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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Hebrews 10

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. X.

The weakness of the law-sacrifices. The sacrifice of Christ's body once offered, for ever hath taken away sins. An exhortation to hold fast the faith, with patience and thanksgiving.

Anno Domini 63.

IN the preceding chapter, the apostle, for displaying Christ's dignity as an High-priest, having illustrated his affirmation, chap. Hebrews 8:7. That the Levitical priests worshipped God in the tabernacle, with the representations of the services to be performed by Christ in heaven: also, having contracted the ineffectual services performed by these priests in the tabernacle on earth, with the effectual services performed by Christ in heaven, and the covenant of which they were the ministers, with the covenant of which Christ is the Mediator; and the blessings procured by the services of the Levitical priests in the earthly tabernacles, with the blessings procured by the services performed by Christ in heaven; he in the beginning of this tenth chapter, as the necessary consequence of these things, infers, That, since the law contains nothing but a shadow, or emblematical representation of the blessings to come through the services of the greater and more perfect heavenly tabernacle, and not these blessings themselves, it never can, with the same emblematical sacrifices which were offered annually by the high-priest on the day of atonement, make those who came to these sacrifices perfect, Hebrews 10:1—This important conclusion the apostle established still more strongly by observing, that if these sacrifices had made the worshippers perfect, they would have ceased to be offered; because the worshippers being once cleansed, would no longer, as such worshippers, have been distressed with the consciousness of their sins, and with the fear of punishment, Hebrews 10:2.—But in these sacrifices there is of course, as it were, a yearly commemoration of sins, by a yearly presentation of the atoning blood of new sacrifices in the most holy place, which shews that their efficacy is so far from extending, as that of the true expiation does, to all nations, times, and places, that it only looks back upon the year completed, and has no influence, even with regard to those persons who are actually present in the temple, on any thing future, Hebrews 10:3.—Moreover, in farther proof of his conclusion, the apostle affirmed it to be impossible in the nature of things, that the shedding of the blood of bulls and of goats should, as substitutions, take away the sins of moral agents, Hebrews 10:4.—Wherefore, after the Israelites believed that the sacrifices of beasts were real atonements, God the Father, to shew them the folly of that notion, inspired the writer of Psalms 40 to foretel what his Son was to say to him, when coming into the world to make a real atonement for the sins of men; namely this, the sacrifices of bulls and of goats and the offerings of the fruits of the earth, though of thine own appointment, thou dost not command any longer, on account of their inefficacy. But thou hast prepared me a body, that I may die a real sacrifice for sin, Hebrews 10:5.—Whole burnt-offerings and sin-offerings thou hast no pleasure in now, Hebrews 10:6.—Wherefore, I said, Behold, I come into the world, to do, O God, thy will in bruising the head of the serpent, which is written concerning me in the beginning of the book of the law, Hebrews 10:7.—On these words of Messiah, the apostle remarks, That having first said to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering, and whole burnt-offerings, which are offered according to thelaw, thou dost not command, neither art thou pleased with them, Hebrews 10:8.—And, next, seeing he has said, Behold, I come to do, O God, thy will, by dying as a sin-offering, it is evident that God has taken away his first command appointing the sacrifices ofthe law, and has abolished these sacrifices, that he might establish his second command, appointing his Son to die in the human nature as a sin-offering to atone for sin, and to render the malicious purpose of the devil abortive in respect to all his faithful people, Hebrews 10:9.—By which second command, therefore, we are sanctified through the offering of the bodyof Jesus Christ once, Hebrews 10:10.—From this memorable passage of the xlth psalm, we learn that the only real expiation for sin which God the Father ever appointed, is the sacrifice of his only-begotten Son in the human nature; that all the sacrifices which he appointed to the Israelites were nothing but emblems of the sacrifice of Christ; and that the sacrifice of Christ being offered, the emblems of it are now fitly laid aside, that under the gospel-dispensation there might remain in the view of mankind, no sacrifice having any pretension to take away sin, but the sacrifice of Christ expressly established by God the Father himself, as the meritorious cause of our pardon.

In what follows, the apostle applied to the sacrifices offered by the ordinary priests dailyin the outward tabernacle, the argument by which he had proved the inefficacy of the sacrifices offered annually by the high-priest in the most holy place; namely, that the repetition of them shewed their inefficacy, Hebrews 10:11.—Whereas Christ through the whole of his life having offered but one sacrifice for sin, sat down at the right hand of God, as having completely finished the expiation, and as taking possession of the government of the universe, Hebrews 10:12-13.—Wherefore, by the one sacrifice of himself, Christ has perfected for ever the sanctified; that is, has obtained an eternal pardon, together with admission into heaven, for all his faithful saints, Hebrews 10:14.—This the Holy Ghost testifies, in the before-mentioned account of the covenant of which Christ is the Mediator, Hebrews 10:15.—where, among other things, God promises, that the sins and the iniquities of his faithful people he will remember no more, Hebrews 10:17.—But, where there is such an entire remission of sins as the faithful shall enjoy, and as this great amnesty implies, there is no more room for any sacrifice for sin which implies that they remain to be expiated.

Here the apostle concludes his admirable reasonings concerning the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. But, before we dismiss the subject, it may be proper to remark, that although the apostle's arguments are formed principally to shew the inefficacy of the sacrifices of Judaism, yet being equally applicable to the sacrifices of Heathenism, they must have been of great use for convincing the Gentiles, that those atonements on which they had hitherto relied, were utterly ineffectual for procuring the favour of God.—Moreover, the apostle having proved that the Levitical sacrifices and services were instituted to be representations of the sacrifice which Christ was to offer, and of the services which he was to perform in heaven, we may infer, that the sacrifices of beasts were instituted by God at the beginning of the world, immediately after the fall, for the same purpose. See Hebrews 11:4. And therefore, although these sacrifices could not take away sin, the appointment of them at the beginning, and the regulation of them afterwards in the Levitical ritual, were matters not unworthy of God, being shadows of the priesthood, sacrifice, and intercession of Christ. Besides, when Christ, the High-priest appointed by the oath of God, actually came, a great lustre of evidence was thrown on his character and ministrations, by their having been prefigured in the Levitical institutions.—In short, though the apostle has denied that the sacrifices of the law were real atonements, yet by shewing the Jewish institutions in their true light, he has preserved to them their whole importance; and by comparing them with the infinitely better institution of the gospel, he has made us sensible, how preferable the substance is to the shadow, which therefore was with propriety done away under the gospel.

The apostle, having finished the doctrinal part of his letter, proceeds, in the remainingpart, to shew what influence the belief of Christ's infinite dignity and power as the Son of God, and of the efficacy of his mediation as the apostle and high-priest of our profession, ought to have on our temper and conduct. Having, by the sacrifice of himself, not only made a sufficient atonement for our sins, but procured for us the new covenant, we have, through the blood of Jesus, boldness or liberty to enter here below by faith into the holiest,—into close union and communion with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, and, if faithful, shall have liberty at death to enter into the holy places where God dwells, into heaven itself, to be ever with the Lord, Hebrews 10:19. This entrance Jesus hath made for us, even a way new and living into the holy place, the habitation of God, through the vail of his flesh: so that death, instead of leading us away for ever from the presence of God, as would otherwise have been the case, carries the faithful into his presence to live with him eternally in unspeakable happiness. Wherefore, being a new and living way into the presence of God, death is stript of all its terrors; and believers neednot be afraid to die, Hebrews 10:20.—Also having now a great Priest always residing in heaven, the true house or temple of God, to present the prayers and other acts of worship which we offer on earth, Hebrews 10:21.—we ought to approach God with a truly devout heart, in the full assurance of being accepted through the mediation of Christ, so as our hearts are cleansed, or that we most sincerely and earnestly desire to have them cleansed, by his Blood, from an evil conscience. Only let us take care that this approach be made in a proper manner, as ever we desire to meet with the divine favour and acceptance; particularly, as the water of purification was to be sprinkled on the Israelites, to cleanse them from any pollutions which they might have contracted, so let us see to it, that we come free from all allowed guilt and indulged sin. And this is indeed our case, if we are true Christians: our hearts are thus sprinkled by the purifying and cleansing blood of Jesus, as well as our bodies washed in the laver of regeneration typified here by the washings under the Mosaic dispensation, Hebrews 10:22.—Besides, we must hold fast the confession of our hope through Christ, without regarding the evils which such a confession may bring upon us, Hebrews 10:23.—and when in danger of being drawn away from the profession of the gospel by the false reasonings and corrupt examples of unbelievers, we should consider attentively the behaviour of our brethren who have suffered for their faith, and for their love to Christ and to his people, that we may excite one another to love and good works, Hebrews 10:24.—and should not, through the fear of our persecutors, leave off the assembling of ourselves together for the worship of God, as the custom of some is; but rather exhort one another to persevere in the profession of the gospel: the rather, because we see the day of our deliverance from our persecutors and all evil approaching, Hebrews 10:25.—The apostle was the more earnest in this exhortation, because if one wilfully renounces the profession of the gospel, after having received the knowledge of the truth with such incontestable evidence and power, there remaineth no sacrifice by which that sin can be pardoned, (see the Notes and Reflections,) Hebrews 10:26.—To such apostates there remaineth nothing but a dreadful expectation of the judgment and fiery indignation of God, whichwill devour them as his adversaries, Hebrews 10:27.—For if the despisers of Moses's law were put to death without mercy, although it was only a political law, Hebrews 10:28.—of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be counted worthy, who, by openly renouncing the gospel, tramples under foot the Son of God? &c. Hebrews 10:29.—The punishment of such an apostate will be heavy and inevitable: for we know the irresistible power of him who hath said, The punishment of the wicked belongeth to me; I will repay them according to their deeds. Moreover, God having promised to avenge his people of theiroppressors, he will certainly punish severely those who have insulted his Son and Spirit, Hebrews 10:30.—And it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God as an indignant enemy, Hebrews 10:31.

This exhortation to beware of renouncing the gospel, the apostle with great propriety pressed on the Hebrews in this part of his epistle, notwithstanding in the preceding sixth chapter he had displayed the heinous nature and dangerous consequences of apostacy. For, after that display, having at great length described the efficacy of Christ's death as a propitiation in procuring the pardon of sin, and explained the gracious nature of the new covenant procured by Christ's death, he naturally supposed that the Hebrews were sensible of the guilt which they would contract, if they renounced the gospel in which these great blessings were made known and offered to mankind. Withal, having described the terrible punishment which awaits apostates, he could not doubt of their being sensible of their danger. Wherefore, to strengthen the good impressions which he charitably supposed his discourse had through grace made on them, he desired them to call to mind the joy which they felt when they first believed the gospel; the courage and constancy with which they then suffered for their faith; the kindness which they shewed to their persecuted brethren; their sympathizing with him in his bonds; and the heavenly temper with which they took the spoiling of their goods, Hebrews 10:32-34.—and exhorted them, after having suffered so much for their faith, not to cast away their courage, which through the unmerited grace of God would secure to them a great reward in heaven, Hebrews 10:35.—provided they continued to suffer patiently, while they were so doing the will of God by maintaining their Christian profession, Hebrews 10:36.—Besides, their troubles would not be of long continuance. For Christ, according to his promise, would in a little time come and destroy the Jewish state, whereby the power of their persecutors would be broken; and in a little time would bring them, if faithful, to heaven, Hebrews 10:37.—And, to give his exhortation the greater weight, he put them in mind of what God had said by Habakkuk, namely, The just by faith, shall live: but if he draw back, my soul will have no pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.—Lest however the Hebrews might have inferred from the earnestness of his exhortation, that he suspected they were about to apostatize, he expressed his hope that they would not be of the number of those who draw back to their eternal perdition, but of the number of those who would continue to believe, to the saving of their soul, ve


Verse 1

Hebrews 10:1. For the law, having a shadow, &c.— The for in this verse seems to connect the discourse here with the former part of the foregoing chapter; wherein the apostle speaks of the earthly or worldly sanctuary, or holy of holies under the law, as a figure, Hebrews 10:9. Nor need we confine the connection merely to what is there said; but refer it more generally to what he has spoken in any part of his epistle before concerning this matter; as particularly ch. Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:23-24. The word εικονα, rendered image, seems from the tenor of the apostle's argument to be used for the essential, or substantial form of a thing; that is, for the very thing itself; as opposed to its σκια, shadow, or delineation. So it is paralleled to σωμα, the body, or substance, which the apostle elsewhere opposes in like manner to its σκια or shadow, Colossians 2:17. Accordingly the Syriac version explains the word εικονα by the substance; and Chrysostom by the truth or reality, as opposed to types or emblems. Cicero has used almost the same expression with our author; Nos veri juris germanaeque justitiae solidam et expressam effigiem nullam tenemus; umbra et imaginibus utimur. See De Offic. lib. 3: 100: 17. "We have no perfect and express image of true and native justice; but are obliged to make use of the shadow and picture of it." The apostle is going to shew the imperfection of the law, that it neither could by the frame of it, nor had it in its design, to bring men to perfection; that the good things it promised were but a shadow of the great realities promised by Christ; the veriest sketch or outlines, in comparison of the perfect and exact picture. Dr. Heylin observes here, upon the word image, that it does not signify what represents, but the original or model represented by the shadows. The apostle, says he, seems to refer to ch. Hebrews 8:5. The sacrifices offered on the day of atonement, being by far the most solemn of any of the expiatory kind among the Jews, are mentioned in this verse with the utmost propriety. Heylin renders the last words, Render those perfect who approach the altar. See Parkhurst on the word ' Εικων .


Verse 2

Hebrews 10:2. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Many copies read this without the interrogation, For then they would have ceased to be offered. The sense is the same; but the true reading seems to be with the interrogation. The reasoning of the apostle here is this: "If the yearly sacrifices could make men perfect, there could be no occasion for such continual repetition of them: for if menwere once entitled to perfection, the yearly repetition of that which gave them their title, would do nomore than what was done already; namely, give them a title to perfection,—just like baptism among Christians. A man baptized is initiated into the visible church of Christ; and were this rite to be repeated every day or every year, it would still be no more than aninitiatory rite. Just so the yearly atonement would have given men a title to a state of perfection, had it been designed for such a purpose, which indeed was impossible; but as it was instituted only to procure the good things of this world, which annually are given by God, (except as it prefigured and pointed at Christ, holiness, and heaven,) there was a necessity that those sacrifices should be annually repeated; whereas, could the law have given perfection, one oblation had been sufficient for that." The next verse is rendered very plainly thus: But in them [in those sacrifices] there is a yearly commemoration of sins. See Leviticus 16:21.


Verse 4

Hebrews 10:4. For it is not possible, &c.— "And indeed the reason of this is plain: for it is in the nature of things impossible, that the blood of bulls and of goats should on the whole take away sins, or make a real atonement to God as the great Governor of the world, for the moral guilt of any transgression; though it may by divine appointment purifyfrom legal defilements, and put a stop to any further prosecution which might proceed in Jewish courts, or any such extraordinary judgment as the peculiar state of things among that people would otherwise require."


Verse 5

Hebrews 10:5. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, The following passage is a citation from Psalms 40 and the use of it plainly enough leads us to understand the words as uttered in the person of the Messiah; which is agreeable to other places in the Psalms. Indeed, unless we understand the words in this view, the citation must not only appear impertinent, but the proof urged to be none at all. But see the notes on that psalm.


Verse 7

Hebrews 10:7. In the volume of the book That is, in the Pentateuch. The apostle argues so plainly from this text, that it proves the psalm to which he refers, to be a literal prophesyof the Messiah: and consequently the 12th verse of it, which affords the only material argument against this interpretation, must either be explained of those iniquities, which though not properly Christ's own, were laid upon him, that is, were atoned for by him, (see Isaiah 53:6.); or rather those calamities which he bore for the expiation of sin.


Verse 8

Hebrews 10:8. By the law; That is, According to the law.


Verse 9-10

Hebrews 10:9-10. He taketh away the first, "In the forecited passage, by saying, Sacrifices, &c. thou wouldest not have, nor didst take any pleasure in them which are offered according to the law, and consequently were, in a sense, agreeable to the will of God, who required them, but not as expiatory: he adds, Then said I, Behold, I come to do thy will, O God! He abolisheth the former will and prescription of God concerning legal sacrifices, that he may establish the latter, concerning the sacrifice of himself, the great and all-sufficient propitiation; by the which latter will of God (Hebrews 10:10.) believers are cleansed from their guilt, through the offering once of the body of Jesus Christ."


Verse 11

Hebrews 10:11. And every priest standeth, &c.— "And this agrees with what I observed before to be the property of a true and effectual atonement: for, indeed, every priest of the Mosaic law standeth daily ministering, and offering the same sacrifices often; which, as appears from that very circumstance of the repetition of them, can never avail to take away the guilt of sins. But he, our Lord Jesus Christ, having offered, &c. Hebrews 10:12."


Verse 14

Hebrews 10:14. For by one offering, &c.— "For by that one offering up of himself, concerning which we have been speaking, he hath made an expiation, which avails perpetually to render all those who partake of the virtue of it, completely qualified for the spiritual worship and service of God; and has rendered all true believers acceptable to God; and has made effectual provision for raising those sanctified and faithful ones to a state of the most consummate holiness, felicity, and glory; (Hebrews 10:15.) And of this the Holy Ghost assures us, fully attesting what has been said."


Verse 17

Hebrews 10:17. And their sins, &c.— He then adds, And their sins, &c. So it is read in some copies. There is an ellipsis in the sentence, as it stands in our Bibles, which implies the former words.


Verse 18

Hebrews 10:18. Now where remission of these is, The inference here drawn depends upon the preceding words cited from the prophet. See Jeremiah 31:33-34. The apostle quotes here only what was necessary to his purpose, in order to make good his inference; that where there is forgiveness of iniquity, and a promise for the faithful not to remember sins any more, there can be no occasion for any further oblation for sins.


Verse 19-20

Hebrews 10:19-20.— The argumentative part of this epistle being now finished, and the great point fully proved,—that the legal sacrifices could never make atonement for sins, though ever so often repeated, and particularly those grand sacrifices which were offered yearly by the high-priest on the great day of expiation; but that Christ had fully and effectually donethis, by his once offering up himself:—the apostle here proceeds to the practical application, which is inferred from the foregoing discourse. The great point here urged is that which manifestly runs through the whole epistle, namely, that upon this account Christians should be steadfast in their profession, and their dependance on Christ, without expecting to obtain by the legal sacrifices that advantage which could only be had by Christ. In treating of this, the apostle takes occasion to set forth in the most awful terms the danger of apostacy; which was a caution very needful for the Jewish converts, who, above all others, were very prone to it. However, suitable to the tenderness wherewith he treatsthem on a like occasion, (ch. Hebrews 6:9-10.) he softens the severe things that he utters, by mixing some commendations of them, in order that he might give them the less offence. There is another thing which he seems to have had in his eye, and which may be perceived by those who read the remainder of this chapter with a close attention, (though easily missed by careless and hasty readers, as being only obscurely hinted by the apostle, that he might not disgust the Hebrews:) and that is, that since the forgiveness of sins was to be obtained, not by the legal sacrifices, but by the sacrifice of Christ; the Gentiles, who had nothing to do with the former, were now uponthe same terms with the Jews, and so the same privileges and advantages equally belonged to both; and therefore they should both cordially unite in using them: and though the caution was most necessary for the Hebrews, who were apter to quarrel with the Gentiles than the Gentiles with them, yet, that he might not take off from the edge of his caution where it was most needful, he speaks of their exciting one another mutually to their duty, and particularly the duty of love to each other, together with the good fruit which would be produced thereby.

Having therefore, brethren, &c.— "Since therefore, brethren, we who cordially believe in Christ, have such solid grounds of free liberty, and so rich encouragement, as may be gathered from the preceding discourse, for holy freedom and confidence in our approaches to God, as our reconciled God and Father, and so of entering by faith into the holiest of all, even heaven itself; and who will be admitted into it, if faithful, through the infinite merit of the precious blood of Jesus, our great High-priest and Sacrifice, &c. let us draw near, &c." Dr. Owen observes, that the blood of other sacrifices was to be used immediately upon its effusion; for if it were cold and congealed, it was of no use to be offered or sprinkled; but the blood of Christ is as it were always warm, having the same Spirit of life and sanctification moving in it; so that the way of approach by it is said to be ζωσα και προσφατος, living, yet (putting it for Christ, who is the way,) always as it were newlyslain. As the high-priest could not enter into the holy of holies without blood, we, to whom the true holy of holies is now opened, must enter by the blood of Christ.


Verse 21

Hebrews 10:21. And having an High-priest over the house of God; That is, over all that name the name of Christ, and hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope, firm unto the end; ch. Hebrews 3:6. Our High-priest is the Son of God, the appointed Heir of all things, Lord of all; therefore we have the strongest motives to hold fast our profession, that can be laid before us.


Verse 22

Hebrews 10:22. Let us draw near, &c.— Namely, to that place to which we may have free access, and to which we are so graciously invited: With a true heart,—uprightly, sincerely, without any dissimulation or feigned piety: in full assurance of faith; in a full conviction of mind that Jesus is the Christ and our Lord and our God, and of the consequencesofthatgreatandimportant truth which has been so fully explained. This epistle being written to the Hebrews, they easily understood what was alluded to in the two next clauses. When the covenant was made in Horeb, Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, &c. See Exodus 24:8. By this ceremony the people were obliged to pay obedience to that law. In the case of the leper, and the leprous house, he and it were to be sprinkled seven times, in order to be cleansed: Leviticus 7:38. Here therefore the apostle, by having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, means, "having them cleansed from all consciousness of evil," and being fully sensible of our obligation to become obedient to the will of Christ. The washing with pure water does not refer here to Christian baptism, but to the Jewish baptisms in order to their being cleansed.When Aaron was to go into the holy of holies, he was first to wash his flesh with water, Leviticus 4:24 so was the leper to wash himself in water,—that he may be clean. Leviticus 14:8. And so it was in cases of other uncleannesses: the persons were obliged to bathe themselves in water; Leviticus 6:27 in running water, Hebrews 10:13. It is in allusion to these customs that the apostle made use of the words pure, or clear water; meaning that we should keep ourselves free and unspotted from sin.


Verse 23

Hebrews 10:23. The profession of our faith Of our hope. So it is in all our manuscript copies but one. See ch. Hebrews 6:18-19. This profession is to be held ακλινη, without swerving or bending from it; as some did, Hebrews 10:25 and others were likely to do, considering the persecutions they underwent, Hebrews 10:33-34. The last clause of this verse confirms the above reading: Hold fast your hope,—for he is faithful, and to be depended on, who hath promised an eternal inheritance to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality.


Verse 25

Hebrews 10:25. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves The word επισυναγωγη, rendered assembling together, is used but once more in the New Testament, and there it signifies the gathering together unto Christ at the day of judgment, or our being gathered to him at that time; but here it seems rather to refer to public and private meetings or congregations of Christians. The apostleexhorts the Hebrews to frequent such voluntary assemblies; not to fail making the right use of them, by comforting one another under their afflictions, and encouraging one another to steadiness and perseverance; and to raise in each other the more alacrity and readiness in mutual good offices, as they saw the day approaching. They knew that the day of Christ's final judgment, being certainly future, came nearer and nearer; and from what Christ had said concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, as to happen during the lives of some who had been present with him, about thirty years before the dateof this epistle, (compare Matthew 16:28.) they might infer that that day was now near, though they were not able to calculate the exact time.


Verse 26

Hebrews 10:26. For if we sin wilfully "For if any of us, who make a profession of Christ's name, be so much under the power of unbelief, prejudice, pride, and a worldly temper, as, not merely through some sudden hurry of spirit, temptation, or fear of danger; but deliberately, resolutely, and willingly, with full consent, to reject the doctrines of the gospel and the good ways of the Lord, and to turn back to Judaism, Heathenism, or infidelity, after we have been enlightened in, and convinced of the truth of the gospel, with respect to the way of salvation alone by Jesus Christ; the case of such apostates is of all others the most dreadful: for as all legal sacrifices are of no farther use in the worship of God, nor ever were available to purge from the moral guilt of sin; and as there never was any sacrifice appointed under the law for presumptuous sinners; so there remains no other, than the one only sacrifice of Christ, for the remission of sins; and they that reject this last and only remedy, by perfidious unbelief, can have no interest in it; nor can there be any hope of pardon and acceptance with God on any other ground whatever." The sin here intended, as appears from all the preceding and following context, is wilful, resolute, and contemptuous apostacy from the profession of Christ and his gospel: and therefore, though we ought to be always upon the strictest guard against every known sin, and to be deeply humbled before God, in thorough contrition of spirit, and resolute determination to forsake it, if ever we fall into it; yet this text is not to be understood of every sin which has been committed under the power of temptation, against light and conviction, as some tender-spirited Christians are often apt to apply it, to their own great discouragement and terror, almost to utter despair, but, as observed before, of real, wilful, contemptuous apostacy.


Verse 27

Hebrews 10:27. But a certain fearful looking for, &c.— A certain frightful or formidable expectation of condemnation arising from the sense of justice in God, and the fitness of punishment to sin: And fiery indignation, πυρος ζηλος, zeal of fire; such a disposition to punish the adversaries or enemies of the gospel, as may be called a zeal for fire; that is, a thorough disposition and resolution to punish them most severely.


Verse 28

Hebrews 10:28. He that despised Moses' law "This we might easily infer from the nature of things, even though we had not been so expressly warned of it in the word of God; for if any one, of whatever order and dignity, who set at nought the law of Moses, by any presumptuous transgression of it, died without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses, and was excluded any benefit from those sin-offerings which were appointed for offences of ignorance and inconsideration: of how much severer punishment, &c."


Verse 29

Hebrews 10:29. Who hath trodden under foot, &c.— Treading under foot, in general, is a mark of contempt, or of setting no value upon what is so treated. Hence it is applied to signify despising or not valuing the gospel of Christ. The next clause means, "And has looked upon the blood of Christ, wherewith he was separated from the world, admitted into covenant with God, and made one of his peculiar people, as a thing of no value or consequence; but as common, and not separated or designed for any peculiar or sacred purpose." Christ's blood was shed to make us a separate people from the world, holy, zealous of good works. Holy and common, or pure and common, in the Greek, are opposed to each other. A man is sanctified, or made holy, when he is brought into covenant with God, by being separated from sin and the world. He is deemed impure, unholy, common, profane, when he is not in covenant with God. Such a treatment of the blood of Christ as above described, offers the most contemptuous injury to the Spirit of grace, by whose miraculous and saving operations the truth of the gospel is demonstrated to such a degree, that the highest blasphemy against him must virtually be expressed by such a conduct as we here suppose.


Verse 30

Hebrews 10:30. For we know him that hath said, Namely, Moses: see Deuteronomy 32:35. It maybe inquired how this passage is here applied to those who profess themselves Christians, since in Deuteronomy it evidently relates to the idolatrous Gentile adversaries of Israel? The answer is easy; for, besides that such as apostatized from the Christian religion declared themselves to beavowed enemies to the institutions of God by Jesus Christ our Lord, (which were much more sacred and important than those by Moses:) besides that, the assertion,—that vengeance belongeth to God, &c. is to be considered as a general maxim, and therefore equally applicable in all cases wherein vengeance and a penal recompence are due. The next words may be taken either from the places in Deuteronomy above referred to, or from Psalms 135:14 where we have exactly the same words; and their force may be this, "That if God will vindicate and avenge the injuries done to his chosen people the Jews, he will much more severely animadvert upon those injuries which were offered to his Christ, his Spirit, and his church."


Verse 31

Hebrews 10:31. It is a fearful thing, &c.— To fall into the hands of God, imports the being punished more immediately by him, 2 Samuel 24:14. 1 Chronicles 21:13 though in those places God is spoken of as a God graciously correcting; whereas here he is considered as a righteous and angry Judge taking vengeance on his adversaries: and his being the living God, or the God who lives and can take vengeance for ever, may justlyadd to the consideration of the terribleness of his vengeance. See Matthew 10:28. This verse seems to refer to the just punishments inflicted by men for the breach of the Mosaic law, and to the unrighteous persecutions which Christians endured from their enemies: and it appears to be the apostle's design to put them in mind, that the divine vengeance was incomparably more terrible than both.


Verse 32

Hebrews 10:32. After ye were illuminated, The Hebrews, to whom this epistle was addressed, were Christian converts, long since illuminated, (ch. Hebrews 5:12, Hebrews 6:4.) had suffered great persecutions, and seem not yet to have been free from them. What were the particular persecutions hinted at, we are not positively told; but the words former days imply a series of troubles which they had met with, and most probably very many insults from private persons. The words a great fight, contest, or conflict of afflictions, ( αθλησιν, ) alludes to the athletic contests in the Grecian and Roman games, especially those of the gladiators, and gives us a high ideaof their courage and bravery. By this term, says Theophylact, he declared their courage and bravery; and doubtless, when he was encouraging them to hold out by their own example, it was veryproper for him to choose aword which carried with it praise and commendation.


Verse 33

Hebrews 10:33. Whilst ye were made a gazing flock While ye were openly exposed, as upon a theatre. St. Paul's expression, 1 Corinthians 4:9 is, "we are made θεατρον, a spectacle, as if we were exposed upon a theatre." Here it is θεατριζομενοι, openly exposed as upon a theatre: it is the same image expressed by the same word in effect,in both epistles; which, among many other unanswerable arguments, plainly points out the same inspired author of both. Dr. Heylin renders the next clause, one part of you being exposed—while the other sympathized with them, as the companions of those who were so abused. There was a communion, a fellow-feeling of the evils which the brethren underwent.


Verse 34

Hebrews 10:34. For ye had compassion of me, &c.— This verse alone, it appears to me, leaves no room to doubt that St. Paul was the author of this epistle. We may observe, that the apostle having mentioned two things, Hebrews 10:33 to set forth the sufferings of the Hebrews, proceeds in this verse to give a proof of both; but does not proceed in the order wherein he had before placed them. The first clause of Hebrews 10:34 relates to the latter in Hebrews 10:33 and in like manner the last clause in Hebrews 10:34 is a proof of the first in Hebrews 10:33.


Verse 35

Hebrews 10:35. Cast not away therefore your confidence, "Do not cast away, on the contrary, hold fast that liberty, that freedom of access ( παρρησιαν ), which is granted you to enter into the holy of holies." See ch. Hebrews 3:6 and Hebrews 10:19 of this chapter.


Verse 36

Hebrews 10:36. For ye have need of patience; "You have need of steady perseverance, or of holding out to the end." See Revelation 17:18; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 3:11.


Verse 37

Hebrews 10:37. For yet a little while, Some would render the Greek, which is emphatical,—a little, a very little time,— μικρον οσον οσον . It has been observed that 'Ο ερχομενος, the Comer, is a title given to the Messiah. See Matthew 11:3 and Habakkuk 2:3; Habakkuk 2:20. The Hebrews were to wait with patience and perseverance, that they might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. They were to hold out for some time, be it more or less; and he that is to come, will come, and will not delay his coming beyond the time appointed. See Hebrews 10:25.


Verse 38

Hebrews 10:38. Now the just shall live by faith: Dr. Sykes is of opinion, that this sentence would stand better connected with the preceding words, if a full stop were not put after the word tarry, but the whole were read in one continued sentence: "He that shall come, will come at the time appointed; and those who are just, from and by theirfaith in Christ, shall live." St. Paul has, throughout the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, shewn that we are justified by faith: Romans 1:21. Galatians 3:11-23. Those then who perseveringly believe in Christ, are to receive the gift of God, which is eternal life. Romans 6:23. There is nothing for any man in the next clause; it should be, If he, namely, the just man, the person of whom he is speaking, draw back: "If, in times of difficulty, the just man by faith, apostatize from the faith whereby he was justified, my soul, saith God, shall have no pleasure in him; but I shall rather, as it were, hate him, and cast him off."—"But we are not (continues the apostle, Hebrews 10:39.) of those, who through fear and cowardice draw back, and renounce our profession,—a wickedness which must end in destruction; but we are men of faith, real believers in Christ, who are justified by that faith which terminates to the faithful in the gain of the soul." As the one was to lead to the destruction, the loss of the soul; the other was to lead to the acquisition, or gain of the soul. See 1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Inferences.—How defective were all legal sacrifices! They and all attending institutions were, at best, only a shadow of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice, and the blessings of the gospel introduced by him. The frequent repetition of those sacrifices was a plain proof of their imperfection; they could not prevent the returns of guilt upon the conscience; nor could they possibly take away sin, or be pleasing to God for that purpose. But how meritorious and effectual is the sacrifice of Christ, who freely came into an incarnate state, according to ancient prophesies and records, to fulfil his Father's will by offering up himself! This alone is sufficient for purging all that perseveringly believe in him, from every iniquity, and recommending them to God's acceptance, as a people dedicated to his service; and for perfecting all that concerns them: and our great Lord is now exalted, as a Priest on his throne, at the right hand of the eternal Father, where he must reign till all his enemies be subdued under his feet. And O what a blessed security have the faithful people of God in him, and in the covenant of grace, which the Holy Ghost has recorded, with a view to gospel times, in the writings of the Old Testament! It is now ratified, with all its blessings purchased by the death of Christ, on whose account God will write his law and his gospel in their hearts, and will so thoroughly forgive all their sins, as never more to remember any of them against them. What rich encouragement then have we to draw near to God in Christ, with humble boldness, and full assurance of faith! Jesus our High-priest has opened a new and living way to the throne of grace, through his crucified flesh, and now appears in heaven itself to recommend all believers and their prayers to divine acceptance, by the sprinklings of his Blood, and the sanctifying influences of his Spirit. But how watchful ought we to be against the beginnings of apostacy! If our love and zeal for every good work be in a declining state, and we grow cool and indifferent about attending on religious assemblies and gospel ordinances, we have reason to fear, lest we fall after the example of some other professors and possessors of Christ, that have revolted from him: and the thoughts of awful trials, and of death and judgment, as near approaching, should excite us to the greater care herein. Ah! how extremely dangerous is the case of apostates, who, after they have been experimentally converted to God, vilify the Son of God; depreciate the Blood of the covenant, whereby he was consecrated to his priestly office! and treat the Spirit of all grace with malignant contempt! As there is no other sacrifice for sin, than that which they reject and despise, they can have nothing to expect but judgment without mercy, and flaming wrath to consume them: and as their sin is more abundantly aggravated than any transgressions of Moses's law, for which offenders were put to death, we must suppose, from the reason of things, that they deserve a proportionally heavier vengeance; and we are assured from divine testimony, that the great God will assert his own prerogative, in calling them to a severe account for all their wilful abuses of gospel light and grace. Alas! how dreadful is it to fall into the hands of his provoked power and justice, who lives for ever to inflict the sorest punishment upon impenitent sinners! But whatever losses, troubles, or reproaches, true believers may suffer for Christ, they ought not to cast away their humble confidence and joy in him, and their holy profession of his name; as being satisfied in their own minds, that they have a more substantial and abiding inheritance in heaven. This is indeed a great recompence of reward, which the faithful God will give his saints according to his gracious promise; and the prospect of this, together with a remembrance of their former experience of divine light and support under their various tribulations for Christ, and compassionate regard to fellow-sufferers, should encourage their faith and hope, and animate their patience amid further difficulties which may befal them: for in a very little time the Lord Jesus will certainly come by death and judgment for their salvation.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The weakness and unprofitableness of the Levitical institutions should engage the Hebrews to receive, with greater cordiality, the blessed gospel. For,

1. The law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, all being figurative and typical of Christ, who should, in the fulness of time, appear as the substance, can never with those sacrifices which they, who were high-priests, offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect, so as to satisfy God's justice, obtain reconciliation, pacify the guilty conscience, and sanctify the unholy heart. For then, if this great end had been fully answered for every faithful soul, would they not have ceased to be offered? What use would there have been for their repetition? because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins, but have enjoyed a clear sense of pardoning love. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year, which shews that the former sacrifices had not perfectly atoned for them. Nor indeed could they; for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins, making an adequate compensation to divine justice, or that the death of a beast should be a proper and effectual atonement for the sin of the soul. A better sacrifice than these was required, and all the use of these typical ones was to lead to Christ, whose blood alone could satisfy for sin. Wherefore,

2. When he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me, in which to make that atonement for which the legal sacrifices were utterly ineffectual. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo! I come (as in the volume of the book of prophesy it is written of me) to do thy will, O God; well pleased and content to suffer all that justice demands, to make satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, but especially of them who perseveringly believe. Above, when he said, Sacrifice, and offering, and burnt-offerings, and offering for sin, thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (which are offered by the law;) then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God, and to take away sin by the sacrifice of myself. He taketh away the first covenant, with all the legal sacrifices, because of their insufficiency, that he may establish the second, through his own atoning blood.

3. In virtue of his oblation, the most invaluable blessings are secured to us. By the which will of God, as fulfilled in Christ, we are sanctified, our sins expiated, our consciences purged from their defilement, and our hearts cleansed, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all: wherein may be observed another singular excellence of our High-priest and his sacrifice above all others; for every priest STANDETH, with awful distance, and continues DAILY ministering, and offering OFTENTIMES THE SAME SACRIFICES, all which things shewed the imperfection of that dispensation; and, after all, these can never take away sin, so as to satisfy God's justice, or relieve the guilty conscience; but this man, the glorious Jesus, after he had offered ONE sacrifice for sins, fully accomplished his work, and never needed to offer another, and for ever SAT DOWN, in a state of endless rest and most transcendent dignity, on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till all his enemies be made his footstool, and Satan, sin, the world, and death, shall at last be destroyed for ever. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; by his blood and intercession he has expiated all their sins, made a complete atonement for them, and, through the powerful efficacy of divine faith, their hearts are renewed and dedicated to God, and shall, if faithful, continue so for ever through that complete atonement. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, he adds, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more; so that they shall be absolutely, fully, and for ever done away, for all his faithful people. Now where remission of these is, in so complete a manner, there is no more offering for sin, the one oblation of Christ's body on the cross having satisfied to the uttermost for all the faithful. Note; All the enemies of Christ and his people must sooner or later become his footstool: he is sat down on his throne, and shall reign till they are utterly destroyed.

2nd, The apostle having concluded the doctrinal part of the epistle, proceeds to make a practical improvement of the whole.

He reminds them of the inestimable privileges which through their great High-priest they enjoyed. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, and freedom and confidence in approaching a reconciled God, by the blood of Jesus, sprinkled with which we are assured of acceptance before him, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life; through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; (for, when his body was broken on the tree, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, to shew that every obstruction in the way of the faithful to a throne of grace and glory was now removed:) and having an High-priest, one so great and glorious, over the house of God, let us,

1. Draw near to God in every act of worship, and in the most endeared communion; with a true heart, in all simplicity and godly sincerity, and in full assurance of faith in the all-sufficiency of our Redeemer, and our reconciliation with God through him, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience with his atoning blood, which speaks peace from all guilt and condemnation; and our bodies washed with pure water, cleansed by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, which the Jewish washings prefigured.

2. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; not seduced by temptation, dismayed with opposition, or distrusting the grace engaged for our support: for he is faithful that promised, and the righteous may safely repose their everlasting all on his word.

And, 3. Let us consider one another, our respective trials, dangers, wants, and weakness, in order to provoke each other unto love towards Jesus and the brethren, and to good works, such as may adorn our high profession.

4. Let us be united in heart and worship, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, who on weak and frivolous pretences absent themselves from the congregation of the faithful and the communion of the Lord; a sad symptom of declension, and often the prelude to apostacy.

5. Let us never be slack and remiss in holy jealousy over ourselves and our brethren; but be exhorting one another to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, in the use of every appointed means of grace: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching, when the whole Jewish polity and nation shall be destroyed; or when death and final judgment shall arrive. An awful consideration! which, the more deeply it dwells upon our minds, will excite our most awakened solicitude to be always ready for our great change.

3rdly, To awaken their most abundant concern, the apostle sets before them the dreadful evil and danger of apostacy.

For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, which does not mean every sin that through infirmity or temptation we may be drawn into, nor even deliberate or repeated acts of sin; but such a course of iniquity, embraced with full consent of the mind, as leads to an utter rejection of the gospel, and denial of Jesus Christ: in this case, the only remedy being rejected, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, nor any possibility of pardon, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries; such as must shortly seize the infidel Jews when they shall be buried in the ruins of their city, and awaits the finally impenitent in the great day of God's wrath, when the wicked shall be cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Even he that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses, and no sacrifice was appointed for presumptuous sins: of how much sorer punishment then, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, whose offence is so vastly aggravated, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, treating him with the direct insolence and contempt as an impostor, denying his Deity, despising his atonement, and mocking at his grace; and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, of less efficacy than the blood of bulls and goats, yea, as the Jews intimated at his crucifixion, viler than that of the greatest miscreants; and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, imputing his miracles to diabolical power, and calling his operations upon the hearts of men delusion and enthusiasm. Such blasphemy is unpardonable, and must bring down the heaviest wrath of an offended God. For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord, and punish incorrigible offenders according to their wickedness. And again, The Lord shall judge his people, will detect hypocrites, and as surely destroy the apostate as he will save the faithful. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, whose wrath, if it be kindled, yea but a moment, who may abide it? Let us hear and tremble, and watch and pray, that we come not into this condemnation, and perish with these despisers.

4thly, To excite the children of God steadily to persevere, 50: He reminds them of the past sufferings which they had so nobly undergone. But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, and brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, and acquitted yourselves manfully, as became those who were lifted under the banner of the cross; partly whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions, pointed at, and treated as despicable and ridiculous, and worried with the unrelenting malice and enmity of the wicked world; and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used, nobly owning them in their sufferings for righteousness' sake, sympathizing with them, and affording them every assistance. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, tenderly affected for me, and supporting me to the utmost of your ability; and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, content, yea, glorying in your sufferings and losses, knowing in yourselves, from the assurance of God's promises and the experience of his grace, that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, where the saints shall enjoy their God for ever. Note; (1.) Every Christian must expect, and welcome the cross. (2.) Though we may be screened by Divine Providence and human laws from grosser violations of our property, the lash of slander, the bitterness of reproach, and the trial of cruel mockings, these we shall assuredly, more or less, meet with, if we belong to Christ. (3.) God can make his people joyful under all their trials, and neither ashamed nor afraid to suffer for his sake. (4.) If we are of the body of Christ, we shall sympathize with his members, and shall own and honour them under their reproaches for his name's sake. (5.) If we gain heaven at last, we need be little concerned what we may lose by the way.

2. He exhorts them to stand fast in the prospect of the glory which was before them. Cast not away therefore your confidence, fortitude and holy resolution, which hath greater recompence of reward, and, if persevered in, will secure for you a crown of glory which fadeth not away, and will infinitely overbalance all your losses and sufferings: for ye have need of patience while the conflict continues, that ye may not be weary and faint in your mind; and that after ye have done the will of God, faithfully obedient to his word, and resigned to his providence, ye might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For yet a little while, a very short moment, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry, to execute vengeance upon his enemies, to vindicate the injuries of his faithful people, and save them with his uttermost salvation. Note; (1.) Faith and patience, held fast, secure our perseverance. (2.) Whatever trials oppress us, it is our comfort that the Judge standeth at the door, and that death shall quickly release us from every burden.

3. He encourages and warns them alternately. Now the just shall live by faith, or the just by faith shall live, shall enjoy the life of God in their souls, and, if faithful unto death, shall live with God to all eternity: but if any man draw back from Christ and his gospel as an apostate, my soul, saith God, shall have no pleasure in him, but, contrary-wise, he will be the object of my abhorrence, and suffer all my furious indignation. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, such confidence have I toward you; but of them that truly believe to the saving of the soul, faithful unto death, that we may receive the crown of life. Note; (1.) Many go far in profession, and even possession of grace, who after all prove apostates. (2.) Past experience of God's keeping us, should encourage our increasing confidence in his grace.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/hebrews-10.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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