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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 10

 

 

Verses 1-18

Hebrews 10:1-18. In this closing part of the theological discussion the writer dwells further on the finality of Christ's one sacrifice, and shows how it has brought to an end the annually repeated offerings under the old covenant.

Hebrews 10:1-4. The OT sacrifices cannot effect their purpose of removing sins. By its nature the Law could only reflect the higher realities, and did not present them in their actual substance; thus the priests who carry out the behests of the Law do not, by means of the annual sacrifices, bring the worshipping people into a real and enduring fellowship with God. "Continually" (Hebrews 10:1) is better taken with "make perfect." The writer wishes to show that the annual offering of the sacrifice implies its merely temporary value. A lasting relation to God cannot be effected by a sacrifice that needs to be constantly repeated. If the worshippers were conscious that their sins had been removed by the Levitical sacrifice, what need would there be for its repetition (Hebrews 10:2)? But, instead of giving this sense of deliverance from sin, it only serves to remind the people that they have sinned during the year past as they did before (Hebrews 10:3). Indeed the point does not require to be argued: any man can feel for himself that the blood of mere animals cannot take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).

Hebrews 10:5-10. Proof is adduced from Scripture that Christ's sacrifice alone is adequate to fulfil God's will, and has put an end to the old ineffectual sacrifices of the Law. A psalm (Psalms 40:6-8*) is quoted which was regarded by the Church as Messianic, and in which Christ Himself was supposed to be speaking. As usual the writer quotes from the LXX, which reads "a body thou didst prepare for me," instead of "mine ears thou hast opened," as in the Hebrew. In this passage, therefore, Christ appears as declaring, before His entrance into the world, that the surrender of His body, not ritual sacrifice, was required by God as the condition of forgiveness. He was to come in accordance with prophecy ("in the roll of the book it is written of me") to give fulfilment to that will of God. Thus the passage may be held to teach (a) what God does not desire, viz. the sacrifices demanded by the Law; (b) what He does desire. Christ has "taken away the first"—i.e. He has abolished the sacrifices to which God attaches no value—in order to give effect to the genuine will of God (Hebrews 10:8 f.). This will He accomplished by the offering of His body; and we have been "sanctified"—i.e. have been brought into the true condition for making our approach to God—by that offering which He made once for all.

Hebrews 10:11-14. With these words the thought returns to the subject of the finality of Christ's sacrifice; and this is illustrated by a striking contrast. The priests of the Law perform their ministry standing, for they remain in the sanctuary only for the moment; and in this posture they offer the same stated sacrifices year by year, with no enduring result (Hebrews 10:11). Christ, when He had offered His one supreme sacrifice, sat down at God's right hand. His work was all completed, and henceforth He is able to rest until in due time comes the great consummation (Hebrews 10:12 ff.).

Hebrews 10:15-18. After his manner the writer concludes his argument for the finality of the sacrifice by an appeal to God's words in Scripture. In the passage concerning the new covenant (quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12) the chief promise was that when God had brought men into the new relation to Himself all sins would be forgiven. But the very object of sacrifice was to make possible the forgiveness of sins. If, then, all sins are now forgiven by the establishment of the new covenant, there is no place left for a second sacrifice.

The theological discussion of the high priesthood of Christ has now come to an end. In order to understand the argument we must bear in mind that in the ritual of the Day of Atonement the sacrifice and the entrance into the sanctuary were two inseparable parts of one act. After offering sacrifice in expiation of the sins of the people, the High Priest bore the blood into the holy of holies to present it before God. The sacrifice itself was, in a sense, only the necessary preliminary to this priestly intercession. So in Hebrews the death of Christ is inseparably connected with His entrance into the heavenly sanctuary. He made the sacrifice of Himself on behalf of His people that He might enter into God's presence with His offering, and so bring them into the true relation to God. Inasmuch as He abides in the heavenly sanctuary this relation is one that can never henceforth be broken. It is difficult to say how far the writer conceives of the sanctuary as an actual place. The probability is that, in accordance with Jewish ideas, he believed in the existence of a temple or tabernacle in heaven, the eternal counterpart of God's house on earth. But in any case his thought can easily be detached from the framework of ancient ritual conceptions in which it is set. He seeks to impress upon us that Christ has entered into an everlasting fellowship with God, and that we also may enjoy that fellowship through Him.

Having completed his theological argument the writer proceeds to enforce the practical consequences which flow from it, and which have been in his mind throughout. In the ensuing section (Hebrews 10:19 to Hebrews 12:29) he exhorts his readers to avail themselves of that access to God which Christ has wrought for them, and to resist all temptations to fall away.


Verses 19-25

Hebrews 10:19-25. The exhortation opens with a few verses of general appeal, which sum up the results of the foregoing discussion. A free access to God's presence has been given us through the offering of Christ, who has inaugurated a way hitherto unknown, and depending not on mechanical ordinances but on His own living person. He inaugurated this way by breaking through the limitations of His earthly life as through a curtain. A new turn is here given to the analogy of the High Priest passing into the holy of holies. The earthly existence of Jesus is conceived as a curtain, which divided Him for a time from the perfect fellowship with God, and which was parted by His death. As we have a new way, so we have also a new and greater High Priest to represent us as the community of God (Hebrews 10:21). Let us therefore have done with all doubt and misgiving, and make our approach to God with that inward purity of which our baptism has been the symbol (Hebrews 10:22). Let us hold fast to that hope which we have publicly confessed; for since God will maintain His promise we can maintain our faith (Hebrews 10:23). In order that we may stand more firmly let us watch one another with a view to mutual encouragement in love and Christian activity; and for this purpose let us value those stated meetings of the Church which many are so apt to neglect. All opportunities of confirming one another in our faith ought to be cherished, for there are clear signs that the day is near when Christ will return to judgment (Hebrews 10:24 f.).


Verses 26-31

Hebrews 10:26-31. The mention of the judgment suggests the dreadful consequences of falling away from faith. It is assumed, as in Hebrews 6:4 ff., that no second repentance is possible. If men persist in sinning after they have once accepted the Christian message, they cannot again expect forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26). They have nothing to look for now but that condemnation which the Scripture so often threatens when it speaks of the wrath of God that burns like fire (cf. Psalms 79:5; Isaiah 26:11; Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 3:8; Ezekiel 36:5). The punishment of apostasy from the Mosaic Law, when duly proved by two or three witnesses, was death (cf. Deuteronomy 17:6). Must we not believe that something worse than death is in store for those who show open contempt for the Son of God, who regard the blood which He shed to seal the new covenant and give us access to God as nothing more than ordinary blood, who wantonly insult the Spirit from whom proceed all higher gifts? Apostasy from the great Christian privileges enumerated in Hebrews 6:4 f. is held to be equivalent to declaring them worthless and mocking at them. God never threatens in vain, and He has stated that He will inflict punishment on evildoers, and will sift out His true servants from the false (Hebrews 10:30). We have to give account of ourselves to a living God, one who knows everything, and who can execute His will to the uttermost (Hebrews 10:31).

Hebrews 10:29. an unholy thing: lit. "a common thing," without any sacred significance (see Exodus 12:22*).


Verses 32-34

Hebrews 10:32-34. As in ch. 6, the writer turns from solemn warning to encouragement, based on the past record of his readers. He reminds them of the valour they had shown in the days immediately succeeding their conversion (Hebrews 10:32, "after ye were enlightened"). Like strong wrestlers they had stood up to persecution, content to be themselves the object of popular contempt and hatred, while they bravely assisted their fellow-sufferers (Hebrews 10:33). They had relieved their brethren who were thrown into prison, and had borne the confiscation of their wealth with joy, in the assurance that they had wealth of another kind which made them richer than those who robbed them (Hebrews 10:34). In our ignorance of the community to which the epistle is addressed, the nature and occasion of this persecution cannot be determined. It is noteworthy that there is no allusion to actual martyrdom; and this has been held by many to exclude Rome, which had suffered the terrible persecution under Nero in A.D. 64. But it is possible that the epistle is written to a new generation of Roman Christians which had grown up in the interval.


Verses 35-39

Hebrews 10:35-39. With the past in mind they are to maintain their former constancy, knowing that it will not be in vain. Their great need, as the whole epistle is meant to teach them, is the power of endurance, enabling them to wait on for the fulfilment of the promise given them by God (Hebrews 10:35 f.). And the time of waiting will not be long. The day foretold in Scripture (Habakkuk 2:3 f.) is close at hand, when the Coming One will appear, and those who have been faithful will enter into life, while those who have fallen back will be condemned. Our part as Christians is to be men of faith, and so to win for ourselves the coming salvation.

Hebrews 10:37. he that cometh: in this OT phrase the writer sees a reference to the Messianic title "he that should come" (cf. Matthew 11:3).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-10.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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