Redeemer, in resurrection power, now holds the keys of that realm (Rev. 1: 18), and its gates shall not prevail to detain them there when the moment comes that He shall call them thence to share His resurrection (Matt. 16: 18).

 

 

Only one free from debts can meet the liabilities of another.  The Saviour of sinners must be without sin.  The Redeemer must have a nature free from sin and also be free in practice.  These conditions demanded such a birth as (1) should preserve Him from inherited taint of sin and tendency to sin.  Birth of a virgin mother by direct action of the Holy Spirit was an imperative necessity in order that He should be “holy” and “Son of God” (Luke 1: 35).  The absence of the article here implies that the humanity should share in His relation to God as Son.  (2) His birth must cause Him to be truly human, and so be able to pass through all stages of human development - weakness, dependence, growth in body and mind (Luke 2: 40), temptation, suffering, death; and (3) that He should be able to live without sinning; so that (4) He might be acceptable as substitute in law for sinners, the Lamb of God without blemish, and so fit for the altar of God (1 Pet. 1: 18-21).

 

 

And not only fit to be the victim but also qualified to act as the officiating Priest to present the victim before God on behalf of men (9: 14).  For having been made “like unto His brethren” He can be at once merciful toward them and faithful toward God (2: 17).  He is that competent Daysman, or umpire, for whom the suffering saint of a former age longed but saw only afar and by faith (Job 9: 33; 19: 25-27); but Whom the saint of to-day, by like faith, sees more nearly, a present acting Advocate at the throne of God, crowned with glory and honour.  He is there as our Representative, yea, more, as our Forerunner who has opened the way for His followers, that through faith and long-patience they may run His race after Him and arrive where He is (6: 20; 12: 1, 2).

 

 

3. This divine-human Redeemer and His whole life - His experiences, death, resurrection, and ascension, are God’s true “means of grace” for the fulfilment of His original and His standing purpose that man shall have universal dominion: “He is bringing many sons unto glory” (10).  This clause must be analysed, for it is another key statement as to the plans of God.

 

 

i. “Unto glory  Upon this see above (pp. 52-54).  Joseph, David, Daniel, Esther became more than subjects under their respective sovereigns.  Each attained to rulership and glory.  It is for such supreme honour that God is now training the co-heirs of His Son (Rom. 8: 17; 2 Tim. 2: 10- 12).

 

[Page 57]

ii. “Many sons unto glory  A royal father may have a large family, but of these only a few may prove competent to rule in the kingdom and share its glory.  It is of such that the term “son” is here used.  This is an important Biblical use of the term “son,” implying a child who has grown up, who resembles the father in intelligence and character, and can co-operate in his affairs.  This sense of the word affords yet another instance of teaching which “began to be spoken by the Lord” Jesus.  His early discourse, the Sermon on the Mount, gives it.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God ... Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; so that ye may become sons of your Father who is in the heavens, for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5: 9, 44, 45; and see Luke 6: 35, 36).  Here Christ spoke of disciples as already children of God, God was already their Father (“your Father”), for these had believed on the Son and so were born of God (John 1: 12, 13).  It was for such so to act that they might “become sons” of their Father.  The same meaning of “son” is applied by Christ to those who shall be accounted worthy of the first resurrection: “neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20: 34-36).

 

 

This force of “son” is the basis of the discussion in Gal. 3 and 4 as to the essential difference in spiritual relationship to God of believers before and since Pentecost.  So long as believers were under the law they were “children” (Gal. 4: 3), though heirs by promise, and were themselves ruled by guardians and their property managed by stewards: but now that the life-principle of an obedient faith has been introduced by the coming of the Redeemer, those who intelligently receive Him do, by baptism, “put on Christ,”* and as He is God’s Son they also, in Him thus become “sons of God” (Gal. 3: 26; 4: 4-7), and “because ye are sons God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father  The number is large who believe on Christ as Saviour but have no sense of sonship, nor experience of the Spirit of the Son crying, Father.

 

* This has no reference to regeneration, which is the renewing of the inward nature.  To “put on” is an external act; here, the profession of anew, advanced status of sons, not merely children.  Under the law, men of faith were regenerated, though baptism was not yet instituted; they became children of God.  Under the gospel, baptism is the avowal of sonship.

 

 

Of this the Old Testament usage of “son” is wholly confirmatory.  The common word for “son” comes perhaps 4,500 times.  Its usage Godward is as rare as its usage of the human [Page 58] relationship is frequent.  Once it is applied to Messiah as in resurrection (Ps. 2: 7).  In eight places it is used of angels (Gen. 6: 2, 4; Job 1: 6; 2: 1; 38: 7; Ps. 29: 1; 82: 6; 89: 6).  Six times it describes what the saved of Israel will become when, at the advent of their Messiah, they shall pass from the state of children into that of sons, and the Galatian argument be realized in them (Isa. 43: 6; 45: 11; Jer. 3: 14, 19, 22; 31: 20).  In only five places have we noticed it as used historically of Israelites of the past, and the histories show how utterly the majority failed to respond to the dignity open to them all in the purpose of God (Ex. 4: 22; 2 Sam. 7: 14; Isa. 1: 2; Ezek. 16: 21; Hos. 11: 1).

 

 

The argument of Hebrews is based on the truth set forth in Galatians, and even as in the latter epistle believers were exhorted to value their exalted status, to stand fast in its freedom, and not to sink back into the former and legal condition, so are those here in view exhorted and warned to the same effect; for the same danger imperilled their reaching the final privileges open for attainment as sons of God.  This will illuminate these arguments and warnings as we reach them.

 

 

The burden of Hebrews is not the rescuing of sinners from hell, nor even the blessings of children in the vast family circle, but it is the bringing of sons unto glory.  Of old Israel did not reach the enjoyment of being God’s son, His firstborn son and heir (Ex. 4: 22).  In this [disobedient] Christians also may fail.  In essence this teaching and warning are continued to the end of the Word of God, for on its last page but one it is said by Him that sitteth on the throne, and said of the time and scene of glory, “He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be God to him, and he shall be to Me son” (Rev. 21: 7).  This is something greatly greater than the blessing of the water of life promised immediately before to the thirsty (ver. 6).  This latter is the initial gift of grace, the former is the final fruition of grace.  The one requires no more than thirst and the faith to drink; the other demands faith that fights and conquers.  It is to this latter and indispensable matter of conquest that Hebrews is directed.

 

 

Had this emphasis by the Writer himself upon what is his theme been generally recognized, most perhaps of what has been said upon his warnings would never have been written, and thus had controversy and confusion been much reduced.

 

 

4. The Son Perfected by Suffering.

 

 

i. Its Necessity.  ii. Its Nature.  A goal so noble being in view, and such measures being indispensable to reaching it, it became Him (the Father), for whose glory all things exist, [Page 59] and through Whose will and power all things came into existence, to make the Author of the salvation of the many sons perfect through sufferings.  Here again the word salvation is used in its third sense, as equivalent to being “brought unto glory

 

 

The Son did not need to be made perfect in His relationship to the Father or in His moral character: these were eternally and inherently perfect.  But had He remained as He originally was, on equality with God, never could He have become the Author of salvation or have brought many sons unto God and glory.  The corn of wheat would have continued perfect in its kind but would have remained alone.  But love to His Father constrained Him to become man, for that was the will of the Father (John 14: 31); and love to us strengthened Him to suffer with and for us to save us.  And having thus entered into our conditions, for Him, as for us, the way to glory lay through death and resurrection (John 12: 23-28), for

 

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,

Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown”:

 

and so “because of the sufferings of death we behold Jesus crowned with glory and honour.” Comp. Isa. 53: 12: “therefore”; Phil. 2: 9: “wherefore”; Rev. 5: 9: “Worthy art Thou ... for Thou wast slain

 

 

5. His Exaltation as Man assures Salvation for Man.

 

 

By the grace of God Christ tasted death for every man.  His exaltation gives effect to the purpose for which He died.  Risen from the dead He is the Executor of His own will and testament (9: 16, 17).  The fourteen Romish Stations of The Cross end with His burial.  It suits a system of priestcraft to leave Him there in the minds of its devotees.  For were He still in the tomb no present salvation or present assurance of salvation were possible, and the priest can batten on the dread uncertainties of the souls that so think.  Were Christ not risen it would be plain that His sacrifice had not been sufficient to discharge the claims of the law against the sins for which He assumed responsibility and died.  As long as the criminal is in prison it is clear that the law is not satisfied.  But His having been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father Himself, and rewarded with highest glory and honour in the Presence on high where no sin can be tolerated, is God’s own witness to the sufficiency of His atoning death.

 

 

“He tasted death for every man”; and His ascension makes the mighty benefits of this available to faith.  As the salvation and glory of man (not, in possibility, of other beings) is the subject in hand, it seems better to confine the words here to [Page 60] man, and not to extend their scope to others.  Ch. 9: 23; Rom. 8: 18-25, and other scriptures show a wider blessing to flow from the cross.  Here the truth stated is that given in, e.g. 1 Tim. 2: 1-6, where the triple “all” of vers. 1, 4, 6 covers the whole of mankind.  This is seen in 1 John 2: 2 also, a statement equally definite and universal.  Redemption is provided for all men: alas, that not all men avail themselves of it by repentance and faith.

 

 

6. vers. 11-13.  The Son and His Brethren.

 

 

i. One Father.  Having thus united Himself to mankind, and the believing of mankind to Himself, both He and they derive their nature and prospects from one Source, the Father; and the Son therefore acknowledges them as brethren.  They call Him (not Brother or Elder Brother; such terms lack elementary reverence, but) Teacher and Lord and own themselves His slaves: but He in grace calls them His brethren, and introduces them to, and empowers them for, that life of trust in the living Father which was and is the principle and power of His life of praise unto God.

 

 

ii. ver. 16. The Redeemer human, not angelic.  Seeing that the end proposed concerned man, the Redeemer did not take hold of (ally Himself with; Green, The Twofold New Testament, in loco) angels, but of man.  (The translation “doth not give help to angels” asserts more than is revealed, and is unwarranted).  He must descend lower than to the angelic rank and sphere, for the creature He would raise was lower than angels, and to have shared their nature and experiences would not have fitted Him to save man.  But now, in resurrection, He is the High Priest perfectly competent to fulfil the whole counsel of God, even to this its chief intent, the bringing many sons unto glory.

 

 

iii. ver. 12.  And being brought there, their first and chief office will be praise, and the incitement to this will be their full appreciation of the Name of God, of what God Himself is as expressed in His name.  And of the praise of that heavenly chorus the Son will be the Precentor.  He closed His life in the flesh by leading His faithful followers in a song of praise, most probably in the words of Ps. 118, and then He went forth to die (Matt. 26: 30).  So blessedly full was His heart of filial trust in His Father that even when forsaken on the cross He was in the spirit of that word of prophecy, “But Thou art holy,” thus praising the character of His God.  He will resume that praise in fellowship with the glorified before God on high in heaven, the native home of joy and worship.

 

[Page 61]

We often sing

“Oh, that with yonder sacred throng

We at His feet may fall, join in the everlasting song,

And crown Him Lord of all

 

 

Proper and blessed indeed it is to address and worship the Son (Matt. 28: 17; Rev. 5: 8-14); yet for the glorified saint the standing and service are higher.  We are to stand around Him; and He in the midst of that most august of all congregations will lead the praise beyond Himself (all-worthy as He is!) to His and our God and Father, to Whom be glory for ever and ever.  Even now the songs and prayers of this character are the highest, when His people meet with Him in the midst, and He brings them to God in heart-fellowship and spiritual worship.  This is the sweetest foretaste of the realm and service to which the pilgrims of hope urge their way, by the grace of the High Priest whom we confess.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 62]

 

CHAPTER VI

 

THE SECOND EXHORTATION AND WARNING

(3: 1 to 4: 13)

 

 

“Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus

 

 

Ch. 3: 1.  Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus; 2 who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house. 3 For he hath been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by so much as he that built the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some one; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; 6 but Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end. 7 Wherefore, even as the Holy Spirit saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice; 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, like as in the day of the temptation in the wilderness; 9 wherewith your fathers tempted me by proving me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was displeased with this generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart: but they did not know my ways; 11 as I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.

 

12 Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: 13 but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called To-day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: 14 for we are become partakers with Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end: 15 while it is said, To-day if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For who, when they heard, did provoke? nay, did not all they that came out of Egypt by Moses? 17 And with whom was he displeased forty years? was it not with them that sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that were disobedient? 19 And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbefief.

 

[Page 63]

Ch. 4: 1.  Let us fear therefore, lest haply a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also did they: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because they were not united by faith with them that heard. 3 For we who have believed do enter into [are entering into (R. Govett)] that rest; even as he hath said, As I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he hath said somewhere of the seventh day on this wise, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works; 5 and in this place again, They shall not enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some should enter thereinto, and they to whom the good tidings were before preached failed to enter in because of disobedience, 7 he again defineth a certain day, saying in David, after so long a time, To-day, as it hath been said before, To-day if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Joshua had given them rest he would not have spoken afterward of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

 

 

1. THE FAITHFUL APOSTLE.

 

 

i. ver. 1. Those addressed.  Notice again the triple statement as to the kind of persons addressed.

 

 

(1) “holy”: set apart unto God, and therefore, as in 1 Cor. 1: 2, “called to be saints,” to be holy persons in fact as in standing.

 

 

(2) “brethren”: members of the divine family, born of God, called to walk in love with all others of the family.

 

 

(3) “partakers of a heavenly calling  Israelites were sharers in high privileges connected with this earth, privileges associated, as to their enjoyment, with the land of Canaan.  Christians are citizens of a realm above this earth (Phil. 3: 20); our portion is in the heavens.

 

 

It is only by persons of whom these three things are actually true that the ensuing exhortations can be obeyed, only in such can the warnings bear fruit.

 

 

ii. The Apostle of our Confession.  What Moses was of old [Page 64] to Israel that, and very much more, Jesus is to the people of God to-day.  The children of God’s covenant with Abraham their father had sunk in Egypt into heathen darkness (Josh. 24: 14).  They did not know even the name of the God of their ancestors (Ex. 3: 13). They were enslaved by the religion, vices, and tyranny of Egypt.  Moses became God’s commissioned messenger (apostle) to enlighten, redeem, and emancipate them.

 

 

He enlightened them by his words, redeemed them from the capital punishment due to sin by means of the blood of the passover lamb, and led them into freedom by the passage through the Red Sea, their baptism (1 Cor. 10: 2) into companionship with him in his separation from Egypt.  Thus under his leadership they became partakers of the earthly calling and earthly privileges of their ancestors.

 

 

All this, only in deeper and higher measure, Jesus is to us to-day.  He brings a fuller knowledge of God, making known to us the name of God as Father (John 17: 6, 26).  He has wrought a fuller, even an eternal redemption (9: 12); with introduction to the richer blessings of the new covenant, both for the inner life now, and with nobler prospects, even the heavenly, for the future.  And as it was necessary for each Israelite to trust, follow, and obey Moses if he would enjoy in fact the advantages of the new position into which the grace of God had called him, and which the power of God could assure to him, so must we set our undivided attention on Jesus.  For just as through failure to trust and obey Moses many Israelites, though redeemed by blood, and set apart to God through their baptism, failed to enjoy the advantages of that position, even so must we give all heed lest we fall away and lose our [millennial and] heavenly privileges. If this is not the argument of these chapters they seem to have no definite meaning or force.

 

 

Yet as failure to enjoy the blessings possible in the wilderness, or to secure possession of the land of promise, did not undo the redemption by blood from temporal death in Egypt, so neither does failure to attain to the heavenly [and earthly] prospects* forfeit the redemption from eternal death secured by the precious blood of Christ.

 

[* That is, to be “equal unto the angels” (Lk. 20: 36), is to have the ability enter both spheres of Messiah’s coming Kingdom.  Eating and drinking at Messiah’s “table,” in His Kingdom (Rev. 3: 21), is an earthly privilege and a divine promise, (Luke 22: 30, R.V.).]

 

 

iii. The High Priest of our Confession.  Israel needed not only a God-given Leader to regulate their affairs for God, but also a God-given Priest to regulate their affairs with God.  Two lawyers were discussing whether man needs a priest in relation to God; the Catholic said Yes, the Protestant No.  A well-known Q.C. offered the opinion that the Catholic had the best of the argument, that man does need a priest; but, he added, that where he differed was that the Catholic had the wrong [Page 65] priest.  He said that many years before he had committed his soul’s affairs to the Lord Jesus Christ as his priest, and he needed no human priest.

 

 

It has been usual to view Moses as the type of Christ as God’s Messenger (Apostle) and Aaron as the type of the High Priest, and in ch. 5 Aaron is thus used.  Yet it may be well to recall that Moses was the priest, and the chief priest, in Israel before ever Aaron was appointed.  It was Moses who instructed the people as to the offering of the Passover sacrifice (Exod. 12: 21).  It was he who led the priestly worship and praise for deliverance at the Sea (Exod. 15: 1).  It was he who built the altar that celebrated the victory over Amalek (Exod. 17: 15, 16).  Moses announced to the whole people that, upon condition of obedience, God would regard them as a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19: 5, 6).  It was Moses who sanctified the people to be ready to meet their God (Exod. 19: 14).

 

 

At Sinai it was Moses, and Moses alone, who drew near unto God as representing the nation; who again built an altar; who directed younger men in the priestly work of offering sacrifices at the foot of Sinai, thus acting as being himself in some sort chief priest; and he it was who sprinkled the blood of the covenant upon the book and the people (Exod. 24: 1-8).  There were priests before the law was given, and Moses directed them (Exod. 19: 22), as their chief.

 

 

It was Moses who rendered to the people the priestly service of bringing to them the laws of their God and teaching them His statutes.  This was priestly work, even as it is written: “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts” (Mal. 2: 7).

 

 

It was Moses who had access to that earlier tent of meeting which preceded the Tabernacle (Exod. 33: 7-11), and who also became so striking a type of Christ ascended by drawing near to God on the top of the mount. On different occasions of awful peril he interceded for the sinning people and secured their pardon (Exod. 32: 30-35; Num. 14: 13-35).  This pardon, however, did but exempt them from the capital sentence, but left them subject to needed chastisement.  Comp. David’s case, 2 Sam. 12: 13, 14.  In this also Moses and his intercession were an exact parallel to our great Priest; for He interceded for Peter, but did not seek his exemption from severe sifting by Satan (Luke 22: 31, 32); nor did his work on high preserve Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), or the evil living believers in Corinth, from death or lesser chastisement (1 Cor. 11: 30); and our epistle (12: 1-13) will emphasize that those who are the sons of God, and so subjects of the priestly ministry of the [Page 66] Son, must nevertheless expect the Father’s scourging so that they may partake of His holiness.

 

 

And very striking it is, as showing Moses’ rank as the true chief priest, that it was he who inducted Aaron and his sons into the office, offering the sacrifices on their behalf, when the time came for one family to exercise the priestly office because the people as a nation proved unfit for so sacred a service (Lev. 8).

 

 

Thus was Moses at the first both Prophet, and Priest, as also King in Jeshurun (Deut. 33: 5), and was thus as full a type as possible of the Son of God.  It may be, therefore, that in our passage it is Moses alone who is in view as apostle and high priest, and that later, in ch. 5, Aaron is brought in as type when the duties of the priest are to be considered in detail.

 

 

iv. Fidelity Indispensable.  The supreme feature of Moses and of Christ in these offices was fidelity.  God laid on Moses extraordinary responsibilities and burdens.  No other man ever undertook so severe a task.  But God had reared him in Egypt and disciplined and tempered him in the desert.  In the royal palace he had learned to govern men, in the desert to govern himself.  The former developed strength and confidence, the latter weakness and dependence.  The benefit of the earlier years remained, sanctified and safeguarded by humility gained in the desert, and he was found faithful in all God’s affairs.

 

 

Jesus, the Man, is also faithful.  From eternity dwelling in the eternal glory of God, the Doer of all the works of God, the Ruler of all creation, He learned by experience on earth what it is to obey and suffer.  He was tested at all points by all means, and was proved faithful in all things.

 

 

It is this that we are called to ponder.  We too are destined to rule, we too must be trained to obey.  We are, and are yet to be, stewards, of God, and it is required in stewards that one be found faithful (1 Cor. 4: 2).  “The fruit of the Spirit is (not faith, as A.V., but) faithfulness”, dependability (see pistis in LXX, Lam. 3: 23; Jer. 5: 1).  I watched a managing director write a letter of commendation for a clerk who was leaving.  It concluded: “Mr. X. can be relied upon to carry out anything he undertakes to carry out  The Christians here addressed were being hard-pressed by the Devil to show themselves undependable toward God.  Let them therefore consider the faithfulness of Jesus under all the mighty trials of His pathway in the same desert, as well as in His present patience and service; and then the Lord would direct their hearts into His love and into the patience of Christ (2 Thess. 3: 5).  Thus by the very patience of Christ filling them, they will wait steadfastly [Page 67] for His and their day, even as He is patiently waiting for it, and will not be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1: 23).

 

 

v. The House of God.  A house is a building where a person dwells and can be found.  God being spirit dwells in a spirit dwelling, and especially in and among living persons, manifesting Himself to and in their spirits, causing them to display His own glory, His holiness.  A material dwelling is not essential to such a dwelling of God on earth (Acts 7: 47-50).  Such a structure as tabernacle or temple is simply a condescension to man’s limited ability to recognize God as at hand in spirit.  In the finally perfected conditions of heaven there will be no temple (Rev. 21: 22).

 

 

It was intended at the first that it should be thus with Israel.  “When Israel went forth out of Egypt ... Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominion” (Ps. 114: 1, 2).  The earthly building was but a visible exhibition of the existing spiritual reality, the presence of God: it did not create the latter but merely displayed it to the eye.

 

 

The church of God is now to be such a structure: “that thou mayest know how it behoves to behave in the house of God, [the] church of [the] living God, pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15); i.e. it is the office of God’s people, singly and unitedly, to exhibit and maintain before men the truth concerning God and His Son, and to demonstrate His presence among His people.  One instance of this dwelling of God with His church is that, when Christians are together, and their worship and teaching are ordered and energized by the Spirit of God, the unbeliever will be constrained to exclaim “God is among you indeed” (1 Cor. 14: 24, 25).  A severe test this of the actual spiritual state of a church.

 

 

This figure of a house is the first and chief figure to teach the privileges attaching to association with the Son of God; as He said: “On this the rock [the truth of His own Messiahship and Deity confessed] I will build My church” (Matt. 16: 18).  It was employed frequently by Christ and the apostles (Luke 12: 35-48; Matt. 24: 45-51; Eph. 2: 19-21; etc.).  It is a loss when this first and principal figure of a building is neglected and the figure of the “body” is overstressed, as if it expresses all truth as to relationship with Christ.

 

 

It is to be observed that “house” often merges into and means “household,” the inhabitants rather than the structure.  Thus Nathan said to David, “Jehovah will make thee a house” (2 Sam. 7: 11); and so in Eph. 2 cited: “ye are of the household of God  Over this household the Son of God is the sole Ruler (ver. 6).  In this sphere He alone holds rights direct from the [Page 68] Father of the family: all lesser authority (as, e.g. of elders) is derived from the Son, and is to be exercised strictly according to His directions, without variation caused by human opinion or preference (see 8: 5).  Here is one chief matter in which faithfulness is required from His servants, and far too seldom has it been found.  Man’s desires and ideas have largely ousted the rule of the Son as Head over God’s house, wronging Him and ruining the house.

 

 

Of old Moses acted for God in the capacity of chief servant, but Jesus acts as Son over the Father’s household. Moses dealt with things then present as indications in advance of nobler things to follow (3: 5): Christ has now introduced those higher and heavenly arrangements, and will duly bring them to eternal completion.  How blessed to be dutiful and faithful and to walk in this divine sphere, rather than to turn back to the earthly, imperfect, and transitory foreshadowings of it.  Yet Christendom has largely done this, by its resumption of the visible and fleshly in worship, and in the arrangements for what it calls God’s house.  Stately edifices, elaborate ceremonies, splendid vestments, a caste of priests or ministers, altars, sacrifices, incense, music - what is all this but a lapse back from the heavenly and spiritual to the elements and weakness of the Mosaic and external which Christ abrogated (John 4: 19-24)?  It was against this that the Writer uttered his warnings and appeals: would that they had been generally heeded, and that the household had held fast to the Head of the house.

 

 

2. The Warnings.

 

 

Let us give most earnest attention to these.  They are four, based upon the conditions for sharing in i. the house of God; ii. companionship with the Messiah; iii. for reaching Canaan; iv. for sharing in God’s sabbath rest.

 

 

i. “Whose house are we IF” (3: 6)

 

 

(1) Judah God’s Sanctuary.  Writing from the distance of many centuries the psalmist here cited could say that it was “when Israel went forth out of Egypt” that “Judah became His sanctuary  Yet in the fact this was not so till a whole year after they left Egypt (Exod. 40: 17).  It was not till the first day in the second year that the tabernacle was reared up and God descended to dwell among them.  This is seen in three further particulars: (a) that to meet God Moses had to ascend the mount (Exod. 19: 20, etc.): (b) that the earlier tent, where Moses alone met God face to face, was beyond the limits of the camp (Exod. 33: 7-11). These audiences were occasional, and the cloud, the sign of the presence of God, descended on those occasions.  (c) It was on the summit of Sinai that God [Page 69] said to Moses “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exod. 25: 8).

 

 

(2) Redemption and Baptism necessary but inadequate.

 

 

Thus redemption and baptism (of both of which Israel had partaken in type) do not of themselves assure the indwelling of God in a believer.  The first disciples were sincere believers in Christ, devoted to Him, and used in service, long before Pentecost. Comp. also Acts 8: 4-17; 19: 1-6.  The case of Cornelius and his friends shows that the indwelling may take place at the very moment of first faith in Christ (Acts 10: 44-48); the other instances show that it may come later.  But until that indwelling at Pentecost the first Christians, though regenerate, were not yet a house unto God, and until an individual believer is so indwelled neither is he.

 

 

(3) Israel nearly missed this honour.

 

 

Israel only narrowly escaped the entire forfeiture of the dignity of becoming a house unto God.  Because of their sin in making the golden calf God said (Exod. 33: 2), “I will send an angel before thee ... for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people; lest I consume thee in the way  But Moses felt that no angel could afford him sufficient support for his heavy responsibilities, and he argued the case before God until the promise was given, “My presence shall go - i.e. in the midst of the people, see ver. 31, and I will give thee rest” (Exod. 33: 12-16), that is, while still carrying his load.

 

 

(4) Israel twice lost the honour.

 

 

God continued to dwell with Israel until they in their blindness and carnality trusted in the symbol of His local presence, the ark of the covenant, and not in Himself; whereupon, suffering them to take their own course, “He delivered His strength into captivity” by the Philistines, and “forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh” (1 Sam. 4; Ps. 78: 60-62; Jer. 7: 12).  Thenceforth He was not in their midst, and consequently they ceased to be to Him a house.  It was so for just over a hundred years until He graciously descended in glory to Solomon’s temple. Here He dwelled until the wickedness of His people caused Him to abandon that house also and give it up to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. 10: 18, 19; 11: 23).  Never since has God dwelled among Israel or have they been His house, for the Glory did not return to the second temple.

 

 

(5) Applications to ourselves.

 

 

Thus the type shows that the indwelling of God may be withdrawn.  It had not been possible for the Chaldeans to destroy the temple while the God of glory was there.  It had not been possible for Satan to destroy the bodies of the wicked brethren at Corinth while the Spirit of God was indwelling them as His sanctuary (1 Cor. 5: 3-5; 11: 30).  An assembly [Page 70] also may corporately forfeit the presence of the Lord and cease to be His sanctuary.  Thus the Lord declared Himself to be outside of the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3: 20).

 

 

Surely it cannot be fairly doubted that this corresponds to patent facts and explains them.  There are men once owned much by God as His servants, once so filled with His Spirit that men came into contact with God in them, but upon whom for long years “Ichabod” has been plainly written, The glory is departed!  There are Sardian churches of whom it is sadly true that they have a name to live and are really dead (Rev. 3: 1).  But if they are [spiritually] dead then the [Holy] Spirit of life cannot be in them.  It is spiritual folly to maintain a theory against facts.  Wisdom admits the facts and accepts the remedies (Rev. 3: 3, 18, 20).

 

 

Every [regenerate] believer might be indwelled by the Spirit of God, but not every [regenerate] believer is; every [regenerate] believer might know this indwelling to the end of life, but not every [regenerate] believer does. And hence the powerful warning before us: "Whose house are we [emphatic] IF the boldness and the boasting of the hope [of sharing the [manifested millennial] glory of God; see Rom. 5: 2 [and Hab. 2: 14]] steadfast unto the end we should hold fast  The aorist subjunctive used kataschomen regards the holding fast as one continuous act completed at the end of each life, and the verb takes emphasis at the close of the sentence.  “If” with the subjunctive declares a condition.  Being to God as a dwelling place depends upon steadfastness of hope and of witness to that hope.*  Similarly does Col. 1: 22, 23 lay down that our being “presented before” the Lord, “holy and without blemish and unreprovable,” depends upon the same steadfastness: “if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the good tidings which ye heard

 

[* See the author’s book – The Personal Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.]

 

 

By the third century the hope of the gospel had been too generally abandoned, though they still professed the faith; they avowed salvation to come through Christ and His death, but had given up His return [and consequent millennial reign (Ps. 110: 2; Luke 1: 32, R.V.)] as the true hope of the Christian.  In consequence the many who named the Name readily accepted the proposal of the world to become the official State religion, and the presence and power of God in the churches that did so soon ceased.  Thenceforth it has been the minority that have confessed the hope and walked in Abraham’s path as a stranger among the peoples, and always it has been among such that the spiritual glory of God has been displayed.

 

 

Israel and we may remain the people of God - they beloved still for the fathers’ sake and we for Christ’s sake - yet cease to be to God for a house, a dwelling place.  As we have seen, the tabernacle and temple are used in the New Testament as types of the believer and the church; but it is for us to benefit [Page 71] by the whole typical history, its course and conclusion, not only its glorious commencement, and to profit by its warnings as well as its comfort.

 

 

As regards the church of this age and its testimony, it began with Pentecost, it will end with apostasy (Matt. 24: 12; 2 Thess. 2: 1-3; 1 Tim. 4: 1-3).  The grave peril is that we may “fall from our own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3: 17).  Whether one will reach the [millennial] glory and rule the nations depends upon whether he overcomes and keeps the Lord’s works unto the end (Matt. 24: 13; Rev. 2: 26).  Salvation from perdition is definitely without works (Rom. 4: 1-8), and to teach otherwise is to falsify the gospel: but equally definitely ruling with Christ [during the “age” to come] depends on works, as Rev. 2: 26 states, and to teach otherwise is to falsify our hope, by putting it on a false basis.  Here it is fidelity that matters, in us as in Moses and in Christ.

 

 

ii. Messiahs Companions. (3: 14).  Moses had his personal attendant, Joshua.  David had the “king’s friend,” Hushai (1 Chron. 27: 33).  Rehoboam had “the young men that were grown up with him, that stood before him” (2 Chron. 10: 8).  The Lord in His [messianic] kingdom will have those who “walk about with Him in white,” arrayed thus in white garments then because they overcame now in the battle with sin and did not defile their garments here (Rev. 3: 4, 5).  They are “the called and chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17: 14).  It is faithfulness that matters.

 

 

To the little band who, in spite of failings and failures, had gone through with their Teacher and Lord to the end, He said: “I come again, and [at that time, i.e., at the time of their resurrection, (1 Thess. 4: 16)] will receive you unto Myself, that where I am [at any time] ye may be also” (John 14: 3).  He had said before: “If Me any one serve, Me let him follow; and where I am there shall also My servant be: if any one serve Me, him will the Father honour” (John 12: 26).  Complacency makes this to read, If any one believes on Christ as Saviour, he shall be with Christ and be honoured by the Father.  But the Lord said that companionship with Himself, and being honoured by the Father, results from serving and following.  And the context is that following Christ involves being a corn of wheat that dies to itself that it may live in others.  Therefore let the believer ask: Whose interests am I serving: Christ’s or my own, Christ’s or those of this world?  Whose maxims, whose example, whose ambitions and ends do I follow: those of Christ or of others?  In the nature of the case only one who does literally follow the steps of another can arrive where that other arrives.  Another path will lead to another place.

 

 

The summit of the Christian’s true ambition is the immediate presence and continual company of the Son of God in glory. [Page 72] The honour and the bliss of this is otherwise pictured as the mutual joy of bridegroom and bride.

 

 

“He and I in that bright glory

One great joy shall share;

Mine to be for ever with Him,

His that I am there.”

 

 

Elsewhere this dignity is set forth as sitting with [Christ] the King on the royal dais at a banquet (Luke 22: 30), and again, as sharing His throne (Rev. 3: 21).  In all such relationships the dominant thought is that of sharing habitually the personal company of the Lord.  And this is the distinctive element in the word companions, i.e. being habitually in the company of one another; and it is equally the distinctive thought of the word thus translated metochos.

 

 

To his translation of Heb. 3: 1, where this word is found (“partakers of a heavenly calling”), Darby adds the note: “Here metochoi, who have been made, called to be, partakers of it.  They had been koinonoi of Israel’s rights  These two words are indeed so similar in meaning as both to be rendered partakers and partners.  But one may be a “sleeping” partner, and never be seen at the business; but the metochoi would be habitually together conducting affairs in common.  The word is used in the LXX at Eccles. 4: 10, and Ps. 45: 7 before considered.

 

 

Too many Christians are content to have a share in the “common salvation,” and show little desire or care to enjoy the company of the Lord or of their fellow-partners.  How shall such indifference here lead to intimacy there?  No; ch. 1: 9, using the same word, speaks of the Lord having companions; our present verse (3: 14) declares that “companions [emphatic] of the Christ [the Messiah] we have become if at least [eanper] the beginning of the assurance unto the end steadfast we may hold  We “have become” such companions as regards the calling and purpose of God, and we may enjoy this privilege already in heart fellowship with Christ: we shall become such in outward and visible and glorified reality IF we are steadfast unto the end of our course.  It is reaching well the end of the race that matters as to gaining the prize.  He who fails in staying power, and does not reach the goal, does not lose his [eternal] life, but he does lose the prize.  It will be much to be in the kingdom of the saved: it will be far, far more to be a companion of the King.  Ponder this second IF!

 

 

Note on eanper, if.  It comes here and at 6: 3 only in the New Testament.  It is not found in LXX, but Grimm-Thayer [Page 73] here is wrong in stating it is not in the Old Testament Apocrypha.  It is in 2 Mace. 3: 38, and the passage distinctly shows its emphatic sense.  Heliodorous had been sent by the king of Syria to rob the temple at Jerusalem.  Angels had appeared and flogged him nearly to death, his life being spared only at the intercession of the high priest.  Upon the king asking him who should next be sent on the errand he answered: “If thou hast any enemy or conspirator against the State, send him thither, and thou shalt receive him back well scourged, if he even escape with his life” (eanper kai diasitheie).

 

 

iii. Reaching Canaan. “they were not able to enter in” (3: 19).

 

 

Nothing is clearer than that every redeemed Israelite that left Egypt had a right to enter Canaan.  The purpose and promise of God were universal to them as sons of Abraham.  Their title was beyond question.  Yet nothing is plainer than that of the 600,000 adult men who left Egypt only two, Joshua and Caleb, did in fact enter Canaan.  The histories of this failure are narrated with significant fulness (Num. chs. 13 and 14).  The grounds of failure and of success are stated with unmistakable distinctness.  The later references to it are striking and solemn.  Ps. 95 impressed it upon Israel; Heb. chs. 3 and 4 impress it upon us; and the detail use of the failure in 1 Cor. ch. 10 emphasizes that the warning is as fully applicable to Gentile Christians as to converts from Judaism.

 

 

That Canaan must be won is as certain as that it may be lost.  That the promised power of God was adequate and available to enable them all to take possession was no guarantee that they would get possession.  In the cases of the few who did so the praise belonged to their God of grace Who gave them the victory (Ps. 44: 3). That the majority did not reach the land [which God had promised*] was, as we are here told, because of [their] unbelief [in His words] and disobedience.

 

[* Anti-millennialists and Post-millennialists take note: we are not speaking here of entering Heaven! or of earth during this evil age! Num. 14: 23; Psa. 95: 11; Heb. 4: 1, R.V.  Their unbelief and disobedience occurred after they sheltered under the lamb’s blood in Egypt.  Ex. 12: 7, 13, R.V.; and before receiving their inheritance in the Promised Land.  Psa. 2: 8; Lk. 12: 31. cf. 22: 28-31; 23: 42.]

 

 

What is the antitype of Canaan for the [regenerate] Christian?  Whatever it is will have three dominant features. (1) It will be a gift of covenant grace, and therefore undeserved.  (2) It must be won by conflict.  No more is possessed than the warrior sets his foot upon (Josh. 1: 3). (3) It may be lost by distrust of God and disobedience to His commands.

 

 

The two last particulars show that neither justification [by faith] nor eternal life is in view, for these are described plainly as “free” gifts (Rom. 3: 24; 6: 23).  “Free” (dorean, charisma) means free of conditions, what is termed in law an absolute gift, as distinct from a conditional gift; a gift which therefore can neither be withdrawn by the donor nor forfeited by the receiver.  See Note A after ch. XIII, p. 196.

 

 

What, then, does Canaan represent to-day?  A careful examination of the records will show that the whole national history of Israel, from redemption in Egypt to Solomon, is one continuous type.  Parts of this type have been treated helpfully, especially the tabernacle; but it needs an Andrew Jukes to expound this subject as comprehensively, as spiritually, as profitably as in his Types of Genesis* he dealt with the long history from Adam to Joseph.

 

 

Slavery in Egypt is Rom. 1 and 2: redemption by blood is Rom. 3 to 5: freedom from Egypt, by passing through the Red Sea, is Rom. 6, baptism into fellowship with Christ in His death and risen life: the wilderness is Rom. 7: the crossing the Jordan is Rom. 8: 1-17, experimental transference from being “in flesh” (the wilderness) to being “in spirit” (the land of promise), and thus becoming free from bondage and its fear, even as Israel lost the reproach of having been a slave race by being circumcised at Gilgal, at the entrance of the land.  This leads to Rom. 8: 15, 16, the joy of adoption and communion, so as to become heirs of the goodly land thus reached.  This in turn involves suffering with Christ (Rom. 8: 17, 18), as Israel in the land shared with Joshua the sufferings of the wars of possession.  The history of Judges pictures the groaning and travailing of the church of God not yet perfected (Rom. 8: 22, 23), in which experiences there develop the still remaining weaknesses and failures of our mortal state, and in which the power of the hope of perfect possession and rest supports the [spiritually enlightened] godly (Rom. 8: 24,* 25).

 

[* Compare the word “saved” in verse 24 with 1 Pet. 1: 5, 9; Jas. 1: 12, 21, R.V.]

 

 

For the Christian [awaiting the time of resurrection] this hope is to be realized at the “redemption of the body” (Rom. 8: 23).  Thus the sequence of thought has reached the second coming of our Lord.  Now His own final word as to that His advent is that He will come as “the root and offspring of David” (Rev. 22: 16); that is to say, that David in his rejection, hardships, and wars was a type of Christ, now rejected and hidden, but whose public appearing will secure victory over Satan, with liberation for the earth, and glory for those who fought and suffered with Him. Thus did David's return to public life free Palestine from the Philis­tine oppression and bring to glory in his kingdom the men who had shared his rejection.

 

 

But Rom. 8: 19-21 adds the material feature that at that revelation of our now absent Lord, with the many sons who by then will have been brought unto glory, there is to be a releasing of creation itself from its pains and groans.  Previous [divine] prophecies had foretold this, as Ps. 72: 16; Isa. 11: 6-9; 30: 23-26; 55: 12, 13; etc.  In other words the period we have now reached in this line of thought is the millennial reign of Christ, the Prince of peace, the foreshadowing of which was the earlier [Page 75] part of Solomon’s reign of peace and glory.  But failure marked the close of that period, and failure will mark the close of the Millennium (Rev. 20: 7-10); whereupon will follow a final judgment and final reconstruction of [the “new”] heaven and earth, a new [creation] and eternal order.

 

 

Thus Canaan as a type does not extend beyond the days of Solomon, and therefore is not a picture of things eternal but of two things: (1) of the present era of spiritual conflict as in Joshua and Judges and in Eph. 6.  In this experience rich knowledge is gained of the power and goodness of God, but it is accompanied with groaning: but (2), and more fully, Canaan prefigured that millennial period, the era upon which hope is called to fix itself, even upon “the favour that is being brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1: 13).

 

 

Seeing that failure and sorrow marked Canaan through the whole past it cannot be a type of the eternal ages, for these will never be marred by failure.  It follows that it is the millennial glory which must be won and may be lost, won by faith that obeys, lost by distrust and disobedience.  To this there is no alternative except the forfeiture of eternal life and salvation entire, which meaning has been based [and is presently being based] upon our present chapters but which we think [and know to be] unscriptural.

 

 

This urgent theme will come again in ch. VI, where Israel’s fearful failure will be stated in detail and be applied to us of this age.

 

 

iv. The Rest of God.  “There remaineth therefore a sabbatism to the people of God.” (4: 9).

 

 

(1) Restfulness of nature is an essential quality of God.  A restless, anxious being could not be God.  This eternal quietness of spirit results from omnipotence.  The consciousness of possessing entirely adequate resources prevents fear of contingencies, indeed, foreknowledge allows of no contingencies.

 

 

(2) But rest of spirit is compatible with activity.  When sin had disturbed the original order of creation (Gen. 1, 2), God acted, became active, “the Spirit of God moved and “God said and thus set His energy in motion, and the reconditioning, of heaven and earth was effected (Gen. 1).

 

 

(3) That was accomplished in the six days, and on the seventh day “God rested from all His work” done in those six days (Gen. 2: 2).

 

 

(4) But again sin wrought ruin (Gen. 3), and again God resumed activity to restore order through redemption and regeneration.  This activity of God is still proceeding, even as the Son said when here, “My Father worketh even until now, [Page 76] and [therefore] I work” (John 5: 17).  This working of God will continue until that day when the Son will take over the active government of heaven and earth.  Until then the Father acts, even as He said to the Son, “Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (Ps. 110: 1; Matt. 22: 44; and in Heb. 1: 13).  This is another key word to the plans of God.

 

 

(5) When this end shall have been achieved, and the enemies of God and His Son have been subdued, then will God return unto His rest, as it is written: “He will rest in His love” (Zeph. 3: 17).  Now the time contemplated in this scripture is when Jerusalem is to be saved, Israel’s captivity to be ended, and that people to be a joy unto Jehovah (vers. 14 to 20), and He Himself be dwelling in their midst.  This supremacy of Christ and restoration of Israel is the beginning of the Millennium, which therefore is the era of God’s rest.  His sabbatism.

 

 

This is necessitated by the very word itself, for a sabbath rest is a rest that follows labour, and therefore cannot be that original, eternal rest of God mentioned in (1) above, for that rest preceded God’s activities, is never disturbed, and is not a sabbatismos.  Neither can the word intend the final epoch of [His new creation of] new heavens and [a new (Rev. 21: 1)] earth.  That will indeed be a[nother] rest after labour, but it will not be the hour when the Son will cease to sit at the right hand of the Father or the day when Israel will be restored nationally.  These events usher in the millennial rest, not the eternal.  God will rest when He shall have installed the Son as again the active Agent of the Godhead (Rev. 4 and 5).  Thenceforth, throughout the Millennium, the Son will carry forward the purposes of the Father, and at its close will complete them by establishing new heavens and earth.

 

 

(6) It is evident that Joshua and Israel did not reach this rest.  “The land had rest from war” (Josh. 11: 23), but that rest was incomplete and was temporary, for the conquest of the land was incomplete (Judges 1).  If that rest had been the rest of God spoken of in Num. 14, argues our Writer, God would not have been heard several centuries later speaking again of His rest and offering it to men, as in Ps. 95.  The conclusion is that therefore there still remains a Sabbath rest [i.e. a thousand-day-rest (See Gen 2: 17; 3: 18, 19; Rom. 8: 19-21; 2 Pet. 3: 8; Rev. 20: 3, 4, etc.] for [this cursed and groaning creation and for] the people of God.

 

 

(7) But it is vital to recognize that this rest is future to our present age.  It is not that rest of conscience toward God which the soul gains by reposing on the sacrifice of Christ, nor is it that peace of mind which is promised concerning the trials of the desert way and which trust on God confers (Isa. 26: 3, 4; Phil. 4: 4-7). These are a blessed foretaste of the other, but are not the Sabbath rest of God.  For these are our rest in God, [Page 77] the other God calls His own rest, “My rest  This cannot intend rest of conscience or freedom from fear of foes or of to-morrow, such distresses being wholly impossible to God.

 

 

The English Versions greatly obscure the meaning here by inserting a very small word, reading “we who have believed do enter into that rest” (ver. 3).  The Greek says: “For enter into the rest we (or those) having believed  This last verb is an aorist participle, which shows, as the context here indicates, that the whole course of faith is viewed as a completed [or finished] act of faith.  The course is finished, the goal is reached, and faith has characterized the runner to the end.

 

 

This is the more abundantly clear from ver. 10: “For the one entering into His [God’s] rest, also himself rested from his works as God did from His own works  “Rested” is again an aorist, and signifies that the [regenerate] believer has laboured and has reached once for all his [millennial] rest.  But this is precisely what no saint does while life on earth lasts [or at any time before his or her Resurrection, (1 Thess. 4: 16. cf. John 14: 3; Acts 2: 34; 2 Tim. 2: 18; Heb. 11: 40; Rev. 6: 9-11, etc.)].  Now is our period of toil and conflict, and to us who are afflicted rest comes “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven” (2 Thess. 1: 7).

 

 

(8) it appears therefore that the full intent of God’s solemn words to Israel in the wilderness meant more than that they should not enter Canaan at that time, but also that they should not share in that larger and more glorious era to which God has looking forward as to be His own rest, that is, the time and rule of Messiah.  This need cause no surprise, for it is certain that both Abraham and Moses had been instructed as to that future era, even as Christ said: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8: 56).  Now the period of the Lord’s humiliation was not “His day” but part of man’s day.  The day of the Lord is the chief Old Testament term for His second coming and rule in glory.

 

 

Likewise with Moses.  It was the prospect of reward in Messiah’s day that strengthened him to bear the loss and reproach of espousing the cause of Messiah’s people (11: 25, 26); and the close of his final prophecies shows how much he had been taught as to that era and that he passed on this knowledge to Israel (Lev. 26: 40-45; Deut. 32: 35-43; 33: 26-29).

 

 

It is clear that Israelites of like faith with Abraham were governed by like faith as to Messiah’s day.  This our Writer will display in ch. 11.  It is the great theme of all the prophets, and of them all Christ has said that they shall share in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also many from all lands; while many of the “sons of the kingdom,” the natural heirs to it, shall forfeit that era through lack of faith (Matt. 8: 10-12; Luke 13: 28, 29).  Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel are promised a share in that day as their reward for [Page 78] fidelity here (Zech. 3: 6-10; Hag. 2: 23).  Daniel also (Dan. 12: 13), as well as all who, like Abraham, have foregone this present world to lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 19: 21; Luke 18: 22; and contexts), and have so acted as to secure their recompense at the resurrection of the righteous, the first resurrection (Luke 14: 14).

 

 

(9) To the line of thought here being developed, concerning sharing or not sharing in the millennial kingdom, it will be objected that it will put the Christian under law as regards this prospect, and will negative grace.  This is a misconception.  The fact that Abraham and Moses lived in the light and power of Christ’s day before the law had been given at Sinai shows the true grounds of their hope to have been independent of that law.  The argument of Gal. 3: 15 - 4: 31 applies here.  The law came in later for certain needful ends, but it did not affect the preceding covenant with Abraham.  This latter included, not only justification but the promise of being “heir of the world” (Rom. 4: 13) and so of sharing in the day of Messiah, for only then will all the families of the earth be blessed under the covenant of God with Abraham (Gen. 12: 3).

 

 

Again, it was before Sinai that Moses accepted the reproach of Christ, looking on to His day for the reward.

 

 

Again, Joshua and Caleb reached that typical promised land, not because they were punctilious observers of the Levitical law, but on quite independent grounds.  These were as follows (Num. 14: 7-9; 13: 30):

 

 

(a) They set a just value upon their inheritance:  “The land is an exceeding good land  (b) They had a just confidence in God: “If Jehovah delight in us, then He will bring us into this land  (c) They had a just fear of the sin of rebelling against God: “only rebel not against Jehovah  (d) They had a just disregard of enemies and obstacles: “neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is removed from over them [that is, their demon gods will prove powerless], and Jehovah is with us: fear them not ... Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it

 

 

By contrast, the rest of the men of war (a) “despised the pleasant land,” (b) believed not God’s word of promise to give them that land (Ps. 106: 24), and “believed not in His wondrous works” (Ps. 78: 32; Num. 14: 11). (c) They were rebellious from the Red Sea and onwards (Ps. 106: 7), and at Kadesh Barnea they “hearkened not unto the voice of Jehovah” when He bade them to go up to the land (Ps. 106: 7, 25): and (d) in consequence of this lack of faith in God they were fearfully afraid of their foes.  The question, therefore, as to getting their inheritance was their heart attitude to that inheritance [Page 79] and to God Who had opened the way to it.  And we see that through that disobedience, and through unbelief as to that promise, they were not able to enter in (3: 18, 19).

 

 

(10) An all-inclusive fact and principle are stated in the inspired words: “So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham” ... and if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3: 9, 29).  All blessings, earthly and heavenly, to all men, Jews and Gentiles, flow through the covenant of grace God made with Abraham.  But each who would inherit must exercise the faith of the faithful Abraham (Rom. 4: 12, 13), even the kind of faith that made him a pilgrim and alien as to this scene where men distrust his God.

 

 

This covenant is revocable as against the distrustful and rebellious of the children of Abraham.  God had ratified that covenant with an oath; but upon the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea God cancelled that oath by another oath to the contrary (Num. 14: 23, 28; Ezek. 20: 5, 6, 15).  There is here no inconsistency on the part of God.  To the covenant with Abraham that his seed should possess the land God had added a condition that they should be circumcised (Gen. 17).  Now Rom. 2: 28, 29 shows that circumcision to be valid and effective must include circumcision of the heart, not merely of the flesh, and be shown by a man keeping the law of God in spirit not merely in the letter.  These men who came out of Egypt did not fulfil this condition.  Their rejection of Moses showed they were uncircumcised in heart, as were their later descendants who similarly crucified their Messiah (Acts 7: 51).  Ezek. 20 shows this at length.  And therefore Moses said to the following generation: “Circumcise therefore ... your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut. 10: 16).  It were immoral in God to grant favours in disregard of morality in man.  He cannot thus encourage sin in His [redeemed] people.  God will gladly circumcise the heart, and so make possible love and obedience; but if we will not consent to this it cannot be done, and then there will not be found in us the indispensable condition for inheriting the blessing.

 

 

“The righteousness of Christ is necessary to entitle us to heaven, personal holiness to qualify us for it. Without the former we could have no claim to glory; without the latter we could have no fitness for it” (Wesley: Wesley Studies, p. 205).*

 

* I use this terse statement simply as it stands in the work cited.  Its context I have not seen.

 

In consequence, God said to the 600,000 “ye shall know My alienation,” i.e. as the margin, “the revoking of My [Page 80] promise,” for though that promise was confirmed by an oath, it was limited by a condition (Num. 14: 34).  The word alienation is noteworthy.  It comes elsewhere only in Job 33: 10, where the afflicted saint expressed his misconception of God’s ways by saying “He findeth against me causes of alienation, He counteth me for His enemy  In Job’s case that was pure misapprehension, but as to Israel in the wilderness, some seven centuries later Isaiah said with sorrow that, in spite of God’s most abundant mercy and care, “they rebelled, and grieved His holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and Himself fought against them” (Isa. 63: 9, 10).  What Job wrongly feared was his case, was actually their case.

 

 

Thus their failure to reach both the typical rest and to secure the millennial rest is here solemnly urged upon us as a warning and an incentive.  It is not at all a question of them having been under law and we being under grace, for as regards the promised land, the rest of God. the heirship of the world, they were not heirs through Sinai but through Abraham, and through grace, as we also are and on the same terms and conditions, even that we must walk in the faith of our father Abraham.

 

 

“Who would share Abraham’s blessing

Must Abraham’s path pursue;

A pilgrim and a stranger,

Like him must journey through.

The foes must be encountered,

The dangers must be passed;

Only a faithful soldier

Receives the crown at last.”

 

                                        - Paul Gerhardt.

 

 

3. The Practical Applications.

 

 

1 “Harden not your hearts” 3: 8.  The call of God ran counter to their inclinations.  It was a clear command; Go up! but it threatened trouble and danger, which the weakness of unbelief could not face, so they hardened their wills against it.  Of this God said: “this people despise Me … tempt Me ... murmur against Me ... reject the land ... [they are] an evil congregation” (Num. 14: 11, 22, 27, 31, 35).  This is God’s view of unbelief and disobedience.

 

 

ii. Are there not Christians who have distinctly heard the call of God to Go up! - up into a higher, richer spiritual life with Himself, and to devotion to His will and His cause among men, but for whom the cost seemed. too high?  It involved loss of friends, or marriage, or business prospects, and portion and honour in this world and, perhaps there [Page 81] threatened also overt opposition, persecution, disgrace.  Have not true children of God failed at such tests?  Alas, I could narrate cases from personal knowledge.

 

 

Such turning back from the holy commandment involves a deliberate decision, a deliberate hardening of the will against God: this provokes Him to holy wrath, it greatly displeases Him (3: 8-10); it is described in ver. 12 as “apostasy from God, the living  Apostasy is to take up a different position from that formerly occupied. Faith adopts the attitude of obedience to God; rebellion is apostasy, the reverse attitude to faith the contrary attitude to that of Abraham, Moses, and Christ, each of whom is described as faithful.

 

 

iii. This hardening of the heart results from the deceitfulness of sin (13).  At such crises of apostasy the [regenerate] believer may beguile himself by most deceitful reasonings in his heart.  He may say I am saved from hell, other things are not of great consequence! or, I am a subject of sovereign grace; these fearful warnings cannot apply to me, but must refer to the unregenerate!  Or, I belong to the body of Christ, and I must share in the first resurrection or His body would be incomplete!  Or, God is not a stern taskmaster, but a loving Father; He will not think too hardly of His child for loving the pleasant things of time: indeed, are they not His own gifts for my enjoyment?  Or, The letter kills, it is the spirit that matters, so I need not put too strict obedience to the letter of Scripture!  Or, Quite good people act as I propose to do: indeed, Joshua and Caleb are a negligible minority!  Or, If I take the course I wish - if I marry an unconverted partner, or if I enter a business partnership with such, I may win him or her for Christ!  Or, If I make money and grow rich, I can do much good with it!  Or, I can use a high position in this world to promote morality!

 

 

By a such specious deceits, the more specious that in part they are perverted truths the heart is hardened, the rebellious spirit is confirmed and may reach permanence, until the [regenerate] believer risks the solemn sentence “They shall not enter into My rest,” but shall die in the wilderness; they shall never pass from Rom. 7 into Rom. 8. For it is only “if so be that we suffer with Christ that we shall be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8: 17). The spiritual desert is strewn with spiritual skeletons.  The all-knowing God knows that they are those of His faithless children, and at last the Spirit of life shall breathe into them resurrection energy unto eternal life (John 5: 28, 29; 6: 39, 40, “I will raise him up at the last day”; Rev. 20: 5); but such will have missed the [millennial*] rest of God, to their permanent loss.

 

[* That is, when “the creation will be freed from the bondage of the corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of the God” (Rom. 8: 21, Gk.): but there will also be work done during this time.]

 

 

iv. Therefore the urgent word of Ps. 95, “To-day,” is repeated in our passage no less than five times 3: 7, 13, 15; [Page 82] 4: 7, twice).  To-day!  Give immediate attention; render instant obedience to the call of God to go forward.  Do this to-day “IF ye shall hear His voice” offering to you this noble prospect.  Should you harden your heart perhaps He will not again give the call, or perchance you may have become dull of hearing (5: 11) and may not hear His voice; but if you do hear it, oh, “give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience” (4: 11).  We, as they, have had good tidings preached unto us; let each see to it that the message enters an honest and good heart, there to be mixed with faith, the faith that at once obeys the call, otherwise that word will be but as indigestible food which does not profit the receiver; yea, let it be our care to unite at once by faith with that minority who have preceded us in giving to God full obedience and confidence.

 

 

Let us be encouraged by the fact that we shall join the minority.  A great teacher said: “Brethren, we have a saying, Great is the truth and will prevail: but this is never so in this age; in this age truth is always with the minority; and so convinced am I of this, that if I find myself agreeing with the majority I make haste and get over to the other side, for I know I am wrong” (Dr. A. T. Pierson).  The sabbath rest remains, the offer is open still: if it should be repeated to you personally, then oh, give diligence!  Comp. 2 Pet. 1: 5-11, esp. 5 and 10.

 

 

v. 4: 12, 13.  Obedience to the Word of God is the crucial matter. God is the living God, not a dead or quiescent Being.  He cannot be ignored with impunity, not even by His children.  He has living energy; power to succour, power to punish.  His word likewise is a living word; it is never obsolete, inoperative, ineffective, a dead letter.  It is active, two-edged, pointed; it cuts, it pierces, it dissects.  Blessed are they who welcome its surgery, for it promotes health; miserable is he who resists its point and edge.  For if the words of a sinful mortal can be sharp as a two-edged sword (Prov. 5: 4), how much more those of the sin-hating God.

 

 

This word of God enables us to distinguish between what in our thoughts and intentions is merely natural, of the soul, and what is spiritual, of the Spirit of life working in us.  It is all too easy to be actuated mainly, or even only, by the instincts and notions of the natural man.  It was very natural that Israel feared to face giants and attack walls fortified up to heaven.  Only faith in God gave Caleb and Joshua victory over natural fear and inspired them with conquering courage.

 

 

The joints connect the limbs together, the marrow is the vehicle of life; without the latter, joints and limbs were dead, powerless.  Similarly, the soul contains and combines our [Page 83] various faculties; but these are dead Godward unless vitalized by the life of God acting through the regenerated spirit of man.  This distinction is peculiar to the Word of God, and it is vital to a right conception of the perils and the possibilities of the believer.  Therefore did Paul dwell upon it at the very outset of his letter to the carnal or the natural Christians at Corinth, so that they might learn to distinguish between soul and spirit as the divergent sources and spheres of our inward life, and might cease from the carnal, rise above the natural (the soulish), and live by the instincts and impulses of the spiritual.  “Spirit” means here the new nature begotten in the believer by the new birth, by which thenceforth he is to live: “walk by spirit and desires of flesh ye shall in no wise fulfil ... If we live by spirit, by spirit also we should walk” as our new rule of life (1 Cor. 2: 10 - 3: 3; Gal. 5: 16-25; Rom. 8: 1-16).

 

 

It is of the highest importance to recognize these two types of life, the soulish and the spiritual; for this distinction, and these two realms and orders of life, are manifest in His sight before Whose all-penetrating eyes all things are naked and laid open.  It is with having to face such an One that we have to reckon.  We may deceive ourselves, and fondly think that the soul life, because it does not indulge the viler lusts of the flesh (carnality), will pass His scrutiny.  But the heavenly world, to which we are called, is spiritual, not soulish, and only that element of our present life and activity which is of the spirit is preparing us for that upper and purer realm or contributes to our fitness for it and its activities.  As with the resurrection body, the outer man, so much more must it be with the inner man, that the spiritual must swallow up the soulish (1 Cor. 1: 5: 44-46).  It is in the soul that our severest perils rise and work; it is in the natural heart that sin deceives us, and never more subtly and successfully than by the notion that the natural life is sufficient though not infused by the light and energy of the spiritual life.

 

 

It is our wisdom to submit always to the searching, challenging, directing, enabling action of God’s words; for His life is in His words, “they are spirit and they are life” (John 6: 63), the life that is life indeed.  “To-day, if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts,” but rather, as is the design of these present pages, “exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called to-day,” i.e. so long as the offer of the heavenly calling is open and the glory of God is still set forth for faith to attain.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 84]

 

PART II: THE PRIEST

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE PREPARATION OF THE PRIEST

(4: 14 - 5: 10)

 

 

Ch. 4: 14.  Having then a great high priest, who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.

 

 

Ch. 5: 1.  For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; 2 who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; 3 and by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh the honour unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron. 5 So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him,

Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee:

 

6 as he saith also in another place,

 

Thou art (a) priest for ever* after the order of Melchizedek.

 

7 Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear; 8 though he was (a) Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal** salvation; 10 named of God (a) high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

 

[* The Greek here reads: “… a high priest for the age, according to the order of Melchizedek  ** “… he [Christ] became to all those obeying him a cause of salvation age-lasting 

 

See NOTE1 on Greek word aionian, which is here translated into English as “eternal,” at the end of G. H. Lang’s commentary.]

 

 

IN the opening description of the dignities and offices of the Son of God it was mentioned that He “made purification of sins” (1: 3).  The means by which He did this were indicated in 2: 14, 15: He became man, taking part in flesh and blood, in order that He might die, an event impossible to Him in His original condition in the form of God.  But only by death could He provide a righteous and lawful deliverance for [Page 85] creatures in bondage to death under the just law of the holy God.

 

 

A further result of becoming man was that He obtained experimental acquaintance with the essential elements in the case of those He came to rescue, and in particular with the power of their Enemy the devil, as he tempts them to rebellion, and their own weakness against him.  By these various and severe trials He became able to sympathize with and to succour those who will accept His service unto [their eternal] salvation.  Through sufferings He was “perfected”; not, that is, as to His moral nature and character, for these were inherently perfect; He was always completely devoted to the will of God; but perfected as the Author of [eternal] salvation for sinful man (2: 10).

 

 

The keen tests which the devil was permitted to apply to Him served to show that He was without sin, and so without liability to the law of God, and therefore able, as one [Who is impeccable and] rich in righteousness, to accept and discharge the liabilities to the Divine law of sinners wholly bankrupt morally, with no righteousness to present to God.

 

 

Criminals under sentence of death have no access to their Sovereign.  Any hope of reprieve must arise by the activities on their behalf of some person acceptable to the Sovereign and having access to him.  In England, the Home Secretary can so act, and when he does so he becomes virtually a priest, a mediator between the King and the criminal.  This gracious office Christ, risen [out] from the dead, and gone to the audience chamber of God, now holds in heaven, this saving service He now renders to those who draw near to God through Him.  He has “become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2: 17).

 

 

It is upon this High Priest that we are exhorted to fix our attention: “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus” (3: 1); and, having turned aside to enforce the need of this by the solemn considerations that follow in chs. III and IV, the Writer now returns to the main theme and enlarges upon the priestly labours of the Son of God.

 

 

2. The Fact and use of the Priest (4: 14-16).  The following features are presented for our attention.

 

 

i. The Priest exists.  We have Him.  The present participle “having” indicates that He exists and acts as priest continuously, without intermission.  At all times He is available.

 

 

ii. He is no insignificant person.  Jeroboam was ready to appoint as priest any nobody that came along (I Kings 13: 33); but God’s Priest is “great” in person and standing and power.

 

[Page 86]

iii. He is high priest, not a subordinate.  He has access to the throne, He has authority over all God’s affairs, He dispenses all God’s bounties, He can introduce unto God all whom He will (Matt. 11: 27; John 6: 37-40).

 

 

iv. He has passed through the heavens, as the high priest in Israel passed through the courts and the veils into the audience chamber of the Most High.  None can debar Him access; He is already there and there permanently.

 

 

v. He is Jesus, the man of human nature, experience, sympathy.  The man Who never drove away even one who sought Him, but right warmly welcomed all; He is Bunyan’s Man at the Gate into the King’s highway, Who when the trembling pilgrim asked if he could pass in, replied “With all my heart  Rome encourages her devotees to appeal to “Mary” because of her womanly tenderness, in contrast to an alleged sternness of Jesus. The answer to this gross misrepresentation is simply the name JESUS.

 

 

vi. He is the Son of God, personally acceptable to the Father, the Son He loves pre-eminently; able to understand God and His rights and able to meet them fully; even as He understands man and his needs and is able to meet them fully.  He is the perfect Mediator, able perfectly to understand both parties, God and man.

 

 

vii. He is without sin.  In Him there was nothing carnal to respond to temptation.  He felt it, indeed, the more keenly that His susceptibilities were not dulled by sinful indulgence; but in Him there was no response to its overtures, but perfect revulsion and complete rejection.  He suffered under temptation, suffered exquisitely, agonizingly (Luke 22: 44); but He did not succumb.

 

 

3. Our Response. Because of this full provision to meet our need we are required.

 

 

i. To hold fast our confession.  The heathen confesses Siva, Krishna, Vishnu, or some other demon to be his god and he seeks the help of the priest of his god in his approach or prayer.  The Moslem confesses Allah to be his god and that Mohammed is the prophet of god.  Israel of old confessed Jehovah to be their God and Aaron to be their priest to secure for them the blessing of God.  The Christian is one who confesses the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as his God and draws near unto Him through Christ.  Against this confession Satan hurls his heaviest attacks.  To maintain it courageously is at once the conflict of this age, the method by which the Spirit of truth illuminates and delivers others, the basis of reward in the day of Christ.

 

 

The power for this confession is that the heart be in the present enjoyment of the mighty facts expressed in the name Jesus the Son of God.  If He is to me what this name means then I shall talk about Him; one cannot help doing so.  As Spurgeon said: We are fools for Christ’s sake, and therefore we must be allowed to preach Christ crucified, for every fool talks about what is uppermost in his mind.

 

 

ii. We must draw near unto God.  Jonah fled from Him, with painful results.  The publican (Luke 18) sought His mercy, but could get no nearer than the front gate of His holy house, where the victim on the altar procured for him pardon.  He was justified there and then; but he went down to his own house, he dared not go forward into God’s house, for the way into the holy place had not yet been made manifest (9: 8).

 

 

But since Calvary the veil is rent, the new, the living way has been dedicated for our use (10: 20), God is personally accessible; the Mediator is there to bring us to God in peace, and we are therefore to draw near, not merely to “come” (as A.V.) but to “draw near,” as Moses to the burning bush (Acts 7: 31), and Philip to the chariot of the eunuch (Acts 8: 29) (where the same word is used), and we are to do so with boldness.  Then we shall learn that we have access to the throne whence issue decisions against which lies no appeal, and shall experience that at this holy throne we are sure of grace, of undeserved Divine favour, the favour deserved only by the Son but shared by Him with the sons.

 

 

“So near, so very near to God, nearer I cannot be,

For in the person of the Son, I am as near as He.”

 

 

It is needful to hold this as a doctrine, to hold it tenaciously, but this is not enough.  One may hold the doctrine, yet break down as a confessor.  The soul must be in the joy of it all: “realization is everything in the things of God” (A. N. Groves).  And he who, by confidence in the Priest, with the energy of His Spirit of sonship, does thus enter into the presence of God in heart consciousness, and does this habitually, will find that he gains there what can be gained nowhere else, even mercy to forgive his failings, and grace, that is, succour and strength, to meet every need of his pilgrim life as a confessor of God and His Son.

 

 

4. The High Priest (vers. 1-10).  Such boldness toward God is the very opposite of presumption, seeing that it is God Himself who has made the approach possible by appointing the adequate Mediator.  We ought to draw near with assurance “for,” on account of, the High Priest.  To seek God tremblingly is to show that the soul has no proper appreciation of Christ or reliance upon Him.

 

[Page 88]

There were certain features applicable to “every high priest” of old.

 

 

i. He was “taken from among men  He is no stranger to the parties he has to represent in court.  He is one of their race and nature.

 

 

ii. “He was appointed for men”; the office exists for their benefit.

 

 

iii. His special sphere was the “things pertaining to God It was his office to adjust man’s relations with God.  He meets the claims of God against the guilty; He instructs the godly how to please God and infuses into them His strength to do this.

 

 

iv. With this in view He presented to God two kinds of offering, namely, “gifts” and “sacrifices for sins  Gifts have priority, for angels and men offered to God gifts of love and gratitude before sin entered; and unfallen angels and redeemed men will continue to do so for ever after the Son shall have reconciled heaven and earth to God, having removed in reality the sin that He put away judicially by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross.  This priority was recognized by that discerning scribe who said that “to love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and love his neighbour as himself, is much more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12: 33).  To re-establish this normal condition is the work and object of the High Priest, to which end holy angels and reconciled men are privileged to co-operate with Him and each other.

 

 

v. Personal infirmity.  The Priest knows by experience the weakness attaching to human nature.  It is as a chain hampering movement and restricting freedom (Acts 28: 20); yea, as a millstone slung around the neck and threatening one with destruction (Mk. 9: 42; Luke 17: 2); or (as in the only other place (12: 1) where the word [peirkeimai] comes) it is a crowd encompassing one, which may impede progress.  All this the High Priest knows by experience, and so

 

vi. He “can deal gently or, more accurately, can “moderate his feelings” (metriopatheo) toward those who fail.  Human nature forms swift and severe opinions about failing fellow-mortals, and is ready to pass harsh judgment.  But the truly qualified priest remembers his own weakness.  As he watches the criminal going to the gallows, he says: “But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford

 

 

vii. But it is with “the ignorant and the erring” that the High Priest deals gently.  And the assumption here is that they are not willingly ignorant, much less wilfully rejecting knowledge had or available.  From the word rendered “ignorance” comes agnostic, the self-chosen title of certain modem deniers of God, [Page 89] for whom the light of revelation is available but they reject it.  It is not such that are here presented as the objects of pity and sympathy, but such as are genuinely ignorant as to God and His law.

 

 

Moreover, in the word rendered “erring” (planao) there is prominent the notion of one being led astray by some malevolent deceiver or influence.  The sinner is blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor. 4: 4), who hoodwinks and beguiles Eve’s children as he did Eve (2 Cor. 11: 3).  And as on this account God dealt gently with Eve and opened for her a door to freedom, so does God’s Priest treat other deceived and ignorant souls.

 

 

But, on the other hand, for such as are wilfully ignorant in spite of opportunities of knowledge, and who willingly, from love of sin, follow the Deceiver, there is no mercy, at least not until they repent and seek mercy.  For in ch. 3: 10, the same words are associated as regards perverse [and regenerate] Israel, of whom God said (Ps. 95: 10): “They do always err in their heart: but they did not know My ways.” But this was because they had deliberately and repeatedly hardened their hearts against God, though they saw His works of power, in grace and in wrath, for forty years.  The Writer will later make clear that the High Priest cannot help such, but that in them is fulfilled of just necessity the prayer, “Be not merciful to an wicked* transgressors” (Ps. 59: 5).

 

[* See Num. 16: 26-33, R.V.  Repentance from such is so urgently necessary, - (1 Cor. 5: 9 - 6: 1-8) for “the unrighteous shall not inherit the KINGDOM of God” (verse 9)! See also Gal. ch. 5 and Eph. ch. 5.]

 

 

But where there is some sincere desire to know and to do what pleases God, yet there is failure, even grievous failure, through ignorance and weakness, then the High Priest is compassionate and ever glad to [restore (after repentance) into fellowship with Himself and] save, for

 

“He knows what sore temptations mean, For He has felt the same

 

 

viii. All the foregoing particulars are easily seen to apply to Christ as high priest, but how can this be said of the connected Statement that the high priest is under obligation (opheilei), “as for the people, so also for himself to offer for sins” (ver. 3)?  There would appear to be only one sense, and this a modified sense, in which it can be so applied, and here enters one of the deepest elements of His sacrifice of Himself, even that, in a real sense, it was for Himself.  Personally He was always without sin, as much on the cross as before and after it.  But “Jehovah made to light on Him the iniquity of us all  “It was exacted and He was made answerable” (Isa. 53: 7; Lowth, Newberry).  Lev. 4: 24 says of the goat offered as a sin offering that “it is sin,” and the goat slain on the Day of Atonement was to be “made sin” (Lev. 16: 9).  Equally of Christ it is [Page 90] said (2 Cor. 5: 21), that “Him who knew no sin God made sin on our behalf  Having thus, in divine grace, accepted the legal responsibility of sins not His own, there was no way by which He could release Himself from the liability save by discharging it, and in this sense the sinless Priest and Lamb of God offered His sacrifice “as for the people, so also for Himself  By His atoning death He delivered Himself as well as His people from death, the penalty of sin.  On this account it will be said later (9: 12) that it was “through [the merit of] His own blood that He entered into the holy place  His blood was “as a key opening the holiest to Him” (Alford, in loco).  By assuming our guilt He debarred Himself from entering the presence of God; by discharging our guilt He regained His right of access, and acquired it for us also.

 

 

ix. No such priest can be self-appointed or man-appointed but must receive his charge from God, as did Aaron (ver. 4; Exod. 28: 1; 1 Chron. 23: 13).  The sin of self-appointment was met by God with summary death, as in the case of Korah and his company (Num. 16).  The sin of appointment by man caused the destruction of Jeroboam, the appointer, and his house (1 Kings 13: 33, 34).

 

 

The writer proposes to show later that Christ has superseded Aaron (ch. VII).  He therefore establishes his argument by showing that the Son of God did not arrogate to Himself this honourable office.  The fact illustrates that even in His resurrection life the Son receives all from the Father.  Not only in the humble conditions of His life on earth, but in His glorious status in heaven, He does nothing “of Himself,” by His own separate initiative or action.  It is the Father who appoints and who announces the appointment.  This last had been done in advance by the Spirit of prophecy, as in the second psalm, ver. 7. God had then said:

 

 

Thou art my Son,

This day have I begotten thee;

 

and later had declared (Ps. 110: 4):

 

Thou art priest for ever

After the order of Melchizedek.

 

 

x. Paul described his career of conflict and hardship as “the life which I now live in the flesh” (Gal. 2: 20).  It was through the body that the stem struggle was carried on and its intensity felt.  Similarly, in ver. 7 the severe battle waged by the Son of God is described as “the days of His flesh  The acute strain was a consequence, accompaniment, and proof of [Page 91] His humanity, its reality and sensitiveness.  That humanity was no mere but unreal semblance, as the Docetics and Gnostics taught, thereby earning the description of deceivers and antichrist (2 John 7, 8).

 

 

So intensely real and acute were Christ’s human feelings and conscious weakness that He was necessarily a man of prayer, and “offered up prayers and supplications to Him that was able to save Him  Prayers (deesis) point to the particular petitions; supplications (hiketeria) seem rather to hint at the lowlier rank of the petitioner, who does not prefer a request as of title but as a suppliant.  The Son having become man felt and owned His dependence upon God.  He felt also and intensely the urgency, the desperateness of His position; it constrained Him to “strong crying and tears  Gethsemane was no light affair, but a terrible ordeal causing sweat like blood to drip from His veins upon the ground.  Yet were “the sufferings of His body the body of His sufferings, and the sufferings of His soul were the soul of His sufferings” (Spurgeon).

 

 

From what did He so earnestly cry to be saved?  Not from the act of dying; that He had recently faced, and had challenged Himself whether He should ask to be saved from being as a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. Nay, He had replied: “for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12: 24, 27).  We take the words “able to save Him out of death” to mean deliverance from the death state and realm into which He was descending willingly, but which to the Prince of life was an awful experience.  See Note at end of this chapter, p. 92.

 

 

Moreover, had He remained there, were He still there, He would have suffered on the cross in vain; no sinner could have been justified and redeemed, nor could He Himself have known the answer to His prayer, “Now Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17: 5).  His resurrection was indispensable and it was an answer to prayer.

 

 

How vital is piety to prayer: it was on account of His godly fear that His prayer was heard.

 

 

xi. It was through these prolonged and painful experiences that He, though Son to God His Father, learned what obedience to the Father’s will costs in a world ruled by that Father’s enemy and by sin.  He did not learn to obey; that He knew from the first by the instincts of His sinless heart: but he learned the nature and the benefit of obedience, for thereby He became perfectly, experimentally fitted to be the “cause of eternal salvation” to those who in their turn learn to obey Him as He obeyed the Father.

 

[Page 92]

Good is Chrysostom’s personal application of this: “If He, being Son, gained obedience from His sufferings, much rather we” (Westcott in loco).

 

 

Note to p. 91.  At first sight the usage of ek thanatou seems to vary.

 

 

(1) In 2 Cor. 1: 10, “who delivered us out of (ek) so great a death,” the sense is that Paul was kept from dying. (2) It is the same in Jas. 5: 20. “He who turneth back a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul [life] from (ek) death,” that is, from dying prematurely under the summary judgment of God.  Comp. 1 John 5: 16; 1 Cor. 5: 3-6 with 2 Cor. 2: 5-10; 1 Cor. 11: 27-32; Acts 5: 1-11.  (3) But in 1 John 3: 14, “passed out of (ek) death into life,” the man is viewed as having been in spiritual death and having been raised out of it; which (4) is a repeating of Christ’s words given in John 5: 24 that the believer “has passed out of (ek) death into life

 

 

But it is possible that in cases (1) and (2) above ek is used because the deaths in question were regarded as so seemingly inevitable that the persons were already “as good as dead,” and the deliverance was reckoned to have brought them out of the death state where they were deemed to be, though not yet actually in it.

 

 

The usage of the Septuagint is similar.  (1) In Job 5: 20 ek means kept from dying or being killed: “In famine he shall deliver thee from (ek) death, and in war he shall free thee out of (ek) the hand [power] of the sword.” (2) Ps. 29 (30): 3 has this sense; “Lord, thou hast brought up (anegages) my soul out of (ek) Hades, thou hast saved me (esosas) from (apo) those going down into the pit  The preceding verse shows that this was a matter of bodily healing, not of actual death and resurrection: “I cried to thee and thou didst heal me  Yet here also death may have seemed so certain that the writer thinks of himself as having been in Hades as to his heart’s contemplation, and so of having been brought up out of it.  (3) But Ps. 33 (34): 19 has the meaning of being brought out of circumstances in which one actually is: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but out of (ek) them all the Lord will save them  (4) Ps. 116: 8 reads: “He has delivered my soul out of (ek) death, my eyes from (apo) tears, and my feet from (apo) sliding  The two latter clauses require the sense of the writer having experienced tears and sliding, which suggests a metaphorical sense of the first clause; he was to himself as already dead, according to ver. 3: “The pangs of death compassed me, the dangers of Hades found me  (5) Esther 4: 8.  Mordecai charged Esther to “speak to the king concerning us, to rescue us out of death” (ek thanatou).  They had not actually been killed, but were legally dead, being under sentence of death, and so deliverance would be, as it were, out of death.  (6) The natural force of ek is seen in 1 Macc. 2: 59: “Ananias, Azaria, Misael having trusted [in God] were saved out of (ek) the flame.” These had been literally in the fire. But (7) in the next verse, “Daniel for his innocency was rescued from (ek) the mouth of lions

 

 

Jude 5 speaks of Israel having been “saved out of (ek) the land of Egypt,” in which they had actually been, and in John 12: 27, the Lord regards Himself as having already reached a certain hour for a definite purpose, and therefore He would not ask the Father to save Him “out of (ek) this hour  This sets aside any thought that He would ask to be saved from dying, and so requires that Heb. 5: 7* be taken, as above, as a prayer for [a select**] resurrection.

 

[* “… Who {i.e., Messiah Jesus} in the days of the flesh of Himself, prayers both and supplications to Him {His Father} being able to deliver Him out of death,” is how the Greek Interlinear reads. 

 

** Compare Matt. 17: 9: “… To no one you may tell the vision till the Son of Man out of (ek) dead be raised  With Mark 9: 9: “… he [Christ] ordered them that to no one {the} things which they saw they should relate, except when the son of man out of (ek) dead ones should be raised.  10 And the word they kept to themselves, arguing, what is that out of (ek) dead ones to be raised]

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 93]

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE THIRD WARNING

(5: 11 - 6: 20)

 

 

Ch. 5: 11. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. 12 For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. 13 For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.

 

 

Ch. 6: 1. Wherefore let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ, and press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God; 2 of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do if God permit. For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit; 5 and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come; 6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the land which hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God: 8 but if it beareth thorns and thistles, it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is to be burned.

 

 

9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: 10 for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye shewed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you may shew the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end: 12 that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

 

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, since he could sware by none greater, he sware by himself; 14 saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And thus, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men sware by the greater: and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. 17 Wherein God, being minded to shew more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath: 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us; 19 which we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and stedfast and entering into that which is within the veil; 20 whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become (a) high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

 

 

AGAIN the flow of teaching is stayed, by a blockage in the understanding of the readers.  This leads to another serious exhortation.  Observe

 

 

1. The Persons warned.  They have spiritual life, for they have spiritual hearing, and spiritual appetite for milk. They are distinctly compared to infants; they have capacity for growth, and they can walk, for they are exhorted to press on.  Evidently they are not dead persons, for to such none of these activities is possible.

 

 

Moreover, the Writer will shortly term them “beloved,” will commend their work, and the love which they showed toward God’s Name, in that they ministered unto the saints and still minister (6: 10), and later he will speak of how they had endured joyfully a “great conflict of suffering,” with “the spoiling of their possessions”; assured, as they were, of a better and abiding possession (10: 32-36).  It was steadfastness that they now needed.  But no one exhorts the dead to be steadfast.  These addressed, therefore, had spiritual life, were [regenerate] Christians.

 

 

2. The Need for Warning.  Their hearing was less acute than it had been: “ye have become (gegonate) dull of hearing” (5: 11).  They had been believers long enough to have become teachers of the faith to others; but from not growing and from not teaching [others all that the Holy Spirit had made know] they were losing ground.  We must teach, or we shall forget what we know.

 

 

Ceasing to give, we cease to have;

Such is the law of love. (Trench.)

 

 

As their appetite failed the power of digestion weakened.  They could not now master advanced lessons or assimilate solid food.  Milk was all they could endure, and even this light diet they could not find for themselves but had to be spoon-fed by others.  In consequence they were weak in understanding; they found it difficult to distinguish between good and bad food, and were in danger of arrested development, instead of being on the way to become full-grown men.  Using less and less their spiritual senses (aistheteria, the aesthetic sensibilities) their sensitiveness in things heavenly became impaired.  Such [Page 95] torpid natures can take unwholesome food, or even poison, and not know it; they can sustain injuries and be unaware of it.  There are to-day believers enough of this type.  Their dangers are many and serious; hence the warnings given, the exhortations pressed home.

 

 

3. The Exhortation: “let us press on.” He has mentioned “the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God” (5: 12).  He further speaks of “the word of the beginning of Christ” (6: 1).

 

 

It is obvious that the oracles of God and the word or message concerning Christ had their “beginning” in the Old Testament.* Therefore he who would become versed in the oracles of God and their message concerning their chief topic, the Messiah (tou Christou), must begin with and sufficiently understand the Old Testament.  Failure in this is an initial reason for the infantile condition of so many Christians and indeed, so many preachers and teachers.

 

* After the above was written I was glad to find the following in Nairne (The Epistle of Priesthood, 334/5), the only one of a dozen commentators read who confirms the application to the Old Testament:

 

In the last paragraph [5: 12] “the rudiments of the beginnings of God’s oracles” would most naturally mean the simplest and most obvious instruction that could be drawn from the Old Testament.  Here [6: 1] “the argument of the beginning, or first doctrine of the Christ” would be that doctrine of Christ in the Old Testament which even to a Jew meant much, though a Christian learnt at once to fill it with a new significance.  The doctrine of washings, of imposition of hands, of resurrection and of eternal judgment, could all be found in those books of the Old Testament in Greek which the author habitually used.

 

 

On the other hand, to learn only the A.B.C., the multiplication table, or but the rudiments of any subject, is to remain a child in understanding.  It is for us to press on unto full growth, to attain to years and stature, to become men of God.  This was one of Paul’s last exhortations (2 Tim. 3: 14-17).  Observe the progress from a babe to a man of God.  It is the message of Gal. 3: 15 - 4: 11; children are to grow up and become sons, in the full sense of sonship, grown-up sons, able to understand and to co-operate with their Father; and the danger with these Galatian believers, as these here, lay in turning back to the rudimentary things and being contented with them (Gal. 4: 9).  Thus were the Ephesians also urged to “grow up in all things into Him Who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4: 11-16), and so to be no longer children.

 

 

The growth of a child does not just happen.  It requires at first the diligent care of mother or nurse, feeding, washing, clothing, training it.  And when that first stage has been passed, then must the growing child, youth, man himself diligently render to himself these same services, or growth will cease, health fail, decline set in.

 

[Page 96]

The Old Testament oracles give the foundation of knowledge of God and of God-fearing living.  The foundation is indispensable and permanent, but its use is that upon it a superstructure can be built, and without the latter it is of small value, is incomplete.  The Old Testament foundation is formed of six elements, which form three pairs:

(1) Repentance from dead works, and

(2) Faith toward God:

 

(3) The teaching concerning washings, and

(4) Laying on of hands:

 

(5) Resurrection of the dead, and

(6) Eternal judgment.

 

 

(1, 2) The Old Testament entire may be summarized as a continuous call to men to repent of sin and set their trust in God.  Of this repentance and faith the offering of a sacrificial victim was an expression, being an acknowledgment by the sinner that he deserved to die, yet trusted in the mercy of God.

 

 

(3, 4) But God sought, yea demanded, that to this judicial transaction there be added actual visible purity, together with a renewal of the nature and its powers by the imparting of gifts from Himself.  The former was symbolized by the frequent washings ordained under the law, the latter accompanied the laying on of the hands of the priest.

 

 

It is clear that the distinctively Christian baptism cannot be here meant by the plural “washingsnor the laying on of hands as in New Testament times; for these are later than the Old Testament.  Yet do these teach the same lessons as those older ordinances, namely, personal purity and enduement from on high.

 

 

They who lay too heavy a stress on these God-appointed externals, should observe that not the washings and the laying on of hands themselves were part of the foundation.  The passage says that it was the teaching connected with these that was of the foundation.  This did not warrant non-observance of the external rites, nor to-day of the Christian rites; but it does forbid attaching virtue to the mere outward observance without the spiritual conditions they taught being personally realized.

 

 

(5, 6) The Old Testament did not speak much of the resurrection or eternal judgment.  Yet must it not be inferred that these solemn prospects were little known in early times.  It would be of interest and profit if some competent scholar would gather together the ancient pagan myths which embody these expectations, however confused and corrupted be their form.  It would show that the primary revelation by God included this knowledge and placed the race under responsibility to walk as those who knew that death does not end all, [Page 97] but is followed by resurrection and judgment.  And the Old Testament sufficiently emphasizes this.

 

 

A few centuries after the Flood Abraham is found expecting confidently the raising of Isaac to life “accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead” (Heb. 11: 17- 19; Gen. 22: 5, “we [himself and Isaac] will come again to you”).  And later men of faith anticipated the like outcome of life, so that at the close of that Old Testament period and the commencement of the new age Martha could express the general belief as to the dead: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection in the last day” (John 11: 24).  A little later a learned Jew could declare in public that the hope of attaining to resurrection was an inspiration to all pious Israelites (Acts 26: 6-8); and in Heb. 11: 35 our Writer will mention that some of old were expecting a better resurrection than a speedy resuscitation after the death of the body.

 

 

These truths were therefore the foundation of true religion, and Paul could assert that his preaching had as its basis that men “should repent and turn to God doing works worthy of repentance,” which covers points (1-4) above; and then he adds that thus his teaching was that of the law and the prophets, fulfilled in Christ as the Victim offered in the suffering of death and as the personal proof of resurrection and judgment, which is points (5) and (6) above (Acts 26: 20, 22, 23).

 

 

This, then, is the foundation, and on it all godly living in all ages has been built, and must still be built; yet it is only the foundation.  It is the foundation of Christianity, but it is not Christianity, even as the foundation is not the superstructure.  What the Lord and the apostles built hereupon will be opened out by the Writer later; for the present he presses the necessity of a mind, a purpose, a resolute effort to move onward from knowing the beginning of what God taught concerning Christ to ever fuller understanding of the complete Divine message concerning Him.  To hinder a sinner from getting on to the foundation is a first endeavour of Satan; but failing in this, then he studies to make the believer satisfied with the foundation, and here souls innumerable are deceived and dwarfed and despoiled.  The perils of this are great; and to warn, to exhort, to encourage, to foster growth and advance, is the immediate object of the Writer.

 

 

To be limited to the truths that form the foundation is like one who should repeatedly lay a foundation of a house but not build thereon.  This is what too many [bible teachers] are doing.  It marks largely the great organized Churches; it is the basic reason why they perpetuate the ritual of the Old Testament, and it [Page 98] explains why even true but simple believers in such communities are commonly infantile in knowledge of the purposes of God and in spiritual experience.

 

 

Therefore “let us press on. ... And this will we do, if [eanper, if at least] God permit  IF GOD PERMIT!  Is there then some possibility that God will not permit a Christian to press on?  Or is this merely a pious compliment to the Almighty, an ancient form corresponding to (D.V.)?  The context will show that the remark is made with solemn intention, that it is sadly possible for a Christian to reach a state of soul when God in equal love and righteousness will no more allow him to press on.

 

 

4. The Warning (vers. 4-7).  The line of teaching along which the Writer was led by the [Holy] Spirit was that of constant reference to the Old Testament.  In these five chapters preceding he has quoted fourteen passages, and has drawn his lessons and warnings from the ancient histories and institutions.  It is therefore somewhat surprising that expositors have not used this feature as the key to open this present passage.  For want of it the warning has been found difficult to explain and apply.  Is it addressed to mere professors?  Or can it apply to the regenerate?  If the latter, how does it agree with the teaching of other passages that the life of the regenerate is eternal life and that therefore their security from eternal death is assured?

 

 

The great second warning was drawn from the failure of Israel at Kadesh Barnea.  Is this still in his mind?  Is it the needed key?

 

 

i. Enlightenment.  When God was commissioning Moses to return from the desert to Egypt and set Israel free Moses answered that, when he should inform the Israelites that the God of their fathers had appeared to him and was intending to deliver them, they would reply, “What is His Name?” (Exod. 3: 13).  This implies that they had lost the knowledge of the God of their fathers and of His covenant with them and their descendants. Fifty years later Joshua threw light on this by reminding their children that their fathers, the generation to which he himself belonged, had served the gods of Egypt (Joshua 24: 14).  Nine centuries later God, through Ezekiel (20: 6-8), confirmed this, reminding Israel that their fathers did not forsake the idols of Egypt, for they quickly made a golden calf and worshipped it, which was a chief form of Egyptian idolatry.

 

 

Israel had succumbed to their surroundings and had adopted the religion of their oppressors, quite possibly in the hope that [Page 99] the oppression might thus be lightened.  In consequence they were in the dark as to their true God and His purposes concerning them.  But through Moses they were, as our Writer puts it, “once for all enlightened

 

 

ii. The Heavenly Gift.  As soon as Israel had commenced their walk with God in the desert the question of food became urgent.  The desert yielded no bread.  Nine hundred years afterward, in the days of their deepest apostasy, their God told them that His heart had been touched by that venture of faith: “I remember concerning thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jer. 2: 2). Though their love was but as the morning dew and passed early away (Hos. 6: 4), yet it was sincere at the time, and thus they are a type of such to-day who feel some true if immature love to the God Who has first loved them.

 

 

In response to their trust and cry God gave them manna: “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exod. 16: 4). Thus they “tasted of the heavenly gift,” that gift which was the type of the true Bread from heaven, even Jesus the Son of God, the gift of His Father to hungry men (John 6: 32 ff).

 

 

Two considerations are vital:

 

 

(1) That the English verb “tasted” is here used in its less usual sense of to experience fully, to appreciate the quality of a thing.  The Writer has already so used it at 2: 9 “that he should taste of death,” meaning that deep and thorough experience of death which the Redeemer endured.  On our present verse (6: 4) Alford says: “have tasted (personally and consciously partaken of)”; Grimm (Lexicon) says: “to feel, make trial of, experience”; and Westeott writes: “Geusasthai expresses a real and conscious enjoyment of the blessing apprehended in its true character”; and so Cremer “practically and in fact to experience anything  It is not, therefore, here a mere mental or aesthetic appreciation of Christ that is in view, as when a sceptic or social reformer acknowledges His moral worth; it is a true heart enjoyment such as only the regenerate can know.

 

 

(2) And this is made certain by the apostle’s assertion (1 Cor. 10: 3, 4) concerning even Israel in the desert that “they did all eat the same spiritual food; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them [went about with them]; and the rock was Christ  It is thus evident that, though so carnal, they were at least spiritual enough to know that they partook, for their inward man, of spiritual counterparts to the material food and drink for the body.  It follows that they cannot be types of persons still really dead to things heavenly, whatever their profession, [Page 100] but only of such as have some true, conscious enjoyment of the heavenly Bread.

 

 

iii. Living Water.  Directly after the giving of the manna came the smiting of the rock and the supply of living water.  From the statement just quoted from 1 Cor. 10: 4 it is plain that in some real degree they were made “partakers of holy spirit that they experienced some measure of the [Holy] Spirit’s grace.  Referring to that period Isaiah, seven centuries later, said: “Where is He that put his holy Spirit in the midst of them? ... the Spirit of Jehovah caused them to rest” (Isa. 63: 11, 14).

 

 

That the manna and the spiritual rock accompanied them all the journey teaches that Bread and Water are the only provision that God makes for His children in the desert.  To demand more than these is disastrous.  Israel did so: “Give us flesh ... there is nothing at all save this manna to look to” (Num. 11: 4-6); upon which history the Divine comment is: “He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106: 15).

 

 

Here, as wherever water is a type, is meant the blessed Spirit of God (John 7: 38, 39).  First manna, then water; first Christ the Bread of heaven (John 6), then the [Holy] Spirit, the Water of life (John 7).  First Calvary, then Pentecost; and only one who has availed himself of the blood receives the water.  That the Writer had in mind a definite, known reception of the [Holy] Spirit is shown by the use of the aorist participle (genethentas), “they became partakers” at a distinct point, and experimentally.

 

 

iv. The Word of God.  Israel reached the desert of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month after they left Egypt (Exod. 16: 1).  The next fortnight was momentous.  In it were given the manna and the living water; there followed the fight with Amalek, and Moses judging the people; and on the first day of the next month they came to mount Sinai (Exod. 19: 1).  There God appeared in glory and the people heard His veritable voice speaking unto them, commanding them, statutes and ordinances “which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Ezek. 20: 11, 13, 21).  For this “commandment was unto life,” this “law is holy, righteous, good,” and “spiritual” (Rom. 7: 10, 12, 14); of which Israel had ample experience, in so far as they obeyed it.  They “tasted the Word of God that it is good  The above force of to taste applies here also: “those spoken of had not merely tasted, but recognized, the goodness of the word of God” (G. Milligan, D.D., The New Testament Documents, 68).

 

 

Thus Israel exemplified the course of all spiritual life, to-day as then: redemption from wrath by blood; deliverance [Page 101] from bondage by power; Christ the food to strengthen; the [Holy] Spirit to refresh and vitalize; and now God’s words to instruct and regulate.  It is to be noted that the law at Sinai was not given to effect salvation from wrath (the angel of destruction) and from Satan (Pharaoh); but to guide and rule men already redeemed and free.  The guilty it could not justify, nor grant life to the dead; but it could bless the living, if they would be obedient; and this it can do to-day, if the Christian will render loving obedience.  The saint of old could say: “Oh how I love Thy law!  It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119: 97): the saint to-day can say: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7: 22).  Both they of old and we “taste the word of God that it is good

 

 

v. The Coming Age.  But there was another privilege of that age and this.  They experienced “the powers of a coming age and so it has been in this age of the gospel.  Under law and under grace mighty works have been seen which are a foretaste of the coming age, the Millennial.

 

 

The cloud of glory, which did not scatter in the fierce winds of the desert, was a picture of that canopy of glory, which is compared to the cloud by day and the fire by night in the desert, and which shall abide over mount Zion in that coming day when Jerusalem [the place where David’s throne was] shall have been purged (Isa. 4: 2-6).

 

 

God’s personal and visible [bodily] presence, His daily guidance and protection, constant supplies of food and drink, victory over enemies; healing of disease, preservation of health; these and similar displays of heavenly powers will be known [and seen] yet more fully in the [millennial] age of glory yet to come.  In measure they have been known in this age, both in spiritual blessings and external advantages.  This last was especially the case at the commencement of Israel’s national career and at the commencement of the church of God; but all through both ages those powers have worked which will be more largely known in the next age in the full subservience of nature to the good of man, in bodily health, and other ways.

 

 

But not only in acts of grace were those powers displayed, but also in chastisement upon the unfaithful in Israel; and so it is to-day, and so it will be during the Millennium.  For in 1 Cor. 10 the correspondence between Israel and ourselves covers both privileges and warnings.  Did they, as we, partake of Christ, so are we most solemnly warned lest their judgments also overtake us; for “these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (vers. 6-13).  Both aspects, blessings and judgments, are foretold of the Millennial age in one sentence (Isa. 65: 20), as elsewhere.

 

 

vi. Falling away.  What then is the lesson for us? [Page 102] They “fell away” (parapipto); “let him who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (pipto (1 Cor. 10: 12).  “The idea [in parapiptein] is that of falling aside from the right path, as the idea of amartanein (sin) is that of missing the right mark” (Westcott).

 

 

When did Israel thus turn from the right path?  At Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13 and 14).  The right path lay straight ahead; but it led uphill, with giant defenders, monsters by descent, size, vice, and ferocity.  Faith failed, courage fled, so they turned aside and resolutely refused to go up.

 

 

Thus at Kadesh Barnea they “fell away and God saw and declared that “it was impossible to renew them to a change of mind,” that is, to make them thereafter dutiful and trustful.  What was their cry “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt” (Num. 14: 2) but a hasty regret that they had accepted redemption at all?  What was their resolve “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” but an impulse to reverse the salvation effected by the blood of the lamb slain and a putting Moses to open shame as, in their view, an unsafe leader? In this they were a type of those [regenerate believers] to-day who so openly turn from Christ and return to a [self-satisfying] worldly life as to “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and to put Him to an open shame

 

 

Such cases we have known.  In an eastern land it was our joy to lead to Christ a cultured Englishman of good family.  From the first he gave a fine public witness and maintained it for several years.  Then he lapsed into the darkness of theosophy and occultism where he had wandered before his conversion, and openly repudiated the Son of God and His atonement.  Now had he died before his lapse no one could have questioned the reality of his conversion.  But as all those earlier years the evidence was adequate, some other explanation of his fall must be found than the suggestion that he was never born of God, for the facts prove the contrary.  And he is but one of many cases.

 

 

Those who so readily offer this too easy explanation should reflect that some to whom it would apply have returned to faith after many years, thus showing the reality of the early faith.  It was so with the person mentioned and the celebrated Professor F. W. Newman is another instance.  In early manhood he was an earnest, devoted disciple, a companion of Groves, Darby and the first Brethren.  Then, for perhaps thirty or forty years, he was a leading sceptic; but at the close of his long life he returned to the faith of his youth, and it was stated over his grave, by his own request, that he had died trusting to the precious blood of Christ for salvation.

 

 

No one therefore is justified in saying that any particular person is beyond the possibility of repenting; nevertheless there are such who die in this apostate state, and it is these who are in question in Heb. 6.  Their unchangeable condition is known to God in their lifetime, though not to us.

 

 

Of the men of war, Caleb and Joshua were [named amongst the few] like the land that gives due response to the heaven-sent blessings and “bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake also it is tilled”; the many were as the plot that bore only the thorns and the thistles of faithlessness and rebellion.  These latter were “rejected” by God: “they shall not see [after death*] the land which I sware [and promised to give as an inheritance] unto their fathers” (Num. 14: 23); for they had rejected God’s special gift.  And how “nigh unto a curse” they were these awful words of their God tell: “I will smite them with pestilence, and disinherit them” (ver. 12).  And just as the present end of weed-producing land is that it be “burned,” so it was said to them “your carcases [shall] be consumed in the wilderness” (ver. 33), a word which is used once again of Israel when later on God was rejecting them nationally: “The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed of the fire; in vain do they go on refining; for the wicked are not plucked away.  Refuse silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them” (Jer. 6: 29, 30).

 

[* This truth, concerning the portion of “land” on this earth (Gen. 13: 15), which God promised to give to Abraham as an inheritance, was spoken by Stephen (Acts 7: 4b, 5, the first Christian martyr) as Scriptural proof that Abraham was (and still is, Acts 2: 34; 2 Tim. 2: 28) awaiting his resurrection.  See also Gen. 15: 7; Psa. 2: 8; and compare Matt. 5: 5 with Psa. 37.] 

 

 

5. It will be still asked, Can such apostasy be possible in a real child of God?  Are we not in this place at least driven to suppose that here (Heb. 6) it is only professors making a fair show in the flesh, but not knowing the reality of divine grace, who are described?  Let us notice:

 

 

(1) These were born heirs to the land, being children of the covenant, and they were those who had been actually redeemed and emancipated.

 

 

(2) The partaking in the benefits implies the truly regenerate person.

 

 

(3) Though they were “nigh to a curse” they were not actually cursed.  Their noble leader interceded for them, and God said, “I have pardoned according to thy word; but in very deed, as I live” these rebels shall not see the land.  Our great Priest delivers His own perpetually from the wrath to come (see 1 Thess. 1: 10: “delivereth”), but He cannot, and would not, hinder the severest chastisement and loss where such are due.

 

 

(4) God saw to it that they never did get back to Egypt.  They perished in the wilderness, as a backslider may die in his apostate state; but to the place which pictured unalleviated separation from God they were not permitted to get back.

 

 

(5) Even though they had forfeited the fullest of the proffered blessings yet did God in most wondrous grace still deal with them as His people, and not as foes.  “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: [Page 104] in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63: 9).  “For about the time of forty years suffered He their manners in the wilderness” (Acts 13: 18), feeding, clothing, guiding, and protecting them, and in fact doing for them all that He could do short of restoring to them the prospect of entering the land that they had rejected.  It was thus, as we have already noticed, that Reuben and Esau were dealt with by their fathers.

 

 

(6) That in Hebrews the Writer regarded those he addressed as genuine saints is abundantly clear in the next verses (9-12).  He was “persuaded better things” of them, though he thus warned them: it was not of [eternal*] salvation itself but of “things that accompany [that] salvation” that he was writing, not of escaping judgment and slavery in Egypt, but of the benefits and prospects which accompanied that deliverance.  Unlike the [initial] salvation, these latter were not yet secured and might be missed.

 

[*NOTE. There is more than one type of salvation mentioned throughout the Holy Scriptures, hence the words which I have placed in brackets above.  “A salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and “the salvation of souls” occur at the time of resurrection!   Both are clauses refer to future “salvation”: which the prophets “searching what time or what manner if time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto”: and this salvation has nothing whatsoever to do with the “common salvation” which all the regenerate believers receive through faith in Christ Jesis as their personal Saviour! 

 

Jude initially wanted to write about this “common salvation”, but was constrained by the Holy Spirit to write about the apostasy of those within the redeemed family of God!

 

See 1 Pet. 1: 5, 9, 11; Jude 3, 5. cf. Heb. 10: 39ff: “We are not of them that shrink back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul  And so, James writing to his “brethren” (1: 2) exhorts them (and “us” verses 18, 19) to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls,” R.V.  For an exposition of The Salvation of the Soul see God’s Pilgrims by Philip Mauro.]

 

 

It is to be conceded that here is a picture of the extremest kind of rebellion possible, and not of what we may term ordinary failure.  Lot’s conduct in deliberately consorting with the sinners of Sodom was a very different offence to Abraham’s failure of faith and of courage when he saw, as he thought, his wife in danger in Egypt, and it was very differently dealt with by God.  For Abraham, though humbled, was helped, and was restored to the hill-top communion with God, whilst Lot was left barely to escape, and finally to close his days in shame, conscious that his course had desperately corrupted his own daughters, and involved himself in lasting dishonour.  Let us remember the teaching in Gal. 5: 21, as to the practising of gross moral or physical sin resulting in a disinheriting from the [promised messianic and millennial*] kingdom.

 

[* Psa. 2: 8; Psa. 110: 1-3, 6.]

 

 

As in Esau’s case so with these men of war, it was a deliberate turning from high advantages offered, and indeed desired in measure, and a choice of the lower state because it seemed easier and more immediate.  And have there not been instances of disciples facing God’s call and leading towards high and noble living and full concentration upon heavenly things, but who, alas, have feared to cut loose from the things that bound [them] to the world [and the false teachings and interpretations of unfulfilled prophetic truths within their Christian denominations*]?  Do none ever set the heart on the things that are on the earth though pleaded with by the [Holy] Spirit to set the mind on the things that are above?  The full record of this aspect of powerful spiritual meetings, of holiness conventions, and of private labours of men who walk with God, has yet to be made known.  A sad chapter it will prove to be as its tale is told of how alluring business or professional prospects, or worldly or fashionable marriage offers, or social and political ambitions, [Page 105] yea, and even sheer carnality, not to speak of a hesitant timidity that grieves and insults our faithful God, have caused some of His own people to turn back from the heights of conflict and of glory to the low level of being saved from perdition, as is believed, and then “making the best of both worlds,” as is the hideously deceptive phrase, whereas it is in reality a making the worst of both.

 

[* The reference here is to the words: “The Presbyterian Church do not teach that!” It was a reply given by a prominent Bible teacher, after being told that Abraham has not yet been resurrected or come into his inheritance in the “land  But, questions begging to be asked are: (1) “What Christian Denomination do teach these truths?: and (2) How many Bible teachers do have knowledge of these accountability truths, but are unwilling to teach them to other Christians?”

 

Saul, the first king of Israel, lost his crown because he “rejected the word of the Lord,” and “feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam. 15: 23, 24, R.V.): and it appears there are Bible teachers today, who doing precisely the same thing by not declaring “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20: 27, R.V.) ]

 

 

Workers of long experience in the gospel have known ungodly persons who seemed utterly callous to external solemnities and impervious to heavenly appeals, whilst yet admitting theoretically the truth of all that the Bible teaches.  And not so infrequently as might be thought it is learned that once or oftener such had been brought by the [Holy] Spirit to a crisis, when a decision for or against Christ had to be made, and that it was by deliberate rejection that the state of apathy was reached which seems, and often proves to be, unalterable.  And let those who have long and adequate experience in seeking to serve the people of God reflect upon cases of such as gave a clear account of a good conversion and of walking with God for a time, but who seem immovable as regards aspiring to elevated present experience and future and heavenly prospects.  These admit the desirability of such a life and future, but present no sign of any determination to attain thereto.  Most certainly it is not for us to pronounce upon any individual case, but rather to exercise the love that “hopeth all things”; but it is impossible at times not to inquire in one’s own mind whether certain have not passed the limit of forbearance and been turned back to spend their days in the wilderness: “we shall press on, if God permit

 

 

As the [Holy] Spirit ceases to strive with the ungodly remarked upon, so is it written of Israel as the people of God: “He said, Surely they are my people, children that will not deal falsely; so, He was their saviour.  In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa. 63: 8-9).  They were His people, His sons, whose afflictions He shared, giving them divine love and pity.  Himself was their Redeemer, and those whom He redeemed He bare and carried as a father his child.  “But they” - they “rebelled and grieved His holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy - Himself fought against them” (Isa. 63: 10).  And similarly we Christians are warned that it is possible, not merely to grieve, but to quench the [Holy] Spirit.  Do we reflect sufficiently upon the inevitable consequences, present and future, that must surely attend so grave sin?

 

 

Thus is given, and given expressly for our admonition, the [Page 106] supreme example of how individuals may lose their place in the body corporate and their share in the fullest blessings open to attainment.  Of course, God will perform His covenants, however long be the delay occasioned by His people’s waywardness.  In the fourth generation Abraham’s posterity duly returned to Canaan; but not all did so who might have. Thus, too, God will have in His glory His church, and Christ will have His bride, and the universe will have its executive government.  But let us each give heed that we obtain a full reward, and let us in love “exhort one another day by day, as long as it is called To-day” - that is, so long as the opportunity for attainment remains open.

 

 

It surely ought not to be needful to add that the words, “whose end is to be burned,” do not import the endless perdition of those so treated.  If it means that the thorns and thistles are to be burned, that would benefit and not finally ruin the land, and this would be a picture of the finally sanctifying effect upon the believer of even the severest chastisement.  But taking the meaning that it is the land that is to be burned, it still remains a picture of temporary affliction, for in any case the land abides.  And though burning it is a last resource of the farmer, yet the ultimate design and issue is beneficial.  “Our God is a consuming fire”; but the same fire which destroys the alloy cleanses the gold, though the process is drastic and may need to be prolonged.  The destruction of the flesh contributes, in the case of a child of God, to the salvation of the spirit, not from eternal wrath - that is secured by the cross of Christ - but as regards what must be faced “in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5: 5).

 

 

Interpreted thus by Israel’s history this passage in chapter 6 of Hebrews enforces the same lesson as the Second Warning in chapters 3 and 4, as follows:

 

 

That for them of old as for Christians now:

 

 

i.  Rebellion, definite and persistent, can induce a state of heart of which there will be no reversal in this life. The limit of time arises from the example of Israel as narrated in God’s histories.  These do not introduce the question of the eternal prospects of those in question, which question therefore does not arise in the application the Writer makes to Christians.

 

 

ii.  The penalty of such rebellion may include (a) the wasting of this present life in a desert experience, as to which more will be said; (see pp. 192-196); (b) the death of the body under summary judgment - see again I Cor. 10: 8-10; Acts 5: 1-11; 1 Cor. 11: 27-32; Jas. 5: 20; 1 John 5: 16, 17, etc.; (c) the loss of Canaan, that is, the Millennial age, which carries also the [Page 107] forfeiture of sovereignty for ever, since it is only those who rise in the first resurrection who form the bride, the wife of the Lamb, and are said to reign for ever and ever (Rev. 20: 4-6; 21: 9; 22: 5).

 

 

iii.  That these possible penalties, though indeed severe, do not involve the eternal destruction of regenerate persons.  The type forbids.  Not one Israelite was able to return to Egypt, from which they had all been separated by blood and water.  Not one reached again the former standing as condemned and liable to die without mercy.  So also no regenerate person can ever return to the lost condition of the unregenerate.  God will not suffer it: He has too much respect to the blood of His Son, even though a believer may repudiate its value.  It is never to be assumed that the bodily death of a person under the judgment of God necessarily implies his eternal death; nor is it to be assumed that “fire” or “burning” must mean eternal fire, the lake of fire.  Such terms are used much more often of the temporal judgments of God. See p. 179.

 

 

6.  Consolation and Exhortation (ver. 9-12).

 

 

As remarked above the Writer has a genuine affection in the Lord for those addressed.  He would not have them think him stern and callous, nay, they are “beloved  It is wise to set before them the full possible outcome of declension; “faithful are the wounds of a friend”; nevertheless he is assured that they have not reached that state, but are evidencing in some real measure their salvation by displaying the thing that accompany salvation.  What could he say to make plainer that he writes to them as really [eternally] “saved” persons?  No unreal professor can produce things that belong to salvation, seeing that he is not saved.

 

 

For this assurance he finds reason in their love to the Name they had professed, shown by serving His saints, a love, which God, its Object, would not forget.  Ponder the thought that God’s righteousness determines His conduct towards His people and their works.  It is at once encouraging and warning.  This is one of many passages the force of which lies in the very real peril of liberty, and even life, incurred in periods of persecution by espousing the cause of the persecuted.  Consider in the same light 1 Cor. 12: 3; 1 John 3: 13, 14.

 

 

But the spiritual life is like riding a bicycle: one cannot stand still, but must go on or go off.  Therefore he expresses the most urgent concern and appeal that the former diligence be maintained, so that their hope may be retained to the reaching its full end.  It is their hope, their expectation of things future that is in danger of dying.  Thus Paul reminds the Colossians that, being already reconciled to God by the death [Page 108] of His Son, their prospect was the highest of all honours, the being “presented” before God in glory, as one is “presented at court”: comp. Eph. 1: 4; 5: 27; Jude 24.  But that, unlike the reconciliation which results entirely from the death of Christ on the cross, this final honour is contingent upon their continuance in the faith and their not being moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1: 22, 23).

 

 

Christians may easily become “sluggish” as to this hope and goal, as these already were as to keenness of hearing.  The word is the same as in 5: 11.  The alternative is that they constantly bestir themselves to be “imitators of those who through faith and long patience inherit” what God has promised.  For the promises of God are not absolute, in disregard of the moral state of His people, but are expressly made dependent upon the response of faith and the exercise of long patience.  This strong exhortation to extended patience (makrothumia) is inharmonious with the unfounded notion that the early Christians were taught that the return of Christ was to be expected by them at any time.  On the contrary, they knew from Christ Himself that it would be only “after a long time” that He would return (Matt. 25: 19), and that throughout that lengthy period they must be steadfast in hope.

 

 

7.  An Encouraging Example (13-20).

 

 

Of this extended patience Abraham, the father of all the faithful, is a shining example.  From the beginning the utterances of God to mankind include two major elements, warning and promise: warning – “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”: promise – “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head” (Gen. 2: 17; 3: 15).  Our Writer has warned, now he would encourage to long patience.  Such steadfast endurance was amply rewarded in Abraham’s case, whose children we are in faith and hope and need to be in patient waiting.

 

 

God promised to Abraham that his posterity should be numerous, saying, “multiplying I will multiply thee” (Gen. 22: 17).  This was an amplifying of the first promise, “I will make of thee a great nation” (Gen. 12: 2), a promise given when he was childless.  He then waited no less than twenty-five years for the son to be born through whom the promise should be fulfilled (com. Gen. 12: 4 with 21: 5); and later, as this son of promise was a ripening lad, the hope centred in him was seemingly dashed to the ground by the command to slay him (Gen. 22).  But Abraham’s faith prospered on the test because he kept on “looking unto the promise of God”; so that faith grew, and he became “fully assured that what God had promised He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4: 20, 21).

 

[Page 109]

Now a promise from GOD is warrant enough for assurance of hope; but God in great grace was “minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His counsel,” to which end He confirmed it by an oath, and an oath based upon His own existence and character; so that these shall cease should His promise fail of fulfilment, which is impossible.  Now men regard the oath of a fellow mortal as confirming a matter beyond further dispute; how much more ought a Divine oath to dismiss all doubt!

 

 

Thus by two unchangeable things, the promise and the oath of God, He has given us adequate ground for strong encouragement and steadfast endurance.  For as Abraham was given a great future as the object of his hope, so we have a great hope set before us, only one of far greater dignity and glory.  Abraham’s hope attached him firstly to a glorious future connected with his national descendants on earth; our hope connects us with a future to be realized in the heavens.

 

 

8. This hope is

 

 

i. A refuge.  Hope saves from despair.  By looking forward we are kept from looking back, as did Lot’s wife; and also “by hope we are saved” as regards present difficulties daunting the spirit: as a poor youth, struggling with present poverty, is saved from giving up the battle, by reason of a hope that one day he will secure an inheritance left to him, but situate in a distant land, and for the enjoyment of which he must wait till he come of age.

 

 

ii. Hope is an anchor, enabling the ship to ride out the gale.  The security of an anchor depends firstly upon the firmness of the unseen ground which it grips.  Our hope attaches our hearts to the realm “within the veil,” the region which is eternally stable, the kingdom and presence of God.  The storms which rock the surface of the sea do not disturb its rock-bottom, so neither do the tempests of earth disturb the tranquillity of heaven, where our hope is fixed.

 

 

iii. The figure is changed.  Into that high and holy place Jesus has entered, and is for ever beyond and above the storms of time.  He braved their fiercest blusterings and passed through into the haven of eternal peace.  But even as His passage through this tempestuous world was for our benefit, so has He entered within the veil for our good.  It is as a forerunner of all who will follow His steps that He has gone into the immediate presence of God, having become High Priest for ever.

 

 

What, then, must be our response?  We are urged (1) to flee to the refuge, and to abide there.  (2) To lay fast hold of the hope and never to relax our grip.  (3) We must cast our [Page 110] anchor within the veil, nor ever slip the cable of faith that links us to it.  (4) We must follow after our Forerunner, nor turn from His path, for only so can we arrive at the place whither He has gone in advance of us.

 

 

Let us therefore run with patience the race that lies before us, looking off unto Jesus, and thus finding Him to be both author and perfecter of faith (12: 1). “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober, and set your hope perfectly [=undividedly] upon the favour that is being brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1: 13).

 

 

This strenuous and ceaseless advance each must make for himself.  It is no use waiting for others, “for” (ver. 4) as touching those who have been described they cannot and will not go forward, so it is useless to wait for them, even though they be dear to our hearts in the Lord or by ties of nature.  “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, he is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me.  And he that doth not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.  He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 10: 37-39).

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 111]

 

CHAPTER IX

 

THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

(Ch. 7)

 

 

Ch. 7: 1. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is King of Peace; 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God), abideth a priest continually.

 

4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils. 5 And they indeed of the sons of Levi that receive the priest’s office have commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though these have come out of the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not counted from them hath taken tithes of Abraham, and hath blessed him that hath the promises. 7 But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better. 8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there one, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And, so to say, through Abraham even Levi, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes; 10 for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.

 

 

11 Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it hath the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be reckoned after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are said belongeth to another tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests. 15 And what we say is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest; 16 who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless [Gr. indissoluble] life: 17 for it is witnessed of him,

 

Thou art (a) priest for ever [i.e., Gk. ‘for or unto the age’] after the order of Melchizedek. 18 For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness; 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh to God. 20 And inasmuch [Page 112] as it is not without the taking of an oath; 21 (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him,

The Lord sware and will not repent himself, Thou art (a) priest for ever);

22 by so much also hath Jesus become surety of a better covenant. 23 And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing; 24 but he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. 25 Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near to God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

 

26 For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appointeth men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointeth a Son, perfected for evermore.

 

 

THE stimulus needed by the sluggish having been administered the main theme is resumed.  Such as have been revived by the stimulus will find their spiritual understanding quickened to master the teaching otherwise difficult to explain to them (5: 11).

 

 

Christ is the heavenly High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Ponder the situation implied by the Writer. One who cannot grasp the significance of the fact stated is dull of apprehension, is a spiritual babe.  Then, alas, is not the church of God mainly an infant nursery?

 

 

Jesus has been proclaimed by God as “high priest after the order of Melchizedek  Not “a* high priest,” as if there were other high priests.  God appointed in Israel only one high priest at a time.  It is so in the heavenly realm.  Jesus is that high priest, and there is no other.  The main argument of the Writer hangs on this fact; so that he who would draw near to God must do so through this High Priest or he cannot do so at all.  And this High Priest does not belong to the order of priests of which Aaron, the God-appointed high priest in Israe1, was the head, but to the order of a priest named Melchizedek.

 

[* Note. By adding the indefinite article “a” before the words “high priest” our English translators have made a grave blunder.]

 

 

Of this Melchizedek the sole and very brief historical record is as follows: (Gen. 14: 17-20):

 

 

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him [Abram], after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, at the vale of Shaveh (the same is the King’s Vale).  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High.  And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.  And he gave him a tenth of all.

 

 

Our Writer draws lessons from two features of this short account: (a) from what is said; (b) from what is not said.

 

 

1. The first fact mentioned is that Melchizedek was priest of “God Most High This was not the title of God which marked Aaron’s ministry.  The inscription on the gold-fronted plate of his turban was “Holy to Jehovah” (Exod. 28: 36).  Full revelation of His character as Jehovah came four centuries later than the time of Abraham.  In the time of the latter He made Himself known chiefly as El Shaddai (Exod. 6: 3), that is, God Almighty, or All-sufficient; or as El Elyon, which emphasized His solitary exaltation above all creation.  That the Person was one and the same is true, and is intimated by Abraham in Gen. 14: 22, where he speaks of El Elyon as Jehovah, but the emphasis was on the former title then, on the latter in the days of Aaron.

 

 

Thus in that oldest period of history God asserted by His Self-chosen titles the dependence of all men upon Him and His sufficiency for them, as well as His supremacy over and control of His universe.  Already by the time of Abraham men generally had set aside this knowledge of the true God which they possessed and had created of their own fancy, or by the seduction of demons, gods many and lords many (Rom. 1: 18-12): but there remained some who maintained among the nations a witness to the true Creator, God Most High, and of these Melchizedek was standing for this only true God, though amidst races devoted to and degraded by idolatries most foul.  One can imagine the strength it was to the newly found faith of Abraham to find in Canaan a noble representative of the God whose glory he had seen in distant Chaldea, and the pleasure it was to Melchizedek that a devout worshipper of his God had come to the land.

 

 

The revelation of El Elyon by the name Jehovah was made in due season to draw back to Himself the estranged race of mankind, by the declaration given in that name that the Most High was desirous to cancel the moral distance that separated sinful rebels from Himself and to enter into covenant relations with them, and that they could count implicitly upon His faithfulness.

 

 

But the chief point, it would seem, why the Writer quotes [Page 114] the earlier Divine title is to show that Melchizedek lived long before Aaron and represents an older and primal relationship between man and God; a relationship which the Aaronic system of religion was designed to restore, not to supersede, being thus itself but temporary.

 

 

2. The next feature stressed is that Melchizedek was a royal priest, a priest-king.  His name interpreted means king of righteousness, and the name of his city, Salem, declares him king of peace.  This sets him forth as an ideal sovereign whose rule being righteous will assure peace, because for evermore “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence for ever” (Isa. 32: 17). 

 

 

This union of the kingly and the priestly offices in one person is ancient.  It was found in earliest times after the Flood.  In ancient Babylon, the centre of the first empire,* the sovereign was the high priest.  This continued till century six B.C., when Cyrus the Persian having crushed the Babylonian monarchy the priestly caste probably left Babylon.  They seem to have moved their headquarters to Asia Minor, and in 133 B.C. Attalus, king of Pergamum, bequeathed his kingdom and priestly headship to the Romans.  In the next century Julius Caesar revived the dual dignity by constituting himself, first, Pontifex Maximus, and later Emperor.  The Emperors of Rome retained this twofold office until Gratian (emperor A.D. 375-383) refused the priesthood.

 

* There were earlier kingdoms in Sumeria, in different districts, and sundry wars to the end of the 3rd millennium B.C.  “In the struggle which followed between various small cities, Babylon was successful, and under Hammurrabi she became the capital of ‘Babylonia,’ ultimately obtaining the position of the most important city in Western Asia.” (Enc. Brit., vol. II, 840.)

 

 

This feature marked the systems of idolatry that branched out of the original Babylonian idolatry.  Thus Balak the king of Moab is shown offering the sacrifices required by Balaam (Num. 23: 2, 14, 15, 29, 30).  Down to quite recent years the Emperor of China acted as chief priest of his people, annually offering supplication to heaven on their behalf.

 

 

But the Bible shows that the union of ruler and priest obtained earlier than Babylon, for Noah was both head of the family and also as priest offered its sacrifices unto God (Gen. 8: 20), and it was thus with Abraham (Gen. 12: 8; 13: 4; ch. 22), Isaac (Gen. 26: 25), Jacob (Gen. 33: 20; 35: 3) and Job (Job 1: 5).  Though the head of a family or clan may not have been styled king, he was so de facto, and its priest also.

 

 

Thus Melchizedek was one example of a general feature of those earliest times, and Moses was another instance.  For, as was shown above (pp. 65, 66), he acted as chief priest before [Page 115] Aaron was appointed and he is also styled law-giver and “king in Jeshurun,” the senior over all heads and tribes of Israel (Deut. 33: 4, 5).

 

 

If we inquire as to the origin of this primal conjunction of king and priest, it must be observed that it is an original fact of the whole creation, for from its beginning the Son Who treated it was both its Sovereign and the Mediator between it and God.  In this as other matters the heavenly is the original, the earthly the copy.

 

 

And Scripture suggests more.  The breastplate of the high priest in Israel was adorned with precious stones, on which were engraved the names of the tribes he represented before God.  Now a heavenly original of this had existed, for that anointed cherub, who stood next to God, and “covered” (as the cherubim in the holy place “covered” the mercy seat where shone a ray of the Divine glory), was adorned with “every precious stone”.* The whole picture in Ezek. 28, read in the light of the earthly copy, suggests that Satan in his unfallen state had a priestly office.

 

* The most ancient monuments constantly depict the king as having standing by him an official who “covered” his head with a screen of feathers or palm leaves.  It suggests that the original knowledge men had of high things persisted, and influenced their earthly arrangements.

 

 

Again; in ch. 5 of my commentary on the Revelation it is shown that the twenty-four elders are angelic beings having royal rank, for they are throned and crowned, and also render priestly service of worship and intercession (Rev. 5: 8).

 

 

And when at last certain redeemed and glorified men, in fellowship with the glorified Man their Redeemer, take the place of that angelic government and priesthood they are “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2: 9; Rev. 1: 6); and the picture of them in Rev. 22 is a holy city which also is “adorned with all manner of precious stones” (Rev. 22: 19), this figure again corresponding to the earthly copy, the breastplate of Aaron.

 

 

3. All this makes plain

 

 

i. That Melchizedek was one of an order of royal priests, not a solitary individual holding that rank, which feature the Writer stressed by noting five times that Ps. 110: 4 mentions “the order of Melchizedek” (5: 6, 10; 6: 20; 7: 11, 17).  It shows also that this order is heavenly, primal, and to be permanent, which at once involves the argument of the Writer that the priesthood of Levi, in the persons of Aaron and his successors, must of necessity be but temporary, to make room at some period for the full establishment of that superior order.

 

 

ii. That the proper and permanent Head of this order is the Son of God shows why it is said that Melchizedek was “made [Page 116] like unto the Son of God.”  It is not that the Man Christ Jesus has been made like unto Melchizedek by being appointed a priest of a royal order, but, on the contrary, that Melchizedek as been honoured to share in the dignity belonging properly to the Son of God.  It is because of this that his history is so narrated in God’s record of him that, as far as that record goes, he is presented as without ancestry, birth, or death.  Not that he was actually without these, else would he be eternal, uncreated, immortal, the Son of God Himself.  This has been suggested, but the thought is forbidden by the statement that Melchizedek was made, and made like unto the Son of God.  No one can be made like unto himself, for he is already himself.

 

 

Here the Writer builds upon the negative fact of the record, upon what is not said.  Nothing can more emphasize the divine nature of the Old Testament histories, the perfect control by the [Holy] Spirit of the historian, than that the omissions and silences give important lessons.  The brief mention of Melchizedek was so given as to make him in the record correspond to the uncreated and eternal Royal Priest, the Son of God, in Whose order he was a subordinate.

 

 

iii. It is further clear why Melchizedek is, with accuracy, termed “priest of God Most High  Though he was in his day the chief holder on earth of the royal priesthood yet was he not high priest; for the Son of God was already the holder of that supreme office.

 

 

iv. Because the order to which Melchizedek belongs exists in perpetuity, being an essential element in the ordering of the universe, therefore a man who is granted membership in it partakes of its permanency, and so it is said of Melchizedek that “he abideth a priest continually” (ver. 3).

 

 

Westcott remarks that the force of eis to dienekes (continually) is “satisfied by his actual continuance for ever,” but adds that this “supposition is excluded by the circumstances  Presumably this refers to the death of Melchizedek; but it is to be borne in mind that the order and office of royal priesthood belongs primarily to that world to a realm of which the death of the body dismisses the soul and to the glory of which the first resurrection introduces those then raised.  The statement that Melchizedek “abides a priest continually,” taken simply, shows that death does not deprive a royal priest of his dignity, or it would do so for those mentioned by Peter as being such to-day.

 

 

But as this priesthood is not cancelled by death, but persists in that realm beyond, then obviously it is superior to that of Aaron, for priests of his order “by death are hindered from continuing” (ver. 23).

 

[Page 117]

Thus the facts as to Melchizedek introduce the heart to a realm anterior to and superior to the economy of Israel and its priesthood.  This latter was indeed of God and every way helpful to repentant and believing men of that period.  The higher and royal priesthood had ceased on earth.  It had been proposed to Israel as a redeemed people soon after their deliverance, when at Sinai God said: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant ... ye shall be unto me a kingdom of Priests”* (Exod. 19: 5, 6).  But Israel neither could nor would fulfil the necessary condition; the Divine offer could not take effect; the rulership was separated from the priesthood, and remained so until at length the “sceptre departed from Judah” and passed to the gentile Nebuchadnezzar; and at last, with the destruction of the temple by Titus, the priesthood also ceased.

 

[* Note God’s conditional promise and accountability truth contained in this statement.  Bible teachers who ignore this fact and refuse to speak to others of it, are blinding the eyes of multitudes of His redeemed people to a divine truth which is vitally important for them to understand.  See Rom. 8: 17b; 2 Tim. 2: 12; 1 Pet. 4: 13, 14.  Always keep in mind: If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him]

 

 

Even at its best the Aaronic priesthood was but interim, a stop-gap; and all the circumstances called for a better covenant, a nobler priesthood, a better sacrifice, to which the Aaronic was designed to lead and to yield place. They therefore who upon faith in Christ had reached these better and higher privileges had attained to the heavenly realm and royal priesthood, and should not for a moment yield to pressure or allurements to return to the earthly and transitory.  This the Writer enforces by

 

4. The Relationship of Abraham to Melchizedek.  Now Abraham was the father and founder of the Israelitish economy, the fount and head of the whole nation, the holder of the original covenant and promises of God from which that people, and indeed the whole race of mankind, derived all hope and favour.  And yet Abraham accepted the blessing of Melchizedek and owned his superior dignity by rendering a tithe of the spoils of war.

 

 

Evidently therefore in Abraham’s judgment Melchizedek was of a nobler rank than himself, for “without any dispute the less is blessed by the better” (ver. 7).

 

 

Again, Levi, the head of the priestly tribe in Israel, was descended from Abraham and therefore inferior to him; but when Abraham, his forefather, gave tithes to Melchizedek, for all practical purposes so did Levi, for the latter was bound by the precedent of his ancestor.  Thus Melchizedek is superior to Levi and therefore to Levi’s descendants, Aaron and his sons.  This introduces a further consideration of weight.

 

 

5. Levi and Melchizedek.

 

 

i. The Levitical priesthood was bound to prove temporary because it could not serve the indispensable end of bringing in a perfect state (vers. 11, 19).  God, by virtue of His own [Page 118] perfection, must desire and require perfection in the relations between Himself and His creatures.  Man must desire and strive after normal, perfect relation with his Maker, or he cannot be satisfied.  This end Aaron and his sons could not fully serve.  They could bring about a temporary accommodation between God and the sinner, but a perfect reconciliation, perfect in quality and duration, they could not effect.

 

 

ii. Neither Aaron nor any one of his successors could guarantee the eternal security of a worshipper because in due time he would pass off the scene by death and be no longer able to serve the worshipper (ver. 23).

 

 

iii. Those priests were themselves infirm and imperfect and could not raise others to a state higher than their own (ver. 28).

 

 

iv. The sacrifices they offered for sins were not adequate to the establishing of an eternal standing before God and therefore had to be often repeated (ver. 27; 10: 4).

 

 

Because of this essential and ineradicable imperfection in the Levitical order, God, after it had acted for four hundred years, announced prophetically the coming of a new priest who should belong to the order that had preceded the Levitical (Ps. 110: 4), which implied the superseding of the latter.

 

 

6. The Law of the Aaronic Priesthood transitory.

 

 

i. The law here in view is not the moral law as embodied at Sinai in the Ten Commandments.  That law had been in force since man was created, and was prior to and independent of God’s covenants with Abraham and Israel.  Not under it but in connexion with a code of religious ordinances the Aaronic priesthood was instituted, and by that code its service was regulated.

 

 

ii. The moral law is “holy, righteous, good” (Rom. 7: 12), but this law of ritual is here described as “weak and unprofitable” (ver. 18).

 

 

It is true that neither law could make man perfect, but the reason in each case is different.  The moral law was in itself perfect, being the declaration of the will of God to man, but it was “weak through the flesh,” though not in itself; that is, its requirements being so high, human nature could not render obedience and so the law could only condemn the disobedient, rather than help him.  But the law of ritual was weak in itself, it was a “carnal” commandment, “fleshly,” that is, “it had its expression in flesh (comp. 9: 10, dikaiomata sarkos).  All the requirements, for example, to be satisfied by a Levitical priest were literally ‘of flesh’; outward descent, outward perfectness, outward purity.  No moral qualification was imposed” (Westcott on 7: 16). In consequence, the weakness inherent in human nature was inherent in this “carnal” system: being imperfect it could make nothing perfect, and was bound sometime to pass away and make room for that which being itself perfect could make perfect the obedient.

 

 

iii. The priesthood, and its authorizing and controlling law stand and fall together; “for the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (ver. 12).

 

 

Here arise pertinent and serious reflections for to-day.  There exist in Christendom orders of priests claiming to be “Christian,” as the Roman, Greek, many Anglicans, and others.  In different degrees they adopt and practise various appointments, rites, and ceremonies, such as sacred buildings for worship, with a triple division (porch, church, altar), to which attach different degrees of sanctity, a priestly order, priestly vestments, sacraments, incense, etc.

 

 

By what authority do these priestly orders exist and under what law do they officiate?  If they plead that they so order religion because God so ordered it of old in Israel, they seal their own condemnation, for

 

 

(1) That whole law of ordinances has been “disannulled” by God “because of its weakness and unprofitableness” (ver. 18), and it is wholly blameworthy to perpetuate what God has annulled; it is obviously an offence against Him as much as if magistrates should persist in administrating a law which the king had abrogated.

 

 

This galvanizing of a ritualistic corpse, this dressing-up of a moribund system, must needs be even more weak and unprofitable, morally and spiritually, than was the original system while it still lived.

 

 

(2) In any case, only men belonging to the family of Aaron were appointed by God to administer that ceremonial law, and it was under penalty of death that any one not of Aaron’s family presumed to draw near to act as priest (Num. 3: 10).  This penalty was exacted even from Levites, though they were of the same tribe as Aaron but not of his family (Num. 16: 8-11).

 

 

But if these priests claim to act under Christ as High Priest, their condemnation is equally swift and sure, for

 

 

(3) The Son of God Himself does not, and may not, act under that Levitical law, not being of the family of Aaron, but of the tribe of Judah, “as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests” (vers. 13, 14).

 

 

Here again the Writer argues from a negative.  As Moses did not connect priesthood with any tribe but that of Levi, no other tribe can put forth priests under the law of Moses.  Well had it been if this rule of action had prevailed among Christians, and nothing had been introduced into their service and worship which is not found in the New Testament.  And happy is [Page 120] the individual Christian who excludes from his life what is not justified by the Word of God.

 

 

Moreover, it is equally and emphatically fatal to their claim to act as priests under Christ that

 

 

(4) His priestly service is rendered only in heaven, for “if He were on earth He would not be a priest at all” (ch. 8: 4), that is, a priest to administer that former ceremonial system.

 

 

The effect is, that these priesthoods in question are plainly contrary to the will of God.  Those who desire to offer worship fully acceptable to God should abandon such priest-ruled systems.

 

 

Thus the whole Levitical system and priesthood is effete and annulled, so that they who seek God are cast back upon that older and living priesthood of which Melchizedek is God’s chosen example, and of this priesthood

 

 

7. Christ is the Living and only High Priest.  In Him, and in Him alone, are realized all the requisite conditions and qualifications.

 

 

i. As the Son of God He is the original and proper holder of the Royal Priesthood.

 

 

ii. As the Son of Man risen, and glorified in heaven, He has been reappointed to that dignity which was His from the beginning of creation; but He is able now as man to understand and to feel with those He represents before God.

 

 

iii. This appointment by God the Father is superior to that of Aaron inasmuch as it was confirmed by an oath: “Jehovah sware, and will not change His mind, Thou art priest, etc.” (vers. 20, 21, 22; Ps. 110: 4).

 

 

iv. This office is exercised in heaven, even as that same Psalm (ver. 1) shows “Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand

 

 

v. Christ does not suffer from the transitoriness caused by death, for the sworn appointment is “Thou art priest for ever  He enjoys “The power of an indissoluble life” (ver. 16).  His Divine nature is of necessity incapable of dying: His human nature was dissolved in death; the spirit, that element which animates the human body, He dismissed to His Father Who had given it (Luke 23: 46; Eccles. 12: 7); His body rested in the tomb; His soul, Himself, the Ego, went to the world of the dead (Ps. 16: 8-11; Acts 2: 25-28).  But by resurrection this dissolution was reversed, and now the Son of God, Christ Jesus, is to His humanity as well as His divinity, lives for evermore in the power of indissoluble life, “death no more hath dominion over Him” (Rom. 6: 9).

 

 

vi, Because of this His priesthood does not have to be surrendered by Him and pass to another, but “because He [Page 121] abideth for ever, He hath His priesthood unchangeable,” it resides continuously and everlastingly in His own person.

 

 

An Israelite might well have found much comfort by going repeatedly to the same priest, as one who from frequent intercourse had come to know the circumstances, temptations, struggles of the penitent.  But there was always the liability that one day he would learn that his friend had died and could no more help him in his approach to the Holy One.  The earthly priest could help only partially and for a time; but Christ “is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (ver. 25).

 

 

The expression “to the uttermost” is found elsewhere only at Luke 13: 11.  The Satan-afflicted woman “was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up  This scarcely describes the condition with strict accuracy.  She could not “completely” lift herself up, as the term is given in the Revised margin of Heb. 7: 25. She was not so crippled as to lie on her back all the time, yet could only get about bowed down.  What a picture of the devout Israelite under the law, and of too many believers to-day.  The face ever downward, minding earthly things; no power to lift oneself up unto God; definitely hampered; Satan-bound.  From this incompleteness of spiritual state, alive indeed, yet only half-alive, no human mediator can deliver; but even as Christ instantly made straight that bent back, so now as the Royal Priest He can “save completely them that draw near unto God through Him”; and those who seek Him habitually will find that through Him God, having begun in them His good work, “will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1: 6).  And thus shall this Priest bring all those who obey Him to that perfect harmony with God which is the goal of creation, but to which Aaron and the law of ceremonies could do no more than point the way, but could not bring us there.

 

 

Truly indeed “such a high priest became us” - He is exactly and completely suited to such helpless sinners as us; for He is “holy, guileless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (ver. 26).  In nature, character, conduct, and position He is all that the holy God requires and all that sinful man needs; He is God’s “Son, perfected for evermore” as our Saviour (ver. 28).

 

 

8. What, now, is required on our side that we should obtain the fullest benefit from this Royal Priest?  Are we not shown this by a detail concerning Abraham not noticed above?  When did Abraham obtain the blessing of God’s priest Melchizedek?  It was when he returned from “the slaughter of the [Page 122] kings  Our Writer notices and quotes this detail (ver. 1).  Not that Christians in this age are to slaughter kings or any other men; now our warfare is in the spirit realm; we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against wicked spirits (Eph. 6: 12).  As Abraham in his day waged war to the death against the then enemies of God and righteousness, so must we contend vigorously against the Devil and his works, no matter what the risk and cost.  Then shall we learn the spiritual reality of Melchizedek bringing forth from His heavenly Salem the true bread and wine and pronouncing upon us the blessing which maketh rich and to which no sorrow is added.  What this warfare involves will be seen from what the Writer says later.

 

 

This condition of inheriting the blessing belongs to the nature of the case.  The Son of God was manifested on earth that He might bring to nought the works of the devil (1 John 3: 8) and deliver his captives (Heb. 2: 14, 15); therefore one who wishes to experience that blessed deliverance must needs take sides with the Son of God against the Devil and his works, and such the Royal Priest will bless and succour to the full.  These shall find that Jesus has truly become for them the mediator of a better covenant than that of the law (ver. 22), which theme the Writer now proceeds to unfold and apply.

 

 

*       *       *

[Page 123]

 

PART III. THE BETTER COVENANT

(Ch. 8: 1-11: 40)

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE HEAVENLY TENT

(Ch. 8)

 

 

Ch. 8: 1.  Now in the things which we are saying the chief point is this: We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is necessary that this high Priest also have somewhat to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are those who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve that which is a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was shewed thee in the mount. 6 But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith,

 

Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; for they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and on their heart also will I write them: and I will be to them (a) God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 and they shall not teach everyman his fellow-citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more.

 

13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.  But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.

 

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1. ECAPITULATION.  Clearly such a high priest as has been described is eminently desirable, but is he available?  He is: “We have such a high priest”; this is the chief point urged.  He embodies all the required qualifications as to position, dignity, service, and offerings.

 

 

i. As to position: He sat down. The force of this will be shown in ch. 9: 11-14.

 

 

ii. As to dignity: (1) He took His seat at the right hand; the place of highest honour; (2) of the throne: the centre of supreme authority; (3) of the Majesty: the centre of Divine glory; (4) in the heavens: the primal, dominating region of the creation - for the heavens were created before the earth (Gen. 1: 1; Job 38: 6, 7), and “the heavens do rule” (Dan. 4: 17, 25, 26, 32, 35). 

 

 

Thus is our High Priest in the position which affords Him decisive influence upon all matters in which He acts, an influence not to be defeated by the utmost that the Accuser of the brethren can do or urge (Rev. 12: 10, 11; Job chs. 1 and 2; Zech. 3: 1, 2).  Already when on earth He had thus acted in support of His followers (Luke 22: 31, 32), and now at the throne He prevails on behalf of the lowly of heart (1 John 2: 1, 2).

 

 

iii. This service to God and man, for the reconciling and maintaining of relations between them, He discharges in “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man

 

 

(1) It is here that He renders this public and priestly service, and does so at His own expense; all of which ideas are expressed in the word translated “minister” (leitourgos).  Nor shall any heart but His own ever know the cost it was to Him to provide the gifts and sacrifices which are due to God from men, nought of which they could offer but all of which He supplied on their behalf.  And now, as priest, while waiting the time to take up His kingly service, He expends His time, abilities, love, and power for the good of them that entrust to Him their affairs.

 

 

The subject of His gifts and sacrifice the Writer will open at length in chs. 9 and 10.

 

 

(2) The heavenly regions are vast beyond human conception.  It is not in any and every part of them that our High Priest officiates, but in a particular sphere described here as “the true tabernacle [or tent, skene] which the Lord pitched, not man  Of this tabernacle several details are given which, being seldom noticed, shall be here considered.

 

 

(a) A tabernacle (or tent) is a dwelling, even as we read of Abraham (11: 9) that “he took up his abode in tents” (en skenais katoikesas).  There is, then, in the heavens a “tent” wherein God dwells.  As to His infinity and universality God is everywhere, but as the Centre of creation and Object of its [Page 125] worship He has a place where beings limited in nature and form can approach Him: “in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18: 10).  The scenery of the Revelation exhibits this, as 15: 5, where seven angels come out from the inner shrine, “the sanctuary (naos) of the tabernacle [tent] of the testimony in heaven” - here literal beings come out of a literal place.  Empty the latter of reality and the reality of angels must be denied and the Revelation is emptied of meaning.  Referring to Note C to ch. II (p. 33), it is clear that this dwelling place of God cannot be “outside of time and space” for angels cannot be so, and they enter and leave this tabernacle.

 

 

This heavenly tent corresponds to the Tent in Israel by being a centre of the glory of God.  In that the Shekinah was a display of His glory.  When the Lord of that glory “tabernacled” on earth (John 1: 14) men with enlightened eyes saw in Him the moral glory of God, and once, on the holy mount, His outward glory.  In this heavenly tent His personal glory is seen, even as Rev. 15: 8: “the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God

 

 

(b) But this dwelling is temporary, a second element belonging to a tent.  In 2 Cor. 5: 1 the contrast is emphatic between a tent which can be taken down and a building which is eternal.  The tent in heaven is not eternal; it had a beginning, it was “pitched  Before finite beings were created it was not necessary; the Divine Persons enjoyed divine intercourse without need of such a sphere.  It exists for the benefit of creatures of time and space, as part of the heavenly portion of the creation.

 

 

(c) This tent is movable.  It was thus with its earthly copy, as God said to David: “I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel, unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle to another” (1 Chron. 17: 4-6).  Here is the same contrast between the permanent house and the movable tent.

 

 

The tent in heaven (Rev. 15: 5) has been noticed above as the source of wrath just before the period of the millennial glory.  In Rev. 7: 15 it is perhaps intimated that the persecuted of that period will, after their removal to the heavens, be sheltered by this tabernacle of God: “He that sitteth upon the throne shall tabernacle over them  And at the close of the Millennium, which is the beginning of the everlasting kingdom, it will be announced that “the tabernacle of God is with men,” that is, on [a new] earth (Rev. 21: [1], 3).

 

 

It is in this dwelling-place of the Most High that the Great Priest now exercises His ministry of mercy, from the throne where causes are determined.

 

[Page 126]

(d) The tent is set up by the Lord.  The Israelite could reach only a tent made, indeed, at the direction of God, but made by man, and so having no range beyond man’s sphere, this earth, leaving uncertain his standing before heaven and for eternity.

 

 

Such religious persons to-day who persist in seeking God along that line of things earthly, visible, material, share the uncertainty and insecurity of that earthly system, for they do not benefit by the priestly ministry of Christ seeing that this is carried on in heaven.  Yea, their situation is less secure than that of the devout Israelite of old, for those had at least the benefit of a God-appointed priesthood to help them Godward, but these to-day have only a self-appointed priesthood having neither Divine warrant nor any validity.

 

 

But such as approach God through the heavenly Priest are introduced to that divine dwelling of God which is of His own direct construction for the very purpose that His creatures may meet with Him there.  A tent made by man, man could destroy, and Israel be deprived of such advantages as attached to it; but the tent pitched by the Lord none can destroy or close.

 

 

(e) This is the true tent-dwelling of God.  “True” (alethinos) means the real as contrasted with anything that seems to correspond to it; that which fulfils every purpose.  Comp. John 6: 55: “My flesh is true (alethes) food and my blood is true (alethes) drink

 

 

In this tent God does really and personally dwell.  In only a very limited degree was this known in the Tabernacle of old.  Therefore access to this dwelling, through the true High Priest, affords a real relation of reverent intimacy with God Most High not to be found elsewhere.  That perfection which the earthly arrangements under the law could never produce is reached here.

 

 

2. The Copy of the Heavenly.

 

 

Of this heavenly original the tabernacle built by Moses was but a copy and shadow (ver. 5).

 

 

i. Even so it was of real value; but who will linger over the copy who can study the original?  Who need regret to pass from the twilight of the shadow to possess the bright substance?  He who will be so foolish can never enjoy the original, the ideal, the substantial.

 

 

ii. But as yet none has come to the original in personal experience.  It is our hope to do so; but hope that is seen is not hope.  Meanwhile, from the copy much can be learned of the original; the shadow shows the shape and size of the substance; much as to the heavenly tent can be learned from its earthly copy.

 

 

iii. This by itself were reason enough why God solemnly [Page 127] warned Moses that he was to complete (opitelein) the copy precisely according to the pattern that had been shown to him in the mount.  The pattern was to be followed not merely as to general design but completely, that is, as to the smallest detail.  For by these details the Holy Spirit was signifying important truth and teaching lessons in parabolic form (9: 8-10).

 

 

A modernist I know said that we could quite well dispense with the book of Leviticus.  And I heard a celebrated Non-conformist preacher, who passed as evangelical, say sarcastically that certain brethren “hung a great weight of doctrine on a tabernacle pin  Such slighters of the copy remain blind as to the original; their knowledge of the heavenly places is infantile.  Yet we are exhorted by the [Holy] Spirit to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, yea, to “set our mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth” (Col. 3: 1, 2).  And he who loves Christ will wish to know as much as possible about the place where Christ is and what He is doing there, in gaining which knowledge the study of the copy helps.

 

 

A further reflection.  God is now building a spiritual dwelling for Himself, His church (Matt. 16: 18; 1 Pet. 2: 4, 5; Eph. 2: 19-20).  Very many who busy themselves helping, as they suppose, in this work say that God has given us no pattern for this house, but that each may, yea must, build as he thinks best.  For that earthly sanctuary precise details were given, with a solemn injunction that they were to be followed; for this present house no pattern is given, say these builders.  Is it any wonder that, with such an opinion prevailing, Christendom, claiming to be the house of God, presents the appearance of a building of many and incongruous styles and a mass of confused and discordant details?

 

 

iv. Moses did not see that actual “tent that the Lord pitched  Probably man, not yet possessed of the powers of the body of resurrection, could not see it or comprehend it if seen.  It was a “pattern” (typos) of it that was shown to Moses and of that pattern he made an earthly copy.  Yet as the copy corresponded to the pattern and the pattern to the original, we, studying the first, can learn about the last.  It has been rightly said that the types are as rigid as mathematics.

 

 

To this study our Epistle is a call and encouragement, and without it the Epistle cannot be understood.  In these four chapters (7-10) there are mentioned perhaps forty details of the earthly tent and its services.  Some major matters will be noticed in their places.  But even as the pattern was not shown to Moses on the low level of the desert but on the summit of the mount, so must the heart be detached from the [Page 128] earth and ascend to God if it would comprehend the heavenly.  They who “mind earthly things” will not be shown the heavenly things. For the ultimate design of the copy is to attract to the original.

 

 

All Israelites dwelt around the Tabernacle.  They knew its form, took part in its services, perhaps admired its pure linen, coloured coverings, artistic veils, and golden pillars; but only those whose spirits longed after the God of the mount, the God of heaven, and who by faith and love sought in heart His holy place on high, knew the spiritual value of that earthly copy of the heavenly.  It is thus to-day.  The essential principle and vital secret of the true Christian life is to know Christ where He now is, at the right hand of God.

 

 

3. The Old Covenant.

 

 

It has been already stated that “Jesus has become the surety of a better covenant” (7: 22).  This is now expanded.

 

 

i. A covenant is a contract in which each party binds himself to the other on certain conditions.

 

 

The properly first covenant was an implied covenant, that between the Creator and the creature, Adam; God undertaking certain responsibilities toward the being He had seen fit to make, and the creature being under natural responsibility to trust and obey his Creator.  The first expressed covenant was that made by God with Noah (Gen. 9: 8-17), of which the rainbow is the sign.  So long as there shall be rainbows this covenant will stand.  The next covenant was that with Abraham reviewed in ch. 6: 13-20.  That covenant too stands: it was not annulled by the law promulgated at Sinai 430 years later.  This is argued in Gal. 3: 15-22.

 

 

It is the covenant made between God and Israel at Sinai that is here called “first” and “old” as is clear from 9: 18, 19.  It would perhaps be more exact here to translate prote by “former” which is the meaning in Matt. 27: 64; John 1: 15, 30, and is its more usual meaning in Hellenistic Greek.

 

 

The Jewish mind based all on Moses, Sinai, the law.  Few were spiritually minded to discern that the covenant there made was faulty and temporary, and that the true hope of the godly was based on God’s promises to Abraham.  Far too many do not understand this to-day, and persist in the vain endeavour to be at peace with God by works and ceremonies of the law of Sinai.  Being ignorant of God’s righteousness they seek to establish their own, not seeing that, their works being morally imperfect, they can never by them become righteous before God (Rom. 10: 3; 3: 20).

 

 

ii. But the position is yet more radical.  It is a just principle of law that should one party to a covenant wilfully and [Page 129] persistently disregard his obligations the other party is at liberty to regard it as void and to denounce it.  This is how matters stand as regards the covenant of Sinai.  After it had lasted some seven hundred years God denounced it, saying through Jeremiah, “Israel did not continue in My covenant and I disregarded them” (ver. 9; Jer. 31: 32).  The rebellion of Israel brought about the temporary annulment of the covenant, which has been the situation ever since and will remain so till they are changed in heart toward God and the promised new covenant can be made with them.  This can be studied at length in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28.

 

 

One item of the covenant was that habitual obedience to the statutes imposed under the covenant would assure permanent possession of Canaan, with material prosperity; whereas persistent disobedience would involve, first, severe chastisement in the land, and at length, removal from it and dispersion in other lands.  Already by the time of Jeremiah the northern kingdom had suffered this last penalty, and in the days of that prophet Judah also was scattered.

 

 

It is true that after seventy years a portion of the godly, of all tribes, humbled themselves and embraced the opportunity of returning to Judea, but they were a mere minority; the majority continued in banishment and have remained scattered until now.  And the descendants of that minority proved as unspiritual as their ancestors (Matt. 23: 29-39; Acts 7: 51-53); they filled up the cup of iniquity by the murder of the Son of God; so that after a comparatively brief occupation of the land (some six centuries; Cyrus to Hadrian), these also were scattered and to this day the Sinaitic covenant remains in abeyance.

 

 

It follows that it must needs be futile for any son of Adam, Jew or Gentile, to endeavour to secure under it the favour of God, and especially the Gentile seeing that such have never been parties to it.  Some other and better covenant must needs be the basis of fellowship between God and man.  Even in the days when our Epistle was written the former covenant had long since been, by implication, declared “old,” and was actually becoming old, indeed aged, like a decrepit old man (gerasko), and was nigh unto vanishing away. (ver. 13.)

 

 

Incidentally, this (apart from other weighty reasons) forbids absolutely the pretentious theory of Anglo-Israelism.  Even if it could be established historically that the Anglo-Saxons and the Americans are the descendants of Judah and the ten tribes (which, however, is unfounded), yet even so they could not, in banishment from Palestine, and therefore being under the curse of Jehovah, be enjoying the vast temporal blessings guaranteed to Israel in that land [Page 130] only, and there only upon condition of obedience to the covenant of Sinai; for that covenant is not in force.

 

 

4. The New Covenant.

 

 

i. Even while that former covenant lasted no one ever stood in the favour of God on the ground of it, for from its start that law had denounced its curse upon every person that continued not to keep all its demands (Deut. 27: 26; Gal. 3: 10).  Obedience had to be continuous and complete, on which terms no one had qualified for favour or could do so.

 

 

From this fact alone the spiritual Jew could have seen that his expectation of the grace of God must rest upon the earlier covenant with Abraham.  Now this covenant had not been made with Israel as a nation, for they did not become a nation until their corporate deliverance from Egyptian slavery.  It was only then that God promised to regard them as a kingdom and a nation, set apart corporately as His special people.  This last privilege was conditional upon national obedience which they unitedly promised to render (Ex. 19: 3-8).  From this situation resulted their national apostasy from God and national rejection by God.

 

 

But the covenant with Abraham was with himself personally and with his descendants individually.  Therefore each of his seed who walked in the steps of that faith of his father Abraham was blessed with the faithful Abraham (Rom. 4: 12; Gal. 3: 9).

 

 

By consequence, each Gentile also who thus trusted God, likewise was reckoned by God to be a child of Abraham and within the sphere of the covenant with him.  And because Abraham had thus trusted God, and the covenant promises had been granted, before he had been circumcised, circumcision could be a sign of the covenant, but was not a condition precedent thereto (Rom. 4: 9-17; Gal. 3: 6-9).

 

 

From these considerations it follows that every individual who exercises a personal faith in God becomes a “son of Abraham” (Gal. 3: 7) and a sharer in that righteousness which was reckoned unto Abraham upon his having believed God.  And because a true faith of the heart was the only condition required of Abraham, it results that this is the only condition required to make one a spiritual son of Abraham.  Thus the covenant afterward made at Sinai is set aside as to the basic blessing of acceptance with God.

 

 

ii. But further, the essential feature of God’s promise and of Abraham’s faith concerned a particular person, indicated thus: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22: 18). “He [God] saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3: 16). [Page 131] Abraham looked forward to Christ, with his expectation fastened on Him for the fulfilment of the promised and covenant blessings: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day,” said the Lord Jesus, “and he saw it and was glad” (John 8: 56).  At the appointed and aforetold time the Seed was born, the Christ appeared; and then and thenceforth the faith required unto righteousness must of necessity be placed in Him as having come, even as in advance it was placed in Him as to come.  And forasmuch as the covenanted blessing was to extend through Him to all nations of the earth, the Gentile as much as the Jew can claim the blessing and secure it by faith in Christ.

 

 

For thus sharing in the blessing promised to Abraham it is not needful to become a Jew in the national sense. Centuries before the nation came into existence at Sinai, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel had entered the family circle of Abraham; and, if they had also his personal faith in God, they secured a share in his portion from God.

 

 

That Israel’s national life, and membership in it, secured certain rich privileges, is, indeed, true, and remains true, and will prove true in ages to come (Rom. 3: 1, 2; 9: 4, 5).  But this does not enter into the question of obtaining a righteous standing with God; for this Christ is the end, the annulment of the law (Rom. 10: 4), and so for inheriting the primal, pre-Sinaitic covenant with Abraham.

 

 

iii. It is out of this situation there develops that new spiritual society, the church of God, formed from both Jews and Gentiles, but in which there can be neither Jew nor Gentile, nor other merely earthly distinction, and the members of which society, because they belong to Christ, the Seed of Abraham, are themselves “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3: 28, 29).

 

 

To such belong all the fabulous riches, heavenly and earthly, included in the new covenant of which Jesus is the surety; for “all things” are theirs, since they are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3: 21-23).  Eternity itself will be too short to exhibit that this covenant is indeed better than the old, enacted upon better promises (ver. 6).

 

 

5. The Differences between the Old Covenant and the New.

 

 

i. At Sinai there was set up a standard and rule of life.  It was a perfect standard, sufficient to regulate perfectly the heart and conduct of man in every relationship.  But it was external to man and could not enable him to be or to do what it demanded.  Being thus “weak through the flesh” it failed of its end.  This is so with all legislation.  Parliament may [Page 132] pass excellent laws but it cannot grant to the subject the power or even the disposition to obey.

 

 

Before a man trusts another his inner man is locked against that other, but faith, trust, is an act which opens the heart, the inner life, to the person trusted, in this case to God.  At once God is free to work within the one who trusts Him.  This the law could not do, except so far as to frighten and to harden the sinner, which did but oppress and provoke him, and left him both weak and rebellious.

 

 

ii. But it is the vital feature of the new covenant that God, by His Spirit, puts this law in the inward parts and writes it upon the heart.  The heart open to God receives an inward perception of what God requires, an instinctive sense of what pleases God, and a spiritual acquaintance with God Himself.  Such a believer not merely knows about God, as did men who heard this law, but becomes acquainted with God Himself revealed in Christ.  “And this is the life eternal, that they should get to know Thee, the alone true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ” (John 17: 3).

 

 

To know God thus is to love Him; the renewed and instructed heart cannot but love Him Who is Love; and love becomes the energy which both impels and enables a joyful obedience to His law.

 

 

“My gracious Lord I own Thy right

To every service I can pay,

And count it my supreme delight

To hear Thy dictates and obey

 

 

Thus faith worketh by love and love fulfils the law.  Not by a fraction is the Divine standard lowered, no demand of the moral law is relaxed.  On the contrary, the heart perceives now its deeper meaning, its more spiritual sense and claim.  It perceives that hatred is murder, lust is adultery, coveting is stealing.  But love is glad and able to discharge this higher claim; it longs only to be perfect as God is perfect.

 

 

It is to be observed that, by faith and love, spiritual believers in the older days reached by faith this normal and blessed state long before Sinai.  Eliphaz described to Job the path by which he might make acquaintance with God and find the Almighty his true treasure and heart’s delight (Job 22: 21-30).  And a later much afflicted saint could exclaim, “Oh, how I love Thy law!  It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119: 97).  And another had reached such ripeness of character that he was “greatly beloved” in heaven (Dan. 10: 11).

 

 

To this large extent did the [Holy] Spirit work practical righteousness of heart and life in believers in days of old: how much [Page 113] richer therefore may be and should be the conformity to God of those who share in the new covenant now, subsequent to the fulfilment at Pentecost of the promise that the new heart should be reinforced by a new spirit, for God would put His own Spirit within the believer and so cause him to walk in His statutes, keep His judgments, and do them. (Ezek. 36: 26, 27)

 

 

6. The Cancelling of Iniquity.

 

 

But what becomes of the penalties incurred by the transgression of the old covenant?  It is a fixed law of God’s universe that “every transgression and disobedience receives a just recompense of reward” (2: 2).  The penalty being death, how shall the transgressor benefit by a new covenant?  How can he be a party thereto?

 

 

At ch. 9: 15 it will be stated that “a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant  By His own death the Mediator of the new covenant wiped out, cancelled the liability to death of the transgressor of the old covenant.  On this ground God can rightly say to such as agree to the terms of the new covenant He proposes that He will be merciful to their iniquities and will remember their sins no more (ver. 12).

 

 

i. The word “merciful” (hileos) is notable.  It means much more than being merciful, even being propitiated. The distinction is important.  The tax collector stood before the gate of God’s house (Luke 18: 9-14) and therefore before the brazen altar of sacrifice.  On that altar burned the innocent creature that had died as his substitute.  Understanding sufficiently the principle involved in that victim having died in his stead, he prayed, “God, be propitiated (hila