Hebrews 10:1. The law having a shadow of good things to come. St. Paul, ere his epistles were engrossed, weighed his words, adjusted his thoughts, collated them with the prophets, and knew the support he had from rabbinical theology. The law was a shadow indeed, but a very imperfect shadow of the Messiah, and the glory of his kingdom. Some call it a rough draught of better things. By the law we understand the whole of the ancient economy, which was a shadow of future realities; and therefore believers are called heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 10:4-5. It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins — but a body hast thou prepared me. So David in the Spirit utters the words of Christ to the Father: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” Coccejus remarks here, “that Jerome in his Latin version, made from the LXX, reads, aures autem perfecisti mihi, thou hast perfected my ears.” Hence we gather, that the Greek was ωτια ears, and not σωμα, body. Such also is the reading of Cyril, and of Arnobius. Many of the comments on the fortieth psalm are to the same effect, corresponding with what the mystical sense seems to indicate. The ears of Christ were not opened, but his body was crucified, as a testimony of his obedience unto death. But as sacrifices were not accepted as perfect, the word “body” has obtained, that he might offer it up once for all on the cross.
Hebrews 10:7. In the volume of the book it is written of me. The Hebrew signifies the roll of a book, the engrossed parchments being often rolled on a staff. The Greek reads, “in the head of the book;” for the Messiah was the end of the law, and the theme of the prophets.
Hebrews 10:9-10. Lo, I come to do thy will, oh God — by the which will we are sanctified. Moses sanctified the altar, the vessels of the tabernacle, and all the people, by the sprinkling of the blood of atonement. Erasmus asks here, “But what is the will of God, who thus lothed the legal sacrifices of the old testament, and greatly desired the new kind of sacrifice? In truth it was, because of his unmerited goodness towards us, that his blessed Son, the Lord Jesus, should assume our body; and dying for the sins of the whole world, should purify all men by one sacrifice truly offered up for their sins; and in such conformity to the Father’s pleasure, as to need in future no other atoning sacrifice.”
Hebrews 10:14. By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Thus the Mediator has finished his work on earth; he has removed the curse, and procured the favour of God in all its characters of goodwill to men. There is a recurrence of these ideas in a dozen places of Paul’s epistles; for the glory of the atonement by a crucified Redeemer is the grand theme of all our preaching. Where there is remission of sins, there is no more offering required by the law.
Hebrews 10:19-20. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; confident that we shall not die, like Uzzah, who touched the ark. 2 Samuel 6:6-7. Numbers 4:15. Because also we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, by which we are brought nigh to God. Our great Highpriest has given us the glory of adoption, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. We therefore are safe in following him in the new and living way which he has opened to the throne of grace, and to eternal glory; the way never trod before, the way through the valley of the shadow of death to life everlasting.
Hebrews 10:22. Let us draw near with a true heart, to our illustrious Highpriest, sincere in faith, and fervent in piety, for he searcheth all hearts. Let us come in the full assurance of faith, as children come to their fathers’ door, and as knowing that he will in nowise cast us out. Let us come with hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and pray without any misgiving of mind, or any impurity in our hands, having our bodies washed with pure water. Though the waters of baptism and legal ablutions may cleanse the body with exterior purity; yet as Theophylact observes, Paul joins baptism with interior purity: “the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience.”
Hebrews 10:23. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. The promulgation of the gospel was attended with many difficulties; it found the heathen attached to the grossest superstition, and the jews prepossessed in favour of Mosaic rites and ceremonies. Some of the latter however appeared to embrace the gospel, but their prejudices so strongly inclined them to judaism, that Paul had many fears about their stedfastness in the faith. Though introduced to a more glorious dispensation, which gave a reality to their typical institutions, yet many of them, like their forefathers in the wilderness, were for going back again into Egypt. He therefore implores them to hold fast their profession without wavering. Including ourselves in the exhortation, it is clearly implied that what we profess must be the faith of the gospel, not any human creed, we may happen to have embraced, from education or from habit, but the truth as it is in Jesus, the doctrine of salvation by the cross, exclusive of every other ground of hope. This we are to hold fast as the only hope set before us in the gospel, the only name given under heaven whereby we can be saved; and so to hold it fast as never to let go our hold, though called to part with every thing besides.
Having embraced the truth, it is also incumbent to make a profession of our faith. These went together in the apostle’s time, nor do we read of any who understood and loved the gospel who did not openly avow it, though exposed to persecution and reproach. The promises of Christ may well encourage us to do it, and to join ourselves to his disciples, saying I also am the Lord’s. To induce Israel to follow him out of Egypt and into the wilderness, he promised them the land of Canaan. To those who follow him in the regeneration he has promised thrones, and a kingdom that fadeth not away. Him that honoureth me, I will honour; but he that despiseth me shall be lightly esteemed. Him that confesseth me will I confess before my Father and the holy angels.
Hebrews 10:24-25. Let us consider one another, or study to excite each other, to love, and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, through the incessant persecutions of the jews. In time of trouble men have the more need of means to support their faith; and especially in Jerusalem, where they saw the nation filling up their measure, and where they saw the dark cloud enveloping Zion in one eternal night. Let us stand fast, let no man fall away, lest we should drink the bitter cup of perdition.
Hebrews 10:26. If we sin wilfully — there remaineth no more, or as in Whitby, no other sacrifice for sin. If we sin wilfully by a total abjuration of Christ, and such as the jews required, after having received the five seals of regeneration enumerated in the sixth chapter. Moses in the law distinguishes sins of oversight and inadvertency, from presumptuous sins. Leviticus 15:27-30. אשׁר יעשׁה ביד רמה, who acts with a high hand, and walks contrary to God. And who can carry himself with a higher hand than he who denies the faith? Who can be more ungrateful to Christ; or who can fall lower than those apostates? The Novatians in Rome would not hold communion with the rich, who in time of persecution had fallen away, till they had undergone a course of penance, which induced some to scruple whether this epistle was really Paul’s, for this passage, as well as that in chap. 6., was quoted against them. But the fall to judaism, connected with the execration of Christ, was much worse than the fall of the richer christians at Rome.
Hebrews 10:27. Fiery indignation, the devouring fire mentioned in several other places. Isaiah 30:33; Isaiah 66:6. Mark 9:44; Mark 9:48. Revelation 14:11. Matthew 25:46.
Hebrews 10:34. Ye had compassion on me in my bonds. The church in Jerusalem took a great interest in Paul’s case when seized in the temple, to see him valiantly maintain the faith, and during the time, probably little less than two years, that he lay in chains at Cæsarea. It is then in vain for the unitarians to seek for any other author of this most luminous letter than Paul.
Hebrews 10:36. Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, in the first stages of repentance, faith and holiness, ye might receive the promise of life and glory on the Lord’s return. The seaman must persevere in his long voyage, and the husbandman must wait for the harvest.
Hebrews 10:37. He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. The believing Hebrews were too much like their fathers when Moses ascended the mount; they thought he tarried long, and “wot not what was become of him,” and so they made themselves gods to go back again to Egypt. Those in Paul’s day were for returning to judaism, for they saw not the promises fulfilled which they eagerly expected, forgetting that Jehovah’s plan is wide and large, embracing an infinitude of objects, and requiring a long time for its execution. The promise of Christ’s first coming was delayed four thousand years, during the whole of which period the church had to live by faith. The redemption of Israel out of Egypt required the lapse of four hundred years before it was accomplished, and after that they must wait seventy years for their return from Babylon. The Lord has promised great things respecting the spread of the gospel over all the earth, but we have to wait century after century, and to witness many disappointments and discouragements, before he brings his purposes to pass. Eternal life is promised to every believer, but we must live to see many painful afflictions and bereaving providences, before we ascend the mountain top, and behold the king in his beauty and the land that is very far off. Yet there is a certainty that all these promises will be fulfilled. The vision may seem to tarry, and the time appear long, but all will soon be over. Heaven will be the sweeter for having been waited for, faith and patience will have had their perfect work, and will at last be swallowed up in fruition and full enjoyment. The same may be said of all the promises. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12.
Hebrews 10:38. The just shall live by faith. The words are quoted from Habakkuk. Dr. Campbell of Aberdeen passes a censure on Beza for corrupting this text, by adding [quis] At si quis se subduxerit. The Greek is, και εαν υποστειληται ουκ ευδοκει. “And if he [the just and righteous, as in Habakkuk] draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.” Jerome reads, justus autem meus ex fide vivet, but my just or righteous man shall live by faith; but if he shall draw back he shall not please my soul. So also the Mons version, copying most of the latin versions, Que s’il se retire, &c. Beza therefore stands alone in his attempt to confuse the sense, and enfeeble the force of the text; whereas a translator should, if possible, give his version in the full and happiest sense of the original.
All those distinguishing facts being established, viz. that the ceremonial law was only a shadow of better things, that it could not in any view perfect the worshipper, and that Christ was made the Highpriest and mediator of a better covenant, it follows that we should gratefully turn to the Lord Christ who willingly came to offer up his holy body, and to do the Father’s will. So we have explained this passage in the fortieth psalm.
By this will, or good pleasure of the Father, we are sanctified. Whatever ways there might be of showing mercy to fallen man, and we know not of any but by Christ, it pleased God to appoint and to accept of this alone. Because the Son came expressly to do the will of God, he was so delighted with this free and perfect obedience, as to loathe and supersede the rituals. Yea, and as Erasmus paraphrases Hebrews 10:14, he need not offer up himself again, for by this one offering he sufficiently perfected all those for ever who desire to be sanctified, so that not one of their old sins can be laid to their charge.
In consequence of a better covenant, we have greater confidence in our approach to God. Such is the apostle’s inference. Let us draw nigh to God with a true heart, a heart honestly hating sin, and sprinkled with atoning blood: let us draw near in full assurance of faith. Can God do all this for sinful man, and then spurn him from his door? Can the Redeemer weep, and bleed, and die, and after all deny a pardon to the penitent? Can he spread a table of bounty to the hungry, and deny the bread of life to the suppliant? Oh no. Let us come with boldness as children who are not inconscious of their parents’ love; for the reception of sinners shall be life from the dead, and joy to the angelic world. How glorious are our privileges, how transporting is the grace, how elevated the glory of our christian calling. The grand point is, to be holy, as he that hath called us is holy.
The means are connected with the end. Let us not forsake the public worship of Christ for that of the synagogue; or recreations, or company, for God is there. There his people pray, there we shall be assisted in knowledge, and there we shall be blessed. Let us do this the more, as the end of all things is at hand, even as the end of the jewish temple was near. Let us take the weary by the hand, for the crown is just before us.
Our grand caution is against all wilful and presumptuous sins; and though the words refer especially to apostasy, all wilful sin must be dreaded as the most dangerous of calamities. We must in that case be judged by the same Supreme that punished the despiser of Moses’s law. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of this God, who is a consuming fire to presumptuous sinners, as he was to Korah and his company.
The just shall live by faith, in every acceptation of the word. They shall live by justification, in defiance of the law which denounces death against the guilty. So St. Paul has used the word in Galatians 3:11. Habakkuk also intimated that the jews could not be justified by works. They shall live temporally by faith, as God marked his own sighing people before the destroying angel by sword and famine went through Jerusalem. Ezekiel 9:4. Mark 8:34-38. They shall also live spiritually by faith. The old man of sin and death shall be crucified, and the inner man of the heart shall live through righteousness, and be revived day by day. Thus the life that St. Paul lived in the flesh was by the faith of the Son of God. This is that life eternal which flows from the knowledge and love of God.
We must consequently dread apostasy; and from the cautions given in Hebrews 6:6-20, we must beware of drawing back from the faith. The wretch who does this, tramples on Christ as an impostor, and accounts his blood wherewith he was redeemed, or sanctified, a common thing, and despitefully slanders the Spirit of grace. These three passages certainly speak in a most moving and pathetic strain to all believers, to shun the slightest approach to those unhappy characters who draw back unto perdition.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany