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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 1

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

Our apostle intending here a comparison between the law and the gospel, shews first wherein they both agree, and next wherein they differ.

They agree (first) in this, that God was the author of them both: Both law and gospel received their original from God himself; and God the Father, by way of eminency, was the peculiar author both of law and gospel. God, that God, who spake in times past by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.

Observe 2. The difference between the law and gospel, with respect to the manner of their revelation. The revelation of the will of God under the law was,

1. At sundry times: before the flood, by Enoch and Noah; after the flood, by Abraham, by Jacob, by Moses, and all the prophets.

2. In diverse manners; sometimes by a lively voice, sometimes by dreams and visions, sometimes by inspiration and immediate revelation, sometimes by Urim and Thummim, sometimes by signs from heaven.

3. The revelation of the law was made of old, formerly, in times past; this of the gospel was made in these last days.

4. That was made to the fathers, this to us.

5. That revelation was made by the prophets, this by the Son, Jesus Christ.

From the whole, learn, 1. That Almighty God did not leave the world only to the light of nature, and to know him barely valuable blessing of supernatural revelation, thereby to bring mankind to the clearer knowledge of their duty.

Learn, 2. That the revelation which God was pleased to make of himself, his mind, and will, was gradual, and by part, not all at one time, and in one manner, but at sundry times, and in divers manners.

Learn, 3. That the gospel dispensation is the mast perfect revelation of the will of God, which God ever did, of ever will make to the sons of men.

Learn, 4. That as it is a perfect, so likewise a final revelation of God's mind and will to a lost world: A farther discovery of the mind of God for man's salvation is not to be expected: The gospel is the last effort which the divine mercy and goodness will make upon mankind, in order to eternal happiness; herein God has spoken to us by his Son: and, if we will not hear him, he will speak no more, we must expect no other: he can send no greater prophet, no dearer person to us than his own Son; and as he can send no greater, so will he send no other: for if we despise him, whom will we reverence? Now, the dignity of this person, our apostle proceeds in this and the next verses to describe:

The title of heir, which is here given to Christ, setteth out his dignity and dominion, together with the right he has to both: namely, that of his sonship; for what is an heir but his father's successor; Christ, as a Son, being heir of all things, imports, that he is lord of all, and has a sovereign empire and dominion over all persons and things, over all angels and men, whether living or dead.

Learn hence, That God the Father has given and granted unto Christ his Son, and Mediatior and Head of his church, a sovereign power and authority over all persons and things, both in heaven and in earth, to be disposed of by him at his pleasure and according to the sovereign purpose of his will; whom he hath appointed heir of all things.

By whom, not for whom, as the Socinians would suggest; the word signifies the efficient, not the final cause, according to Colossians 1:16-17 By him were all things created, and by him all things consist. And by him not as an instrument of created cause, for then as an instrument or created cause, for then must he be created by himself, seeing all things were made by him, and nothing made without him, John 1:3. But as the principal efficient cause, according to John 5:19.

Whatsoever the Father doeth, that doeth also the Son likewise. The Father doth all by the Son, and the Son doth all from the Father. And by making the worlds, we are to understand his forming of the old world, not his reforming of the new: for if so, the apostles might be said to make the worlds, as well as Christ, because they had a principal hand in converting and reforming the world.

But by the worlds here, understand the visible and material worlds, all things in heaven and earth, which were made by Christ, not as a subordinate instrument, but as a primary and principal agent; which sets forth the omnipotent power of Christ, and consequently proves him to be truly and really God.

Learn hence, That the Lord Jesus Christ, by making the world, and all things therein, by his own immediate power, has given a full and ample demonstration of his Divinity, or being essentially and really God.

Verse 3

Our apostle here proceeds in describing the Divinity of Christ's person, by whom the Father has made known his will to us under the gospel. He declares, 1. What he is. 2. What he does, or did. 3. The consequent of both, or what he now enjoyeth.

Observe, 1. Our apostle declares who, and what Christ was, and is, namely, The brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. As the brightness of the sun is of the same nature with the sun, and of as long continuance as the sun and cannot be separated from the sun and yet the sun, and the brightness of the sun, are really distinct from each other.

In like manner the Father and the Son are of one and the same essence, co-eternal and inseparable, yet the person of the one is distinct from the other. And as the sun communicates its light and influence to us by its beams, so doth God communicate his goodness, and manifest himself to us by Jesus Christ.

Learn hence, That the Son is of the same essence with the Farther, yet a person really distinct from the Father brightly shines forth in Christ his Son.

That is, the express character of God the Father's person, his natural image, and essential likeness; all the perfections shining forth in God the Father, are substantially in Christ the Son: Is the Father eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent? so is the Son, whose Character he is, whose resemblance and imager he bears; John 10:38

The father is in me and I in him; the same essential properties and nature being in each person, by virtue thereof their persons are said to be in each other. All the glorious perfections of the nature of God do belong unto, and dwell in the person of the Son of God.

Observe 2. Our apostle having declared what Christ is, next declares what he does; namely, that he up holdeth all things by the word of his power; that is, he exerts and puts forth the some omnipotent power in the work of preservation, which he did in the work of creation, keeping it from sinking into its original chaos of confusion. This work of conservation, say some, is a greater act of omnipotency than that of creation; by the former, all things were brought out of nothing, by the latter, they are preserved from returning into nothing, which their own nature, and their perpetual conflict, by contrariety of qualities, would necessarily precipitate them into.

Learn hence, 1. That such is the nature and condition of the universe, that it cannot subsist one moment without continual support; such is the dependent condition of the whole creation.

Learn, 2. That our Lord Jesus Christ has the weight of the whole creation on his hand, he upholdeth what himself created: and as well as creation of all things by the word of his power, do prove him truly and really God.

Observe, 3. A further evidence and proof of the Divinity of Christ, produced here by our apostle; as he made the world by his omnipotent power, and upholds it by his wonderful providence, so he redeemed it by his blood, He by himself purged our sins. He that made the heavens, bowed the heavens, and came down from heaven, and became a sacrifice for sin on earth, and by himself alone, by himself without a partner, by himself without a comforter, expiated the guilt of sin, and satisfied the justice of God for sin, suffering as he was man, and satisfying as he was God, who by himself purged our sins.

Learn hence, That so great was the work of expiation of sin, that it could no otherwise by really effected and accomplished, than by the sacrifice and satisfaction of Christ, who was truly and really God.

Observe, 4. THe consequent of all that Christ did or his glorious condition after his humiliation, having purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

That is, God the Father clothed him with the highest honour, and endowed him with the greatest power that heaven itself could afford; the right hand is the place both of dignity and honour, and also of superiority and power: Christ's sitting at God's right hand imports his exaltation to the highest authority and most supreme dominion.

Learn hence, That when our Lord Jesus Christ had finished his sufferings upon earth, he was placed in the seat of the highest honour and authority at the right hand of God his Father in heaven, even to be the object of adoration both to angels and men, as the following verses declare in which our apostle thus speaks:

Verse 4

In the foregoing verses a comparison was made between Christ and the prophets, here between Christ and the angels, and the preference and pre-eminence is given to him above them all. Angels were very glorious creatures, employed by God in giving of the law; but Christ, whom God the Father employed in the dispensation of the gospel, is far superior to them, and has an excellency above them.

1. A more excellent name, they being called ministers or servants, he styled a Son.

2. A more excellent nature, his being a divine, theirs an angelic nature: yea, his human nature, by virtue of its union with the God- head, has a dignity surpassing the nature of angels.

3. A more excellent office and function, as Mediator between God and man, which belongs not to any angel.

4. Consequently a more excellent power and authority, with a right to adoration and worship, which the angels have not, but are commanded to worship him.

When he brought his first-begotten into the world, that is, in the morning of the resurrection, when he was in a glorious manner begotten from the dead, the Father says, Let all the angels of God worship him; and therefore he that is to be worshipped is greater than they that are to worship him.

Learn hence;

1.That the evidencing and declaring of Christ to be the Son of God, was the particular care and special work of God the Father; he said it, he recorded it, he revealed it; Thou art my Son.

2. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant, is in his own person God blessed for ever, to whom divine honour and religious worship is due and payable from glorified angels: Let all the angels of God worship him.

3. The command of God is the ground and reason of all religious worship; the angels are to worship Christ, by the ground of their doing it is God's command: He saith, Let all the angels of God worship him.

4. It can be no part of our duty to worship the angels, who are our fellow-servants in the worship of Jesus Christ; they that are to worship Christ with us, surely are not to be worshipped by us.

Verse 7

Still our apostle goes on, comparing Christ and the angels together, and giving a transcendent preference to their one before the other. The angels are ministering servants, but Christ a Son; the angels are the prime instruments of the Father's providence, most zealous and active to accomplish his pleasure, by the Son is God: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.

God, not by analogy and deputation, as princes are, not with a limitation and diminution, as Moses was made a god to Pharaoh, but absolutely and really, as subsisting in the divine nature; to the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.

Learn hence, That is the divine nature of Jesus Christ that gives stability and fixedness, yea, immutability and unchangeableness, to his throne and kingdom: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. And whereas the sceptres of earthly kings are often unrighteously managed, and their thrones do ruinously fall, the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Christ's kingdom; that is, all the laws, and the whole administration of his kingdom by his word and Spirit, are all just and equal, righteous and holy: A sceptre for righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

And farther, the apostle declares, that the righteous administration of Christ in he kingdom, proceeds from his own habitual righteousness and love thereunto: Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, and for that reason was dignified and exalted by God over and above all his fellows.

Learn hence, That Jesus Christ as Mediator, because of his love to righteousness, and hatred to sin, is dignified and advanced by God, not only above all men, byt likewise above all angels. Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee above thy fellows.

Verse 10

What proof more can be desired of Christ's Divinity, than what is here given by our apostle? the name and attributes of God are given to him, as also an everlasting throne and kingdom; divine honour is required to be paid to him: and here such divine works are ascribed to him, wherein no creature can have any share of efficiency with him; such is the making of the world, Thou, Lord, laidest the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands:

Here we have Christ's omnipotency declared, Thou has laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are thy handy-works: and his eternity and immutability asserted, When the heavens perish, thou remainest: when thy wax old, and are changed thou art the same.

Learn hence, That the whole world, the heavens and the earth being made by our Lord Jesus Christ, is and evident proof that he is exalted above all creatures, and that he is and almighty and unchangeable God, Thou, Lord, hast laid, &c.

Learn, 2. That such is the frailty of man's nature, and such the perishing condition of all created things, that nothing will or can yield stable consolation to us, but a firm belief of the omnipotency and immutability of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 13

This verse contains a farther proof of Christ's pre-eminence above the angels, and that he is in reality the Son of God; namely, because he sits in the quality of a Son, at the right hand of God the Father; equal to him in dignity, power, and glory, commanding all the visible and invisible world, most easily, yet irresistibly; though gradually, subduing his enemies to a consummate and complete victory.

To which of the angels said he at any time? The words are an interrogation, which have the force of a vehement negation: and imply that God the Father did never say this to any of the angels, nor put such honour upon any of them, as to say, Sit on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool; but to Christ he said it, Psalms 110:1. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ is a spiritual King; and as such has many enemies to his kingdom and government. Sin is an enemy to Christ and his kingcom; and makes an universal opposition to Christ and his government; Satan is a sworn enemy to Christ and his throne, and he exerts his enmity temptations and persecutions. The world is an enemy also in the things of it, in the men of it, in the rule of it. The law is an enemy to Christ and his kingdom, not absolutely, but accidentally, by reason of the consequences that attend it. It slays them, Romans 7:9-11 which is the work of an enemy. In a word, death, the grave, and hell, are Christ's enemies.

2. All Christ's enemies shall, in Christ's time, be made his footstool they are conquering now initially and gradually, they shall be conquered ere long finally and perfectly; and all his people shall be made complete sharers in his victory and conquest.

3. Christ's sitting at God's right hand, in a certain and assured expectation of having his foes become his footstool, is an undoubted proof of the divinity of his person, and that he is essentially and really God. To none of the angels, or any of the creatures, said he, at any time, Sit on my right hand; but to the Son he said, Sit on my right hand, &c.

Verse 14

This is that last testimony produced by the apostle to prove Christ's pre-eminency above the angels. He is a Son, they are but servants to believers, to the church of Christ, to the heirs of salvation.

Observe here, 1. The nature of angels declared: they are spirits, without any thing material or corporeal belonging to them, yet having a power to assume a body, and appear in human shape, when they please. The scripture describes them as excelling in strength, purity, and holiness, to be of great activity and swiftness, and gives intimation of several ranks and orders among them, distinguishing them by the names of principalities and powers, thrones and dominions; but what the difference of these names do import, none can positively declare.

Observe, 2. Their general office declared: they are ministering spirits, they are God's domestic servants, they attend upon his throne, they expect his commands, they execute his pleasure, and are in a constant readiness to do his will. The angels are the great instruments of Providence in the world; not that God needs them, or cannot manage with out them; for he can do whatever he pleaseth in heaven and earth. God can steer all human affairs with the least nod and beck of his will, with out any instruments at all; but his wisdom and goodness thinks fit to honour his creatures with his commands, they execute his pleasure, and are in a constant readiness to do his will.

The angels are the great instruments of Providence in the world; not that God needs them, or cannot manage without them; for he can do whatever he pleaseth in heaven and earth. God can steer all human affairs with the least nod and beck of his will, without any instruments at all; but his wisdom and goodness thinks fit to honour his creatures with his commands, that so they may be capable of his favour and rewards.

Observe, 3. The special office and employment of good angels, with reference to good men; they are sent forth, there is their designation and appointment; to minister, that is their general end and employment; for the heirs of salvation, that is their special and peculiar business; they have a charge of the bodies and souls of the saints whilst alive; a special charge of their souls at death, to conduct them to blessedness, and probably a care and charge of their bodies after death, as may be gathered from Jude 1:25

Learn hence, 1. That the highest honour of the nost glorious angels in heaven, is to minister to the saints by God's appointment here on earth.

Learn 2. That such is the love and care of God towards his saints, that he sends the most glorious attendants upon his own throne, to minister unto them, and to take care of them. Behold then the astonishing regard which the great God has for good men, in that he appoints all his angels to minister to them, for the safe guard of their persons, for the success of their affairs, and for the security of their eternal salvation.

Lord! what is man, that thou art thus mindful of him; that when thou madest him lower than the angels, thou shouldest yet make the angels minister unto him! Behold also the impiety of the church of Rome, in worshipping of angels! Surely, if they are our fellow-servants, and minister unto us, we are by no means to worship them. Revelation 19:10

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/hebrews-1.html. 1700-1703.
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