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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hebrews 12:29

for our God is a consuming fire.

Adam Clarke Commentary

For our God is a consuming fire - The apostle quotes Deuteronomy 4:24, and by doing so he teaches us this great truth, that sin under the Gospel is as abominable in God's sight as it was under the law; and that the man who does not labor to serve God with the principle and in the way already prescribed, will find that fire to consume him which would otherwise have consumed his sin.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/hebrews-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For our God is a consuming fire - This is a further reason why we should serve God with profound reverence and unwavering fidelity. The quotation is made from Deuteronomy 4:24. “For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” The object of the apostle here seems to be, to show that there was the same reason for fearing the displeasure of God under the new dispensation which there was under the old. It was the same God who was served. There had been no change in his attributes, or in the principles of his government. He was no more the friend of sin now than he was then; and the same perfections of his nature which would then lead him to punish transgression would also lead him to do it now. His anger was really as terrible, and as much to be dreaded as it was at Mount Sinai; and the destruction which he would inflict on his foes would be as terrible now as it was then.

The fearfulness with which he would come forth to destroy the wicked might be compared to a “fire” that consumed all before it; see the notes, Mark 9:44-46. The image here is a most fearful one, and is in accordance with all the representations of God in the Bible and with all that we see in the divine dealings with wicked people, that punishment; as inflicted by him is awful and overwhelming. So it was on the old world; on the cities of the plain; on the hosts of Sennacherib; and on Jerusalem - and so it has been in the calamities of pestilence, war, flood, and famine with which God has visited guilty people. By all these tender and solemn considerations, therefore, the apostle urges the friends of God to perseverance and fidelity in his service. His goodness and mercy; the gift of a Saviour to redeem us; the revelation of a glorious world; the assurance that all may soon be united in fellowship with the angels and the redeemed; the certainty that the kingdom of the Saviour is established on a permanent basis, and the apprehension of the dreadful wrath of God against the guilty, all should lead us to persevere in the duties of our Christian calling, and to avoid those things which would jeopard the eternal interests of our souls.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/hebrews-12.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Hebrews 12:29

Our God is a consuming fire

The fire of God

I.
THE FACT. It is doubly certified. Science and revelation attest it with concordant voices. The testimony of Nature, as interpreted by science, affirms the working upon a prodigious scale of a law of destruction, ever since life first appeared upon the globe. The scientific formula of this law is in the familiar phrase, “the survival of the fittest.” For countless ages there has been going on throughout the domain of physical life, a relentless extirpation of the weak by the strong, of the sickly by the healthy, of the ill-conditioned by the welt-conditioned. The gradual development of improved forms of life has been secured by the constant destruction of inferior and deteriorated forms. There is no statement of the Bible to which science, in studying the development of nature, more thoroughly asserts than to this: “Our God is a consuming fire.” But when we pass up from the lower forms of life in which we see this inexorable rooting up and weeding out of the less vigorous and healthy, we find in humanity a life which is capable of improvement by a different method. God introduces a higher method when He introduces a higher subject that is capable of it. The chief difference between man and the highest of the creatures below him is in the teachableness of man. Hence the difference of method in the improvement of the lower and the higher types of life. In the lower, improvement by elimination of the unfit; the unimprovable perish. But in the higher, education of the unfit; the improvable are saved. The method which, in the lower, results in the survival of the fittest, is superseded in the higher by a method of fitting to survive. But now we have to observe that, wherever this higher method is resisted, the lower method still holds sway. See how sins against the body are punished still by fiery inflammations, hectic consumptions, burning ulcers, fierce disorders of nerve and brain, in which the drunkard, the debauchee, the glutton, and other transgressors of the laws of physical health are, as it were, consumed from among the living. See, also, how national or social sins against humanity, righteousness, purity, or any of the laws of social health, are punished by social cancers, which burn out social patriotism, eat away the social conscience, consume the nerves of national life, devour the youth in the heats of vice, kindle the conflagrations of war, and shrivel UP the glory of empire. The same thing is shown, and with special significance, by the familiar phenomena of remorse.

II. OUR PERSONAL RELATION TO THE FACT. We shall best approach the truth by entering into sympathy with the sentiment apparent in the text. There is no tone of dismay in it. It is inexpressibly solemn, but with no sign of shrinking as from an object of dread. It is uttered with the profoundest awe, but without the slightest sign of alarm, and seems to speak as from under a safe shelter in the blazing throne itself. The whole thought is coloured by the dominating word of sympathy and affection--“our.” So might the dear child of some strict guardian of the law say: “My father is terribly just.” It is spoken out of a heart that is at one with God in the peace of a filial endeavour to think His thought and to live His truth--a heart for which the fire of God has no terror, because no evil which belongs to that fire is guiltily held back from it. It is spoken out of a heart in which is even now progressing that purifying work which was ascribed in prophecy to Jesus (Matthew 3:11). Thus, when we have seen a little child put forth its hand to some forbidden object, we have seen that hand drop nerveless, and the whole frame recoil in confusion, as the mother’s glance of mild reproof shot through the windows of the tempted soul--“a consuming fire” to the impulse of transgression. So is the thought of “our God” to a loving child of God. As his irregular desires and selfish impulses melt away in his awakened consciousness of the Father’s presence, he finds there is grace and salvation in his wholesome experience that to his sin our God is a consuming fire.” (J. M. Whiton, D. D.)

The consuming fire

1. Fire is the most powerful agent in the world. It supplies heat, which is the source of life and existence in all nature. It destroys all vegetable substances, and resolves them into their original elements. It purifies all corruption, and removes all impurities.

2. But fire cannot destroy or injure the valuables of the mineral kingdom. Gold and silver are purified by its influence, their impurities are destroyed, but they themselves are uninjured. The excrescences are removed, but the substance remains.

3. This image is introduced to represent the influence of God’s Spirit. What does it consume? Not the precious gold or the valued stones, but the more worthless substances--hay, straw, stubble, &c.

I. ALL MEN MUST PASS THROUGH THE FIRES. That is, they must be subject to the scrutiny of God’s righteous judgment. This is as a refiner’s furnace.

II. THE RIGHTEOUS, BEING AS PURE GOLD, SHALL COME OUT OF THIS FIRE BEAUTIFUL AND UNINJURED. The dross of their characters shall be removed, their corruption shall be destroyed, and their hopes, confidence, and prospects enlarged.

III. THE WICKED, BEING LIKE THE CHAFF, SHALL BE CONSUMED IN THE FURNACE. Their hopes--being as a spider’s web--shall be carried away.

IV. OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE.

1. TO His people this is a welcome thought; for He shall consume all that is hateful and repulsive to them.

2. To the sinful it is a thought of terror; for He shall destroy all that upon which they trust, and leave them helpless, desolate, lost. (Homilist.)

The consuming fire:

The use of the element of fire as a symbol for the Supreme Being is familiar enough. Ancient marriage-rites involved the use of fire as a sign of that divinity in whose presence the marriage was performed, and who was invoked as a witness of the unbroken pledge taken by those entering into the sacred bond of wedlock. In India a fire is kindled of some sacred wood. The mango-tree is often used for this purpose. The fire is lighted in the middle of the room; the young people sit on stools. The Brahmin commences an incantation. Then they arise and walk round the fire three times. “Fire is the witness of their covenant, and, if they break it, fire will be their destruction.” “Call your son,” says the father of the bride according to an ancient story, “call your son, that I may give him to my daughter in the presence of the god of fire, that he may be the witness.” Then “Usteyar gave his daughter Verunte in marriage, the fire being the witness.” Who can fail in this to see a reflection of the story of the burning lamp and the smoking furnace in the vision of Abraham? It is not wonderful that the worship of fire should have been one of the forms of idolatry by which men corrupted the true idea of the ever-blessed God. The rising sun in his morning splendours, the strength of that luminary in noonday brightness, the glory of the setting sun, the moon in her beauty walking through the palaces of the heavens, the countless stars shining in the glories of the nightly firmament, what more striking images of God, if man must employ such!

1. In the first place, there is the idea of purity, which belongs as an essential quality to the element itself. It is not possible to conceive of a flame as impure. And such flame is incorruptible too. Water and air, both also symbols of purity, may be tainted and befouled. But the flame, when still flame, compels whatever it may touch, and changes it into itself, into its own purity and freedom from defilement. Fire is the final, the only perfect purgation, because it is itself the only absolutely pure element. Who can tell the purity of God whose symbol is a flame? No word of ours can add to that simple idea.

2. Fire is a defence, a means of protection, and to symbolise the strong refuges of God’s people is thus often used. The fire descending and consuming the offering was a gracious and encouraging sign of acceptance and favour. The chariots and horsemen of fire proved to be the defence and guard of the man of God. The pillar of fire that the people saw rising above the encampment at night and towering into the heaven, was their cheer, their protection in the wandering of the wilderness. What comfort does the bivouacing party not take in the fire that is kindled among the tents; and as it throws its strange and fantastic illumination upon the scene around, how the forest darkness is illumined or the solitude of the plain cheered by a sort of companionship of light! when the travellers in lonely places, where only the stealthy footfall of the beast of prey upon the crisp leaves, or the crackling boughs and branches fallen from the overhanging trees, breaks the solemn silence, light up their fires and make a line of blazing points around their halting-place, they know that they can sleep securely, and their beasts of burden are safe from the sudden spring of the tiger, the cruel teeth of the hungry lion. So is our God the comfort and the defence of His people. In the lonely ways of life He lights their path, and casts a gleam of comfort upon their desolate spirits. The world were very cold and very dark without our God. The vast spaces of the universe would stretch around us into illimitable distance, and nothing could issue thence to press upon our souls but the forces of death and destruction, ruin and despair. But let the soul feel that God is there, and then the whole is enlightened by a Father’s presence, and every force in nature becomes a ministry of love. What a refuge and a defence is God with His people! Around us prowl the enemies of the soul. The roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, is near, but we are centred within the love of God, and he dares not rush upon that consuming fire within which we are safe.

3. But the energy of fire is not only repellent; it also is communicative. Air may wear down a substance presented to it and reduce it to dust, water may dissolve and change the form of that upon which it acts; but fire seizes an object, separates its particles, kindles them to burning, and then compels them to burn up in the flame of its own consuming. Fire kindles, fire sets on fire. These symbols of the Divine Being suggest this comunicableness of the Divine nature and activity which is the very basis of our religious, our Divine life. That old legend of Prometheus, told by Apollodorus, how he made the first man and woman out of clay, and animated them by the fire which he stole from heaven, is only the grotesque and paganised version of the deep truth of the life of God within the soul of man that the Scriptures reveal and illustrate. It is fire that gives life. It is the burning rays of the sun that vitalise and inspire all the dead matter of the earth, and cover this world with the beauty and movement, the varied forms and colours and activities of plant and flower, bird and beast. Man’s life is but fire, and we get it from the central fire of the universe. And so of the higher life, the life of faith, of love, of holy character. This is gained from God. He who finds Jesus Christ, there finds God; and God in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, who comes through Christ, kindles the flame of a Divine life within his heart.

4. The passage from this thought to that of the purifying power of fire is not difficult or forced. Some have seen only this in the word. We think that would be too much. To limit the extent of the application so as not to see this, however, would be as completely to miss its significance. When the new life began, how much of earth mingled with its heavenly constituents! There was selfishness, and greed, and passion, and sloth. There was pride, and envy, and hard-heartedness, and love of the world. There was slackness and doubting, and infidelity and neglect. There was ingratitude and insensibility, blindness to the show of God’s face, and deafness to the sound of God’s voice. But slowly the burning flame of the Divine nature has purged the evil. “A consuming fire! “ A deeper, darker mystery still lies behind it all. Did the exhortation suggest us grace and piety, it also, in language unmistakable, bids us entertain a becoming and a godly fear. We have no desire to hide, we dare not hide, the solemn and the awful truth. That Divine nature, a burning fire, is a refuge, a defence, a quickening, purifying force; but be not deceived, it is also a destroying element. Material fire is purging to one thing when it is destructive of another. The fine gold it refines; the dross, the baser substance, it consumes, it destroys. And that Divine life which cleanses and renews, and purifies the faithful, the penitent, the obedient, becomes a burning indignation, a ceaseless and consuming fire against the soul that renders not its due honour and makes not its life its own. (L. D. Bevan, D. D.)

The severity of God

I. WE WILL ENDEAVOUR TO GIVE YOU DISTINCT NOTIONS OF THAT WHICH THE SCRIPTURE CALLS THE WRATH, THE ANGER, THE VENGEANCE OF GOD. Recollect that when the Scripture speaks of the perfections and operations of God it borroweth images from the affections and actions of men. Things that cannot be known to us by themselves can be understood only by analogy. Divine things are of this kind. From this remark follows a precaution--that is, that we must carefully lay aside every part of the emblem that agreeth only to men from whom it is borrowed, and apply only that part to the Deity which is compatible with the eminence of His perfections.

II. Observe THAT THOSE EMBLEMS OF WRATH AND VENGEANCE UNDER WHICH GOD IS REPRESENTED TO US HAVE ONE PART THAT CANNOT BE ATTRIBUTED TO HIM, because it is not compatible with the eminence of His perfections, and another that must be applied to Him because it is.

1. It is a consequence of the frailty or of the depravity of men that their anger inclines them to hate those whom they ought to love, and in whose happiness they ought to interest themselves as far as they can without violating the laws of equity. Such a hatred cannot be attributed to God; He loves all His intelligent creatures.

2. It is a consequence of human frailty or depravity that men’s wrath makes them taste a barbarous pleasure in tormenting those who are the objects of it, and in feasting, as it were, on their miseries. This is incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God.

3. It is a consequence of the frailty or of the depravity of men that their anger disorders their bodies and impairs their minds. See, the eyes sparkle, the mouth foams, the animal spirits are in a flame; these obscure the faculties of the mind, and prevent the weighing of those reasons that plead for the guilty offender; anger prejudgeth him, and, in spite of many powerful pleas in his favour, his ruin is resolved. All these are incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God. God is a spirit; He is not subject to revolutions of sense; reasons of punishing a sinner never divert His attention from motives of pardoning the man or of moderating his pain.

4. It is a consequence of the frailty and depravity of men that their anger makes them usurp a right which belongs to God. God useth His own right when He punisheth sin.

5. It is a consequence of the frailty and depravity of men that time doth not abate their resentment, and that the only reason which prevents the rendering of evil for evil is a want of opportunity; as soon as an opportunity offers they eagerly embrace it. This is incompatible with the eminence of the perfections of God; He hath at all times the means of punishing the guilty.

6. It is a consequence of the frailty and depravity of men that their anger puts them upon considering and punishing a pardonable frailty as an atrocious crime. This is incompatible with the eminence of the Divine perfections. If we imagine that God acts so in any cases, it is because we have false notions of sins, and think that a pardonable frailty which is an atrocious crime.

III. We are to conciliate WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAITH OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD WITH WHAT IT SAITH OF HIS ANGER OR VENGEANCE and as the two subjects never appear more irreconciliable than when, having used all our endeavours to terrify people who defer their conversion till a dying illness, we actually take pains to comfort those who have deferred it till that time, we will endeavour to harmonise the goodness and justice of God in that particular point of view.

1. First, let us endeavour, in a general view, to reconcile the goodness of God with His justice by laying down a few principles.

2. Let us now apply this general harmony of the goodness and severity of God to the removing of a seeming inconsistency in the conduct of your preachers and casuists, who first use every effort to alarm and terrify your minds with the idea of a death-bed repentance, and afterward take equal pains to comfort you when ye have deferred your repentance to that time, and when your case appears desperate. Why do we not despair of a man who delays his conversion till the approach of death? Because that order, which constitutes the eminence of the Divine perfections, doth not allow that a sincere conversion, a conversion that reforms the sin and renews the sinner, should be rejected by God. Now we cannot absolutely deny the possibility of a sincere death-bed conversion for the following reasons.

3. It is true God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; and it is possible that the approach of death may make deeper impressions on you than either sermons or pious books have made: but yet our God is a consuming fire. What a time is a dying illness for the receiving of such impressions! Ah! what obstacles! What a world of obstacles oppose such extravagant hopes and justify the efforts of those who endeavor to destroy them! Here is business that must be settled; a will which must be made; a number of articles that must be discussed; there are friends who must be embraced. There the illness increaseth, pains multiply, agonies convulse, the whole soul, full of intolerable sensations, loseth the power of seeing and hearing, thinking and reflecting. It is true God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; and we have neither a sufficient knowledge of other people’s hearts, nor of our own, to affirm with certainty when their faculties are entirely contaminated: but yet our God is a consuming fire. We know men to whom the truth is become unintelligible, in consequence of the disguise in which they have taken the pains to clothe it, and who have accustomed themselves to palliate vice till they are become incapable of perceiving its turpitude. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, it is true; and we have seen some examples of people who have proved, since their recovery, that they were truly converted in sickness, and on whose account we presume that others may possibly be converted by the same means: but yet our God is a consuming fire. How rare are these examples! Doth this require proof? Must we demonstrate it? Ye are our proofs; ye yourselves are our demonstrations. It is true God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; and God worketh miracles in religion as well as in nature: but yet our God is a consuming fire. Who can assure himself that, having abused common grace, he shall obtain extraordinary assistances? It is true God’s thoughts are not our thoughts: and there is nothing in the Holy Scriptures which inpowers us to shut the gates of heaven against a dying penitent; we have no authority to tell you that there is no more hope for you, but that ye are lost without remedy: but yet our God is a consuming fire. There are hundreds of passages in our Bibles which authorise us--what am I saying? there are hundreds of passages that command us--not to conceal anything from the criminal; there are hundreds of passages which empower and enjoin us to warn you, you who are fifty years of age, you who are sixty, you who are fourscore, that still to put off the work of your conversion is a madness, an excess of inflexibility and indolence, which all the flames of hell can never expiate. (J. Saurin.)

Divine love is fire

I. Fire is UNIVERSAL, and God’s love is everywhere--the life of all the living, the beauty of all the beautiful, the blessedness of all the blest.

II. Fire INFLICTS PAIN. And a flash of Divine love on a guilty conscience enkindles a hell.

III. Fire CREATES STORMS. And all the moral tempests in the universe have their origin in Divine love.

IV. Fire is PERPETUALLY ACTIVE. SO is Divine love--creating, sustaining, and directing all things.

V. Fire has a DEVOURING CAPABILITY. Divine love burns up falsehoods, wrongs, and all the ten thousand forms of sins.

VI. Fire has the POWER TO CHANGE ALL THINGS INTO ITS OWN NATURE. So Divine love will turn all human souls into love one day. Evil cannot remain evil for ever before it. (Homilist.)

God a consuming fire:

Because God doth not always show Himself in the likeness of fire, a terrible God, pouring down the coals of His wrath upon us, because He beareth with us, and doth not by and by punish us for our sins, we think we may condemn Him, we may serve Him as we list, any service will content Him. Ay, but remember likewise that our God is a consuming fire. It is long, peradventure, before a fire breaks forth; iS may lie lurking a great while and not be seen; but if it begin to flame, to set upon a town, without great prevention it will burn up the whole town. So God is patient, His wrath is long a-kindling; but if we provoke Him too much, He will break forth as a fire and consume us all. He is a fearful God with whom we have to deal, therefore let us serve Him with fear and reverence, in holiness and righteousness all our days, that we may not only avoid this fire, but enjoy the light of the heavenly Jerusalem for ever. (W. Jones, D. D.)

God a consuming fire:

This is one of the shortest texts in the Bible. It takes rank with those other three brief sentences which declare the nature of God: God is Light, God is Love, God is Life. But to many it is one of the most awful sayings in the whole of Scripture. It rankles in the memory; recurs continually to the uneasy conscience; and rings its wild tocsin of alarm in the ear of the anxious inquirer. And yet there is an aspect in which it may be viewed which will make it one of the most comforting, precious passages in the whole range of inspiration.

I. OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE AND THERE IS TERROR IN THE SYMBOL. But the terror is reserved for those who unceasingly and persistently violate His laws and despise His love. Sin is no light matter. In this world even it is fearfully avenged. Walk through certain wards in our hospitals, and tell me if anything could exceed the horror, the agony, or the penalty which is being inflicted on those who have flagrantly violated the laws of nature. And so far as we can see the physical penalties which follow upon wrong-doing are not unto life and restoration, but unto death and destruction. It is necessary that these sufferings should be veiled from the eye of man, but surely they must be taken into account, when we estimate God’s treatment of sin. And if such pain, keen as fire, consumes those who violate physical law, surely we must admit that there is a still more awful doom for those who violate the laws of God’s love and grace and pleading mercy.

II. OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE AND THERE IS COMFORT AND BLESSING IN THE THOUGHT. When we yield to God’s love, and open our hearts to Him, He enters into us, and becomes within us a consuming fire, not to ourselves, but to the evil within us. So that, in a very deep and blessed sense, we may be said to dwell with the devouring fire, and to walk amid the eternal burnings.

1. Fire is warmth. We talk of ardent desire, warm emotion, enthusiasm’s glow and fire; and when we speak of God being within us as fire, we mean that He will produce in us a strong and constant affection to Himself. 2.. Fire is light. We are dark enough in our natural state, but when God comes into the tabernacle of our being, the shekinah begins to glow in the most holy place; and pours its waves of glory throughout the whole being, so that the face is suffused with a holy glow, and there is an evident elasticity and buoyancy of spirits which no world-joy can produce or even imitate.

3. Fire is purity. “How long, think you, would it take a workman with hammer and chisel to get the ore from the rocks in which it lies so closely embedded? But if they are flung into the great cylinder, and the fires fanned to torrid heat, and the draught roars through the burning mass, at nightfall the glowing stream of pure and fluid metal, from which all dross and rubbish are parted, flows into the waiting mould.” This is a parable of what God will do for us. Nay, more, He will burn up the wood, hay, and stubble, the grit and dross, the selfishness and evil of our nature, so that at last only the gold and silver and precious stones shall remain. The bonds that fetter us will be consumed, but not a hair of our heads shall fall to the ground. (M. B.Meyer, B. A.)

God as fire:

As regards the use of fire as a symbol in Holy Scripture, while it is true that it often represent the punitive wrath of God, it is equally certain that it has not always this meaning. Quite as often it is the symbol of God’s purifying energy and might. Fire was not the symbol of Jehovah’s vengeance in the burning bush. When the Lord is represented as sitting “ as a refiner and a purifier of silver,” surely the thought is not of vengeance, but of purifying mercy. We should rather say that fire, in Scripture usage, is the symbol of the intense energy of the Divine nature, which continually acts upon every person and on everything, according to the nature of each person or thing; here conserving, there destroying; now cleansing, now consuming. The same fire which burns the wood, hay, and stubble purifies the gold and silver. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)

The beneficent becoming destruction

A glass inkstand was placed on the table so that the sun’s rays fell upon it. Brightly and cheerily, no doubt, they played upon its facets and angles; but that inkstand affected these beautiful sunbeams in such a way as to extract from them heat in sufficient force to set the table upon which it stood on fire, reducing it, and all it came in contact with, into ashes. What is there more beautiful than the sunbeams? How they cheer, and cherish, and inspire nature all around! Yet there are some objects which can convert this thing of beauty, and health, and life into a consuming fire. So there are moral characters which extract death out of life; transform the loving, life-giving gospel into an instrument of destruction; in short, cause the God of love to become to them a consuming fire. (A. J. Parry.)

Lightning as well as light

I am thankful that men do not now speak of the penalty of sin, as if, according to Foster, the Almighty “were a dreadful King of Furies, whose music is the cries of victims, and whose glory requires to be illustrated by the ruin of His creation.” We cannot speak in terms that are strong enough, or in tones that are pathetic enough, of the love of God in Christ. But he is unfaithful who, by silence or by speech, diminishes the sense of the evil of sin, and of the certainty and awfulness of the penalty that follows it. A representation of Jehovah as a Being of infinite good nature, whose Fatherly love is reduced to grandfatherly weakness, who cannot inflict pain and suffering, and who will easily overlook sin, is a false representation; it is contrary to well-known facts, it is oblivious of the greatness of the sacrifice of Christ. When I was in Naples I thought nothing could be more beautiful than that fine bay, with its clear blue waters, and its picturesque surroundings; but eight miles away there was Vesuvius, with the column of smoke ever resting on its summit, with the elements of destruction within it, and with the effects of its destructive power seen in Herculaneum and Pompeii near its base. So behind all the beautiful and attractive aspects of the gospel of grace there is the mount of blackness and darkness and tempest, which cannot be blotted out. There is death as well as life in the world; there are cemeteries as well as gardens, gaols as well as schools. Christ has not thrown the winnowing fan from His hand; there was lightning as well as light in His speech; words of doom came from the lips of Him who looked upon Jerusalem through tears. He teaches us that sin is not to be trifled with, and we preach Him as the deliverer “ from the wrath to come.” (James Owen.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 12:29". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/hebrews-12.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For our God is a consuming fire. Either God personally considered, God in the person of Christ; so the Shechinah, with the Jews, is called a consuming fireF14Tzeror Hammor, fol. 21. 4. . Christ is truly God, and he is our God and Lord; and though he is full of grace and mercy, yet he will appear in great wrath to his enemies, who will not have him to reign over them: or rather God essentially considered; whose God he is, and in what sense, and how he comes to be so; see Gill on Hebrews 8:10, what is here said of him, that he is a consuming fire, may be understood of his jealousy in matters of worship, Deuteronomy 4:23, and so carries in it a reason why he is to be served acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. God, and he only, is to be worshipped; and he is to be worshipped in a way suitable to himself; and he has the sole right of fixing the manner of worship, both as to the external and internal parts of it: under the legal dispensation, he was worshipped in a way he then pitched upon, and suitable to it; and under the Gospel dispensation he is to be worshipped in an evangelical way; and he is to have all the glory in every part of worship; and the ordinances of Gospel worship are immovable; nor are they to be altered, or others put in their room, without recurring his displeasure. Moreover, this phrase may be expressive of the preservation of his people, and of the destruction of their enemies, Deuteronomy 9:1. We commonly say, that God out of Christ is a consuming fire; meaning, that God, as an absolute God, is full of wrath and vengeance; and it is a truth, but not the truth of this text; for here it is our God, our covenant God, our God in Christ; not that he is so to the saints, or to them that are in Christ: he is indeed as a wall of fire in his providences, to protect and defend them, and as fire in his word to enlighten and warm them, to guide and direct them, but not a consuming fire to them; this he is to their enemies, who are as thorns, and briers, and stubble before him: and so the Jews interpret Deuteronomy 4:24 of a fire consuming fireF15Zohar in Gen. fol. 35. 3. & 51. 1. & in Exod. fol. 91. 1. & in Lev. fol. 11. 1. ; and observe, that Moses says, thy God, and not our GodF16Lexic. Cabalist, p. 111. ; but the apostle here uses the latter phrase.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/hebrews-12.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Greek, “For even”: “for also”; introducing an additional solemn incentive to diligence. Quoted from Deuteronomy 4:24.

our God — in whom we hope, is also to be feared. He is love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16); yet there is another side of His character; God has wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:27, Hebrews 10:31).


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/hebrews-12.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A consuming fire (πυρ καταναλισκονpur katanaliskon). From Deuteronomy 4:24. Present active participle of καταναλισκωkatanaliskō old compound verb, here only in the N.T. This verse is to be coupled with Hebrews 10:31.


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/hebrews-12.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

For our God is a consuming fire ( καὶ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν πῦρ καταναλίσκον )

See Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:1. The verb N.T.oa few times in lxx. Often in Class., especially Xenophon. Originally to use up, spend, lavish, as property: thence to consume as with fire. The simple verb ἀναλίσκειν toexpend occurs Luke 9:54; Galatians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν is not our God as compared with the God of the Jews. He is the God of both covenants (see Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2, and notes); but though now revealed in Jesus Christ, and offering all the privileges of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:22-24), his anger burns against those who reject these privileges.


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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/hebrews-12.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For our God is a consuming fire.

For our God is a consuming fire — in the strictness of his justice, and purity of his holiness.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/hebrews-12.html. 1765.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

29.] For moreover our God is a consuming fire ( καὶ γάρ, as in ch. Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 5:12, and in Luke 22:37, introduces the reason rendered by γάρ as an additional particular not contained in what went immediately before,—answering to the Latin ‘etenim.’ It is quite impossible that the Writer should have meant, “For our God also, as well as the God of the Jews:” as even Bleek, De Wette, Tholuck, and Bisping make him say. Besides the utter incongruity of such a mode of expression with any thing found in our Writer or in the N. T., this would certainly have been expressed καὶ γὰρ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός. The words are taken from Deuteronomy 4:24, ὅτι κύριος ὁ θεός σου πῦρ καταναλίσκον ἐστί, θεός ζηλωτής. Cf. Deuteronomy 9:3. And thus the fact that God’s anger continues to burn now, as then, against those who reject his Kingdom, is brought in; and in the background lie all those gracious dealings by which the fire of God’s presence and purity becomes to his people, while it consumes their vanity and sin and earthly state, the fire of purity and light and love for their enduring citizenship of his kingdom).


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/hebrews-12.html. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

29.For our God, etc. As he had before kindly set before us the grace of God, so he now makes known his severity; and he seems to have borrowed this sentence from the Deuteronomy 4:24 of Deuteronomy. Thus we see that God omits nothing by which he may draw us to himself; he begins indeed with love and kindness, so that we may follow him the more willingly; but when by alluring he effects but little, he terrifies us.

And doubtless it is expedient that the grace of God should never be promised to us without being accompanied with threatening; for we are so extremely prone to indulge ourselves, that without the application of these stimulants the milder doctrine would prove ineffectual. Then the Lord, as he is propitious and merciful to such as fear him unto a thousand generations; so he is a jealous God and a just avenger, when despised, unto the third and the fourth generation. (274)


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/hebrews-12.html. 1840-57.

William Newell's Commentary on Romans and Revelation

And now for the last verse: For our God is a consuming fire. The comparison here is to Sinai. See Exodus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 4:11: God changes not. This last verse of Hebrews 12 is literally true: it terrifies not His saints, but ministers to godly fear. But it should terrify His enemies, or any careless-hearted ones reading the words. What will you do with it? Will You relegate the book of Hebrews to the days of Moses, when the whole voice of this epistle contrasts it with those old days? These Hebrew believers were told they were "NOT come unto a mount that burned with fire," and yet the solemn warning with which this chapter closes declares that now our God is a consuming fire. Of course, this announcement is drawn forth by the possibility of some refusing to hear, turning away from Him that warned from Heaven. But what about His words concerning those who come up in judgment before a holy God, having chosen to retain their sins, with iniquity unpardoned? O modernist, O trifler, remember there is no preacher who spake so much, proportionately, of the doom of the damned, as did our blessed, loving Lord Himself! He announces that He, the Judge, will say to you:

"Depart from Me, Ye cursed into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mat. 25:41).

And again, "Neither doth the Father judge any man, but He hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent Him ... And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a Son of man" (John 5:22-23, 27).

This marks Christ as the Sitter on The Great White Throne of Revelation 20, "from Whose face the earth and the Heaven flee away." (See author's Revelation, pp. 327-334.)

Through simple faith only we reconcile Hebrews 12:29 with "God is Love," and "God so loved the world." Let no one yield to the delusion that "God out of Christ is a consuming fire"! Mr. Darby well says, "This expression, Our God is a consuming fire, they say, is spoken of God out of Christ. We know nothing of God out of Christ! We may be out of Christ ourselves, and then indeed as a consuming fire the presence of God would be destructive to us. But, as known to those who are in Christ, He is a GOD intolerant of evil, of all that is inconsistent with Himself."

Let us hold fast by faith to the blessed words that begin this last verse, Our God! And let Him open it to us! There will be a day when the infinite holiness of God will become an indescribably blessed delight and joy, as His saints look forward to the ages to come!


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Bibliography
Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wnc/hebrews-12.html. 1938.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Ver. 29. A consuming fire] viz. To profligate professors, ungirt Christians, Isaiah 33:14. And whereas the apostle saith Our God, he means the God of Christians also (as well as of Jews) is a consuming fire, see Exodus 23:20, with the note. As he is Pater miserationum, a Father of mercies to the penitent, so he is Deus ultionum, a God of vengeance to the rebellious. And as there is a legal and evangelical repentance, so also faith, to be exercised of all his people. There is an evangelical faith, which is in applying of Christ in the promises. There is also a legal faith, which consists in believing the threatenings and the terrors of the Lord. And if any would dwell safely with this devouring fire, let him read and practise that in Isaiah 33:14-15. Hypocrites shall be afraid, and as women’s paint falls off when they come near the fire, so shall theirs.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/hebrews-12.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Hebrews 12:29

I. In the word "fire" there is the idea of purity, which belongs as an essential quality to the element itself. It is not possible to conceive of flame as impure. The material which is being consumed may be impure, the smoke which proceeds from the flame may be thick and black and suffocating, but the flame itself, freely and fully burning, is pure, taintless, without trace of corruption or uncleanness. Who can tell the purity of God, whose symbol is a flame?

II. Fire is a defence, a means of protection, and to symbolise the strong refuges of God's people is thus often used. It is not altogether as a terror that we approach the celestial light. The fire descending and consuming the offering was a gracious and encouraging sign of acceptance and favour. The chariots and horsemen of fire proved to be the defence and guard of the man of God. So is our God the comfort and defence of His people.

III. But the energy of fire is not only repellent; it is communicative. Fire kindles; fire sets on fire. These symbols of the Divine Being suggest the communicableness of the Divine nature and activity which is the very basis of our religious life. God is the fire of the spiritual world, and He gives His being unto the natures that He has made.

IV. "A consuming fire." A deeper, darker mystery still lies behind it all. God must burn for ever the thing that is against Him. Let the sinner hold to his sin, and the wrath of God must consume that sin.

L. D. Bevan, Christ and the Age, p. 315.


The Sterner Aspects of the Divine Character.

This is the aspect of Deity which some well-meaning people would wish blotted out of the Bible. That God can take vengeance to the uttermost on evil-doers seems to some persons against the notion of God.

I. The disposition in question is indeed woven, if I may so speak, of two threads: it is partly moral, partly intellectual. So far as it is moral, it comes under the head of moral cowardice, the shrinking from uncomfortable truths; so far as it is intellectual, it proceeds on the false assumption that we know the whole of the case, and have faculties to criticise it. Remember, as against this perilous as well as false assumption, that from the beginnings of philosophy the wisest of mankind have ever leaned to a distrust of human faculties in their power of mastering the whole of any moral question.

II. The Bible is popularly regarded as a comfortable book, the contents of which may be taken for granted as in unison with our consciousness, and therefore as not needing examination. Thus men, in fact, assume without inquiry that the Bible reflects their own prejudices; and the vague idea of salvation which they connect with it is not hampered with any conditions or with any which they disapprove. Then when it is pointed out that salvation is not unconditional, and that the conditions are, whether of faith or practice, of God's fixing, not man's, such popular minds are offended. That salvation without such conditions cannot be had is too stern a truth to be accepted by the self-indulgent. Do you think that such false charity will bring a man peace at the last? Dare we speak as if our God were not a consuming fire? Or dare we think that He will be more tolerant of those that cheapen the way of salvation under the new covenant, than of a rival altar under the old?

H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 84.


References: Hebrews 12:29.—J. M. Whiton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 179. Hebrews 13:1.—J. Aldis, Ibid., p. 216. Hebrews 13:1, Hebrews 13:2.—M. Dods, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 216.




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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/hebrews-12.html.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 12:29. Warning justification of the μετὰ εὐλαβείας καὶ δέονς. The words cannot, however, signify: for our God too (the God of Christians), even as the God of the Old Covenant, is a consuming fire (so still Bleek, de Wette, Tholuck, Bisping, and others). For to this end καὶ γὰρ ἡμῶν θεὸς κ. τ. λ. must have been written. Just as little may καὶ γάρ, with Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 60, Obs.), Alford, Moll, and Kurtz, be weakened into the mere notion of “etenim.” For καί is the enhancing “more than this,” and belongs to the whole clause, in connection with which it would be a matter of indifference (against Delitzsch) whether the author should write καὶ γὰρ θεὸς ἡμῶν πῦρ καταναλίσκον or καὶ γὰρ πῦρ καταναλίσκον θεὸς ἡμῶν, since in either case the main emphasis in connection with the few words would fall upon πῦρ καταναλίσκον. According to the order of the words, and by reason of the intensive force of καί, the sense can therefore only be: for our God is also a consuming fire, i.e. He is not merely a God of grace, but likewise a God of punitive righteousness. A diversity, consequently, of the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New, which would also have been an unsuitable notion, the author does not by any means assert. Moreover, comp. LXX. Deuteronomy 4:24 : ὅτι κύριος θεός σου πῦρ καταναλίσκον ἐστίν.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/hebrews-12.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Hebrews 12:29. καὶ γὰρ, for) A very important Epiphonema.(89) θεὸς ἡμῶν πῦρ καταναλίσκον, our God is a consuming fire) Deut. above, at Deuteronomy 12:18-19, several times quoted, in ch. Deuteronomy 14:24, LXX., ὅτι κύριος θεός σου πῦρ καταναλίσκου ἐστί, θεὸς ζηλωτής; comp. ibid. ch. Hebrews 9:3. Our God, in whom we hope, is at the same time to be feared.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/hebrews-12.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The motive enforcing this duty is no less terrible than that given to Israel under the law, obliging their obedience to that covenant dispensation, Deuteronomy 4:23,24:

The Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. He that was so respecting the transgression of the legal, will much more be so as to this gospel covenant. God Almighty, the most gracious, and yet the most just Being, their own God by covenant obtestation; yet will be to them, if they break his covenant, and do not, through Christ, acceptably serve him with reverence and godly fear, as fire consuming them. His gospel law, in the contempt of it, will be as the fiery law at Sinai, adjudging such sinners unto fire unquenchable, Hebrews 10:27-31; compare Matthew 3:12 25:41 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/hebrews-12.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A consuming fire; Deuteronomy 4:24. He is such to all rejecters of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially those who have apostatized from him. Hence all who have set out in the way to heaven should persevere, whatever trials may assail them, till faith is swallowed up in vision, and hope in endless joy. All good reasons are on the side of perseverance in obeying God, trusting in Christ for what is needed to do this and to be accepted in it. The contrary course is most unreasonable and wicked, will be condemned by God and all good beings, and will fill those who pursue it with consuming terrors for ever.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/hebrews-12.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

29. καὶ γάρ. Comp. Hebrews 4:2.

πῦρ καταναλίσκον. The reference is to Deuteronomy 4:24, and the special application of the description to one set of circumstances shews that this is not—like “God is light” and “God is love”—a description of the whole character of God, but an anthropomorphic way of expressing His hatred of apostasy and idolatry. Here the reference is made to shew why we ought to serve God with holy reverence and fear.


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"Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/hebrews-12.html. 1896.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

REFLECTIONS

READER hear what God the Spirit saith to the Churches! Behold, what animating prospects are opened to New Testament saints, in the contemplation of Old Testament believers. And while we are encompassed with such a cloud of witnesses, 0 Lord the Spirit! do thou give thy people grace, to pass on through all besetting difficulties, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. And oh! thou precious Lord Jesus! give thy people grace, to consider, and very blessedly to improve, under the sweet influences of thy Spirit, in marking what a contradiction of sinners thou didst endure against thyself. Lord! who can faint when beholding the Son of God, in his unequalled conflicts? Surely, if Jesus learned obedience, by the things which he suffered, well may his brethren desire to be trained in the same school. Then will they know their sonship, and be sanctified under the hand of a tender Father. Let the Esaus, and the profane persons of every age, relinquish, as they always do, the blessing; but, Lord, let no root of bitterness spring up to trouble thy Jacobs, and the Israel thy people.

Blessed be God, that Mount Sinai is no more; but the Church is come to Mount Zion. There may thy people, 0 Lord, daily come. There are the firstborn. There the assembly of the faithful. There Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and the blood of sprinkling. And there God the Judge of all. And, Lord, while through thy grace, thy people come to thee in faith; do thou help them to look forward to thy coming to them in glory. Jesus will shake both heaven and earth. But Jesus's redeemed belong to Him and in Him they receive a kingdom, which cannot be moved. Precious Lord! grant all thy grace, to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.


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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/hebrews-12.html. 1828.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

29. For—Before this for the Greek has a most pregnant and. Its meaning is, And all this fear is right, for, etc.

God… fire—Quoted from Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” It was a fearful reason given by Moses to warn them from forsaking the old covenant and apostatizing to idolatry; it is now repeated to warn these Hebrews against relapsing into obsolete Judaism. We might place the emphasis on our, and then the meaning would be, that the God of Zion is as retributive as the God of Sinai. But the true emphasis is upon fire, and the meaning is, that our God is not pure grace, but also justice. And with this most solemn sentence closes the author’s argument and exhortation against apostasy.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hebrews-12.html. 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 12:29. For—a fresh reason for the reverence and the service—our God is a consuming fire. The description is taken from Deuteronomy 4:22, and the meaning may be, Our God also (as well as the God of the Jews) is a consuming fire; but the former rendering—an additional reason simply—without specific reference to a distinction between our God and theirs, is the juster view. A devout sense of what we owe to God is a strong motive to holy service: so also is our reverence for God’s holiness and justice. Thankfulness and fear are both among the motive forces of the Gospel, and both are stimulated by the character and acts (mercies and judgments alike) of the blessed God.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/hebrews-12.html. 1879-90.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

consuming fire. From Deuteronomy 4:24. Compare Exodus 21:17. Psalms 50:3; Psalms 97:3. 2 Thessalonians 1:8; &c.

consuming. Greek. katanalisko. Only here. Intensive of analisko (Luke 9:54. Galatians 1:5, Galatians 1:15. 2 Thessalonians 2:8).


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/hebrews-12.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For our God is a consuming fire.

[ Kai (Greek #2532) gar (Greek #1063)] 'For even;' 'For also:' an additional incentive to diligence. From Deuteronomy 4:24.

Our God - in whom we hope, is also to be feared. He is love, yet He has also wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 10:31).


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hebrews-12.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(29) A quotation from Deuteronomy 4:24. There these words follow a solemn warning against idolatry. This passage then belongs to the same class as Hebrews 10:27-28; Hebrews 10:30. (See the Notes.)


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/hebrews-12.html. 1905.

A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews

The Final Warning

( Hebrews 12:28 , 29)

"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire." A brief analysis of these verses reveals the following weighty points. First, the inestimable blessing which believers have been made the recipients of: a kingdom which is eternal. Second, the obligation devolving upon them: to serve God with true veneration and pious devotedness. Third, the warning by which this is pointed: because there can be no escape from the Divine wrath which overtakes apostates. In his helpful commentary J. Brown pointed out that "to receive an immoveable kingdom is but another mode of expressing what is meant by ‘ye are come to mount Sion' (verse 22). It is another descriptive figurative mode of expressing that the privileges and honors under the new covenant men obtain by the faith of the truth as it is in Jesus." In support of this: "they that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion: they shall never be moved" ( Psalm 125:1).

Now there is a twofold "kingdom" which believers have "received:" a kingdom of grace, which is set up in the heart of the saint, where Christ reigns as supreme Sovereign, and a kingdom of glory, prepared for us in Heaven, where we shall reign as kings with Christ forever. John Owen insisted that the former only is here intended, Ezekiel Hopkins threw the emphasis almost entirely upon the latter; personally we believe that both are included, and shall expound it accordingly, condensing the main points from each of these writers.

Christians are already possessors of the kingdom of grace, for Christ has established His dominion over them. Though He sits personally upon the Throne of heaven, yet He rules in believers by His spirit (who has received commission from Him), and also by His Word energized in them by the Spirit. The interest of believers in this kingdom is called their "receiving" it, because they have it by gift or grant from their Father: Luke 12:32. First, they receive its doctrine, truth, and law: they own its reality and submit to its authority: Romans 6:17. Second, they receive it in the light, grace, and spiritual benefits of it: they enjoy its privileges of righteousness, peace, and joy: Romans 14:17. Third, they receive it in its dignities and securities: they are kings and priests unto God ( Revelation 1:6), and so safe are they as to be "kept by the power of God through faith" ( 1 Peter 1:5). Fourth, they receive it by a supernatural initiation into its spiritual mysteries ( 1 Corinthians 4:20), the glory of which is immediate access to God and heart enjoyment of Him.

The privileges which Christians receive by their believing the Gospel are inconceivably grand. They are in the kingdom, the kingdom of God and Christ, a spiritual and heavenly kingdom; enriched with inexhaustible treasures of spiritual and celestial blessings. Christians are not to be measured by their outward appearance or worldly circumstances, but rather by the interest they have in that kingdom which it was their Father's good pleasure to give them. It is therefore their privilege and duty to conduct themselves and behave as those who have received such wondrous privileges and high dignities from God Himself: far should they be from envying poor millionaires and the godless potentates of this earth. Our portion is infinitely superior to the baubles of time and sense. Though the world knows us not, unto God we are "the excellent of the earth" ( Psalm 16:3), the crown-jewels of His Song of Solomon , those whom angels serve or minister unto. O for grace to conduct ourselves as the sons and daughters of the Almighty.

In what sense or senses has the believer "received" the kingdom of glory? First, by the immutable Word of Promise. To the believer the promise of God is as good security as the actual possession. The poor worldling cannot understand this, and he regards the confidence of the Christian as naught but fanaticism. But the simple trusting soul already possesses the kingdom of glory because God has infallibly assured him "in black and white" of the possession of it. It is the immutable Word of Promise which gives him the right and title to the inheritance, and therefore as it now belongs to him by right and title, he may well call it his. When God has promised anything, it is all the same to a believer whether He saith it is done or it shall be done.

Second, the believer has "received" the kingdom of glory by grace giving him the earnest and firstfruits of it. The comforts and graces of the Spirit are referred to again and again under these figures: appropriately Song of Solomon , for an "earnest" is a part (an instalment) of what is agreed upon, and the "firstfruits" are a sample and pledge of the coming harvest. Now grace and glory are one and the same in essence, differing only in degree: grace is Heaven brought down into the soul, glory is the soul conducted to Heaven. Grace is glory commenced, glory is grace consummated. Probably one of the meanings of "Light is sown for the righteous" ( Psalm 97:11) Isaiah , the "light" of everlasting life and bliss is now in the graces of regenerated souls as in their seed, and they shall certainly bud and blossom forth into perfect fruitage.

Third, the believer has "received" the kingdom of glory by the realisation of Jaith. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" ( Hebrews 11:1). Here is a spiritual grace which brings distant things near and gives to the future a present reality. Faith brings into the soul what lies altogether outside the reach of our natural senses. It is a supernatural faculty which is quite beyond the ken of the natural man. Faith beholds what the eye cannot see, it grasps that made without hands; it supplies demonstration or proof of that which the infidel scoffs at.

Fourth, the believer has "received" the kingdom of glory by the embraces of hope. In Scripture, the grace of "hope" is something far better than a vague longing for something we do not yet possess: it is a sure expectation, a definite assurance of what God has promised. Hope supplies a present anticipation of the future realization. Faith believes, hope enjoys those things which God has prepared for them that love Him. Therefore hope is called the "anchor of the soul... which entereth into that within the veil" ( Hebrews 6:19), for it lays hold on that glory which is there laid up for us. Hope is the taster of our comforts, and excites the same delight and complacency as the fruition itself will impart—the same in kind, though not in degree.

The particular property of this kingdom which is here emphasized by the Holy Spirit (in accordance with the thought of the context) Isaiah , that it "cannot be moved"; therein does it differ from all other kingdoms—here, as everywhere, does our blessed Redeemer have the" pre-eminence." Owen pointed out that. "No dominion ever so dreamed of eternity, as did the Roman Empire; but it hath not only been shaken, but broken to pieces and scattered like chaff before the wind: see Daniel 2:44; 7:14 , 27"—so terribly Song of Solomon , that today, the closest students of history are unable to agree as to its actual boundaries. But nothing like that shall ever happen to the Savior's dominion: therefore do we read of "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" ( 2 Peter 1:11). No internal decays can ruin it; no external opposition shall overthrow it. Yet the language of our verse goes even further than that: God Himself will not remove it.

"That which is here peculiarly intended Isaiah , that it is not obnoxious unto such a shaking and removal as the church-state was under the old covenant; that Isaiah , God Himself would never make any alteration in it, nor ever introduce another church-state or worship. God hath put the last hand, the hand of His only Song of Solomon , unto all revelations and institutions. No addition shall be made unto what He hath done, nor alteration in it: no other way of calling, sanctifying, ruling, and saving of the church, shall ever be appointed or admitted; for it is here called an immovable kingdom, in opposition unto that church state of the Jews which God Himself first shook, and then took away—for it was ordained only for a season" (John Owen). Here again we perceive the superiority of Christianity over Judaism: the one was mutable, the other immutable; the one was evanescent, the other eternal; the one was founded by Moses, the other is established by Him who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

The fact that Christ's kingdom is an "everlasting" one ( 2 Peter 1:11), that it shall "never be moved" ( Hebrews 12:28), and that "of His kingdom there shall be no end" ( Luke 1:33), has occasioned difficulty to some, in the light of "then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" ( 1 Corinthians 15:24). But the difficulty is at once removed if we bear in mind the distinctions pointed out in our last article. The sovereign dominion which Christ has over all creatures as a Divine person, is something of which He can never divest Himself. Likewise, that dominion over His own people which belongs to Him as the incarnate Song of Solomon , is also eternal: He will remain forever the Head and Husband of the Church; nor can He relinquish the Mediatorial office. But that dominion to which He was exalted after His resurrection, and which extends over all principalities and powers ( John 17:2 , Matthew 28:18), will be relinquished when its design is accomplished: this is clearly seen in the remaining words of 1Corinthians 15:24 , "When He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet." Thus, the "kingdom" which Christ delivers up to the Father is that rule of His over His enemies.

The immovability and eternality of Christ's kingdom holds good of it equally whether we consider it in its present grace aspect or its future glory aspect, for we have received "a kingdom which cannot be moved." The kingdom of grace is so Divinely fixed in the heart of believers that all the efforts of sin and all the attacks of Satan are unable to overthrow it: "the foundation of God standeth sure" ( 2 Timothy 2:19); "being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will finish it" ( Philippians 1:6). It is absolutely impossible that one of Christ's sheep should perish: in the day to come He will exclaim, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" ( Hebrews 2:13). If this be true of the kingdom of grace, then much more so of the kingdom of glory, when sin shall be no more and Satan shall never again tempt the redeemed.

Now from the glorious nature of this "kingdom" the apostle proceeds to draw an inference or point a practical conclusion: "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably." As J. Brown pointed out, to "receive a kingdom" is to be invested with royalty, to be made kings and priests unto God ( Revelation 1:6). Since, then, royalty is the most exalted form of human life, the most dignified honor known upon earth, how it behooves us to seek from God that aid which shall enable us to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called." Once again we are reminded of the inseparable connection between privilege and duty, and the greater the privilege the stronger the obligation to express our gratitude in a suitable and becoming manner: not merely in emotional ecstasies or fulsome words, but by obedience and worship, that we may "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."

The commentators differ considerably as to what is denoted by "let us have grace," yet it seems to us, its meaning is quite simple and obvious. Its signification may be ascertained by three considerations involved in what immediately follows. First, this "grace" is essential unto the serving of God "acceptably" and, as we shall see, this "service" has a principal reference to our worshipping of Him. Second, this "grace" is the root from which proceeds "reverence and godly fear," so that it must point to something more than simple gratitude for what God has already done for us—which is how many of the writers limit it. Third, this "grace" is imperative if we are not to be consumed by Divine wrath—the "consuming fire" of verse 29. We therefore understand this expression to mean, let us persevere in the faith and duties of the Gospel, whereby we are alone enabled to offer acceptable worship to God; let us endeavor after an increase of Divine aid and succor; let us strive after a continual exercise of the grace He has given us; let us seek to bring our hearts more and more under its sanctifying power.

We believe the key to our present passage is found in Exodus 19:10 , 11 , 15. Under the old covenant the way and means in which Israel was to make a solemn approach unto God in worship was specifically defined: they were to reverently prepare themselves by purification from uncleanness and separation from fleshly indulgences. That was an outward adumbration of the spiritual purity which God now requires from us both internally and externally. Because God has revealed Himself in Christ in a far more glorious manner to us than He manifested Himself before Israel at Sinai, we ought to earnestly endeavor after a more eminent preparation of heart and sanctification of our whole persons in all our approaches to the Most High. There must be in us the spiritual counterpart of what was shadowed out in them ceremonially. The fear of God was wrought in Israel by the terrors of His law: though our fear be of another kind, it ought to be none the less real and effectual in us to its proper ends.

The great end in view Isaiah , that "we may serve God acceptably." In this particular epistle the Greek word used here signifies that service unto God which consists in His worship, in prayer and praise, and the observance of all the institutions of Divine worship. For example, "in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience" ( Hebrews 9:9); and again, "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" ( Hebrews 13:10); while in 10:2 the word is actually rendered "worshippers." Nor is this meaning of the Greek word peculiar to the Hebrews epistle: "She was a widow of about four score and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" ( Luke 2:37); "who change the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator" ( Romans 1:25). The specific reference, then, is had unto the worship of God according to the Gospel, as superseding the institutions under the old economy. Needless to say, such worship cannot proceed from any who are not walking in Gospel obedience.

Now it is in order to our being so fitted for the Divine service that we may worship God "acceptably," that the exhortation comes, "let us have grace." There is a double reference: that our persons may be acceptable, and that our worship may be pleasing in His sight. An intimation is hereby given that there may be a performance of the duties of Divine worship when neither the persons who perform them, nor the duties themselves, are accepted by Him. So it was with Cain and his sacrifice, as it is with all hypocrites always. The principal things required unto this acceptance are, first, that the persons of the worshippers be accepted in the Beloved. Second, that the actual performance of worship must, in all the duties of it, be in strict accord with what God (and none other) has appointed. Third, that our spiritual graces be in actual exercise, for it is in and by this, in the discharge of all our religious duties, that we give glory unto God. How can our worship be pleasing unto Him if we be in a backslidden state?

That which is here specifically singled out as necessary unto our worship being acceptable Isaiah , that we serve God "with reverence and godly fear." As John Owen wisely pointed out, these "may be learned best from what they are opposed unto. For they are prescribed as contrary unto some such defects and faults of Divine worship, as from which we ought to be deterred, by the consideration of the holiness and severity of God as is manifest from the next verse, ‘for our God is a consuming fire.'" The sins from which we ought to be deterred by a consideration of these Divine perfections are, First, the want of a due sense of the awe-inspiring majesty of Him with whom we have to do. God provided against this evil under the old economy by the terror wrought in the people at the giving of the Law, by the many restrictions interposed against their approaches to Him (none being allowed to enter the holy of holies), and by all the outward ceremonies appointed; and though all these are now removed, yet a deep spiritual sense of God's holiness and greatness should be retained in the mind of all who draw nigh to Him in worship.

Second, the lack of a due sense of our own vileness, and our infinite distance from God both in nature and state, which is always required to be in us. The Lord will never accept the worship of a Pharisee: while we are puffed up with a sense of our own importance and filled with self-righteousness or self-complacency, He will not accept our approaches unto Him. And nothing is more calculated to hide pride from us and fill our hearts with a sense of our utter insignificance as a sight and realization of the ineffable purity and high sovereignty of God. When Isaiah beheld Him "high and lifted up," he exclaimed "Woe is me! for I am undone" ( Isaiah 6:5); when Job beheld the Almighty, he cried, "Behold, I am vile" ( Job 40:4).

Third, carnal boldness in a formal performance of sacred duties, while neglecting an earnest endeavor to exercise grace in them, which is something which God abhors. O the daring impiety of worldly professors taking upon their polluted lips the ineffable name of God, and offering unto Him "the sacrifice of fools" ( Ecclesiastes 5:1). What a marvel it is that He does not strike dead those blatant and presumptuous souls who vainly attempt to deceive Him with their lip service while their hearts are far from Him. It is to prevent these, and other like evils, that we are here exhorted to worship God "with reverence and godly fear," that Isaiah , with a holy abasement of soul, having our minds awed by a sense of the infinite majesty of God, our hearts humbled by a consciousness of our vileness and our creaturely nothingness.

No exhortation in this epistle is more needed by our perverse generation than this one. How this imperative requirement "with reverence and godly fear" rebukes the cheap, flippant, irreverent "worship" (?) of the day. O what unholy lightness and ungodly familiarity now marks the religion of Christendom: many address the great Deity as though they were His equals, and conduct themselves with far less decorum than they would show in the presence of an earthly monarch. The omission of bowing the head in silent prayer when we take our place in the congregation, the vulgar glancing around, the unseemingly whispering and chattering, the readiness to smile or laugh at any remarks of the preacher's which may be wrested, are all so many instances of this glaring and growing evil. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him" ( Psalm 89:7).

The Greek word for "reverence" is rendered "shamefacedness" in 1Timothy . This, in extraordinary instances, is called a "blushing," a "being ashamed," a "confusion of face" ( Ezra 9:6; Daniel 9:7); yet, the essence of it, ought always to accompany us in the whole worship of God. "Godly fear" is a holy awe of the soul when engaged in sacred duties, and this from a consideration of the great danger there is of our sinful miscarriages in the worship of God, and of His severity against such heinous offenses. God will not be mocked. A serious soul is hereby moved unto watchfulness and diligence not to provoke so great, so holy, so jealous a God, by a neglect of that reverence and godly fear which He requires in His service, and which is due unto Him on account of His glorious perfections. If the seraphim veil their faces before Him ( Isaiah 6:2). how much more should we do so!

"For our God is a consuming fire" (verse 29). This is the reason given why we must serve God with reverence and fear. The words are taken from Deuteronomy 4:24 , where they are used to deter Israel from idolatry, for that is a sin God will not tolerate. The same description of God is here applied by the apostle unto those lacking grace to worship Him with the humility and awe which He demands. If we are graceless in our persons, and devoid of reverence in our worship, God will deal with us accordingly. As a fire consumes combustible matter cast into it, so God will destroy sinners. The title "our God" denotes a covenant relationship, yet though Christians are firmly assured of their interest in the everlasting covenant, God requires them to have holy apprehensions of His majesty and terror: see 2Corinthians 5:10 , 11.

The twin graces of love and fear, fear and love, should be jointly active in the believer, and it is in preserving a balance between them that his spiritual health largely consists. So it is here: observe the remarkable conjunction: "our God," in covenant relationship, our Father; and yet "a consuming fire," to be trembled at! The first is to prevent despair from considering God's ineffable purity and inflexible justice; the latter is to check a presumptous irreverence unto which a one-sided occupation with His grace and love might embolden us. Thus, the principal exhortation "let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably" is urged by two widely different motives: because we have "received a kingdom" and because God is a "consuming fire." Carnal reason would ask, If we have received a kingdom which cannot be moved, why should we fear? But if God be such "a consuming fire" how can we ever expect such a kingdom, since we are but a stubble? But the Spirit-taught have no difficulty in perceiving why the apostle joined together these two things.

The Christian's interest in His favor, is no warrant for casting off a solemn fear of God: though He has laid down His enmity against him, He has not cast off His majesty and sovereignty over him. "Even those who stand highest in the love and favor of God, and have the fullest assurance thereof and of their interest in Him as their God, ought, nothwithstanding, to fear Him as a sin-avenging God and a consuming fire" (Ezek. Hopkins, 1680). Though God has taken His redeemed into intimate nearness to Himself, yet He requires that they always retain a due apprehension of the majesty of His person, the holiness of His nature, the severity of His justice, and the ardent jealousy of His worship. If we truly dread falling under the guilt of this awful sin of irreverence, our minds will be influenced unto godly fear. The grace of fear is in nowise inconsistent with or an impediment to a spirit of adoption, holy boldness, or godly rejoicing: see Psalm 2:11 , Matthew 28:8 , Philippians 2:12.

"Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably," for without it there will be neither "reverence" nor "godly fear." Without Divine aid and unction we cannot serve God at all, for He accounts not that worship which is offered by graceless persons. Without grace in actual operation we cannot serve God acceptably, for it is in the exercise of faith and fear, love and awe, that the very life and soul of spiritual worship consists. O how earnestly do we need to seek an increase of Divine "grace" ( 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9), and keep it operative in all duties of the worship of God: that in view of His awful wrath, we may have a dread of displeasing Him; in view of His majesty our hearts may be humbled; and in view of His love, we may seek to honor, please and adore Him. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" ( Isaiah 8:13 and cf. Matthew 10:28).


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Bibliography
Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/awp/hebrews-12.html.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For our God is a consuming fire.
10:27; Exodus 24:17; Numbers 11:1; 16:35; Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Psalms 50:3; 97:3; Isaiah 66:15; Daniel 7:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:8

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/hebrews-12.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

Because our God. Deuteronomy 4:24. Love must be our motivation, not fear of punishment (1 John 4:18). But all who refuse to worship God in a way that pleases Him, have reason to be afraid. This must be balanced against fear of persecution. But Christ is the EVIDENCE that God loves us (John 3:16)!!!


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/hebrews-12.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

God is merciful to all those who will accept His mercy, but he is a revenging God upon those who do not respect His law ( Hebrews 10:28-29; Hebrews 10:25).


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/hebrews-12.html. 1952.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

For our God is a consuming fire.

The Apostle refers to Deuteronomy 4:24, —"For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God;" and while the Gospel exhibits the boundless riches of the love of God, it gives a more awful display of His justice, and abhorrence of sin, than if all mankind had been destroyed. He pardons sins of the deepest dye, but it is only through the death of His only begotten Son. Here we see that He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and that He cannot look upon sin. When Jesus stood in the place of sinners, the sword was called to awake against the man who was the fellow of the Almighty, and He drank to the very dregs the cup of wrath; so that while the believer joys in God through Jesus Christ, whose mercy endureth for ever, the more clear his apprehension of the way in which this mercy flows to him, the more is he impressed with the evil of sin, which is that bitter thing which God cannot look upon.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:29". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/hebrews-12.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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