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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hebrews 1:3

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ablution;   Atonement;   Glory;   God Continued...;   Image;   Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Majesty;   Power;   Thompson Chain Reference - Better;   Christ;   Dispensation, New;   Divine;   Divinity;   Divinity-Humanity;   Image, Divine;   New;   Power;   Weakness-Power;   The Topic Concordance - Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Christ Is God;   Excellency and Glory of Christ, the;   Glory of God, the;   High Priest, the;   Power of Christ, the;   Prophecies Respecting Christ;   Trinity, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Birthright;   Exodus;   Glory, Glorify;   Image;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Creation;   Glory;   God;   Holy spirit;   Image;   Jesus christ;   Son of god;   Word;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christians, Names of;   Glory;   God;   Image of God;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   Old Testament in the New Testament, the;   Testimony;   Time;   Word;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Adoption;   Hypostasis;   Jesus Christ;   Omnipotence of God;   Omnipresence of God;   Person;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Glory;   Providence;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Adam (1);   Ark of the Covenant;   Form;   Hebrews, the Epistle to the;   Idol;   John, the Epistles of;   Philip the Apostle;   Providence;   Sacrifice;   Word, the;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Anthropology;   Anthropomorphism;   Ascension of Christ;   Christ, Christology;   Confessions and Credos;   Cross, Crucifixion;   God;   Hebrews;   History;   Incarnation;   Likeness;   Mission(s);   Omnipotence;   Presence of God;   Revelation of God;   Word;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ascension;   Atonement;   Canon of the New Testament;   Grace;   Hebrews, Epistle to;   Image;   Kenosis;   Light;   Logos;   Plain;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Alpha and Omega (2);   Annunciation, the ;   Apocrypha;   Art;   Ascension;   Ascension (2);   Attributes of Christ;   Communion (2);   Death of Christ;   Doxology;   Doxology ;   Evolution (Christ and);   Example;   Glory;   Glory (2);   Hebrews Epistle to the;   Holiness Purity;   Humiliation of Christ;   Image;   Immanence ;   James Epistle of;   Logos;   Majesty;   Majesty (2);   Mediator;   Nunc Dimittis ;   Presence;   Priest;   Propitiation (2);   Psalms (2);   Purification ;   Righteous, Righteousness;   Session;   Shekinah ;   Substance ;   Transfiguration (2);   Union with God;   Wisdom of Solomon;   World;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - 14 Word Words;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Christ;   Hand;   Image;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Jehu;   Scripture;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Purge;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Expiation;   Sacrifice;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ascension;   Begotten;   Brightness;   Christ, the Exaltation of;   Christ, Offices of;   Eschatology of the New Testament;   Express;   Hebrews, Epistle to the;   Image;   Light;   Logos;   Nahum, the Book of;   Omnipotence;   Omnipresence;   Person;   Person of Christ;   Philosophy;   Priest;   Priest, High;   Purge;   Substance;   Wisdom;   Word;   World (Cosmological);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Son of God;   Wisdom of Solomon, Book of the;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for September 14;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 2;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Hebrews 1:3. The brightness of his gloryΑπαυγασμα της δοξης The resplendent outbeaming of the essential glory of God. Hesychius interprets απαυγασμα by ηλιουφεγγος, the splendour of the sun. The same form of expression is used by an apocryphal writer, Wisdom Wisdom Hebrews 7:26, where, speaking of the uncreated wisdom of God, he says: "For she is the splendour of eternal light, απαυγασμα γαρ εστι φωτος αΐδιου, and the unsullied mirror of the energy of God, and the image of his goodness." The word αυγασμα is that which has splendour in itself απαυγασμα is the splendour emitted from it; but the inherent splendour and the exhibited splendour are radically and essentially the same.

The express image of his personΧαρακτηρ της ὑποστασεως αυτου. The character or impression of his hypostasis or substance. It is supposed that these words expound the former; image expounding brightness, and person or substance, glory. The hypostasis of God is that which is essential to him as God; and the character or image is that by which all the likeness of the original becomes manifest, and is a perfect fac-simile of the whole. It is a metaphor taken from sealing; the die or seal leaving the full impression of its every part on the wax to which it is applied.

From these words it is evident, 1. That the apostle states Jesus Christ to be of the same essence with the Father, as the απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendour, must be the same with the αυγασμα, or inherent splendour.

2. That Christ, though proceeding from the Father, is of the same essence; for if one αυγη, or splendour, produce another αυγη or splendour, the produced splendour must be of the same essence with that which produces it.

3. That although Christ is thus of the same essence with the Father, yet he is a distinct person from the Father; as the splendour of the sun, though of the same essence, is distinct from the sun itself, though each is essential to the other; as the αυγασμα, or inherent splendour, cannot subsist without its απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendour, nor the proceeding splendour subsist without the inherent splendour from which it proceeds.

4. That Christ is eternal with the Father, as the proceeding splendour must necessarily be coexistent with the inherent splendour. If the one, therefore, be uncreated, the other is uncreated; if the one be eternal, the other is eternal.

Upholding all things by the word of his power — This is an astonishing description of the infinitely energetic and all pervading power of God. He spake, and all things were created; he speaks, and all things are sustained. The Jewish writers frequently express the perfection of the Divine nature by the phrases, He bears all things, both above and below; He carries all his creatures; He bears his world; He bears all worlds by his power. The Hebrews, to whom this epistle was written, would, from this and other circumstances, fully understand that the apostle believed Jesus Christ to be truly and properly God.

Purged our sins — There may be here some reference to the great transactions in the wilderness.

1. Moses, while in communion with God on the mount, was so impressed with the Divine glories that his face shone, so that the Israelites could not behold it. But Jesus is infinitely greater than Moses, for he is the splendour of God's glory; and,

2. Moses found the government of the Israelites such a burden that he altogether sank under it. His words, Numbers 11:12, are very remarkable: Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, CARRY them in thy BOSOM-unto the land which thou swearest unto their fathers? But Christ not only carried all the Israelites, and all mankind; but he upholds ALL THINGS by the word of his power.

3. The Israelites murmured against Moses and against God, and provoked the heavy displeasure of the Most High; and would have been consumed had not Aaron made an atonement for them, by offering victims and incense. But Jesus not only makes an atonement for Israel, but for the whole world; not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood: hence it is said that he purged our sins δι αυτου, by himself his own body and life being the victim. It is very likely that the apostle had all these things in his eye when he wrote this verse; and takes occasion from them to show the infinite excellence of Jesus Christ when compared with Moses; and of his Gospel when compared with the law. And it is very likely that the Spirit of God, by whom he spoke, kept in view those maxims of the ancient Jews, concerning the Messiah, whom they represent as being infinitely greater than Abraham, the patriarchs, Moses, and the ministering angels. So Rabbi Tanchum, on Isaiah 52:13, Behold my servant shall deal prudently, says, זה מלך המשיח Zeh melek hammashiach, this is the King Messiah; and shall be exalted, and be extolled, and be very high. "He shall be exalted above Abraham, and shall be extolled beyond Moses, and shall be more sublime than the ministering angels-."See the preface.

The right hand of the Majesty on high — As it were associated with the supreme Majesty, in glory everlasting, and in the government of all things in time and in eternity; for the right hand is the place of the greatest eminence, 1 Kings 2:19. The king himself, in eastern countries, sits on the throne; the next to him in the kingdom, and the highest favourite, sits on his right hand; and the third greatest personage, on his left.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/hebrews-1.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


1:1-2:18 SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST

God speaks through his Son (1:1-4)

Israel prepared the way, but Jesus Christ brings God’s plan of salvation to its fulfilment. In Old Testament times God spoke to people through Israelite prophets, but now he speaks more directly, for he speaks through his Son. In addition, his revelation is much clearer, for Jesus Christ is the exact expression of the divine nature. All things were created by him, are controlled by him, and one day will return to him as his rightful possession (1:1-3a).
Besides revealing God to needy sinners, Jesus brings needy sinners to God, by providing them with cleansing from sin through his death on the cross. Because of who Jesus is and what he has done, God has given him a position far above all things, angels included (3b-4).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/hebrews-1.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Two credentials of the King are noted under Hebrews 1:2, and the other five are given here.

3. "The effulgence of his glory" refers to the personal excellence of Christ, making him entitled to the kingship of the world by the very qualities of his life and character, even in the incarnated state; so that, if some means of determining the being most qualified by personal traits to be hailed universal ruler could be applied to all who ever lived on earth, Christ would infinitely surpass all others. This radiated glory of the Lord is called "emitted splendor" by Macknight who said,

The meaning, I think, is that the divine perfections shone brightly in the Son, even after he was made flesh. Hence, John saith in his Gospel (John 1:14), "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."[3]

4. "And the very image of his substance" is somewhat ambiguous in the common versions; and the scholars give its meaning variously as: "He is the counterpart or facsimile of the Father."[4] "Very God of very God."[5] "The exact representation of the very being of God."[6] "The same essence with the Father,"[7] etc. Certainly, then, this refers to the divine right of Christ to receive people's worship, adoration, and obedience. Christ is entitled to be honored as King by divine right and is the only being ever so entitled to rulership; although he is by no means the only one ever to claim it!

5. "Upholding all things by the word of his power" makes Christ to be the sustaining force of the cosmos itself, again reminding one of Paul's declaration in Colossians 1:16,17, "He is before all things, and in him all things consist." This credential undergirds Christ's throne by right of maintenance and support. One who is the sole support and source of every power within his creatures and creations has every right to rule over them and to expect true love and submission to his will. Perhaps a word is in order regarding the manner of Christ's upholding all things. It is "by the word of his power," hence spiritual by nature; and that spirituality is evident from the very makeup of material things themselves. Dr. John Cleveland Cothran, distinguished mathematician and chemist, has noted that:

Each atom of the 102 elements consists of exactly the same three kinds of particles: protons, electrons, and neutrons; all the protons and neutrons of a given kind of atom are located in a central nucleus; all of the electrons, equal in number to the protons, spin on their axes and revolve at relatively great distances from it - rather reminiscent of a miniature solar system, so that most of the volume of the atom is merely empty space, just as is that of the solar system.[8]

The spinning of those fantastically small particles approaches the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second; and that has been going on since Creation, without any interruption whatsoever! Why? The only intelligent answer must lie in the fact that Someone has commanded it; and who could such a Someone be, but God? Again, from Dr. Cothran,

Our logical and inescapable conclusion is not only that creation occurred, but that it was brought about according to the plan and will of a Person endowed with supreme intelligence and knowledge (omniscience), and the power to bring it about and keep it running according to plan (omnipotence), always and everywhere throughout the universe (omnipresence).[9]

Thus, there is a recognizable need for the "upholding" of all things by a word of power, a need supplied by our Lord, who, as that "word of power," is rightful king of all creation. The only logical reason that can be given as to why an electron travels at the speed of light for a thousand years (or a billion) is that Christ has commanded it; and the same is true of suns and galaxies.

6. "When he had made purification of sins" is the credential which makes Christ king by right of purchase. The United States of America governs Alaska, because it was purchased from the Russian government for $7,000,000.00 in gold. Far greater was the price Christ paid for his human creation, buying them back when they had fallen into sin and were thereby forfeit to Satan. Yes, "Ye were bought with a price"! (1 Corinthians 6:20). And what was it? "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). It is perhaps impossible fully to understand why such a redemption was necessary, but every verse of the sacred scriptures is oriented to the sublime fact that man's incredible conduct in the garden of Eden cut him off from fellowship with his Creator and left him to languish in the kingdom of darkness until he should be redeemed. The interdict could never be lifted until Jesus paid it all upon the cross; and the recognition and appreciation of the marvelous truth that Christ did indeed lift it comprise the most glorious achievement of mortal mind, nor is it to say that such a thing can ever be fully understood until earth and earthly things have passed away.

7. "And hath sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." This makes Christ king by right of having taken the kingdom. He is no mere candidate for regal honors, nor is he the "heir apparent"; but by fait accompli, he has already and altogether taken possession and will continue to reign until he has put all enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). This is the credential by which many of the kings of the earth have sat upon their respective thrones. William the Conqueror took the throne of England solely by having the power to do it. He defeated Harold at the battle of Hastings, 1066; and without Harold's consent, and contrary to the will of many in England, he took the scepter anyway. There is the counterpart of this in Christ's credential here considered. He through death slew him that had the power of death, even the devil (Hebrews 2:14), led captivity captive, gave gifts unto men, and sat down on God's throne, called here the "right hand of the Majesty on high."

The representation that Christ has "sat down" is a testimony to the completed nature of his work. In the Jewish economy, the high priest did not sit down when he went into the Holy of Holies, there being no provision of a chair, testifying to the preparatory and temporal nature of the atonement that he made; but not so with Christ who having accomplished all things is seated at God's right hand. Of course, this is not the designation of any place, specifically, the throne of God being a metaphor for the control center of the universe, which in the very nature of things, it is impossible for finite and mortal intelligence to apprehend fully, except by metaphorical comparison to things that are familiar. The metaphor is based upon the custom of ancient kings to elevate their favorite minister to a seat on the king's right hand. Several other expressions similar to this are in Hebrews (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

Thus, Christ is king by every conceivable right which was ever recognized as proper and legal undergirding of kingly authority, and by all of them at once. Thus, by inheritance, by creation, by personal excellence, by divine right, by right of maintenance, by right of purchase, and by fait accompli, Jesus Christ our Lord is the lawful sovereign of all things. Throughout the farthest reaches of the universe, the natural creations, all of them, suns, satellites, and galaxies, do his will; and what an incredibly strange thing it is that, in all the universe, man alone hesitates and refuses to give full obedience, frequently choosing to cast his lot with Satan and the fallen angels, already doomed and sentenced.

[3] James Macknight, Apostolic Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 509.

[4] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1016.

[5] Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p. 52.

[6] Clarence S. Roddy, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 18.

[7] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1829), Vol. 6, p. 686.

[8] John Cleveland Cothran, Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1958), pp. 40,42.

[9] Ibid.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/hebrews-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Who being the brightness of his glory - This verse is designed to state the dignity and exalted rank of the Son of God, and is exceedingly important with reference to a correct view of the Redeemer. Every word which is employed is of great importance, and should be clearly understood in order to a correct apprehension of the passage. First, in what manner does it refer to the Redeemer? To his divine nature? To the mode of his existence before he was incarnate? Or to him as he appeared on earth? Most of the ancient commentators supposed that it referred to his divine dignity before he became incarnate, and proceed to argue on that supposition on the mode of the divine existence. The true solution seems to me to be, that it refers to him as incarnate, but still has reference to him as the incarnate “Son of God.” It refers to him as Mediator, but not simply or mainly as a man. It is rather to him as divine - thus, in his incarnation, being the brightness of the divine glory, and the express image of God. That this is the correct view is apparent, I think, from the whole scope of the passage. The drift of the argument is, to show his dignity as “he has spoken to us” Hebrews 1:1, and not in the period antecedent to his incarnation. It is to show his claims to our reverence as sent from God - the last and greatest of the messengers which God bas sent to man. But, then it is a description of him “as he actually is” - the incarnate Son of God; the equal of the Father in human flesh; and this leads the writer to dwell on his divine, character, and to argue from that; Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:10-58.1.12. I have no doubt, therefore, that this description refers to his divine nature, but it is the divine nature as it appears in human flesh. An examination of the words used will prepare us for a more clear comprehension of the sense. The word “glory” - δόξα doxa - means properly “a seeming, an appearance;” and then:

(1)Praise, applause, honor:

(2)Dignity, splendor, glory;

(3)Brightness, dazzling light; and,

(4)Excellence, perfection, such as belongs to God and such as there is in heaven.

It is probably used here, as the word - כבוד kaabowd - is often among the Hebrews, to denote splendor, brightness, and refers to the divine perfections as resembling a bright light, or the sun. The word is applied to the sun and stars, 1 Corinthians 15:40-46.15.41; to the light which Paul saw on the way to Damascus, Acts 22:11; to the shining of Moses’ face, 2 Corinthians 3:7; to the celestial light which surrounds the angels, Revelation 18:1; and glorified saints, Luke 9:31-42.9.32; and to the dazzling splendor or majesty in which God is enthroned; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 1:17; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:23. Here there is a comparison of God with the sun; he is encompassed with splendor and majesty; he is a being of light and of infinite perfection. It refers to “all in God” that is bright, splendid, glorious; and the idea is, that the Son of God is the “brightness” of it all.

The word rendered “brightness” - ἀπαύγασμα apaugasma - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly “reflected splendor,” or the light which emanates from a luminous body. The rays or beams of the sun are its “brightness,” or that by which the sun is seen and known. The sun itself we do not see; the beams which flow from it we do see. The meaning here is, that if God be represented under the image of a luminous body, as he is in the Scriptures (see Psalms 84:11; Malachi 4:2), then Christ is the radiance of that light, the brightness of that luminary - Stuart. He is that by which we perceive God, or by which God is made known to us in his real perfections; compare John 1:18; John 14:9. - It is by him only that the true character and glory of God is known to people. This is true in regard to the great system of revelation but it is especially true in regard to the views which people have of God. Matthew 11:27 - “no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”

The human soul is dark respecting the divine character until it is enlightened by Christ. It sees no beauty, no glory in his nature - nothing that excites wonder, or that wins the affections, until it is disclosed by the Redeemer. somehow it happens, account for it as people may, that there are no elevating practical views of God in the world; no views that engage and hold the affections of the soul; no views that are transforming and purifying, but those which are derived from the Lord Jesus. A man becomes a Christian, and at once he has elevated, practical views of God. He is to him the most glorious of all beings. He finds supreme delight in contemplating his perfections. But he may be a philosopher or an infidel, and though he may profess to believe in the existence of God, yet the belief excites no practical influence on him; he sees nothing to admire; nothing which leads him to worship him; compare Romans 1:21.

And the express image - The word used here - χαρακτὴρ charaktēr - likewise occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is that from which our word “character” is derived. It properly means a “engraving-tool;” and then something “engraved” or “stamped” - “a character” - as a letter, mark, sign. The image stamped on coins, seals, wax, expresses the idea: and the sense here is, that if God be represented under the idea of a substance, or being, then Christ is the exact resemblance of that - as an image is of the stamp or die. The resemblance between a stamp and the figure which is impressed is exact; and so is the resemblance between the Redeemer and God; see Colossians 1:15. “Who is the image of the invisible God.”

Of his person - The word “person” with us denotes an individual being, and is applied to human beings, consisting of body and soul. We do not apply it to anything dead - not using it with reference to the body when the spirit is gone. It is applied to man - with individual and separate consciousness and will; with body and soul; with an existence separate from others. It is evident that it cannot be used in this sense when applied to God, and that this word does not express the true idea of the passage here. Tyndale renders it, more accurately, “substance.” The word in the original - ὑπόστασις hupostasis - whence our word “hypostasis,” means, literally, a “foundation,” or “substructure.” Then it means a well-founded trust, firm expectation, confidence, firmness, boldness; and then “reality, substance, essential nature.” In the New Testament, it is rendered “confident,” or “confidence” 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Hebrews 3:14; “substance” Hebrews 11:1; and “person” in the passage before us. It is not used elsewhere. Here it properly refers to the essential nature of God - what distinguishes him from all other beings, and which, if I may so say, “constitutes him God;” and the idea is, that the Redeemer is the exact resemblance of “that.” This resemblance consists, probably, in the following things - though perhaps the enumeration does not include all - but in these he certainly resembles God, or is his exact image:

(1) In his original mode of being, or before the incarnation. Of this we know little. But he had a “glory with the Father before the world was;” John 17:5. He was “in the beginning with God, and was God;” John 1:1. He was in intimate union with the Father, and was one with Him, in certain respects; though in certain other respects, there was a distinction. I do not see any evidence in the Scriptures of the doctrine of “eternal generation,” and it is certain that that doctrine militates against the “proper eternity” of the Son of God. The natural and fair meaning of that doctrine would be, that there was a time when he had not an existence, and when he began to be, or was begotten. But the Scripture doctrine is, that he had a strict and proper eternity. I see no evidence that he was in any sense a “derived being” - deriving his existence and his divinity from the Father. The Fathers of the Christian church, it is believed, held that the Son of God as to his divine, as well as his human nature, was “derived” from the Father. Hence, the Nicene creed speaks of him as “begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made” - language implying derivation in his divine nature. They held, with one voice, that he was God (divine); but it was in this manner; see Stuart, Excursus III. on the Epistle to the Hebrews. But this is incredible and impossible. A derived being cannot in any proper sense be “God”; and if there is any attribute which the Scriptures have ascribed to the Saviour with special clearness, it is that of proper eternity; Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:17; John 1:1.

(Perhaps the doctrine of Christ’s natural or eternal Sonship had been as well understood without the help of the term “generation,” which adds nothing to our stock of ideas on the subject, and gives rise, as the above remarks prove, to objections which attach altogether to the “word,” and from which the “doctrine” itself is free. In fairness however, it should be remembered that, like many other theological terms, the term in question, when applied to Christ’s Sonship, is not to be understood in the ordinary acceptation, as implying derivation or extraction. It is used as making some approach to a proper term only, and in this case, as in others of like nature, it is but just to respect the acknowledged rule that when human phraseology is employed concerning the divine nature, all that is imperfect, all that belongs to the creature, is to be rejected, and that only retained which comports with the majesty of the Creator. It is on this very principle that Prof. Stuart, in his first excursus, and Trinitarians generally, have so successfully defended the use of the word “person” to designate a distinction in the Godhead. Overlooking this principle, our author deduces consequences from the doctrine of eternal generation, which do not properly belong to it, and which its advocates distinctly repudiate.

That doctrine cannot militate against the proper eternity of the Son, since, while it uses the term “generation,” not “more human,” but with every thing of human informity separated from it, it supplies also the adjunct “eternal.” Whatever some indiscreet advocates of the eternal Sonship may have affirmed, it should never be forgotten, that the ablest friends equally with the author, contend that there is no “Derivation or communication of essence from the Father to the Son.” “Although the terms “Father” and “Son” indicate a relation analogous to that among people, yet, as in the latter case, it is a relation between two material and separate beings, and in the former, is a relation in the same Spiritual essence, the one can throw no light upon the other; and to attempt to illustrate the one by the other is equally illogical and presumptuous. We can conceive the communication of a material essence by one material being to another, because it takes place in the generation of animals; but the communication of a spiritual, indivisible, immutable essence is altogether inconceivable, especially when we add, that the supposed communication does not constitute a different being, but takes place in the essences communicating.”

Dick’s Theology, vol. 2, page 71. It is readily allowed that the Fathers, and many since their times, have written unguardedly on this mysterious subject: but their errors, instead of leading us to reject the doctrine entirely, should lead us only to examine the Scriptures more fully, and form our opinions on them alone. The excellent author already quoted has well remarked: “I cannot conceive what object they have in view who admit the Divinity, but deny the natural Sonship of our Saviour, unless it be to get rid of the strange notions about communication of essence and subordination which have prevailed so much; and in this case, like too many disputants, in avoiding one extreme, they run into the other.”)

It may have been that it was by him that the perfections of God were made known before the incarnation to the angelic world, but on that point the Scriptures are silent.

(2) On earth he was the brightness of the divine glory, and the express image of his person:

  1. It was by him, eminently, that God was made known to human beings - as it is by the beams of the sun that that is made known.
    1. He bore an exact resemblance to God. He was just such a being as we should suppose God to be were he to become incarnate, and to act as a man.

He was the embodied representation of the Deity. He was pure - like God. He was benevolent - like God. He spake to the winds and storms - like God. He healed diseases - like God. He raised the dead - like God. He wielded the power which God only can wield, and he manifested a character in all respects like what we should suppose God would evince if he appeared in human flesh, and dwelt among people and this is saying much. It is in fact saying that the account in the Gospels is real, and that the Christian religion is true. Uninspired men could never have drawn such a character as that of Jesus Christ, unless that character had actually existed. The attempt has often been made to describe God, or to show how be would speak and act if he came down to earth.

Thus, the Hindus speak of the incarnations of Vishnu; and thus Homer, and Virgil, and most of the ancient poets, speak of the appearance of the gods, and describe them as they were supposed to appear. But how different from the character of the Lord Jesus! they are full of passion, and lust, and anger, and contention, and strife; they come to mingle in battles, and to take part with contending armies, and they evince the same spirit as men, and are merely “men of great power, and more gigantic passions; “but Christ is God in human nature. The form is that of man; the spirit is that of God. He walks, and eats, and sleeps as a man; he thinks, and speaks, and acts like God. He was born as a man - but the angels adored him as God. As a man he ate; yet by a word he created food for thousands, as if he were God. Like a man he slept on a pillow while the vessel was tossed by the waves; like God be rose, and rebuked the winds and they were still. As a man he went, with affectionate interest, to the house of Martha and Mary. As a man he sympathized with them in their affliction, and wept at the grave of their brother; like God he spoke, and the dead came forth to the land of the living. As a man he traveled through the land of Judea. He was without a home. Yet everywhere the sick were laid at his feet, and health came from his touch, and strength from the words of his lips as if he were God. As a man he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane; he bore his cross to Calvary; he was nailed to the tree: yet then the heavens grew dark, and the earth shook and the dead arose as if he were God. As a man he slept in the cold tomb - like God he rose, and brought life and immortality to light.

He lived on earth as a man - he ascended to heaven like God. And in all the life of the Redeemer, in all the variety of trying situations in which he was placed, there was not a word or action which was inconsistent with the supposition that he was the incarnate God. There was no failure of any effort to heal the sick or to raise the dead; no look, no word, no deed that is not perfectly consistent with this supposition; but on the contrary, his life is full of events which can be explained on no other supposition than that he was the appropriate shining forth of the divine glory, and the exact resemblance of the essence of God. There are not two Gods - as there are not two suns when the sun shines. It is the one God, in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner shining into the world in the face of Jesus Christ. See note on 2 Corinthians 4:6. As the wax bears the perfect image of the seal - perfect not only in the outline, but in the filling up - in all the lines, and features, and letters, so is it with the Redeemer. There is not one of the divine perfections which has not the counterpart in him, and if the glory of the divine character is seen at all by people, it will be seen in and through him.

And upholding all things by the word of his power - That is, by his powerful word, or command. The phrase “word of his power” is a Hebraism, and means his efficient command. There could not be a more distinct ascription of divinity to the Son of God than this. He upholds or sustains all things - that is, the universe. It is not merely the earth; not only its rocks, mountains, seas, animals and human beings, but it is the universe - all distant worlds. How can he do this who is not God? He does it by his word - his command. What a conception! That one simple command should do all this! So the world was made when God “spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast;” Psalms 33:9. So the Lord Jesus commanded the waves and the winds, and they were still Matthew 8:26-40.8.27; so he spoke to diseases and they departed, and to the dead land they arose; compare Genesis 1:3. I do know how people can “explain away” this ascription of infinite power to the Redeemer. There can be no higher idea of omnipotence than to say that he upholds all things by his word; and assuredly he who can “hold up” this vast universe so that it does not sink into anarchy or into nothing, must be God. The same power Jesus claimed for himself; see Matthew 28:18.

When he had by himself purged our sins - “By himself” - not by the blood of bulls and lambs, but by his own blood. This is designed to bring in the grand feature of the Christian scheme, that the purification made for sin was by his blood, instead of the blood which was shed in the temple-service. The word rendered here “purged” means “purified” or “expiated;” see notes on John 15:2. The literal rendering is, “having made purification for our sins.” The purification or cleansing which he effected was by his blood; see 1 John 1:7 “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” This the apostle here states to have been the great object for which he came, and having done this, he sat down on the right hand of God; see Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12-58.9.14. It was not merely to teach that he came; it was to purify the hearts of people, to remove their sins, and to put an end to sacrifice by the sacrifice of himself.

Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high - Of God; see the notes on Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20-49.1.23.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/hebrews-1.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3. Who being the brightness of his glory, etc. These things are said of Christ partly as to his divine essence, and partly as a partaker of our flesh. When he is called the brightness of his glory and the impress of his substance, his divinity is referred to; the other things appertain in a measure to his human nature. The whole, however, is stated in order to set forth the dignity of Christ.

But it is for the same reason that the Son is said to be “the brightness of his glory”, and “the impress of his substance:” they are words borrowed from nature. For nothing can be said of things so great and so profound, but by similitudes taken from created things. There is therefore no need refinedly to discuss the question how the Son, who has the same essence with the Father, is a brightness emanating from his light. We must allow that there is a degree of impropriety in the language when what is borrowed from created things is transferred to the hidden majesty of God. But still the things which are indent to our senses are fitly applied to God, and for this end, that we may know what is to be found in Christ, and what benefits he brings to us.

It ought also to be observed that frivolous speculations are not here taught, but an important doctrine of faith. We ought therefore to apply these high titles given to Christ for our own benefit, for they bear a relation to us. When, therefore, thou hear that the Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory, think thus with thyself, that the glory of the Father is invisible until it shines forth in Christ, and that he is called the impress of his substance, because the majesty of the Father is hidden until it shows itself impressed as it were on his image. They who overlook this connection and carry their philosophy higher, weary themselves to no purpose, for they do not understand the design of the Apostle; for it was not his object to show what likeness the Father bears to the Son; but, as I have said, his purpose was really to build up our faith, so that we may learn that God is made known to us in no other way than in Christ: (11) for as to the essence of God, so immense is the brightness that it dazzles our eyes, except it shines on us in Christ. It hence follows, that we are blind as to the light of God, until in Christ it beams on us. It is indeed a profitable philosophy to learn Christ by the real understanding of faith and experience. The same view, as I have said is to be taken of “the impress;” for as God is in himself to us incomprehensible, his form appears to us only in his Son. (12)

The word ἀπαύγασμα means here nothing else but visible light or refulgence, such as our eyes can bear; and χαρακτὴρ is the vivid form of a hidden substance. By the first word we are reminded that without Christ there is no light, but only darkness; for as God is the only true light by which it behaves us all to be illuminated, this light sheds itself upon us, so to speak, only by irradiation. By the second word we are reminded that God is truly and really known in Christ; for he is not his obscure or shadowy image, but his impress which resembles him, as money the impress of the die with which it is stamped. But the Apostle indeed says what is more than this, even that the substance of the Father is in a manner engraven on the Son. (13)

The word ῦποστάσις which, by following others, I have rendered substance, denotes not, as I think, the being or essence of the Father, but his person; for it would be strange to say that the essence of God is impressed on Christ, as the essence of both is simply the same. But it may truly and fitly be said that whatever peculiarly belongs to the Father is exhibited in Christ, so that he who knows him knows what is in the Father. And in this sense do the orthodox fathers take this term, hypostasis, considering it to be threefold in God, while the essence ( οὐσία) is simply one. Hilary everywhere takes the Latin word substance for person. But though it be not the Apostle’s object in this place to speak of what Christ is in himself, but of what he is really to us, yet he sufficiently confutes the Asians and Sabellians; for he claims for Christ what belongs to God alone, and also refers to two distinct persons, as to the Father and the Son. For we hence learn that the Son is one God with the Father, and that he is yet in a sense distinct from him, so that a subsistence or person belongs to both.

And upholding (or bearing) all things, etc. To uphold or to bear here means to preserve or to continue all that is created in its own state; for he intimates that all things would instantly come to nothing, were they not sustained by his power. Though the pronoun his may be referred to the Father as well as to the Son, as it may be rendered “his own,” yet as the other exposition is more commonly received, and well suits the context, I am disposed to embrace it. Literally it is, “by the word of his power;” but the genitive, after the Hebrew manner, is used instead of an adjective; for the perverted explanation of some, that Christ sustains all things by the word of the Father, that is, by himself who is the word, has nothing in its favor: besides, there is no need of such forced explanation; for Christ is not wont to be called ῥη̑μα, saying, but λόγος, word. (14) Hence the “word” here means simply a nod; and the sense is, that Christ who preserves the whole world by a nod only, did not yet refuse the office of effecting our purgation.

Now this is the second part of the doctrine handled in this Epistle; for a statement of the whole question is to be found in these two chapters, and that is, that Christ, endued with supreme authority, ought to be head above all others, and that as he has reconciled us to his Father by his own death, he has put an end to the ancient sacrifices. And so the first point, though a general proposition, is yet a twofold clause.

When he further says, by himself, there is to be understood here a contrast, that he had not been aided in this by the shadows of the Mosaic Law. He shows besides a difference between him and the Levitical priests; for they also were said to expiate sins, but they derived this power from another. In short, he intended to exclude all other means or helps by stating that the price and the power of purgation were found only in Christ. (15)

Sat down on the right hand, etc.; as though he had said, that having in the world procured salvation for men, he was received into celestial glory, in order that he might govern all things. And he added this in order to show that it was not a temporary salvation he has obtained for us; for we should otherwise be too apt to measure his power by what now appears to us. He then reminds us that Christ is not to be less esteemed because he is not seen by our eyes; but, on the contrary, that this was the height of his glory, that he has been taken and conveyed to the highest seat of his empire. The right hand is by a similitude applied to God, though he is not confined to any place, and has not a right side nor left. The session then of Christ means nothing else but the kingdom given to him by the Father, and that authority which Paul mentions, when he says that in his name every knee should bow. (Philippians 2:10) Hence to sit at the right hand of the Father is no other thing than to govern in the place of the Father, as deputies of princes are wont to do to whom a full power over all things is granted. And the word majesty is added, and also on high, and for this purpose, to intimate that Christ is seated on the supreme throne whence the majesty of God shines forth. As, then, he ought to be loved on account of his redemption, so he ought to be adored on account of his royal magnificence. (16)

(11) The fathers and some modern divines have held that these words express the eternal relation between the Father and the Son. But Calvin, with others, such as Beza, Dr. Owen, Scott and Stuart, have regarded the words as referring to Christ as the Messiah, as the Son of God in human nature, or as Mediator, consistently with such passages as these, — “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9; “He that hath seen me hath seen him that sent me.” (John 12:45). By this view we avoid altogether the difficulty that arises from the expressions, “the impress of his substance,” or essence, he being so, not as to his eternal divinity, but as a Mediator. — Ed.

(12) The remarkable wisdom of the preceding remarks must be approved by every enlightened Christian. There is an “Excursus” in Professor Stuart’s Commentary on this Epistle, on the same subject, which is very valuable, distinguished for caution, acuteness, and sound judgment. Well would it be were all divines to show the same humility on a subject so remote from human comprehension. The bold and unhallowed speculations of some of the fathers, and of the schoolmen, and divines after them, have produced infinite mischief, having occasioned hindrances to the reception of the truth respecting our Savior’s divinity, which would have otherwise never existed. — Ed.

(13) See Appendix A.

(14) Stuart following Chrysostom, renders the words φέραν, “controlling” or governing, and so does Schleusner; but the sense of “upholding” or sustaining, or supporting, is more suitable to the words which follow — “by the word of his power,” or by his powerful word. Had it been “by the word of his wisdom,” then controlling or governing would be compatible; but as it is “power”, doubtless sustension or preservation is the most congruous idea. Besides, this is the most obvious and common meaning of the word, and so rendered by most expositors; among others by Beza, Doddridge, Macknight and Bloomfield.

Doddridge gives this paraphrase, — “Upholding the universe which he hath made by the efficacious word of his Father’s power, which is ever resident in him as his own, by virtue of that intimate but incomparable union which renders them one.” This view is consistent with the whole passage: “his substance” and “his power” corresponds; and it is said, “by whom he made the world,” so it is suitable to say that he sustains the world by the Father’s power. — Ed

(15) The word here used means properly “purification,” but is used for expiation by the Sept.; see Exodus 30:10. The same truth is meant as when in chapter 10:12, that Christ, “after he had offered on sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God.” The reference here cannot be to the actual purification of his people; for what was done by Christ when he died is what is spoken of, even when he “put away sin” as it is said in chapter 9:26, “by the sacrifice for himself.” The word then, may be forgiveness proceeds from the atonement: see 1 John 1:9.

Dr. Owen gives three reasons for considering the word in the sense of expiation or atonement, — It is so rendered in some instances by the Septuagint; the act spoken is past, while cleansing or purification is what is effected now; and “himself” shows that it is not properly sanctification as that is effected by means of the word, (Ephesians 5:26,) and by the regenerating Spirit. ( Titus 3:5)

The version of Stuart is, “made expiation for our sins,” which is no doubt the meaning. — Ed.

(16) It has been observed by some that in these verses the three offices of Christ are to be found: the Father spoke by him as a prophet; he made expiation for our sins as a priest; and he sits at God’s right hand as a king. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/hebrews-1.html. 1840-57.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

A. The Agent of God’s Final Revelation 1:1-4

The writer began his epistle with an affirmation of Jesus Christ’s greatness to introduce his readers to his subject. This section is one sentence in the Greek text. It contrasts God’s old revelation with the new, specifically by presenting God’s Son as superior to all other previous modes of revelation.

"It would be misleading to think of Hebrews 1:1-4 as stating a thesis to be proved, or as giving a précis of the following argument. The author proceeds rather by an interweaving of themes, as in musical composition." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 90.]

"The literary structure of the exordium [Hebrews 1:1-4] exhibits a concentric symmetry (A [Hebrews 1:1-2 a] B [Hebrews 1:2 b] C [Hebrews 1:2 c] C’ [Hebrews 1:3 a-b] B’ [Hebrews 1:3 c] A’ [Hebrews 1:4]): the conceptual correspondence of Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 1:4 serves to frame the several statements concerning the Son in Hebrews 1:2-3 . . ."

"The core of the exordium (B C C’ B’) describes Jesus in an arresting way as the royal Son, divine Wisdom, and the royal Priest." [Note: Lane, pp. 6, 7. Cf. pp. cxxxix-cxl.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hebrews-1.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Seven facts in these verses stress the Son’s unique greatness and the culminating character of His revelation. For the writer’s original Jewish readers the number seven connoted a complete work of God, as in the Creation.

First, He is the "heir of all things." All things will fall under His authority. While Jesus Christ is presently in authority over all things, in the future God the Father will subject all things to Him in a more direct sense than the one in which they are now subject to Him (cf. Philippians 2:9-11). The writer introduced the concept of inheritance here and proceeded to develop it in this epistle (cf. Psalms 2:8; Hebrews 2:5-9). The believer’s inheritance is a major theme in Hebrews.

Second, the Son "made the world" (Gr. aiones, lit. "ages," i.e., the whole created universe of time and space). The Son was God’s agent in creation (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He created both matter and history; both ideas are in view here. [Note: Bruce, p. 4.] However the emphasis is on the various dispensations through which the world has passed, is passing, and will pass. [Note: W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary, p. 22.] Jesus Christ is not a created being, as Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others claim. He is the Creator of all.

Third, the Son is "the radiance of His [God’s] glory." The Greek word apaugasma, translated "radiance," refers to what shines out from the source of light. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a veiled way during His incarnation. Peter, James, and John saw that radiance revealed more directly on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).

Fourth, the Son is "the exact representation of His [God’s] nature." The Greek word charakter, translated "representation," occurs only here in the New Testament. Greek writers used it to describe the emperor’s picture on Roman coins and the clear-cut impression made by a seal (a facsimile). It did not express a general likeness but an exact duplication of the original. Jesus Christ let humankind know exactly what the nature of God, whom no one has seen, is like during His earthly ministry (cf. John 14:9).

Fifth, the Son "upholds all things by the word of His power" (i.e., His mighty, enabling word). The idea is not so much that Jesus upholds the universe as a dead weight, similar to Atlas shouldering the world. Rather He carries all things forward (Gr. pheron) on their appointed course (Colossians 1:17). Jesus Christ’s word has tremendous power and authority. It is the greatest force in the universe (cf. Genesis 1:3; et al.).

Sixth, the Son "made purification of sins" as no one else could. He did so by His self-sacrifice on the Cross and by His work as the ultimate priest. The Greek word katharismos, translated "purification," means both removal and cleansing (cf. Mark 1:44; 2 Peter 1:9). "Sin" (hamartia) is a very common word in Hebrews occurring 25 times. The only other New Testament book in which it appears more frequently is Romans, where Paul used it 48 times.

"Hebrews views sins and their remedy in cultic [formal Israelite worship] terms. The purification of sins by Christ’s sacrifice is related, on the one hand, to the establishment of a new order of relationships between God and mankind, and on the other hand to obedience (Hebrews 10:1-18, especially Hebrews 1:8-10) and moral effort (Hebrews 12:1-4). Apart from passing references to adultery and the love of money (Hebrews 13:4 f.), Hebrews says little about individual sins, and contains no list of vices comparable to Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21; or 1 Peter 4:3. The fundamental sin for Hebrews is that of unfaithfulness to God, which may superficially appear as neglect or lassitude (amelesantes, Hebrews 2:3; or nothroi, Hebrews 5:11), but which in essence is rebellion against God’s will, and more specifically apostasy (Hebrews 2:1-4; Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31)." [Note: Ellingworth, p. 102.]

Seventh, the Son "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" when He returned to heaven after His ascension. He took the choice place of honor and authority in relation to God the Father (cf. Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:9; Luke 22:69). Here the writer introduced his key text, Psalms 110, which he proceeded to expound in the chapters to follow.

The writer referred to the place where Jesus now sits ruling as the Father’s right hand in heaven. This is not the same as the Davidic throne, which will be on earth in the future (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14; et al.). Jesus will begin His rule over Israel on earth as the Davidic Messiah after He returns to the earth at His second advent (Revelation 20:1-6). Presently He rules over the church and the angelic host in heaven (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:10). [Note: See Cleon L. Rogers Jr., "The Davidic Covenant in Acts-Revelation," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):81-82.]

"The concept of enthronement at God’s right hand would convey to contemporaries an impression of the Son’s royal power and unparalleled glory." [Note: Lane, p. 16.]

Each one of these seven actions points to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The original Jewish audience, faced with temptation to abandon discipleship of Jesus for return to Judaism, received a strong reminder of His deity at the very outset of this epistle. The writer also presented Him as Creator, Prophet, Priest, and King in these verses. He would say much more about Jesus as Priest-King in the following chapters.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hebrews-1.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 1

THE END OF FRAGMENTS ( Hebrews 1:1-3 )

1:1-3 It was in many parts and in many ways that God spoke to our fathers in the prophets in time gone past; but in the end of these days he has spoken to us in One who is a Son, a Son whom he destined to enter into possession of all things, a Son by whose agency he made the universe. He was the very effulgence of God's glory; he was the exact expression of God's very essence. He bore everything onwards by the word of his power; and after he had made purification for the sins of men, he took his royal seat at the right hand of the glory in the heights.

This is the most sonorous piece of Greek in the whole New Testament. It is a passage that any classical Greek orator would have been proud to write. The writer of Hebrews has brought to it every artifice of word and rhythm that the beautiful and flexible Greek language could provide. In Greek the two adverbs which we have translated in many parts and in many ways are single words, polumeros ( G4181) and polutropos ( G4187) . Polu- (compare G4183) in such a combination means "many" and it was a habit of the great Greek orators, like Demosthenes, the greatest of them all, to weave such sonorous words into the first paragraph of a speech. The writer to the Hebrews felt that, since he was going to speak of the supreme revelation of God to men, he must clothe his thought in the noblest language that it was possible to find.

There is something of interest even here. The man who wrote this letter must have been trained in Greek oratory. When he became a Christian he did not throw his training away. He used the talent he had in the service of Jesus Christ. Everyone knows the lovely legend of the acrobatic tumbler who became a monk. He felt that he had so little to offer. One day someone saw him go into the chapel and stand before the statue of the Virgin Mary. He hesitated for a moment and then began to go through his acrobatic routine. When he had completed his tumbling, he knelt in adoration; and then, says the legend, the statue of the Virgin Mary came to life, stepped down from her pedestal and gently wiped the sweat from the brow of the acrobat who had offered all he had to give. When a man becomes a Christian he is not asked to abandon all the talents he once had; he is asked to use them in the service of Jesus Christ and of his Church.

The basic idea of this letter is that Jesus Christ alone brings to men the full revelation of God and that he alone enables them to enter into his very presence. The writer begins by contrasting Jesus with the prophets who had gone before. He talks about him coming in the end of these days. The Jews divided all time into two ages--the present age and the age to come. In between they set The Day of the Lord. The present age was wholly bad; the age to come was to be the golden age of God. The Day of the Lord was to be like the birth-pangs of the new age. So the writer to the Hebrews says, "The old time is passing away; the age of incompleteness is gone; the time of human guessing and groping is at an end; the new age, the age of God, has dawned in Christ." He sees the world and the thought of men enter, as it were, into a new beginning with Christ. In Jesus God has entered humanity, eternity has invaded time, and things can never be the same again.

He contrasts Jesus with the prophets, for they were always believed to be in the secret counsels of God. Long ago Amos had said: "The Lord God does nothing without revealing his secrets to his servants the prophets" ( Amos 3:7). Philo had said: "The prophet is the interpreter of the God who speaks within." He had said: "The prophets are interpreters of the God who uses them as instruments to reveal to men that which he wills." In later days this doctrine had been completely mechanized. Athenagoras spoke of God moving the mouths of the prophets as a man might play upon a musical instrument and of the Spirit breathing into them as a flute-player breathes into a flute. Justin Martyr spoke of the divine coming down from heaven and sweeping across the prophets as a plectrum sweeps across a harp or a lute. In the end men came to put it in such a way that the prophets had really no more to do with their message than a musical instrument had to do with the music it played or a pen with the message it wrote. That was over-mechanizing the matter; for even the finest musician is to some extent at the mercy of his instrument and can not produce great music out of a piano in which certain notes are missing or out of tune, and even the finest penman is to some extent at the mercy of his pen. God can not reveal more than men can understand. His revelation comes through the minds and the hearts of men. That is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews saw.

He says that the revelation of God which came through the prophets was in many parts (polumeros, G4181) and in many ways (polutropos, G4187) . There are two ideas there.

(i) The revelation of the prophets had a variegated grandeur which made it a tremendous thing. From age to age they had spoken, always fitting their message to the age, never letting it be out of date. At the same time, that revelation was fragmentary and had to be presented in such a way that the limitations of the time would understand. One of the most interesting things is to see how time and again the prophets are characterized by one idea. For instance, Amos is "a cry for social justice." Isaiah had grasped the holiness of God. Hosea, because of his own bitter home experience, had realized the wonder of the forgiving love of God. Each prophet, out of his own experience of life and out of the experience of Israel, had grasped and expressed a fragment of the truth of God. None had grasped the whole round orb of truth; but with Jesus it was different. He was not a fragment of the truth; he was the whole truth. In him God displayed not some part of himself but all of himself.

(ii) The prophets used many methods. They used the method of speech. When speech failed they used the method of dramatic action (Compare 1 Kings 11:29-32; Jeremiah 13:1-9; Jeremiah 27:1-7; Ezekiel 4:1-3; Ezekiel 5:1-4). The prophet had to use human methods to transmit his part of the truth of God. Again, it was different with Jesus. He revealed God by being himself. It was not so much what he said and did that shows us what God is like; it is what he was.

The revelation of the prophets was great and manifold, but it was fragmentary and presented by such methods as they could find to make it effective. The revelation of God in Jesus was complete and was presented in Jesus himself. In a word, the prophets were the friends of God; but Jesus was the Son. The prophets grasped part of the mind of God; but Jesus was that mind. It is to be noted that it is no part of the purpose of the writer to the Hebrews to belittle the prophets; it is his aim to establish the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is not saying that there is a break between the Old Testament revelation and that of the New Testament; he is stressing the fact that there is continuity, but continuity that ends in consummation.

The writer to the Hebrews uses two great pictures to describe what Jesus was. He says that he was the apaugasma ( G541) of God's glory. Apaugasma ( G541) can mean one of two things in Greek. It can mean effulgence, the light which shines forth, or it can mean reflection, the light which is reflected. Here it probably means effulgence. Jesus is the shining of God's glory among men.

He says that he was the charakter ( G5481) of God's very essence. In Greek, charakter ( G5481) means two things, first, a seal, and, second, the impression that the seal leaves on the wax. The impression has the exact form of the seal. So, when the writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus was the charakter ( G5481) of the being of God, he meant that he was the exact image of God. Just as when you look at the impression, you see exactly what the seal which made it is like, so when you look at Jesus you see exactly what God is like.

C. J. Vaughan has pointed out that this passage tells us six great things about Jesus:

(i) The original glory of God belongs to him. Here is a wonderful thought. Jesus is God's glory; therefore, we see with amazing clarity that the glory of God consists not in crushing men and reducing them to abject servitude, but in serving them and loving them and in the end dying for them. It is not the glory of shattering power but the glory of suffering love.

(ii) The destined empire belongs to Jesus. The New Testament writers never doubted his ultimate triumph. Think of it. They were thinking of a Galilaean carpenter who was crucified as a criminal on a cross on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. They themselves faced savage persecution and were the humblest of people. As Sir William Watson said of them,

"So to the wild wolf Hate were sacrificed

The panting, huddled flock, whose crime was Christ."

And yet they never doubted the eventual victory. They were quite certain that God's love was backed by his power and that in the end the kingdoms of the world would be the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ.

(iii) The creative action belongs to Jesus. The early Church held that the Son had been God's agent in creation, that in some way God had originally created the world through him. They were filled with the thought that the One who had created the world would also be the One who redeemed it.

(iv) The sustaining power belongs to Jesus. These early Christians had a tremendous grip of the doctrine of providence. They did not think of God as creating the world and then leaving it to itself. Somehow and somewhere they saw a power that was carrying the world and each life on to a destined end. They believed,

"That nothing walks with aimless feet;

That not one life shall be destroy'd.

Or cast as rubbish to the void,

When God hath made the pile complete."

(v) To Jesus belongs the redemptive work. By his sacrifice he paid the price of sin; by his continual presence he liberates from sin.

(vi) To Jesus belongs the mediatorial exaltation. He has taken his place on the right hand of glory; but the tremendous thought of the writer to the Hebrews is that he is there, not as our judge but as one who makes intercession for us so that, when we enter into the presence of God, we go, not to hear his justice prosecute us but his love plead for us.

ABOVE THE ANGELS ( Hebrews 1:4-14 )

1:4-14 He was the superior to the angels, in proportion as he had received a more excellent rank than they. For to which of the angels did God ever say: "It is my Son that you are; it is I who this day have begotten you"? And again: "I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son." And again, when he brings his honoured one into the world of men, he says: "And let all the angels of God bow down before him." As for the angels, he says: "He who makes his angels winds and his servants a flame of fire." But, as for the Son, he says: "God is your throne for ever and for ever, and the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved justice and hated lawlessness; therefore God has anointed you, even your God, with the oil of exultation above your fellows." And, "You in the beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish but you remain unalterable. All of them will grow old like a garment, and like a mantle you will fold them up and they will be changed. But you are ever yourself, and your years will not fail." To which of the angels did he ever say: "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool"? Are they not all ministering spirits, continually being despatched on service, for the sake of those who are destined to enter into possession of salvation?

In the previous passage the writer was concerned to prove the superiority of Jesus over all the prophets. Now he is concerned to prove his superiority over the angels. That he thinks it worth while to do this proves the place that belief in angels had in the thought of the Jews of his day. At this time it was on the increase. The reason was that men were more and more impressed with what is called the transcendence of God. They felt more and more the distance and the difference between God and man. The result was that they came to think of the angels as intermediaries between God and man. They came to believe that the angels bridged the gulf between God and man; that God spoke to man through the angels and the angels carried the prayers of man into the presence of God. We see this process particularly in one instance. In the Old Testament the law was given directly by God to Moses, without need of intermediary. But in New Testament times the Jews believed that God gave the law first to angels who then passed it on to Moses, direct communication between man and God being unthinkable (compare Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19).

If we look at some of the basic Jewish beliefs about angels we will see them reappearing in this passage. God lived surrounded by his angelic hosts ( Isaiah 6:1-13; 1 Kings 22:19). Sometimes the angels are thought of as God's army ( Joshua 5:14 ff.). Greek for "angels" is aggeloi ( G32) and in Hebrew mal'akim ( H4397) . In both languages the meaning is messenger as well as angel. In fact, messenger is the more common meaning. The angels were really the beings who were the instruments in the bringing of God's word and the working of God's will in the universe of men. They were said to be made of an ethereal fiery substance like blazing light. They were created either on the second or the fifth day of creation. They did not eat or drink and they did not beget children. Sometimes they were believed to be immortal, although they could be annihilated by God, but there was another belief about their existence as we shall see. Some of them, the seraphim ( H8314) , the cherubim (see keruwb - H3742) and the ofanim ( H212) (-im is the plural ending of Hebrew nouns) were always around the throne of God. They were thought of as having more knowledge than men, especially of the future, but they did not possess that knowledge by right but rather because of "what they had heard behind the curtain." They were thought of as the kind of entourage, the familia, of God. They were thought of as God's senate; God did nothing without consulting them. For instance, when God said: "Let us make man" ( Genesis 1:26), it was to the angel senate that he was speaking. Often the angels remonstrated with God and laid objections to his purposes. In particular, they objected to the creation of man and at that time troops of them were annihilated; and they objected to the giving of the law and attacked Moses on his way up Mount Sinai. This was because they were jealous and did not wish to share any of their place or prerogatives with any other creature.

There were millions and millions of angels. It was not till quite late that the Jews assigned names to them. There were, in particular, the seven angels of the presence, who were the archangels. Of these the principal ones were Raphael, Uriel, Phanuel, Gabriel, the angel who brought God's messages to men, and Michael, the angel who presided over the destinies of Israel. The angels had many duties. They brought God's messages to men. In that case they delivered their message and vanished ( Judges 13:20). They intervened for God in the events of history ( 2 Kings 19:35-36). There were two hundred angels who controlled the movements of the stars and kept them in their courses. There was an angel who controlled the never-ending succession of the years and months and days. There was an angel, a mighty prince, who was over the sea. There were angels of the frost, the dew, the rain, the snow, the hail, the thunder and the lightning. There were angels who were wardens of hell and torturers of the damned. There were recording angels who wrote down every single word which every man spoke. There were destroying angels and angels of punishment. There was Satan, the prosecuting angel, who on every day except the Day of Atonement continuously brought charges against men before God. There was the angel of death who went out only at God's bidding and who impartially delivered his summons to good and evil alike. Every nation had its guardian angel who had the prostasia, the presidency over it. Every individual had his guardian angel. Even little children had their angels ( Matthew 18:10). So many were the angels that the Rabbis could even say: "Every blade of grass has its angel."

There was one special belief, held only by some, which is indirectly referred to in this passage which we are studying. The common belief was that the angels were immortal; but there were some who believed that they lived only one day. There was a belief in some rabbinic schools that "every day God creates a new company of angels who utter a song before him and are gone." "The angels are renewed every morning and after they have praised God they return to the stream of fire from whence they came." 4 Ezra 8:21 speaks of the God "before whom the heavenly host stand in terror and at thy word change to wind and fire." A rabbinic homily makes one of the angels say: "God changes us every hour . Sometimes he makes us fire, at other times wind." That is what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of God making his angels wind and fire.

With this vast angelology there was a very real danger that the angels would come, in men's belief, to intervene between God and them. It was necessary to show that the Son was greater far than they and that he who knew the Son needed no angel to be his intermediary with God. The writer to the Hebrews does it by choosing what are for him a series of proof texts in which the Son is given a higher place than was ever given to any angel. The texts he quotes are: Psalms 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 97:7 or Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalms 104:4; Psalms 45:7-8; Psalms 102:26-27; Psalms 110:1. Some of these texts differ from the versions we know because the writer to the Hebrews was quoting from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, which is not always the same as the original Hebrew from which our versions are translated. Some of the proof texts he chooses seem very strange. For instance, 2 Samuel 7:14 is in the original a simple reference to Solomon and has nothing to do with the Son or the Messiah. Psalms 102:26-27 is a reference to God and not to the Son. But whenever the early Christians found a text with the word son or the word Lord they considered themselves quite entitled to take it out of its context and to apply it to Jesus.

There was one danger which the writer to the Hebrews wished at all costs to avoid. The doctrine of angels is a lovely thing; but it has one danger. It introduces a series of beings other than Jesus through whom man makes approach to God. In Christianity there is no need for anyone else in between. Because of Jesus and what he did we have direct access to God. As Tennyson had it:

"Speak to him thou for he hears, and Spirit with

spirit can meet--

Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than

hands and feet."

The writer to the Hebrews lays down the great truth that we need no man or supernatural being to bring us into the presence of God. Jesus Christ has broken every barrier down and opened a direct way for us to God.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/hebrews-1.html. 1956-1959.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 1

THE END OF FRAGMENTS ( Hebrews 1:1-3 )

1:1-3 It was in many parts and in many ways that God spoke to our fathers in the prophets in time gone past; but in the end of these days he has spoken to us in One who is a Son, a Son whom he destined to enter into possession of all things, a Son by whose agency he made the universe. He was the very effulgence of God's glory; he was the exact expression of God's very essence. He bore everything onwards by the word of his power; and after he had made purification for the sins of men, he took his royal seat at the right hand of the glory in the heights.

This is the most sonorous piece of Greek in the whole New Testament. It is a passage that any classical Greek orator would have been proud to write. The writer of Hebrews has brought to it every artifice of word and rhythm that the beautiful and flexible Greek language could provide. In Greek the two adverbs which we have translated in many parts and in many ways are single words, polumeros ( G4181) and polutropos ( G4187) . Polu- (compare G4183) in such a combination means "many" and it was a habit of the great Greek orators, like Demosthenes, the greatest of them all, to weave such sonorous words into the first paragraph of a speech. The writer to the Hebrews felt that, since he was going to speak of the supreme revelation of God to men, he must clothe his thought in the noblest language that it was possible to find.

There is something of interest even here. The man who wrote this letter must have been trained in Greek oratory. When he became a Christian he did not throw his training away. He used the talent he had in the service of Jesus Christ. Everyone knows the lovely legend of the acrobatic tumbler who became a monk. He felt that he had so little to offer. One day someone saw him go into the chapel and stand before the statue of the Virgin Mary. He hesitated for a moment and then began to go through his acrobatic routine. When he had completed his tumbling, he knelt in adoration; and then, says the legend, the statue of the Virgin Mary came to life, stepped down from her pedestal and gently wiped the sweat from the brow of the acrobat who had offered all he had to give. When a man becomes a Christian he is not asked to abandon all the talents he once had; he is asked to use them in the service of Jesus Christ and of his Church.

The basic idea of this letter is that Jesus Christ alone brings to men the full revelation of God and that he alone enables them to enter into his very presence. The writer begins by contrasting Jesus with the prophets who had gone before. He talks about him coming in the end of these days. The Jews divided all time into two ages--the present age and the age to come. In between they set The Day of the Lord. The present age was wholly bad; the age to come was to be the golden age of God. The Day of the Lord was to be like the birth-pangs of the new age. So the writer to the Hebrews says, "The old time is passing away; the age of incompleteness is gone; the time of human guessing and groping is at an end; the new age, the age of God, has dawned in Christ." He sees the world and the thought of men enter, as it were, into a new beginning with Christ. In Jesus God has entered humanity, eternity has invaded time, and things can never be the same again.

He contrasts Jesus with the prophets, for they were always believed to be in the secret counsels of God. Long ago Amos had said: "The Lord God does nothing without revealing his secrets to his servants the prophets" ( Amos 3:7). Philo had said: "The prophet is the interpreter of the God who speaks within." He had said: "The prophets are interpreters of the God who uses them as instruments to reveal to men that which he wills." In later days this doctrine had been completely mechanized. Athenagoras spoke of God moving the mouths of the prophets as a man might play upon a musical instrument and of the Spirit breathing into them as a flute-player breathes into a flute. Justin Martyr spoke of the divine coming down from heaven and sweeping across the prophets as a plectrum sweeps across a harp or a lute. In the end men came to put it in such a way that the prophets had really no more to do with their message than a musical instrument had to do with the music it played or a pen with the message it wrote. That was over-mechanizing the matter; for even the finest musician is to some extent at the mercy of his instrument and can not produce great music out of a piano in which certain notes are missing or out of tune, and even the finest penman is to some extent at the mercy of his pen. God can not reveal more than men can understand. His revelation comes through the minds and the hearts of men. That is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews saw.

He says that the revelation of God which came through the prophets was in many parts (polumeros, G4181) and in many ways (polutropos, G4187) . There are two ideas there.

(i) The revelation of the prophets had a variegated grandeur which made it a tremendous thing. From age to age they had spoken, always fitting their message to the age, never letting it be out of date. At the same time, that revelation was fragmentary and had to be presented in such a way that the limitations of the time would understand. One of the most interesting things is to see how time and again the prophets are characterized by one idea. For instance, Amos is "a cry for social justice." Isaiah had grasped the holiness of God. Hosea, because of his own bitter home experience, had realized the wonder of the forgiving love of God. Each prophet, out of his own experience of life and out of the experience of Israel, had grasped and expressed a fragment of the truth of God. None had grasped the whole round orb of truth; but with Jesus it was different. He was not a fragment of the truth; he was the whole truth. In him God displayed not some part of himself but all of himself.

(ii) The prophets used many methods. They used the method of speech. When speech failed they used the method of dramatic action (Compare 1 Kings 11:29-32; Jeremiah 13:1-9; Jeremiah 27:1-7; Ezekiel 4:1-3; Ezekiel 5:1-4). The prophet had to use human methods to transmit his part of the truth of God. Again, it was different with Jesus. He revealed God by being himself. It was not so much what he said and did that shows us what God is like; it is what he was.

The revelation of the prophets was great and manifold, but it was fragmentary and presented by such methods as they could find to make it effective. The revelation of God in Jesus was complete and was presented in Jesus himself. In a word, the prophets were the friends of God; but Jesus was the Son. The prophets grasped part of the mind of God; but Jesus was that mind. It is to be noted that it is no part of the purpose of the writer to the Hebrews to belittle the prophets; it is his aim to establish the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is not saying that there is a break between the Old Testament revelation and that of the New Testament; he is stressing the fact that there is continuity, but continuity that ends in consummation.

The writer to the Hebrews uses two great pictures to describe what Jesus was. He says that he was the apaugasma ( G541) of God's glory. Apaugasma ( G541) can mean one of two things in Greek. It can mean effulgence, the light which shines forth, or it can mean reflection, the light which is reflected. Here it probably means effulgence. Jesus is the shining of God's glory among men.

He says that he was the charakter ( G5481) of God's very essence. In Greek, charakter ( G5481) means two things, first, a seal, and, second, the impression that the seal leaves on the wax. The impression has the exact form of the seal. So, when the writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus was the charakter ( G5481) of the being of God, he meant that he was the exact image of God. Just as when you look at the impression, you see exactly what the seal which made it is like, so when you look at Jesus you see exactly what God is like.

C. J. Vaughan has pointed out that this passage tells us six great things about Jesus:

(i) The original glory of God belongs to him. Here is a wonderful thought. Jesus is God's glory; therefore, we see with amazing clarity that the glory of God consists not in crushing men and reducing them to abject servitude, but in serving them and loving them and in the end dying for them. It is not the glory of shattering power but the glory of suffering love.

(ii) The destined empire belongs to Jesus. The New Testament writers never doubted his ultimate triumph. Think of it. They were thinking of a Galilaean carpenter who was crucified as a criminal on a cross on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. They themselves faced savage persecution and were the humblest of people. As Sir William Watson said of them,

"So to the wild wolf Hate were sacrificed

The panting, huddled flock, whose crime was Christ."

And yet they never doubted the eventual victory. They were quite certain that God's love was backed by his power and that in the end the kingdoms of the world would be the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ.

(iii) The creative action belongs to Jesus. The early Church held that the Son had been God's agent in creation, that in some way God had originally created the world through him. They were filled with the thought that the One who had created the world would also be the One who redeemed it.

(iv) The sustaining power belongs to Jesus. These early Christians had a tremendous grip of the doctrine of providence. They did not think of God as creating the world and then leaving it to itself. Somehow and somewhere they saw a power that was carrying the world and each life on to a destined end. They believed,

"That nothing walks with aimless feet;

That not one life shall be destroy'd.

Or cast as rubbish to the void,

When God hath made the pile complete."

(v) To Jesus belongs the redemptive work. By his sacrifice he paid the price of sin; by his continual presence he liberates from sin.

(vi) To Jesus belongs the mediatorial exaltation. He has taken his place on the right hand of glory; but the tremendous thought of the writer to the Hebrews is that he is there, not as our judge but as one who makes intercession for us so that, when we enter into the presence of God, we go, not to hear his justice prosecute us but his love plead for us.

ABOVE THE ANGELS ( Hebrews 1:4-14 )

1:4-14 He was the superior to the angels, in proportion as he had received a more excellent rank than they. For to which of the angels did God ever say: "It is my Son that you are; it is I who this day have begotten you"? And again: "I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son." And again, when he brings his honoured one into the world of men, he says: "And let all the angels of God bow down before him." As for the angels, he says: "He who makes his angels winds and his servants a flame of fire." But, as for the Son, he says: "God is your throne for ever and for ever, and the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved justice and hated lawlessness; therefore God has anointed you, even your God, with the oil of exultation above your fellows." And, "You in the beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish but you remain unalterable. All of them will grow old like a garment, and like a mantle you will fold them up and they will be changed. But you are ever yourself, and your years will not fail." To which of the angels did he ever say: "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool"? Are they not all ministering spirits, continually being despatched on service, for the sake of those who are destined to enter into possession of salvation?

In the previous passage the writer was concerned to prove the superiority of Jesus over all the prophets. Now he is concerned to prove his superiority over the angels. That he thinks it worth while to do this proves the place that belief in angels had in the thought of the Jews of his day. At this time it was on the increase. The reason was that men were more and more impressed with what is called the transcendence of God. They felt more and more the distance and the difference between God and man. The result was that they came to think of the angels as intermediaries between God and man. They came to believe that the angels bridged the gulf between God and man; that God spoke to man through the angels and the angels carried the prayers of man into the presence of God. We see this process particularly in one instance. In the Old Testament the law was given directly by God to Moses, without need of intermediary. But in New Testament times the Jews believed that God gave the law first to angels who then passed it on to Moses, direct communication between man and God being unthinkable (compare Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19).

If we look at some of the basic Jewish beliefs about angels we will see them reappearing in this passage. God lived surrounded by his angelic hosts ( Isaiah 6:1-13; 1 Kings 22:19). Sometimes the angels are thought of as God's army ( Joshua 5:14 ff.). Greek for "angels" is aggeloi ( G32) and in Hebrew mal'akim ( H4397) . In both languages the meaning is messenger as well as angel. In fact, messenger is the more common meaning. The angels were really the beings who were the instruments in the bringing of God's word and the working of God's will in the universe of men. They were said to be made of an ethereal fiery substance like blazing light. They were created either on the second or the fifth day of creation. They did not eat or drink and they did not beget children. Sometimes they were believed to be immortal, although they could be annihilated by God, but there was another belief about their existence as we shall see. Some of them, the seraphim ( H8314) , the cherubim (see keruwb - H3742) and the ofanim ( H212) (-im is the plural ending of Hebrew nouns) were always around the throne of God. They were thought of as having more knowledge than men, especially of the future, but they did not possess that knowledge by right but rather because of "what they had heard behind the curtain." They were thought of as the kind of entourage, the familia, of God. They were thought of as God's senate; God did nothing without consulting them. For instance, when God said: "Let us make man" ( Genesis 1:26), it was to the angel senate that he was speaking. Often the angels remonstrated with God and laid objections to his purposes. In particular, they objected to the creation of man and at that time troops of them were annihilated; and they objected to the giving of the law and attacked Moses on his way up Mount Sinai. This was because they were jealous and did not wish to share any of their place or prerogatives with any other creature.

There were millions and millions of angels. It was not till quite late that the Jews assigned names to them. There were, in particular, the seven angels of the presence, who were the archangels. Of these the principal ones were Raphael, Uriel, Phanuel, Gabriel, the angel who brought God's messages to men, and Michael, the angel who presided over the destinies of Israel. The angels had many duties. They brought God's messages to men. In that case they delivered their message and vanished ( Judges 13:20). They intervened for God in the events of history ( 2 Kings 19:35-36). There were two hundred angels who controlled the movements of the stars and kept them in their courses. There was an angel who controlled the never-ending succession of the years and months and days. There was an angel, a mighty prince, who was over the sea. There were angels of the frost, the dew, the rain, the snow, the hail, the thunder and the lightning. There were angels who were wardens of hell and torturers of the damned. There were recording angels who wrote down every single word which every man spoke. There were destroying angels and angels of punishment. There was Satan, the prosecuting angel, who on every day except the Day of Atonement continuously brought charges against men before God. There was the angel of death who went out only at God's bidding and who impartially delivered his summons to good and evil alike. Every nation had its guardian angel who had the prostasia, the presidency over it. Every individual had his guardian angel. Even little children had their angels ( Matthew 18:10). So many were the angels that the Rabbis could even say: "Every blade of grass has its angel."

There was one special belief, held only by some, which is indirectly referred to in this passage which we are studying. The common belief was that the angels were immortal; but there were some who believed that they lived only one day. There was a belief in some rabbinic schools that "every day God creates a new company of angels who utter a song before him and are gone." "The angels are renewed every morning and after they have praised God they return to the stream of fire from whence they came." 4 Ezra 8:21 speaks of the God "before whom the heavenly host stand in terror and at thy word change to wind and fire." A rabbinic homily makes one of the angels say: "God changes us every hour . Sometimes he makes us fire, at other times wind." That is what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of God making his angels wind and fire.

With this vast angelology there was a very real danger that the angels would come, in men's belief, to intervene between God and them. It was necessary to show that the Son was greater far than they and that he who knew the Son needed no angel to be his intermediary with God. The writer to the Hebrews does it by choosing what are for him a series of proof texts in which the Son is given a higher place than was ever given to any angel. The texts he quotes are: Psalms 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 97:7 or Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalms 104:4; Psalms 45:7-8; Psalms 102:26-27; Psalms 110:1. Some of these texts differ from the versions we know because the writer to the Hebrews was quoting from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, which is not always the same as the original Hebrew from which our versions are translated. Some of the proof texts he chooses seem very strange. For instance, 2 Samuel 7:14 is in the original a simple reference to Solomon and has nothing to do with the Son or the Messiah. Psalms 102:26-27 is a reference to God and not to the Son. But whenever the early Christians found a text with the word son or the word Lord they considered themselves quite entitled to take it out of its context and to apply it to Jesus.

There was one danger which the writer to the Hebrews wished at all costs to avoid. The doctrine of angels is a lovely thing; but it has one danger. It introduces a series of beings other than Jesus through whom man makes approach to God. In Christianity there is no need for anyone else in between. Because of Jesus and what he did we have direct access to God. As Tennyson had it:

"Speak to him thou for he hears, and Spirit with

spirit can meet--

Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than

hands and feet."

The writer to the Hebrews lays down the great truth that we need no man or supernatural being to bring us into the presence of God. Jesus Christ has broken every barrier down and opened a direct way for us to God.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/hebrews-1.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 1:3

Brightness -- shekinah - Exodus 40:34-35 & cf. Moss face.

Image -- "stamp" metaphor of a soul - Colossians 1:15.

Upholding -- Colossians 1:15

    The word "upholding" (Hebrews 1:3) does not mean "holding up," as though the universe is a burden on the back of Jesus like Atlas is pictured holding up the world. But it means He is the God of Creation and providence who guides the universe on its course.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/hebrews-1.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Who being the brightness of his glory,.... Or "of glory"; of God the Father, the God of glory, and who is glory itself; so called on account of his glorious nature and perfections and because of the glorious manifestations of them in his works of creation and providence, and in the various dispensations of his grace, and especially in his Son; and because he is the author of all glory, in the creatures, in the whole world, in Christ as man and Mediator, and in his own people. Now Christ is the "brightness" of this, as he is God; he has the same glorious nature and perfections, and the same glorious names, as Jehovah, the Lord of glory, c. and the same glory, homage, and worship given him: the allusion is to the sun, and its beam or ray: so some render it "the ray of his glory" and may lead us to observe, that the Father and the Son are of the same nature, as the sun and its ray; and that the one is not before the other, and yet distinct from each other, and cannot be divided or separated one from another: so the phrase זין יקריה, "the brightness of his glory", is used of the divine Being, in the Chaldee paraphrases r; see the Apocrypha.

"For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.'' (Wisdom 7:26)

And the express image of his person; this intends much the same as the other phrase; namely, equality and sameness of nature, and distinction of persons; for if the Father is God, Christ must be so too; and if he is a person, his Son must be so likewise, or he cannot be the express image and character of him;

:-.

And upholding all things by the word of his power; the Syriac version renders it, "by the power of his word", to the same sense, only inverting the words. The Targumist on 2 Chronicles 2:6 uses a phrase very much like this, of God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain; because, adds he, סביל כלא בדרע גבורתיה, "he bears", or "sustains all things by the arm of his power"; and the words are to be understood not of the Father, upholding all things by his essential and powerful Word, his Son; but of the Son himself, who upholds all creatures he has made; bears up the pillars of the universe; preserves every creature in its being, and supports it, and supplies it with the necessaries of life; rules and governs all, and providentially orders and disposes of all things in the world, and that by his all powerful will; which makes it manifest, that he is truly and properly God, and a very fit person to be a priest, as follows:

when he had by himself purged our sins; the Arabic and Ethiopic versions seem to refer this to God the Father, as if he, by Christ, made the expiation of sin, and then caused him to sit down at his right hand; but it belongs to the Son himself, who of himself, and by himself alone, and by the sacrifice of himself, made atonement for the sins of his people; which is meant by the purgation of them: he took their sins upon himself, and bore them, and removed them far away, and utterly abolished them, which the priests under the law could not do: and when he had so done,

he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; by "Majesty" is meant God the Father, to whom majesty belongs; who is clothed with it, and which is before him: and his "right hand" designs his power, greatness, and glory, and is expressive of the high honour Christ, as man, is possessed of; for his sitting here denotes the glorious exaltation of him in human nature, after his sufferings, and death, and resurrection from the dead; and shows that he had done his work, and was accepted, and was now enjoying rest and ease, honour and glory, in which he will continue; and the place of his session, as well as of the habitation of God, at whose right hand he sits, is on high, in the highest heavens.

r Targum in 2 Sam xxii. 13. & in Cant. v. 10.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/hebrews-1.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Law and Gospel Compared; Dignity and Glory of Christ. A. D. 62.

      1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,   2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;   3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

      Here the apostle begins with a general declaration of the excellency of the gospel dispensation above that of the law, which he demonstrates from the different way and manner of God's communicating himself and his mind and will to men in the one and in the other: both these dispensations were of God, and both of them very good, but there is a great difference in the way of their coming from God. Observe,

      I. The way wherein God communicated himself and his will to men under the Old Testament. We have here an account, 1. Of the persons by whom God delivered his mind under the Old Testament; they were the prophets, that is, persons chosen of God, and qualified by him, for that office of revealing the will of God to men. No man takes this honour to himself, unless called; and whoever are called of God are qualified by him. 2. The persons to whom God spoke by the prophets: To the fathers, to all the Old-Testament saints who were under that dispensation. God favoured and honoured them with much clearer light than that of nature, under which the rest of the world were left. 3. The order in which God spoke to men in those times that went before the gospel, those past times: he spoke to his ancient people at sundry times and in divers manners. (1.) At sundry times, or by several parts, as the word signifies, which may refer either to the several ages of the Old-Testament dispensation--the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the prophetic; or to the several gradual openings of his mind concerning the Redeemer: to Adam, that the Messiah should come of the seed of the woman,--to Abraham, that he should spring from his loins,--to Jacob, that he should be of the tribe of Judah,--to David, that he should be of his house,--to Micah, that he should be born at Bethlehem,--to Isaiah, that he should be born of a virgin. (2.) In divers manners, according to the different ways in which God though fit to communicate his mind to his prophets; sometimes by the illapses of his Spirit, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by an audible voice, sometimes by legible characters under his own hand, as when he wrote the ten commandments on tables of stone. Of some of these different ways God himself gave an account in Numbers 12:6-4.12.8, If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses: with him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches.

      II. God's method of communicating his mind and will under the New-Testament dispensation, these last days as they are called, that is, either towards the end of the world, or the end of the Jewish state. The times of the gospel are the last times, the gospel revelation is the last we are to expect from God. There was first the natural revelation; then the patriarchal, by dreams, visions, and voices; then the Mosaic, in the law given forth and written down; then the prophetic, in explaining the law, and giving clearer discoveries of Christ: but now we must expect no new revelation, but only more of the Spirit of Christ to help us better to understand what is already revealed. Now the excellency of the gospel revelation above the former consists in two things:--

      1. It is the final, the finishing revelation, given forth in the last days of divine revelation, to which nothing is to be added, but the canon of scripture is to be settled and sealed: so that now the minds of men are no longer kept in suspense by the expectation of new discoveries, but they rejoice in a complete revelation of the will of God, both preceptive and providential, so far as is necessary for them to know in order to their direction and comfort. For the gospel includes a discovery of the great events that shall befal the church of God to the end of the world.

      2. It is a revelation which God has made by his Son, the most excellent messenger that was ever sent into the world, far superior to all the ancient patriarchs and prophets, by whom God communicated his will to his people in former times. And here we have an excellent account of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      (1.) The glory of his office, and that in three respects:-- [1.] God hath appointed him to be heir of all things. As God, he was equal to the Father; but, as God-man and Mediator, he was appointed by the Father to be the heir of all things, the sovereign Lord of all, the absolute disposer, director, and governor of all persons and of all things, Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:7. All power in heaven and earth is given to him; all judgment is committed to him,Matthew 28:18; John 5:22. [2.] By him God made the worlds, both visible and invisible, the heavens and the earth; not as an instrumental cause, but as his essential word and wisdom. By him he made the old creation, by him he makes the new creature, and by him he rules and governs both. [3.] He upholds all things by the word of his power: he keeps the world from dissolving. By him all things consist. The weight of the whole creation is laid upon Christ: he supports the whole and all the parts. When, upon the apostasy, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, bound it up again, and established it by his almighty power and goodness. None of the ancient prophets sustained such an office as this, none was sufficient for it.

      (2.) Hence the apostle passes to the glory of the person of Christ, who was able to execute such an office: He was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person,Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:3. This is a high and lofty description of the glorious Redeemer, this is an account of his personal excellency. [1.] He is, in person, the Son of God, the only-begotten Son of God, and as such he must have the same nature. This personal distinction always supposes one and the same nature. Every son of man is man; were not the nature the same, the generation would be monstrous. [2.] The person of the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendour. As the beams are effulgent emanations of the sun, the father and fountain of light, Jesus Christ in his person is God manifest in the flesh, he is light of light, the true Shechinah. [3.] The person of the Son is the true image and character of the person of the Father; being of the same nature, he must bear the same image and likeness. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Father; for he hath the nature and perfections of God in him. He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father; that is, he hath seen the same Being. He that hath known the Son hath known the Father, John 14:7-43.14.9. For the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; the personal distinction is no other than will consist with essential union. This is the glory of the person of Christ; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, but really, in him.

      (3.) From the glory of the person of Christ he proceeds to mention the glory of his grace; his condescension itself was truly glorious. The sufferings of Christ had this great honour in them, to be a full satisfaction for the sins of his people: By himself he purged away our sins, that is, by the proper innate merit of his death and bloodshed, by their infinite intrinsic value; as they were the sufferings of himself, he has made atonement for sin. Himself, the glory of his person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a sufficient reparation of honour to God, who had suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men.

      (4.) From the glory of his sufferings we are at length led to consider the glory of his exaltation: When by himself he had purged away our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, at his Father's right hand. As Mediator and Redeemer, he is invested with the highest honour, authority, and activity, for the good of his people; the Father now does all things by him, and receives all the services of his people from him. Having assumed our nature, and suffered in it on earth, he has taken it up with him to heaven, and there it has the high honour to be next to God, and this was the reward of his humiliation.

      Now it was by no less a person than this that God in these last days spoke to men; and, since the dignity of the messenger gives authority and excellency to the message, the dispensations of the gospel must therefore exceed, very far exceed, the dispensation of the law.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/hebrews-1.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The epistle to the Hebrews differs in some important respects from all those which have been before us; so much so that many have questioned whether it be the writing of the apostle Paul, of Apollos, of Barnabas, etc. Of this my mind has no doubt. I believe that Paul, and no other, was the author, and that it bears the strongest intrinsic traits of his doctrine. The style is different, and so is the manner of handling the truth; but the line of truth, though it be affected by the object that he had in view, is that which savours of Paul beyond all: not of Peter, or John, or James, or Jude, but of Paul alone.

One good and plain reason which has graven a difference of character on the epistle is the fact, that it goes outside his allotted province. Paul was the apostle of the uncircumcision. If writing for the instruction of Jews, as here he clearly was, to believers or Christians that had once been of that nation, he was evidently outside the ordinary function of his apostolic work.

There is another reason also why the epistle to the Hebrews diverges very sensibly and materially from the rest of the writings of St. Paul, that it is not, strictly speaking, an exercise of apostleship at all, but of the writer (apostle though he were) as a teacher, and here a teacher clearly not of Gentiles, as he says elsewhere, but of Jews. Now it is plain, if he that was an apostle and preacher and teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth was led by the Holy Spirit to address the saints that were of the old Jewish fold, there must have been a marked departure from his usual methods in the manner of using and presenting the truth of God to these. But we have this blessed result of his acting outside his own ordinary sphere, that it is the finest and indeed the only specimen of teaching properly so called in the New Testament. It is not a revelation given by prophetic or apostolic authority; and for this reason, I presume, he does not introduce himself at all. It is always a failure when the teacher as such is prominent. The point for such an one is, that the reaching (not himself) should arrest and instruct. But in revealing truth the person whom God employs in that work is naturally brought before those addressed; and hence the apostle took particular care, even if he did not write an epistle, to put his name to it, introducing himself at the beginning through the amanuensis that he employed, and with scrupulous care adding his own name at the end of each epistle.

In writing to the Hebrew believers it is not so. Here the apostle is what indeed he was. Besides being apostle of the uncircumcision, he was a teacher; and God took care that, although expressly said to be a teacher of Gentiles, his should be the word to teach the Christian Jews too; and, in fact, we may be assured that he taught them as they never were taught before. He opened the scriptures as none but Paul could, according to the gospel of the glory of Christ. He taught them the value of the living oracles that God had given them; for this is the beautiful characteristic here. Indeed the epistle to the Hebrews stands unique. By it the believing Jew was led into a divine application of that which was in the Old Testament that which they had habitually read in the law, Psalms, and prophets, from their cradle we may say, but which they had never seen in such a light before. That mighty, logical, penetrating, richly-stored mind! that heart with such affections large and deep, as scarce ever were concentred in another bosom! that soul of experience wonderfully varied and profound! he was the one whom God was now leading in a somewhat unwonted path, no doubt, but in a path which, when once taken, at once approves itself by divine wisdom to every heart purified by faith.

For if Peter, as is known, were the apostle of the circumcision pre-eminently, it was through him that God first of all opened the door of the kingdom of heaven to the Gentiles; and if the apostle Paul, with the concurrence of the heads of the work among the circumcision, had gone to the Gentiles, none the less did the Spirit of God (it may be without asking those who seemed to be somewhat at Jerusalem) employ Paul to write to the believers of the circumcision the most consummate treatise on the bearing of Christ and Christianity upon the law and the prophets, and as practically dealing with their wants, dangers, and blessing. Thus did God most carefully guard in every form from the technical drawing of lines of rigid demarcation to which even Christians are so prone, the love of settling things in precise routine, the desire that each should have his own place, not only as the proper sphere of his work, but to the exclusion of every other. With admirable wisdom indeed the Lord directs the work and the workmen, but never exclusively; and the apostle Paul is here, as just shown, the proof of it on one side as Peter is on the other.

What is the consequence under the blessed guidance of the Spirit? As the great teacher of the believers from among the Jews, we have, after all, not Paul, but through him God Himself left to address His own, in the words, facts, ceremonies, offices, persons so long familiar to the chosen people. Paul does not appear. This could hardly have been by any other arrangement, at any rate not so naturally. "God," says he, "having in many measures and in many manners spoken in time past to the fathers in the prophets, at the last of these days spoke to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Paul, would show them thus the infinite dignity of the Messiah whom they had received. Never would Paul weaken the personal rights or the official place of the Anointed of Jehovah. Contrariwise, he would lead them on to find what they had never yet seen in their Messiah, and, wonderful to say, he founds his proofs, not on new revelations, but on those very words of God which they had read so superficially, the depths of which they had never approached, nor had they so much as suspected. The facts of Christianity they knew; the linking of all scripture with Christ's person, and work, and glory they had yet to discover.

But mark the manner of the writer. He is careful to establish the thread of connection with God's word and ways of old; and yet there is not a single epistle which more elaborately throughout its entire course sets the believer in present relationship to Christ in heaven; I think one might be bold to say, none so much. From the very starting-point we see Christ, not merely dead and risen, but glorified in heaven. There is no doubt that the writer meant his readers to hold fast, that He who suffered all things on earth is the same Jesus who is now at the right hand of God; but the first place in which we hear of Him is as Son of God on high according toHebrews 1:1-58.1.14; Hebrews 1:1-58.1.14, and there it is we see Him as Son of man according toHebrews 2:1-58.2.18; Hebrews 2:1-58.2.18. It was there, in fact, that Paul had himself first seen the Lord. Who then was so suitable to introduce Jesus, the rejected Messiah, at the right hand of God, as Saul of Tarsus? On the way to Damascus that staunchest of Jews had his eyes first opened blinded naturally, but enabled by grace so much the more to see by the power of the Holy Spirit the glorified Christ,

It is to Christ in heaven, then, that Paul, writing to the Christian Jews, first directs their attention. But he does it in a manner which shows the singularly delicate tact given him. True affection is prudent for its object when peril is nigh, and delights to help effectively, instead of being indifferent whether the way of it wounds those whose good is sought. In no way are the former messages of God forgotten in the days of their fathers. Nor would one gather from this epistle that its writer laboured among the Gentiles, nor even that there was a calling of Gentile believers in the Lord Jesus. The epistle to the Hebrews never speaks of either. We can understand, therefore, how active-minded men, who occupied themselves with the surface the method, the style, the unusual absence of the writer's name, and other peculiarities in the phenomena of this epistle, too readily hesitated to attribute it to Paul. They might not attach much moment to the general tradition which ascribed it to him. But they ought to have looked more steadily into its depths, and the motives for obvious points of difference, even were it written by Paul.

Granted that there is a striking absence of allusion to the one body here. But there was one nearer and dearer to Paul than even the church. There was one truth that Paul laboured yet more to hold up than that one body, wherein is neither Jew nor Greek the glory of Him who is the head of it. Christ Himself was what made the assembly of God precious to him. Christ Himself was infinitely more precious than even the church which He had loved so well, and for which He gave Himself. Of Christ, then, he would deliver his last message to his brethren after the flesh as well as Spirit; and as he began preaching in the synagogues that He is the Son of God, (Acts 9:1-44.9.43) so here he begins his epistle to the Hebrews. He would lead them on, and this with gentle but firm and witting hand. He would deepen their knowledge lovingly and wisely. He would not share their unbelief, their love of ease, their value for outward show, their dread of suffering; but he would reserve each folly for the most fitting moment. He would lay a vigorous hand on that which threatened their departure from the faith, but he would smooth lightly lesser difficulties out of their way. But when he gained their ear, and they were enabled to see the bright lights and perfections of the great High Priest, there is no warning more energetic than this epistle affords against the imminent and remediless danger of those who abandon Christ, whether for religious form, or to indulge in sin. All is carried on in the full power of the Spirit of God, but with the nicest consideration of Jewish prejudices, and the most scrupulous care to bring every warrant for his doctrine from their own ancient yet little understood testimonies.

It is evident, however, even from the opening of the epistle, that though he does not slight but uphold the Old Testament scriptures, yet he will not let the Jews pervert them to dishonour the Lord Jesus. How had God spoken to the fathers? In many measures and in many manners. So had He spoken in the prophets. It was fragmentary and various, not a full and final manifestation of Himself. Mark the skill! He thereby cuts off, by the unquestionable facts of the Old Testament, that overweening self-complacency of the Jew, which would set Moses and Elias against hearing the Son of God. Had God spoken to the fathers, in the prophets? Unquestionably. Paul, who loved Israel and estimated their privileges more highly than themselves, (Romans 9:1-45.9.33) was the last man to deny or enfeeble it. But how had God spoken then? Had He formerly brought out the fulness of His mind? Not so. The early communications were but refracted rays, not the light unbroken and complete. Who could deny that such was the character of all the Old Testament? Yet so cautiously does he insinuate the obviously and necessarily practical character of that which was revealed of old, that at a first reading, nay, however often read perfunctorily, they might have no more perceived it than, I suppose, most of us must confess as to ourselves. But there it is; and when we begin to prove the divine certainty of every word, we weigh and weigh again its value.

As then it is pointed out that there were formerly many portions, so also were there many modes in the prophetic communications of God. This was, beyond doubt, the way in which His revelations had been gradually vouchsafed to His people. But for this very reason, it was not complete. God was giving piecemeal His various words, "here a little, and there a little." Such was the character of His ways with Israel. They could not man could not hear more till redemption was accomplished, after the Son of God Himself was come, and His glory fully revealed. Now when promises were given to the fathers, they did not go beyond the earthly glory of Christ; but known to Him were all things from the beginning, yet He did not outrun the course of His dealings with His people. But as they manifested themselves in relation to Himself, and alas! their own weakness and ruin, higher glories began to dawn, and were needful as a support to the people. Hence, invariably, you will find these two things correlative. Reduce the glory of Christ, and you equally lower your judgment of the state of man. See the total absolute ruin of the creature; and none but the Son in all His glory is felt to be a sufficient Saviour for such.

The apostle was now being led by the Holy Ghost to wean these believers from their poor, meagre, earthly thoughts of Christ from that so common tendency to take the least portion of the blessing, contenting ourselves with that which we think we need, and which we feel to be desirable for us, and there sitting down. God, on the contrary, while He does adapt Himself to the earliest wants of souls, and the feeblest answer to Christ by the Spirit of God working within us, nevertheless has in His heart for us what suits His own glory, and this He will accomplish; for faithful is He who hath promised, and He will do it. He means to have all that love the Saviour like Him; and all that He purposes to do for the Saviour's honour, He has perfectly unfolded to us. No doubt, this supposes the resurrection state, and it never can be till then; but He graciously works now, that we may learn by degrees that only such a Saviour and Lord the effulgence of His glory, and full expression of His substance, the Son of God Himself could suit either God or us.

Accordingly, while he intimates thus that all was but partial, being piecemeal and multiform, in the revelations from God to the fathers, he lets them know, in the next verse, that the same God had, in the last of these days, "spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." If such and so great were His glory, what must not be the word of such a Son? What the fulness of the truth that God was now making known to His people by Him? Was this to slight the glory of the Messiah? Let them rather take heed that there be no oversight of Him on their part; none could justly put it to the account of God. For who was He, this Messiah, that they would fain occupy themselves with as a king, and would have confirmed, had it 'been possible, to aggrandize themselves the ancient people of God? The brightness of God's glory, the express image of His substance; the upholder, not of Israel or their land only, but of all things "by the word of his power." But hearken "when he had by himself purged our sins," was not the whole Jewish system blotted out by such a truth? "when he had by himself purged our sins." It is to the exclusion of every other instrument. Help there was not; means there could not be. He Himself undertook and achieved the task alone; and, when He had thus done it, "sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

This furnishes the first part of the doctrine on which the apostle insists. If any beings had special account or stood highly exalted in a Jew's eye, the holy angels were they; and no wonder. It was in this form that Jehovah ordinarily appeared, whenever He visited the fathers or the sons of Israel. There were exceptions; but, as a rule, He who made known the will and manifested the power of Jehovah in these early days to the fathers is spoken of habitually as the angel of Jehovah. It is thus He was represented. He had not yet taken manhood, or made it part of His person. I do not deny that there was sometimes the appearance of man. An angel might appear in whatever guise it pleased God; but, appear as He might, He was the representative of Jehovah. Accordingly, the Jews always associated angels with the highest idea of beings, next to Jehovah Himself, the chosen messengers of the divine will for any passing vision among men. But now appeared One who completely surpassed the angels. Who was He? The Son of God. It ought to have filled them with joy.

We may easily understand that every soul truly born of God would and must break forth into thanksgiving to hear of a deeper glory than he had first perceived in Christ, We must not look on the Lord according to our experience, if there has been simplicity in the way God has brought us to the perception of His glory; we must endeavour to put ourselves back, and consider the prejudices and difficulties of the Jew. They had their own peculiar hindrances; and one of their greatest was the idea of a divine person becoming a man; for a man, to a Jew, was far below an angel. Are there not many now, even professing Christians (to their shame be it spoken) who think somewhat similarly? Not every Christian knows that a mere angel, as such, is but a servant; not every Christian understands that man was made to rule. No doubt he is a servant, but not merely one so accomplishing orders, but having a given sphere, in which he was to rule as the image and glory of God: a thing never true of an angel never was, and never can be. The Jews had not entered into this; no man ever did receive such a thought. The great mass of Christians now are totally ignorant of it. The time, the manner, and the only way in which such a truth could be known, was in the person of Christ; for He became not an angel but a man.

But the very thing that to us is so simple, when we have laid hold of the astonishing place of man in the person of Christ this was to them the difficulty. His being a man, they imagined, must lower Him necessarily below an angel. The apostle, therefore, has to prove that which to us is an evident matter of truth of revelation from God without argument at all. And this he proves from their own scriptures. "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" Now it is true that angels are sometimes called "sons of God," but God never singles out one and says, "Thou art my Son." In a vague general way, He speaks of all men as being His sons. He speaks of the angels in a similar way, as being His sons. Adam was a son of God apart, I mean, from the grace of God as a mere creature of God into whose nostrils He breathed the breath of life. Adam was a son of God, angels were sons of God; but to which of the angels did God ever speak in such language as this? No, it was to a man; for He was thus speaking of the Lord as Messiah here below; and this is what gives the emphasis of the passage. It is not predicated of the Son as eternally such; there would be no wonder in this. None could be surprised, assuredly, that the Son of God, viewed in His own eternal being, should be greater than an angel. But that He, an infant on earth, looked at as the son of the Virgin, that He should be above all the angels in heaven this was a wonder to the Jewish mind; and yet what had in their scriptures a plainer proof? It was not to an angel in heaven, but to the Babe at Bethlehem, that God had said, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee;" and, again, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son" words said historically of David's son; but, as usual, looking onward to a greater than David, or his wise son, who immediately succeeded him. Christ is the true and continual object of the inspiring Spirit.

But next follows a still more powerful proof of His glory: "And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." So far from any angel approaching the glory of the Lord Jesus, it is God Himself who commands that all the angels shall worship Him. "And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." They are but servants, whatever their might, function, or sphere. They may have a singular place as servants, and a spiritual nature accomplishing the pleasure of the Lord; but they are only servants. They never rule. "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Not a word is said about His fellows until God Himself addresses Him as God. The angels worshipped Him: God now salutes Him as God; for such He was, counting it no robbery to be on equality with God, one with the Father.

But this is far from all. The chain of scriptural testimony is carried out and confirmed with another and even more wondrous citation. "God" may be used in a subordinate sense. Elohim has His representatives, who are, therefore, called gods. Magistrates and kings are so named in scripture. So are they styled, as the Lord told the Jews. The word of God came and commissioned them to govern in earthly things; for it might be no more than in judicial matters. Still, there they were, in their own sphere, representing God's authority, and are called gods, though clearly with a very subordinate force. But there is another name which never is employed in any sense save that which is supreme. The dread and incommunicable name is "Jehovah." Is, then, the Messiah ever called Jehovah? Certainly He is. And under what circumstances? In His deepest shame. I do not speak now of God's forsaking Christ as the point of view in which He is looked at, though at the same general time.

We that believe can all understand that solemn judgment of our sins on the part of God, when Jesus was accomplishing atonement on the cross. But there was more in the cross than this, which is not the subject of Psalms 102:1-19.102.28, but rather the Messiah utterly put to shame by man and the people; nevertheless taking it all for this was His perfection in it from the hand of Jehovah. It is under such circumstances He pours out His plaint. Jehovah raised Him up, and Jehovah cast Him down. Had atonement, as such, been in view here as in Psalms 22:1-19.22.31, would it not be put as casting Him down, and then raising Him up? This is the way in which we Christians naturally think of Christ in that which is nearest to the sinner's need and God's answer of grace. But here Jehovah raised Him up, and Jehovah cast Him down, which evidently refers to His Messianic place, not to His position as the suffering and afterwards glorified Christ, the Head of the church. He was raised up as the true Messiah by Jehovah on earth, and He was cast down by Jehovah on earth. No doubt man was the instrument of it. The world which He had made did not know Him; His own people received Him not, neither would have Him. Jewish unbelief hated Him: the more they knew Him, the less could they endure Him. The goodness, the love, the glory of His person only drew out the deadly enmity of man, and specially of Israel; for they were worse than the Romans: and all this He, in the perfectness of His dependence, takes from Jehovah. For Himself, He came to suffer and die by wicked hands, but it was in the accomplishment of the will and purpose of God His Father. He knew full well that all the power of man or Satan would not have availed one instant before Jehovah permitted it. Hence all is taken meekly, but with none the less agony, from Jehovah's hand; and less or other than this had not been perfection. In the midst of Messiah's profound sense and expression of His humiliation to the lowest point thus accepted from Jehovah, He contrasts His own estate, wasted, prostrate, and coining to nothing. He contrasts it with two things. First, the certainty of every promise being accomplished for Israel and Zion He unhesitatingly anticipates; whilst He, the Messiah, submits to be given up to every possible abasement. He then contrasts Himself with the great commanding truth of Jehovah's own permanence. And what is the answer from on high to the holy sufferer? Jehovah from above answers Jehovah below; He owns that the smitten Messiah is Jehovah of stability and unchangeableness equal with His own.

What need of further proof after this? Nothing could be asked or conceived more conclusive, as far as concerned His divine glory. And all that the apostle thinks it necessary to cite after this is the connecting link of His present place on the throne of Jehovah in heaven with all these ascending evidences of His divine glory, beginning with His being Son as begotten in time and in the world; then His emphatic relationship to God as of the lineage of David not Solomon, save typically, but the Christ really and ultimately; then worshipped by the angels of God; next, owned by God as God, and, finally, as Jehovah by Jehovah. All is closed by the citation of Psalms 110:1, which declares that God bids Him sit as man at His right hand on high till the hour of judgment on His foes. It is one of the most interesting psalms in the whole collection, and of the deepest possible moment as preparatory both to what is now brought in for the Christian (which, however, is hidden here) and to what it declares shall be by-and-by for Israel. Thus it is a sort of bridge between old and new, as it is more frequently quoted in the New Testament than any other Old Testament scripture. "Therefore" (as should be the conclusion, though commencing the next chapter) "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels" clearly he is still summing up the matter "was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward: how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard?" It is striking to see how the apostle takes the place of such as simply had the message, like other Jews, from those who personally heard Him: so completely was he writing, not as the apostle of the Gentiles magnifying his office, but as one of Israel, who were addressed by those who companied with Messiah on earth. It was confirmed "unto us," says he, putting himself along with his nation, instead of conveying his heavenly revelations as one taken out from the people, and the Gentiles, to which last he was sent. He looks at what was their proper testimony, not at that to which he had been separated extraordinarily. He is dealing with them as much as possible on their own ground, though, of course, without compromise of his own. He does not overlook the testimony to the Jews as such: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will."

Now he enters on another and very distinct portion of the glory of Christ. He is not only the Son of God, but Son of man; and they are both, I will not say equally necessary, but, without doubt, both absolutely necessary, whether for God's glory or for His salvation to whomsoever it may be applied. Touch Christ on either side, and all is gone. Touch Him on the human side, it is hardly less fatal than on the divine. I admit that His divine glory has a place which humanity could not possess; but His human perfection is no less necessary to found the blessing for us on redemption, glorifying God in His righteousness and. love. This accordingly the apostle now traces. Jesus was God as truly as man, and in both above the angels. His superiority as Son of God had been proved in the most masterly manner from their own scriptures in the first chapter. He had drawn his conclusions, urging the all-importance of giving heed, and the danger of letting slip such a testimony. The law, as he had said elsewhere, was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. He had just said, if it was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? Outward infraction and inner rebellion met their retribution. The sanction of the gospel would be commensurate with its grace, and God would avenge the slightings of a testimony begun by the Lord, farther carried on and confirmed by the Holy Spirit with signs, wonders, powers, and distributions according to His will.

Now he takes the other side, saying, "Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come." Whatever may have been God's employment of angels about the law, the world to come was never destined to be subjected to them. It is the good pleasure of God to use an angel where it is a question of providence, or law, or. power; but where it comes to be the manifestation of His glory in Christ, He must have other instruments more suitable for His nature, and according to His affections. "For one has somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands." Thus we see the first question raised is one as to the littleness of man in comparison with that which God has made; but the question is no sooner raised than answered, and this by one who looks at the Second Man and not at the first. Behold then man in Christ, and then talk, if you can, about His littleness. Behold man in Christ, and then be amazed at the wonders of the heavens. Let creation be as great as it may be, He that made all things is above them. The Son of man has a glory that completely eclipses the brightness of the highest objects. But also He shows that the humiliation of the Saviour, in which He was made a little lower than the angels, was for an end that led up to this heavenly glory. Grant that He was made a little lower, than the angels, what was it for? "We see not yet all things put under him. But we behold Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; so that by the grace of God he should taste death for everything." Nor was this the only object; He was "crowned with glory and honour" as fruit of His sufferings unto death; but it had a gracious object as well as a glorious end; "so that by the grace of God he should taste death for everything;" for thus was the only door of deliverance for what was ruined by the fall, and this because it was the only means of morally vindicating God, who yearned in love over every work of His hands. There can be otherwise no efficacious because no righteous deliverance. It may be infinitely more, but righteous footing it must have; and this the death of Christ has given. Flowing from God's grace, Christ's death is the ground of reconciliation for the universe. It has also made it a part of His righteousness to bring man thus out of that ruin, misery, and subjection to death in which he lay. It has put into the hands of God that infinite fund of blessing in which He now loves to admit us reconciled to Himself.

The apostle does not yet draw all the consequences; but he lays down in these two chapters the twofold glory of Christ Son of God, Son of man; and following up the latter, he approaches that which fitted Him, on the score of sympathy, for the priesthood. I do not mean that Jesus could have been High Priest according to God because He was man. Not His manhood but His Godhead is the ground of His glory; nevertheless, if He had not been man as well as Son of God, He could not have been priest. As for atonement so for priesthood, that ground was essential. But it was for man, and therefore He too must be man. So it is here shown that it "became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Remark, it is not "all one." We never reach that height in the epistle to the Hebrews; never have we the body here, any more than unity. For the body we must search into some other epistles of Paul, though unity we may see in another shape in John. But the epistle to the Hebrews never goes so far as either. It does what was even more important for those whom it concerned, and, I add, what is of the deepest possible moment for us. For those who think that they can live according to God on the truth of either Ephesians or of the epistles of St. John, without the doctrine of the epistle to the Hebrews, have made a miserable mistake.

Say what men will, we have our wants, as traversing this wilderness; and although we might like to soar, it cannot long, if at all, prosper. We have, therefore, the adaptation of Christ as priest to the infirmities that we feel, and so much the more because of an exercised conscience towards God, and a realizing of the desert sin has made this defiled scene of our actual pilgrimage.

Accordingly, in the latter part of the chapter, the apostle begins to introduce the great truths which form so large a part of the epistle to the Hebrews. He speaks of Christ, the Sanctifier: "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." He means one and the same condition, without entering into particulars. "For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." There is a common relationship which the Sanctifier and the sanctified possess. It might be supposed, because He is the Sanctifier and they are the sanctified, that there could be no such communion. But there is: "for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." He never called them so, till He became a man; nor did He so fully then, till He was man risen from the dead. The apostle here most fittingly introduces Psalms 22:1-19.22.31, etc.: "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him." He is proving the reality of this common relationship of the Sanctifier and the sanctified. He, like themselves, can say, and He alone could say as they never did, "I will put my trust in him." Indeed Psalms 16:1-19.16.11 was the expression of all His course as man trust in life, trust in death, trust in resurrection. As in everything else, so in this, He has the pre-eminence; but it is a pre-eminence founded on a common ground. It could not have been true of Him, had He not been a man; had He been simply God, to talk of trusting in God would have been altogether unnatural impossible. As for Him then, though the Sanctifier, He and they were all of one. And so further: "Behold! and the children which God hath given me." Here is again a different but equally good proof of mutual relationship.

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels." This last should be, that He does not take up angels; He does not help them. They are not the objects of His concern in the work here described; "but he takes up the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest" here you have the object of all the proof of His being man "in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people." I use the word "atonement, or expiation, as being decidedly preferable to reconciliation." You cannot talk of reconciling sins. It is not a question of making sins right. They are atoned for; people are reconciled. Those who have been sinners are reconciled to God; but as to sins they do not admit of being reconciled at all (which is a mistake). There is need of a propitiation, or expiation, for the sins of His people. "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." Temptation to Him was nothing but suffering: He suffered, being tempted, because there was that intrinsic holiness which repelled, but, at the same time, most acutely felt the temptation.

Thus the apostle enters on the vast field that will come before us a little while longer tonight. He has laid the basis for the high-priesthood of Christ. He could not have been such a High Priest, had He not been both divine and human; and he has proved both, in the fullest manner, from their own scriptures.

But before he enters upon the unfolding of His high-priesthood, there is a digression (the two chapters that follow, I apprehend, linking themselves with the two we have considered). Thus, "Christ as Son over his own house" answers pretty much to the first chapter, as the rest of God by-and-by answers to the second chapter; for I hope to prove it is to be in the scene of future glory. In writings so profound as the apostle's, one generally hails the least help towards appreciating the structure of an epistle: let the reader consider it.

Hebrews 3:1-58.3.19. We need not dwell long on these intervening chapters. It is evident that he opens with our Lord as "apostle and high-priest of our confession," in contrast with the apostle and high priest of the Jews. Moses was the revealer of the mind of God of old, as Aaron had the title and privilege of access then into the sanctuary of God for the people. Jesus unites both in His own person. He came from God, and went to God. The holy brethren, then, partakers of a heavenly calling (not earthly like Israel's), are told to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus, who is faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses in all his house. Moses, "as a servant," he takes care particularly to say, in everything shows the superiority of the Messiah. "For he was counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, by how much he that built it hath more honour than the house." He becomes bold now. He can venture, after having brought out such glory to Christ, to use plainness of speech; and they could hear it, if they believed their own scriptures. If they honoured the man who was God's servant in founding and directing the tabernacle (or house of God in its rudimentary state), how much more did the ancient oracles call attention to a greater than Moses to Jehovah Messiah, even Jesus. How plainly this chapter pre-supposes the proofs of the divine glory of Christ! We shall see also His Sonship presently. "And Moses was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of the things to be spoken after; but Christ, as Son over his house, whose house are we." Christ, being divine, built the house; Christ built all things. Moses ministered as servant, and was faithful in God's house; Christ as Son is over the house; "whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."

There were great difficulties, circumstances calculated especially to affect the Jew, who, after receiving the truth with joy, might be exposed to great trial, and so in danger of giving up his hope. It was, besides, particularly hard for a Jew at first to put these two facts together: a Messiah come, and entered into glory; and the people who belonged to the Messiah left in sorrow, and shame, and suffering here below. In fact, no person from the Old Testament could, at first sight at least, have combined these two elements. We can understand it now in Christianity. It is partly, indeed, to the shame of Gentiles, that they do not even see the difficulty for a Jew. It shows how naturally, so to speak, they have forgotten the Jew as having a special place in the word and purposes of God. They consequently cannot enter into the feelings of the Jew; and by such the authority and use of this epistle was grievously slighted. It is the self-conceit of the Gentile, (Romans 11:1-45.11.36) not their faith, that makes the Jewish difficulty to be so little felt. Faith enables us to look at all difficulties, on the one hand measuring them, on the other raising us above them. This is not at all the case with ordinary Gentile thought. Unbelief, indifferent and unfeeling, does not even see, still less appreciate, the trials of the weak.

The apostle here enters into everything of value for the way. Although it is perfectly true that the Son is in this place of universal glory, and in relation to us, Son over His house (God's house having an all-comprehending sense and a narrower one), he explains how it is that His people are in actual weakness, trial, exposure, danger and sorrow here below. The people are still travelling through the wilderness, not yet in the land. He immediately appeals to the voice of the Spirit in the Psalms: "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in heart; and they have not known my ways. So I swear in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; while it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses."

What is pressed here is this: that the people of God are still in the path of faith, just like their fathers of old before they crossed the Jordan; that now there is that which puts our patience to the proof; that the grand thing for such is to hold fast the beginning of the assurance firm unto the end. They were tempted to stumble at the truth of Christ, because of the bitter experiences of the way through which they were going onward. To turn back is but the evil heart of unbelief; to abandon Jesus is to turn away from the living God. To be fellows or companions of the Messiah (Psalms 45:1-19.45.17) depends on holding fast the beginning of the assurance to the end; for, remember, we are in the wilderness. Following Christ, as of old Moses, we are not arrived at the rest of God. "But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."

This leads us to the very important, but often misunderstood, Hebrews 4:1-58.4.16. What is the meaning of the "rest of God"? Not rest of soul, nor rest of conscience, any more than of heart. It is none of these things, but simply what the apostle says, God's rest. His rest is not merely your rest. It is not our faith seizing the rest that Christ gives to him that trusts Himself, as when He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He did not say, "I will give you God's rest." It was not the time, nor is it of that nature. God's rest is the rest of His own satisfaction. His rest is a change of all, the present scene of trial and toil, the consequences of sin. Of course the people of God must be formed for the scene, as well as it for them. They are incomparably more to God than that which they are going to fill. But the scene has its importance too. It would not suit God, if it would suit us, to be ever so blessed in such a world as this. He means to have a rest as worthy of Himself as the righteousness we are made in Christ is worthy of Himself now. As it is His righteousness, so will it be His rest. Therefore it is not merely, as Gentiles are apt to suppose, the bringing of comfort into the heart, and the spirit filled with the consciousness of blessings from God and of His grace to us. The Jew, too, had, in another direction, a miserably inadequate conception of it; for it was earthly, if not sensual. Still, what a Jewish believer often staggered at, what he felt to be a serious riddle for his mind, was the contrast between the circumstances through which he was passing, and the Christ of which the prophets had spoken to him. Now the apostle does not in any way make light of the grief by the way, nor forget that the pilgrimage in the desert is the type of our earthly circumstances. He takes the scriptures that speak of Israel journeying toward, but not yet in, the pleasant land, applying them to the present facts, and at the same time he sets before them in hope the rest of God.

Hebrews 4:1-58.4.16. "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us were glad tidings preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we who have believed do enter into rest." That is, we are on the road. He does not say that we have entered, nor does he mean anything of the sort, which is clean contrary to the argument and aim. It is altogether a mistake, therefore, so to interpret the passage. The very reverse is meant, namely, that we have not entered into the rest, but, as the hymn says, we are on our way, I will not say to God, but assuredly to His rest. We are entering into the rest, having got it before us, and on to that rest we move; but we are not yet there. "We which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest." It is quite true that it is the Holy Ghost's object to bring the rest close to us, so as to make us always conscious of the little interval that separates us from the rest of God; but still, let the interval be ever so short, we are not there yet, we are only going towards it. For the present, our place, beyond controversy, is viewed as in fact in the wilderness. According to the doctrine of this epistle (as of the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Philippians) to present us as in heavenly places would be altogether out of place and season. To the Ephesians he does develop our blessing as in and with Christ in the heavenlies. There it was exactly consonant to the character of the truth; for it is truth, and of the highest order. But as far as the Epistle to the Hebrews goes, we should never have learnt this side of the truth of God, or its appropriation to us; for we are only regarded in our actual place, that is, marching through the desert.

Here objections, which might be founded on the scriptures of the Old Testament, are met. There were two, and only two, occasions of old whence it might be argued that there had been an entrance into God's rest.

The first was when God made the creation; but was there any entering of man into that rest? God, doubtless, rested from His works; but even God is never said then to have rested in His works. Was there anything that satisfied God or blessed man permanently? All was good, yea, very good; but could God rest in His love? Surely not, till all could be founded on the basis of redemption. Before all worlds God meant to have this. Nothing but redemption could bring into His own rest. Consequently, a rest capable of being spoilt, and all requiring to be begun over again in a new and more blessed way, never could meet the heart or mind of God. This, accordingly, is not His rest; it served as a sign and witness of it, but nothing more.

Then we come down lower to the second instance of deep and special interest to Israel. When Joshua brought the people triumphantly into the possession of Canaan, was this the rest of God? Not so. How is it disproved? By the self-same Psalm "If they shall enter into my rest," written afterwards. So wrote David, "Today, after so long a time." Not only after the creation, but after Joshua had planted the people in the land, a certain day is determined in the future. For if Jesus [i.e., Joshua] had brought them into rest, he would not have spoken afterwards about another day. They had not entered into it yet.

The "rest" was still beyond. Is it not future still? What has there been to bring people into the rest of God since then? What is there to be compared with creation, or with His people settled in Canaan by the destruction of their foes? That which Gentile theology has brought into the matter, namely, the work of the Lord on the cross, or the application of it to meet the needs of the soul precious as it was to the apostle, as it must be to faith has no place whatever in the apostle's argument. If so, where does he bring it into the context? The idea that this is the point debated is so perfectly foreign and futile, that to my mind it demonstrates exceeding prepossession, if not looseness, of mind, as well as a lack of subjection to scripture, in those who allow their theories to override the plain word of God, which is here conspicuous for the absence of that infinite truth.

The apostle, therefore, at once draws the conclusion, that neither at creation, nor in Canaan, was the rest of God really come. The latter part of the Old Testament shows us how Israel got unsettled, and finally driven from their land; though it also predicts their future ingathering. The New Testament shows us the rejection of the Messiah, the ruin of Israel, the salvation of believers, the church formed of such in one body, (whether Jews or Gentiles,) but in the stronger contrast with the rest of God. Consequently, the rest is but coming, not come; it is future. This is the application: "There remaineth therefore a rest" (or sabbatism) "to the people of God. For he that hath entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his works, as God did from his own." I must ask you thus to alter the passage, the authorised version giving it wrongly. The emphasis is taken out of one place, and put into another, without the slightest reason.

What he deduces is, "Let us use diligence therefore to enter into that rest." The meaning is, you cannot be labouring and resting in the same sense and time, All must confess that when you rest, you cease from labour. His statement is that now is the time not for rest, but for diligence; and the moral reason why we labour is, that love whether looked at in God Himself, in His Son, or in His children love never can rest, where there is either sin or wretchedness. In the world there is both. No doubt for the believer, his sins are blotted out and forgiven, and hope anticipates with joy the final deliverance of the Lord. But as to the course of this age and all things here below, it is impossible to think or speak of rest as these are, not even for our bodies, as part of the fallen creation. There ought not to be rest, therefore, beyond what we have by faith in our souls. It would be mere sentimentalising; it is not the truth of God. I ought to feel the misery and the estrangement of the earth from God; I ought to go however joyful in the Lord with a heart sad, and knowing how to weep, in a world where there is so much sin, and suffering, and sorrow. But the time is coming when God will wipe away tears from all eyes, yea, every tear; and this will be the rest of God. To this rest we are journeying, but we are only journeying. At the same time we should labour: love cannot but toil in such a world as this. If there be the spirit that feels the pressure of sin, there is the love that rises up in the power of God's grace, bringing in that which lifts out of sin. and delivers from it. So he says, "Let us be diligent therefore to enter into that rest."

Allow me to say a word to any person here who may be a little confused by old thoughts on this subject. Look again a little more exactly into the two chief calls of the chapter (verses 1 and 11), and let me ask you if it be safe and sound to apply them to rest for the conscience now? Are souls who have never yet tasted that the Lord is gracious to be summoned to fear? And how does the call to labour or diligence square with the apostle's word in Romans 4:4-45.4.5, where justification by faith, apart from works, is beyond cavil the point of teaching? What can be the effect of such prejudices of interpretation (no matter who may have endorsed them) but to muddle the gospel of God's grace? Thus it seems to me clearly and certainly such a notion is proved to be false. The test of a wrong notion is that it always dislocates the truth of God; often, indeed, like this, running counter to the plainest and most elementary forms of the gospel itself. Thus, take the text already referred to "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly" the popular misinterpretation sets people working to enter into rest for their conscience. But the doctrine is as false as the written word is true; and the meaning of that which is before us is, not rest now for the soul by faith, but the rest of God, when He has made a scene in the day of glory as worthy of Himself as it will be suited for those whom He loves.

Accordingly, we are next shown the provision of grace, not for the rest of glory, but for those who are only journeying on towards it here below. And what is that provision? The word of God, which comes and searches, tries and deals with us, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart; and the priesthood of Christ, which converts and strengthens, and applies all that is needed here the grace and mercy of our God. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

And now (Hebrews 5:1-58.5.14) we enter upon the priesthood; for it is a priest that we want who stand already accepted by sacrifice. Not a priest, but a sacrifice, is the foundation of all relationship with God; but we need ,along the way a living person, who can deal both with God for us and for God with us. Such a great High Priest who passed through the heavens, yet able to sympathize with our infirmities, we have in Jesus the Son of God. How little these Jews, even when saints, knew the treasure of grace that God had given in Him whom the nation abhorred! As previously, the apostle takes the proofs from their own oracles. It is not a question of revealing, but of rightly applying, by the Holy Ghost, the word they had in their hand.

"For every high priest taken from among men is established for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins." It might seem scarcely credible that these words could be applied to Christ But there is nothing too bad for the heart of man; and these are mistakes of the heart. They do not arise from intellectual feebleness. It would be folly so to judge of Grotius, for instance. They spring from unbelief. Call it ignorance of Christ and of the scriptures, if you will, but it is not found only with the ignorant, as men would speak. I am sure we ought to have great compassion for the honest ignorance of simple-minded men. But, as in other sad cases, the error is often combined with ample learning of the schools, though with lamentable lack of divine teaching even in foundation truth. I do not deny that God may deign to use anything in His service; but these men confide in their learning and their powers generally, instead of becoming fools that they may become wise, which is the truest learning according to God, if one may speak of "learning" in respect of that wisdom which comes down from the Father of lights.

Thus men, confident in their own resources, have dared to apply this description of priesthood to Christ. They have failed to see that it is a distinct contrast with Christ, and not at all a picture of His priesthood. It is evidently general, and sets before us a human priest, not Jesus God's High Priest. If there be analogy, there is certainly the strongest contrast here. An ordinary priest is able to exercise forbearance toward the ignorant and erring, since he himself also is compassed with infirmity. "And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins." Did Christ need to offer for Himself, yea, for sins? This blasphemy would follow, if the foregoing words applied to Christ. "And no one taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, even as Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest." Now he teaches a point of contact, as the other was of contrast. All you can procure from among men is one that can feel, as being a man, for men after a human sort. Such is not the priest that God has given us, but one who, though man, feels for us after a divine sort. And so, we are told, that Christ, while He was and is this glorious person in His nature and right, nevertheless as man did not glorify Himself to be made an high priest; "but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee; as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."

The same God who owned Him as His Son, born of the Virgin, owned Him also as Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. And in this order too: first, Son (on earth);* next, the true Melchisedec (in heaven, as we shall find). Albeit true God and Son of God, in everything He displays perfect lowliness among men, and absolute dependence on God: such also was His moral fitness for each office and function which God gave Him to discharge. Mark, again, the skill with which all is gradually approached how the inspired writer saps and mines their exorbitant (yet after all only earthly) pretensions, founded on the Aaronic priesthood. Such was the great boast of the Jews. And here we learn out of their own scriptures another order of priesthood reserved for the Messiah, which he knew right well could not but put the Aaronic priesthood completely in the shade. "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."

*I see no ground whatever for applying the citation fromPsalms 2:1-19.2.12; Psalms 2:1-19.2.12 to the resurrection of Christ. Acts 13:1-44.13.52, which is usually quoted to prove it, really distinguishes the raising up of Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God here below, from His resurrection which is made to rest on Isaiah 55:1-23.55.13 and Psalms 16:1-19.16.11. Neither doesPsalms 2:1-19.2.12; Psalms 2:1-19.2.12 set forth His eternal Sonship, all-important a truth as it is, and clearly taught by John above all.

At the same time, it is plain that there is no forgetfulness of the suffering obedience of Christ's place here below; but He is presented in this glory before we are given to hear of the path of shame which ushered it in. "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him, called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec The apostle had much to say, but hard to be interpreted, because they were become dull of hearing. It is not that the word of God in itself is obscure, but that men bring in their difficulties. Nor does His word., as is often thought, want light to be thrown on it; rather is it light itself. By the Spirit's power it dispels the darkness of nature. Many obstacles there are to the entrance of light through the word, but there is none more decided than the force of religious prejudice; and this would naturally operate most among the Hebrew saints. They clung too much to old things; they could not take in the new. We may see a similar hindrance every day. What Paul had to say of the Melchisedec priesthood was hard to explain to them, not because the things were in themselves unintelligible, but they were dull in hearing. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye again have need that one teach you the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God."

There is nothing, I repeat, which tends to make dulness in spiritual things so much as religious tradition. The next to it in dead weight, and in other respects more daringly dangerous, will be found to be philosophy. At any rate, it is remarkable that these are the two occasions of this reproach from the apostle. So he wrote to the Corinthians, who generally admired rhetoric, and had no small confidence, like other Greeks, in their own wisdom. They did not consider Paul, either in style or topics, at all up to the requirements of the age at least in their midst. How cutting to hear themselves counted babes, and incapable of meat for grown men, so that, being carnal, they must have milk administered to them! The apostle had to put them down, and tell them, with all their high-flown wisdom, they were such that he could not discourse to them about the deep things of God. This, no doubt, was a painful surprise for them. So here the same apostle writing to the Hebrew believers treats them as babes, though from a different source. Thus we see two errors totally opposed in appearance, but leading to the same conclusion. Both unfit the soul for going on with God; and the reason why they so hinder is because they are precisely the things in which man lives. Whether it be the mind of man or his natural religiousness, either idolizes its own object; and consequently blindness ensues to the glory of Christ.

Hence the apostle could not but feel himself arrested by their state. He shows also that this very state was not merely one of weakness, but exposed them to the greatest danger; and this is pursued not on the philosophical side so much as on that of religions forms. We have already seen both at work in Colosse, as I have just pointed out the snare that the wisdom of the world was to the Corinthians. But on the Hebrews he presses their excessive danger of abandoning Christ for religious traditions. First of all these hinder progress; finally they draw the soul aside from grace and truth; and if the mighty power of God does not interfere, they ruin. This had been the course of some: they had better be watchful that it be not their own case. He begins gently with their state of infantine feebleness; and then in the beginning of the following chapter he sets before them the awful picture of apostasy. "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

"Therefore," (adds he, inHebrews 6:1-58.6.20; Hebrews 6:1-58.6.20) "leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to perfection." He proves that we cannot safely linger among the Jewish elements when we have heard and received Christian truth; that not merely blessing, not simply power and enjoyment, but the only place even of safety is in going on to this full growth. To stop short for them was to go back. Let those that had heard of Christ return to the forms of Judaism, and what would become of them?

Then he speaks of the various constituents that make up the word of the beginning of Christ ( i.e., Christ known short of death, resurrection, and ascension). He would have them advance, "not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, of a teaching of washings and imposition of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Not that these were not true and important in their place: no one disputed them; but they were in no way the power, nor even characteristic, of Christianity. They go in pairs; and a mere Jew would hardly object; but what is all this for the Christian? Why live on such points? "And this" ( i.e. going on to full growth) "will we do if God permit. For it is impossible [as to] those once enlightened, and that tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and that tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and fell away, to renew [them] again to repentance, seeing they crucify for themselves and expose the Son of God."

It is a question of persons drawn into apostasy after having enjoyed every privilege and power of the gospel, short of a new nature and that indwelling of the Spirit which seals renewed souls till the day of redemption. For them rejecting the Messiah on earth under Judaism God gave repentance and remission of sins; but if they gave up the risen and glorified Christ, there was no provision of grace, no third estate of Christ to meet the case. It is not the case of a person surprised into sin; nay, not even the very awful case of one who may go on in sin, sorrowful to think that it may be so with one of whom we had hoped better things. But here there is another evil altogether. They were those who might be ever so correct, moral, religious, but who, having confessed Jesus as the Christ after the outpouring of the Spirit, had lapsed back into Jewish elements, counting it perhaps a wise and wholesome cheek on a too rapid advance, instead of seeing that in principle it was an abandonment of Christ altogether. The full case here supposed is a thorough renunciation of Christian truth.

The apostle describes a confessor with all the crowning evidences of the gospel, but not a converted man, Not a word implies this either here or in 2 Peter. Short of this he uses uncommonly strong expressions, and purposely so: he sets forth the possession of the highest possible external privileges, and this in that abundant form and measure which God gave on the ascension of the Lord. He says it all, no doubt, about the baptized; but there is nothing about baptism as the ancients would have it, any more than, with some moderns, the progressive steps of the spiritual life. There is knowledge, joy, privilege, and power, but no spiritual life. Enlightenment is in no sense the new birth, nor does baptism in scripture ever mean illumination. It is the effect of the gospel on the dark soul the shining on the mind of Him who is the only true light. But light is not life; and life is not predicated here.

Further, they had "tasted of the heavenly gift." It is not the Messiah as He was preached when the disciples went about here below, but Christ after He went on high; not Christ after the flesh, but Christ risen and glorified above.

But, again, they were "made partakers of the Holy Ghost." Of Him every one became a partaker, who confessed the Lord and entered into the house of God. There the Holy Ghost dwelt; and all who were there became partakers after an outward sort (not κοινωνοὶ , but μέτοχοι ) of Him who constituted the assembly of God's habitation and temple. He pervaded, as it were, the whole atmosphere of the house of God. It is not in the least a question of a person individually born of God, and so sealed by the Holy Spirit. There is not an allusion to either in this case, but to their taking a share in this immense privilege, the word not being that which speaks of a joint known portion, but only of getting a share.

Moreover, they "tasted the good word of God." Even an unconverted man might feel strong emotions, and enjoy to a certain extent, more particularly those that had lain in Judaism, that dreary valley of dry bones. What fare was the gospel of grace! Certainly nothing could be more miserable than the scraps which the scribes and Pharisees put before the sheep of the house of Israel. There is nothing to forbid the natural mind from being attracted by the delightful sweetness of the glad-tidings which Christianity proclaims.

Lastly, we hear of "the powers of the age to come." This seems more than a general share in the presence of the Holy Ghost, who inhabited the house of God. They were positively endued with miraculous energies samples of that which will characterize the reign of the Messiah. Thus we may fairly give the fullest force to every one of these expressions. Yet write them out ever so largely, they fall short both of the new birth and of sealing with the Holy Ghost. There is everything one may say, save inward spiritual life in Christ, or the indwelling seal of it. That is to say, one may have the very highest endowments and privileges, in the way both of meeting the mind, and also of exterior power; and yet all may be given up, and the man become so much the keener enemy of Christ. Indeed such is the natural result. It had been the mournful fact as to some. They had fallen away. Hence renewal to repentance is an impossibility, seeing they crucify for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

Why impossible? The case supposed is of persons, after the richest proof and privilege, turning aside apostates from Christ, in order to take up Judaism once more. As long as that course is pursued, repentance there cannot be. Supposing a man had been the adversary of Messiah here below, there was still the opening for him of grace from on high. It was possible that the very man that had slighted Christ here below might have his eyes opened to see and receive Christ above; but, this abandoned, there is no fresh condition in which He can be presented to men. Those who rejected Christ in all the fulness of His grace, and in the height of glory in which God had set Him as man before them, those that rejected Him not merely on earth, but in heaven, what was there to fall back on? what possible means to bring them to a repentance after that? There is none. What is there but Christ coming in judgment? Now apostasy, sooner or later, must fall under that judgment. Such is the force of the comparison. "For land which hath drunk in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is for burning."

"But we are persuaded better things of you, beloved." There might seem too much ground for fear, but of the two ends he was persuaded respecting them the better things, and akin to salvation, if even he thus spoke; for God was not unrighteous, and the apostle too remembered traits of love and devotedness which gave him this confidence about them. But, says he, "We earnestly desire that each of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end that ye be not slothful, but followers of those who through faith and long-suffering inherit the promises." Here is given a remarkable instance of the true character of the epistle; namely, the combination of two features peculiar to the Hebrews. On the one hand are the promises, the oath of God, taking up His ways with Abraham; and, on the other hand, the hope set before us, that enters into what is within the veil. We may account for the former, because the writer was not confining himself to that which fell within the proper sphere of his apostleship. But, again, had he been writing according to his ordinary place, nothing was more strictly his line of testimony than to have dwelt on our hope that enters within the veil. The peculiarity of the epistle to the Hebrews lies in combining the promises with Christ's heavenly glory. None but Paul, I believe, would have been suited to bring in the heavenly portion. At the same time, only in writing to the Hebrews could Paul have brought in the Old Testament hopes as he has done.

Another point of interest which may be remarked here is the intimation at the end compared with the beginning of the chapter. We have seen the highest external privileges not only the mind of man, as far as it could, enjoying the truth, but the power of the Holy Ghost making the man, at any rate, an instrument of power, even though it be to his own shame and deeper condemnation afterwards. In short, man may have the utmost conceivable advantage, and the greatest external power even of the Spirit of God Himself; and yet all comes to nothing. But the very same chapter, which affirms and warns of the possible failure of every advantage, shows us the weakest faith that the whole New Testament describes coming into the secure possession of the best blessings of grace. Who but God could have dictated that this same chapter (Hebrews 6:1-58.6.20) should depict the weakest faith that the New Testament ever acknowledges? What can look feebler, what more desperately pressed, than a man fleeing for refuge? It is not a soul as coming to Jesus; it is not as one whom the Lord meets and blesses on the spot; but here is a man hard pushed, fleeing for very life (evidently a figure drawn from the blood-stained fleeing from the avenger of blood), yet eternally saved and blessed according to the acceptance of Christ on high.

There was no reality found to be in those so highly favoured of the early verses; and therefore it was (as there was no conscience before God, no sense of sin, no cleaving to Christ) that everything came to nought; but here, there is the fruit of faith, feeble indeed and sorely tried, but in the light that appreciates the judgment of God against sin. Hence, although it be only fleeing in an agony of soul to refuge, what is it that God gives to one in such a state? Strong consolation, and that which enters within the veil. Impossible that the Son should be shaken from His place on the throne of God: so is it that the least believer should come to any hurt whatever. The weakest of saints more than conqueror is; and therefore the apostle, having brought us to this glorious point of conclusion, as well as shown us the awful danger of men giving up such a Christ as that which we have presented to us in this epistle, now finds himself free to unfold the character of His priesthood, as well as the resulting position of the Christian. But on these I hope to enter, if the Lord will, on another occasion.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:3". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/hebrews-1.html. 1860-1890.