Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 6

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Hebrews 6:1-3 The higher doctrines of Christianity are proposed to be treated of.

Hebrews 6:4-9 The guilt and danger of apostacy.

Hebrews 6:10 Charitable deeds will not be forgotten of God.

Hebrews 6:11,Hebrews 6:12 An exhortation diligently to imitate the faith and patience of those who inherit the promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 The promise of God to Abraham a sure ground of hope.

Verse 1

The Spirit having reproved these Hebrews for their fault, doth now counsel and direct them to amend it.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ; seeing ye have lost so much time already, and made so little progress in learning Christ, let us not therefore stay any longer in the principles of it, but proceed to some higher degree: pursuant to which he layeth down the principles of Christian doctrine in which these Hebrews had been initiated, and the doctrine of perfection which they were to pursue.

Leaving is an omitting or letting go, as to any sticking or standing in, so as to make no further progress, but to gain higher degrees of knowledge in the doctrine of the gospel, which enters novices into Christ, having attained the beginning, the matter or work of entrance into the Christian religion, now not to stick at this first and imperfect inchoation in this doctrine.

Let us go on unto perfection; a regular motion must succeed, according to the great Mover, incessantly, for our attaining the perfection of the doctrine of Christ. This perfection notes height of knowledge, faith, utmost repentance and spiritual change, greatest strength of understanding, and the fullest operation, according to the doctrine of Christ, in doing and forbearing, the fullest perseverance of the mind in the knowledge of it, and of the will in cleaving to it.

Not laying again the foundation: that which would hinder this was reiterating foundation work, which the apostle laid with them by initiating of them into the first principles of Christianity, the knowledge and faith of which they professed to receive, 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20, and were therefore obliged to proceed in the building both of persons and truths on it: and lest they had forgot, or other’s were ignorant, what those fundamental principles and doctrines of the gospel were, he layeth down six heads of them in this and Hebrews 6:2, which was the common method of teaching either the children of Christians or infidels, that they might be Christians, at least professedly, or upon their lapse to restore them.

Of repentance from dead works: the first Christian principle or doctrine to be learnt, was that of repentance, which is the fundamental change of a sinner’s mind, and, in that, of himself; it carrieth in it knowledge, conviction of sin by God’s law, bitter sorrow for it, and full conversion of the soul to God from it, as it is described, 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; as from all sinful works flowing from it while lapsed from God; dead in sins, which would have eaten out and destroyed their souls for ever, Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1,Ephesians 2:2. It supposeth the knowledge of other truths preceding it, as their creation in God’s image, their apostacy from it, the misery consequent. &c. These Hebrews were to proceed and advance daily in the exercise of this grace.

And of faith towards God: the second Christian principle or doctrine is of faith on God, comprehending the habit and acts of that Divine grace, of evidence, subsistence, assent, and affiance, Hebrews 11:1, all the effects of it; and this exercised on God in his essence, relations, especially in his gracious contrivance and execution of the work of redemption for sinners; as giving reconciliation, righteousness, holiness, adoption, and eternal salvation, through Christ, fulfilling all righteousness by his death, as a sacrifice satisfying his justice, and meriting, as purchasing, all these blessings for believers, and effectually from heaven is dispensing them to them.

Verse 2

Of the doctrine of baptisms: the third fundamental doctrine in which these Hebrews were initiated was, the doctrine of baptisms; containing in it the doctrine which baptism teacheth, as that of the covenant of grace, of which it is a sign and seal, and of their entering into it who partake of it, which, as to its duties and privileges, is sealed and confirmed: and the doctrine in which baptisms are taught, as that of Christ by water and by the Spirit, Matthew 3:6 John 3:5; and containing in it the doctrine of the seals of God’s testament, distinct from the other doctrines of faith; by the use of which, such who had solemnly professed their repentance, and faith and obedience to the gospel, were sealed and confirmed.

Baptisms, in the plural, raiseth the doubt, whether it immediately concern the initial seal of the covenant, which some say is so styled as a Hebraism, the plural number being put for the singular; or, from the numerous partakers of it at set times, which were called days of baptisms, or from divers administrators, and the baptisms of believers and their seed, and that so they were many. Others would make these to be Jewish baptisms, frequently used by these Hebrews, as elements to teach faith and repentance, and leading them to the further knowledge of Christ. And the more they suspect this, because these baptisms are used but four times in the New Testament, and always signifying Jewish ones, as Hebrews 9:10, and Mark 7:4,Mark 7:8.

And of laying on of hands: the fourth fundamental doctrine, or principle, was, the imposition of hands, which by Christ and his apostles were used either for healing diseases, Mark 6:5; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8, or communication of blessing, Matthew 19:13,Matthew 19:15, or for the communication of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, to such who were separated for Christ’s service in his church, Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; Acts 8:3; Acts 19:5,Acts 19:6; and so take in all the saving fruits of the Holy Ghost, by which they are renewed, increased, strengthened, and built up into everlasting life. Others would make this a primitive rite of confirming the baptized grown up, on the confession of their faith, and renewing their covenant with God, which was made for and with them in their infancy, and so was a preparatory admission of them to communicate with the church in the Lord’s supper. If other places of Scripture did concur with it, it would be more clear and satisfactory. Some look on them, as baptisms before, to be Jewish rites, which should here lead them to Christ; but, on their neglect of him, became beggarly elements, and such as they are called from here unto higher attainments in Christ.

And of resurrection of the dead: the fifth fundamental principle and doctrine of Christianity, in which they were initiated, is, the doctrine of resurrection from the dead. This, as to the propriety and fulness of it, is at the last day; yet the entrance into this is begun in a new life effected by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, John 5:25-29; Romans 6:3-13. From this entrance are they called to make out to the full resurrection of the just, as the apostle did himself, Philippians 3:10-12. This article of the gospel doctrine all Christians were to be founded in, and especially these Hebrews, because it was denied by the Sadducees among them, Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:6-8, derided by the Athenian philosophers, Acts 17:18,Acts 17:31,Acts 17:32, and perverted by heretics, 2 Timothy 2:17,2 Timothy 2:18; and is therefore particularly asserted, as described by this apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.

And of eternal judgment; the sixth fundamental doctrine and principle of Christianity, into which they were to be initiated, was that of the general judgment, finally determining the believers of it to their rewards, the deniers of it to their eternal punishment, because the one hath observed, the other violated, the covenant of grace. These Hebrews had begun to reach this truth, by being reconciled to their Judge, and therefore are to proceed to perfect their work to the Lord’s glorious appearance, Hebrews 9:27,Hebrews 9:28; Acts 17:31; 2 Peter 3:7,2 Peter 3:10,2 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:6,Jude 1:14,Jude 1:15; Revelation 20:11-15.

Verse 3

This connects the prime cause promoting this progress, and by whom alone it can be effected, as well as his resolution of finishing his discourse of the ministry of Christ’s priesthood.

And this will we do; we will really, certainly, and constantly, leave our entrance into these Christian, fundamental principles, and proceed unto perfection in them; all of us real Christians will do this. Others make it a purpose of the apostle to handle these doctrines at another season, and that he will now proceed to instruct them in the higher mysteries of Christ and the gospel, and so finish his designed discourse about them.

If God permit; whether it refers to their proceeding from the knowledge of the Christian principles to the perfection of knowledge, or of growth in Christian graces, or of the apostle’s proceeding to open to them the higher mysteries of the gospel, it is not a kind of passive letting things to be done, or giving leave only; God is not subject to so weak a condition: but it is all act, noting God’s assistance as well as permission; for all persons and things are in his power, who worketh to will and to do, Philippians 2:13. But as to a progress in Christianity and reaching the perfect man, &c., Ephesians 4:13, if he, the Lord of all knowledge and grace, hath delight in us, and will work this grace in us, then we shall do this, even go on unto perfection, Hebrews 12:2; Hosea 14:5; Malachi 4:6; 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Verse 4

The foregoing counsel the Spirit enforceth on these Hebrews, from the danger of apostacy, to which the neglect of it doth dispose them, and the terrifying consequents of it, from Hebrews 6:4-8. We must go on to perfection, unless we will draw back to perdition: so that he bespeaks them: You have been sluggish and dull, and going backward already; lest you grow worse, stir up yourselves; if you neglect it you are in danger of utter falling away:

for it is impossible, not in respect of God’s absolute and almighty power, but in respect of any created power in others or themselves, justly, and by right, it is impossible, because contrary to God’s declared will and resolution in his church, by which his power is limited, so as he will never do it, nor suffer it to be done; in this he will not, cannot deny himself, Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 11:6; compare Matthew 7:18; Matthew 19:24,Matthew 19:26; 2 Timothy 2:13.

For those who were once enlightened: φωτισθεντας, several interpreters render, the baptized, who were illuminated with the beams of Divine light; others, the penitent, such who had been initiated into repentance, as Hebrews 6:1, and think the term once may be limited to baptisms, whereas it refers to all the other particulars. These are such who are instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, and brought out of the darkness and ignorance of Judaism and heathenism, so that they were other persons for the knowledge of gospel truths than before: they see with a new light spiritual things, and have the mind raised up to such objects as thcy knew not before; but they have no new eyes or understandings given them, and so are but as devils like angels of light, whereas the light of a real Christian is the light of life, John 8:12; see 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:19. Such some Hebrews professed themselves to be, Romans 2:17-19; and as Balaam was, Numbers 24:2,Numbers 24:3.

And have tasted of the heavenly gift; an act of sense in the body, put metaphorically for an act of the mind. Tasting in the soul, is an apprehension and reception by it, and but merely such, and no more; a taste, and not a digestion, of Christ and his benefits as revealed to them in the gospel, John 4:39,John 4:40, followed with the superficial relishes of their joy and peace on their temporary believing in them, as it was with the stony ground, Matthew 13:20. A sinner enlightened so as to see Christ and the glorious promises made to believers in him, it being agreeable to his natural principles, and being not much humbled, runs away with them with joy, having good desires and affections, but a stony heart still: such was Herod, Mark 6:20.

And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; not by an inhabitation of his person in them, but by his operations in them, whereby he is trying how far a natural man may be raised, and not have his nature changed: as is evident in Socrates, who died for owning the unity of the Deity; and as the scribe near the kingdom of heaven, Mark 12:34. He is proving by his gifts to them how much supernatural good, and workings towards salvation, they are capable of, without the putting forth of the exceeding greatness of his power to make them new creatures, as Genesis 6:3; compare 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Peter 3:18-20. These did partake of from the Holy Ghost, the light of nature, of the law, of the gospel, with some spiritual power accompanying all these; which as they are trials of lapsed nature, so are lessening many punishments by keeping men off from many sins, as 2 Peter 2:20. These professors had escaped the gross and outward pollutions and defilements that many were drenched with in their lives, but have lusts abiding unmortified, from whence these would arise in them still; but here is no pure heart or divine nature wrought in them, and the lusting principle is unmortified still; this God accepts according to its kind: compare Mark 10:21,Mark 10:22.

Verse 5

And have tasted the good word of God; so as to relish comfort and sweetness in the doctrine and promises of the gospel through self-flattery; for these hearing of pardon of sin, and crediting it, are filled with joy by it; as a condemned malefactor, hearing of a general pardon, believeth himself to be one of the pardoned, and rejoiceth in it: see Matthew 13:20,Matthew 13:21; Luke 8:13. So did many of the Jews rejoice in John’s doctrine, John 5:35.

And the powers of the world to come; thus some of them were affected with the powerful doctrines of the gospel, concerning the final judgment, as their natural conscience was wrought on by the Spirit in the word, that they feel it as it were begun in them, the sparks of the wrath of God having set their consciences in a light flame for their sins, as in a Felix, Acts 24:25. As on the other hand, being acquainted by the Spirit in the word, of Christ’s being a Redeemer, to save them from the wrath to come, and to instate them into happiness, beyond what is attainable on earth; self-love doth externally close with the revelation and apply it to itself, as Balaam did, Numbers 23:10. All these five instances are the workings of the Holy Spirit on corrupt nature for its improvement, and in their falling from these supernatural operations, they do sin in tanto against the Holy Ghost.

Verse 6

If they shall fall away; a falling away, or apostatizing, in proportion like Adam, such a παραπτωμα as his was, Romans 5:15-17, whereby they are totally unchristianed, as he was turned into a sinner; perfidiously revolting from all those supernatural workings of the Holy Ghost, whereby their natural spirit was elevated, but not changed, unto their old swinish and canine temper of spirit and course of life that they led before they professed themselves Christians, as 2 Peter 2:18-22. They freely forsake their professed Christian state, and make shipwreck of all; Jude 1:4,Jude 1:10,Jude 1:16,Jude 1:18,Jude 1:19. Whether παλιν, again, ought to be referred to falling away, so as to denominate the apostate no Christian, as he was at first, before his profession, or to renewing following, it makes no difficulty, for it is a real truth in both parts; only interpreters generally refer it to the latter, as do ours, and so we shall consider it.

To renew them again unto repentance; they cannot renew and bring themselves to the same state they enjoyed, and from which they fell; nor can the Christian ministry do it by their exhortations or counsels, thunders or comforts; the offended, wronged Spirit withdraws, and will not assist or elevate theirs to act above nature again, Genesis 6:3; Isaiah 63:10; but leaves them justly to themselves, so as he will neither by himself, nor by others, suffer it to be done having limited his power by his will in it. They shall neither have a new principle infused into them, nor their minds or hearts changed by him to repentance, because they have undervalued his lower operations and motions on their souls, revealing Christ to them through the gospel, and have by their sinful negligence not improved them to seek from him the better and higher ones which he mentions, Hebrews 6:9,Hebrews 6:10, and were to be effected by the exceeding greatness of his power.

Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh: that which renders this renovation of them impossible, is their ill treatment, by their apostacy, of their Redeemer, who was to bring them as children to glory, which they by the gospel knew, and by profession owned him ascended and sat down on the right hand of God, and who had, by the operation of his Spirit, elevated their natural principles so to discern him, and to confess him: by this their apostacy they look on him as an impostor and deceiver, as 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4, and deny him to be a Saviour to them, rejecting his sacrifice, and would, as much as in them lieth, dethrone him, and, if he were within their reach, would crucify him again, and tread him under their feet, as Hebrews 10:29, and actually do it to him in his members; as the apostate Julian did in former ages, and the papists do at this day.

And put him to an open shame; παραδειγματιζοντας, making him a public shameful example, as the Jews did by the most cruel and ignominious death, with all their reproachful carriages to him then, which he despised, Hebrews 12:2, and in which his are to imitate him, Hebrews 13:13; so do these apostates verbally and practically blaspheme and disgrace him; in their esteem vilifying him, and by their apostacy put him to an open and public ignominy, and make him a spectacle of the vilest reproach, as if they could find no good in him, and therefore renounced him; and this to the condemning and destroying of themselves, since they cannot repent, Christ having not purchased it for, nor God promised it to, any such: so as by the law of his kingdom their sin is irremissible, the blood of Christ, that could only remove it, being profaned and trampled on by it, and so their final destruction unavoidable.

Verse 7

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it: for is narrative here, and not rational, introducing a parabolical illustration of the states and ends of truly regenerate Christians, and unregenerate apostates; as if he said: You have heard the good of true perfect Christians, and the evil of apostates, you need not to be offended at it, or wonder, for it is with them even as with the earth, which is the good ground in Christ’s parable, Matthew 13:8; Luke 8:8, and which he interpreteth to be a good and an honest heart, Luke 8:15, renewed in a sinner by the Holy Ghost, naturally of the same mould with all others, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26,Ezekiel 36:27. As the earth drinks up the showers moistening and fructifying it; Psalms 45:9,Psalms 45:10; so this good and honest heart receiveth the spiritual dews and rain descending from heaven on it in the word and ordinances, as Deuteronomy 32:2.

And bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed; it bringeth forth all sorts of fruits for those who dress it, according to God’s institution, Genesis 1:11,Genesis 1:12; Genesis 2:5,Genesis 2:6. So these good souls bring forth fruit which God relisheth and delighteth in as suitable to his husbandry, Matthew 13:23; compare 2 Peter 1:5-8; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 5:22,Galatians 5:23; and such as the great manurer of souls expects from them, 1 Corinthians 3:6,1 Corinthians 3:7,1 Corinthians 3:9.

Receiveth blessing from God; this good ground is made fruitful by God’s blessing; and the more fruitful it is the more blessing it receiveth, Genesis 27:27. This fruitfulness is not the meritorious cause of this blessing, for that issueth from grace; but it qualifieth these good hearts for it, i.e. the continuance to such souls of the means of grace, and their increase in spiritual comforts, till they reach the perfection of blessing from God in eternal life, Hebrews 6:9.

Verse 8

But that which beareth thorns and briers: δε but, introduceth the state and end of a sinful apostate, that ill earth, showered upon as well as the good; the unregenerate soul, that had gospel dews and spiritual rain by the word and ordinances dropped down on it from heaven; yet bringeth forth, or out of it, not herbs or fruits fit for its owner or dresser, but briers, thorns, and thistles: so apostates, under all enlightenings and tasting of these supernatural dews of the Spirit, bring forth from a stony, unregenerate soul, nothing but corruptions and evils, their rooted lusts thrust out and sprung together with their common gifts, Luke 8:7,Luke 8:13,Luke 8:14; the words and deeds of whom are pernicious, dishonouring God and hurting men, as unbelief, hypocrisy, apostacy, described, 2 Peter 2:1-3,2 Peter 2:12,2 Peter 2:14,2 Peter 2:18-22; Jude 1:4,Jude 1:8,Jude 1:10,Jude 1:12,Jude 1:16,Jude 1:19.

Is rejected; αδοκιμος it is refuse land neglected by the owner, he takes no care of it; such are these apostates, of a reprobate mind, approving evil, rejecting good, and are so rejected of God, who withdraws his spiritual dews and ordinances, and the concurrence of his Spirit with them, as unworthy of them, and useless as to any good fruit to be produced there.

And is nigh unto cursing; such are looked upon as the mountains of Gilboa, accursed, 2 Samuel 1:21; and to be dealt with by the owner as the fruitless fig tree by Christ, Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:21. So these apostates are under the curse, 2 Peter 2:14 delivered up judicially by Christ to blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, and even to Satan himself, as the unbelieving Jews were, John 12:40, and those apostates, 1 Timothy 1:19,1 Timothy 1:20.

Whose end is to be burned; the end of briers and thorns is the fire, they are to be burnt up by it; and this will be the final issue with apostates, to be destroyed by a Christ whom they have rejected, with eternal fire Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 12:29; Matthew 3:12; Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

Verse 9

For preventing of the application of this discourse unto themselves, the apostle subjoins his judgment concerning these Hebrews in this verse, and his reason for it in the next.

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you; although we have spoken of the attainments, states, and ends of apostates, we reflect not on you by it; but, or notwithstanding, we are persuaded; which word imports not a simple conjecture, for he had the gift of discerning of spirits, and the Holy Ghost, who indites it, did very well know them, so as he was confident of their good state and condition in Christianity, and the Spirit testified so of them by the Epistles of the other apostles directed to them; they were well assured of this, and certain, not only because they were such whom he dearly loved, as if it were only a good or charitable opinion in him, but because of their relation to him as true Christians, and members of the one body of Christ; and so they were very dear to him, whatever they might fear, because of what he wrote before of apostates, for they had better things in them than enlightenings, &c. which he said were in apostates before, Hebrews 6:4,Hebrews 6:5, even the saving work of the Spirit on their souls, not by giving them light only, or raising their affections, but by giving them a new eye of understanding, as well as new light, and with it a renewed heart; Christ having by the exceeding greatness of his power made them new creatures, as well as professing Christians; their minds, wills, and affections being all changed, and made truly spiritual by the Spirit of Christ; and which they manifest by the exercise of real graces, and that their light, state, and end is better, more excellent, and of another kind, than that of apostates, evinced Hebrews 6:10.

And things that accompany salvation; such things as have salvation in them, even the spiritual mind, which hath eternal life in the root of it, Romans 8:6,Romans 8:10,Romans 8:11,Romans 8:16,Romans 8:17. That Divine nature, which the apostle saith was in the same persons, 1 Peter 1:1-5; 2 Peter 1:1-4; which shows the state of their spirits to be a state of grace, which had salvation in it, secured by promises to it, so as they are inseparable, and their union not to be dissolved.

Verse 10

For introduceth the reason of the apostle’s former persuasion concerning them, which was the real graces of faith and love to God wrought in their hearts, and shown in their work, which was better than all enlightenings.

God is not unrighteous; the affirmative is implied, God is just, and faithful, and true, in performing what he promiseth, as well as not unrighteous: the certain truth is asserted in this emphatical negative; compare 2 Thessalonians 1:6,2 Thessalonians 1:7, with 1 John 1:9; should he not perform he would be unjust.

To forget your work: God always remembers all things, because his knowledge is perfect; and he will take notice of grace in these Hebrews manifested by their works, so as to recompense and reward them for it, by perfecting his gracious work in them; which having promised, the apostle is confident of the good estate of them through grace, Philippians 1:6. He will never forget the work of your faith in his name, your courageous profession of the gospel, Galatians 5:6; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; a grace of God in them which made their souls delight in him, such as was purely Divine, beginning and ending in God, carried out in the labour and exercise of it to his glory, showing it in all the supplies they give his in his name, to Christians as they are his, Mark 9:41.

And labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister: their labour of love was evidenced by what they had done, and were doing, for Christ, in their using all effectual means for supplying, comforting, preserving, and delivering his members, giving their goods to them, and their lives for them, 1 John 3:10-18. So the apostle asserts these did, Hebrews 10:32-34. So did Aquila and Priscilla love Paul, Romans 16:3,Romans 16:4. And this they did show to such as were God’s children, and bore his name, the present suffering Christians, who endured rifling, plundering, banishing, imprisonment, and death for their faith in Christ’s name: those brethren who, being loved in and for God, do evidence to these Hebrews that they are passed from death to life, 1 John 3:14.

Verse 11

And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence: having thus commended them, to show he did not flatter them in it, he discovereth what was wanting in them, and introduceth it with the particle But, we desire you; επιθυμουμεν properly signifieth the inward affection and strong desire of heart that the apostle had of their further profit. The Spirit lusted in him for this, Galatians 5:17, which was not only convenient for them, but necessary for their perfection. And this desire of his was not for all promiscuously, but that each single person who was a lover of God and his saints, should use all means diligently, as they had in degree done before, to have this perfected to the end of their life, 2 Peter 1:5-10. It is an earnest agitation and hastening of spirit within, and a demonstrative discovery of the same without to the utmost, Romans 2:7.

To the full assurance of hope unto the end; their souls with full sails constantly making out after this most certain and full assurance of faith, to the excluding of every doubtful thought of the truth of God and his promises, and of hope, shutting out all wavering, unsettledness, or impatience in waiting for the accomplishment of the good, which is secured by the merit and intercession of Christ, the purpose, promise, and oath of God to them, Hebrews 10:22,Hebrews 10:23; compare Romans 4:21; Colossians 1:24.

Hope here is not synonymous with faith, yet its certain concomitant; and is a vehement desire and longing after, with a patient expectation of, what is possible and sure to be enjoyed, because God hath promised and sworn it; though it be at never so great a distance, yet to be communicated by him to his in his best time, Hebrews 11:1; compare Romans 4:13; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:3,1 Peter 1:13,1 Peter 1:21. This Christian diligence must continue to the end of their own days, and the perfection of their grace in glory, until they come unto the entire possession of what they believed, hoped for, and were fully assured of, Romans 6:22; 1 Peter 1:9,1 Peter 1:13.

Verse 12

That ye be not slothful: if you will be diligent, away with sloth: you are inclined to it, Hebrews 5:11, and though you be quick in affection, yet slow in understanding the mysteries of God; and though you have laboured, yet not with that intense labour to which he here presseth them, even to an utter abolition of all the degrees of sloth.

But followers of them; mimhtai, strictly, imitators, in diligence and pains-taking, of the believers who have performed this duty before you.

Who through faith and patience inherit the promises: in their graces imitate them, as in faith, by which they rested on, as credited, God’s promises revealed to them of things invisible, excellent, and distant, and which by no creature power but only God’s could be attained, Hebrews 11:1,Hebrews 11:9,Hebrews 11:10,Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 13:7. In patience, because the things promised are future, and at a great distance from them, waiting for them, suffering many evils from many, passing through fire and water, Isaiah 43:2, and staying God’s leisure to obtain them, Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 12:1; Romans 15:4,Romans 15:5; James 1:3. Those they were to imitate, were heirs of blessed promises, Hebrews 6:14, of spiritual blessings in Christ, the blessed Seed, in whom themselves and all nations were to be blessed, Genesis 22:18. It may be queried: How did Abraham inherit the promises, when he did not receive them, as is testified, Hebrews 11:13? This is certain as to the promises of spiritual saving, and universal concernment to them, as of justification, sanctification, adoption, and salvation by Jesus Christ; these they received, as is evident, Hebrews 11:10,Hebrews 11:14,Hebrews 11:16; Romans 4:8-25; such promises as were of special consideration and reserved to a set time, as the possession of Canaan, and Christ’s incarnation, John 8:56. These they did not receive, though they saw them sure to their seed by faith, but for salvation, and glory, and heaven, carried in the covenant of grace, they did personally enjoy; of the others they were heirs as given by God to them.

Verse 13

For when God made promise to Abraham: for is a confirmation by instance, that faith and patience had made some to inherit the promises, as Abraham, and what was influencing of him in the exercising them, viz. God’s promise and oath. God Almighty, who was as able to perform as to make a promise, Genesis 17:1, having made a promise to Abraham the father of believers, that he wonld communicate some temporal and spiritual good, which by it he gave him a right to, and bound himself to perform, which summarily was Christ the Redeemer to be of his seed, and Isaac his immediate seed to be a type of him; this promise at the offering up of his son Isaac God confirms to him by oath.

Because he could swear by no greater: an oath is to be made by the greatest, who is able to make good all, and to judge after his will; by nothing under or beneath God must there be any swearing.

He sware by himself, as the best and greatest, Jehovah himself confirming that which was evident and certain by that which was most so: a strange condescension of God the Son, the Angel of the covenant, to a creature, to lift up his hand to eternity, and to lay it on the altar of his infinite and unchangeable being, to pawn and pledge his Deity, that he might give the highest assurance; and is willing that it shall be forfeited and lost, if Abraham fall short of what he hath promised to him: see the oath, Genesis 22:15-18; an oath confirming the covenant of grace to all believers as firmly as to Abraham.

Verse 14

Here is laid down the form and matter of God’s oath: the form, in Genesis 22:16, is implied in the particle כי in this text well rendered surely, Hebrews 3:11. The other defective expressions are forms of swearing, as if, except, unless; but here it is positive, surely, or verily, which Christ frequently useth; it is a vehement assertion of what he saith. The whole matter of God’s oath is not repeated, but the substance and comprehensive part of it, which made for the apostle’s purpose here. By blessing, in the Hebrew manner of expressing, is carried the abundance and certainty of all that temporal and spiritual good, which he would convey unto him in and through the blessed and promised Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the multiplicity, abundance, and certainty of the seed natural, and believing, to whom he should be related as a Father through Christ, as is evident, Genesis 22:16-18; and all this so uttered, as if God could not express how much he loved him.

Verse 15

And so, after he had patiently endured: Abraham’s carriage was suitable to this sworn promise, his soul did patiently wait for it full thirty years, enduring and suffering many temptations about it; yet he overcame all, and continued firm in the covenant to the end; his faith extended his soul in a patient expectation of its accomplishment, without doubting or murmuring, knowing God would fulfil it in the best time: he was a long-breathed believer, John 8:56; Romans 4:20,Romans 4:21; James 1:2,James 1:3.

He obtained the promise; he did not fall short of any piece of the promise, but fully possessed it at last, both in Isaac, the type of the blessed Seed, and the Messiah himself, as to all the spiritual and eternal good promised in him and by him in the heavenly Canaan, Matthew 22:32.

Verse 16

For men verily swear by the greater: for here is only narrative, introducing the amplification of the argument drawn from God’s promise and oath, for the quickening those and all believers to make out after the full assurance of hope, the promise and oath of God concerning them as well as Abraham. That since men’s oaths procure credit, and put an end to doubts, strife, and contradiction amongst them; much more should God’s oath put an end to doubts and gainsayings of creatures, and make them to give faith to him: men are not inventors and authors of this ordinance of swearing, but subject to God’s precept requiring this from them, and in this special part of God’s worship instituted by him, they ought to swear justly and according to his will; and swear they must by God only, who knows the intentions and secrets of the heart, and who is absolutely greater than all; the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and sovereign Lord of all persons, who knows false swearers, and inflicts on them not only temporal but eternal punishments. The swearing by any other, God rebukes, Deuteronomy 6:13; Jeremiah 4:2.

And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife: and in this special part of God’s worship, God is called in as a co-witness of the truth of what is sworn, and as a judge and avenger of it, if it be otherwise: and so the oath becomes a confirmation of faith and confidence of men one in another, and of love accompanying the same; so that if strife, doubt, suspicion, or jealousy arise among them about either words or deeds, which are not known to those who doubt, and cannot be cleared by sense or reason, or any other way but by a testimony of some person who knows them, which being insufficient of itself, he calls in God by an oath as co-witness, with whom it is supposed he would not break his interest, nor invocate him against himself, by declaring what is false: on this all strife and contradiction is to be decided among men, and to cease, and so the controversy to be determined.

Verse 17

The apostle having stated the nature of an oath in the antecedent, subjoins and applies it in a consequent, in which he shows that God sware to this end, that his own counsel might appear to be immutable, and the consolation of believers greater.

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show; Eν ω, in which matter or case, viz. God’s act of promise and oath to Abraham, it was not limited to his person, but to all his believing seed, Romans 4:23,Romans 4:24. Out of his own mere grace and free-will, his goodness and affection to them, without any consideration in them moving him; but his free, unexpected, as undeserved mercy, did first reveal, then promise, then swear. What more could he do? How liberal and abundant is his love in these overflowing discoveries of it! So to reveal and make known his gracious thoughts, making them manifest, perspicuous, and glorious, when none was privy to them, nor could reveal them, but himself.

Unto the heirs of promise; the seed of Abraham’s faith, all true believers, whom God had made children and heirs by promise, as Isaac, Galatians 3:22,Galatians 3:26,Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:26-28; joint-heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17. These alone did God intend to secure, and make certain of their salvation.

The immutability of his counsel: God’s unchangeableness in his will and decree, as in himself, excludes all hesitation, alteration, or transposition of what it was from eternity; God did never, will never, change one iota or tittle of his eternal will and decree of saving, perfecting, and gathering into one penitent believers, by the promised Seed Jesus Christ; which he did reveal to the world, and without which manifestation a believer could have no comfort, and without its immutability, not any lasting and permanent comfort.

Confirmed it by an oath: εμεσιτευσεν is proper for a mediator, one who cometh in between two parties as a surety; and so is justly applicable to God the Son, who interposeth between God the Father promising, and believers to whom the promise is made as heirs, as a Surety engaging to see his Father’s promise made good to his seed; and therefore confirms it to them with an oath, that they might know the promise was immutable, and should be punctually fulfilled; by which means he removes all doubts, fears, and jealousies about it from them. If they will believe men who swear, how much more ought they to do so, and rest satisfied, with the oath of the Mediator!

Verse 18

That by two immutable things: another end of the Mediator’s oath is here added, God’s oath and a promise spoken to before, which are firm and stedfast to eternity; heaven and earth may pass away, but they cannot.

In which it was impossible for God to lie, i.e. to cease to be himself, for essential truth to become a lie is impossible, it is utterly inconsistent with his nature. He is incapable to deceive, or speak against his mind, Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 89:35; Titus 1:2; and it is as impossible for him to violate his promise or oath.

We might have a strong consolation; such as will vanquish all doubts, fears, jealousies, sorrows, distractions, putting the heart into a quiet, peaceful, settled frame, and stablishing it in it, whatsoever temptations, trials, or persecutions it may meet with from without or within to perplex it.

Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: but it is the heart of a persevering believer, not of common professors, which is so strongly settled and comforted by them; such who flee to take hold of them; having cleared their right to them, and possessing their souls of them by faith, so to hold fast, as who would no more leave, than Joab would the horns of the altar, being a far greater security than it, or any city of refuge whatsoever; retreating to, and keeping in, this strong hold, nothing can interrupt their comfort. or hurt them, Job 13:15,Job 13:16; Proverbs 18:10.

The hope set before them is that eternal, good, and blessed state which is reserved in heaven for believers, the object of their hope set out to their view and prosecution as a prize in the promise, 1 Peter 1:3,1 Peter 1:4; by a metonymy of the effect for the cause, hope and good hoped for are joined together for our pursuit.

Verse 19

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast: which, taketh in both the good hoped for, and the grace and act itself of hope exercised about it; which grace is by a metaphor set out to be to the soul what an anchor is to ships in a tempest, when tossed with gusts, and storms, and billows of thoughts rolling one upon another to the oversetting of it; this hope stayeth, strengthens, settleth it, even the hope and certainty of eternal rest and happiness secured to them by the promise and oath of God. This hope is safe and firm efficiently, and makes the soul, in the midst of all the threatening temptations from a tempestuons world, safe, because fastened on God’s promise; and firm, because strengthened by God’s oath, which will hold out all tempests.

And which entereth into that within the veil: this hope, like an anchor, is firmly placed, hath wrought itself into the best holdfast, even the innermost part of the veil.

The veil was that in the tabernacle and temple which separated the holy place from the holy of holiest. This typical veil was rent at the death of Christ, and the holy of holiest in heaven, the truth of that type, was then laid open unto all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles: compare Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-21. Here it is that the anchor of the Christian’s hope is fastened; this sure harbour, where no tempest can reach or loosen it, but into which their souls, after all their tossings in the tempestuous ocean of this world, by the hurricanes of temptations, which made them quiver again, shall be over, will enter with a full gale, and enjoy that rest and blessedness for ever, which they had by God’s promise and oath, on which they relied, secured to them: see Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-9.

Verse 20

Whither the forerunner is for us entered: this heaven is actually possessed for us already by a harbinger, who came at his Father’s word to fit and prepare us for it, and then again returned in our nature, and as our Head and Representative he hath entered, made the way open, and paved the coast for us thither, and made it plain and safe; and having taken real and full possession, is making ready our mansions; and when he hath completed his work in us, will come and take and carry us thither, and put us into the full possession of it in our persons, Hebrews 9:24; John 14:2-4.

Even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec: he describeth the forerunner to be God the Son incarnate, the Saviour of believers, he that will keep them safe for it, and set them safe in it. Their Jesus, who as to his office is the great gospel High Priest, had fulfilled his type, and put an end to it by his entering within the veil into the holy of holiest in heaven, being constituted by his Father a royal High Priest, superior to all other orders and persons, a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, mentioned before, Hebrews 5:10, where the Spirit begun a digression, and having here ended it, repeats the description of it again, as the thing to be immediately handled and pursued, as he doth in the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 6". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.