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The Typical Sacrifice
(Hebrews 10:1-4 )
The 10th chapter of our epistle has two main divisions: the first is occupied with a setting forth of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice unto those who believe, verses 1-20; the second is devoted to the making of a practical application of the doctrine of the first section unto faith, obedience, and perseverance, verses 21-39. The principal design of the Spirit therein is to exhibit the excellency and efficacy of Christ’s satisfaction, and this, not so much God-wards, as saint-wards, showing the inestimable blessings which it has procured for the favored members of the household of faith. The method which the apostle was inspired to follow in carrying out this design, was to, once more, set in antithesis the typical sacrifices of the Mosaic dispensation with the one Sacrifice of Christianity, contrasting the shadow with the Substance, and this, in order to bring out the inadequacy of the one and the sufficiency of the other to provide a perfect standing before God, with the resultant privilege of drawing near to Him as accepted worshippers.
Because the sacrifices under the old covenant were incapable, in and of themselves, to satisfy the claims of a holy God, they were also unable to meet the needs of those who brought them. Because that, of themselves, they could not make peace with God, neither could they give peace to the conscience of the offerer. Because they failed to make real atonement for sin, they could not cleanse the sinner. Therefore does the apostle point out that the Aaronic offerings were but "shadows," that the repetition of them intimated their insufficiency, that the fact of unexpiated sin was recalled to memory each time a victim was slain, and that inasmuch as it was merely the blood of beasts which was shed, it was impossible that such a medium or offering could either placate the wrath of God or procure His blessing upon those who presented such sacrifices.
The connection between Hebrews 10:0 and what immediately precedes is very blessed. In the closing verse of chapter 9 two things are joined together: the cross of Christ and His second coming. And what intervenes between Calvary and the actual entrance into Glory of those who were there redeemed and reconciled to God? This: the Christian-life on earth, and it is this which is mainly in view in the closing chapters of our epistle. It is the present status, privileges, walk, discipline and responsibilities of the saints which are therein set forth. That which is exhibited in the first twenty verses of Hebrews 10:0 is the perfect standing before God which the regenerated believer now has, and his blessed privilege as a worshipper of entering in spirit within the Heavenly courts while waiting down here for the promised return of his Savior. Having shown in chapter 9 that atonement has been accomplished, that the heavenly places were purified when the Redeemer entered the Holiest, the Spirit now emphasizes the fact that the believer has been fitted to draw nigh unto God Himself as a purged and accepted worshipper.
In previous sections the apostle has contrasted the priests of the Levitical dispensation with our great High Priest, he has opposed the vastly different covenants or economies to which each belonged, he has shown the immeasurable superiority of Christ’s one offering of Himself over the many sacrifices of old, he has placed in antithesis the respective "tabernacles" in which Aaron and Christ officiated. Each and all of these was designed to press upon the wavering Hebrews the deficiency of Judaism and the excellency of Christianity. Now he shows that not only are the two systems with all that pertains to them as different as a flickering candle and the shining of the sun, but that the privileges enjoyed by the individuals belonging to the one and the other are as widely separated as is light from darkness. The Mosaic system, as such, was neither able to impart permanent peace to the conscience nor give access into the presence of God, but the Satisfaction of Christ has procured these precious blessings unto those who flee to Him for refuge.
The order of thought which is followed in the first main division of our present chapter ought not to be difficult to grasp. First, we have an affirmation and demonstration of the deficiency of the legal sacrifices to "perfect" the worshipper: verses 1-4. Second, we have a manifestation and exemplification of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice to "perfect forever" (verse 14) those for whom He made satisfaction unto God: verses 5-20. Thus the apostle proves again the imperative need for the supplanting of all the unefficacious offerings of Judaism by the all-sufficient offering of Christ. In the developing of the first point, an assertion is made of the inadequacy of the Levitical sacrifices to expiate sin and meet the dire needs of the offerer (verse 1). A confirmation of the truth of this assertion is drawn from the frequency of their repetition (verse 2). It is shown that the annual typical propitiation was only a constant re-opening of the question of sin (verse 3). From these facts the inevitable conclusion is drawn that it was impossible for such sacrifices to remove sins.
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (verse 1). Three questions are suggested to the thoughtful reader of this verse. First, exactly what is the contrast pointed by "shadow" and "image"? Second, what is meant by the comers being made "perfect"? Third, why did God appoint sacrifices that were so unefficacious? These shall be our points of focus as we endeavor to expound this verse.
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come." The opening "For" intimates that what is introduced thereby is an inference drawn from what had previously been stated. Having shown that the sacrifice of Christ had met all the demands of God and had confirmed the new covenant, the apostle concludes from thence that, inasmuch as the Levitical sacrifices could not effect those ends which had been accomplished by Christ’s, they must be taken out of the way. The "law" here is not to be restricted to the ceremonial, as the words "having a shadow" warn us; still less is it the moral law, which, absolutely considered, had no sacrifices belonging to it. No, the reference is to the whole of the Mosaic economy, or more specifically, to the covenant which God made with Israel at Sinai, with all the institutions of worship belonging thereto.
"Shadow is put first emphatically; only a shadow or outline of the substantial and eternal blessings promised. A shadow has no substance; but brings before the mind the form of the body from which it is projected! The ‘image’ itself is given to us in Christ, a full and permanent embodiment of the good things to come" (Adolph Saphir). We believe this presents the correct idea: it is clearly borne out by Colossians 2:17 , "which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." The apostle is there speaking of the same things as he treats of here in Hebrews 10:1 : the Mosaic economy, with all its ordinances and institutions of worship, gave only an earthly adumbration or representation, and did not possess the substance, reality, or "body": that is found only in Christ Himself, to whom the Old Testament shadows pointed. A "shadow" gives a representation of a body, a more or less just one of its form and size, yet only an obscure and imperfect one compare our remarks on Hebrews 8:5 .
The "good things to come" (future, not when this epistle was written, but at the time that the Mosaic economy was instituted) has reference to all those blessings and privileges which have come to the church in consequence of the incarnation of Christ and the discharge of His office. Well might they be designated "good things," for there is no alloy or mixture of evil with them; other things are "good" relatively, but these things absolutely. The "image" or substance of them is found in Christ, and set forth in His Gospel: for a similar use of the term "image" cf. Romans 8:29 . "This therefore is that which the apostle denies concerning the law. It had not the actual accomplishment of the promise of good things; it had not Christ exhibited in the flesh; it had not the true real sacrifice of perfect expiation: it represented these things; it had a shadow of them, but enjoyed not, exhibited not the things themselves. Herein was its imperfection and weakness, so that by none of its sacrifices could it make the Church perfect" (John Owen).
"Can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect." In these words we have the inference or conclusion for which the "For" at the beginning of the verse prepares us: if the law contained in it nothing better than a "shadow," it is obvious that its sacrifices could not possibly make perfect those who offered them. John Owen has most helpfully pointed out that the Greek word here rendered "continually’’ signifies "forever," occurring elsewhere in this epistle only in Hebrews 7:3 , Hebrews 7:10 :12, Hebrews 7:14 (Bagster’s Interlinear gives "in perpetuity") and that it should be connected not with the clause preceding, but with the one following, thus: "the law by its sacrifices could not perfect forever, or unto the uttermost, the comers thereto."
Three things are affirmed in the second half of our verse. First, the impotency of the "law" or old covenant, or Mosaic economy. It could never "make perfect." It could by no means, in no way do so; it was impossible that it should. This is stated so emphatically in order to remove from the minds of the Hebrews all expectations of perfection with Judaism. Second, that with respect unto which this impotency of the law is here ascribed was its "sacrifices," which was the very thing in which most of the Jews had chiefly placed their hopes. But not only is that affirmed of the sacrifices in general, but also in particular of the great sacrifice on the day of atonement, which was offered "year by year": if that was ineffectual, how much more so the minor offerings! Third, that wherein its impotency lay was its inability to "perfect" the "comers."
Concerning the meaning of "perfect" here, we would refer back to our exposition of Hebrews 7:11 . For the benefit of those who do not have access to the August 1930 issue, we would point out that the term "perfect" is one of the key-words of this epistle, close attention needing to be paid to its contexts. It has to do more with relationship than experience. It concerns the objective side of things rather than the subjective. It looks to the judicial and vital aspect, more than to the practical. "Perfection" means the bringing of a thing to that completeness of condition designed for it. Doctrinally it refers to the producing of a satisfactory and final relationship between God and His people. It speaks of that unchanging standing in the favor and blessing of God which Christ has secured for His saints. See also our notes on Hebrews 2:10 ; Hebrews 5:9 ; Hebrews 6:1 .
That "perfection" which God requires is absolute conformity to His moral law, so that not only is there no guilt of transgression resting upon us, but a full, flawless, and rewardable obedience to our account. How impossible it was for the slaying of beasts to secure this is self-evident. The "comers thereunto" are defined in verse 2 as "the worshippers": it was those who made use of the Levitical sacrifices in the worship of God. This term "come" in the Hebrews’ epistle has its root in the "bring" of Leviticus 1:2 , the Hebrew word there signifying those who "draw nigh" with an oblation, coming thus to the altar. Though the slaying of beasts procured a temporary expiation, it did not secure an eternal forgiveness, it did not perfect "continually" or "for ever." Hence, the effect produced on the conscience of the offerer was only a transient one, for a sense of sin returned upon him, forcing him unto a repetition of the same sacrifices, as the apostle declares in the next verse. This brings us to our third question: Why did God appoint unto Israel sacrifices so ineffectual?
Many answers might be returned to this question. Though the Levitical offerings failed to procure an eternal redemption, yet were they by no means useless and without value. First of all, they served to keep in the minds of Israel the fact that God is ineffably holy and will not tolerate evil. They were constantly reminded that the wages of sin is death. They were taught thereby that a constant acknowledgement of their sins was imperative if communion with the Lord was to be maintained. In the second place, by means of these types and shadows God was pointing out to them the direction from which true salvation must come, namely, in a sinless Victim enduring in their stead the righteous penalty which their sins called for. Thereby God instructed them to look forward in faith to the time when the Redeemer should appear, and the great Sacrifice be offered for the sins of His people. Third, there was an efficacy in the Old Testament sacrifices to remove temporal judgment, to give ceremonial ablution, and to maintain external fellowship with Jehovah. They who despised the sacrifices were "cut off" or excommunicated; but those who offered them maintained their place in the congregation of the Lord.
Ere passing on to the next verse let us seek to make practical application unto ourselves of what has been before us. In coming to God, that is, drawing nigh unto Him as worshippers, the first qualification in us is that we are legitimately assured of the perfect expiation (cancellation) of our sins. When this foundation is not laid in the soul and conscience, all attempts to approach God as worshippers are highly presumptuous, for no guilty person can stand before Him. To offer thanksgiving and praise to him before we know we have been forgiven and accepted by Him, is to repeat the high-handed sin of Cain. The very first things proposed to us in the Gospel are that we own our undone condition, judge ourselves unsparingly, turn from our sins, and appropriate to our deep need the grace of God as it is tendered to us in Jesus Christ. Only as the heart is truly contrite and faith lays hold of the atoning blood of the Lamb, is any sinner entitled to draw nigh unto the Holy One.
"For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins" (verse 2). The contents of this verse enable us to grasp more clearly the particular aspects of Truth which our present chapter is dealing with. It is not so much what the sacrifices effected God-wards, as man-wards: it is their purifying effects upon the worshipper which is mainly in view. This is quite evident from the expressions "once purged" and "no more conscience of sins." In like manner, the principal thing in the verses which follow is the setting forth of what Christ’s atonement has secured for His people: see verses 10, 14, 19.
"For then would they not have ceased to be offered?" "This verse is added as a proof of the reason concerning the impotency of the foresaid legal sacrifices. The reason was taken from the reiteration of those sacrifices, whereby it was made manifest that they could not make perfect. The argument may be framed thus: That which makes perfect ceaseth when it hath made perfect; but the sacrifices which were offered year by year, ceased not; therefore they could not have made perfect" (William Gouge). In reply it might be opposed: The repetition of the sacrifice was not through any inherent defect in it, but because the offerer had acquired fresh guilt; the offering expiated all sin up to the time it was offered, but new sins being committed, another sacrifice became necessary. Let us face this difficulty.
There was a defect in the sacrifices themselves, as will be seen more plainly when we reach verse 4; they were altogether inadequate for meeting the infinite demands of God, they were altogether insufficient to compensate for the wrong done to God’s manifestative glory and could not repair the loss of His honor. None save a sacrifice which possessed intrinsic merits, having an infinite value, could make real and final satisfaction. That Sacrifice has been offered, and so perfect is it that it stands in no need of addition. The Atonement of Christ is of perpetual efficacy unto God, and is ever available to faith. No matter how often application be made unto it, its power never wanes and its preciousness never diminishes.
"Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." The final words fix for us the meaning, or rather scope, of the "once purged" here. That sacrificial term may denote either (or both) the removal of the guilt of sin or the pollution thereof: the one is taken away by justification, the other by sanctification. The one is the effect of the sacerdotal actings of Christ toward God, in making atonement for sin; the other is by the Spirit’s application of the virtues of that Sacrifice to our souls and consciences, whereby they are cleansed, renewed, and changed. It is the former only which is before us here, namely, such a purging of sin as takes away its condemning power from the conscience on account of the guilt of it. But this the Levitical sacrifices failed to do, as the next verse shows.
"No more conscience of sins." This does not mean that the one who has been "purged" or justified has no further consciousness of sins, for no one is more painfully aware of them and of the indwelling "flesh" than is a regenerated soul. That is his great burden and sorrow. No, the one who is insensible to the evil and demerit of indwelling sin is a deluded soul: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8 ). Nor do the last words of Hebrews 10:2 in anywise intimate that there is no need for a Christian’s being deeply exercised over his sins and that God does not require him to repent of and confess them, and make repeated application to the Throne of Grace for "mercy" through the sacrifice of Christ. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13 ): this holds good in every dispensation.
"No more conscience of sins" signifies freedom from an apprehensive or terrifying sense of what they deserved. It means complete deliverance from the fear of God’s ever imputing them to us. It is the blessed recognition that "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1 ). Faith has laid hold of the precious testimony of God unto the efficacy of the blood of Christ as having satisfied His every demand. If we really believe that the wages of sin were paid to our sinless Substitute, how can we be fearful that they will yet be paid to us! The word "conscience" is compounded from two words meaning "with knowledge," that is, a joint-knowledge of good and evil. Conscience is the eye of the soul, discerning right from wrong, yet is it dependent as the eye is on light. To and through the conscience God speaks as Light (1 John 1:5 ). When His light first breaks in and shows me what I am, I get a bad conscience; when it is purged by blood (through faith laying hold of its efficacy) I obtain a cleansed one.
It is important to observe that our verse does not say the worshipper should have "no conscience of sins," but "no more conscience" of them. This confirms the idea that the "continually" ("for ever") of the previous verse is to be connected not with the "sacrifices," but with "perfect." It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Levitical sacrifices altogether failed to remove sins from before God: Leviticus 4:2 , Leviticus 4:31 ; Leviticus 16:11 , Leviticus 16:22 show otherwise. Nor was it that those sacrifices failed to remove the load of conscious guilt from those who offered them: in such case we should never have read of them rejoicing before God. No, what the apostle is here insisting upon is that those sacrifices only gave peace of conscience pro tern: they were unable to lay a foundation for permanent rest and abiding peace.
But what of the sins of the Christian after he has been "purged" or justified? John 13:10 makes answer: "he that is washed (Greek, "has been bathed") needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every wit." By the blood of Christ the Christian has been completely cleansed once for all, so far as the judicial and eternal consequences of sin are concerned: "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14 ), thereby providing for them such stable peace and consolation as that they need not a fresh sacrifice to be made for them day by day. The Gospel makes known how those who sin every day may enjoy peace with God all their days, and that is by a daily confession of sins to God (judging themselves for them and truly repenting of them) and a daily appropriation to themselves of the cleansing power of Christ’s precious blood for the defilements of their daily walk.
"But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again of sins every year" (verse 3). The first word of this verse denotes the nature of the argument insisted upon. In the second verse it had been pointed out that, had the worshippers been legally perfected they would have had no more conscience of sins; but, says the apostle, it was not so with them: God appointed nothing in vain, and He had not only prescribed the repetition of those sacrifices, but also that in each offering there should be a "remembrance" made of sin, as of that which was to be expiated. It was by God’s own institution (Leviticus 16:21 , Leviticus 16:22 ) that there should be an "express remembrance,’’ or a remembrance expressed by acknowledgement: See Genesis 41:9 ; Genesis 42:21 . By an appeal to this patent fact did the apostle confirm what had been declared in verses 1, 2.
But at this point a real difficulty confronts us: the first four verses of this chapter are designed as a background to bring out more plainly the glorious truth presented in what follows: in other words, a contrast is pointed by showing what the Levitical sacrifices could not procure, Christ’s has "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (verse 14). Yet, notwithstanding, the fact remains that Christians ought not only once a year, but every day, call to remembrance and penitently confess the same, yea, our Lord Himself has taught us to pray every day for the pardon of our sins: Luke 11:3 , Luke 11:4 . Wherein, then, lies the difference between the Levitical sacrifices and Christ’s, seeing that after both of them there is equally a remembrance of sin again to be made? Though the problem seems intricate, yet is its solution simple.
Those under the Mosaic economy confessed their sins preparatory for and in order to a new atonement of them; not so the Christian. Our "remembrance" and confession respects only the application of the efficacy and virtue of that perfect Atonement which has been made once for all. With them, their remembrance looked to the curse of the law which was to be answered, and the wrath of God which was to be appeased; with us, that which is involved is the imparting of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice unto our conscience, whereby we have assured peace with God. Confession of sin is as necessary under the new covenant as under the old, but with an entirely different end in view: it is not as a part of the compensation for the guilt of it, nor as a means of pacifying the conscience so that we may still go on in sin; but to fill us with self-abasement, to induce greater watchfulness against sin, to glorify God for the mercy available, and to obtain a sense of His pardon in our own souls.
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (verse 4). Here the apostle brings to a head that which has been set forth in the preceding verses: seeing that the law contained only a "shadow" of real redemption and could not perfect unto perpetuity the worshippers (verse 1), and seeing that "conscience of sins" remained (verse 2) as was evidenced by the very design of the annual and typical propitiation (verse 3), it therefore inevitably followed that it was "impossible" such sacrifices should "take away" or properly expiate sins. Such, we take it, is the force of the opening "For" here.
There is a necessity of sin being "taken away," both from before the Governor of the world and from the conscience of His people. But this, the blood of beasts could not effect. Why not? First and foremost because God had not instituted animal sacrifices for that purpose. All the virtues and efficacy of the ordinances of Divine worship depend upon the end unto which God has instituted them. The blood of animals offered in sacrifice was designed of God to represent the way in which sin was to be removed, but not by itself to effect it. Nor did it comport with the Divine will and wisdom that it should. God had declared His severity against sin, with the necessity of its punishment to the glory of His righteousness and sovereign rule over His creatures. A most solemn demonstration of this was made at Sinai, in the giving of the fiery law: Exodus 19:16-24 : but what consistency had there been between that and the satisfying of God’s awful justice, and the removal of sin by such beggarly means as that of the blood of bulls and goats? In such case there had been no manner of proportion manifested between the infinite demerits of sin and the feeble instruments of its expiation.
It was impossible for any mere creature to satisfy the demands of the all-mighty Governor of the universe. The highest angel could never have adequately made compensation for the tremendous wrong which sin had done God, nor repair the loss of His manifestative glory; yea, had not Christ’s sinless and holy humanity in which He performed the stupendous work of redemption been united in His deity, that could not have met the claims of God nor merited eternal salvation for His people. Far less could the blood of beasts vindicate the honor of an infinite Majesty, pacify His righteous wrath, meet the requirements of His holy law, nor even cleanse the conscience and heart of man. "The blood of bulls and goats were external, earthly, and carnal things; but to take away sin was an internal, Divine, and spiritual matter" (William Gouge). Though the Levitical sacrifices possessed, by God’s institution, an efficacy to remove an outward and ceremonial defilement, they could not take away an inward and moral pollution.
This 4th verse enunciates and illustrates a deeply important principle which exposes the great error of Ritualists. As we have pointed out above, all ordinances of Divine worship derive their value from God’s institution: they can only effect that which He has appointed, they have in them no inherent efficacy. While they may usefully represent spiritual truths, they have no spiritual virtue of their own, and cannot of and by themselves secure spiritual results. The offerings of Judaism had a Divinely appointed meaning and value, but they could not take away sins. The same holds good of the two ordinances of Christianity. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been ordained of God. They have a symbolical significance. They represent blessed realities. But they have no inherent power either to remove sin, regenerate souls, or impart spiritual blessing. It is only as faith looks beyond the symbol to Him who is symbolized that the soul receives blessing.
Ere closing, perhaps we ought to anticipate a question which is likely to have arisen in the minds of the readers. In view of what is affirmed in the verses which have been before us, are we to conclude that none of the Old Testament saints had a perfect and permanent standing before God? No, indeed, for such an inference would manifestly clash with many plain Old Testament passages and with the promises which the Church had under the old covenant. The apostle is not here denying absolutely that no one had spiritual access to God and real peace of conscience before Him, but is merely affirming that such blessings could not be secured by means of the Levitical sacrifices. But those who belonged to the "remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5 ) had faith given them to look beyond the shadow to the Substance: see Job 19:25 ; Psalms 23:6 ; Song of Song of Solomon 2:16 ; Isaiah 12:2 ; Daniel 12:2 , etc.
The Divine Incarnation
(Hebrews 10:5-7 )
In the first four verses of our present chapter the apostle was moved to press upon the Hebrews the insufficiency of the Levitical sacrifices to bring about those spiritual and eternal effects that were needed in order for poor sinners being fitted to stand before God as accepted worshippers. His design in so doing was to pave the way for setting before them the dire need for and the absolute sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. First, he affirmed that the old covenant provided a "shadow" of the future "good things," but not the substance itself (verse 1). Under the Mosaic economy men were taught that ceremonial guilt, acquired through breaking the ceremonial law, severed from ceremonial fellowship with God, and that the offering of the prescribed sacrifices procured ceremonial forgiveness (Leviticus 4:20 ) and restored to external fellowship, and thereby temporal punishment was averted. In this way there was adumbrated in a lower sphere what Christ’s sacrifice was to accomplish in a higher.
That there was an insufficiency to the typical sacrifices was plainly intimated by their frequent repetition (verse 2). Had the offerer been so "purged" as to have "no more conscience of sins," that is, had his moral guilt been fully and finally expiated, then no further offering had been needed. Even though God’s people continually commit fresh sins a new sacrifice is not required. Why? Because the one perfect Sacrifice has made complete satisfaction unto God, and is of perpetual efficacy before Him: therefore is it ever available to penitence and faith, for application unto fresh pardons. But no such sufficiency pertained to the typical sacrifices: a temporary and outward cleansing they could effect, but nothing more. "For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, thine iniquity is marked before Me, saith the Lord God" (Jeremiah 2:22 ).
There was no proportion between the infinite demerits of sin, the demands of God’s justice, and the slaying of beasts. Whether the matter be viewed in the light of God’s nature, of man’s soul, or of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, it was obvious that the blood of bulls and goats could not possibly make atonement (verse 4). Nor was this fact altogether unknown in Old Testament times: did not one of Jehovah’s prophets declare, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves that are a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6 , Micah 6:7 )! But later this light was lost to the carnal Jews, who, like the darkened Gentiles, came to believe that a real and efficacious atonement was made by the offering of animal blood unto God.
"It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices" (Hebrews 9:23 ). Yet patent as this now is to any renewed mind, it was an exceedingly difficult matter to convince the Jews of it. The Levitical sacrifices were of Divine institution and not of human invention. Their fathers had offered them for fifteen centuries; thus, to affirm at this late date that they were set aside by God made a big demand upon their faith, their prejudices, their affections. Nevertheless, the logic of the apostle was invincible, the force of his arguments unanswerable. But it is blessed to observe that he did not rest his case here; instead, he referred once more to an authority against which no appeal could be allowed.
As we have passed from chapter to chapter, and followed the inspired unfolding of the pre-eminency of Christianity over Judaism, we have been deeply impressed by the fact that, at every crucial point, proof has been furnished from the Old Testament Scriptures. When affirming the excellency of the Son over angels (Hebrews 1:4 ), appeal was made to Psalms 97:7 (Hebrews 1:6 ). When insisting on the exaltation of the humbled Messiah over all the works of God’s hands (Hebrews 2:6-9 ), Psalms 8:4-6 was cited. When declaring the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over Aaron’s, Psalms 110:4 was given in substantiation of it (Hebrews 6:20 ). When pointing out the superseding of the old covenant by the new, Jeremiah 31:31 was shown to have taught that very thing (Hebrews 8:8 ). And now that the all-important point has been reached for showing the imperative necessity of the abolition of the Levitical offerings, another of their own Scriptures is referred to as announcing to the Hebrews this identical fact. How all this demonstrates the inestimable worth and the final authority of Holy Writ!
"Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God" (verses 5-7). These verses contain a direct quotation from the 40th Psalm, which, equally with the 2nd, 16th, 22nd, 10th, etc., was a Messianic one. In it the Lord Jesus is heard speaking, speaking to His Father; and well does it behooves us to give our utmost attention to every syllable that He here utters.
The citation which is here made from the Old Testament Scriptures is introduced with, "Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith." The precise force of the opening "Wherefore" is not easily determined: it seems to signify, In accord with the facts pointed out in the first four verses; or, in proof thereof, listen to the prophetic language of Christ Himself. John Owen suggested: ‘It doth not give an account why the words following were spoken, but why the things themselves were so ordered and disposed." The "Wherefore" is a logical particle intimating that by virtue of the impotency of the Old Testament sacrifices, Christ came not to offer those fruitless sacrifices, but to do the will of God in their room. The Mosaic worship, with all its complicated ritual, was superseded by something better coming in its stead. Christ took away the first, that He might establish the second.
The passage which is here before us calls for a whole book to be written thereon, rather than a single article: so blessed, so wondrous, so important are its contents. In it we behold the amazing grace and wisdom of the Father, the matchless love and obedience of the Son, and the federal agreement which was between the Father and the Son with reference to the work of redemption and the salvation of the Church. In it too we see demonstrated again the perfect harmony which exists between the old and the New Testament and the declaration of these things. In it we are taken back to a point before the foundation of the world, and are permitted to learn something of the august counsels of the Eternal Three. In it we are shown the means which the Divine wisdom appointed for the carrying out of those counsels. It is both our duty and privilege to prayerfully inquire and diligently search into the mind of the Holy Spirit therein.
"Wherefore when He cometh into the world." The One who is here before us is the second person in the Holy Trinity. It is He who had been in the Father’s delight from all eternity. It is none other than the One by whom and for whom all things were created "that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible" (Colossians 1:16 ); who is "over all, God blessed forever" (Romans 9:5 ). This ineffably blessed and glorious One condescended not merely to behold, or even to send an ambassador, but to personally come into this world. And, wonder of wonders, He came here not "in the form of God," bearing all the manifested insignia of Deity, nor even in the appearance of an angel, as occasionally He did in Old Testament times; but instead, He came in "the form of a servant," and was actually "made under the law." May our hearts be truly bowed in wonderment and worship at this amazing and unparalleled marvel.
"When the fullness of the time was come" (Galatians 4:4 ), when the sinfulness of man and his utter helplessness to extricate himself from his dreadful misery had been completely demonstrated; when the insufficiency of Judaism and the powerlessness of the Levitical sacrifices had been made manifest; then it pleased the Son to become incarnate, execute the eternal purpose of the Godhead, fulfill the terms of the everlasting covenant, make good the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament Scriptures, and perform that stupendous work which would bring an incalculable revenue of praise to the Triune God, glorify Him above all His other works, put away the sins of His people, and provide for them a perfect and everlasting righteousness which would entitle and fit them to dwell forever in the Father’s House. So transcendent are these things that only those whom the Spirit of Truth deigns to illuminate and instruct are capable, in any measure, of apprehending and entering into their ineffable meaning and preciousness. May it please Him, in His sovereign grace, to shine now upon the hearts and understandings of both writer and reader.
"Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me." Here we behold the perfect intelligence of the Son concerning the mind and will of the Father. In the eternal purpose of the Triune God, Christ, as Mediator had been "set up from everlasting" (Proverbs 8:23 ). The Lord had "possessed Him," He was "by Him, as One brought up with Him" (Proverbs 8:22 , Proverbs 8:30 ). As such, nothing was concealed from Him; all the counsels of Deity were made known to Him. Therefore did He declare, after His incarnation, "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things" (John 5:20 ). An illustration of this fact is before us in our present passage.
"He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me." But here a difficulty presents itself: the Levitical sacrifices had been instituted by God Himself, how then could it be said that He willed them not? The solution is simple: the language here (as is not infrequently the case in Scripture) is to be taken relatively, and not absolutely. There was one real sense in which the Old Testament sacrifices were acceptable to God, and another in which they were not so. The reference here is not to the actual appointment of the sacrifices, for Hebrews 10:8 tells us they were "offered according to the law" which God had given to Israel. Nor is the reference to the obedience of the people concerning them during the Mosaic economy, for God both required and approved them at their hands. Nor is it that the apostle is merely speaking from the present viewpoint (as some have superficially supposed), i.e., that the sacrifices were no longer pleasing to Him. No, our text strikes much deeper: God willed not those sacrifices for the ends which He ordained the Sacrifice of Christ to effect.
"But a body hast Thou prepared Me." The first word of this clause serves to define the preceding one: the body of Christ is placed over against, substituted in the stead of, replaces, the Levitical offerings. Let the reader recall the whole context: there the Holy Spirit has shown the utter inadequacy of the blood of bulls and goats, the impossibility of its meeting the highest claims of God and the deepest need of sinners. God had not appointed animal sacrifices for those ends: He never took pleasure in them with reference thereto; according to the will of God they were altogether insufficient for any such purpose. From all eternity it was Christ, the "Lamb," who had been "foreordained" to make satisfaction unto God for His people (1 Peter 1:20 ). The Levitical sacrifices were never designed by God as anything more than a temporary means to shadow forth the great Sacrifice. This, the Mediator Himself was fully cognizant of from before the foundation of the world.
"But a body hast Thou prepared Me." The term "a body" is a synedochial expression (a part put for the whole, as when we say a farmer has so many "head" of cattle, or a manufacturer employs so many "hands") of the whole human nature of Christ, consisting of spirit and soul and body. As to some of the reasons why the Holy Spirit here threw the emphasis on Christ’s "body" rather than on His "soul" (as in Isaiah 53:10 ) we would humbly suggest the following. First , to emphasize the fact that the offering of Christ was to be by death, and this the body alone was subject to. Second , because the new covenant was to be confirmed by the offering of Christ, and this was to be by blood, which is contained in the body alone. Third , to make more evident the conformity of the Head to His members who were "partakers of flesh and blood." Fourth , to remind us that Christ’s whole human nature (that "holy thing," Luke 1:35 ) was not a distinct person.
"But a body hast Thou prepared Me." The verb has a double force: the humanity of Christ was both foreordained and created by the Father. The first reference in the "prepared" here is the same as in Isaiah 30:33 . "Tophet is ordained of old, for the king it is prepared"; "the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 ); "the vessels of mercy, which He hath afore prepared unto glory" (Romans 9:23 ). In His eternal counsels, God has resolved that the Son should become incarnate; in the everlasting covenant the Father had proposed and the Son had agreed that, at the appointed time, Christ should be made in the likeness of men. The second reference in the word "prepared" is to the actual creating of Christ’s humanity, that it might be fitted for the work unto which it was designed.
"But a body hast Thou prepared Me." Commentators have needlessly perplexed themselves and their readers by discovering a discrepancy between these words and Psalms 40:6 which reads, "Mine ears hast Thou opened" or "digged" (margin). Really, there is no discord whatever between the two expressions: one is figurative, the other literal; both having the same sense. They refer to an act of the Father towards the Son, the purpose of the action being designed to make Him meet to do the will of God in a way of obedience. The metaphor used by the Psalmist possessed a double significance. First, the "ear" is that member of the body whereby we hear the commands we are to obey, hence nothing is more frequent in Scripture than to express obedience by hearing and hearkening. Here too the part is put for the whole. In His Divine nature alone, it was impossible for the Son, who was co-equal with the Father, to come under the law; therefore did He prepare for Him another nature, in which He could render submission to Him.
It is impossible that anyone should have ears of any use but by having a body, and it is through the ears that instruction unto obedience is received. It is to this the incarnate Son made reference when, in the language of prophecy, He declared, "He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back" (Isaiah 50:4 , Isaiah 50:5 ). Thus the figure used in Psalms 40:6 intimated that the Father did so order things toward the Messiah that He should have a nature wherein He might be free and able to be in subjection to the will of God; intimating, moreover, the quality of it, namely, in having ears to hear, which belong only to a "body."
The second significance of the figure used in Psalms 40:6 may be discovered by a comparison with Exodus 21:6 , where we learn of the provision made by the law to meet the case of a Hebrew servant, who chose to remain in voluntary servitude rather than accept his freedom, as he might do, at the seventh year of release. "Mine ears hast Thou digged" announced the Savior’s readiness to act as God’s "Servant:" Isaiah 42:1 , Isaiah 53:11 . Only it is to be duly noted that in Exodus 21:6 it is "ear," whereas in Psalms 40:6 it is "ears" in all things Christ has the "pre-eminence!" There was never any devotion either to Master or Spouse which could be compared with His: there was (so to speak) an over-plus of willingness in Him. "A body hast Thou prepared Me" presents the same idea, only in another form: His human nature was assumed for the very purpose of being the vehicle of service. Christ came here to be the substance of all the Old Testament shadows, Exodus 21:1-6 not excepted. In becoming Man, the Son took upon Him "the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7 ).
"A body hast Thou prepared Me." "The origin of the salvation of the Church is in a peculiar manner ascribed unto the Father His will, His grace, His wisdom, His good pleasure, His love, His sending of the Son, are everywhere proposed as the eternal springs of all acts of power, grace and goodness, tending unto the salvation of the Church. And therefore doth the Lord Christ on all occasions declare that He came to do the Father’s will, seek His glory, make known His name, that the praise of His grace might be exalted" (John Owen). It was by the Holy Spirit that the human nature of the Redeemer was created. His body was "prepared" not by the ordinary laws of procreation, but by the supernatural power of the third person of the Trinity working upon and within Mary. There is thus a clear allusion here to the Virgin-birth of the Lord Jesus.
"He prepared Him such a body, such a human nature, as might be of the same nature with ours, for whom He was to accomplish His work therein. For it was necessary that it should be cognate and allied unto ours, that He might be meet to act on our behalf, and to suffer in our stead. He did not form Him a body out of the dust of the earth, as He did that of Adam, whereby He could not have been of the same race of mankind with us; nor merely out of nothing, as He created the angels whom He was not to save (Hebrews 2:14-16 ). He took our flesh and blood proceeding from the loins of Abraham. He so prepared it, as that it should be no way subject unto that depravation and pollution, that came on our whole nature by sin. This could not have been done, had His body been prepared by carnal generation the way and means of conveying the taint of original sin, which ,befell our nature, unto all individual persons for this would have rendered Him every way unmeet for His whole work of mediation (Hebrews 7:26 ) . . . This body or human nature, thus prepared for Christ, was exposed unto all sorts of temptations from outward causes. But yet was it so sanctified by the perfection of grace, and fortified by the fullness of the Spirit dwelling therein, that it was not possible it should be touched with the least taint or guilt of sin" (John Owen).
Summing up this important point: though the actual operation in the production of our Savior’s humanity was the immediate work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35 ), nevertheless, the preparation thereof was also the work of the Father in a real and peculiar manner, namely, in the infinitely wise and authoritative contrivance of it, and so ordering of it by His counsel and will. The Father originated it in the decrective disposition of all things, the Holy Spirit actually wrought it, and the Son Himself assumed it. Not that there was any distinction of time in these separate actings of the Holy Three in this matter, but only a disposition of order in Their operation. In the same instant of time the Father authoritatively willed that holy humanity into existence, the Holy Spirit efficiently created it, and the Son personally took it upon Him as His own.
"In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure" (verse 6). These words amplify and define the central portion of the preceding verse. There we hear the Son, just prior to His incarnation saying to the Father, "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not." Against this a carping objector might reply, True, God never willed those sacrifices and offerings which our idolatrous fathers presented to Baal, nor those which the heathen gave to their gods; but that is a very different thing from saying that no animal sacrifice satisfied Jehovah. Such an objection is here set aside by the plain declaration that even the Levitical offerings contented God not.
"In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure." In these words Christ comprehended all the sacrifice under the Mosaic economy which had respect to the expiation of sin and also the worship of God. In verse 5 the term "sacrifice" includes all those offerings which the Israelites brought to the Lord for the purpose of obtaining His pardon; under the word "offering" was embraced all the gifts which they brought with the object of expressing thanksgiving for blessings received at His hands. Here in verse 6 the latter are, by a synedoche, referred to by "burnt offerings,’’ and the former by sacrifices "for sin." Concerning both of them Christ said to the Father "Thou wouldest not" (verse 5) and "Thou hast had no pleasure."
The difference between "Thou wouldest not" and "Thou hast had no pleasure" is, the former declares that God had never designed the Levitical offerings should make a perfect satisfaction unto Himself; the latter, that He delighted not in them. Such language is to be understood relatively and not absolutely. God had required sacrifices at the hands of Israel: He had "imposed" them "until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:10 ). Absolutely they could neither be said to be wholly nugatory in themselves nor displeasing to God, but as they could not produce any real atonement for sin, they did not correspond in the proper sense of the term either to the Divine pleasure nor to the law of God, but only foreshadowed what was to come. God had ordained a satisfaction possessing such moral obedience and personal excellency that there would need no more repetition thereof. These words "in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure" serve as a background to bring out in more vivid relief the blessedness of "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17 )!
Once more we would point out how that the teaching of these verses supply a timely warning against our making a wrong use of symbolic ordinances. "Whatever may be the use or efficacy of any ordinances of worship, yet if they are employed or trusted unto for such ends as God hath not designed them unto, He accepts not of our persons in them, nor approves of the things themselves. Thus He declares Himself concerning the most solemn institutions of the Old Testament. And those under the New have been no less abused in this way, than those of old" (John Owen).
"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God" (verse 7). Those words express the readiness and willingness of the Son to do all that had been ordained unto the making of a full satisfaction to God and the salvation of His people. They contain the second branch of the antithesis pointed in the quotation which is here made from the Messianic Psalm. They record the response of the Son’s mind and will to the design and purpose of the Father. They conduct us back to the eternal counsels of the Godhead, in which the Father had expressed His determination to have an adequate compensation for the insult to His honor which sin should give, His disapproval of animal sacrifices as the names thereof, His decision that the Son should become incarnate and in human form magnify the law and make it honorable; with the Son’s free and perfect acquiescence therein.
"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." That "will" was not only to "take away sins" (verse 4), which the Levitical offerings had not effected, but was also to make His people "perfect" (verse 1 and cf. Hebrews 5:14 ). It was the gracious design of God not only to remove all the effects of sin, original and personal, which provoked His judicial hatred of us (Ephesians 2:3 ), but also to provide for and give to them such a righteousness as would occasion Him more cause to love us than ever, and loving to delight in us. His "will" meant not only peace and pardon to us, but grace and favor: as the angels announced to the Bethlehem shepherds, the coming of Christ meant not only "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace," but also "good will toward men." He had predestinated not only to forgive us, but to have us adopted and graciously "accepted," and that "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:5 , Ephesians 1:6 ).
The "will" of God which the Son came here to execute was that "eternal purpose which He had purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11 ). Had He so pleased, God could have "taken away sin" by taking away sinners, and so made a short work of it, by removing them both at one stroke as Ezekiel speaks (Ezekiel 12:3 , Ezekiel 12:4 ). But instead, He purposed to take away sins in such a way that favored sinners should stand justified before Him. Again, had He so pleased, God could have taken off the sins of His people by a sole and sovereign act of pardon. To hate sin is an act of His nature, but to express His hatred by punishing sin is an act of His will, and therefore might be wholly suspended. Were it an act of the Divine nature to punish sin, then whosoever sinned would die for it immediately; but being an act of His will, He oftentimes suspends the punishment. Seeing He is prepared to forebear for a while, He could have foreborne forever. But His wisdom the "counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11 ) deemed it best to require an adequate satisfaction.
What has just been said receives plain confirmation in the words used by the suffering Savior in Gethsemane: "And He said, Abba, Father all things are possible unto Thee: take away this cup from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt." Here the incarnate Son lets us know that the reason why it was not possible for the awful cup of wrath to pass from Him was because God had ordained that He should drink it, and not because there was no other alternative. We indeed can perceive none other, and relatively speaking there was none other after the everlasting covenant had been sealed; yet absolutely considered, speaking from the viewpoint both of God’s infinite wisdom and sovereign pleasure, He could, had He so pleased, have saved us in another way. Never allow the thought that sin has produced a situation which in anywise limits or restrains the Almighty. It was by His will that sin entered!
Had God so pleased, He could have accepted the blood of beasts as a full and final atonement for our sins. The only reason why He did not was because He had decreed that Christ should make atonement. He determined in Himself that if He had satisfaction it should be a full and perfect one. Everything must be resolved into and traced up to the sovereign pleasure of Him who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11 ). It is in the light of what has just been said that we must interpret Hebrews 10:4 : it was "not possible" because of the eternal purpose of the Triune Jehovah. God would have satisfaction to the full, or none at all. This the Son knew, and to it He fully consented.
The Son was in perfect accord with the will of the Father from before the foundation of the world. As Zechariah 6:13 tells us "and the covenant of peace shall be between Them Both": the reference being to the "everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13:20 ). The "counsel of peace" signifies the compact or agreement which was between the Father and the Son. It was, then, by His own voluntary consent that the Son was made "Surety of a better covenant" (Hebrews 7:22 ), a title which necessarily imports a definite undertaking on His part, namely, His agreeing to yield that obedience to the law which His people owed, to make reparation to Divine justice on behalf of their sins, and thus discharge the whole of their debt. By a free act of His own will, the Son consented to execute that stupendous work which the Father had proposed unto Him.
This consent of the Son to His Father’s proposal to Him before the foundation of the world, was, renewed by Him at the moment of His incarnation: "Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith... a body hast Thou prepared Me... Then said I, Lo, I come.., to do Thy will O God." He freely acquiesced in assuming to Himself a human nature, to take on Himself the "form of a servant," to be "made under the law," to become "obedient unto death." He told the Father so in the above words, which are recorded for His glory and for our instruction, wonderment and joy. The further consideration of them, as well as the meaning of "in the volume of the book it is written of Me" we must defer (D.V.) till our next article.
(Hebrews 10:7-10 )
"As in all our obedience there are two principal ingredients to the true and right constitution of it, namely, the matter of the obedience itself, and the principle and fountain of it in us: whereof the one, the apostle calls the ‘deed,’ the other ‘the will’ (2 Corinthians 8:11 ) which latter God accepts in us, oftentimes without, always more than, the deed or matter of obedience itself even so in Christ’s obedience, which is the pattern and measure of ours, there are those two eminent parts which complete it. First, the obedience itself, and the worth and value of it in that it is His so great a person’s. Second, the willingness, the readiness to undertake and the heartiness to perform it. The dignity of His person gave the value and merit to the obedience performed by Him. But the will, the zeal in His performance gives the acceptance, and hath besides a necessary influence into the worth of it, and the virtue and efficacy of it to sanctify us. All of which you have in Hebrews 10:7-10 .
"The ‘offering of the ,body of Jesus Christ:’ there is the matter, His becoming ‘obedient unto death’ (Philippians 2:8 ). Then there is the readiness by which He did so, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,’ This calls for not only a distinct but a more eminent consideration, both necessarily concurring to our sanctification and salvation. Now the story of His willingness to redeem and save is of four parts. 1. His actual consent and undertaking to the work, made and given to the Father from everlasting. 2. The continuance of His will to stand to it from everlasting unto the time of His incarnation. 3. The renewal of this consent when He came into the world. 4. The steadfast continuance of that will all along in the performance, from the cradle to the cross.
"It was necessary that Christ’s consent should be then given, even from everlasting, and that as God made a promise to Him for us, so also that He should give consent unto God. Yea; and indeed it was one reason why it was necessary that our Mediator should be God, and existent from eternity, not only to the end that He might be privy to the first design and contrivement of our salvation, and know the bottom of God’s mind and heart in it, and receive all the promises of God from God for us, but also in this respect, that His own very consent should go to it from the first, even as soon as His Father should design it. And it was most meet it should be so; for the performance and all the working part of it was to be His, to be laid upon His shoulders to execute, and it was a hard task, and therefore reasonable He should both know it from the first, seeing He was extant together with His Father. It was fit that both His heart and head should be in it from the first. And you have all in one Scripture, Isaiah 9:6 , where, when Christ is promised, ‘Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,’ observe under what titles He is set for unto us:
"‘Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father,’ where everlastingness, which is affixed to one, is yet common to those other two. The ‘everlasting Counselor,’ as well as ‘everlasting Father,’ for He was both Counselor and Father, in that He was the Mighty God, and all alike from everlasting. For, being God, and with His Father as a Son from everlasting, He must needs be a Counselor with Him, and so privy unto all God meant to do, especially in that very business, for the performance of which He is there saint to be given as a Son, and born as a Child, and the effecting of which is also said to be laid wholly on His shoulder. Certainly in this case, if God could hide nothing from Abraham He was to do, much less God from Christ, who was God with Him from everlasting. And as He was for this cause to be privy to it for the cognizance of the matter, so to have given His actual consent likewise thereunto; for He was to be the Father and Founder of all that was to be done in it. And in that very respect and in relation to that act of will, then passed, whereby He became a ‘Father’ of that business for us, it is He is styled the ‘everlasting Father.’ For it is in respect of that everlastingness He is God, and so ‘Father’ from everlasting, as well as God from everlasting; a ‘Counselor’ for us with God, a ‘Father’ of us in our salvation. God’s ‘Counselor,’ because His wisdom was jointly in that plot and the contrivement of it: and ‘Father’ both of us and this design, because of His will in it, and undertaking to effect it. In that His heart and will were in it as well as the Father’s He was therefore the ‘Father’ of it as well as God, and brought it to perfection" (Adopted, with slight variations, from T. Goodwin, 1600-1680).
Concerning the continuance of the Son’s willingness to the Father’s purpose, from everlasting to the time when His humanity was conceived in the Virgin’s womb, we have more than a hint in that remarkable passage found in Proverbs 8:0 . There (by the Spirit of prophecy) we are permitted to hear Him say of the Father, "Then I was by Him, as One brought up with him." But not only so, He added, "And I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part (that portion where His tabernacle was to be placed) of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men" (verses 30, 31). Thus we see how His heart was more set upon the redeeming of His people than all other works. The theophanic manifestations which He made of Himself from time to time during the O.T. period, illustrated the same fact: see Genesis 12:7 , Exodus 3:2-9 , Daniel 3:25 etc.
But it is the renewing of His consent when Christ came into the world which we would particularly contemplate. This may well be called the will of consecration of Himself by a vow to this great work, then solemnly made and given. This was the dedication of His holy "Temple" (John 2:19 ), foreshadowed of old by Solomon in the dedication of the temple which he erected unto God. This took place at the moment that His humanity was conceived by the Virgin: "When He cometh into the world, He saith... a body (a vehicle of service) hast Thou prepared Me,... Lo, I come, to do Thy will, O God." How truly marvellous and blessed that it pleased the Holy Spirit (the Divine Secretary of Heaven, and Recorder of the everlasting covenant) to write down for our learning the very words which the Son uttered to His Father at the moment when He condescended to take our nature and become incarnate! Equally wonderful is it that we are permitted to hear the very words which the Father addressed to the Son on His return to Heaven: "The Lord said to My Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Psalms 110:1 ).
"When He cometh into the world, He saith." The Speaker is none other than the second person in the Divine Trinity. He was the One who took that "body" into everlasting union with Himself an infinitely greater condescension than for the noblest king to marry the meanest servant-girl. The ineffably glorious Son of God was personally humbled far more and gave much more away than did that humanity when it was humiliated by being nailed to the cross. Therefore was His willingness to this tremendous stoop eminently requisite and recorded for our comfort and praise. Thus, at the very moment that the human nature was amaking, and not yet capable of giving its own consent, He who was the Brightness of the Father’s glory and the express Image of His person, announced His readiness. Inexpressibly blessed is this; may the contemplation thereof bow us in worship before Him. "Worthy is the Lamb!"
"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God" (verse 7). There is a double reference (as is so often the case with the words of God) in the parenthetical clause. The "book" He mentioned primarily regarded the archives of God’s eternal counsels, the scroll of His decrees Secondarily, it concerned the Holy Scriptures, which are a partial transcript of that record of the Divine will which is preserved on High (Psalms 119:89 ). In that "book," drawn up by the Holy Spirit, it is written of Christ, the God-man Mediator for He is the Sum and Substance of all the Divine counsels (Ephesians 3:11 ), as well as the Depository of all the Divine promises (2 Corinthians 1:20 ). The Son was perfectly cognisant of all that was written in that book, for He had been "Counselor" with the Father. The term "volume" is the right translation of the Hebrew word "magillah" in Psalms 40:7 , but the Greek word "kephalis" ought most certainly to be rendered "head" "kephale" occurs seventy-six times in the N.T., and is always rendered "head" elsewhere.
A most wondrous and blessed revelation is here made known to us: "in the head of the book" of God’s decrees, at the beginning thereof, it is "written of" Christ! In that book is recorded the names of all God’s favored children: Luke 10:20 , Hebrews 12:23 ; but at the head of them is Christ’s, for "in all things" He must have the "pre-eminence" (Colossians 1:18 ). Thus, the first name on that heavenly scroll of the Divine decrees is that of the Mediator Himself! So too in the Holy Scriptures, which give us a copy, in part, the first name in the O.T. is that of Christ as Creator (Gen. 1:1 cf. John 1:1-3 ), and the first name in the N.T. is "Jesus Christ" (Matthew 1:1 )! Yes, "in the head of the Book" it is written of Him.
The Man Christ Jesus was the first one chosen of God; chosen to be taken into everlasting union with the second person of the Trinity. Therefore does the Father say to us, "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth" (Isaiah 42:1 ). The Church was chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4 ) and then given to Christ (Hebrews 2:13 ). The Man Christ Jesus, taken into union with God the Son, was appointed to be the Head of the whole election of grace, and they to be members of His mystical Body (Ephesians 1:22 , Ephesians 1:23 ; Ephesians 5:30 ). "Christ be My first elect He said; Then chose our souls in Christ our Head."
Precious too is it to discover that the human nature of Christ also consented to the terms of the everlasting covenant, for it was something distinct from the Divine nature of God the Son, and so had a distinct will, and was directly concerned in the Great Transaction, for it was to be made the subject of all the sufferings and was to be the sacrifice offered up. The fundamental consent was the Divine Person’s, and this He gave when assuming our nature; but there was also an accessory consent of the human nature, now married into one person with the Divine. How soon then, when was it that the human nature gave its consent? No doubt many will deem this a question which it is impossible for us to answer, and that any effort so to do would be a prying into "secret things." Not so: it belongs to those things which are revealed.
Ere turning to the consideration of this marvelous detail, we must not overlook the willingness of the virgin Mary to be in such an unprecedented manner, and in a way which (humanly speaking) seriously endangered her own moral reputation the mother of our Lord’s sacred humanity. This is most blessedly shown us in the inspired record of Luke’s Gospel. There we learn that this amazing honor, yet sore trial, was proposed to her (not forced upon her, for God never violates human accountability!) by the angel: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus" (1:31). Mark now her meek response: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" I give myself up to Him "be it unto me according to thy word" (1:38). Not until after she had herself acquiesced, did she "conceive" note the word "before" in Luke 2:21 and compare with Luke 1:31-38 . Thus does God make His people "willing" in the day of His power (Psalms 110:3 ).
Returning now to the willingness of our Lord’s humanity in consenting to God’s eternal purpose: "This may safely be affirmed, that as soon as, or when first He began to put forth any acts of reason, that then His will was guided to direct its aim and intentions to God as His Father, from Himself as the Mediator. And look, as in infant’s hearts, if they had been born in innocency, there would have been sown the notion of God, whom they should first have known, whatever else they knew; and the moral law being written in their hearts, they should have directed their actions to God and His glory, through a natural instinct and tendency of spirit. Thus it was in Christ when an infant, and such holy principles guided Him to that, which was that will of God for Him, and to be performed by Him; and which was to sway and direct all His actions and thoughts, that were to be the matter of our justification, which were to be exerted more and more according to the capacity of reason as it should grow" (T. Goodwin).
There was a meetness, yea a needs-be for this. For what Christ did as a Child had a meritoriousness in it, as much as what He did when a full-grown Man. So too what He suffered, even in His very circumcision, is made influential unto the sanctification of His people through the virtue of it, equally with what He suffered on the cross. His coat was "without seam" (John 19:23 ): the righteousness He wrought out for His Church was a unit beginning at Bethlehem’s manger, consummated at Calvary. It is the 22nd Psalm which furnishes a definite answer to our question, and reveals how early the Savior was dedicated to God. Hear His gracious and unique words: "Thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope upon My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly" (verses 9, 10). O my brethren and sisters, prostrate your souls in adoration before this Holy One, who from the very first instant after He entered this world was unreservedly dedicated and consecrated to God, owning Him, relying wholly upon Him.
In this we may behold the fulfillment of a lovely and striking type, namely, that of the Nazarite, to which Matthew 2:23 directly, though not exclusively, refers. The "Nazarite" was one who, voluntarily, separated and devoted himself entirely unto the Lord (Numbers 6:12 ). Samson is the outstanding illustration of this in the O.T.: the parallels between him and Christ are remarkable. 1. An angel announced to his mother her conception (Judges 13:2-3 ). 2. The prophecy of the angel is recorded. 3. He was sent to a woman utterly barren, to show her conception was extraordinary. 4. Her son was to be a Nazarite, that is, "holy to the Lord" (Numbers 6:8 ). 5. He was to be "a Nazarite unto God from the womb" (Judges 13:5 ). 6. It was declared that her son should be a deliverer of Israel (verse 5). 7. Israel was then subject to the Gentiles (the Philistines), as the Jews were to the Romans when Christ was born. 8. It was in his death that he wrought his mightiest victory!
Equally striking, equally blessed, are the first words which the N.T. records as being uttered by our Savior: "know ye not that in the (affairs) of My Father it behooves to be Me" (Bagster Interlinear). The Greek is very emphatic, the last word before "Me" signifying to be completely and continuously given up to it, and is rendered "wholly" in 1 Timothy 4:15 . The reader is familiar with the context of Luke 2:49 . The Savior’s mother appears to have chided Him, and, in substance, He said: True you are My earthly parent, and I have been subject to you hitherto in your particular province, but do you not know that I have another Father, far higher than you, who hath commanded Me, by virtue of My office of Mediator, other manner of business? I am the Christ, devoted to the Father’s interests; His will and law is written in My heart; I am not Mine own!
Let us revert for a moment to the 40th Psalm. There we hear the Savior saying, "Mine ears hast Thou digged" (verse 6): that figurative language applied only to His humanity. The metaphor employed is taken from Exodus 21:1-6 . The Hebrew servant was entitled to, "go out free" at the end of the sixth year, but an exception was allowed for: "If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then... his master shall bore his ear through with an aul, and he shall serve him for ever" (verses 5, 6). The antitype of this is seen in Christ. As creatures, we are necessarily born "under the law," subjects of the government of God. With the Man Christ Jesus, it was otherwise. His humanity, having been taken into union with the second person in the Trinity, was altogether exempt from any servile subjection, just as a woman ceases to be a subject when married to a king. It was an act of unparalleled condescension, by His own voluntary will, that the God-man entered the place of service; and love, love to His God, to His Church, His people, was the moving-cause.
Observe another thing in the prophetic language of the Mediator in Psalms 40:0 : "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart" (verses 7, 8). When the appointed hour arrived the Son volunteered to fulfill every jot and tittle which had been recorded of Him in the Book of God’s decrees transcribed (in part) on the pages of Holy Writ. He carried all of it written in His heart. This was even more than to have His ear "bored" to give free consent to the Father’s purpose; it was, as it would have been if infants had been born in innocency, to have God’s law (the expression of His will!) as the molding principle and controlling factor of His human nature, dwelling in the very center of His affections. Thus could He say, "My meat (My very sustenance and substance) is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34 ) i.e. actualize what the Father had ordained.
Our theme is exhaustless; eternity will be too short to contemplate it. Bear with the writer, dear reader, as he endeavors to follow it a step further. "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50 ). What words were those! The Lord Jesus knew the unspeakable bitterness of that baptism, a baptism such as no mere creature could have endured; nevertheless, He panted after it. His very heart was contracted by the delay. Never woman desired more to be delivered than did He to finish His travail, to pass over that "brook" (Psalms 110:7 ), that sea of wrath into which He should be immersed. Note His remarkable word to Judas: "that thou doest do quickly" (John 13:27 ).
Again, mark how when He first announced to His disciples His forthcoming sufferings and death (Matthew 16:21 ), and Peter "took Him (aside as a friend out of natural affection) and began to rebuke Him, saying, Pity thyself, Lord" Thou who art going about doing good, ministering to the needy, allow not Thyself to suffer such indignities, such an ignominious end. And how did Christ receive this word? Did He appreciate it? No, never did He take any word so ill; never did His holy zeal flash forth more vividly than then. He turned and said unto Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me." Never such word was spoken unto saint, before or since. The word "offense" means an occasion of stumbling; Peter’s counsel had that tendency in it to turn Him aside from that great work upon which His heart was so fully set.
There is a remarkable word in the "Pascal Discourse" which it is impossible to explain or account for except on the ground of that holy impatience or zeal which consumed the Savior to make an end of the work the Father had assigned Him. After Judas had gone out to betray Him, the Savior redeemed the time by speaking at length to the Eleven, and in the midst of so doing He said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence" (John 14:31 ). He was in haste to be gone, lest the band headed by the betrayer should miss Him in the garden. Then He looked (as it were) at the hour-glass of His life, and seeing that the sands of time had not yet completely run out, He resumed and completed His address.
The closer he drew to the final conflict, the more blessedly did appear the perfectness of His consecration to God. When the moment of arrest arrived, and Peter drew his sword and attempted resistance, the Savior exclaimed, "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11 ). When conducted to the hall of judgment, He was not dragged, as an unwilling victim, but was "led as a sheep to the slaughter" (Acts 8:32 ). Hear His own words spoken centuries before by the Spirit of prophecy "The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:5 , Isaiah 50:6 ). That (excepting the cross itself) was the hardest part of what had been assigned Him, yet He rebelled not. O blessed Savior grant us more of Thy spirit.
He never showed the slightest sign of reluctancy till Gethsemane was reached, when He took (as it were) a more immediate look into the awful cup which He was to drink, and saw in it the wrath of God and His being made a "curse." Then, to exhibit the holiness of His nature, shrinking from being "made sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21 ), to demonstrate the reality of His humanity trembling, horrified, in anguish at what awaited Him; and to manifest His unquenchable love to us, by making known more clearly what He suffered on our behalf, He cried, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." Yet instantly He was quieted: "Nevertheless, not My will be done, but Thine." Thus we are shown again His full and perfect acquiesence to the Father’s purpose, and that the one and only object before Him was the doing of the Father’s will.
Yet one more thought on this precious subject: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." Weigh well the verb. It was not merely that the Son consented to passively endure whatever the Father was pleased to lay upon Him, but also that He desired to actively perform the work which had been allotted to Him. Though that work involved immeasurable humiliation, untold anguish, though it entailed not only Bethlehem’s manger but Calvary’s cross, He hesitated not. As a child, as a Man, in life and in death, He was "obedient" to His God. Our disobedience was voluntary, so the satisfaction which He made for us was voluntary. Though what He did was done out of love for us, yet chiefly in subjection to God’s will and out of love to Him. "I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do" (John 14:31 )!
Let us pause long enough to make one word of application. In view of all that has been before us, of what surpassing value must be such obedience! When we remember that the One we have been contemplating is none other than the Almighty, who, "hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and meted heaven with a span" (Isaiah 40:12 ), then is it not obvious that this humiliation and consecration must possess a dignity and efficacy which has more than compensated God for all the dreadful disobedience of His people! It was the Divine excellency of Christ’s person which gave infinite worth to all that He did as the God-man-Mediator; therefore is He able to "save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." O Christian reader look away from self with its ten thousand failures, to Him who is "Altogether Lovely." No matter how black and foul thy sins, the precious blood of such an One cleanseth from them all. And what wholehearted devotion is due unto Him from us! O may His love truly constrain us to obey and please Him.
"Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hast pleasure therein, which are offered by the law; Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second" (verses 8, 9). In these words we have the apostle’s inspired comment upon the remarkable quotation given from Psalms 40:0 . Repetition is here made that the conclusion drawn might the more plainly appear. That to which attention is now directed is to the order of statement, and what that order necessarily intimated. The first word of verse 8 ("Above") and the first of verse 9 ("Then") are placed in opposition and it is to them that the "first" and the "second" at the end of verse 9 looks.
Granting that the Levitical sacrifices were "offered by the law," nevertheless, God rejected them as the means of making real expiation of sin and the saving of His church. This He had made known as far back as the days of David; nor was it a new decision that God formed then, for what He spoke through His prophets in time was but the revelation of what He had decreed in eternity. This the Son, the Mediator, was cognizant of, therefore did He say, "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God." "Lo" Behold! a word signalizing what a glorious spectacle was then presented to God, to angels, and to men. "I come" from Heaven to earth, from the "form of God" to the "form of a servant;" come forth like the rising of the sun, with light and healing in his wings, or as a giant rejoicing to run his race. To "do Thy will," to perform Thy counsels, to execute what Thou requirest, to render that entire service of love which Thy people owed unto the law, to perform the great work of redemption. Thus, the perfect obedience of Christ is placed in direct contrast from the whole of the Levitical offerings: His accomplishing what theirs could not.
"He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second." This inference is patent; no other conclusion could be drawn. The Levitical offerings were unefficacious to accomplish the purpose of God; the satisfaction of the incarnate Son had. The Greek word for "taketh away" is even stronger than the term applied to the old covenant "made old" and "vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13 ). It is usually applied to the taking away of life (Acts 16:27 ). Dead things are not only useless, but prove harmful carrion, fit only to be buried! Thus it was with the Mosaic shadows. So also an equally emphatic and final word is used in connection with the one offering of our Lord’s: it has "established" the will of God concerning the Church. That is, it has placed it on such an immutable foundation that it shall never be moved or altered.
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (verse 10). This is a commentary upon the whole passage. "By," or better "in which will" refers not to Christ’s, for the preceding verse speaks of the will of the Father, purposing that Christ should offer the perfect and acceptable sacrifice. Moreover, the "will" is distinguished from the "offering" of the Redeemer. The "Thy will" of verse 9 refers to the eternal agreement between the Father and the Son in connection with the covenant of redemption, the performing of His "commandment" (John 10:18 ). "In which will" gives the sphere or element in which the great sacrifice was offered and in which the elect are "sanctified."
"In the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "Sanctified" positionally, restored to God’s favor, standing accepted before Him. The death of Christ was a "sacrifice" (7:27, 9:23), by which He put away sin (Hebrews 9:26 ) and provided for the purging of our conscience (Hebrews 9:14 ) and the setting apart of our persons unto God (Hebrews 10:14 ). All these passages affirm that the death of Christ was a sacrifice by which the elect are separated as a peculiar people unto the worship of the living God. It is important to see the type realized in the Antitype. "As the ancient sacrifices, as symbols in the lower sphere, freed the worshipper from merited (temporal) punishment, because the guilt passed over to the victim, so the death of Christ, in a higher sphere, not only displayed the punishment due to us for sin, but the actual removal of that punishment. It puts us in the position of a people near to God, a holy people, as Israel were in a typical (or ceremonial) sense" (G. Smeaton).
"In the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "Sanctified is here to be taken in its widest latitude, as including a full expiation of sin, a complete dedication to God, a real purification of our natures, a permanent peace of conscience unto which belongs the privilege of immediate access to God. Faith is the instrumental cause, whereby we enter into the good of it. The Spirit’s work within is the efficient cause, whereby we are enabled to believe and lay hold of it. The redemptive work of Christ is the meritorious cause, whereby He earned for us the gift of His Spirit to renew us. But the sovereign and eternal will of the Father is the supreme and originating cause. All that the will of God ordained for the good of His Church is communicated to us through the satisfaction or offering of Christ, but this is only apprehended by an understanding enlightened and a heart opened by the Holy Spirit.
The Perfecting of the Church
(Hebrews 10:11-14 )
The connection between our present passage and the verses preceding is so close, the relation between them so intimate, that what is now to be before us cannot be understood, and appreciated apart from the other. The design of the whole is to show the superlative excellency of the sacrifice of Christ and what it has procured for His people, with the inevitable setting aside of all the typical offerings. This great change in the outward worship of God’s saints on earth was no temporary expediency in view of the failures of fleshly Israel, but was ordained by the Divine counsels before the foundation of the world, recorded in the Book of God’s decrees, and, in due time, transcribed upon the pages of Holy Scripture; the 40th Psalm having announced the alteration which was to be brought about by the incarnation and advent to this earth of the Son of God.
Most blessedly does that Messianic Psalm acquaint us with what passed between the Father and the Son and of the covenant agreed upon by Them. Most blessedly are we there shown not only the Son’s acquiescence to the Father’s purpose, but also His readiness and joy to execute the same. The strenuous undertaking was to rest upon His shoulder, the burden and heat of the day was to be borne by Him, the humiliation and pains of death wire to be His portion; yet so far from rebelling against this frightful ordeal, He exclaimed "I delight to do Thy will, O My God" (Psalms 40:8 ). So dear to Him was the Father’s glory, so filled with zeal was He to accomplish His counsels, so deep was His longing to magnify His law and make it honorable, that His very "meat" was to do and accomplish His will. Never did famished mortal so crave food to satisfy hunger, as did the God-man Mediator to perform the Father’s pleasure.
He too knew full well that the blood of bulls and goats could never repair the damage which sin had wrought. He too had heartily concurred in tee august Council of the Trinity that, if satisfaction were to be made unto Divine justice, then an adequate one should be given, one which should be suited in every way to meet all the aspects of the case. Inasmuch as it was man who had revolted against the Divine government and broken the Divine law, He was willing to become Man, and in the same nature which had apostatized from God render perfect obedience to Him. Inasmuch as "the Law" was the rule of obedience (Jeremiah 31:33 ), comprehending all God’s demands, the entire service of love which creatures owe unto their Maker, the Son consented to be "made under the law" (Galatians 4:4 ) and "fulfill" its precepts (Matthew 5:17 ). Inasmuch as the penalty of that law was death unto the transgressor, He agreed to be "made a curse for us."
It was not that all of this was forced on the Son, but that He freely agreed thereto. If there are verses which tell us the Father "sent" the Son, there are other passages which declare that the Son "came." Blessedly was this foreshadowed in Genesis 22:0 , where we behold an earthly adumbration of that "counsel of peace" which was between "Both" the Father and the son (Zechariah 6:13 ). There we are shown a human father willing to sacrifice his beloved son upon the altar, and there too we see a human son (then fully grown) willing to be slain! Marvelously did that set forth the mutual consent of the Divine persons with regard to the Great Transaction. Mark attentively, those precious words, "So they went both of them together" (Genesis 22:8 )! As we follow Isaac upon mount Moriah, his actions said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O my God."
In man three things combine to the doing of a thing. First, there is the exercise of will, which is the prime mover and spring of all the rest. Second, there is the exercise of wisdom, by which he plans and arranges. Third, the putting forth of strength to accomplish the same. So it is in the Divine Trinity in connection with the salvation of the Church and all that that entails. "Will" is more generally ascribed to the Father: Matthew 11:26 , Ephesians 1:11 , etc. "Wisdom" is more eminently attributed to the Son, the "Wonderful Counselor," called so often "Wisdom" in the book of Proverbs, Luke 7:35 , Luke 11:49 etc. "Might" to the Holy Spirit Luke 1:35 , where He is designated "the Power of the Highest." The Father contrived the great work of redemption, the Son transacted it, and the Holy Spirit applies the same. Here in Hebrews 10:0 things are traced back to the first great cause of our salvation, namely, the sovereign will of the Father.
The closer the whole passage be read, the more will it appear that the apostle was moved to ascend in thought to the originating source of redemption. In verse 5 we hear the Lord Jesus saying to the Father concerning the legal sacrifices, "Thou wouldest not," i.e. they were not what Thou didst eternally purpose should take away sins. To this He adds, "But a body hast Thou prepared Me," which (as we have shown) in its deepest meaning signifies: a human nature hast Thou ordained for Me, to be the meet vehicle of service in which I should render an adequate satisfaction. Next, He makes reference to the Book of God’s eternal decrees, in view of which He declares, "I come to do Thy will, O God." Finally, the Holy Spirit sums up the whole by affirming "in the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once."
We feel it a bounden duty to enlarge upon this fundamental truth, the more so in view of the present almost universal denial of the absolute sovereignty of God. The Holy Spirit has Himself here emphasized the fact that God’s imperial pleasure was the sole moving-cause even in that greatest of all the Divine works, through which is communicated the chiefest glory to God and highest good to His people. God was under no necessity to save any. He "spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell" (2 Peter 2:4 ); and had it so pleased Him, He had done the same with the whole human race. There was no necessity in His nature which compelled or even required Him to show mercy; had there been, mercy had been bestowed on the fallen angels! The Almighty is under no restraint either from anything outside or anything inside Himself; to affirm the contrary, would be to repudiate the absolute freedom of His will.
Still less was God under any necessity of giving His own beloved Son if He chose to redeem a part of Adam’s race. He who declares, "All nations before Him are as nothing: and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God?" (Isaiah 40:17 , Isaiah 40:18 ) is not to be measured by human reason nor limited by our unbelief. Had God so pleased He had made this earth a thousand times bigger than it is; and had He so pleased, He had created it a thousand times smaller. In like manner, He was absolutely free to use whatsover means He determined in order to save His people from their sins. The sending forth of His Son to be made of a woman and to die upon the cross, was not a work of His nature, but of His will; as He now begets us "of His own will" (James 1:18 ). True it "became" Him so to do (Hebrews 2:10 ), and He is infinitely honored thereby, yet He could have refused had He so pleased.
Thus, the "will" of God referred to throughout Hebrews 10:0 is that eternal, gracious, free purpose, by which God determined in Himself to recover His elect out of lost mankind, to remove their sins, sanctify their persons, and bring them nigh unto the everlasting enjoyment of Himself. This act of the will of God was without any meritorious cause foreseen in them, and altogether apart from anything outside Himself to dispose Him thereto. It was His own free and uncaused act by which God purposed so to do. Nor have we the smallest occasion to regard this supremacy of the Most High with any aversion. God is no Tyrant, nor does He act capriciously, His will is a wise and holy one, therefore do we read of Him working "all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11 ), and therefore did He devise a plan whereby His grace might be most magnified.
It was for this reason He determined that His people should be saved in such a way as to remove all ground for boasting in themselves, and to glory only in God Himself. Therefore did He appoint His own Son to be their Savior, and that by rendering to Him such a satisfaction as would meet every requirement of justice and every demand of the most enlightened conscience. God’s end and aim in giving Christ to die was to advance the glory of His grace, which consists in having the monarchy and sole prerogative in saving sinners attributed unto it; the highest of whose honor and eminency is this, that it alone "reigns" (Romans 5:21 ), and hath not and could not have any competitor therein. As it is the excellency of God that He is God alone, and there is none beside Him, so it is of His Son that He is Savior alone and there is none beside Him (Acts 4:12 ).
Unto God the Son, made Man, has been assigned an office which no creature in earth or heaven could possibly fill. The fullest trial and manifestation of this is made in a case of less difficulty (than that of making satisfaction to Divine justice for sin) in Revelation 5:0 . There we read of a challenge given, "Who is worthy to open the book" which was sealed and held in the hand of God seated on His throne "and to loose the seals thereof?" Waiving the question as to what "book" this was, we note the response: "And no one in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon" (verse 3). Even the beloved John was discouraged, and "wept much because no one was found worthy to open and to read the book" (verse 4). Mark the unspeakably blessed sequel: "One of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seals thereof. And I beheld, and, Lo, in the midst of the throne... stood a Lamb as it had been slain... and He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne" (verses 5-7). If then no mere creature was fit to reveal redemption, how much less to effect it!
Thus, the origin of our salvation is found in the sovereign will of God; the means, in the satisfaction made by His incarnate Son. The two things are brought together in verse 10, "In the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once." "In the which will" has reference to what is recorded in the Book of God’s decrees. That "will" was that His people should be "sanctified" unto Him, set apart with acceptance to Him. This was to be effected through "the offering" of Christ, which began at the first moment of His birth and ended when on the cross He cried, "It is finished." This was "once for all."
It was an absolute necessity that there should be these two things: the originating will of God the Father, the consenting will of the Mediator to make full satisfaction for sin. Necessary it was that the Father should be willing and call His Son to this work, for He was the person unto whom the satisfaction was to be made. Had Christ performed all that He did, freely and gladly, yet, unless the Father had first decreed that He should and had "called" Him unto it, then had He rejected the whole, asking "who hath required this at Thy hand?" Therefore has the Spirit insisted upon this foundational fact again and again in the course of this epistle: see Hebrews 2:10 ; Hebrews 3:4 , Hebrews 3:5 ; Hebrews 6:17 etc. Thus does Hebrews 10:10 ascribe as much, yea more, to God’s appointing and accepting of Christ’s sacrifice, as to the merits of Christ unto the sanctification of His people.
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting, till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified (verses 11-14). "These words are an entrance into the close of that long blessed discourse of the apostle, concerning the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, their dignity and efficacy; which he shuts up and finisheth in the following verses, confirming the whole with the testimony of the Holy Spirit before producing by Him.
"Four things doth he here instruct us in, by way of recapitulation of what he had declared and proved before. 1. The state of the legal priests and sacrifices, as unto the recognition of them, by which he had proved before their utter insufficiency to take away sin (verse 11). 2. In that one offering of Christ, and that once offered, in opposition thereunto (verse 12). 3. The consequence thereof on the part of Christ; whereof there are two parts. First, His state and condition immediately ensuing thereon (verse 12), manifesting the dignity, efficacy and absolute perfection of His offering. Secondly, as unto the continuance of His state and condition afterwards (verse 13). 4. The absolute effect of his sacrifice, which was the sanctification of the Church (verse 14)" ( John Owen).
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (verse 11). The opening "And" links this verse with the 10th, for the purpose of accentuating the blessedness of what is there declared. Once more the Holy Spirit emphasizes the contrast between the all-sufficient offering of Christ and the unefficacious offerings under the law. This is brought out under five details, upon which there is little need for us to enlarge at length.
First, under the law the sacerdotal office was filled by many: attention is called to this by the "every priest," which is set over against the "this Man" of verse 12, who was competent by Himself to do all God required. Second, the Levitical priests stood. This was true both of the high priests and of all under him. No chair or seat was provided for them in either the tabernacle or temple, for their work was never ended. Third, they were employed daily, which showed they were unable to do immediately and once for all that which would satisfy God. Fourth, they oftentimes presented "the same sacrifices": true, they varied in detail and design, nevertheless they had this in common, that, they were irrational creatures, incapable of offering intelligent and acceptable obedience to God. Fifth, they could not meet the infinite demands of justice, expiate sins, nor provide a permanent resting-place for an exercised conscience.
An improvement should be made of what has just been before us, by pointing out the utter worthlessness of all human devices for appeasing God and comforting the conscience. If the Levitical offerings, which were of Divine appointment, were unable to really meet either the full requirements of God or the deepest need of sinners, how much less can the contrivances of man do so! How vain are the Romish inventions of confession, absolution, indulgencies, masses, penances, purgatory, and the like tom-fooleries! Equally vain are the austerities of some Protestants: the signing of a temperance-pledge, giving up of tobacco, and other reformations, with tears, lastings, and religious performances designed to make peace with God. The salvation of the Lord does not come to a soul via any such things. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:5 , Titus 3:6 ).
"But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down on the right hand of God" (verse 12). The opening word denotes that a contrast is here presented from what was before us in verse 11: it is the Holy Spirit placing in antithesis the one perfect and efficacious offering of Christ from the unavailing sacrifices of the law. The word "Man" ought to be in italics: if any word is to be supplied it should be that of "Priest." The Greek simply reads, "But He," the pronoun being emphatic. It is the sacerdotal work of the Mediator which is in view. He came and once for all laid Himself on the Divine altar as an atonement to God the entire course of His obedience terminating and being consummated at the cross.
There is both a comparison and a contrast here between Christ and Aaron and his successors. Both were priests; both offered a sacrifice for sins; but there the analogy between them ends. They were many; He alone. They offered numerous sacrifices; He, but one. They continued to offer sacrifices; His is complete and final. Their offerings were unefficacious; His, has actually removed sins. They stood; He has sat down. They ministered unto God; He is seated at the right hand of God. The typical high priest entered the holiest only for a brief season, one day in the year; Christ has gone on High "forever." He has not ceased to be a Priest, nor to exercise that office; but He is now "a Priest upon His throne" (Zechariah 6:13 ). The position He occupies witnesses to the supreme excellency of His work, and attests the acceptance of His sacrifice by God. The glorious place which our once humiliated Savior has been accorded, supplies conclusive evidence of the value and finality of His redemptive work. "The very fact that Christ is in heaven, accepted by His Father, proves that His work must be done. Why, beloved, as long as an ambassador from our country is at a foreign court, there must be peace; and as long as Jesus Christ our Savior is at His Father’s court, it shows that there is real peace between His people and His Father. Well, as He will be there forever, that shows our peace must be continued and shall never cease. But that peace could not have been continual, unless the atonement had been wholly made, unless justice had been entirely satisfied" (C.H. Spurgeon).
Commentators have been divided as to whether the "for ever" is to be connected with the Savior’s one sacrifice or to His sitting down at God’s right hand. The Greek, while hardly conclusive, decidedly favors the latter. Perhaps the double thought is designed. They who insist that the "for ever" must be joined to the first clause, argue that it cannot be so with the second because 1 Thessalonians 4:16 , Revelation 19:11 etc. show that the Savior will yet leave Heaven. As well might appeal be made to Christ’s "standing" to receive Stephen (Acts 7:55 ). But the difficulty is self-created through carnalizing the metaphor used. "For ever sat down" is in designed contrast from the "standeth daily" of verse 11. Christ has ceased for ever from the priestly work of making oblation: He will never again be engaged in such a task; but He has other characters to fill beside that of Maker of atonement.
"For ever sat down on the right hand of God." Four times in this epistle is reference made to Christ’s being seated on High, yet is there no repetition. On each occasion the reference is found connected with an entirely different line of thought. First, in Hebrews 1:3 it is His seat of personal glory which is in view: the whole context before and after showing that. Second, in Hebrews 8:1 it is the seat of priestly pre-eminence which He occupies, namely, His superiority over all others who filled the sacerdotal office. Third, here in Hebrews 10:12 it is the seat of sacrificial acceptance, God’s witness to the value of His satisfaction. Fourth, in Hebrews 12:2 it is the seat of the Victor, the prize given for having successfully run His race.
The One born in Bethlehem’s manger, who on earth had not where to lay His head, who died upon the cross, and whose body was laid in a borrowed grave, is now in Heaven. He has been given a place higher than that of the arch-angel, He has been exalted above all created things. There is a glorified Man at God’s right hand! Christ is the only one among all the hosts above who deserves to be there! It is naught but Divine favor which gives holy angels and redeemed sinners a place in the Father’s House; but the Man Christ Jesus has merited that high honor!
"The highest place that Heaven affords,
Is His by sovereign right,
King of kings and Lord of lords,
He reigns there in the Light."
Unspeakably blessed is this; the more so when it be realized that Christ has entered heaven for His people. He has gone there in his official character. He has gone there as our Representative; to appear before God "for us" (Hebrews 9:24 ). He is there as our great High Priest, bearing our names on His breastplate. Wondrous and precious are those words, "Whither the fore-runner is for us entered, even Jesus" (Hebrews 6:20 ). There the mighty Victor sits "crowned with glory and honor." He occupies the Throne of universal dominion, of all-mighty power, of sovereign and illimitable grace. He is making all grace. He is making all things work together for the good of His own. The kingly scepter shall He wield until all His redeemed are with Him in glory.
"From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool" (verse 13). In these words we have the seventh and last N. T. reference made to the 110th Psalm. There we read. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (verse 1). Allusion is here made to that promise of the Father to the Son for the purpose of supplying additional confirmation of what had just been declared. In verses 10, 12 (also in 14), the utter needlessness for any repetition of Christ’s sacrifice is shown, here the impossibility of it. From the beginning, a state of glory and position of honor had been appointed the Mediator following on the presentation of His offering to God. He was to take His place on the throne of heaven, till His foes were completely subjugated: therefore to enter the place of service and die again He was no longer capable!
The suffering Savior has been invested with unlimited power and dominion, and nothing now remains but the accomplishing of all those effects which His sacrifice was designed to procure. These are twofold; the saving of His elect, the subjugating of all revolters against God, for "He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained" (Acts 17:31 ). The Redeemer having perfected His great work, now calmly awaits the fulfillment of the Father’s promise: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-27 . Christ will yet put forth His mighty power and overthrow every proud rebel against Him. He will yet say, "I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments . . . for the day of vengeance is in Mine heart" (Isaiah 63:3 , Isaiah 63:4 ): cf. Revelation 14:20 . Then will men experience the terribleness of "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16 ).
The "wrath of the Lamb" is as much a perfection as is the "love of Christ." In His overthrow of God’s adversaries, His glory shines as truly as when He conducts the redeemed into the Father’s House. He is equally to be adored when we behold His vesture stained with the blood of His enemies, as when we see His life ebbing from His side pierced for us. Each was an intrinsic part of that work assigned Him of the Father. Though in our present state we are apt to shrink-back with horror, as we contemplate Him saying to those who despised and rejected Him. "Depart from Me, ye cursed," yet in that day we shall praise Him for it. "Oh! what a triumph that will be, when men, wicked men, persecutors, and those who opposed Christ, are all cast into the lake that burneth" (C.H. Spurgeon).
A remarkable adumbration (shadowing forth) of what has just been before us was made by God in A.D. 70. During the days of His flesh, the enemies of Christ pursued Him with relentless hatred. Nor was their enmity appeased when they had hounded Him to death: their rage continued to vent itself upon His followers. No one can read through the book of Acts without discovering many an evidence of the rancor of apostate Judaism against the early Christians. Loudly did the Jews boast of their triumph against Jesus of Nazareth, and for a time it looked as though they would prevail against His church. Though the issue hung in suspense for some years, God made a complete end to the same by utterly destroying them as a nation, and thereby gave a pledge of the eternal destruction of those who obey not the Gospel. In sending the Romans to burn their city and raze their temple, we discover a solemn foreshadowing of that which shall yet take place when Christ says, "But those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay before Me" (Luke 19:27 ).
But let our final thought of this 13th verse be one of a different tenor. In the word "expecting" we have manifested again the lovely moral perfections of the Mediator. Christ is able to destroy all His enemies in a moment, yet for nineteen centuries He has bided His time. Why? Because, even in Heaven, He meekly and gladly bows to the Father’s pleasure. His final triumph is still postponed, because He calmly waits that day which God has "appointed" (Acts 17:31 ). Therefore do we read of "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9 ). In this too He sets us an example. Whatever be our lot and condition, however the forces of evil rage against us, we are to possess our souls in patience (Luke 21:19 ), knowing that there is a "set time" to favor Zion (Psalms 102:13 ). Ere long, every enemy of Christ and of His church shall be overthrown overthrown, not "reconciled": "His enemies be made His footstool" plainly gives the lie to the dreams of Universalists!
"For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (verse 14). Three things claim our attention here: first, the relation of this view to the context; second, what is meant by "perfected for ever"?; third, who are the "sanctified"? The link between our verse and what precedes is contained in the opening "For," which has a double force. First, it intimates that what is now said furnishes additional proof for the thesis of the whole passage: the very fact that the one offering of Christ has "perfected for ever" (contrast Hebrews 7:17 !) those sanctified by God, gives further demonstration of the efficacy and sufficiency of it, and the needlessness of any repetition. Second, the same fact manifests the meet-ness of the Mediator’s sitting at God’s right hand until His enemies are made His footstool His work having accomplished such a blessed result, He is entitled both to rest and reward.
"For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." The word for "perfected" literally means "completed" or "consummated." It is more of an objective than a subjective perfection which is here in view, as the immediate context and the whole epistle shows. This verse is not speaking of the Church’s eternal state in Glory, but of its present standing before God. By His sacrifice Christ has procured for His people the full pardon of sin and peace before God thereon. The "one offering" of the Lord Jesus possesses such infinite merits (being that of an infinite or Divine person in a holy humanity), that it has wrought out a complete expiation and secured for "His own" personal acceptance with and access to God, a priestly standing and covenant nearness before Him.
Because their salvation has been accomplished by the vicarious obedience and vicarious suffering, in life and in death, by no less a person than Immanuel, because He glorified God’s law by keeping it fully and enduring its curse, His people are both perfectly justified and perfectly sanctified, that is, a complete righteousness and complete fitness to worship in the Temple of God is theirs, not in themselves, but through Christ their Head. Their title to heaven is founded alone on the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. Their fitness is given when the Holy Spirit regenerates them. Their present enjoyment of the same is determined by the maintenance of communion with God day by day. Their perfect and eternal enjoyment thereof will issue from their glorification at the return of the Savior.
The word "perfected" here is to be understood in a sacrificial rather than in an experimental sense. It has reference to the Christian’s right to stand in the holy presence of God in unclouded peace. Our title so to do is as valid now as it will be when we are glorified, for that title rests alone on the sacrificial work of our Substitute, finished on the cross. It rests on something altogether external to ourselves, altogether apart from what God’s sovereign grace works in us or through us, either when we first believe or afterwards. We are precious in the sight of God according to the preciousness of Christ: see Ephesians 1:6 , John 17:22 , John 17:23 . Yet, let it be added that, this perfect objective sanctification (our consecration to God by Christ) in no wise renders the less requisite our need of being constantly cleansed, experimentally, by the Spirit’s use of the Word: John 13:10 , 1 Peter 1:2 etc.
Those perfected by the "one offering" of Christ are "them that axe sanctified," or more literally, simply "the sanctified," the reference being to those who were eternally set apart by the Father (Jude 1:0 ). The persons of the elect are variously designated in this epistle. They are referred to as "heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14 ), "sons" (Hebrews 2:10 ), "brethren" of Christ, (Hebrews 2:12 ), "partakers of the heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1 ), "heirs of promise" (Hebrews 6:17 ), "the house of Israel" and "of Judah" (Hebrews 8:8 ); but here "the sanctified," because the Spirit’s object in the whole of this passage is to trace everything to its originating source, namely, the imperial will of a sovereign God.
(Hebrews 10:15-18 )
The verses which are now to be before us bring to a close the principal argument which the apostle was setting before the Hebrews; that which follows, partakes more of the nature of a series of exhortations, drawn from the thesis which had previously been established. The immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism, seen in the glorious person of our great High Priest and the perfect efficacy of His sacrifice, had been fully demonstrated. "Here we are come unto a full end of the dogmatical part of this epistle, a portion of Scripture filled with heavenly and glorious mysteries, the light of the church of the Gentiles, the glory of the people Israel, the foundation and bulwark of faith evangelical" (John Owen). Immediately afterward that eminent expositor added, (words which most suitably express the writer’s own sentiments) the following:
"I do therefore here, with all humility, and sense of my own weakness and utter inability for so great a work, thankfully own the guidance and assistance which hath been given to me in the interpretation of it, so far as it is, or may be of use unto the church, as a mere effect of sovereign and undeserved grace. From that alone it is, that having many and many a time been at an utter loss as to the mind of the Holy Spirit, and finding no relief in the worthy labors of others, He hath graciously answered my poor, weak supplications, in supplies of the light and evidence of truth."
The relation of our present passage to what has been before us in the last article is this: in verses 11-14 the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice is declared: first, comparatively in 11-14, and then singly in 14; while in verses 15-17 a further proof or confirmation of this is given from the Old Testament Scriptures. So efficacious was the mediatorial work of Christ that, "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." Said the Puritan Charnock, "That one offering was of such infinite value that it perfectly purchased the taking away of sin, both in the guilt, filth, and power, and was a sufficient price for all the grace believers should need for their perfect sanctification to the end of the world. There was the satisfaction of His blood for the removal of our guilt, and a treasure of merit for the supply of our grace" (Volume 5, p. 231).
There is a further link between our preceding portion and the present one. In verse 14 the apostle had declared "For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified," now he describes those marks by which the "sanctified" are to be identified. Unto those who really value their souls and are deeply concerned about their eternal destiny, this is a vitally important consideration. How may I know that I am one of that favored company for whom the incarnate Son of God offered Himself a sacrifice for sin? What clear and conclusive evidence do I possess that I am among the "sanctified?" Answer to these weighty questions is furnished in the verses which we are now to ponder. May each reader join with the writer in begging God to grant him an honest heart and a discerning eye to see whether or no they describe what has been actually made good in his own experience.
"Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (verses 15-18). There are two parts to the assertion made in verse 14: first, "them that are sanctified’’; second, such are "perfected forever." In the proof-text which the apostle here gives, both of these are found, though in the inverse order: the "sanctified" are they in whose hearts God puts His laws; those who are "perfected forever" are they whose sins God remembers no more.
"Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us" (verse 15). "The foundation of the whole preceding discourse of the apostle, concerning the glory of the priesthood of Christ, and the efficacy of His sacrifice, was laid in the description of the new covenant, whereof He was the Mediator, which was confirmed and ratified by His sacrifice, as the old covenant was by the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 9:10-13 ). Having now abundantly proved and demonstrated what he designed concerning them both, His priesthood and His sacrifice, He gives us a confirmation of the whole, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, in the description of that covenant which he had given before. And because the crisis to which he had brought his argument and disputation, was, that the Lord Christ, by reason of the dignity of His person and office, with the everlasting efficacy of His sacrifice, was to offer Himself but once, which virtually includes all that he had before taught and declared, including in it an immediate demonstration of the insufficiency of all those sacrifices which were often repeated, and consequently their removal out of the church; he returns unto those words of the Holy Spirit for the proof of this particular also" (J. Owen).
"Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us" (verse 15). Three questions are suggested by these words. First, unto what is the Holy Spirit a "Witness?" Second, what is the "also" to be connected with who else has witnessed to the same thing? Third, how does the Holy Spirit "witness?" Let us, then, seek answers to these queries.
Unto what is it that the Holy Spirit is here said to be a "Witness?" If we go back no farther than the preceding verse, the answer would be, unto the fact that the one satisfaction which has been made by the Redeemer secures the eternal perfection of all who are sanctified; what follows in verses 16-18 bears this out. Nevertheless, we are persuaded that it is necessary to look farther afield if we are to obtain the deeper and fuller answer. The satisfaction made by the Redeemer was the fulfilling of the Divine "will," the performing of that which had been stipulated in the everlasting covenant; and it is of that the whole context is speaking. The Holy Spirit was present when that wondrous compact was made between the Father and the Mediator, and through Jeremiah He made known a part of its glorious promises. The proof of this will become clearer as we advance.
Second, "whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us" looks back to verse 9. There we have the testimony of the Son unto the eternal decree which God had made, and which He had come to execute; here (in verses 17, 18) that of the Spirit to what the Father had promised the Mediator He would do unto His covenant people. Thus, we may here behold the three persons of the Godhead concurring. Yet there is such a fullness to the words of Scripture that we do not think what has just been pointed out exhausts the scope of this word "also." The leading thought of the context (and of the epistle) is the sufficiency, finality, and efficacy of the one sacrifice of Christ. That was "witnessed" to when the Mediator "sat down on the right hand of God" (verse 12); and the Holy Spirit is also a witness to us of the same blessed fact by means of His work of sanctification in the hearts and minds of those for whom Christ died.
As to how the Spirit witnesses to us, the first method is by means of the written Word; specifically, by what He gave out by the prophet Jeremiah. The apostle had argued the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice from its singularity (verse 12), in contrast from the many sacrifices of Judaism (verse 11); and the finality of it from the fact that He was now "sat down," indicating that His work of oblation was finished. To this the Hebrews might object that what the apostle had pointed out were but plausible reasonings, to which they could not acquiesce unless they were confirmed by the clear testimony of Scripture; and therefore did he now quote once more from the memorable prophecy of Jeremiah 31:0 , which clearly established the conclusions he had drawn. How the terms of that prophecy ratified his deductions will appear in the sequel.
"Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us." As we have seen, the first reference here is to what is recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34 . The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Scriptures, for "The prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21 ). But more, the Holy Scriptures are also the testimony of the Holy Spirit because of His presence and authority in them continually. As we read the written Word, we are to recognize the voice of the Spirit of truth speaking to us immediately out of them. As we do this, we shall recognize that Word as the final court of appeal in all matters of conduct. That Word alone is that whereunto our faith is to be resolved.
"Whereof the Holy Spirit is also a witness to us." The last two words need to be carefully observed in these days, when there are so many who (under the guise of "rightly dividing the Word") would rob the children of God of a part of their needed bread let the reader be much on his guard against such men. What the prophet Jeremiah gave out was for the people of God in his day. True, and hundreds of years later the apostle did not hesitate to say that what Jeremiah wrote was equally "to us"; note particularly, not only "for" us, but "to us"! The whole of God’s Word, beginning to end, was written for the good of His people until the end of the world.
But further, the Holy Spirit is not only a Witness unto us of the everlasting covenant and of the efficacy of Christ’s offering through the written Word objectively, but also by His application of that Word to us subjectively. As said the apostle unto the Corinthians, "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:3 ). A cause is known by its effects, a tree by its fruits; so the value and virtue of Christ’s sacrifice are witnessed to us by the Spirit through the powerful workings of His grace on our hearts. Every grace implanted by the Spirit in the Christian’s soul was purchased by the obedience and blood of Christ, and are living evidences of the worth of them.
"For after that He had said before" (verse 15). The particular proof-text from Jeremiah which the apostle was about to quote is prefaced by these words of his own, as also is the clause "saith the Lord" in the next verse the apostle’s language. If it be asked, what was it that was said "before?" the answer is, "This is the covenant that I will make with them." If it be inquired, what is that which is said after? even this: "I will put My laws into their hearts" etc. The particular point to be observed is, that these Divine mercies of God’s putting His laws into our hearts and forgiving our sins, are the immediate fruits of Christ’s sacrifice, but more remotely, are the fulfillment of God’s covenant-promises unto the Mediator.
The everlasting covenant which God made with Christ is the ground of all the good which He does to His people. Proof of this statement is supplied in many a scripture, which is little pondered in these days. For example, in Exodus 6:5 we find Jehovah saying to Moses, "Ï have remembered My covenant," which is rendered as the reason for His bringing of Israel out of Egypt. Again, in Psalms 105:8 we are told, "He hath remembered His covenant forever." So in Ezekiel 16:60 God declares, "Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant." While in Luke 1:0 , we read in the prophecy of Zacharias, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant" (verses 68-72).
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord" (verse 16). The reference is to the "new covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31 , so called not because it was new made, for with respect to its original constitution it was made with the elect in Christ their Head from all eternity (Titus 1:1 , Titus 1:2 ); nor as newly revealed, for it was made known in measure to the O.T. saints; but it is so referred to in distinction from the former administration of it, which had waxen old and vanished away. It is also called "new" because of the "new heart," "new spirit," "new song" which it bestows, and because of new ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper) which have displaced the old ones of circumcision and the passover-supper. Further, it may suitably be designated as "new" because its vigor and efficacy are perpetual; it will never be antiquated or give place to another.
"I will put My law into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (verse 16). And who are the favored ones in whom God works thus? Those whom He eternally set apart (Ephesians 1:4 ), those whom He gave to the Mediator (John 17:6 ), those for whom Christ died: "whom He did predestinate, those He also called" (Romans 8:30 ). These, and these only, are the ones with whom God deals so graciously. Others may, through religious instruction or personal effort, acquire a theoretical acquaintance with the laws of God, but only His elect have a vital knowledge of Him.
"I will put My laws into their hearts." As we deem this expression of tremendous importance, we will endeavor to explain it according to the measure of light which God has granted us thereon. First, it will aid us to an understanding thereof if we consider the case of Adam. When he left the Creator’s hands the law of God was in his heart, or, in other words, he was endowed with all sorts of holy properties, instincts and inclinations unto whatsoever God did command, and an antipathy against all He forbade. That was the "law" of the nature of his heart. The laws of God in Adam were Adam’s original nature, or constitution of His spirit and soul, as it is the law of nature in beasts to love their young, and of birds to build their nests.
"When God created man at first, He gave him not an outward law written in letters or delivered in words, but an inward law put into his heart, and concreated with him, and wrought in the frame of his soul. And the whole substance of this law of God, the mass of it, was not merely dictates or beams of light in his understanding, directing what to do; but also real, lively, and spiritual dispositions, and inclinations in his will and affections, carrying him on to what was so directed, as to pray, love God, and fear Him; to seek His glory in a spiritual and holy manner. They were inward abilities suited to every duty" (T. Goodwin, Volume 6, p. 402). The external command of Genesis 2:17 was designed as the test of his responsibility; what God had graciously placed within him, was the equipment for the discharging of his responsibility.
Should it be inquired, where is the scripture which teaches that God placed His laws in the heart of unfallen Adam? it is sufficient to reply that Psalms 40:8 presents Christ as saying, "Thy law is within My heart," and Romans 5:14 declares that Adam was "the figure of Him that was to come." But more, just as we may discover what grain the earth bears by the stubble which is found in the field, so we may ascertain what was in unfallen man by the ruins of what is yet to be seen in fallen and corrupt humanity. Romans 2:14 says the Gentiles "do by nature the things contained in the law": their very conscience tells them that immorality and murder are crimes. Thus, as an evidence that the law of God was originally the very "nature" of Adam, we have the shadow of it in the hearts of all men.
Alas, Adam did not continue as God created him: he fell, and the consequence was that his heart was corrupted, his very "nature" vitiated, so that the things he once loved he now hated, and what he should have hated, he now served. Thus it is with all of his fallen descendants: being "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18 ) their carnal mind "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7 ). Instead of that holy "nature" or spiritual propensities and properties, man is now in-dwelt and dominated by sin; hence, Romans 7:23 teaches us that sin is a "law" in our members, namely, "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2 ). And thus it is that in Jeremiah 17:1 (as the opposite of Hebrews 10:16 ) sin and corruption in the heart is said to be "written with a pen of iron, with the point of a diamond."
Now in regeneration and sanctification the "image" of God, after which Adam was originally created, is again stamped upon the soul: see Colossians 3:10 ; the laws of God are written on the Christian’s heart, so that it becomes his very "nature" to serve, obey, please, honor, and glorify God. Because the law of God is renewed again in the soul, it is termed the "law of the mind" (Romans 7:23 ), for the mind is now regulated by the authority of God and turns as instinctively to Him as does the sunflower to the sun, and as the needle answers to the loadstone. Thus, the renewed heart "delights in the law of God" (Romans 7:22 ), and "serves the law of God" (Romans 7:25 ), it being its very "nature" so to do.
This wondrous change which takes place in each of those for whom Christ died is here attributed directly and absolutely to God: "I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them." This is much more than a bare offer being made unto men, far beyond an ineffectual invitation which is to be received. It is an invincible and miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit, which thoroughly transforms the favored subjects to it. Only He who first made man, can remake him. None but the Almighty can repair the awful damage which the Fall wrought, counteract the dreadful power of sin, deliver the heart from the lusts of the flesh, the thraldom of the world, the bondage of Satan, and rewrite upon it His holy law, so that He will be loved supremely and served sincerely and gladly.
"I will put My laws into their hearts." This is in contrast from those who were under the old, or Sinaitic covenant. There the "ten words" were engraven upon tables of stone, not only to intimate thereby their fixed and permanent authority, but also to figure forth the hardness of the hearts of the unregenerate people to whom they were given. But under the new covenant that is, the administration of the everlasting covenant and the application of its grace to God’s elect in this Gospel dispensation God gives efficacy to His holy law in the souls of His people. First, by subduing and largely removing the enmity of the natural heart against Him and his law, which subduing is figuratively spoken of as a circumcising of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6 ) and a "taking away the stony heart" (Ezekiel 36:26 ). Second, by implanting the principle of obedience to His law, which is figuratively referred to as the giving of "an heart of flesh" and the "writing of His laws upon the heart."
Observe very particularly, dear reader, that God here says not "I will put My promises" but "My laws in their hearts." He will not relinquish His claims: unreserved subjection to His will is what His justice requires and what His power secures. The grand triumph of grace is, that "enmity" against the law (Romans 8:7 ) is displaced by "love" for the law (Psalms 119:97 ). This is it which explains that word in Psalms 19:7 , "The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul." It will probably surprise most of our readers (alas that it should do so) to be told that the Gospel never yet "converted" anybody. No, it is the law which the Spirit uses to convict of rebellion against God, and not until the soul penitently repudiates and forsakes his rebellion, is it ready for the message of peace which the Gospel brings.
The careful reader will notice there is a slight difference between the wording of Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16. In the former it is "I will put My laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts," but in the passage now before us the two clauses are reversed. One reason for this is as follows: Hebrews 8:10 give the Divine order of operation: the mind is first informed, and then the heart is reformed. Moreover, in Hebrews 8:10 it is a question of knowing God, and for that, the understanding must be enlightened before the affections can be drawn out of Him none will love an unknown God. The Spirit beans by conveying to the regenerate an efficacious knowledge of the authority and excellency of God’s laws, giving them a powerful realization both of their binding force and spirituality; and then He communicates a love for them, so that their hearts are heartily inclined toward them.
When the apostle defines the seat of the corruption of our nature, he places it in the "mind" and "heart": "Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." Therefore does the Divine work of sanctification, or the renovating of our natures, consist of the rectifying both of the mind and heart, and this, by furnishing them with the principles of faith, love, and adherence to God. Thus, the grace of the new covenant (purchased for His people by Christ) is as extensive to repair our "nature" as sin is (in its residence and power) to deprave us. God desireth truth "in the inward parts" (Psalms 51:6 ) not that outward conformity to His law may be dispensed with, for that is required too, but unless it proceed from an inward love for His law, the external actions cannot be accepted by Him.
"From these things we may easily discern the nature of that grace which is contained in this first branch of the first promise of the covenant. And this is the effectual operation of His Spirit, in the renovation and saving illumination of our minds, whereby they are habitually made conformable unto the whole law of God, that is, the rule and the law of our obedience in the new covenant, and enabled unto all acts and duties that are required of us. And this is the first grace promised and communicated unto us by virtue of this covenant, as it was necessary that so it should be. For, 1. the mind is the principal seat of all spiritual obedience. 2. The proper and peculiar actings of the mind in discerning, knowing, judging, must go before the actings of the will and affections, much more before all outward practices. 3. The depravation of the mind is such by blindness, darkness, vanity and enmity, that nothing can inflame our souls, or make an entrance towards the reparation of our natures, but an internal, spiritual, saving operation of grace upon the mind" (John Owen).
In Hebrews 10:16 the heart is mentioned before the mind because the Spirit is here giving the Divine standard for us to measure ourselves by: it is the test whereby we may ascertain whether or no we are among the "sanctified," who have been perfected forever by the one offering of Christ. An intellectual knowledge of God’s laws is no proof of regeneration, but a genuine heart-acquaintance with them is. The questions I need to honestly face are such as these: Is there within me that which answers to the Law without me? That is, is it actually and truly my desire and determination to be regulated and controlled by the revealed will of God? Is it the deepest longing of my soul, and the chief business of my life, to please and serve God? Is it the great burden of my prayers that He will work in me "both to will and to do of His good pleasure?" Is my deepest grief occasioned by my failure to be altogether holy in my wishes and words and ways? Experimentally, the more we love God, the more shall we discern the excellency of His law.
"And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (verse 17). Notice again the order of our passage: what is found here comes after verse 16, and not before. In the order of grace, justification (of which forgiveness is the negative side) precedes sanctification, but in the ,believer’s apprehension it is otherwise: I can only ascertain God’s justifying of me, by making sure I have within the fruits of His sanctifying me. I must study the effects to discover the cause. In like manner, God elects before He calls, or regenerates, but I have to make my calling "sure" in order to obtain evidence of my election: see 2 Peter 1:10 . There are many who give no sign of God’s law being written in their hearts, who nevertheless claim to have bad their sins forgiven by Him; but such are sadly deceived. Scripture entitles none to regard themselves as Divinely pardoned save those who have been saved from self-will and self-pleasing.
"And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." These words must not be understood to signify that the sins of God’s people have vanished from His essential mind, but rather that they will never be recalled by Him as He exercises His office as Judge. Our Substitute having already discharged our liabilities and Justice having been fully satisfied, payment cannot be demanded twice over. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1 ). This is the negative side of the believer’s justification, that his sins are not reckoned to his account; the positive aspect is that the perfect law-righteousness of Christ is imputed to him.
"Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (verse 18). Here the apostle draws the irrefutable conclusion from the premises he had so fully established. Before pondering it, let us give a brief summary of these wonderful verses. First, the everlasting covenant is the foundation of all God’s gracious dealings with His elect. Second, that eternal compact between the Father and the Mediator is now being administered under the "new covenant.’’ Third, the design of this covenant is not to set apart a people unto external holiness only, but to so sanctify them that they should be holy in heart and life. Fourth, this sanctification of the elect is effected by the communication of effectual grace unto them for their conversion and obedience, which is here (under a figure) spoken of as God’s putting His laws into their hearts and writing them in their minds. Fifth, this practical sanctification is God’s continuation of that work of grace which He begins in us at regeneration our glorification is the completing of the same, for then the last remains of sin will be removed from us, and we shall be perfectly conformed to the image of His Son.
"Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." These words give the apostle’s application of the Scripture quoted from Jeremiah, which was made for the express purpose of demonstrating the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice. The conclusion is irresistible: the one offering of Christ has secured that the grace of the everlasting covenant shall be communicated unto all of those for whom He died, both in the sanctifying and justifying of their persons. Since then their sins are all gone from before the face of God, no further sacrifice is needed.
Access to God
(Hebrews 10:19-23 )
The verses which are now to engage our attention contain the apostle’s transition from the doctrinal to the practical part of the epistle, for privileges and duties are never to be separated. Having at great length discoursed upon the priestly office of Christ in the foregoing part of the epistle, he now sums up in a few words the scope and substance of a!l he had been saying (verses 19-21), and then draws the plain inference from the whole (verse 22). Like a wise master-builder, he first digs till he comes to the foundation, and then calls himself and others to build upon it with confidence. Having demonstrated the vast superiority of Christianity over Judaism, the apostle now exhorts his Christian readers to avail themselves of all their blessed advantages and enjoy the great privileges which have been conferred upon them.
"The apostle’s great argument is concluded, and the result is placed before us in a very short summary. We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way; and we have in the heavenly sanctuary a great Priest over the house of God. All difficulties have been removed, perfectly and forever. We have access; and He who is the way is also the end of the way; He is even now our great Priest, interceding for us, and our all-sufficient Mediator, providing us with every needful help.
"On this foundation rests a threefold exhortation. 1. Let us draw near with a true heart, in the full assurance of faith. 2. Let us hold fast the profession of hope without wavering. 3. Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, laboring and waiting together, and helping one another in the unity of brethren. Faith, hope, and love this is the threefold result of Christ’s entrance into heaven, spiritually discerned. A believing, hoping, and loving attitude of heart corresponds to the new covenant revelation of Divine grace" (Adolph Saphir).
"In these words the apostle enters on the last part of the epistle, which is wholly hortatory. For though there be some occasional intermixtures of doctrine consonant to those which are insisted on before, yet the professed design of the whole remainder of the epistle is to propose to, and press on the Hebrews such duties of various sorts, as the truths he had insisted on, do direct unto, and make necessary to all that believe. And in all his exhortations there is a mixture of the ground of the duties exhorted to, of their necessity, and of the privilege which we have in being admitted to them, and accepted with them, all taken from the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, with the effects of them, and the benefits which we receive thereby" (John Owen).
The same order of Truth may be clearly seen in other epistles of the apostle Paul. In Romans, the first eleven chapters are devoted to doctrinal exposition, the next four being practical, setting forth the Christian’s duties: see Romans 12:1 . Likewise in Ephesians: the first three chapters set forth the sovereign grace of God, the last three the Christian’s responsibilities: see Hebrews 4:1 . From this the teacher and preacher may gather important instruction, showing him how to handle the Word, so that the whole man may be edified. The understanding needs to be enlightened, the conscience searched and comforted, the heart inflamed, the will moved, the affections well ordered. Nothing but doctrine, will produce a cold and conceited people; nothing but exhortation, a discouraged and ill-instructed people.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (verse 19). "The preceding part of this epistle has been chiefly occupied with stating, proving, and illustrating some of the grand peculiarities of Christian doctrine: and the remaining part of it is entirely devoted to an injunction and enforcement of those duties which naturally result from the foregoing statements. The paragraph verses 19-23, obviously consists of two parts: a statement of principles, which are taken for granted as having been fully proved; and an injunction of duties grounded on the admission of these principles" (J. Brown).
The great privilege which is here announced unto Christians is that they may draw near unto God as accepted worshippers. This privilege is presented under a recapitulation of the principal points which the apostle had been treating of, namely, first, Christians have liberty to enter the presence of God (verse 19). Second, a way has been prepared for them so to do (verse 20). Third, a Guide is provided to direct them in that way (verse 21). These three points are here amplified by showing the nature of this "liberty": it is with "boldness," to enter the presence of God, and that by virtue of Christ’s blood. The "way" is described as a "new" and "living" one, and it is ready for our use because Christ has "consecrated" it. The "Guide" is presented by His function, "priest"; His dignity, "great"; His authority, "over the house of God."
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." To "enter into the holiest" is, as verse 22 shows, to "draw near" unto God in Christ, for "no one cometh unto the Father but by Him" (John 14:6 ). The "Holiest" here is only another name for Heaven, the dwelling-place of God, being designated so in this instance because the holy of holies in the tabernacle and the temple was the type thereof. This is established by what was before us in Hebrews 9:24 , "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, the figures of the true; but into heaven itself." It is most blessed to link with Hebrews 10:19 what is said in Hebrews 9:12 : "by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place"; the title of the members of His body for entering in the Sanctuary on high, is the same as that of their Head’s!
The boldness to "enter into the holiest" which is spoken of in our text is not to be limited to the Christian’s going to heaven at death or at the return of the Savior, but is to be understood as referring to that access unto God in spirit, and by faith, which he now has. Here again we see the tremendous contrast from the conditions obtaining under the old and the new covenants. Under Judaism as such, the Israelites were rigidly excluded from drawing nigh unto Jehovah; His dwelling-place was sealed against them. Nay, even the Levites, privileged as they were to minister in the tabernacle, were barred from the holy of holies. But now the right has been accorded unto all who partake of the blessings of the new covenant, to enjoy free access unto God, to draw near unto His throne as supplicants, to enter His temple as worshippers, to sit at His table as happy children.
Most blessedly was this set forth by Christ in the close of that remarkable parable in Luke 15:0 . There we find the prodigal having "come to himself" saying, "I will arise and go to my Father." He arose and went, and where do we find him? Outside the door, or looking in at the window? No, but inside the House. Sovereign grace had given him boldness to "enter." And why not? Having confessed his sins, he had received the "kiss" of reconciliation, and the "best robe" had been placed upon him, and thus he was fitted to enjoy the Father’s house. In perfect accord with our Lord’s teaching in that parable, we have been told here in Hebrews 10:0 that "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified," and because of this, God has put His laws into their hearts, written them upon their minds, and avowed that their sins and iniquities He would "remember no more."
Here, then, is the force of the "therefore" in our present verse. Inasmuch as Christ’s satisfaction has removed every legal obstacle, and inasmuch as the work of the Spirit in the Christian has made him "meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12 ), there is not only nothing to hinder, but every reason and motive to induce us to draw near unto God and pour out our hearts before Him in thanksgiving, praise, and worship. In Hebrews 4:16 we are invited to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need"; but here in Hebrews 10:19-22 it is worship which is more specifically in view entrance into "the holiest," which was the place of worship and communion, see Numbers 7:89 .
A further word of explanation needs to be given on the term "boldness." Saphir rightly pointed out that this expression "must be understood here objectively, not subjectively, else the subsequent exhortation would be meaningless"; in other words, the reference is to something outside ourselves and not to a condition of heart. Literally, the Greek signifies "Having therefore, brethren, boldness for entrance into the holiest," and hence, some have rendered it "the right of entrance." Most probably the word is designed to point a double contrast from conditions under the old covenant. Those under it had a legal prohibition against entering the sacred abode of Jehovah, but Christians have a perfect title to do so. Again, those under Judaism were afraid to do so, whereas faith now perceives that we may come to God with the fullest assurance because He has accepted us "in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6 ). There is no valid reason why we should hesitate to draw near unto our Father in perfect freedom of spirit.
"By the blood of Jesus." This is the meritorious cause which procures the Christian’s right of entrance into the "Holiest" the place where all the tokens of God’s grace and glory are displayed (Hebrews 9:3 , Hebrews 9:4 ). The blood of the Jewish sacrifices did not and could not obtain such liberty of access into the immediate presence of God. The blood of Jesus has done so, both in respect unto God as an oblation, and in respect unto the consciences of believers by its application. As an oblation or sacrifice, the atonement of Christ has removed every legal obstacle between God and believers. It fulfilled the demands of His law, removed its curse, and broke down the "middle wall of partition"; in token whereof, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, when the Savior expired. So too the Holy Spirit has so applied the efficacy of the blood to the consciences of Christians that they are delivered from a sense of guilt, freed from their dread of God, and enabled to approach Him in a spirit of liberty.
"By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (verse 20). This presents to us the second inducement and encouragement for Christians to avail themselves and make use of the unspeakable privilege which Christ has secured for them. In order to understand these verses, it is necessary to bear in mind that N.T. privileges are here expressed in the O.T. dialect. The highest privilege of fallen man is to have access unto the presence of God, his offended Lord and Sovereign: the only way of approach is through Christ, of whom the tabernacle (and the temple) was an illustrious type. In allusion to those figures Christ is here presented to our faith in a threefold view.
First, as a gate or door, by which we enter into the Holiest. No sooner had Adam sinned, than the door of access to the majesty of God was bolted against him, and all his posterity, the cherubim with the flaming sword standing in his way (Genesis 3:24 ). But now the flaming sword of justice being quenched in the blood of the Surety (Zechariah 13:7 ), the door of access is again wide open. The infinite wisdom of God has devised a way how His "banished" may be brought home again to His presence. (2 Samuel 14:14 ), namely, through the satisfaction of Christ.
Second, to encourage us in our approaches to God in Christ. He is also presented to us under the figure of "a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us." "Having told us that we have ‘an entrance into the holiest,’ he now declares what the way is whereby we may do so. The only way into the holiest under the tabernacle was a passage with blood through the sanctuary, and then a turning aside of the veil. But the whole church was forbidden the use of this way, and it was appointed for no other end but typically, that in due time there should be a way opened unto believers into the presence of God, which was not yet prepared. And this the apostle describes. 1. From the preparation of it: ‘which He hath consecrated.’ 2. From the properties of it: it was a ‘new and living way.’ 3. From the tendency of it, which he expresseth, first, typically, or with respect unto the old way under the tabernacle: it was ‘through the veil.’ Secondly, in an exposition of that type: ‘that is, His flesh.’ In the whole, there is a description of the exercise of faith in our access unto God by Christ Jesus" (John Owen).
In the previous verse it was declared that heaven has been opened unto the people of God. But here Christ is set forth more as the antitype of that "ladder" (Genesis 28:12 , John 1:51 ), which, being set up on earth, reaches to heaven. In this respect Christ is styled "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6 ), for He is the only true "way" which conducts unto God. That "way" is variously referred to in Scripture as the "way of life" (Proverbs 10:17 ), the "way of holiness" (Isaiah 35:8 ), the "good way" (Jeremiah 6:16 ), the "way of peace" (Luke 1:79 ), the "way of salvation" (Acts 16:17 ). All of these refer to the same thing, namely, the only path unto heaven. Christ Himself is that "way" in a twofold sense: first, when the heart turns away from every other object which competes for the first place in its affections, abandons all confidence in its own righteousness, and lays hold of the Savior. Second, when grace is diligently sought to take Christ as our Exemplar, following "His steps" in the path of unreserved and joyful obedience to God.
The "way" to God is here said to be "a new and living" one. The word for "new" is really "newly slain," for the simple verb "occido" from which it is compounded signifies "to slay." The avenue of approach to God has been opened unto us because Christ was put to death in this way. But this word "new" is not to be taken absolutely, as though this "way" had no existence previously to the death of Christ, for all the O.T. saints had passed along it too. No, it was neither completely "new" as to its contrivance, revelation, or use. Why then is it called "new"? In distinction from the old way of life under the covenant of works, in keeping with the new covenant, because it was now only made fully manifest (Ephesians 3:5 ), and because of its perennial vigor it will never grow old.
This "way" unto God is also said to be a "living" one, and this for at least three reasons. First, in opposition unto the way to God under Judaism, which was by the death of an animal, and was the cause of death unto any who used it, excepting the high priest. Second, because of its perpetual efficacy: it is not a lifeless thing, but has a spiritual and vital power in our access to God. Third, because of its effects: it leads to life, and effectually brings us thereunto. "It is called a living way, because all that symbolizes Christ must be represented as possessing vitality. Thus we read of Him as the living stone, the living bread, etc." (Adolph Saphir). Probably this epithet also looks to Christ’s resurrection: though slain, the grave could not hold Him; He is now "alive for evermore," and by working in His people repentance, faith, and obedience, conducts them safely through unto life everlasting.
This new and living way unto God has been "consecrated for us" by Christ. It is a path consecrated by Him for the service and salvation of man; a way of access to the eternal sanctuary for the sinner which has been set apart by the Redeemer for this service of men" (A. Barnes). As Christ Himself is the "way," the meaning would be, that He has dedicated Himself for the use of sinners in their dealings with God "for their sakes I sanctify Myself" (John 17:19 ). As the "way" is also to be regarded as the path which we are called upon to follow through this world as we journey to heaven, Christ has "consecrated" or fitted it for our use by leaving us an example that we should follow His steps "when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" (John 10:4 ).
"The phrase ‘consecrated for us’ giveth us to understand that Christ hath made the way to heaven fit for us, and this by His three offices. First, as a Priest, He hath truly dedicated it, and that by His own blood, as by the blood of sacrifices things were consecrated under the law. Christ by His blood has taken away our sins, which made the way to heaven impassible. Second, as a Prophet, He hath revealed and made known this way to us. This He did while He was on earth, by Himself; and since His taking into heaven, He hath done it by His ministers (Ephesians 4:11 ). Third, as a King, He causes the way to be laid out, fenced in, and made common for all His people; so as it may well be styled the King’s highway" (William Gouge).
"Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." It is through the humanity of Christ that the way to heaven has been opened, renewed and consecrated. But prior to His death, the very life which was lived by the man Christ Jesus only served to emphasize the awful distance which sinners were from God, just as the beautiful veil in the tabernacle shut out the Israelite from His presence. Moreover, the humanity of Christ was a sin-bearing one, for the iniquities of His people had all been imputed to Him. While, then, the flesh of Christ was uncrucified, proof was before the eyes of men that the curse was not abolished. As long as He tabernacled in this world, it was evident that sin was not yet put away. The veil must be rent, Christ must die, before access to God was possible. When God rent the veil of the temple, clear intimation was given that every hindrance had been removed, and that the way was opened into His presence.
"And having an High Priest over the house of God" (verse 21). Here is the third great privilege of the Christian, the third inducement which is presented to him for approaching unto God, the third character in which Christ is presented unto faith. Whereas it might be objected that though the door be opened and a new and living way consecrated, yet we are too impotent to walk therein, or too sinful to enter into the holiest; therefore, to obviate this, Christ is now set forth as Priest over the house of God. O what encouragement is here! As Priest Christ is "ordained for men in things pertaining to God" (Hebrews 5:1 ). He is a living Savior within the veil, interceding for His people, maintaining their interests before the Father.
"And having an High Priest over the house of God." The opening "And" shows that the contents of this verse form a link in the chain begun in verse 19, so that they furnish a further ground to help us in approaching unto God. The next word "having," while not in the Greek, is obviously understood, and as the principal verb (needed to complete the sentence) is fetched from verse 19. The adjective should be rendered "great" and not "high": it is not a relative term, in comparison with other priests; but an absolute one, denoting Christ’s dignity and excellency: He is "great" in His person, in His worthiness, in His position, in His power, in His compassion.
To show for whom in particular Christ is the great Priest, it is here added "over the house of God." "The apostle doth not here consider the sacrifice of Christ, but what He is and doth after His sacrifice, now that He is exalted in heaven; for this was the second part of the office of the high priest. The first was to offer sacrifice for the people, the other was to take the oversight of the house of God: see Zechariah 3:6 , Zechariah 3:7 Joshua being an eminent type of Christ" (John Owen). The "house of God" represents the whole family of God both of heaven and earth: compare Hebrews 3:6 . The church here below is what is first comprised in this expression for it is unto it that this encouragement is given, and unto whom this motive of drawing nigh is proposed. But as it is in the heavenly sanctuary that Christ now ministers, and into which we enter by our prayers and spiritual worship, so the "house of God" includes both the church militant and the church triumphant.
When it is said that Christ is "over the house of God," it is His headship, lordship, authority, which is in view. The Lord Christ presides over the persons, duties, and worship of believers. In that all their acceptable worship is of His appointment; in that He assists the worshippers by His Spirit for the performance of every duty; in that He directs the government of the church, ordains its officers, and administers its laws; in that He makes their service acceptable with God. He is King in Zion, wielding the scepter, protecting the interests of His church, and, according to His pleasure, overthrowing its enemies. It is the Lord who adds to the church those who are to be saved. He is the alone Head, and as the wife is to be subject to her husband in all things, so the members of Christ’s mystical body are to own no other Lord. From Him we are to take our orders; unto Him we must yet render an account.
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (verse 22). Having described the threefold privilege which Christians have been granted, the apostle now points out the threefold duty which is entailed; the first of which is here in view, namely, to enter the Holiest, to draw near unto God, as joyful worshippers. To "draw near" unto God is a sacerdotal act, common to all the saints, who are made priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6 ): the Greek word expressing the whole performance of all Divine worship, approaching unto the Most High to present their praises and petitions, both publicly and privately.
"To draw near to God is an act of the heart or mind, whereby the soul, under the influence of the Spirit, sweetly, and irresistibly returns to God in Christ as its only center of rest. There is a constant improvement of the merit and mediation of Christ in every address made to the Majesty on high. The believer, as it were, fixes himself in the cleft of the Rock of ages; he gets into the secret place of the blessed stair, by which we ascend unto heaven; and then he lifts up his voice in drawing near to God, by the new and living way. He says with David ‘I will go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.’ And if God hides His face, the soul will wait, and bode good at His hand, saying, ‘hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him: He will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.’ And if the Lord smiles and grants an answer of peace, he will not ascribe his success to his own faith or fervor, but unto Christ alone" (Condensed from Eben. Erskine, 1733).
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." This is the requisite manner in which we must approach unto God. It is not sufficient to assume a reverent posture of body, or worship with our lips only; nor is God honored when we give way to unbelief. A "true heart" is opposed to a double, doubting, distrustful, and hypocritical heart. All dissimilation is to be avoided in our dealings with Him who "trieth the hearts and the reins" and "whose eyes are like a flame of fire."
God desireth truth in the inward parts, and therefore, "Son, give Me thine heart" (Proverbs 23:26 ) is His first demand upon us. Nothing short of this will ever satisfy Him. But more; there must be "a true heart": a sincere, genuine, honest desire and determination to render unto Him that which is His due. We cannot impose upon Him. Beautiful language designed for the ears of men, or emotional earnestness which is only for effect, does not deceive God. "God is spirit; and they that worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24 ). How this condemns those who rest satisfied with the mere outward performance of duty, and those who are content to substitute an imposing ritual for real heart dealings with God! O to be able to say with David, "with my whole heart have I sought Thee."
"In full assurance of faith": which means, negatively, without doubting or wavering; positively, with unshaken confidence not in myself, nor in my faith, but in the merits of Christ, as giving the unquestionable title to draw near unto the thrice holy God. "Full assurance of faith" points to the heart resting and relying upon the absolute sufficiency of the blood of Christ which was shed for my sins, and the efficacy of His present intercession to maintain my standing before God. Faith looks away from self, and eyes the great Priest, who takes my feeble praise or petitions, and, purifying and perfuming them with His own sweet incense (Revelation 8:3 , Revelation 8:4 ), renders them acceptable to God. But let not Satan deter any timid child of God from drawing near unto Him because fearful that he neither possesses a "true heart" or "full assurance of faith." No, if he cannot consciously come with them, then let him earnestly come unto the throne of grace for them.
"Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Here we have a description of the characters of those who are qualified or fitted to enter the Holiest. A twofold preparation is required in order to draw near unto God: the individual must have been both justified and sanctified. Here those two Divine blessings are referred to under the typical terms which obtained during the old covenant.
"Having your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." The Jewish cleansing or "sprinkling" with blood related only to that which was eternal, and could not make the conscience perfect (Hebrews 9:9 ); but the sacrifice of Christ was designed to give peace to the troubled mind and confidence before God. An "evil conscience" is one that accuses of guilt and oppresses because of unpardoned sin. It is by the exercise of faith in the sufficiency of the atoning blood of Christ the Spirit applying experimentally its efficacious virtue the conscience is purged. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1 ): we are freed from a sense of condemnation, and the troubled heart rests in Christ.
"And our bodies washed with pure water." This figurative language is an allusion to the cleansing of the priests when they were consecrated to the service of God (Exodus 29:4 ). The antitypical fulfillment of this is defined in Titus 3:5 as "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." But here the emphasis is thrown on the outward effects of regeneration upon the daily life of the believer. We need both an internal and an external purification; therefore are we exhorted, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1 ). The sanctity of the body is emphatically enjoined in Scripture: see Romans 12:1 ; 1 Corinthians 6:16 , 1 Corinthians 6:20 .
The whole of this 22nd verse contains most important teaching on the practical side of communion with God. While the first reference in the cleansing of the conscience and the washing of the body be to the initial experience of the Christian at his new birth, yet they are by no means to be limited thereto. There is a constant cleansing needed, if we are to consciously draw near to the holy God. Daily do we need to confess our sins, that we may be daily pardoned and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 ). An uneasy conscience is as real a barrier to fellowship with Jehovah, as ceremonial defilement was to a Jew. So too our walk needs to be incessantly washed with the water of the Word (John 13:0 ). The Levitical priests were not only washed at the time of induction into their holy office, but were required to wash their hands and feet every time they entered the sacred sanctuary (Exodus 30:19 , Exodus 30:20 ).
It is just at this very point that there is so much sad failure today. There is so little exercise of heart before God; so feeble a realization of His high and holy requirements; so much attempting to rush into His presence without any previous preparation. "Due preparation, by fresh applications of our souls unto the efficacy of the blood of Christ for the purification of our hearts, that we may be meet to draw nigh to God, is required of us. This the apostle hath special respect to, and the want of it is the bane of public worship. Where this is not, there is no due reverence of God, no sanctification of His name, nor any benefit to be expected unto our own souls" (John Owen).
(Hebrews 10:23 , Hebrews 10:24 )
The verses which are now to be before us are a continuation of those which we pondered in our last article, the whole forming a practical application to the doctrine which the apostle had been expounding in the body of this Epistle. In verses 17-21 a summary is given of the inestimable blessings and privileges which Christ has secured for His people, namely, their sins and iniquities being blotted out from before the face of the Judge of all (verses 17, 18), the title to approach unto God as acceptable worshippers (verses 19-21), the Divine provision for their spiritual maintenance: a great Priest over the house of God (verse 21). Then, in verses 22-24 the duties and responsibilities of Christians are briefly epitomized, and that, in such terms as we may the better perceive the intimate connection between the results secured by the great Oblation and the corresponding obligations on its beneficiaries.
The passage we are now engaged with is a hortatory one. As we pointed out in our last, the method which is generally followed by the Holy Spirit is to first display the riches of Divine grace, and then to set forth the response which becomes its objects. So it is here. All that is found in verses 22-24 looks back to and derives its force from the "therefore" at the beginning of verse 19. There is a threefold privilege named: Divine grace has given freedom unto all Christians to approach the heavenly mercy-seat (verse 19); it has bestowed this title through Christ’s having "consecrated" for them the way into God’s presence (verse 20); and this blessing is permanent, because there abides a great Priest to mediate for them (verse 21). Agreeing thereto, there is a threefold responsibility resting upon the saint, set forth thus: "let us draw near" (verse 22), "let us hold fast the profession of our faith" (verse 23), "let us consider one another to provoke unto love" (verse 24).
The first part of this threefold exhortation matches the first blessing named in the preceding verses: because the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ has made a perfect and effectual atonement for all the sins of His people, (thereby removing the one great legal barrier which excluded them from the presence of the thrice Holy One), let them freely draw near unto their reconciled God, without fear or doubting. The second part of this exhortation agrees with the second great blessing specified: since Christ has "consecrated for us" a new and living way in which to walk, having left us an example that we should follow His steps, "let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." The third member of the composite exhortation corresponds to the third privilege enumerated: since we have a great Priest over the house of God, "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works," and thus conduct ourselves becomingly as in His house.
The order in the three parts of this exhortation calls for our closest attention. The first, treats of our relation to God: the worshipping of Him in spirit and in truth, and in order to do this, the maintaining of a good conscience and the separating of ourselves from all that pollutes. The second, deals with our conduct before men in the world: the refusal to be poisoned by their unbelief and lawlessness, and this by a steady perseverance in the path of duty. The third, defines our responsibility toward fellow-Christians: the mortifying of a selfish spirit, by keeping steadily in view the highest welfare of our brethren and sisters, seeking to encourage them by a godly example, and thus stirring them up unto holy diligence and zeal both God-ward and man-ward. Thus we may see how very comprehensive is the scope of this exhortation, and admire its beautiful arrangement. How much we often miss through failing to carefully note the connection of Scripture!
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering: For He is faithful that promised" (verse 23). There is some uncertainty as to the Greek here: some manuscripts having "faith" others "hope"; both the R.V. and Bag. Inter. have "the confession of our (the) hope." It seems to us that the A.V. is to be preferred, for while it is true that if we adopt the alternative, we then have "faith" verse 22, "hope" in verse 23, and "love" in verse 24, yet this is more than offset by the weighty fact that perseverance in the faith is the theme which is steadily followed by the apostle not only throughout the remainder of this 10th chapter, but also throughout the 11th. We shall therefore adhere to our present version, excepting that "confession" is preferable to "profession."
"Let us hold fast the profession of faith without wavering." The duty here pressed is the same as that which the apostle has spoken of in each parenthesis in his argument (compare Hebrews 2:13 ; Hebrews 3:6 to Hebrews 4:12 ; 1 Timothy 6:20 ): the doctrinal section giving force and power unto it. "Faith is here taken in both the principal acceptations of it, namely, that faith whereby we believe, and the faith or doctrine which we do believe. Of both which we make the same profession: of one, as the inward principle; of the other, as the outward rule. This solemn profession of our faith is two-fold: initial, and by the way of continuation in all the acts and duties required thereunto. The first is a solemn giving up of ourselves unto Christ, in a professed subjection unto the Gospel, and the ordinances of Divine worship therein contained" (John Owen).
"Let us hold fast the profession of faith without wavering." Three questions here call for consideration, namely: First, what is meant by "the confession of our faith?" Second, what is signified by "holding it fast?" Third, what is denoted by holding it fast "without wavering?" As the theme here treated of is of such vital importance, and as it is dealt with so very unsatisfactorily by many present-day preachers, we will endeavor to exercise double care as the Spirit is pleased to enable us.
The "confession of our faith" is that solemn acknowledgment which is made by a person when he publicly claims to be a Christian. It is the avowal that he has renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil, for Christ. It is the declaration that he disowns his own wisdom, righteousness and will, and receives the Lord Jesus as his Prophet, Priest and King: his Prophet to instruct him in the will of God, his Priest to meet for him the claims of God, his King to administer in and over him the government of God. It is the owning that he hates sin and desires to be delivered from its power and penalty; that he loves holiness and longs to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. It is the claiming that he has thrown down the weapons of his warfare against God, and has now completely surrendered to His just demands upon him. It is the testification that he is prepared to deny self, take up his cross daily, and follow that example which Christ has left him as to how to live for God in this world. In a word, it is the publishing abroad that he has from his very heart "received Christ Jesus the Lord" (Colossians 2:6 ). And let it be said plainly and emphatically, that no one acknowledging less than this is scripturally entitled to be regarded as a Christian.
"The apostle spends the whole remainder of the Epistle in the pressing and confirming of this exhortation, on a compliance wherewith the eternal condition of our souls doth depend. And this he doth, partly by declaring the means whereby we may be helped in the discharge of this duty; partly by denouncing the eternal ruin and sure destruction that will follow the neglect of it; and partly by encouragements from their own former experiences, and the strength of our faith; and partly by evidencing unto us, in a multitude of examples, how we may overcome the difficulty that would occur unto us in this way, with other various cogent reasonings; as we shall see, if God pleaseth, in our progress" (J. Owen).
To "hold fast the confession of our faith" means to continue in and press forward along the path we profess to have entered; and that, notwithstanding all the threats of persecutors, sophistical reasonings of false teachers, and allurements of the world. Your very safety depends upon this, for if you deny the faith you are "worse than an infidel" who has never professed it. God plainly warns us that if after we have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are again entangled therein and overcome, then, "the latter end is worse with them than the beginning: For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Peter 2:20 , 2 Peter 2:21 ). It is one thing to make "confession of faith," it is quite another to "hold fast" the same; multitudes do the former, exceedingly few the latter. It is easy to avow myself a Christian, but it is most difficult indeed to live the life of one.
Concerning the force of the Greek word rendered "hold fast," John Owen stated that there is included in the sense of it, "First, a supposition of great difficulty, with danger and opposition against this holding the profession of our faith. Second, the putting forth of the utmost of our strength and endeavors in the defense of it. Third, a constant perseverance in it, denoted by its being termed ‘keep’ in 1 Corinthians 15:2 : possess it with constancy." If our readers could only realize the mighty power and inveterate enmity of those enemies who are seeking to destroy them, none would deem such language too strong. Sin within is ever seeking to vanquish the Christian. The world without is constantly endeavoring to draw him away from the path of godliness. Our adversary the Devil is going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. That wonderful allegory of Bunyan’s, by no means overdrew the picture when he represented the pilgrim as being menaced by mighty giants and a dreadful Apollyon, which must either be slain by him, or himself be destroyed by them.
Sad indeed is it to witness so many young professing Christians just starting out on their arduous journey to Heaven, being told that the words "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" apply not to them, but only to the Jews; and that while unfaithfulness on their part will forfeit some "millennial" crown, yet so long as they have accepted Christ as their personal Savior, no matter how they must indulge the flesh or fraternize with the world, Heaven itself cannot be missed. Little wonder that there is now such a deplorably low standard of Christian living among those who listen to such soul-ruinous error. Not so did teachers of the past, who firmly held the eternal security of Christ’s redeemed, pervert that blessed truth. No, they preserved the balance, by insisting that God only preserved His people in the path of obedience to Him, and that they who forsake that path make it evident that they are not His people, no matter what their profession, and no matter what past "experience" they had.
To illustrate what we have in mind, an article appearing in a recent issue of a periodical, on the subject of the security of a Christian, begins thus: "The person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who died for all sin on the cross, and has accepted Him as his own personal Savior, is saved. And more, can never again, under any circumstances or conditions whatsoever, no matter what he may do or not do, be lost." Such an unqualified, unguarded, unbalanced statement as that is misleading, and dangerous to the highest degree; the more so, as nothing that follows in the article in any wise modifies it. But more: stated thus, it is unscriptural. God’s Word says, "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6 ). And again, "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" (Romans 8:13 ); that is, die eternally, suffer the "second death," for "life" and "death" throughout the epistle of the Romans is eternal.
Such a statement as the above (made thoroughly in good faith, we doubt not; yet by one who is the unwitting victim of a school of extremists) leaves completely out of sight the Christian’s responsibility, yea, altogether repudiates it. Side by side with the blessed truth of Divine preservation, the Scriptures uniformly put the solemn truth of Christian perseverance. Are the Lord’s people told that they are "Kept by the power of God through faith" (1 Peter 1:5 )? So are they also exhorted to "keep try heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23 ); "Keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27 ); "keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21 ); "keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21 ). And it is not honest to quote one class of these texts and not quote, with equal diligence and emphasis, the other.
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." The one-sided teaching of a certain school today renders such an exhortation as this, as not only superfluous, but meaningless. If my only concern (as so many are now affirming) is to trust in the finished work of Christ, and rely upon the promise of God to take me to Heaven; if I have committed my soul and its eternal interests into the hands of God, so that it is now only His responsibility to guard and preserve me; then it is quite unnecessary to bid me guard myself. How absurd are the reasonings of men, once they depart from the Truth! As well might I argue that because I have committed my body into the hands of God, and am counting upon Him to keep me in health, that therefore no matter how I neglect the laws of health, no matter what I eat or do not eat, He will infallibly preserve me from sickness and death. Not so; if I drink poison, I shall come to an untimely grave. Likewise, if I live after the flesh, I shall die.
The apostles believed in no mechanical salvation. They busied themselves in "confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22 ). According to the lopsided logic of many teachers today, it is quite un-necessary to exhort Christians to "continue in the faith"; they will do so. But be not wise above what is written, and deem not yourselves to be more consistent than the apostles. They exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23 ), yea, "persuaded them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43 ). The beloved Paul held no such views that, because his converts had been genuinely saved there was therefore no need for him to be any further concerned about their eternal welfare: rather did he send Timothy "to know your faith, lest by some means the Tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain" (1 Thessalonians 3:5 ). So Peter warned the saints, "Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Peter 3:17 ).
Should we be asked, Then do you no longer believe in the absolute and eternal security of the saints? Our answer is, We do, as it is set forth in Holy Writ; but we most certainly do not believe in that wretched perversion of it which has now become so current and popular. The Christian preservation set forth in God’s Word is not merely a remaining on earth for some time after faith and regeneration have been produced, and then being admitted, as a matter of course, to Heaven, without a regard to the moral history of the intervening period. No, Christian perseverance is a continuing in faith and holiness, a remaining steadfast in believing and in bringing forth all the fruits of righteousness. It is persisting in that course which the converted one has entered: a perseverance unto the end in the exercise of faith and in the practice of godliness. Men who are influenced more by selfish considerations of their own safety and security, than they are with God’s commands and precepts, His honor and glory, are not Christians at all.
The balance between Divine preservation and human perseverance was well presented by John Owen when he wrote, "It is true our persistency in Christ doth not. as to the issue and event, depend absolutely on our own diligence. The unalterableness of our union with Christ, on the account of the faithfulness of the covenant of grace, is that which doth and shall eventually secure it. But yet our own diligent endeavor is such an indispensable means for that end, as that without it, it will not be brought about. Diligence and endeavor in this matter are like Paul’s mariners, when he was shipwrecked at Melita. God had before given him the lives of all that sailed with him in the ship (Acts 27:24 ), and he ‘believed that it should be even as God had told him.’ So now the preservation of their lives depended absolutely on the faithfulness and power of God. But yet, when the mariners began to fly out of the ship, Paul tells the centurion that, unless the men stayed, they could not be saved (verse 31). But what need he think of ship-men, when God had promised and taken upon Himself the preservation of them all? He knew full well that He would preserve them; but yet that He would do so by the use of means.
"If we are in Christ, God hath given us the lives of our souls, and hath taken upon Himself, in His covenant, the preservation of them. But yet we may say, with reference unto the means that He hath appointed, when storms and trials arise, unless we use our diligent endeavors, we cannot be saved. Hence are the many cautions which are given, not only in this epistle, wherein they abound, but in other places of scripture also, that we should take heed of apostasy and falling away; as ‘let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12 ), ‘Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown’ (Revelation 3:11 )... consider what it is to ‘abide in Christ’: what watchfulness, what diligence, what endeavor, are required thereunto. Men would have it to be a plant that needs neither watering, manuring, nor pruning, but one which will thrive alone of itself. Is it any wonder if we see so many either decaying or unthrifty professors? and so many that are utterly turned off from their first engagements!" (Vol. 25, pages 171-173).
From the last two sentences quoted above, we may perceive that the same evil against which we are here contending a carnal security, which Scripture nowhere warrants had an existence in the palmy days of the Puritans. Verily there is no new thing under the sun! Nearly three hundred years ago that faithful teacher and prince of expositors had to protest against the one-sided perversion of the precious truth of the Divine preservation of the saints. But no wonder: the devil plainly revealed his methods when he pressed upon Christ the Divine promise that God had given His angels charge to "bear Thee up," but the Savior refused to recklessly ignore the requirements of self-preservation! From John Calvin’s comments upon John 8:31 we extract the following: "If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be His disciples, we must endeavor to persevere."
Scripture, not logic, is our rule of faith; and not one or two statements taken out of their contexts, but the whole analogy of faith. Error is truth perverted, truth distorted, truth out of proportion. To short-sighted human reason there appears to be a clash between Divine justice and Divine mercy, between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, between law and grace, between faith and good works; but he who is really taught of the Spirit, is enabled to discern their perfect consistency. "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10 ) is a puzzling paradox to the carnal mind. To read that the Son makes His people "free," and yet that He requires them to "take His yoke" upon them, is an enigma unto many. To "rejoice with trembling" (Psalms 2:11 ) seems a contradiction in terms to some carping minds. No less contradictory appears God’s promise to keep His people, and His requiring to keep themselves under pain of eternal damnation. Yet the last mentioned are just as consistent as are the other things referred to throughout this paragraph.
"For He is faithful that promised." At first glance it is not very easy perhaps to perceive the precise relation of these words to the preceding exhortation: that they are added by way of encouragement seems fairly obvious, for the more that we spiritually ponder the veracity of the Promiser, the more will our faith be strengthened; the more we realize that we have to do with One who cannot lie, the greater confidence shall we have in His Word. Instead of being unduly occupied with the difficulties of the way, we need to look off unto Him who has so graciously given us His "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4 ) to cheer and gladden us. Yet this hardly explains the immediate connection between the two parts of this verse, nor does it answer the question as to whether or not any particular promise is here in view.
"For He is faithful that promised." Perhaps the bearing which these words have upon the preceding injunction has been brought out as well by A. Barnes as any. "To induce them to hold fast their profession, the apostle adds this additional consideration. God, who had promised eternal life to them, was faithful to all that He had said. The argument here is, (1) That since God is so faithful to us, we ought to be faithful to Him. (2) The fact that He is faithful is an encouragement to us. We are dependent on Him for grace to hold fast our profession. If He were to prove unfaithful, we should have no strength to do it. But this He never does; and we may be assured that all that He has promised He will perform. To the service of such a God, therefore, we should adhere without wavering."
If we compare Hebrews 4:1 and Hebrews 6:15 light is cast upon what specific "promise" is here contemplated. In the former we read, "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"; in the latter we are told, "And so, after he (Abraham) had patiently endured (persevered) he obtained the promise." It is to be most particularly noted that all through this epistle "salvation" is viewed as a future thing. This is an aspect of salvation (a vitally important one too) which is mostly omitted from present-day preaching and teaching. In the Hebrews (as likewise in the epistles of Peter) the saints are contemplated as being yet in the wilderness, which is the place of testing and of danger. It is only those who diligently heed the solemn warning of Hebrews 3:12 who win through, "Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (verse 24). The opening "And" serves two purposes: it is a plain indication that the contents of this verse are closely related to what has just been before us; it is a pointed intimation that we ought to be as considerate and careful about the spiritual edification of other saints as we are of our own. Thus there are two things here which claim our consideration: the precise nature of the duty enjoined, and the connection between it and the exhortation of verse 23.
"And let us consider one another." There are no fewer than eleven Greek words used in the N.T. which are all rendered by our one English term "consider": four of them being simple verbs, and seven of them compounds for the purpose of particular emphasis. The first signifies the serious observing of a matter: Acts 15:6 ; the second a careful deliberation: Hebrews 7:4 ; the third, to narrowly spy or investigate as a watchman: Galatians 6:1 ; the fourth, to turn a matter over in the mind: 2 Timothy 2:7 . The first simple verb is compounded in Acts 12:12 and means to seriously consult with one’s self about a matter. The second simple verb is compounded in Hebrews 13:7 , and means to diligently review a thing. The fourth simple verb is compounded in Acts 11:6 , and means to thoroughly weigh a matter so as to come to a full knowledge of it: this is the one used in our present text. In Mark 6:52 is a different compound: the disciples failed to compare things together. In Hebrews 12:3 another compound signifies to reckon up all that Christ suffered. In John 11:50 is a similar compound: to reckon thoroughly. In Matthew 6:28 "consider the lilies" means to learn thoroughly so as to be instructed thereby. The practical lesson to be learned from all this is, that the things of God call for our utmost attention.
"And let us consider one another:" let us diligently bear in mind and continually have in view the good of our fellow-pilgrims. The term "consider" is very emphatic, being the same as in Hebrews 3:1 , where we are bidden to "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession Christ Jesus." Here it signifies a conscientious care and circumspection over the spiritual estate and welfare of other Christians. They are brethren and sisters in Christ, members of the same family: a tie far nearer and dearer than any earthly one unites you to them and them to you. "Consider" not only their blessed relation to you, but also their circumstances, their trials, their temptations, their infirmities, their needs. Seek grace to be of service, of help, of blessing to them. Remember that they have their conflicts too, their discouragements, their falls: "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12 ).
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." Here is expressed the chief design or end of our consideration for one another: it is to provoke or stir up unto the performance of duties; to strengthen zeal, to inflame affections, to excite unto godly living. We are to provoke one another by means of a godly example, by suitable exhortations, by unselfish acts of kindness. We are to fire one another "unto love," which is not a mere sentiment or natural affability, but a holy principle of action, which seeks the highest good of its object. Christian love is righteous, and never winks at sin; it is faithful, which shrinks not from warning or rebuking where such is necessary. "And good works" is to be the issue, the fruit, of godly love. "And this is love, that we walk after His commandments" (2 John 1:6 ).
The relation between this exhortation in verse 24 and the one in verse 23 is very intimate. Love and good works are both the effects and evidences of the sincere confession of saving faith, and therefore a diligent attendance unto them is an essential means of constancy in our confession. Christian perseverance is nothing less than a continuance in practical godliness, in the path of obedience to Christ and love unto His brethren. Therefore are we called upon to watch over one another with a view to steadfastness in the faith and fruitfulness in our lives. No Christian liveth unto himself (Romans 14:7 ): each one of us is either a help or a hindrance, a blessing or a curse unto those we associate with. Which is it? The Lord stir up both writer and reader to a more unselfish and loving concern for the spiritual good of those who are fellow-members of the same Body.
(Hebrews 10:25-27 )
We have now reached one of the most solemn and fear-inspiring passages to be found not only in this epistle, but in all the Word of God. May the Holy Spirit fit each of our hearts to approach it in that godly trembling which becomes those who have within their own hearts the seeds of apostasy. Let it be duly considered at the outset that the verses which are now to be before us were addressed not to those who made no profession of being genuine Christians, but instead, unto them whom the Spirit of truth owned as "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1 ). Nevertheless, He now dehorts them from stepping over the brink of that awful precipice which was before them, and faithfully warns of the certain destruction which would follow did they do so. Instead of replying to this with arguments drawn from the eternal security of God’s saints, let us seek grace to honestly face the terrible danger which menaces each of us while we remain in this world of sin, and to use all necessary means to avoid so fearful and fatal a calamity.
In the past, dear reader, there have been thousands who were just as confident that they had been genuinely saved and were truly trusting in the merits of the finished work of Christ to take them safely through to Heaven, as you may be; nevertheless, they are now in the torments of Hell. Their confidence was a carnal one; their "faith," no better than that which the demons have. Their faith was but a natural one which rested on the bare letter of Scripture. It was not a supernatural one, wrought in the heart by God. They were too confident that their faith was a saving one, to thoroughly, searchingly, frequently, test it by the Scriptures, to discover whether or no it was brining forth those fruits which are inseparable from the faith of God’s elect. If they read an article like this, they proudly concluded that it belonged to some one else. So cocksure were they that they were born again so many years ago, they refused to heed the command of 2 Corinthians 13:5 "Prove your own selves." And now it is too late. They wasted their day of opportunity, and the "blackness of darkness" is their portion forever.
In view of this solemn and awful fact, the writer earnestly calls upon himself and each reader to get down before God and sincerely cry, "Search me, O God: reveal me to myself. If I am deceived, undeceive me ere it be eternally too late. Enable me to measure myself faithfully by Thy Word, so that I may discover whether or no my heart has been renewed, whether I have abandoned every course of self-will and truly surrendered to Thee; whether I have so repented that I hate all sin, and fervently long to be free from its power, loathe myself and seek diligently to deny myself; whether my faith is that which overcomes the world (1 John 5:4 ), or whether it be only a mere notional thing which produces no godly living; whether I am a fruitful branch of the vine, or only a cumberer of the ground; in short, whether I be a new creature in Christ, or only a painted hypocrite." If I have an honest heart, then I am willing, yea anxious to face and know the real truth about myself.
Perhaps some readers are ready to say, I already know the truth about myself: I believe what God’s Word tells me: I am a sinner, with no good thing dwelling in me; my only hope is in Christ. Yes, dear friend, but Christ saves His people from their sins. Christ sends His Holy Spirit into their hearts, so that they are radically changed from what they were previously. The Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in the hearts of those He regenerates, and that love is manifested by a deep desire and sincere determination to please Him who loves me. When Christ saves a soul, He saves not only from Hell, but from the power of sin; He delivers him from the dominion of Satan, and from the love of the world; He delivers him from the fear of man, the lusts of the flesh, the love of self. True He has not yet completed this blessed work. True, the sinful nature is not yet eradicated, but one who is saved has been delivered from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14 ). Salvation is a supernatural thing, which changes the heart, renews the will, transforms the life, so that it is evident to all around that a miracle of grace has been wrought.
Thus, it is not sufficient for me to ask have I repudiated my own righteousness, have I renounced all my good works to fit me for heaven, am I trusting alone to Christ? Many will earnestly and sincerely affirm these things, who yet give no evidence that they have passed from death unto life. Then what more is necessary for me to ascertain whether or no my faith be a truly saving one? This, there are certain things which "accompany salvation" (Hebrews 6:9 ), things which are inseparable from it; and for these I must look, and be sure I have them. A bundle of wood that sends forth neither heat nor smoke, has no fire under it. A tree, which in summer, bears neither fruit nor leaves, is dead. So a faith which does not issue in godly living, in an obedient walk, in spiritual fruit, is not the faith of God’s elect. O my reader, I beg you to diligently and faithfully examine yourself by the light of God’s unerring Word. Claim not to be a child of Abraham, unless you do the works of Abraham (John 8:39 ).
What is apostasy? It is a making shipwreck of the faith (1 Timothy 1:19 ). It is the heart’s departure from the living God (Hebrews 3:12 ). It is a returning to and being overcome by the world, after a previous escape from its pollutions through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:20 ). There are various steps which precede it. First, there is a looking back (Luke 9:62 ), like Lot’s wife, who though she had outwardly left Sodom, yet her heart was still there. Second, there is a drawing back (Hebrews 10:38 ): the requirements of Christ are too exacting to any longer appeal to the heart. Third, there is a turning back (John 6:66 ): the path of godliness is too narrow to suit the lustings of the flesh. Fourth, there is a falling back, which is fatal: "that they might go and fall backward, and be broken" (Isaiah 28:13 ).
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (verse 25). This verse forms the transition between the subject of Christian perseverance, treated of in verses 23, 24, and that of apostasy, which is developed in verse 26 and onwards, though it is much more closely related to the latter than to the former. Most of the commentators are astray on this point, through failing to observe the absence of the word "And" at the beginning of it, and because they perceive not the significance of the word "forsake." In reality, the contents of this verse form a faithful warning against apostasy. First, the Hebrews are cautioned against forsaking public worship. Second, it is pointed out that "some" had already done so. Third, they are bidden to exhort one another with increased diligence.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." Before attempting exposition of these words, let us first relieve them of a false application which some seek to make of them today. Just as of old Satan made a wrong use of Psalms 91:11 , Psalms 91:12 in his tempting of the Savior (Matthew 4:6 ), so he does with the verse before us. Few are aware of how often the Devil brings a Scripture before our minds. When a Christian is seeking to be out and out for Christ, the Devil will quote to him "Be not righteous overmuch" (Ecclesiastes 7:16 ); likewise when a child of God resolves to obey 2 Timothy 3:5 and Hebrews 13:13 and separate from all who do not live godly, the Enemy reminds him of "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." Romanists used the same text in the early days of the Reformation, and charged Luther and his friends with disobeying this Divine command. But God’s Word does not contradict itself: it does not tell us in one place "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14 ), and here bid the "sheep" to fraternize with "goats." When rightly understood, this verse affords no handle to those who seek to discourage faithfulness to Christ.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." John Owen rightly pointed out that, "There is a synecdoche (a part put for the whole) in the word ‘assembling,’ and it is put for the whole worship of Christ, because worship was performed in their assemblies; and he that forsakes the assemblies, forsakes the worship of Christ, as some of them did when exposed to danger." What is here dehorted is the total relinquishment of Christianity. It is not "Cease not to attend the assembly," but "forsake not," abandon not the assembling of yourselves together. It is not the sin of sloth or of schism which is here considered, but that of apostasy. If a professing Christian forsook the Christian churches and became a Mohammedan he would disobey this verse; but for one who puts the honor of Christ before everything else, to turn his back upon the so-called churches where He is now so grievously dishonored, is not a failure to comply with its terms.
The Greek word for "Forsake not" is a very strong and emphatic one, being a double compound, and signifies "to abandon in time of danger." It is the word used by the agonizing Redeemer on the Cross, when He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" It was used by Him again when He declared, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2:27 ). It is the word employed by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:10 , "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." It is found in only one other place in this epistle, where it is in obvious antithesis from the verse now before us: "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5 ). Thus it will appear that a total and final abandonment of the public profession of Christianity is what is here warned against.
One may therefore discern how that verse 25 supplies a most appropriate link between verses 23, 24 and verse 26. Verse 25 prescribes another means to enable the wavering Hebrews to remain constant in the Christian faith. If they were to "hold fast the confession of faith without wavering," and if they were to "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works," then they must not "forsake the assembling" of themselves together. The word for "assembling together" is a double compound, and occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 : "our gathering together unto Him," that is unto Christ; this also shows that the "assembling together" here is under one Head, and that the "forsaking" is because He has been turned away from.
To enforce the above caution, the apostle adds, "as the manner of some is." The Greek word for "manner" signifies "custom," and is so translated in Luke 2:42 . This supplies additional confirmation that the evil against which the Hebrews were dehorted was no mere occasionally absenting themselves from the Christian churches, but a deliberate, fixed and final departure from them. In John 6:66 we read that "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him"; John also wrote of those who "went out from us, but they were not of us" (1 John 2:19 ); whilst at the close of his labors Paul had to say "All they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (2 Timothy 1:15 ). So here, some who had made a profession of the Christian faith had now abandoned the same and gone back to Judaism. It was to warn the others against this fatal step that the apostle now wrote as he did compare 1 Corinthians 10:12 , Romans 11:20 .
"But exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Here is the positive side of our verse. This is another of the means appointed by God to confirm Christians in their holy confession. To "exhort one another" is a duty to which all Christians are called; alas, how rarely is it performed these evil days. Yet, from the human side, such failure is hardly to be wondered at. The vast majority of professing Christians wish to be petted and flattered, rather than exhorted and cautioned. Most of them are so hypersensitive that the slightest criticism offends them. One who seeks grace to be faithful and to act in true "love" to those whom he supposes are his brethren and sisters in Christ, has a thankless task before him, so far as man is concerned he will soon lose nearly all his "friends" (?) and sever the "fellowship" (?) which exists between him and them. But this will only give a little taste of "the fellowship of His sufferings." Hebrews 3:13 is still God’s command!
"And so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." There seems little room for doubt that the first reference here is to the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth, which was now very nigh, for this epistle was written within less than eight years before Jerusalem was captured by Titus. That terrible catastrophe had been foretold, again and again, by Israel’s prophets, and was plainly announced by the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:0 . The approach of that dreadful "day" could be plainly seen or perceived by those possessing spiritual discernment: the continued refusal of the Nation to repent of their murder of Christ, and the abandoning of Christianity for an apostate Judaism by such large numbers, clearly presaged the bursting of the storm of God’s judgment. This very fact supplied an additional motive for genuine Christians to remain faithful. The Lord Jesus promised that His followers should be preserved from the destruction of Jerusalem, but only as they attended to His cautions in Luke 21:8 , Luke 21:19 , Luke 21:34 , etc., only as they persevered in faith and holiness, Matthew 24:13 . The particular motive unto diligence here set before the Hebrews is applicable to other Christians just to the extent that they find themselves in similar circumstances.
"For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (verse 26). The general truth here set forth is that, Should those who have been converted and become Christians apostatize from Christ their state would be hopeless. This is presented under the following details. First, because of the nature of this sin, namely, a deliberate and final abandonment of the Christian faith. Second, the ones warned against the committal of it. Third, the terrible aggravation of it did such commit it. Fourth, the unpardonableness of it.
"For if we sin willfully." The causal particle whereby this verse is premised has at least a threefold force. First and more immediately, it points the plain and inevitable conclusion from what has just been said in verse 25: they who "forsake" and abandon the Christian assemblies with all that they stand for, commit a sin for which the sacrifice of Christ avails not. Should it be said that Scripture declares "the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin," the reply is, that it only says "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin," and none of those spoken of throughout that verse (1 John 1:7 ) ever commit this sin! Moreover, that very same epistle plainly teaches there is a sin for which the blood of Christ does not avail: see 1 John 5:16 . Second, and more generally, a reason is here adduced as to why Christians need to heed the exhortations given in verses 22-25: the duties therein prescribed are the means which God has appointed for preserving His people against this unpardonable crime. Third and more remotely, a solemn warning is here given against a wrong use being made of the precious promise recorded in Hebrews 10:17 that blessed declaration is not designed to encourage a course of carelessness and recklessness.
"For if we sin willfully." "The word sin here is plainly used in a somewhat peculiar sense. It is descriptive not of sin generally, but of a particular kind of sin, apostasy from the faith and profession of the truth, once known and professed. ‘The angels that sinned’ are the apostate angels. The apostasy described is not so much an act of apostasy as a state of apostasy. It is not, ‘If we have sinned, if we have apostatized’; but ‘If we sin, if we apostatize, if we continue in apostasy’" (John Brown). English translators prior to the A.V. read "If we sin willingly," the change being made in 1611, to avoid giving countenance to the supposition that there is no recovery after any voluntary sin. The Greek word will not permit of this change: the only other occurrence of it in 1 Peter 5:2 , clearly gives its scope: "Taking the oversight not by constraint, but willingly."
"For if we sin willingly," that is voluntarily, of our own accord, where no constraint is used. The reference is to a definite decision, where an individual deliberately determines to abandon Christ and turn away from God. "In the Jewish law, as is indeed the case everywhere, a distinction is made between sins of oversight, inadvertence, or ignorance (Leviticus 4:2 , Leviticus 4:13 , Leviticus 4:22 ; Leviticus 5:15 ; Numbers 15:24 , Numbers 15:27-29 : compare Acts 3:17 , Acts 17:30 ), and sins of presumption, sins that are deliberately and intentionally committed: see Exodus 21:14 , Numbers 15:30 , Deuteronomy 17:12 , Psalms 19:13 . The apostle here has reference, evidently, to such a distinction, and means to speak of a decided and deliberate purpose to break away from the restraints and obligations of the Christian religion" (A. Barnes).
"For if we sin willingly," etc. Who are the ones that are here warned against this terrible sin? Who are they that are in danger of committing it? The answer is, all who make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. But are genuine Christians in any such danger? Looked at from the standpoint of God’s everlasting covenant, which He made with them in the person of their Sponsor, which covenant is "ordered in all things and sure;" no. Looked at according to their standing and state in Christ, as those who have been "perfected forever" (Hebrews 10:14 ); no. But considered as they are in themselves, mutable creatures (as was un-fallen Adam), without any strength of their own; yes. Viewed as those who still have the sinful nature within them, yes. Contemplated as those who are yet the objects of Satan’s relentless attacks, yes. But it may be said, "God sees His people only in Christ." Not so, is the reply. Were that the case, He would never chasten (Hebrews 12:5-10 ) us! God views the Christian both in Christ legally and in this world actually. He addresses us as responsible beings (2 Peter 1:10 ) and regulates the manifestations of His love for us according to our conduct (John 14:23 ).
It is to be carefully noted that the apostle Paul did not say, "If ye sin willingly," but "if we," thus including himself. Two reasons may be suggested for this. First, to soften a little the severity of this terrible warning. He shows there is no respect of persons in this matter: were he to commit this dreadful sin himself, he too would suffer the same un-mitigable doom. Hereby he sets all preachers and teachers a godly example. Such was his general custom: compare the "we" in Hebrews 2:3 ; Hebrews 3:6 , Hebrews 3:14 ; Hebrews 12:25 ; and the "us" in Hebrews 4:1 , Hebrews 4:11 ! Second, to emphasize the unvarying outworking of this law: no exceptions are made. The apostle includes himself to show that even he himself could not look to escape the Divine vengeance here denounced, if he fell into the sin here described.
"After that we have received the knowledge of the truth." These words not only serve to identify the ones who are cautioned against apostasy, but are added to emphasize the enormity of the sin. It would not be through ignorance or lack of knowledge, but after being enlightened, they abandoned Christianity. The "Truth" rather than the "Gospel" is here specifically mentioned, so as to heighten the contrast it is for a lie that Christ is rejected. The word "knowledge" here is a compound and signifies "acknowledgement," and is so rendered in Titus 1:1 , Philemon 1:6 . Owen says, "the word is not used any where to express the mere conceptions or notions of the mind about this, but such acknowledgement of it as arises from some sense of its power and excellency." To "receive" this acknowledgement of the truth includes an act of the mind in understanding it, an act of the will in consenting, and an act of the heart in embracing it.
"Wherefore the sin here intended, is plainly a relinquishment and renunciation of the truth of the gospel, and the promises thereof, with all duty thereunto belonging, after we have been convinced of its truth, and avowed its power and excellency. There is no more required but that this be ‘willingly’: not upon a sudden surprisal and temptation, as Peter denied Christ; not on those compulsions and fears which may work a present dissimulation, without an internal rejection of the Gospel; not through darkness, ignorance making an impression for a season on the minds and reasonings of men: which things, though exceedingly evil and dangerous, may befall them who yet contract not the guilt of this crime. But it is required thereunto, that men who thus sin, do it by choice, and of their own accord, from the internal depravity of their own mind, and an evil heart of unbelief to depart from the living God; that they do it by, and with the preference of another way of religion, and a resting therein before or above the Gospel" (John Owen).
The un-pardonableness of this sin is affirmed in the words "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." A similar passage, which throws light on our present verse, is found in 1 Samuel 3:14 , "And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice or offering forever." As there were certain sins which, in O.T. times, from their heinousness and the high-handed rebellion of their perpetrators, had no sacrifice allowed them, but "died without mercy" (verse 29); so it is now with those who apostatize from Christ: there is no relief appointed for them, no means for the expiation of their sin. They voluntarily and finally reject the Gospel, forfeit all interest in the sacrifice of Christ.
Ere leaving this verse, let it be said emphatically that there is nothing in it which in anywise conflicts with the blessed truth of the eternal security of God’s saints. The apostle did not here say the Hebrews had apostatized, nor did he affirm they would do so. No, instead, he faithfully points out the sure, dreadful, and eternal consequences did they do so. "For IF we sin willingly." It was to keep them from it that he here sets it down by way of supposition, just as in Romans 8:13 he says, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." As to how far a person may go in the taking up of Christianity, and as to what the Spirit may work in him short of actual regeneration, and then that one apostatize, only God knows. And, as to how close a real Christian may come to presumptuous (Psalms 19:13 ) sinning, and yet remain innocent of "the great transgression," only God can decide. We are only in the place of safety while we maintain the attitude of complete dependency upon the Lord and of unreserved subjection to Him. To indulge the flesh is dangerous; to persist in the course of self-gratification is highly dangerous; and to remain therein unto the end, would be fatal.
"But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (verse 27). The positive punishment of apostates is here announced. "When a man under the law had contracted the guilt of any such sin, as was indispensably capital in its punishment, for the legal expiation thereof no sacrifice was appointed or allowed, such as murder, adultery, blasphemy, he had nothing remaining but a fearful expectation of the execution of the sentence of the law against him. And it is evident that in this context, the apostle argues from the less unto the greater; if it was so, that this was the case of him who so sinned against Moses’ law, how much more must it be so with them that sin against the gospel, whose sin is incomparably greater, and the punishment more severe?" (John Owen.)
The Divine punishment which shall be visited upon apostates is first spoken of under the general term "judgment," as in Hebrews 9:27 . This signifies that it will be a righteous sentence proportioned unto their awful crime: there will be a full and open trial, with an impartial judicial condemnation of them. The term is also used to express the punishment itself (James 2:13 , 2 Peter 2:3 ): both meanings are probably included here. There is no mean between pardon and damnation. The sure approach of this judgment is referred to as "a certain fearful looking-for of" it. The word "certain" here signifies something which is not fully defined, as in "a certain woman" (Mark 5:25 ), "a certain nobleman" (John 4:46 ): it therefore denotes the "judgment" is inexpressible, such as no human heart can conceive or tongue portray. "Fearful" intimates the punishment will be so dreadful that when men come to apprehend it they are filled with horror and dismay. "Looking-for" shows that the apostates already have an earnest of God’s wrath in their consciences even now.
"And fiery indignation," or "fierceness of fire" as in the American R.V., or more literally, "of fire fervor" (Bag. Inter.). This describes more closely the nature of the "judgment" awaiting them. The terms used denote the resistless, tormenting, destroying efficacy of God’s terrible wrath, and emphasizes its dreadful fierceness. God is highly incensed against the apostates, and inconceivably and indescribably dreadful will be His dealings with them: it will express and answer to His infinite justice, holiness, and power. "For, behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger against the earth, and His rebuke with flames of fire" (Isaiah 66:15 ). No doubt the reference in our verse is to the final judgment at the last day, and the eternal destruction of God’s enemies. A solemn and graphic shadowing forth of this was given by God when His sword and fiery judgment fell upon the Jews in A.D. 70, destroying their church-state by fire and sword.
"Which shall devour the adversaries." There is probably an allusion here to the dreadful fate which overtook Nadab and Abihu, concerning whom it is written "there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them (Leviticus 10:2 ), and also the judgment visited upon Korah, Dathan and Abiram, when "the ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up," so that they went down "alive into the Pit" (Numbers 16:30-33 ). The "adversaries" are those who are actuated by a principle of hostile opposition to Christ and Christianity. They are enemies of God, and God will show Himself to be their Enemy. God’s wrath shall "devour them as to all happiness, all blessedness, all hopes, comfort and relief at once; but it shall not consume their being. This is that which this fire shall ever prey upon them, and never utterly consume them" (John Owen). From such a doom may Divine grace deliver both wrçiter and reader.
The Apostates’ Doom
(Hebrews 10:28-31 )
The verses which are now to be before us complete the section begun at verse 26, the sum of which is the apostates’ doom. They fall naturally into two parts, the one containing a description of their sin; the other, a declaration of their punishment. For the purpose of solemn emphasis, each of these is repeated. In verse 26 the sin itself is mentioned; in the last clause of verse 26 and in verse 27 the punishment of it is affirmed. In verses 28, 29 the apostle confirms the equity of the fore-named judgment by an argument drawn from the Mosaic law, under which he shows the terrible character of the sin which is here in view. In verses 30, 31 he establishes the certainty of the punishment by an appeal to the character of God as revealed in His Word. This repetition in a subject so solemn, is well calculated to awe every thoughtful reader, and ought to produce the most searching effect upon his conscience and heart.
As we have pointed out in preceding articles, this section (verses 26-31) was introduced by the apostle for the purpose of enforcing the exhortation found in verses 22-24, the sum of which is, a call unto Christians to persevere in a state and practice of godliness. Grossly has this passage been perverted by theological factions belonging to two extremes. The one has misused it in the endeavor to bolster up their false doctrine of regenerated people falling from grace and being eternally lost. Without now going into that subject, it is sufficient to say that Hebrews 10:26-31 contains not a word which directly supports the chief contention of the Arminians. What we have in this passage is only hypothetical, "For if we sin willingly," i.e. deliberately, fully, and finally abandon the profession of Christianity not that the Holy Spirit here says any of the regenerate Hebrews had, or would do so. A similar and still more pointed case is found in those words of Christ’s. "Yet ye have not known Him: but I know Him: and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you" (John 8:55 ).
The second party of those who have misunderstood this passage, are Calvinists possessing more zeal than wisdom. Anxious to maintain their ground against the Arminians, most of them have devoted their energies to show that regenerated Christians do not come within the scope of verse 26 at all; that instead, it treats only of nominal professors, of those having nothing more than a head-knowledge of the Truth, and making merely a lip-profession of the same. And thus has the great Enemy of souls succeeded in getting some of the true servants of God to blunt the sharp edge of this solemn verse, and nullify its searching power over the conscience of the saints. It is sufficient refutation of this theory to point out that the apostle is here addressing those who were "partakers of the heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1 ), and in the "we" of Hebrews 10:26 included himself! We will not take any notice of a third theory, of modern "dispensationalists," who affirm that none but Jews could commit the sin here mentioned, beyond saying that our space is too valuable to waste in exposing such trifling with Holy Scripture.
But what has been pointed out above presents a serious difficulty to many. We may state it thus: If it be impossible for truly regenerated people to ever perish, then why should the Holy Spirit move the apostle to so much in hypothetically describing the irremediable doom if they should apostatize? Such a difficulty is occasioned, in the first place, through a one-sided conception of the Christian, through considering him only as he exists in the purpose of God, and not also remembering what he still is in himself: unless the latter be steadily held in mind, we are in grave danger of denying, or at least ignoring, the Christian’s responsibility. That the Christian is to be viewed in this twofold way is abundantly clear from many Scriptures. For example, in the purpose of God, the Christian is already "glorified" (Romans 8:30 ), yet he certainly is not so in himself! Here in Hebrews 10:26 etc. (as in many other passages) the Christian is not addressed from the viewpoint of God’s eternal purpose, but as he yet is in himself in need of solemn warnings, as well as exhortations.
Again; the difficulty which so many one-sided thinkers find in this subject is to be attributed to their failure in duly recognizing the relation which God has appointed between His own eternal counsels and the accomplishment of the same through wisely ordained means. There are some who reason (most superficially) that if God has ordained a certain soul to be saved, he will be, whether he exercised faith in Christ or no. Not so: 2 Thessalonians 2:13 clearly proves the contrary the "end" and the "means" are there inseparably joined together. It is quite true that where God has appointed a certain individual "unto salvation," He will infallibly give him a saving faith; but that does not mean that the Holy Spirit will believe for him; no, the individual will, must, exercise the faith which has been given him. In like manner, God has eternally decreed that every regenerated soul shall get safely through to Heaven, yet He certainly has not ordained that any shall do so whether or not they use the means which He has appointed for their preservation. Christians are "kept by the power of God through faith" (1 Peter 1:5 ) there is the human responsibility side.
Looked at as he still is in himself, the Christian is eminently liable to "make shipwreck of the faith" (1 Timothy 1:19 ). He still has within him a nature which craves the vanities of the world, and that craving has to be denied, or he will never reach Heaven. He is yet in the place of terrible danger, menaced by deadly temptations, and it is only as he constantly watches and prays against the same that he is preserved from them. He is the immediate and incessant object of the Devil’s malice, for he is ever going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; and it is only as the Christian takes unto himself (appropriates and uses) the armor of God’s providing, that he can withstand the great Enemy of souls. It is because of these things that he urgently needs the exhortations and warnings of Holy Writ. God has faithfully pointed out to us what lies at the end of every path of self-will and self-indulgence. God has mercifully placed a hedge across each precipice which confronts the professing Christian, and woe be to him if he disregards those warnings and pushes through that hedge.
In this solemn passage of Hebrews 10:0 , the apostle is pointing out the sure and certain connection there is between apostasy and irrevocable damnation, thereby warning all who bear the name of Christ to take the most careful and constant pains in avoiding that unpardonable sin. To say that real Christians need no such warning because they cannot possibly commit that sin, is, we repeat, to lose sight of the connection which God himself has established between His predestined ends and the means whereby they are reached. The end unto which God has predestined His people is their eternal bliss in Heaven, and one of the means by which that end is reached, is through their taking heed to the solemn warning He has given against that which would prevent their reaching Heaven. It is not wisdom, but madness, to scoff at those warnings. As well might Joseph have objected that there was no need for him and his family to flee into Egypt (Matthew 2:0 ), seeing that it was impossible for the Christ-Child to be slain by Herod!
What each of us needs to watch against is the first buddings of apostasy, the first steps which lead to that sin of sins. It is not reached at a single bound, but is the fatal culmination of a diseased heart. Thus, while the writer and the reader, may be in no immediate danger of apostasy itself, we are of that which, if allowed and continued in, would certainly lead to it. A man who is now enjoying good health is in no immediate danger of dying from tuberculosis; yet if he recklessly exposed himself to the wet and cold, if he refrained from taking that nourishing food which supplies strength to resist disease, or had he a heavy cough on the chest and made no effort to break it up, then would he very likely fall a victim to consumption. So it is spiritually. Nay, in the case of the Christian, the seed of eternal death is already in him. That seed is sin, and it is only as grace is daily and diligently sought, for the thwarting of its inclinations and suppressing of its activities, that it is hindered from fully developing to a fatal end.
A small leak neglected will sink a ship just as effectually as the most boisterous sea. So one sin indulged in and not repented of, will terminate in eternal punishment. Well did John Owen say, "We ought to take heed of every neglect of the person of Christ and of His authority, lest we enter into some degree or other of the guilt of this great offense." Or, still better, well may both writer and reader earnestly cry unto God, "Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression" (Psalms 19:13 ). Rightly did Spurgeon say on this verse, "Secret sin is a stepping-stone to presumptuous sin, and that is the vestibule of ‘the sin which is unto death’" (Treasury of David.) To sin "presumptuously" is to knowingly and deliberately ignore God’s commandments, defying His authority and recklessly going on in a course of self-pleasing regardless of consequences. When one has reached that terrible stage, he is but a short step indeed from committing the sin for which there is no forgiveness, and then to be abandoned by God both in this world and in that which is to come.
As this solemn subject is so vitally related to our eternal welfare, and as the pulpit and religious press of today maintain a guilty silence thereon, let us briefly point out some of the steps which inevitably lead to "presumptuous" sinning. When a professing Christian ceases to maintain a daily repentance and confession to God of all known sins, his conscience is already asleep and no longer responsive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. If over and above this, he comes before God as a worshipper, to praise and thank Him for mercies received, he is but dissembling, and mocking Him. If he continues in a state of impenitence, thus allowing and siding with the sin into which at first, he was unwittingly and unwillingly betrayed, his heart will be so hardened that he will commit new sins deliberately, against light and knowledge, and that with a high hand, and thus be guilty of presumptuous sins, of openly defying God.
The terrible thing is that in these degenerate times the consciences of thousands have been drugged by preachers (whom it is greatly to be feared are themselves spiritually dead, and helping forward the work of Satan) that have presented "the eternal security of the saints" in such an unscriptural way, as to convey to their poor hearers the impression that, provided they once "accepted Christ as their personal Savior" Heaven is now their certain portion, that guilt can nevermore rest upon them, and that no matter what sins they may commit nothing can possibly jeopardize their eternal interests. The consequence has been and this is no imaginary fear of ours, but a patent fact of observation on every side that a carnal security has been imparted, so that in the midst of fleshly gratification and worldly living it is, humanly speaking, quite impossible to disturb their false peace or terrify their conscience.
All around us are professing Christians sinning with a high hand against God, and yet suffering from no qualms of conscience. And why? Because while they believe that some "millennial crown" or "reward" may be forfeited should they fail to deny self and daily take up their cross and follow Christ, yet they have not the slightest realization or fear that they are hastening to Hell as swiftly as time wings its flight. They fondly imagine that the blood of Christ covers all their sins. Horrible blasphemy! Dear reader, make no mistake upon this point, and suffer no false prophet to cause you to believe the contrary, the blood of Christ covers no sins that have not been truly repented of and confessed to God with a broken heart. But presumptuous sins are not easily repented of, for they harden the heart and make it steel itself against God. In proof note, "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent" (Zechariah 7:11 , Zechariah 7:12 ).
Rightly then does Thomas Scott say on Hebrews 10:26 , "We cannot too awfully alarm the secure, self-confident, and presumptuous, as every deliberate sin against light and conscience, is a step towards the tremendous precipice described by the apostle." Alas, alas, Satan has, through the "Bible teachers" done his work so well that, unless the Holy Spirit performs a miracle, it is impossible to "alarm" such. The great masses of professing Christians of our day regard God Himself much as they would an indulgent old man in his dotage, who so loves his grandchildren as to be blind to all their faults. The ineffably holy God of Scripture is no longer believed in: but multitudes will yet find, to their eternal sorrow, that it is" a fearful thing" to fall into His hands. We make no apology for this lengthy introduction, for our aim is not so much to write a commentary on this Epistle, as it is to reach the consciences and hearts of poor, misguided, and deluded souls, who have been fearfully deceived by the very men whom they have regarded as the champions of orthodoxy.
"He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (verses 28, 29). Having named the principal means for the Christian’s maintenance of constancy in the faith (verses 22-25), the apostle proceeded to enforce his exhortations to perseverance, and against backsliding and apostasy, by some weighty considerations. First, from the terrible character of the sin of apostasy: it is a sinning willingly after a knowledge of the Truth has been received and assented to verse 26. Second, from the dreadful state of such: no sacrifice avails for them, naught but judgment awaits them, verses 26, 27. Third, from the analogy of God’s severity in the past verses 28, 29. Fourth, from what Scripture affirms of God’s vindicative justice, verses 30, 31.
"He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses." The apostle proceeds to confirm the sentence passed upon the apostate Christian in verses 26, 27, by an appeal to God’s awful but righteous justice in the past. If the despiser of the Mosaic law was dealt with so unsparingly, how much more severe must be the punishment meted out to those who scorn the authority of the Gospel! The Greek word for "despise" means to utterly reject a thing, to set aside or cast it off, to treat it with contempt. The one who thus flouted the Divine legislation through Moses, was he who renounced its authority, and determinately and obstinately refused to comply with its requirements. Such an one suffered the capital punishment. Probably such passages as Deuteronomy 13:6-9 ; Deuteronomy 17:2-7 were before the apostle’s mind.
"Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?" The apostle’s inspired logic here is the very reverse of that which obtains in the corrupt theology of present-day Christendom. The popular idea in these degenerate times is that, under the Gospel regime (or "dispensation of grace") God has acted, is acting, and will act much more mildly with transgressors, than He did under the Mosaic economy. The very opposite is the truth. No judgment from Heaven one-half as severe as that which overtook Jerusalem in A.D. 70, is recorded in Scripture from Exodus 19:0 to Malachi 4:0 ! Nor is there anything in God’s dealings with Israel during O.T. times which can begin to compare with the awful severity of His "wrath" as depicted in the book of Revelation! Every despiser of the Lordship of Christ shall yet discover that a far hotter place has been reserved for him in Hell, than what will be the portion of lawless rebels who lived under the old covenant.
"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?" There are degrees of heinousness in sinning (John 19:11 ), and so there are degrees in the punishment of their perpetrators (Luke 12:47 , Luke 12:48 ). Here, this solemn truth is presented in the interrogative form (cf. Hebrews 2:3 ) so as to search the conscience of each reader. If I have been favored with a knowledge of the Gospel (denied to half the human race), if I have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit (which is more than multitudes of Romanists are), if I profess to have received Christ as my Savior and have praised Him for His redeeming grace, what punishment can fitly meet my crimes if I now despise His lordship, flout His authority, break His commandments, walk with His enemies, and go on sinning presumptuously, till I end by committing the "great transgression?"
"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Instead of contenting himself with a general declaration of the equity of God’s dealings with apostates, the apostle here adduces additional particulars of the crime before him. In this verse we have brought before us the awful aggravations of the sin of apostasy, showing what is implied and involved in this un-pardoned transgression. Three things are specified, at each of which we shall briefly glance.
First, "who hath trodden under foot the Son of God." Once more we would call attention to the varied manner in which the Holy Spirit refers to the Savior in this epistle. Here, it is not "Jesus," or "Christ," but the "Son of God," and that, because His purpose is to emphasize the infinite dignity of the One slighted. It is not a mere man, nor even an angel, but none less than the second person of the Holy Trinity who is so grievously insulted! Backsliding and apostasy is a treating of the Lord of glory with the utmost contempt. What could be worse? The figure here employed is very expressive and solemn: to "tread under foot" is the basest use to which a thing can be put. It signifies a scornful spurning of an object as a thing that is worthless, and is applied to swine trampling pearls under their feet (Matthew 7:6 ). O my reader, when we deliberately ignore the claims of God’s Son and despise His commandments, we are treading His authority beneath our feet!
Second, "and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing." Here, as J. Owen rightly pointed out, "The second aggravation of the sin spoken of, is its opposition to the office of Christ, especially His priestly office, and the sacrifice He offered thereby, called here ‘the blood of the covenant’." In our exposition of chapter 9, we sought to show in what sense the blood of Christ was "the blood of the covenant." It was that whereby the new covenant and testament was confirmed and made effectual unto all its grace, to those who believe; being the foundation of all God’s actings toward Christ in His resurrection, exaltation and intercession cf. Hebrews 13:20 . Now the backslider and apostate does, by his conduct, treat that precious blood as though it were a worthless thing. There are many degrees of this frightful sin. But O my reader, whenever we give rein to our lusts and are not constrained by the love of Christ to render Him that devotion and obedience which are His due, we are, in fact, despising the blood of the covenant.
Third, "and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." This is the greatest aggravation of all: "whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven him" (Luke 12:10 ). It is by the Spirit the Christian was regenerated, enlightened, convicted, and brought to Christ. It is by the Spirit the Christian is led and fed, taught and sanctified. What reverence is due Him as a Divine person! What gratitude as a Divine benefactor! How dreadful the sin then which treats Him with insolence, which scorns to attend unto His winsome voice, which despises His gracious entreaties! While the grossest form of the sin here referred to is, malignantly imputing unto Satan the works of the Spirit, yet there are milder degrees of it. O my reader, let us earnestly endeavor to keep from grieving Him (Ephesians 4:30 ), and more completely yield ourselves to be "led" (Romans 8:14 ) by Him along the highway of practical holiness.
Saith the Lord Almighty, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor (in spirit), and of a contrite heart, and trembleth at My Word" (Isaiah 66:2 ). Surely if there is a passage any where in Holy Writ which should cause each of us to "tremble," it is the one now before us! Not tremble lest we have already committed this unpardonable sin, for they who have done so are beyond all exercise of conscience, being given up by God to hardness of heart; no, but tremble lest we should begin a course of backsliding, which, if un-arrested, would certainly lead thereto. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12 ). O my reader, make this your daily prayer, "Hold up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not" (Psalms 17:5 ).
"For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people" (verse 30). In this verse further confirmation is supplied of the awful severity and the absolute certainty of the punishment of apostates. Once more we have an example of a most important principle which regulated the apostle in his ministry, both oral and written. In verses 28, 29 he had given a specimen of spiritual reasoning, drawing a clear and logical inference from the less to the greater; yet decisive and unanswerable as this was, he rested not his case upon it, but instead, established it by quoting from Holy Scriptures. Let servants of God today act upon the same principle, and give a definite "Thus saith the Lord" for all they advance.
"For we know Him that hath said." Here our attention is directed unto the Divine character, what God is in Himself. Nothing behooves us more than to frequently and fully consider who it is with whom we have to do. Our conception of the Divine character plays an important part in molding our hearts and regulating our conduct, therefore it is that we find the apostle, in another place, praying that the saints may be "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10 ). It is a most profitable exercise for the soul to be often engaged in contemplating the Divine attributes, pondering God’s all-mighty power, ineffable holiness, unimpeachable veracity, exact justice, absolute faithfulness and terrible severity. Christ Himself has bidden us "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28 ). The better God’s character be known, the more we heed that exhortation of Christ’s, the clearer shall we perceive that there is nothing unsuited to the holiness of God in what Scripture affirms concerning His dealings with the wicked. It is because the true nature of sin is so little viewed in the light of God’s awful holiness, that so many fail to recognize its infinite demerits.
"For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense saith the Lord." The reference is to Deuteronomy 32:35 , though the apostle does not quote word for word as we now have that text. Moses was there reminding of the office which God holds as the Judge of all the earth: as such, He enforces His righteous law, and inflicts its just punishment on willful and impenitent sinners. Though, in His unsearchable wisdom, He is often pleased to forbear for a while for He "bears with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Romans 9:22 ) nevertheless, God will yet pay to every transgressor the full wages to which their sins have earned. God bore long with the Antediluvians, but at the end He destroyed them by the flood. Wondrous was His patience toward the Sodomites, but at His appointed season, He rained down fire and brimstone upon them. With amazing forbearance He tolerates the immeasurable wickedness of the world, but the Day is swiftly approaching when He will avenge Himself upon all who now so stoutly oppose Him.
"And again, The Lord shall judge His people." A most important example is here given as a guide to teach us how scripture is to be applied. The reference is to what is recorded in Deuteronomy 32:36 , but there it is God’s care exercised on behalf of His people, while here it is His vengeance upon their enemies. Some have caviled at the appositeness of the apostle’s quotation. Yet they should not. Each particular scripture has a general application, and is not to be limited unto those first addressed. If God undertakes to protect His people, He will certainly exercise judgment on those who apostatize. He did so in the past (see 1 Corinthians 10:5 ); He will do so in the future: 2 Thessalonians 1:7 , 2 Thessalonians 1:8 . The rule which is established by this quotation from Deuteronomy is, that all Scripture is equally applicable unto all cases of the like nature. What God says concerning those who are the enemies of His people, becomes applicable to His people should they break and reject His covenant.
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (verse 31). Here is the un-escapable conclusion which must be drawn from all that has been before us. This word "fearful" ought to make every trifler with sin tremble as did Belshazzar when he saw the Hand writing upon the wall. To "fall into the hands of" is a metaphor, denoting the utter helplessness of the victim when captured by his enemy. The One into whose hands the apostate falls is "the living God." "A mortal man, however incensed he may be, cannot carry his vengeance beyond death; but God’s power is not bounded by so narrow limits" (John Calvin). No, forever and ever will God’s wrath burn against the objects of His judgment. Nor will the supplications of sinners prevail upon Him: see Proverbs 1:28 , Ezekiel 8:18 .
By the penitent and obedient, God is loved and adored; but by the impenitent and defiant, He is to be dreaded. The wicked may now pride themselves that in the day of judgment they will placate God by their tears, but they will then find that not only His justice, but His outraged mercy also calls aloud for His vengeance upon them. Men may now be beguiled by visions of a "larger hope," but in that Day they shall discover it is only another of Satan’s lies. O how the "terror of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:11 ) ought to stir up God’s servants to warn and persuade men before the day of grace is finally closed. And how it should make each one of us walk softly before God, sparing no pains to make our calling and election "sure." It is only as we "add" to our faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and love, that we have scriptural assurance that we shall "never fall" (2 Peter 1:5-10 ).
The Path of Tribulation
(Hebrews 10:32-34 )
God has not promised His people a smooth path through this world; instead, He has ordained that "we must through much tribulation’’ enter His kingdom (Acts 14:22 ). Why should it be otherwise, seeing we are now in a territory which is under His curse. And what has brought down that curse, but sin. Seeing then that there still is a world of sin both without and within each one of us, why should it be thought strange if we are made to taste the bitterness of its products! Suppose it were otherwise, what would be the effect? Suppose this present life were free from sorrows, sufferings, separations; ah, would we not be content with our present portion? Wisely then has God ordered it that we should be constantly reminded of the fact "this is not your rest, because it is polluted" (Micah 2:10 ). Trials and tribulations are needful if there is to be wrought in us "a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23 ).
The word "tribulation" is derived from the Latin "tribulum," which was a flail used by the Romans to separate the wheat from the chaff. How much "chaff" remains even in the one who has been genuinely converted! How much of the "flesh" mingles with and mars his spiritual exercises! How much which is merely "natural" is mixed with his youthful zeal and energetic activities! How much of carnal wisdom and leaning unto our own understanding there is, till God is pleased to deepen His work of grace in the soul! And one of the principal instruments which He employs in that blessed work is the "tribulum" or flail. By means of sore disappointments, thwarted plans, inward fightings, painful afflictions, does He "take forth the precious from the vile" (Jeremiah 15:19 ), and remove the dross from the pure gold. It is by weaning us from the things of earth that He fits us for setting our affections on things above. It is by drying up creature-streams of satisfaction that He makes His children thirst for the Fountain of living water.
"Tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3 ). Patience is a grace which has both a passive and an active side. Passively, it is a meekly bowing to the sovereign pleasure of God, a saying, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it"? (John 18:11 ). Actively, it is a steady perseverance in the path of duty. This is one of the great ends which God has in view in the afflicting of His children: to effect in them "a meek and quiet spirit." "Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience." It is one thing to obtain a theoretical knowledge of a truth by means of reading, it is quite another to have a real and inward acquaintance with the same. As the tried and tempest-tossed soul bows meekly to the providential dealings of God, he experimentally learns what is "that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2 ). "And experience, hope," which is a firm expectation of a continuance of sustaining grace and final glory. Since then our sufferings are one of the means which God has appointed for the Christian’s sanctification, preparing us for usefulness here, and for Heaven hereafter, let us glory in them.
But let us lift our thoughts still higher. "Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:3 ). Ah, it is unto His image which the saint is predestined to be conformed (Romans 8:29 ), first in suffering, and then in glory. Let each troubled and groaning child of God call to remembrance the afflictions through which the Man of sorrows passed! Is it not fitting that the servant should drink of the cup which his Master drank? O my brethren, the highest honor God confers upon any of us in this life, is when He permits us to suffer a little for Christ’s sake. O for grace to say with the beloved apostle, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ). "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye" (1 Peter 4:14 ).
"No man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" (1 Thessalonians 3:3 ). Yet afflictions do not come upon all saints in the same form, nor to the same degree. God is sovereign in this, as in everything else. He knows what will best promote the spiritual good of His people. All is ordered by Him in infinite wisdom and infinite love. As has been well said, "God had one Son without sin, but none without sorrow." Yet the sorrow is not unmixed: God tempers His winds unto the lambs. With every temptation or trial He provides a way to escape. In the midst of sorest trouble His all-suffering grace is available. The promise is sure, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Psalms 55:22 ), and where faith is enabled to rest in the Lord, His sustaining power is realized in the soul.
Afflictions are not all that the Lord sends His people: He daily loadeth them with His benefits (Psalms 68:19 ). The smilings of His face greatly outnumber the frowns of His providence. There are far more sunny days than cloudy ones. But our memories are fickle: when we enter the Wilderness, we so quickly forget our exodus from Egypt, and deliverance at the Red Sea. When water gives out (Exodus 17:0 ), we fail to call to remembrance the miraculous supply of manna (Exodus 16:0 ). It was thus with the apostles. When they had forgotten to take bread, the Lord Jesus tenderly remonstrated with them, saying, "O ye of little faith... Do ye not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?" (Matthew 16:5-10 ). O how much peace and joy we lose in the present through our sinful failure in not calling to remembrance the Lord’s past deliverances and mercies.
"Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee" (Deuteronomy 8:2 ). Sit down and review God’s previous dealings with thee: bring before your hearts His tender patience, His unchanging faithfulness, His powerful interpositions, His gracious gifts. There have been times in the past when your own folly brought you into deep waters of trouble, but God did not cast you off. You fretted and murmured, but God did not abandon you. You were full of fears and unbelief, yet God suffered you not to starve. He neither dealt with you after your sins, nor rewarded you according to your iniquities. Instead, He proved Himself to be unto you the "God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10 ). There were times in the past when every door of hope seemed fast closed, when every man’s hand and heart appeared to be against you, when the Enemy came in like a flood, and it looked very much as though you would be drowned. But help was at hand. In the fourth watch of the night the Lord Jesus appeared on the waters, and you were delivered. Then remember this, and let the realization of past deliverances comfort and stay your heart in the midst of the present emergency.
Many are the appeals made unto us in the Word of God to do this very thing. Varied and numerous are the motives employed by the Holy Spirit in the Scripture of Truth to stir up God’s children unto constancy of heart and the performance of duty when "circumstances" seem to be all against them. Every attribute of God is made a distinct ground for urging us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us. The promises of God are given to cheer, and His warnings stir up our hearts unto a fuller compliance with His revealed will. Rewards are promised to those who overcome the flesh, the world, and the Devil, while eternal woes are threatened unto those failing to do so. Faith is to be stimulated by the record given of God’s grace which sustained fellow-pilgrims in by-gone days; hope is to be stirred into action by the glorious Goal which the Word holds up to view. And, as we have said, fresh courage for the present is to be drawn by us from calling to mind God’s goodness in the past. It is this particular motive which the apostle pressed on the Hebrews in the passage which is now before us.
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions" (verse 32). In verses 16-21 the apostle had given a brief summary of the inestimable privileges which are the present portion of the regenerated people of God. In verses 22-24 he had exhorted them to make a suitable response to such blessings. In verses 25-31 he had fortified their minds against temptations to apostasy, or to willful and presumptuous sins. He now bids them to recall the earlier days of their profession, and to consider what they had already ventured, suffered and renounced for Christ, and how they had been supernaturally sustained under their trials: the force of this was, disgrace not your former conduct by now casting away your confidence which hath great recompense of reward.
"But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated." The beginnings of God’s work of grace in their souls is here spoken of as being "illuminated." The Holy Spirit had revealed to them their depravity and impotency, their lost and miserable state by nature. He had brought before them the unchanging demands of God’s righteous law, and their utter failure to meet those claims. He had pointed them to the Lord Jesus, who, as the Sponsor and Surety of His people, had assumed all their liabilities, kept the law in their stead, and died for their sins. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had "shined into their hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6 ). Thus He had granted unto them an experimental acquaintance with the Gospel, so that they had felt in their own consciences and hearts the power of its truth. How unspeakably solemn is it to note that this too had been the experience of the apostates in Hebrews 6:4-6 , for the very word here rendered "illuminated" is there translated, "enlightened."
Right after their illumination by God, they were called upon to feel something of the rage of His enemies. At the beginning of this dispensation those who made profession of Christianity were hotly persecuted, and the believing Hebrews had not escaped. This the apostle would remind them of: "After ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions." As soon as God had quickened their hearts and shone upon their understandings so that they embraced His incarnate Son as their Lord and Savior, earth and hell combined against them. By nature we are in the dark, and while in it we meet with no opposition from Satan or the world; but when, by grace we determined to follow the example which Christ has left us, we were soon brought into the fellowship of His sufferings. By such experiences we are reminded that God has called us to the combat, that as good soldiers of Jesus Christ we are to "endure hardness" (2 Timothy 2:3 ), and need to take unto ourselves the armor which God has provided (Ephesians 6:10-18 ) not to speculate about, but to use it.
The attitude toward and the conduct of the Hebrew Christians under this "great fight of afflictions" during the days of their "first love," is here summed up, first, in the one word "endured." They had not fainted or given way to despondency, nor had they renounced their profession. They failed in no part of the conflict, but came off conquerors. This they had been enabled unto by the efficacious grace of God. They had been wondrously and blessedly supported under their sufferings. From Acts 8:0 we learn that when the church at Jerusalem was sorely persecuted, its members so far from abandoning Christianity, were scattered abroad, and "went everywhere preaching the Word" (verse 4). How greatly was the Captain of their salvation honored by this valor of His soldiers. It is a noticeable fact of history that babes in Christ have often been the bravest of all in facing suffering and death: perhaps because the great and glorious change involved in the passing from death unto life is fresher in their minds than in that of older Christians. Now it was to the recollection of these things unto which the apostles here called the flagging and tempted Hebrews.
"But call to remembrance." "It is not the bare remembrance he intends, for it is impossible men should absolutely forget such a season. Men are apt enough to remember the times of their sufferings, especially such as are here mentioned, accompanied with all sorts of injurious treatments from men. But the apostle would have them so call to mind, as to consider withal, what support they had under their sufferings, what satisfaction in them, what deliverance from them, that they might not despond upon the approach of the like trials and evils on the same account. If we remember our sufferings only as unto what is evil and afflictive in them, what we lose, what we endure, and undergo; such a remembrance will weaken and dispirit us, as unto our future trials. Hereon many cast about to deliver themselves for the future, by undue means and sinful compliances, in a desertion of their profession; the thing the apostle was jealous of concerning these Hebrews. But if, withal, we call to mind what was the Cause for which we suffered; the honor that is in such sufferings, outbalancing all the contempt and reproaches of the world; the presence of God enjoyed in them; and the reward proposed unto us; the calling these things to mind, will greatly strengthen us against future trials; provided we retain the same love unto, and valuation of the things for which we suffered, as we had in those former days" (John Owen).
"The remembrance then of past warfare, if it had been carried on faithfully and diligently under the banner of Christ, is at length useful to us, not as a pretext for sloth, as though we had already served our time, but to render us more active in finishing the remaining part of our course. For Christ has not enlisted us on this condition, that we should after a few years ask for a discharge, like soldiers who have served their time, but that we should pursue our warfare even unto the end" (John Calvin). It therefore becomes a solemn and searching question for each of us to face: to what extent am I now being antagonized by the world? Something must be seriously wrong with me if I have the goodwill of everybody. God’s Word emphatically declares, "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12 ).
"Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used" (verse 33). In this verse the apostle mentions one or two features of what their "great fight of affliction" had consisted. Some of them were made a public spectacle to their neighbors, by the malicious accusations brought against them, and by the derision and punishment laid upon them; while others were the "partners" of those who were also cruelly treated. The principal reference here is to the loss which they had sustained in their characters and reputations, and unto many people (especially those of a sensitive temperament) this is a sore trial; almost anything is easier to bear than obloquy and disgrace. But sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master: they slandered Him, and said He had a demon.
Reproach and slander are exceedingly trying, and if we are not upon our guard, if we fail to gird up the loins of our minds (1 Peter 1:13 ), we are likely to be so cast down by them as to be incapacitated for duty. Despondency and despair are never excusable in the Christian, and must be steadily resisted. We need to make up our minds that if, by grace, we are determined to follow the example which Christ has left us we shall have many enemies especially in the religious world who will scruple at no misrepresentations of our motives and actions. We must learn to undervalue our reputations, and be content to be regarded as "the off-scouring of all things"; we must seek grace to emulate Him who "set His face like a flint" (Isaiah 50:7 ), who "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2 ). Unless we cultivate His spirit we shall be at a great disadvantage when sufferings come upon us.
Not only had the Hebrew Christians suffered personally, but they had fellowship also in the sufferings of others. This is a Christian duty, and, we may add, a privilege. As members of the same Family, as fellow-pilgrims toward the better Country, as called to serve together under the same Banner, it is only meet that we should bear "one another’s burdens," and "weep with them that weep." Of Moses it is recorded that "He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:24 , Hebrews 11:25 ). To be a companion of those who suffer for Christ, is an evidence of our love for His brethren, of courage in suffering, and of readiness to succor those who are persecuted because of the Gospel. We do well to frequently ponder Matthew 25:42-45 .
"For ye had compassion of me in my bonds" (verse 34). The apostle here makes grateful acknowledgment of the sympathy which the Hebrews had shown him in an hour of need. The historical reference may be to the time when he lay bound in chains at Jerusalem (Acts 21:33 ), when their love for him was shown by their prayers, and perhaps letters and gifts. It is the bounden duty for Christians to express in a practical way their compassion for any of Christ’s suffering servants, doing everything in their power to succor, support and relieve them. Equally so is it the duty of God’s ministers to thankfully own the kindness shown them: Christ himself will yet publicly bear witness unto the services of love which have been shown unto His brethren (Matthew 25:34-40 ).
"For ye had compassion of me in my bonds." These words supply one of the many proofs that the apostle Paul was the author of this Epistle, for of the other persons whom some have fancied wrote it, such as Luke, Barnabas, Clement etc., there is no hint anywhere in Scripture, nor we believe in ecclesiastical history, of any of them suffering bonds in Judea. But the lying of Paul in bonds and imprisonments, was renowned above all others. Hence he styled himself in particular "Paul, prisoner of Jesus Christ" (Philemon 1:1 ), and gloried in this peculiar honor as "an ambassador in bonds" (Ephesians 6:20 ), and as such, desired the saints at Colosse to remember him at the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:3 ). Thus, his "bonds" being above all others so familiar, such a subject of the churches’ prayers, this reference here in Hebrews 10:34 at once identifies the writer.
"And took joyfully the spoiling of your goods" (verse 34). This supplies further information upon the deportment of the Hebrews under their trials: they had not only patiently "endured" the great fight of affliction, but were happy in being counted worthy to suffer for Christ a blessed triumph was that of the mighty grace of God over the weakness of the flesh. God is able to strengthen in the inner man "with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering, with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11 ). Ordinarily, few things are more calculated to distress the minds of men than their being cruelly plundered of those things for which they have labored hard, and which they and their families still need: wailing and lamentations commonly accompany them. Blessed is it when the heart is brought to hold lightly all earthly comforts and conveniences, for it is easier then to part with them should we be called upon to do so.
"Knowing in yourselves that we have in heaven a better and enduring substance" (verse 34). This clause supplies the key to the previous one, showing the ground of their joy. Faith looked away from things seen to those unseen, reckoning that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18 ); "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17 ). Where the heart’s affections are truly set upon things above (Colossians 3:2 ), few tears will be shed over the loss of any earthly baubles. True, it is natural to mourn when rudely deprived of material possessions, but it is supernatural to rise above such grieving.
The true riches of the Christian are not accessible to human or Satanic plunderers. Men may strip us of all our worldly possessions, but they cannot take from us the love of God, the salvation of Christ, the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the hope of eternal glory. Said one who was waylaid by a bandit, who demanded his money or his life: "Money, I have none on me; my life is hid with Christ in God." The poor worldling may give way to despair when business is bad, bonds deteriorate, and banks smash, but no child of God ought ever to do so: he has been begotten unto an inheritance which is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven" (1 Peter 1:4 ). Yet it is only as faith is in exercise, as the heart is really occupied with our heavenly portion, that we enjoy them, and regard all else as but "vanity and vexation of spirit."
"What was it that enabled them thus to bear up under their sufferings? They knew in themselves that they had in heaven a better and a more enduring substance. Observe, First; the happiness of the saints in heaven is ‘substance,’ something of real weight and worth all things here are but shadows. Secondly, it is a better substance than anything they can have or lose here. Thirdly, it is an enduring substance; it will outlive time, and run parallel with eternity. They can never spend it; their enemies can never take it from them as they did their earthly goods. Fourthly, this will make a rich amends for all they can lose and suffer here. In heaven they shall have a better life, a better estate, better liberty, better society, better hearts, better work, everything better" (Matthew Henry).
"Knowing in yourselves that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Let us now weigh carefully the first three words of this clause: these Hebrew saints had a firm conviction of heart concerning their heavenly portion. It does not say, "knowing from God’s promises," but "knowing in yourselves." This presents a side of the Truth, an aspect of Christian assurance, which is rarely dwelt upon in these days; instead, it is widely ridiculed and denied, many insisting that the only basis of assurance is the bare letter of Scripture. It is quite true that the foundation of our confidence is the written Word, but that is not the only ground, any more than a marriage certificate is the sole proof which a woman has that the man who loves, cherishes, and lives with her, is her husband. No, one has only to read impartially through the first Epistle of John in order to discover that he who is walking with God and enjoying the light of His countenance, has many evidences that he is a new creature in Christ Jesus.
"Knowing in yourselves." The one who is following on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3 ), not only has the testimony of God’s Word without, but he has also the witness of the Spirit within him, that he is a child and heir of God (Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:17 ). In his regeneration and begun experimental sanctification, he has received "the first-fruits of the Spirit (Romans 8:23 ). In consequence, he now has new desires, new conflicts, new joys, new sorrows. Faith purifies his heart (Acts 15:9 ). He has received the Spirit of adoption, whereby he cries "Abba Father." From what he finds in his own heart, he knows that he is heaven-born and heaven-bound. Let those who are strangers to a supernatural work of grace in their own hearts mock and scoff all they please, let them sneer at introspection, call it mysticism, or any thing else they wish, but one who is scripturally assured of the Spirit’s work within him, refuses to be laughed-out of his surest proof that he is a child of God.
Granted that many have been and are deluded: acknowledging that the unregenerate heart is "deceitful above all things"; admitting that the Devil has lulled thousands into hell by means of happy feelings within them; yet none of these things alter or affect to the slightest degree the fact that it is both the duty and privilege of every genuine Christian to know in himself that he has passed from death unto life. Provided he be denying self, taking up his cross, and following Christ in the path of obedience, he will have cause for rejoicing in the testimony of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12 ). But if he yields to lusts of the flesh, fellowships with an ungodly world, and gets into a backslidden state, then the joy of his salvation will be lost. Nothing then is of greater practical importance than that the Christian should keep clean and unstained his inward evidences that he is journeying toward heaven.
"Such, then, are the things which the apostle wishes the Hebrew Christians to ‘call to remembrance.’ It is easy to see how the calling of these things to remembrance was calculated to serve his purpose to guard them from apostasy, and establish them in the faith and profession of the Gospel. It is as if he had said, ‘Why shrink from suffering for Christianity now? Were you not exposed to suffering from the beginning? When you first became Christians, did you not willingly undergo sufferings on account of it? And is not Christianity as worthy of being suffered for as ever? Is not Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and forever? Did not the faith and hope of Christianity formerly support you under your sufferings, and make you feel that they were but the light afflictions of a moment? and are they not as able to support you now as then? Has the substance in heaven become less real, or less enduring? and have you not as good evidence now as you had then that to the persevering Christian such treasure is laid up? Are you willing to lose all the benefit of the sacrifices you have made, and the sufferings you have sustained? and they will all go for nothing if you endure not unto the end!’ These are considerations all naturally suggested by the words of the apostle, and all well calculated to induce them ‘to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering’." (John Brown).
The Saving of the Soul
(Hebrews 10:35-39 )
As there is so much ground covered by the verses which are now to be before us, we shall dispense with our usual introductory paragraphs. In lieu of them, we present a brief analysis of the present passage. Verse 35 really belongs to the section which we took up in our last article. In verses 32-35 the apostle gives a persuasion unto perseverance in the Christian life. First, he bids the Hebrews call to remembrance what they had suffered for Christ’s sake in days gone by: then let them not now renounce their faith and thereby render void their early witness verses 32, 33. Second, he reminded them of the ground on which they had willingly suffered hardships and losses, namely, because they had the inward assurance and evidence that in Heaven they had a better and enduring substance: then, inasmuch as it changed not, why should they? verse 34. From these facts, the conclusion is drawn that a duty is rightly required from them, upon the performance of which the reward should be given them verse 35.
In the last section of Hebrews 10:0 the apostle first confirms the exhortation he had just insisted on, and points to the chief aids to perseverance, namely, patience and faith verse 36. Second, he encourages the Lord’s people by the prospect of the sure and speedy coming of the Redeemer who would then reward them verse 37. Third, he warns again of the fearful state of the apostate verse 38. Fourth, he affirms that they who persevered to the end, believe to the saving of the soul verse 39. The obvious design of these verses is to stir up Christians unto utmost earnestness in making their calling and election sure, to guard them against the danger of backsliding, and to bear their trials with submission to the will of God. May it please the Holy Spirit to apply this passage in power to the heart of both writer and reader, that our meditation may issue in fruit to the glory of our blessed Lord.
"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward" (verse 35). Let us notice first the force of the "therefore." This is an inference drawn from the foregoing: since you have already suffered so many things in your persons and goods, and inasmuch as Divine grace supported and carried you through with constancy and joy, do not be discouraged and give way to despair at the approach of similar trials. Further, this "therefore" is drawn from the blissful prospect which the sure promise of God holds before His faithful people, and gives point to the admonition: inasmuch as confidence persisted in is going to be richly repaid, cast it not away.
"Cast not away therefore your confidence." The word "confidence" here has respect unto an attitude or state of heart God-wards. It is the same term (in the Greek) as is translated "boldness" in Hebrews 10:19 . It is found again in 1 John 3:21 , "then have we confidence toward God"; and verse 14, "this is the confidence that we have in Him." It is not so much faith itself, as one of the products or fruits thereof. It is closer akin to hope. It is that effect of faith which fits the Christian for freedom and readiness unto all his spiritual duties, notwithstanding difficulties and discouragements. It is that frame of spirit which carries us cheerfully through all those sufferings which a real profession of the Gospel entails. More specifically, this "confidence" may be defined as fortitude of mind, courage of heart, and constancy of will.
From what has just been said, it will be seen that we do not agree with those commentators who understand verse 35 as dehorting against the abandonment of Christianity. The apostle’s admonition here strikes deeper than a warning against forsaking the outward profession of the Gospel. It is addressed against that state of heart, which, if it became chronic, would likely lead to the external forsaking of Christ. What is needed in the face of trials and persecution is boldness of mind, the heart being freed from bondage and fear, through a prevailing persuasion of our acceptance with God in the performance of those duties which He has appointed us. It was this particular grace which was admired in Peter and John in Acts 4:13 . It is only as the mind remains convinced of the righteousness of our cause, and as the heart is assured we are doing that which is well-pleasing to God, that, when we are criticized and condemned by men, and are menaced by their frowns and threats, we shall be "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58 ), in nothing moved by our adversaries.
This confidence in and toward God, which had hitherto sustained the persecuted Hebrews, they are here bidden to "cast not away." Here again the responsibility of the Christian is addressed. There are those who insist we can no more control our "confidence" weaken or strengthen it than we can control the wind. But this is to lose sight of the fact that we are moral creatures and accountable for the use or misuse of all our faculties. If I allow my mind to dwell upon the difficulties before me, the disadvantages I may suffer through faithfulness to Christ, or listen to the whisperings of Satan as to how I can avoid trouble by little compromises, then my courage will soon wane, and I shall be to blame. On the other hand, if I seek grace to dwell upon God’s promises, realize it is an honor to suffer for Christ’s sake, and remind myself that whatever I lose here is not worthy to be compared with what I shall gain hereafter, then, assured that God is for me, I shall care not who be against me.
To encourage the tempted Hebrews the apostle at once added, "which hath great recompense of reward." From these words it is very evident that the true Christian may, and should, have his eye upon the reward that is promised those who suffer for the Gospel’s sake. Nor does this verse by any means stand alone: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven" (Matthew 5:11 , Matthew 5:12 ) notice carefully the words "in Heaven," which at once exposes the error of those who declare that the "Sermon on the Mount" belongs not to and is not about those who are members of the Body of Christ, but is "Jewish" and "Millennial." Christians are not sufficiently occupied with their reward in Heaven.
The subject of "Rewards" is too large a one for us to now canvass in detail, yet in view of present-day errors something needs to be said thereon. Not a few suppose that the concepts presented by "grace" and "reward" are irreconcilably at variance. The trouble with such people is that, instead of searching the Scriptures to discover how the Holy Spirit has used the term, they turn to a human dictionary. In human affairs a "reward" commonly (though not always) denotes the recognition and recompensing of a meritorious performance; but not so is its general usage in Scripture. Take the first occurrence of the word: in Genesis 15:1 we find Jehovah saying unto Abraham, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward": how utterly impossible for the patriarch to have done anything to deserve this! Once it is plainly perceived that in Scripture the term "reward" has in it no thought of a meet return for a meritorious performance, much of the fog with which modern "dispensationalists" have surrounded the subject will be cleared away.
"Which hath great recompense of reward." Rightly did John Calvin point out in his comments on this verse: "By mentioning ‘reward,’ he diminishes nothing from the gratuitous promise of salvation, for the faithful know that their labor is not in vain in the Lord in such a way that they still rest on God’s mercy alone. But it has been often stated elsewhere how ‘reward’ is not incompatible with the gratuitous imputation of righteousness." If those who suppose that Christians living since the’days of J.N. Darby and "Dr." Scofield appeared on the scene have "much more light" than they who preceded them, would only read the Reformers and the Puritans with an unprejudiced mind, they would soon be obliged to revise their ideas. In many respects we have gone backwards instead of forwards, and only too often the "light" which is in men, is but darkness, and "how great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:23 )! so great that it closes their eyes against all true light.
"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (verse 36). The opening "for" intimates that the apostle is here confirming the exhortation which he had just insisted upon. "The reward can be obtained only by holding fast this confidence by adhering steadily and perseveringly to Christ and His cause" (John Brown). Patience, or endurance in the path of obedience, fidelity and suffering, is indispensably necessary if we are to be preserved unto salvation. Let those who will, call this teaching legalistic; the only other alternative is lawlessness and licentiousness. Though it is not "for," yet it is "through faith and patience" or "perseverance," that we "inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12 ).
No one who is familiar with the writings of John Owen the Puritan, who proclaimed the free grace of God and the gratuitousness of His salvation in such certain terms, will accuse him of legality or of inculcating creature-merits; yet he, in his comments in Hebrews 10:35 , Hebrews 10:36 wrote, "Wherefore, ‘the recompense of the reward’ here intended, is the glory of Heaven, proposed as a crown unto them that overcome in their sufferings for the Gospel. And the future glory, which, as unto its original cause, is the fruit of the good pleasure and sovereign grace of God, whose pleasure it is to give us the kingdom; and as unto its procuring cause is the sole purchase of the blood of Christ, who obtained for us eternal redemption; and it is, on both accounts, a free gift of God, for ‘the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God through Christ is life eternal’ (so as it can be no way merited nor procured by ourselves, by virtue of any proportion by the rules of justice between what we do or suffer, and what is promised), is yet constantly promised to suffering believers, under the name of a recompense or a reward. For it doth not become the great ness and goodness of God to call His own people unto sufferings for His name, and unto His glory, and therein to the loss of their lives many times, with all enjoyments here below, and not propose unto them, nor provide for them, that which shall be infinitely better than all that they so undergo. This confidence ‘hath’ this recompense of reward; that is, it gives a right and title unto the future reward of glory: it hath in it the promise and constitution of God; whoever abides in its exercise, shall be no longer in the issue."
"For ye have need of patience." The apostle did not charge them with being destitute of this grace, for all who are born of the Spirit bear, in some measure, the fruit of the Spirit, and this among the rest (Galatians 5:22 ); those who are brought into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, are into His patience also (Revelation 1:9 ). No, the apostle signified that they needed the exercise, continuance, and increase of this grace: compare Zephaniah 2:3 where the "meek" are exhorted to seek "meekness." That unto which the apostle would bestir these saints was, that they receive afflictions as from the hand of God, to bear reproaches and persecutions from men as that unto which He had "appointed" them (1 Thessalonians 3:3 ), to commit their cause unto the Lord and rest in Him (Psalms 37:5 , Psalms 37:6 ); to bear up, and not sink under trials, and to live in the constant expectation of Heaven.
The Hebrew Christians (like we sometimes are) were tempted to become weary of well doing. Numbers of their fellows who had once appeared to be zealous believers, had apostatized, and the rest would soon be sorely tried. It was necessary then that they should arm their minds with the spirit of resignation and persevering constancy, that having done the will of God, by steadfastly cleaving to Christ, and obeying Him through all temptations and sufferings, they might afterwards receive the promised gift of eternal life. The principle of this verse remains unchanged. Satan is the same, and so also is the world, and they who will live godly cannot escape trials and tribulations. Nor is it desirable that we should: some of the finer and more delicate of the Christian graces can only be developed under stress and suffering. Then how much we need to pray for God to sanctify to our good each affliction which comes upon us, so that fruit may issue to His praise and that we may so conduct ourselves as to be encouragements to fellow-pilgrims.
The exercise of this grace of patience is to be continued until "after ye have done the will of God." There is no dismission from the discharge of this duty while we are left here upon earth. While the more immediate reference is unto meekly bearing whatever the sovereign will of our all-wise and infinitely loving God has ordained for us, yet the active walking in the way of God’s commandments is also included, as is evident from the word "done." The will of God, as it is made known in His Word, is the alone rule by which we are to live and all our ways are to be conformed. That revealed will of God is not only to be believed and revered by us, but practiced as well. No situation in which we can be placed, no threatenings of men however terrible, can ever justify us for disobeying God. True, there will be seasons of sore testing, times when it seems that our trials are more than flesh and blood can endure, and then it is that we most have "need of patience"; nor will Divine succor and supernatural grace be withheld if we humbly and trustfully seek it.
"That, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." Here the "great recompense of reward" of the previous verse is designated "the promise," partly to guard against the error that eternal life can be earned, or that Heaven can be merited by creature performances; and partly to emphasize the certainty of that which is promised unto all who endure unto the end. The "promise" is here put for the things promised, as in Hebrews 6:12 , Hebrews 6:17 ; Hebrews 11:13 , Hebrews 11:39 . It is called "the promise" as in 1 John 2:25 etc., because it is the grand comprehensive promise, including all others, being the glorious consummation to which they point. Nor should any stumble because they cannot perceive the consistency of a thing being both a "reward" and a "promise." We find the same conjunction of concepts in Colossians 3:24 , "Ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ": it is so denominated to show that it is not merited by works, but is bestowed by free grace, and will certainly be enjoyed by all the elect; and yet, it will only be obtained by them as they persevere in the path of duty.
"For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (verse 37). The causal "For" denotes that the apostle was about to confirm what he had just said: he both adds a word to strengthen their "confidence" and "patience," and also points them to the near approach of the time when they should receive their "reward." The Greek is very expressive and emphatic. The apostle used a word which signifies "a little while," and then for further emphasis added a particle meaning "very," and this he still further intensified by repeating it; thus, literally rendered this clause reads, "For yet a very, very little while, and He that shall come will come."
"There is indeed nothing that avails more to sustain our minds, should they at any time become faint, than the hope of a speedy and near termination. As a general holds forth to his soldiers the prospect that the war will soon end, provided they hold out a little longer; so the apostle reminds us that the Lord will shortly come to deliver us from all evils, provided our minds faint not through want of firmness. And in order that this consolation might have more assurance and authority, he adduces the testimony of Habakkuk. But as he follows the Greek version, he departs somewhat from the words of the prophet" (John Calvin). Frequently does the Holy Spirit emphasize the exceeding (comparative) brevity of the saints’ sufferings in this world; "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalms 30:5 ); "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20 ); "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17 ).
"For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." The reference here is to the person of the Lord Jesus, as is evident from Habakkuk 2:3 , to which the apostle here alludes. Like so many prophecies, that word of Habakkuk’s was to receive a threefold fulfillment: a literal and initial one, a spiritual and continuous one, a final and complete one. The literal was the Divine incarnation, when the Son of God came here in flesh. The final will be His return in visible glory and power. The spiritual has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when that which most obstructed the manifestation of Christ’s kingdom on earth was destroyed with the overthrow of the Temple and its worship, official Judaism came to an end. The Christians in Palestine were being constantly persecuted by the Jews, but their conquest by Titus and their consequent dispersion put an end to this. That event was less than ten years distant when Paul wrote: compare our remarks on "see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 ).
We trust that none will conclude from what has been said above that we regard verse 37 as containing no reference to the final coming of Christ. What we have sought to point out was the immediate purport of its contents unto the Hebrews. But it also contains a message for us, a message of hope and comfort. It is our privilege too to be waiting for God’s Son from Heaven. Let us add that it is a big mistake to regard every mention of the "coming" of Christ in the N.T. Scriptures as referring to His "appearing the second time" (Hebrews 9:28 ). In John 14:18 , John 14:28 , the reference was to Christ’s "coming" by His Spirit; in John 14:23 to His "coming" in loving manifestation to the individual soul; in Ephesians 2:17 He "came" by the Gospel; in Revelations 2:5 His "coming" is in chastisement. Careful study of each verse is required in order to distinguish between these several aspects.
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him" (verse 38). The first half of this verse is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 , and its pertinency to the admonition which the apostle was pressing upon the Hebrews is not difficult to perceive. The prophet is cited in proof that perseverance is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God. He who has been justified by God, through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his account, lives by faith as the influencing principle of his life. Thus the apostle declared, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20 ). The one whom God has exonerated from the curse and condemnation of the law, is not him who has merely "believed," but is the man who continues "believing," with all that that word includes, and involves. Let the reader fully note the force of the present perfect "believeth" in John 3:15 , John 3:16 , John 3:18 ; John 5:24 etc., and contrast the "for a while believed" of Luke 8:13 !
The use of the future tense "shall live" announces and enforces the necessity for the continued exercise of faith. It is true that one who has been justified by God was previously quickened, for we are "justified by faith" (Acts 13:39 , Romans 5:1 etc.), and one who is dead in trespasses and sins cannot savingly believe note the "called" before "justified" in Romans 8:30 . It is also true that the real Christian lives by faith, for that is the very nature of indwelling grace. But it is equally true that the "just shall live by faith." The constant exercise of faith by the saint is as essential to his final salvation as it was to his initial salvation. Just as the soul can only be delivered from the wrath to come by repentance (self-judgment) and personal faith in the Lord Jesus, so we can only be delivered from the power of indwelling sin, from the temptations of Satan, from an enticing world which seeks to destroy us, by a steady and persistent walking by faith.
Patient endurance is a fruit of faith, yet it is only as that vital and root grace is in daily exercise, that the Christian is enabled to stand firm amid the storms of life. Those whom God declares righteous in Christ are to pass their lives here, not in doubt and fear, but in the maintenance of a calm trust in and a joyful obedience to Him. Only as the heart is engaged with God and feeds upon His Word, will the soul be invigorated and fitted to press onwards when everything outward seems to be against him. It is by our faith being drawn out unto things above that we receive the needed strength which causes us to look away from the discouraging and distracting scene around us. As faith lives upon Christ (John 6:56 , John 6:57 ), it draws virtue from Him, as the branch derives sap from the root of the vine. Faith makes us resign ourselves and our affairs to Christ’s disposing, cheerfully treading the path of duty and patiently waiting that issue which He will give. Faith is assured that our Head knows far better than we do what is good and best.
"But if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." It seems to the writer that the translators of the A.V. took an unwarranted liberty with the Word of God when they inserted (in italics) the words "any man" and changed "and" (kai) into "but": the Holy Scripture should never be altered to suit our ideas of evangelical truth the R.V. correctly gives "if he shrink back," and Bag. Int. "and if he draw back." Yes, if the "just" man himself were to draw back and continue in apostasy, he would finally perish. "By this solemn consideration, therefore, the apostle urges on them the importance of perseverance, and the guilt and danger of apostasy from the Christian faith. If such a case should occur, no matter what might have been the former condition, and no matter what love or zeal might have been evinced, yet such an apostasy would expose the individual to the certain wrath of God. His former love could not save him, any more than the former obedience of the angels saved them from the horrors of eternal chains and darkness" (A. Barnes).
"And if he drew back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." Once more the apostle faithfully warns the Hebrew Christians (and us) of the dreadful consequence which would attend the continuance in a course of backsliding. He who thinks that by refusing to take up his cross daily and follow the example left by Christ, can escape the world’s reproach and persecution and yet go to Heaven, is fatally deluding himself. Said the Lord Jesus, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it" (Matthew 16:25 ): that is, he who is so diligent in looking after his temporal prospects, worldly reputation and personal comforts, shall eternally lose his soul.
It was to stir up the Hebrews unto the more diligent laboring after living the life of faith that the apostle here pointed out the terrible alternative: unless they maintained a steady trust in God and an obedient submission unto His revealed will, they were in grave danger of backsliding and apostatizing. If any should "draw back" then God would have "no pleasure in him," which is but the negative way of saying that he would be an object of abhorrence. But observe closely, it does not say God would have "no more pleasure in him," which would conflict with the uniform teaching of the Word concerning the unchanging love of God (Malachi 3:6 , John 13:1 , Romans 8:35-39 ) toward His own. O the minute accuracy of Holy Writ! The practical application of this solemn word to us is, that in order to have a scripturally-grounded assurance of God’s taking pleasure in us, we must continue cleaving closely unto Him.
"But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul" (verse 39). The word "perdition" shows plainly that the "drawing back" of the previous verse is a fatal and final one. Nevertheless, so far is verse 38 from establishing the doom of any child of God, the apostle assures the Hebrews that no such fate would overtake them. What is added here in this verse, was to prevent their being unduly affrighted with the solemn warnings previously given, and lest they should conclude that Paul thought evilly of them: though he had warned, he did not regard them as treading the broad road to destruction, instead he was "persuaded better things of them" (Hebrews 6:9 ). "Let it be noticed that this truth belongs also to us, for we, whom God has favored with the light of the Gospel, ought to acknowledge that we have been called in order that we may advance more and more in our obedience to God, and strive constantly to draw nearer to Him. This is the real preservation of the soul, for by so doing we shall escape eternal perdition" (John Calvin).
"In this the apostle expresses the fullest conviction that none of those to whom he wrote would apostatize. The case which he had been describing was only a supposable case, not one which he believed would occur. He had only been stating what must happen if a sincere Christian should apostatize. But he did not mean to say that this would occur in regard to them. He made a statement of a general principle under the Divine administration, and he designed that this should be a means of keeping them in the path of life" (A. Barnes). Christians may grow cold, neglect the means of grace, backslide, fall into grievous sins as did David and Peter; but they shall not "draw back unto perdition." No, they have been predestinated "to be conformed unto" the image of Christ (Romans 8:29 ), and God’s purpose cannot fail. They are the objects of Christ’s intercession (John 17:15 , John 17:24 ), and that is efficacious (John 11:42 ). They are restored by the good Shepherd when they go astray (Psalms 23:3 ).
As the term "perdition" denoted that eternal damnation is the doom of apostates, so the word "salvation" here has reference to that ultimate consummation of the portion of all true believers. It is to be carefully noted that the apostle did not say, "them that have believed to the salvation of the soul," but "them that believe to the saving of the soul." The difference is real and radical. There is a blessed sense in which every regenerated believer has been saved by Christ, yet there is also another and most important sense in which his salvation is yet future: see Romans 13:11 , 1 Peter 1:5 , 1 Peter 1:9 . The complete and final salvation of the Christian is dependent upon his continued trust in and obedience to God in Christ, not as the cause thereof, yet as the indispensable means thereto.
It is gloriously true that Christians are "kept by the power of God." He who prepares Heaven for them preserves them unto it. But by what instrument or means? The same verse tells us: "through faith" (1 Peter 1:5 ). To depend upon an invisible God for a happiness that awaits us in an invisible world, when in the meantime He permits us to be harassed with all sorts of temptations, trials and troubles, requires faith real faith, supernatural faith. Through faith alone can the heart be sustained till we obtain salvation. Nothing but a God-given and God-maintained faith can enable us to row against the stream of flesh and blood, and so deny its cravings that we shall win through to Heaven at last. The "flesh" is for sparing and pampering the body; but "faith" is for the "saving of the soul."
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent