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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Hebrews 2

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-18

XIX

CHRIST’S SUPERIORITY OVER ANGELS GOOD AND BAD

Hebrews 1:1-2:18.

In the first chapter on the exposition of the letter to the Hebrews, we considered Christ in his three sonships, showing that the Son of God by eternal subsistence, being the effulgence of God’s glory and the express image of his substance, and in that pre-existent state created the universe and all of these intelligences, and having created them he upholds them by his providence. Then we considered his second sonship, when he became the Son of God by birth of the virgin Mary in order to make purification for sins, and in that incarnate state he did make purification for sins. That in his third sonship he was the Son of God by his resurrection. We then followed his ascent into the heavens, in his disembodied spirit, presenting his blood as the basis for the atonement which he there made, followed by his exaltation a royal priest to the throne of the universe and his session there ruling and interceding. We then considered Christ’s superiority over the universe, that in the beginning he created it, and in his unchangeableness and the changeableness of the universe.


We then considered Christ’s superiority over the prophets of the Old Testament. They did give us a revelation as far as the Old Testament goes, but it was a fragmentary and diverse revelation. But the revelation he gave us completes theirs, and completes the canon of the Scriptures, and so he is superior to all the prophets.


So we come now to a new line of superiority: His superiority over the angels, good and bad. The question arises, Why introduce the angels in this discussion? Because the old covenant was given by the disposition of the angels, and inasmuch as the object of this letter is to show the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant, it is necessary to show that Christ is superior to the angels. That accounts for the introduction of the angels into the discussion.


Then arises our second question: On what points is Christ superior to the good angels? Evidently he is superior to them in his pre-existence as the image of God and the effulgence of his glory, because that was before there were any angels. Then he is superior in that he created the angles as well as other intelligences of the universe; creator is greater than creature.


But these are not the points of superiority upon whisk this letter principally dwells. It is his superiority in his second and third sonship, not his first, that is emphasized. This superiority is that of the incarnate man, or God man, and what he did in his incarnation. No angel ever made expiation of sin. It was impossible that an angel could make an expiation for the sins of man. But Jesus, whose deity in the flesh was recognized by the angels, and who was worshiped by the angels in his humanity, did in that humanity by sacrifice of himself make purification for the sins of the world – for the sins of his people. And our text tells us that because he made purification for the sins of the world and is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, he has obtained a more glorious name than the angels. For a little season in his second sonship he was lower than the angels, but in that second sonship, having expiated the sins of the world, and having been exalted into heaven, he obtains a greater name than any angel ever had. In other words, as expressed in a previous letter "The name that is above every name," "King of kings and Lord of lords." High above all principalities and powers, be received that excellent name.


In arguing upon that name, Paul takes up the beginning of the exaltation of Christ, and says, "Unto what angel did he ever say, ’Thou art my son – this day have I begotten thee?’" referring to his resurrection. No angel is the Son of God in that sense. And then he says again, "When he bringeth again his only begotten Son into the world," as he does at the resurrection in order to obtain his risen body, "let all the angels of God worship him," that is, he is the object of angelic worship as the risen Saviour of men. He carries on the thought further – that he is not only risen, but he attains to the state above the angels because God said to him, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." He never said that to an angel. And on that throne upon which he now sits – not the throne upon which he sat before he was manifested and became a man, but the throne upon which the risen Jesus sits today – on that throne he is superior to all angels. And Paul quotes Psalms 104:7: "And of the angels he sayeth, Who maketh his angels winds and his ministers a flame of fire: but of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; and the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity." That is the next point of the superiority.


The third point of the superiority is that, being so exalted to that throne, he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Knox said that when he died, if his heart were examined, this writing would be found on it: "Scotland." And I feel that stamped on my innermost being, ineffaceably on the tablets of my memory forever, are two pictures: One is Christ, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, the saddest man that ever lived. And the other is Christ anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, the gladdest man that ever lived, as it is presented again later in this book: "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:8). This was a recompense of gladness beyond that any other being in this world will enjoy. In Luke 15 we have some beautiful illustrations of this gladness of Christ:


A sheep is lost. Whose sheep? The Shepherd’s. Who goes after the sheep? The Shepherd. Who finds the sheep? The Shepherd finds it. What does the Shepherd do when he finds it? He rejoices over it. Whose is the greatest joy over the finding of the lost sheep? His is the greatest joy. When it says there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth, it does not mean that the angels were glad, but that there was joy in their presence. It is the Saviour that is glad – the one that saved the sheep.


Then there is the woman who lost the coin. Whose was it? Hers. Who found it? She. Which was the greater joy, hers or the neighbors’ whom she called to share it? It was hers. She called in her friends and they rejoiced with her, but their joy was not equal to hers.


In the last parable, the lost son, whose son was the prodigal? That old father’s. Whose was the joy when that prodigal son came home? It was the father’s joy. When it is said that Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows it means the same thing as what is said in Isaiah 53: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." If his joy be so great over one sinner, who can measure the height, and depth, and breadth of the gladness of Jesus Christ when that great multitude – that uncountable number out of every nation and tribe and tongue – gets safely home to heaven and God? We are glad if a sinner is converted under our ministry, but we are not as glad as Jesus is. I have no doubt the angels are glad, but they cannot have the joy that Jesus has, because angels did not make us, angels did not die for us, and angels did not make atonement for us. Let us never forget this point of superiority of Christ over angels. As Paul elsewhere expresses it: "The gospel of the glory of the happy God" (1 Timothy 1:11).


The superiority is evidenced again in Hebrews 1:14: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?” Theirs is a subordination in service. They did not save men, but they have a subordinate service of ministering to the saved.


The next point is a very fine one. The law was given by the disposition of the angels, and it had very high penal sanctions. But the gospel was given by Jesus Christ, and it has a higher penal sanction; the superiority is in the higher penal sanction. Commencing at Hebrews 2:1: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard." The point is that the punishment for rejecting the gospel is far beyond the punishment for rejecting the law.


When we get to Hebrews 10 the thought is brought out this way: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged 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?" First, he has trampled under foot the Son of God. This is sin against the Father, and is pardonable. Second, he has counted the blood of the everlasting covenant an unholy thing. That is sin against the Son, and is pardonable. Third, he has shown despite unto the Spirit of grace. That is sin against the Holy Spirit and hath never forgiveness. By so much as the light under the gospel is superior to the light under the law, by that much is the responsibility greater and the penalty severer. Why did Jesus say: "It shall be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the cities around the Sea of Galilee"? Because the cities around the Sea of Galilee heard the gospel from the lips of Jesus, and Sodom and Gomorrah did not hear that.


In the final judgment men are judged according to the light they have had. It is on that account that the man who rejects Christ will be condemned in the final judgment by the men that repented at the teachings of a prophet – an unwilling prophet – a prophet who preferred to see them swept away, but Jesus is greater than Jonah. Thus at the last great day the Ninevites shall condemn those who refused the gospel. So also the queen of Sheba, who came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the derived wisdom of Solomon, shall condemn those people who rejected the gospel – rejected the original and underived wisdom of the greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:41-42).


The next point of superiority is that the gospel is better accredited than the law was accredited. That is set forth in this passage: "Was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will." All we have to do in order to get at this point is to contrast the miraculous prodigies at the giving of the law on Mount Sinai with the miraculous confirmation of the gospel when the church was baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. There were the gifts of the Spirit; there was the power to speak with tongues, to heal the sick, to raise the dead. By that much is Christ superior to angels.


The next point of his superiority is presented in Hebrews 2:5 in these words: "For not unto angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak. But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man that thou are mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thine hands: thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet." That says that Jesus, in his humanity, for a little season lower than the angels because of the work that he did, will have subjected to him the world to come. That never was subjected to the angels. And what is the world to come? It is the world after the general judgment. Then will be fulfilled what is said in Psalm 8. Christ, as the Second Adam, enters into the possession of all the authority and dominion conferred upon the first Adam. The first Adam in his temptation lost all in a garden, turning it into a desert. Christ, resisting temptation in a desert, converted it into a garden.


Paul goes on to show that we do not yet see all things subjected to him. But we do see this much – that Jesus Christ, who in his flesh tasted death for every man, has been set upon the throne of authority in heaven and is waiting until that full promise shall be carried out, that all things shall be subjected unto him, as it is expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:25: "He must reign until all his enemies are put under his feet." That will put us into the world to come, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Death is not destroyed yet. Christ is up there reigning and bringing about the subjection of the world to come. In Psalm 110 we have this: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." When every enemy is put under the foot of Christ, all of our enemies are put under our feet, for Christ does not do that simply for himself; he does it for humanity; he does it that all who are under him may sit down with him on his throne, and every enemy is to be put under their feet.


And that leads us to the next point of superiority. Commence at Hebrews 2:10: "For it became him for whom all things, and through whom all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." The angels were not his brethren, but more scripture is quoted in confirmation of it: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." "I will not sit off and sing my song by myself, but I will sing it in the congregation," is the thought.


Now comes a very important question – to know when he did declare his name among the brethren, or sing among the brethren. The only place I know of in the New Testament so far is at the Lord’s Supper, where with his church memorializing his death for the sins of his people; at the conclusion of that service "they sang a hymn and went out." The hymn that they sang is what is called in the Psalms the great Hall el, or Hallelujah song. We find in the book ’of Psalms certain ones called Hallelujah songs. They were appointed to be sung at the festival of the Passover, this being the type of Christ causing the angel of death to pass over us. The Jews had sung that Hallel for ages at the annual paschal festival. So we know the hymn he gang when they went out from the Lord’s Supper.


And that proves that there was a church in existence then. In the church be sang.


The great fulfilment, however, will be when all of the redeemed are gathered together, as described in Revelation 19. Then is when they sing in the great congregation, the glory church: "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let the earth rejoice. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" That is the final fulfilment. The one in the church nucleus at the Lord’s Supper was a foretaste of it – a prefiguring of the one in the glory church.


In that world to come, presented to us in Revelation 21-22, after the last enemy is destroyed – our enemy, Christ’s enemy that word is not subjected to the angels, but we have a glorious picture of the New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens from God. Oh! the light of it, the joy of it! that is the world to come. But the thought is even finer than that. He has superiority over the angels not merely because the world to come is subjected to him and to his people, but because he gets nearer to us experimentally than an angel. Angels are fellow servants, but we are brethren of Christ. The angels minister to us, but they have not the sympathetic touch, that is, Gabriel is not my brother – he is my fellow servant, but not my brother. Christ is my brother, and that leads us to the last point of superiority as expressed in the end of that chapter, where he says, "wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted."


The angels cannot get close to you like that; they are not priests; they do not pass through that suffering and that temptation as he did; he took our place. We are born of woman; so was he. We have the helplessness of childhood; so had he. We confront hunger, cold, contradiction of sinners; so did he. And because he had these experiences that no angel ever did have, he can help us where no angel can. I have presented twelve special points of superiority over angels, and I am not through yet, because they are the points of superiority over the good angels.


We come now to consider his superiority over the bad angels, and let us see what they are: First, he successfully resisted all of Satan’s temptations, principally in the wilderness and in Gethsemane – two capital points at the beginning and ending of his earthly ministry. He successfully resisted Satan at the threshold of his public life. The first Adam did not. He fell. He was tempted in the Garden and turned it into a desert; Christ was tempted in a desert and turned it into a garden.


The second point is his victory over Satan on the cross. Hebrews 2:14 reads: "Since then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself, in like manner, partook of the same; that in death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." It was his mission to destroy the works of the devil. In these two conflicts he defeated Satan. In the three hours of darkness on the cross when God forsook him, and Satan and all of his demons shut out every light in the heavens, hovered around him and fought him to the death – there he obtained his final superiority over Satan. We learned in the letter to the Colossians that he triumphed over the principalities of power on the cross and made a show of them openly.


The imagery is that of a Roman general returning from a successful war over a national enemy of the Roman Empire and accorded a triumph therefore. His head crowned with laurels, in a snow-white chariot, drawn by snow-white horses, he comes to receive his crown. There is paraded before him the trophies that he won in the war – the jewels, the gold, the fine raiment. There come after, tied to his chariot wheels, the princes and nobles of that conquered land. And so he makes a show of them openly.


Moreover, he delivers all Satan’s captives – strips him of all his spoils. The idea of his superiority advances in Hebrews 2:16: "For verily not unto angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham." Our common version disguises that and says: "He took not on him the nature of angels." That is not the thought. His superiority over the bad angels is asserted in his excluding them from participation in salvation. He did not come down to this earth to save the devil and his demons – he came to save the spiritual seed of Abraham – and the devils are excluded from any participation in that salvation. Here comes up the question, "Does God love a sinner in hell?" the point of which is that wherever God loves, he loves remedially – his love is active. He does not love a fallen angel. "For verily not to angels doth he give help." No part of salvation for any fallen angel. So when sinners finally reject him they go to a place prepared for the devil and his angels and share their doom. If we strip his love of remedial activity, we take away the love itself.


The last thought of his superiority over the angels is this (this book does not present it, but I bring it in to make the arguments complete): Not only does he judge these fallen angels at the last great day, but he causes his people to judge them: "Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?" They are those who kept not their first estate, but are cast down in chains of darkness and are awaiting the last great day of judgment.


So over bad angels we have found these points: First, his successful resisting of Satan’s temptation. Second, his victory over Satan and his demons on the cross. Third, the deliverance of the prey that is in the hands of Satan, who has to turn loose all those that he had reigned over, for Christ plucks them out of his hand. Fourth, his exclusion of them from participation in salvation. Fifth, his final judgment of them and causing his people to judge them.

QUESTIONS

1. Why introduce the angels in this discussion?

2. What are two points of superiority of our Lord over the angels not especially discussed in Hebrews?

3. What are the particulars of our Lord’s superiority over the good angels as discussed in this book? (See analysis.)

4. What are the particulars of our Lord’s superiority over the bad angels? (See analysis.)

5. Prove that Jesus in his threefold sonship was worshiped by the angels.

6. Show his superiority in his expiation of sin.

7. Show his superiority in his inheritance.

8. Show his superiority in his enthronement.

9. Expound our Lord’s anointing with the oil of gladness, and illustrate by three parables in Luke 5.

10. Show his superiority in their subordination of service.

11. Show it in his confirmation of the angels.

12. Show it in his gospel compared with the law.

13. What two passages in this letter exhibit the higher order of the penal sanctions of the new covenant, and what the application of the second to the sin against the Holy Spirit?

14. Show this superiority in the fact that the gospel is better accredited than the law.

15. Show it in his sympathetic priesthood.

16. Show it in his becoming a brother to them whom the angels only serve.

17. Show his superiority over bad angels in his temptations.

18. Show it in his victory on the cross.

19. Show it in his delivering Satan’s victims.

20. Show it in his final judgment of them,

21. What is the Greek word for "congregation" in Hebrews 2:12, when was this prophecy first fulfilled, when the last and larger fulfilment, what hymn was sung at the first fulfilment, and what the bearing of the first fulfilment on the institution of the church in Christ’s lifetime on earth?

22. What is the difference in meaning between the common version rendering of Hebrews 2:16 and the revision, and what the bearing on the question, "Does God love a sinner in hell?"

23. What is the meaning of "world to come" in Hebrews 2:5?

Verses 1-3

XXIX

EXHORTATIONS AND SPECIAL PASSAGES

All New Testament exhortation is based on antecedent statement of doctrine. In Hebrews the whole letter is a succession of doctrines and exhortations – first a doctrine, then its application. In some respects, then, is it a model in homiletics.


1. It shows the relation between dogma and morals. There can be no morals apart from dogma. To leave out dogma undermines morality.


2. Dogma, as a mere theory, is valueless. Its power lies in its application to practical life, governing thought, emotion, imagination, words, and deeds in all of life’s relations to God home, country, and the universe.


The present-day ministry has deteriorated in the power of exhortation based on vivid conceptions of great and definitive doctrines concerning God, law, sin, salvation, heaven, and hell.


The first exhortation in this letter is an exhortation to earnest attention: "Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard?" (Hebrews 2:1-3). The doctrinal basis of this exhortation is all chapter I, setting forth our Lord’s threefold sonship, by eternal subsistence, by his incarnation, by his resurrection, and his threefold superiority over the universe, over the angels, and over the prophets. The precise tendency against which this exhortation warns is to "drift away" from great truths. Any steady lateral pressure which insidiously swerves a floating object from a given direction, and causes drifting, as a prevalent wind, an ocean current or undertow, rapids in a river leading to a fall, or the suction of a whirlpool. Inherited depravity, the course of this world, the temptations of Satan, the increasing power of evil habits until they become second nature – in a word, the world, the flesh, and the devil constitute the drifting power, or trend away from salvation. The danger of neglecting this exhortation is that we are carried away unwittingly until there is no escape forever. The great majority of life’s irreparable disasters are brought about by "drifting away" through "heedlessness" and "neglect."


The element of the greatness in this salvation is deliverance of the entire man, soul and body, forever, from the guilt, defilement, love, and dominion of sin, into an eternal and most blessed state of reconciliation and companionship with God. The historical argument against any hope of escape if this salvation be neglected is that from Sinai to Christ’s advent every word of the law disposed by angels proved steadfast, and every transgression was justly punished. The historical instances of this penalty of the law and of the prophets are numerous. The applied logic of this history is as follows:


By so much as Christ is greater than angels or prophets; by so much as his revelation is more complete and the light of his gospel brighter; by so much as it is better accredited; by so much as it is final where theirs was transitional and educational – by that much is its penalty surer and severer. The second exhortation (Hebrews 3:8) is against "hardening the heart." There is a relation between "drifting" and "hardening:" "Drifting" precedes and tends toward "hardening," which is a more dangerous state. By "hardening" is meant a blunting of the moral perceptions, a growing callousness to spiritual sensations, tending to the condition of “past feel- ing." According to the context "an evil heart of unbelief" operating through the "deceitfulness of sin" causes hardening. This deceitfulness consists in misconstruing the grace of delay in punishment as immunity altogether, as saith the prophet: "Because sentence against an evil deed is not speedily executed, the heart of the sinner is fully set in him to do evil."


The third exhortation is found in Hebrews 4:11 thus: "Let us labor therefore to enter into the rest." The doctrinal basis of this exhortation is that as God rested from creation, commemorating it by a sabbath day, so Jesus rested after the greater work of redemption, commemorating it by appointing a new day for sabbath-keeping.


The fourth exhortation (Hebrews 4:14) is this: "To hold fast to our confession." The doctrinal basis is the fact that Jesus, our High Priest, has entered into the heavenly holy of holies to make atonement and intercession for us.


The fifth exhortation (Hebrews 4:16) is to come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy and help in every time of need. The doctrinal basis of this exhortation is the fact that our High Priest is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, having been in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.


The occasion for the sixth exhortation is that they were in a state of arrested development, remaining "babes in Christ" when they ought to have been teachers, and so not only unprepared to receive the higher grades of Christian knowledge, but they were unable to discern between good and evil because their spiritual senses had not been exercised; hence they were continually tempted to try to rub out and make a new start from the very beginning (see Hebrews 5:11-14). This reminds us of the three classes into which our Lord divided his flock: (1) Lambs, Greek: arnia, i.e., new converts; (2) Sheep, Greek probata i.e., mature Christians; (3) Little sheep, Greek (best manuscript): "probatia," i.e., Christians stunted in growth (see John 21:15-19). These Hebrews were "little sheep."


The phrase "by reason of use" is illustrated by the senses or faculties, or muscles which increase in power by use, or go into bankruptcy by disuse. Certain Chinese families, training the sense of touch for generations, can tell colors of cloth fabrics in the dark by feeling. It is said also that certain Japanese dentists, by long training of the muscles of thumb and forefinger, extract teeth, using the hand alone as forceps. Again, the prophet, referring to the second nature of long continued evil habits, says "As the Ethiopian cannot change his skin nor a leopard his spots so one accustomed to do evil cannot learn to do well."


This sixth exhortation is to leave the first principles, not attempting the relaying of foundations, but go on to maturity, (Hebrews 6:1). The first principles of Christian oracles are the foundation of repentance and faith, the teaching of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2).


Repentance and faith are called a foundation because without them one can neither be a Christian nor be saved. Therefore the folly of attempting to relay this foundation, since it is never laid but once, which Paul hypothetically states thus: "For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance" (Hebrews 6:4-6).


This passage has several interpretations as follows:


1. John Bunyan held that the "enlightening," "tasting," and "partaking" of this passage refer to illumination and conviction by the Holy Spirit which did not eventuate in regeneration. This view the author rejects because the passage also supposes genuine repentance as well as "illumination" and "conviction," else why say it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance? Moreover, he disconnects the force of "being made partakers of the Holy Spirit" and "tasting of the powers of the world to come."


2. Dr. Wilkes, a Methodist preacher, as the author heard him say, held that the passage certainly taught two things: (1) A genuine Christian may lose regeneration; and (2) if he does he can never be converted again.


3. The author holds that "the enlightening," "tasting," and "partaking" are equivalent to regeneration, and that the passage does teach that if regeneration were once lost it could never be regained, because, having exhausted the benefits of Christ’s crucifixion in the direction of regeneration, another regeneration would call for another crucifixion, but Christ, as a sin offering, dies but once; he is offered once for all. So the passage teaches "’Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame." It would be an open shame to Christ if a beneficiary of his salvation should lose it and thus vitiate the certainty of the Father’s promise to him and covenant with him. But that the statement is hypothetic appears from the apostle’s added words: "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak"; "But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul." The object of the exhortation is so to influence the Christian to move on and not spend a lifetime as the foundation, for in any event this is folly.


To illustrate: Being present, as a visitor, at a Methodist meeting, I was invited to talk to some of the mourners. I approached a man who seemed to be weeping in great distress, and asked what was his trouble. His reply was, substantially: "I have been converted several times, but I always lose it." I assured him he was mistaken on one or the other of two points – either he was never genuinely converted, or he had never lost it – both could not be true. He replied: "I know I was converted, and I know I lost it." Then said I: "Why are you wasting time here; why shedding fruitless tears? If you are right on both points, then you are forever lost. You have exhausted the plan of salvation. Your only chance is for Christ to come and die again and send the Holy Spirit again, of which there is no promise, and even in that case there is no certainty for you unless he and the Holy Spirit should do more efficient work next time. I don’t desire to shake your positive, infallible knowledge that you have been regenerated and that you have lost it, but merely point out that in such case you are forever lost, just as certainly as if you were in hell now. Here, look at Hebrews 6:4-6, and see that I can do you no good, and so will pass on to cases not hopeless." "Don’t leave me," he said, "maybe I am mistaken on one of those points."


"Baptism" here is in the plural and there is a reference here, (1) To baptism in water (Matthew 28:19); (2) to baptism in fire, or eternal punishment (Matthew 3:10-12); (3) to baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5); (4) to baptism in suffering (Mark 10:39).


"The teaching of laying on of hands" refers: (1) To conferring of miraculous power by the laying on of hands of the apostles (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6), which, accrediting of the apostles passed away with the apostles; (2) to the abiding requirement of laying on of hands in the ordination (1) for deacons (Acts 6:6), (2) for evangelists (Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14); and (3) for other preachers (1 Timothy 5:22).


From a peculiar interpretation of Hebrews 6:1-2 there arose a sect known as the "Six-Principle Baptists" who practiced laying hands on those who were baptized as an essential part of the form of the ordinance.

QUESTIONS

1. What the New Testament method of exhortation?

2. In what respects, then, is it a model in homiletics?

3. Wherein has the present-day ministry deteriorated?

4. What is the first exhortation in this letter, and what is its doctrinal basis?

5. What is the precise tendency against which this exhortation warns?

6. What are the causes of drifting?

7. What, in plain terms, constitute the drifting power, or trend away from salvation?

8. What is the danger of neglecting this exhortation?

9. What is your estimate of the relative proportion of life’s irreparable disasters brought about by "drifting away" through "heedlessness" and "neglect"?

10. What the element of greatness in this salvation?

11. What is the historical argument against any hope of escape if we neglect this salvation?

12. Cite historical instances of this penalty (1) of the law and (2) of the prophets.

13. What is the applied logic of this history?

14. Against what is the exhortation in Hebrews 3:8?

15. What is the relation between "drifting" and "hardening?"

16. What do you understand by "hardening?"

17. What do we find in the context as a cause of "hardening?"

18. In what does deceitfulness consist?

19. What is the exhortation relative to rest, and what its doctrinal basis?

20. What is the exhortation relative to confession, and what its doctrinal basis?

21. What is the exhortation relative to our need, and what the doctrinal basis?

22. What is the occasion of the exhortation relative to perfection?

23. Into what three classes did our Lord divide his flock, and of which class were these Hebrews?

24. Ex-pound the phrase "by reason of use."

25. What, then, is the exhortation relative to perfection?

26. What are the first principles of Christian oracles?

27. Why are repentance and faith called a foundation?

28. What is the folly of trying to relay this foundation, and what the doctrine involved?

29. How does Paul hypothetically state this?

30. What are the several interpretations of this passage?

31. Give an incident of the use of this passage by the author.

32. What is the meaning of "baptisms" used in this passage?

33. What is the meaning of "laying on of hands?"

34. What sect of Baptists arose from a peculiar interpretation of Hebrews 6:1-2, and what their construction of "laying on of hands?"

XXX

EXHORTATIONS AND SPECIAL PASSAGES (CONTINUED)

The seventh exhortation in this book is as follows: "Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith – let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not – let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, exhorting one another" (Hebrews 10:22-25). The doctrines that underlie this manifold exhortation are, (1) Christ has rent the veil hiding the holy of holies by his death, and dedicated for us a new and living way. (2) We have a great High Priest over the house of God. (3) The day of his final coming is rapidly approaching (Hebrews 10:19-21).


Here a question arises, Does "having our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22) refer to water baptism, and if so, what the bearing of the teaching? It is not clear that it has such reference. But if it does, it strongly supports the Baptist teaching, to wit: Our souls are cleansed by the application of Christ’s blood by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Baptism in water only washes the body, and hence can only externally symbolize the internal cleansing. In this way Paul, internally cleansed, could arise and wash away his sins symbolically in baptism (Acts 22:16), or as Peter puts it: "Water, even baptism, after a true likeness doth now save us, not putting away the filth of the flesh [i.e., the carnal nature] but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). In other words, it is a figurative salvation, and the figure or likeness is that of a resurrection (see Romans 6:4-5). Paul’s reason for the seventh exhortation is expressed in the famous passage (Hebrews 10:26-29), the whole of which is an explanation of the eternal, unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit, very different from the gradual, unconscious sins of "drifting" and "hardening." Its conditions and characteristics are:


1. There has been great spiritual light and knowledge, thoroughly convincing the judgment of the truth of the gospel, and strongly impressing the mind to accept it.


2. It is a distinct and wilful rejection of the well-known light and monition of the Holy Spirit.


3. It is a culmination of sin against every person of the Trinity. (1) It is a sin against the Father in deliberately trampling under foot the Son of his love. (2) It is a sin against the Son in counting the blood of his expiation an unholy thing. (3) It is the sin against the Holy Spirit in doing despite to his grace who has furnished complete proof to the rejector’s conscience that it is God’s Son who is trampled under foot, and that the blood of his vicarious sacrifice alone can save.


4. Once committed, the soul is there and then forever lost, having never forgiveness in time or eternity, and knows that for him there is no more sacrifice for sin, and expects nothing but judgment and fiery wrath which shall devour the adversaries.


5. Let the reader particularly note that this sin cannot be committed except in an atmosphere, not merely of light and knowledge, but of spiritual light, knowledge and power, and that it is one wilful, malicious act arising from hate – hating the more because of the abundance and power of the light. The eighth exhortation is, "Cast not away your boldness" (Hebrews 10:35). The exhortation is based on appeal to their remembrance of the triumphs of their past experience. They had patiently endured a great conflict of suffering just after their conversion; they had been made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions cast on them and by their sharing in the afflictions of their leaders. This is evident from the history of Paul’s labors among men. There was nothing in their present afflictions severer than those they triumphantly endured in their earlier experience.


The ninth exhortation is, "Therefore, let us also, seeing that we are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls" (Hebrews 12:1-3). The imagery here is that of a foot race, such as these people had often witnessed in the Isthmian Games at Corinth, or in the great amphitheater at Ephesus. "The race set before us" – the great example upon whom the runner must fix his eye – is Jesus, the author (or captain) and perfecter of our faith.


The force of the example of Jesus in Hebrews 12:2 is this:


He is set before us as the one perfect model or standard. A joy was set before him as a recompense of reward that when attained would make him the gladdest man in the universe. For this he voluntarily became the saddest man in the universe. Thus "the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;" "He saw of the travail of his soul and was satisfied." Here we are confronted with this double question: Does the phrase, "author and perfecter of our faith," mean that Jesus first inspires and then completes our individual faith – i.e., what he begins he consummates – or that he is the captain and completer of the faith in the sense that his completed victory is both cause and earnest of our own victory, as in Hebrews 2:10? The latter best accords with the import of the Greek word, archegos, used both here and in Hebrews 2:10, and with the whole context.


The word "witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1 means martyrs whose examples should excite our emulation, and accords with the meaning and usage of the Greek word marturos, which makes them witnesses to the truth and not spectators of what other people may do. Moreover, the biblical evidence is scant, if there be any at all, that departed souls are allowed to sympathetically intervene in the struggle of those left behind. Yet, by rhetorical license, in the exercise of the imagination, a poet, orator or writer may summon the dead to appear before the living for dramatic effect. But we go far when we seek to construct doctrine on rhetorical license. What is the "besetting sin" in Hebrews 12:1? It may not be the same in all cases. It is the sin to which one most easily yields whether pride, lust, covetousness, anger, vanity, or any other.


The tenth exhortation (Hebrews 12:4-13,) is, "Regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, because (1) chastening is an evidence of sonship. (2) If we have borne arbitrary chastening from earthly parents, much more we will bear disciplinary chastening from our Heavenly Father. (3) While grievous at first, it yieldeth afterward peaceable fruit or righteousness, if rightly received.


Here come up the Creationist theory of the origin of human spirits and the Traducian theory. The Creationist theory is that the spirit of every human being born into the world is a direct creation of God, and only the body is derived from the earthly parent. The Traducian theory is that every child, in his entirety, spirit and body, is derived from his earthly parents, begotten in the likeness not only of bodily features but in spiritual state, otherwise man could not propogate his species, and every child would, in his inner nature, be born holy, not subject to inherited depravity and not needing regeneration until he became an actual transgressor hence needing only proper environment and training to grow up in holiness.


The passage in question is not decisive for either theory. God is the Father of spirits in that originally the spirit of man was not a formation from inert matter, but a special creation (see Genesis 2:7). Thus the whole race, body and spirit, was potentially in the first man, died body and spirit in him when he fell, and after his fall he "begat children in his likeness" body and spirit.


In Hebrews 12:12-13, "hands hanging down," "palsied knees," and "crooked paths" refer to the physical effects of spiritual depression or terror, the inner man acting on the outer. See case of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:6), and recall cases coming under your own observation in which discouragements or despondency of the spirit enfeeble the body. Some men, morally brave, are physically timid. A famous French marshal always trembled at the beginning of battle. On one occasion his officers rallied him on his shaking legs. He answered, "If my legs only knew into what dangers I will take them today, they would shake more than they do."


The eleventh exhortation (Hebrews 12:14 ff) is, "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." There are two hazards attending obedience to this exhortation, against which there are special cautions, as follows: (1) The springing up of a root of bitterness to defile many. (2) The spirit of profanity, or the despising of sacred things.


In our own experience or observation, cases arise of a single root of bitterness disturbing the peace of communities and retarding the sanctification of hundreds.


Profanity here means, not so much swearing as it does a spirit of irreverence in speaking of sacred things, and, sometimes interested lost souls are completely sidetracked by the levity and foolish jestings, and the questionable anecdotes of preachers in their hours of relaxation.


The author having often, in his early ministry, witnessed the wounding and shocking of sober-minded Christians and the loss of interest in awakened sinners caused by the foolish jestings in the preacher’s tent concerning sacred things, and sometimes by obscene anecdotes, entered into a solemn covenant with Dr. Riddle, the moderator of the Waco Association, never to tell nor willingly hear a doubtful anecdote. This covenant was made while camping out one night on the prairie in the light of the stars.


The twelfth exhortation and its doctrinal basis are found in Hebrews 12:28-29: "Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire.


I will group in classes the exhortation of Hebrews 13 as follows:


1. Love to brethren, strangers, and those in bonds.


2. Honor the sanctity of marriage.


3. Eschew the covetous spirit.


4. Hold in kind remembrance your leaders that have passed away.


5. Bear the reproach of Christ, even if it ostracises from worldly society.


6. Offer spiritual sacrifices of praise, confession, contribution, and prayer.


In closing this exposition there are two things worthy of note: First, The bearing of Hebrews 13:8 on the preceding verse, which means that preachers may come and go, but Jesus is ever the same. Second, The controversy arose over Hebrews 13:10, a controversy as to what is the Christian altar. Was it the cross on which Jesus was crucified? Then how can the altar be greater than the gift on the altar, as Christ taught? Was it Christ’s divinity on which his humanity was sacrificed? This controversy was a refinement of foolishness, because the altar under consideration is not supporting the expiating sin offering of which the priests were never allowed to have a part, but the altar to which non-expiatory offerings were brought, such as meat offerings, thank offerings, tithes etc. Of these the priests and Levites might partake. The meaning is simply this – that Christianity provides in its way for the support of its laborers through the voluntary offerings to Christ’s cause (see 1 Corinthians 9:13-14).

QUESTIONS

1. What is the exhortation in this book relative to faith, hope, and love?

2. What doctrines underlie this manifold exhortation?

3. Does "having our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22) refer to water baptism, and if so, what the bearing of the teaching?

4. How do you interpret Paul’s reason for this exhortation as expressed in Hebrews 10:26-29, which refers to the eternal sin?

5. What is the exhortation relative to boldness, and on what is it predicated?

6. What is the exhortation relative to weights, sins, etc., what its imagery, and what its elements?

7. What is the force of the example of Jesus in Hebrews 12:2?

8. What does the phrase "author and perfector of our faith" mean?

9. What is the meaning and import of "witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1?

10. What is the "besetting sin" in Hebrews 12:1?

11. What is the exhortation relative to chastening, and what its reasons?

12. What are the theories relative to the origin of human spirits, and what the bearing of this passage on the subject?

13. What is the meaning and force of "hand hanging down," "palsied knees," and "crooked paths?"

14. What is the exhortation relative to peace and sanctification?

15. What two hazards attending obedience to this exhortation?

16. Do you know of a case of a single "root of bitterness" disturbing communities and hindering sanctification?

17. What is the meaning of profanity here, and what illustration of the effect of such profanity given?

18. In what did Esau’s profanity consist?

19. What is the meaning of Hebrews 12:17? So, What the exhortation relative to grace, and what its doctrinal basis?

21. Group in classes the exhortations of Hebrews 13.

22. What is the bearing of Hebrews 13:8 on the preceding verse?

23. What controversy arose over Hebrews 13:10?

24. Why was this controversy a refinement of foolishness?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/hebrews-2.html.
 
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