Hebrews

 
THE EPISTLE TO THE
HEBREWS
 
 
 
O U T L I N E
– Doctrinal: The Superiority of Christ and His Priesthood Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
– Christ is Superior to Israel’s Messengers: Prophets and Angels Hebrews 1 – 2
– Christ is Superior to Israel’s Leaders: Moses and Joshua Hebrews 3 – 4
– Christ is Superior to Israel’s Priesthood: Aaron’s vs. Melchizedek’s Hebrews 5 – 7
– Christ is Superior to Israel’s System: A Better Covenant, Sanctuary, Sacrifice Hebrews 8:1 – 10:18
– Practical: The Results of Christ’s Superiority in the Believer’s Life Hebrews 10:19 – 13:17
– Exhortations That Flow From Access Into the Holiest Hebrews 10:19-39
– The Life of Faith: a Great Cloud of Witnesses Hebrews 11
– Exhortation to Run the Race of Faith Hebrews 12
– Exhortations for Christian Living Hebrews 13:1-17
– Concluding Instructions Hebrews 13:18-25
 
The Book of Hebrews was written to professing Jews that had embraced Jesus as their Messiah. But there was a danger that some false-professors mixed in among them might “fall back”, rejecting Jesus as the true Messiah, because they were not able to break free from the clutches of Judaism. They had been exposed to the highest truth (the Person of Christ), and had been attracted by the external blessings of Christianity (Heb. 6:4-6), but they were in danger of apostasy! In this epistle God is striving with these professing Hebrews to see that Jesus was not only David’s son, but David’s lord (Matt. 22). God insists that we recognize not only Christ’s messianic title (humanity, Son of David), but His intrinsic deity (Godhood, Son of God). “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The epistle is written to detach the believer’s heart from earthly religion and attach it to Christ in heaven.1 What made this separation particularly difficult for the Hebrews was that the religion was instituted by God, revealed by prophets, through the administration of angels. It was a religion that had every stamp of Divine approval. The Hebrews already had a revelation from God, although on an earthly ground, but they were in need of “some better thing”
 
The Writer. Based on the greetings at the end of this epistle, and Peter’s reference to an epistle of Paul to the Hebrews (2 Pet. 3:15), it would seem most likely that Paul is the writer of Hebrews. It is no more surprising than that John does not attach his name to his first epistle. Why doesn’t Paul bring out his apostleship in the opening verses of Hebrews as he does in many other epistles? First, in this epistle, Christ’s apostleship is brought forward (Heb. 3:1), and that eclipses all other apostles. We see this in the beginning of ch.2 where the twelve are called “them that heard Him”, rather than apostles or “sent ones”. Second, Paul was the apostle to the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7), and therefore he does not write to the Jews in an apostolic character, although he certainly carried all the authority of an apostle even to the Jews. For instance, we see Paul addressing Jews in several chapters in the book of Romans, etc. In Hebrews, Paul writes as a teacher to his Jewish brethren, appealing to the Old Testament scriptures rather than his apostolic authority. But the better reason for the author being unnamed is that Christ Himself is the Apostle. From Hebrews 13:19 we see it is possible that Paul was still under some kind of restriction or guard, although it is not definitely said that He was in prison. Timothy had just been released, but was not yet with the apostle, suggesting Paul was not in Rome. The salutation (Heb. 13:24) suggests Paul was either still in Italy or had recently left it. The exactly location of the writing of Hebrews is not known, but a location in Italy or a nearby island like Crete (Titus 1:5) are likely possibilities. The date of authorship is also unknown, although evidently before the destruction of Jerusalem (Heb. 10:11; 13:10). A good estimate would be A.D. 63-64.
 
Overview. The book of Hebrews is one of contrasts and of parallelism, although the contrasts outweigh the parallels! By way of contrast, the Spirit of God compares Christ to the Prophets, to the Angels, to Moses, to Joshua, to Aaron, then to the whole Jewish system, and shows how Christ is far superior to all of them. At the same time, the Spirit illuminates the glories of Christ by drawing parallel features from the Old Testament typology. The writer takes one scripture after another from the Old Testament and sets forth the true meaning of it as a teacher. This was teaching like the Jews never had heard before! The point of this book is to detach believing Jews from Judaism by attaching their hearts to Christ! We have twelve chapters in which the glories of Christ are unfolded, and finally we get the call to “go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. 13:13-14). The Jew, with all his earthly hopes would not be easily convinced to give up earth in exchange for heaven. The Spirit of God does this by giving the reader a view into the opened heavens; a view of Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”. Then, with hearts attached to that glorified, heavenly One, we can separate from all the trappings of an earthly religion. He first puts us within the veil (“let us draw near”), then calls us outside the camp. Another way to break down the book is like this: the first eight chapters present the greatness of the Person of Christ, chapters 9 and 10 present the greatness of the work of Christ, followed by the instruction to draw near. The remaining chapters are encouragement and exhortations. The subject of the priesthood of Christ in the first part of the epistle leads into the subject of faith and endurance, of which Christ is the author and finisher. Throughout the epistle there are numerous warnings of coming judgment on Judaism, which would take place quite literally with the destruction of Jerusalem.
 
Use of Old Testament Scripture. For a Jew leaving Judaism for Christianity, there would be a number of challenges that would arise in the mind regarding the Person of Christ. A number of these problems are dealt with in the epistle to the Hebrews, and each is done, not be insisting on apostolic authority, but rather by demonstrating from the Hebrews’ own scriptures. To meet the issue of the doctrine of the trinity, and specifically the deity of Christ, the first chapter shows the evidence from the Old Testament that Jesus is the Son of God. To meet the issue of a suffering and crucified Messiah, chapter 2 shows a number of reasons why the Messiah had to suffer and die. As to how Christ from the line of Judah could be priest, chapter 7 shows that there is another order not descending from Abraham. 
 
The Hebrew-Christian Epistles. The Hebrew-Christian epistles are written to Jews who had believed the gospel, including those who had made a profession. These epistles - Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter - are given to help the Jewish believers in their special circumstances, dealing with the challenges they would have because of their background.
  • James was written to “the twelve tribes”, written the earliest (circa A.D. 45). James does not call the Jewish believers to leave the Jewish system, as in Hebrews. Instead it was written to people just like those at the time of our Lord’s ministry, who knew the basic truths of Christianity, but at the same time were keeping the law and the ordinances (see Acts 21:18-24). The danger was that Christianity would become a dead religion to them. There were a mixture of those of faith and those without faith, but James encourages the real believers to let their faith be manifested by their works! In other words, without calling the faithful to leave Judaism, James calls the believers to distinguish themselves by living out their faith!
  • Hebrews was written much later (circa A.D. 63) to Jewish people who had made a profession of Christianity. The epistle is written generally to real believers, yet recognizing that there were some mixed among them who were not real, and would later apostatize; "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." (Hebrews 6:9). Hebrews sets forth the superiority of Christ and Christianity to all that the Jews had under the law. It served as a clear and persuasive call to the Hebrew-Christians to totally separate from Judaism, which the writer calls "the camp"!
  • Peter wrote still later from Rome during the the Neronian Persecution (A.D. 65-67). He wrote two epistles to Jewish believers who had been scattered from Israel; "the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1). Peter wrote to strengthen and encourage these believers who had already made the step of leaving Judaism, and were feeling the loss of all the things they held dear (Luke 22:32). Peter in his own way takes up the better place the Hebrew Christians now had, presenting to them the "better promises", etc.
The Hebrew-Christian epistles therefore have this progression: James (A.D. 45) calls the Jewish believers to distinguish themselves by living out their faith, Hebrews (A.D. 63) calls them to leave Judaism completely, and Peter (A.D. 65-67) encourages them in their pathway, they what they have in Christ is indeed far better! A common theme through all of these epistles is the reality of faith lived out in the believer's life. None of these epistles are written to the church as such, nor are they based on the doctrine of the Church in her union with Christ. The Church is hardly mentioned all! The "church of the firstborn" in Hebrews pictures the saints as individuals in connection with Christ, rather than as His body. They were not ready for the “strong meat” (Heb. 5:12-14). Hebrews is based on the doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ, presenting Jesus to the Jewish remnant as their Messiah, no longer on earth but now glorified in heaven. Hebrews does not even go as far as to unfold the believer's relationship with God as Father.
 
  1. “It is an epistle in which one… looks nevertheless at the Lord from here below; and presents His Person and His offices as between us and God in heaven, while we are in feebleness on earth, for the purpose of detaching us … from all that would attach us in a religious way to the earth; even when — as was the case among the Jews — the bond had been ordained by God Himself. This epistle shows us Christ in heaven, and consequently that our religious bonds with God are heavenly, although we are not yet personally in heaven ourselves nor viewed as united to Christ there. Every bond with the earth is broken, even while we are walking on the earth. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.

Hebrews 1 - 2

 
Doctrinal: The Superiority of Christ and His Priesthood
Hebrews 1:1 – 10:18
 
O U T L I N E
 
Christ is Superior to Israel’s Messengers: Prophets and Angels
Hebrews 1 – 2
 
Hebrews 1 – 2. It is fitting that the epistle addressed to the Hebrews should begin by setting forth Christ in His supreme glory. After all, Christ is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel, although they could not see it without the eyes of faith. But these chapters, and the epistle as a whole, do not present Christ as a Messiah on earth, but as He is now: glorified in heaven! Nevertheless, the manhood of Christ is not left out. In ch.1 we have the glories of Christ as Son of God, in which His deity is emphasized. In ch.2 we have the glories of Christ as Son of Man, in which His manhood is addressed. But in both cases, it is the glorified Person in heaven that is presented to the soul as the object of faith.
 
 

God’s Revelation through the Son vs. Israel’s Prophets (1:1-3)

CHAPTER 1
God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, v.1 God’s Revelation Through the Prophets. This epistle begins as abruptly and majestically as the Jews’ own scriptures began; “in the beginning, God…”. The first verse briefly describes the communications of God in the Old Testament to Israel; “to the fathers in the prophets”. The expression “in many parts and in many ways” shows that the revelation of God in the Old Testament was fragmented and partial. He spoke directly to individuals at times, and in dreams or visions at other times (Hosea 12:10, 13). It was never intended to be complete or final. No epistle has more complete reference to the Old Testament scriptures as the epistle to the Hebrews, and this epistle shows that those revelations fell far short of the fullness of the revelation of God in His Son. 
 
2 at the end of these days has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom he has established heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the effulgence of his glory and the expression of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, having made by himself the purification of sins, set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high, vv.2-3 The Son & Seven of His Glories That Set Him Above the Prophets. Our God is the same God who spoke by prophets in the Old Testament, but there has been a tremendous change in His dealings with man on earth! When the Lord Jesus came, God was speaking to Israel – notice that the writer associates himself with Israel – “in the person of the Son”. It isn’t the idea that God gave words to the Son to speak, although that is true. But here it is God Himself speaking, in the Person of the Son. How much greater! The expression “at the end of these days” means the end of the days of Israel under law, when the prophetic communications were given. After many long years with only a partial revelation, God at the very end spoke to Israel face to face, in the Person of His Son. Only the Son was competent to reveal God fully. This “speaking” of course began when Christ was on earth, but Hebrews shows us that through His servants He continued to speak from heaven (Heb. 12:25). How much greater the word of Christ than the word of the prophets! The mention of the glorious Person of the Son leads into a seven-fold declaration of His divine glory:
  1. The Heir of All Things. All things in heaven and on earth belong to the Son in three ways: as Creator (v.2), as Redeemer (Heb. 2:9), and also as Heir of all things. This last way is special because it has nothing to do with what Christ has done, and everything to do with Who He is. It is God’s eternal purpose to head up all things in the One whose right it is (Eph. 1:10).
  2. The Creator of the Universe. We find that all three Persons of the God head were involved in creation, but the Son is the special agent to whom the magnificent accomplishment of creation is attributed; “by whom also he made the worlds”. This brings out the Divine wisdom and power of the Son, that he would bring the ordered universe into existence out of nothing! See also John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. It is an infinite power which can only be connected with His deity.
  3. The Effulgence of God’s Glory. The Son is the “effulgence” or shining out “of his glory”. This indicates that the Person of the Son is the visible manifestation of the glory of God. We see all the attributes of God reflected in the Person of the Son. This was true always, but visibly to man when the Word became flesh. Nothing less than a Divine Person could do this. As to the question of who wrote the epistle, we might ask who among the apostles and prophets saw the Lord Jesus in the condition described in v.3? Only Paul.
  4. The Expression of God’s Substance. This phrase brings out most clearly the deity of Christ! For the Son to be the expression of God’s substance, He had to be fully Divine. The “expression of his substance” is broader than a Person. In John it is the Word expressing the Person of the Father, but here it is the Son expressing (exactly) the substance of the whole Godhead. This is what is meant by ‘homoousios’; that the three Persons of the Godhead are of one essential substance.1 
  5. The Upholder of All Things. The Son is not only the Creator of all things, but the one who sustains all things too. Things continue as they are because He said it (Psa. 33:9)! We have a related expression in Colossians, “all things subsist together by him” (Col. 1:17), meaning they continue in virtue of Him. It is amazing to think that the very One who lay in swaddling clothes in a manger, the One who was crucified through weakness, was in those very moments “upholding all things by the word of his power”!
  6. The Purifier of Sins. When it comes to sin-bearing it is specific to “Himself”. It emphasizes that He alone completed the work, and the glory of that completed works rests on Him alone.23 The work of purifying sins is a far greater work than creation, and it is here linked to Christ’s divine glory. This shows that Christ, in that one finished work, settled for ever the issue of sins in the sight of God, whether it be those of Old or New Testament saints. This was something that no number of sacrifices under the law could ever do (Heb. 10)!
  7. The One Seated at God’s Right Hand. The word “himself” is emphasized in connection with sin-bearing and with being seated at God’s right hand. In v.13 we have a different side of things, where the Son is invited to sit at God’s right hand, but v.3 is a different thought; He “set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high”. It was His right to sit down there, and He took it. It was a place He won Himself. Clearly, there is no inferiority in the Son!
Set Himself Down. It helps to thing of a prince who says to his father the king, “I am going to enter the kingdom as a commoner”. As a commoner, the prince enters the military and wins great honors. He becomes a great conqueror, delivering his people once-and-for-all from their enemies. He then returns to the palace. The prince now takes his seat in two ways: (1) because of who He is as the king’s son, and (2) because of what he has done. In the same way, the Son of God came from heaven, became man, made purgation for sin by the sacrifice of Himself, returned to heaven, and there sat Himself down (1) in the dignity of His Person, and (2) in the full rights of the finished work of Calvary.
 

Christ Superior to the Angels (1:4)

4 taking a place by so much better than the angels, as he inherits a name more excellent than they. v.4 So Much Better Than the Angels. The more excellent name is “Son”, as v. 5 shows. He always had a better place as eternal Son, but He also inherited the name of “Son” as a man. Not that He became the Son in incarnation, but that He inherited the name of Son as a man, because that is what He was intrinsically. This name was never given to any angel, as v.5 shows us. The remainder of the chapter show the superiority of Christ to angels, not in His condition before incarnation, but now as a man!
 

Seven Old Testament Scriptures Showing Christ Superior to Angels (1:5-14)

Angels Figure Prominently in the Old Testament. Stephen pointed out that Israel “received the law by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53). It was an angelic form that appeared as a flame of fire to Moses, and so on, all through Israel’s history (Ex. 3:2). Angels figured prominently in the Old Testament as the greatest of God’s messengers, so much so that the Jews had a tendency to exalt angels. In fact, a sect of the Jews went so far as to worship angels, called the Essenes (Colossians 2:18-19). Read more…. Having already shown the greatness of Christ in contrast with the earthly messengers the prophets, the writer now shows the greatness of Christ in contrast with the heavenly messengers the angels!

As the Son: His Relationship and Preeminence (vv.5-6)

5 For to which of the angels said he ever, “”Thou” art my Son: this day have “I” begotten thee?” [Psa. 2:7] and again, “”I” will be to him for father, and “he” shall be to me for son?” [2 Samuel 7:14] v.5 A Unique Relationship. It is true that the angels are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6) in the sense that they are direct creations of God, but this is something far greater! God never said to any angel, “You are my Son”. Note the exclusiveness; “Thou art my Son”. It is a unique relationship, similar to how Jesus could say “My Father” (John 5:17), which the Jews rightly interpreted as a claim to an exclusive relationship. The quotation from Psalm 2 shows that the incarnation in no way lowered or annulled the Sonship of Christ.4 The expression “Thou art my Son” refers to the Sonship of Christ, which is eternal. “This day have I begotten thee” refers to the incarnation, when His sonship was carried forward into time! For the first time there was a man in this world who could call God His Father. Far from weakening the eternal sonship, this quotation strengthens it! We have the deity and the humanity of Christ joined in one verse. In the latter part of v.5 we have another quotation from 2 Samuel 7:14 or 1 Chronicles 17:13, which historically was Jehovah speaking to David about Solomon, but the Spirit of God at the same time applying it to Christ! This quotation shows that the father-son relationship was enjoyed by Christ as a man on earth!5 No angel ever had this. The beautiful epilogue to this is that in resurrection, Christ shares His relationship with His own (John 20:17)!
 
6 and again, when he brings in the firstborn into the habitable world, he says, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” [Psalm 97:7] v.6 The Place of Firstborn. Another thing that sets the Lord Jesus above the angels is that God calls on the angels to worship the Son! The Son is called “the firstborn”. Often we use the word ‘firstborn’ in connection with birth order in time, but it is often used in scripture in reference to preeminence (in Psa. 89:27 it is applied to Solomon, tenth son of David; in Ex. 4:22 it is applied to Israel, the least of all nations).6 Although Christ is “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15), He is not a creature. Rather, He is the Creator! It was on account of His greatness that when the Lord stepped into His own creation as a man, He became the firstborn of it all. Here the Son is God’s firstborn; the One who must have the highest place, even as a man on earth! This quotation is either from the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:43, which reads “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him, etc.”, or from Psalm 97:7 which reads “Worship him, all ye gods”. We see the angels of God worshipping the Firstborn when He came into the world the first time, when they welcomed the newborn King (Luke 2:13). When the Son came into this world as a humble babe, the angels of God – the most exalted of Gods creatures – fell down and worshipped Him. How much greater He must be than the angels. But His first coming is but a foreshadow of the final fulfillment of this prophecy, which will take place when the Lord Jesus will be brought into the world the second time, at His appearing.7 It refers to the great shift in administration that will take place before the Millennium begins. Again, all the angels of God will worship Him! This is a place that no angel would ever take (Rev. 22:8-9).

As the God-Man: His Deity and Perfect Humanity (vv.7-9)

7 And as to the angels he says, “Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire;” [Psalm 104:4] 8 but as to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age,” 8 and “a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy companions.” [Psalm 45:6-7] vv.7-9 His Deity and Holy Humanity. Angels are servants, but the Son is a Divine Person! Notice that Jehovah recognizes the Messiah as God, saying “O God”, and thus proving His deity. The angels, though exalted, are but created beings; God “makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire”. An example of angels appearing as a “flame of fire” would be the flaming sword in Eden (Gen. 3:24), and the burning bush that Moses saw (Ex. 3:2). The Son was never made. He is a co-equal Person in the Godhead, and He is eternal; “Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age”. The Son’s throne, which symbolizes His power, is eternal too! The Psalm continues to speak of the character of Messiah’s kingdom; “a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom”. This is what will characterize the Millennial kingdom in a future day. But the character of the kingdom is in keeping with the character of the Man; “Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness”. This is a good definition of holiness: the love for what is right and the hatred of what is evil. This refers to the Messiah’s walk here on earth as a man. He was perfect in every way! Because of this, God marks Him out in a special way, distinguishing Christ from the rest of the faithful remnant of Israel; “therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy companions.” It is amazing that the quote begins “O God” and ends with “God, thy God”. It is His deity and perfect dependent humanity in one passage! The “oil of gladness” speaks of the joy of the rightful Messiah taking His place, which He will do when He comes a second time. There is something that took place at the Lord’s first coming that foreshadows this. As oil so often does in scripture, here it might be a picture of the Holy Spirit, which descended in the form of a dove upon the Lord Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, marking Him out from the others as “my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This One is lifted up above the greatest of men, like David anointed in the midst of His brethren (1 Sam. 16:13).

As Jehovah: The Eternal, Unchanging, Self-existing One (vv.10-12)

10 And, “”Thou” in the beginning, Lord, hast founded the earth, and works of thy hands are the heavens. 11 They shall perish, but “thou” continuest still; and they all shall grow old as a garment, 12 and as a covering shalt thou roll them up, and they shall be changed; but “thou” art the Same, and thy years shall not fail.” [Psalm 102:25-27] vv.10-12 His Eternity and Immutability. The Spirit of God brings in another Psalm to highlight other glories of the Son, which set Him far above angels. Psalm 102 gives the expressions of the suffering Christ in His extremity; anticipating the cross fast approaching. The Lord felt His natural strength waning, and His time drawing shorter. Though Christ was Divine, His deity in no way made Him immune to suffering as a man. In Psa. 102:24 He prays to God (singular), “My God, take me not away in the midst of my days!” In this prayer, Christ “poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). The Lord felt that natural repulsion to death; especially a premature death, and all that it meant for His rights as Messiah. This prayer breaks off, and from the middle of v.24 we have the answer. Jehovah, addressing His Son as a man on earth, assures Him of His Godhead glory. The quotation is from the Septuagint translation, which adds the words “O Jehovah”, which were omitted in the Masoretic text. In other words, we have Jehovah the Father addressing Jehovah the Son!8 All that Christ suffered as man – including death – did not rob Him one iota of His glory as God! He was the Creator, who made heaven and earth. The heavens and earth pass away (Revelation 21:1), but Christ will remain. He is Jehovah “the Same”, a Divine name (Heb. 13:7). None of the angels were ever spoken to this way! What a wonderful assurance for Christ to receive in that time of His agony. Hebrews 5:7 tells us Christ was answered because of His piety; “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear”. The creation itself is perishable. One day, when the purpose for which it was made is accomplished, like a worn-out garment the heavens and earth will be rolled up, and changed – not because they self-destruct, but by the sovereign will of their Creator. This refers to the introduction of the new heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), which will exist in the eternal state. But when the things that appear most permanent to our human minds have passed away, Jehovah the Son, the eternal self-existing I AM, the One whose name is “the Same” will continue forever!
 
The Psalms & the Person of Christ. The Psalms in general, and this one in particular, really bring out the perfection of Christ as a man. He was so fully a man, and so fully suffered all these things, including death, that this “encouragement” from God to His Son was “warranted”. The Son was so fully human that these words, assuring Him of His Divine glory, were appropriate. This underscores the amazing mystery of the Person of Christ!

As the Glorified Man: His Place and Prospect (vv.13-14)

13 But as to which of the angels said he ever, “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet?” [Psalm 110:1] 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation? vv.13-14 The Glorification of Christ. A final quotation and scene are brought before us. It is fitting that a quotation from a Psalm of the suffering Messiah on earth (Psa. 102) should be followed by a Psalm of the glorified Messiah in heaven (Psa. 110). The scene that is now brought before us is that which followed the ascension of Christ, when He entered heaven as a glorified man, having been utterly rejected and cast out from the earth and having accomplished all the work of atonement and all the will of God. In Psalm 109 we have the sufferings of Christ as rejected and despised, yet committing Himself to God who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23). Psalm 110 is the beautiful answer to that prayer! It is what Jehovah said unto “my Adonai” (David’s Lord; i.e. Christ personally, the Divine Son of God, Matt. 22:43-46). We have Jehovah as God the Father, speaking to His Son. Psalm 110 takes up in thrilling poetry the glorification of Christ, from the moment of His ascension until the moment when He returns in power and glory to this earth, and is victorious over all His enemies. The scene that greets us is the welcome that the royal Son received on entering those courts of glory. The coronations of earthly monarchs, splendid as they may be, pale in comparison to this scene. Greeted by His Father, Christ is told “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet”. It isn’t the Son seating Himself as in v.3, but as invited to sit by the Father. Later Hebrews takes up the address or salute that accompanied this scene, when Jehovah greeted Him not only as His Son and the Heir of all things, saluted Christ as high priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 5:9-10). Where are the angels in this majestic scene? Do they take the center stage? No. That seat at God’s right hand is never offered to any angel. They are just “ministering spirits, sent out for service”. Powerful, exalted though they may be, in this scene they are just like ushers at a wedding, like coachmen at a ball, or like attendants at a coronation. If angels are great, how much greater the Son! We find here too the specific office of the angels, as servants sent by God to serve “those who shall inherit salvation”. The angels serve in the capacity of guardians for the saints, and this protection begins even before a person is converted! There in royal glory, He thinks of our needs. What grace! The amazing epilogue to this scripture is what Christ offers to His own; “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21). Christ will share His future throne with His friends and co-heirs, but the place where He sits now is never shared with any other, even the Church; it is His alone.
 

(If You Listened to Angels in the Past, Listen to the Son Speaking Now) (2:1-4)

Warnings Against Apostasy. What we have in the following four verses is the first of five warnings about apostasy in the book of Hebrews. Each warning is like a parentheses in which the writer addresses those among the Hebrews who had made a profession without reality, and were in danger of abandoning their profession. As ch.6 shows us, this would put such a person in a hopeless condition. The five warnings are Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7–4:11, 5:11–6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:16-27. These warnings have been twisted by some to support the false doctrine of conditional security; that a person can be saved then lost again. It is important to understand what apostasy is, and how these passages relate.

CHAPTER 2
For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away. v.1 The Danger of Slipping Away. Based on all the scriptures rehearsed, it was imperative for these Hebrews to hold fast and be true to the gospel; “the things we have heard”. It would be the things they had heard from the Son, in these last days. They had already known the Old Testament scriptures well under Judaism, and now they had professed to believe the gospel of Christ. The danger was of letting go of Christ, and thereby to “slip away”. This is what we refer to as apostasy.

Apostasy is abandoning a belief once professed, especially in the context of renouncing the profession of faith in Christ. Apostasy is different from backsliding. A backslider is one who has truly believed on the Son of God, but has fallen into systematic failure, and is in need of restoration. An apostate is one who once made a profession of Christ, even partook of the outward blessings of Christianity, entertained the truth of it in their thoughts, yet never truly believed it, and ultimately turned away from it (1 Tim. 4:1). An apostate for a time is part of "the faith", but then abandons it, having never truly possessed "saving faith". For for such a person there is no possibility of restoration.

Read more… In a certain way, it is easier to slip away from Christianity than Judaism, because Christianity concerns what is heavenly, spiritual, and laid hold of by faith.
 
2 For if the word which was spoken by angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received just retribution, 3 how shall “we” escape if we have been negligent of so great salvation, which, having had its commencement in being spoken of by the Lord, has been confirmed to us by those who have heard; 4 God bearing, besides, witness with them to it, both by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will? vv.2-4 Neglecting Great Salvation. The “word spoken by angels” refers to the law of Moses, which was “by the disposition of angels” (Acts 7:53, see also Deut. 33:2, critical translations). If the word that was spoken through angels was slighted in any way, there was a judgment that would fall on that person according to the law, under the Old Testament economy. The word of a greater Person, Christ the Son compared to angels, warrants a greater judgment if that word is despised. Note that this is a follow-on to the truth of Heb. 1. The Person of Christ is infinitely superior to the angels! How much greater the “recompense of reward” of judgment on those who despise the gospel? It is eminently more serious to despise grace than law.
 
What “salvation” is being referred to here? It is the salvation of the Messiah, prophesied about in the Old Testament, but only commenced when the Lord appeared. We read of it in the words of Simeon as he blessed the young Jesus; “mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:30-32). Again, when Jesus began His public ministry He announced that the salvation was come (Luke 4:16-21). In summary, the salvation that began to be preached by the Lord had to do with saving Israel from their sins (Matt. 1:21). The literal deliverance of the nation of Israel from the consequences of their sins will not take place until the second coming of Christ, but the foundation for it was laid at the cross. The people wanted the external deliverance immediately (Matt. 21:15), not understanding that Christ must first be rejected, and then suffer for the sins of the people.
 
This same message, of governmental forgiveness of sins for Israel, was “confirmed to us by those who have heard”, i.e. the apostles. We read for example of Peter preaching this in Acts; “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Peter was referring to a judgment that was coming on the nation of Israel, and the means whereby a person could be saved from that governmental judgment. It is helpful to see that this message is different from the gospel Paul preached, although not inconsistent with it. Paul preached “the gospel of the grace of God” and “the gospel of the glory of God”, which is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, His exaltation at God’s right hand, and God’s heart of love flowing out to sinners in need of eternal salvation. The message that Christ began to preach speaks nothing of the Church, and it will be taken up again when the Church is taken out in preparation for the kingdom, the “world to come” (v.5).9
 
God confirmed the message Christ spoke of “great salvation” by outward signs; ” by signs and wonders, and various acts of power, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will”. The book of Acts records these signs, and we know they were given primarily for a witness to the unbelieving nation of Israel (1 Cor. 1:22). How could the Hebrews expect to escape that deserved judgment if they rejected the “great salvation” that was preached by the Messiah Himself, confirmed again by those who heard Him, and again by signs, etc. of the Holy Spirit? In a very literal way, judgment was coming on the Hebrews of Judea who refused to abandon Judaism. This judgment fell in A.D. 70 through the siege of Titus (Matt. 22:7). Those who received the word of Christ heeded the warning of Luke 21:20-21; “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, etc.” But those of the Hebrews who “slipped away” from Christ did not escape that horrible judgment, nor will they escape the still-worse judgment of hell.
 

Christ as Man in Suffering and Exaltation (2:5-9)

Four Reasons Christ Became Man. In Hebrews 2 the manhood of Christ is taken up, and there are a number of reasons given for Christ becoming man.10
  1. To make atonement for sins (v.17). The sins of mankind, and the whole issue of sin, is a terrible outrage against the glory of God. Christ became a man first and foremost to glorify God with respect to the issue of sin (John 13:31-32). This work of propitiation was done on the cross, but incarnation was necessary in order for Him to accomplish it. The same can be said of the substitutionary aspect of the cross; “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). In order to accomplish substitutionary atonement, the Son had to come in incarnation, with a human spirit, soul, and body, in which He bore our sins on the cross.
  2. To fulfill the counsels of God with respect to man (vv.7-8). The purpose for which God created man will be fulfilled to His ultimate satisfaction and glory. The first man failed in his place, but the Son became man to accomplish that purpose. In the glorious reign of the Son of man, that purpose will be accomplished. It could not happen without the incarnation!
  3. To annul the devil by death (v.14). The defeat of Satan required that a righteous man would enter into death and then rise again! Angels cannot die, so the Son had to become a man to offer Himself in death.
  4. To be able to sympathize with us (v.10, v.18). Another great reason for the incarnation is that manhood fitted the Son of God to be our merciful and faithful high priest. In His pathway here on earth Christ passed through every experience necessary to make Him able to sympathize with us perfectly as our great High Priest, making Him a perfect Leader! We could not have this without the incarnation.
5 For he has not subjected to angels the habitable world which is to come, of which we speak; v.5 Angels and the World to Come. Scripture speaks of a great coming change in this world, in which the entire system of God’s dealings with the earth will be transformed. Ephesians speaks of that new economy as “the dispensation of the fulness of times” (Eph. 1:10), but Hebrews refers the earth at that time as “the habitable world which is to come”. We know the creation of Genesis 1:1 was at some point placed under the dominion of angels, Satan being the chief before his fall (Ezek. 28). But God always had a purpose to put the universe under the headship of a man. Satan tempted Eve who led Adam into transgression. No doubt this was the effort of Satan to usurp the inheritance of the Son of man. In the years after Adam’s failure, we see the activity of apostate angels to corrupt the creation, until God intervened with a flood (Gen. 6). After the flood, God gave man the institution of government, which – like everything committed to man – became corrupted. But God had His angels work in hidden ways, moving behind those institutions, as Daniel 10 so remarkably reveals. The administration of the world today is accomplished by God through His angels. But His purpose is still the same: for the administration of the world to be given over to a man (vv.6-9). This transfer of administration is seen in Revelation 4 – 5, when the Lamb takes the seven-sealed book from the hand of God. Read more…
  
6 but one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man [‘Enosh’ – frail man], that thou rememberest him, or son of man [‘Adam’ – manhood] that thou visitest him? 7 Thou hast made him some little inferior to the angels; thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; 8a thou hast subjected all things under his feet.” [Psalm 8:4-6] vv.6-8a The Son of Man in the Counsels of God. Continuing the theme of Christ’s superiority, the writer shows that the manhood of Christ (far from diminishing His glory) was necessary for Him to fulfill God’s purpose for man, and filling the place that God intended for man, to become head over all created things, including the angels! It was foretold in Psalm 8 that at some future time (the Millennium, the “world to come”) the created universe would be subjected under the feet of a Man. In considering the creation, especially the “heavens”, the Psalmist (David) was struck with the grace of God to man. Surely, a God who could create such majestic beauty is far above puny man (‘Enosh’). David exclaimed at the grace of God, that He should even take notice of man, much less to visit him and give him a place over the creation; “What is man, that thou rememberest him, or son of man that thou visitest him?” Man is not even the highest of created intelligence, “Thou hast made him some little inferior to the angels” and yet, in the counsels of God, He purposed for man to be placed over all creation; “thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast subjected all things under his feet”. Was this an established fact at the time of David? No, although we have the type in Adam. The creation was placed into the hands of Adam, “to till and keep the garden”. But in transgressing the commandment of God, Adam failed in that headship. What then? has God’s purpose been frustrated? No. The second man succeeds where the first man has failed. Here in Hebrews, the writer shows that the “Son of man” is Christ Himself, who has been “crowned with glory and honor” now in heaven at God’s right hand, and “all things” put under His feet! The Psalm begins with a view of man as very small compared to the universe, but it ends with the universe very small compared to the Son of man! “Son of man” is a title Christ took when rejected as Messiah, and it brings out a wider sphere of glory than His glory as Messiah, and this was very applicable to the Hebrews! Read more…
 
8b For in subjecting all things to him, he has left nothing unsubject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to “him”, 9 but we see Jesus, who was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; so that by the grace of God he should taste death for every thing. vv.8b-9 Christ as a Man in Suffering and Exaltation. The writer emphasizes the superlative “all”; when God subjects all things to Christ as exalted Son of Man, “he has left nothing unsubject to him”. That’s right, nothing. That is obviously except for God, who subjected all things to Christ (1 Cor. 15:27). Today Christ is glorified in heaven, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21). The Son of God left the courts of glory to become a man, and in so doing “was made some little inferior to angels”. Angels are above mere men in their order in creation, and yet the Son became a man. What a tremendous stoop that was! This touches on the mystery of the Person of Christ. There was a man in this world who was fully Divine and therefore “so much better than the angels” as far as His Divine Person is concerned (Heb. 1:4), but at the same time fully man and therefore “some little inferior to angels” as far as His order in creation is concerned. In resurrection Christ is the beginning of a new creation, and a new race of men that is superior to angels! The order now is: glorified humanity, angels, humans, then animals. Although it does not yet appear so visibly, we are a part of that race (1 Cor. 15:49; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:21).
 
Christ had to take that lower place “on account of the suffering of death”. Psalm 8 says nothing about the death of the Son of man, but here we find that was necessary for its fulfillment. We know from Luke 20:36 that angels cannot die, so Christ had to become a man to offer Himself in death. Yet it goes on to say, “we see not yet all things put under him”. We have only seen a partial fulfillment of Psalm 8, and that only by faith; “crowned with glory and honour”. This refers to His coronation at God’s right hand, as a glorified man (John 13:32). But the partial fulfillment is a guarantee to us of the complete fulfillment! His coronation assures Him of the throne. We are still waiting to see the manifestation of His glory as the Son of man, which will be fully displayed in the Millennium. The rest of Psalm 8 expounds the extent of the dominion of the Son of man; i.e. “everything”.11 By “the grace of God”, Christ tasted death “for every thing”. The work of Christ did not only deal with the sins of believers, but with the issue of sin in general, covering the havoc that the outbreak of sin has caused in the creation. This is the broadest aspect of the work of the cross (Col. 1:20), and it is connected with the thought of purchase (Matt. 13:44). Through Satan’s subtilty and man’s disobedience the inheritance fell under the curse of sin. Before Christ takes the inheritance, He must purchase the right to it by vindicating the rights of God concerning the question of sin. He holds the title to everything now as Redeemer as well as Creator. Notice the connection between “all things” and “every thing”. The Son of man’s future dominion is as wide as the scope of His past sufferings; universal! Where are the angels in all of this? Nowhere.
 
We See Jesus. This is really the “view” that Hebrews gives us into the opened heavens. We see Jesus, having suffered and died, but then raised and glorified, now crowned in heaven at God’s right hand, awaiting the inheritance. He is there as the author and captain of our salvation, as our great high priest, as our forerunner, as the author and completer of our faith. All of this we “see” with the eyes of faith.
 

What Christ Has Done for Believers (2:10-18)

A Summary of What Christ Has Done to Fulfill the Purpose and Counsels of God. God’s eternal purpose and counsel was for the creation to be placed under the dominion of man, and to have a race of sanctified men (“sons”) who share His life and nature, to subsist in full fellowship with Himself. When sin came in, man’s nature entered a fallen condition and he was put at a distance from God. The creation too fell under a curse. From those eternal counsels, Divine love flowed into action. The Son was willing to descend lower than angels to accomplish the purpose of God. He took manhood into union with Himself, and as a perfect, dependent man tasted death for everything. He took the issue of man’s responsibility on Himself, and discharged the issue of sin forever, such that God’s nature has been fully vindicated and glorified. He more than restored the honor God had been robbed of! Christ, in resurrection has shared His risen life with the children of God, making them “one kind” with Himself, and “bringing many sons to glory”. Further, in satisfying the righteous claims of a holy God, Christ purchased the rights to the inheritance, which He will shortly begin to possess. Thus, Christ has fulfilled the purpose of God, although the full effects of it are yet to be seen!
 
10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make perfect the leader of their salvation through sufferings. v.10 A Perfect Leader. Having just unfolded what Christ has done for God, in accomplishing the purpose of God in the creation of man, we find that God has been pleased to bring believers into special association with His Son, to share with them His life and nature, so that He might bring “many sons to glory”! The use of the word “sons” here is different from the Pauline truth of adoption, like we have in Ephesians. It is actually closer to the way the Jesus used the term “sons of God” in the sermon on the mount; “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). They are called sons of God because they resemble God in their character (Judges 8:18). God is so pleased with His Son that He wanted to make many more like Him! “That he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).
 
The “him” in v.10 is God; “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things”. He is the source, means, and goal of all things! It “became” or was fitting to the character of this sovereign God, to give these “many sons” a perfect Leader! God passed the captain or “leader” or our salvation through every experience necessary to make Him a perfect leader for us. The word “perfect” is used here is the sense of completeness, rather than moral perfection. God gave Christ in manhood every experience necessary for a full resume. Because of this, our Leader is a seasoned veteran of suffering (v.18). He knows what pain, shame, betrayal, slander, etc. are! He felt the experiences of the pathway more perfectly than we do, because He did so without the flesh. There is no circumstance that we might find ourselves in that Christ is insufficient to lead us through it. An example of this would be David, who learned experimentally what rejection and reproach were when he fled from Saul, and this fitted David to be a captain for the outcasts in Israel (1 Sam. 22:2). We find in Heb. 5:8-9 that Christ is the “author of eternal salvation” which has more to do with salvation in the ultimate sense, but here He is the “captain of our salvation” which is present, ongoing salvation that culminates in the appearing of Christ. Read more… Moses delivering Israel from Egypt is a type of Christ as “author”, and Joshua leading Israel into Canaan is a type of Christ as “leader”. What angel could bring sons to glory, or be a perfect leader for them? Only Christ as a perfect man.
 
11 For both he that sanctifies and those sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly will I sing thy praises.” [Psalm 22:22] 13 And again, “I will trust in him.” [Isaiah 8:17 (LXX), Psalm 91:2] And again, “Behold, I and the children which God has given me.” [Isaiah 8:18] vv.11-13 Of One Kind with Us, His Brethren. We find that there is a oneness between the Lord Jesus and the “many sons”, and to support this a number of quotations from the Old Testament are given. The fact that these quotations are from the Old Testament indicate the that truth of this oneness is not limited to the Church, but actually began with the disciples after the resurrection, and it will continue to the Millennium when these scriptures are fulfilled.
 
In scripture there are different onenesses that characterize our association with Christ. There is one body, one plant, one family, one testimony. Here it is “oneness of kind”, which is lower than the oneness of the body of Christ, but a necessary prerequisite for it. It does not say we “are one” but that we “are of one”. A helpful example is that of Adam in Genesis 2. When all the animals were brought to Adam to be named, “but as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like”. There was no creature on earth that was of the same kind as Adam. When Eve was formed from Adam’s rib and presented to him, “Man said, This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: this shall be called Woman, because this was taken out of a man” (Gen. 2:20, 23). You could say that Adam and Eve were “of one”, but they were not “one” until she became his wife (compare v.23 and v.24 of Gen. 2). The truth of the Church and her union with Christ is not taken up in Hebrews as it is in Ephesians, but the truth of new creation is (in both), and that is necessary to the oneness of Christ and the Church. The oneness here is that of compatibility. It has been compared to the way the priesthood is spoken of in the Old Testament where “Aaron and his sons” are referred to as a set. So with the new creation race! It is a serious mistake to limit this association to Christ’s taking on manhood in incarnation, as this would make Christ “all of one” with the whole human race. Incarnation was necessary for the work of atonement, but Christ becoming a man did not produce the oneness we have here. This compatibility is made possible through the work of the cross, and proclaimed only in resurrection (v.12). Christ is “he that sanctifies” and we are “those sanctified”. We are “all of one” as men totally set apart for God. Christ set Himself apart (although not in the moral sense, John 17:19), and He has set us apart too (Heb.10:14).
 
As “of one” in this sense, Christ is “not ashamed” to call us His “brethren”! The Son calls us His brethren, because the work He has accomplished has brought us into a new race, and made new relationships possible. Note that He never asks us to call Him “brother”, but He calls us “my brethren”. Remember, He is the Firstborn (Rom. 8:29). The quotation from Psalm 22:22 has a beautiful connection the sufferings in the earlier part of the Psalm, seen in the transition of v.21; “Yea, from the horns of the buffaloes hast thou answered me.” The “horns of the buffaloes” refers to one who is pierced by horns; i.e. when death is imminent, almost the moment of death. It would seem that the suffering Christ was given assurance just prior to death that His prayer was heard, and it would be answered. But the full answer to the cry of the suffering Christ is seen in resurrection! Christ would declare Jehovah’s name to His brethren, the faithful remnant. We know this was fulfilled at least partially in John 20, when Christ declared the Father’s name to the disciples; “go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”. There is a day yet coming when the Lord will make Jehovah’s name known in a special way to the faithful remnant. Then we find Christ leading the praises of Jehovah in the congregation of His brethren, which is not only true today in the Church period but also goes on to include the whole resurrected company in a future day. As Christ is leading home God’s many sons, He leads them in song from His place “in the midst”.
 
The next quotation is from Isaiah 8:17, the Septuagint translation; “I will trust in him.” Though Lord of all, the Son is still the dependent man, and will remain so for all eternity! That we are thus associated together with Him becomes the foundation of our praise. Then in a quotation from the following verse in Isaiah 8:18, we find that God’s children are entrusted to Christs care; “Behold, I and the children which God has given me” (Isaiah 8:18). Not that we are Christ’s children, but that He associates us with Himself in a special way. In the context of the prophecy, it is Messiah’s disciples (the Jewish remnant) set for signs and wonders to the unbelieving nation of Israel. It is extraordinarily applicable to the Hebrews, who were a witness against the nation.
 
14 Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage. vv.14-15 Annulled the Devil and Freed Us. Here we have the incarnation and the reason for it. Surely, the compassion of God for the whole human race was a motivation for the giving of the Son (John 3:16), but here it is put another way. The reason Christ took part of flesh and blood was because the children; i.e. the saints. We were in His heart then! He “took part of the same”, meaning He took part in something He wasn’t before. We are “partakers” because that is what we were. He became a man, and so He deity is carefully guarded. In Philippians 2:7 it says that Christ “emptied himself”, but it doesn’t say how far that goes. We can see from other scriptures that Jesus was both fully man and fully God (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 2:9). He did not ever empty Himself of deity. He became a man in every way; spirit, soul and body. But we must see that He relinquished nothing, as far as His Person is concerned, in becoming man. The inscrutable union of the divine and human natures of Christ involved addition only, not subtraction. The specific reason given here for the incarnation was that the children were in bondage to the devil, who wielded “the power of death”, and Christ came to deliver them. The power of death in this context seems to be Satan’s power to press upon the soul “the fear of death”, which is not only the fear of judgment after death, but the issue of sin as the “wages of death” weighing on the conscience (Heb. 9:27; Rom. 6:23). In Job 18:14 Bildad referred to death as “the king of terrors”. Just as Israel was terrified of Goliath’s sword, so we would still be if our David had not gone into the valley of death for us. Earlier we have the death of Christ “for every thing”, but here we have the death of Christ for believers specifically. What is it that gives death its “sting”? It is sin (1 Cor. 15:56). Death is that solemn reminder to man that he is a sinner. When a man faces death, he comes face to face with the wages of his sin.
 
As Jesus approached the cross a tremendous battle was unfolding. In John 14:30, just before the Lord and His disciples rose up to go to the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord said, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”. In the garden Luke speaks of the Lord as “being in conflict” (Luke 22:44), and in His own words, the sorrow that Jesus felt in the garden was “unto death”. Immediately after the garden, Jesus said “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). From these scriptures we gather that conflict centered around the imminent death of the cross. Satan came to Jesus as a man, and tried to leverage the power of death over Him. As a man, Jesus felt the terror of death – although not because He had sin in Him personally – and was exceeding sorrowful in anticipation of it. He did not retreat into His deity to escape this suffering. Satan was there at the cross too, for we hear prophetically the voice of Jesus on the cross, “Save me from the lion’s mouth” (Psa. 22:21), “the torrents of Belial made me afraid” (Psa. 18:4). But the Savior completely undermined the Devil’s plans by His perfect submission. He did take the cup of judgment, but not from Satan’s hand. As the only perfect Man Jesus took it from the Father’s hand; “not my will, but thine be done”, and “the cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). So, by going into death, not as a sinful man cowering under Satan’s power, but as a perfect Man in obedience to His Father’s will (Luke 23:46), Jesus broke the chains of death! Just as David slew Goliath with the giant’s own sword, so Christ annulled the Devil with his own favorite weapon, by going into death itself under the sentence of our sins, and sealed it by rising victorious over the grave. The claims of sin upon the believer are gone, and death no longer holds any terrors for those who belong to Christ (2 Tim. 1:10). The tables have been completely turned! The Devil was annulled or rendered powerless in the death of Christ, but the Devil is still allowed by God to function according to God’s sovereign will. Satan will go on this way until he is restricted to earth, bound in the abyss, and loosed again before his final abode in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10).
 
16 For he does not indeed take hold of angels by the hand, but he takes hold of the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; 18 for, in that himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to help those that are being tempted. vv.16-18 Our Merciful and Faithful High Priest. The expression “take hold of” in v.16 is a peculiar one, and hard to translate. It doesn’t mean “take on the nature of” as the Authorized Version translates it, as that would limit the meaning to incarnation. In fact, the subject of incarnation has already been discussed in vv.14-15, and therefore what follows is no redundant statement. Instead, the meaning of v.16 is that Christ took up the cause of the seed of Abraham; i.e. the earthly people of God specifically in view here as those who were under the curse of a broken law (“seed” vs. “children”, John 8:37-39). Incarnation was a necessary part of this, but this goes far beyond. What we have in these verses is a parallel to the high priest. Christ is the fulfillment of the type of the high priest; “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”. The normal function of the high priest was as an intercessor for the people, which was an on-going work. But on the day of atonement, Aaron functioned in a different way completely, in that He acted as a representative of the people toward God, and this was a once-a-year service. However, both of these functions of the high priest, fulfilled perfectly and surpassed by Christ the antitype, required that He be one of the people, “made like to his brethren”.
  1. Faithful towards God, “in things relating to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people”. This is the most important aspect, as it deals with the issue of God’s glory regarding our sins. Note the erroneous translation “reconciliation” could give the wrong idea that God will be reconciled with sin. We read of persons and the creation being reconciled, but never of sins. On the day of atonement, which occurred once a year, the high priest would put on a “holy linen coat” and make the offerings that the Lord required. When he did this, the high priest acted as the representative of the people, and in type offered that which was necessary for the satisfaction of the claims of God. All that God is as light and love has been fully manifested in the cross. This one-time sacrifice of Christ laid the foundation for His on-going intercession!
  2. Merciful towards man, “to help those that are being tempted”. After the day of atonement, the high priest would change back into his garments of “glory and beauty” and resume the role of intercessor. Christ could have partaken in humanity but chosen a privileged life, such as a noble or merchant family would have afforded Him. But “it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren”, in order that He could sympathize with us in every circumstance. Our Leader was made perfect through sufferings (v.10), and those sufferings also fortify Him to be a “merciful and faithful high priest”. He has suffered “being tempted”, not tempted of the flesh which He had not (Heb. 4:15), but by the trials of the path and the wiles of the Devil, etc. He was tempted beyond what we will ever experience, and He went through it without compromising or yielding. As such, He is able to help those that are being tempted, because we too will suffer if we do not give into temptation (1 Pet. 4:1).12
Whether it be making propitiation for our sins or sympathizing with us in our trials, we have a perfect High Priest in the Lord Jesus Christ. No angel could ever be what He is to us, nor do what He had done for us.
 
Summary. When we consider the scope that is before us in Hebrews 1 and 2, it is breathtaking. These chapters open up the view into the opened heavens, and set before us the glories of Christ. God has spoken in the Person of His Son. The Son is far above angels, seated at God’s right hand. This Son of God is also the Son of Man, the one who went a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that He might accomplish the purpose of God and glorify Him. At the cross, the Son tasted death for everything, and also annulled the Devil by taking his power. In His humiliation, Christ was made a perfect Leader of our salvation, and a merciful and faithful High Priest. Now He is leading many sons to glory, and meeting their every need along the way. It is this Person, and Him seen by faith, already crowned with glory and honor, that draws our souls away from earthly objects! “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1).
 
  1. This was the term put forward by the First Council of Nicaea (325) to resolve the controversy over Arianism, which taught that Christ was not fully divine. The Greek word homoousios means “of one substance”. The creed produced at the council was intended to put an end to the controversy.
  2. The Greek verb has here a peculiar form, which gives it a reflective sense, causing the thing done to return into the doer, throwing back the glory of the thing done upon the one who did it. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  3. There are a number of things the Lord does by Himself; He comes for the saints Himself (1 Thess. 4), He restores the discouraged soul Himself (Luke 24), and here we find He “made by himself the purification of sins”.
  4. The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the Virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory… To partake of blood and flesh through and of His mother was in no way to forfeit His title. Son of God from everlasting to everlasting, in time also as man He has God declaring “I today have begotten thee.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  5. This is the assertion of the perfect and mutual affection that reigned between the Father and His Son, now a living man; not what became an accomplished fact as in Psalm 2:7 [incarnation], and what should subsist when He was born of woman, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  6. Some have erroneously taken the word “firstborn” to indicate that Christ came into being at the incarnation. However this denial of eternal existence of the Son is easily refuted by the earlier verse (v.2) which states that He created all things, and the following verses (vv.7-8) that show He was never created!
  7. At the same time it is frankly allowed that the fulfilment of Deut. 32 or of Psalm 97 as a whole awaits the Lord’s second advent. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  8. It is Jehovah from above who thus answers Jehovah below in the midst of His entire submission to sorrow and humiliation “crucified in weakness.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  9. It is the preaching of a great salvation made by the Lord Himself when on earth; not the gospel preached and the Church united after the death of Christ. This testimony, consequently, goes on to the Millennium without speaking of the Church, a fact to be noticed not only in these verses but in the whole epistle. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Collected Writings, vol. 28, p. 4
  10. In Hebrews 2 four reasons are given why Christ took flesh and blood: first, to make atonement; second, for God’s glory and counsels; third, to destroy him that had the power of death; fourth, that He should go through every sorrow, and so have sympathy with us. – Darby, J.N. Brief Thoughts on Philippians.
  11. Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2.
  12. He sympathises with us in our holy, not in our unholy, temptations. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 3 - 4

 
Christ is Superior to Israel’s Leaders: Moses and Joshua
Hebrews 3 – 4
 
Hebrews 3 – 4. In these chapters the writer of Hebrews asks the reader to consider Jesus in a further connection: in contrast with Israel’s leaders. First, he shows that Christ is faithful as Son over the house of God in contrast with Moses who was but a servant. Then he digresses through the end of ch.3 into a warning against unbelief: Israel’s old besetting sin. Unbelief kept Israel from entering the rest of God. Jesus is superior to Joshua in that He will bring the children of God into His rest! But in ch.4 we find that God’s rest is still future, and meanwhile we are travelling toward it through a difficult wilderness, wherein some who make a profession will apostatize. But we are not left alone to face the dangers. Three great provisions are laid out at the end of ch.4 that we might be preserved until that day: the Word of God, the priesthood of Christ, and the throne of grace.1
 
 

Moses and the House of God (3:1-6)

CHAPTER 3
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, v.1 Apostle and High Priest. The writer calls on the believers among the Hebrews to consider Jesus a little further as “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession”. These two titles correlate to the two previous chapters. As the Apostle, we have Christ as the Son of God (ch.1), coming from God to man on the earth. As the High Priest, we have Christ as Son of man (ch.2), going from man on earth to God in heaven. In the following part of the epistle, the writer compares Christ’s apostleship with Moses, and His priesthood with Aaron. The two give us those indispensable resources for the wilderness pathway: the Word of God (brought by Moses), and intercession (Aaron). Notice that the writer of Hebrews (no doubt it was Paul) does not write as an apostle, but as a teacher, expertly opening up the typical meaning of the Old Testament scriptures. This is fitting because in the epistle to the Hebrews there is only room for One Apostle! The term “our confession” is used in such a way as to allow that there might be some, not holy brethren, who partake of the confession, but are not real. Notice how the writer addresses the believers among the Hebrews; “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling”. If he had been writing before Christianity, he could have said “natural brethren, partakers of an earthly calling”. But in Christ, these believing Jews (and all Christians) are “holy brethren” and we partake of a “heavenly calling”
 
Principle of Calling. The dispensational principle of “calling” was first given in Genesis 12, when God called out one man from every circle of life that had become corrupted by idolatry (Josh. 24:2). It was a transcendent call. God did not reform the world, instead He took a man out of it. This principle of calling was later extended to the great nation that descended from Abraham (Hos. 11:1). Then, because of idolatry, God had to set aside His earthly people; “Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hos. 1:9). After Israel rejected the Messiah, God unfolded a different calling; “the heavenly calling…”. The hopes of those that are part of this heavenly calling are far higher than those of the earthly calling, although the promises God to His earthly people will certainly be fulfilled. One of the great mistakes is confusing the heavenly character and hopes of the Church with the earthly character and hopes of Israel. When the Church is taken up at the rapture, God will resume His dealings with His ancient earthly people; “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29). 
 
2 who is faithful to him that has constituted him, as Moses also in all his house [Num. 12:7]. v.2 Faithful. In this first part of Hebrews 3 we find Christ compared to Moses as one who was sent to Israel with authority from God. The first thing is a parallel: both Christ and Moses were faithful in the sphere of responsibility given to them. Jehovah said “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house” (Num. 12:7). Moses was faithful in a general sense, and Christ is perfectly faithful. But there is something more than faithfulness to consider; there is the glory of His Person (vv.3-4). Notice that “his” at the end of v.2 is God, not Moses, as the allusion to Num. 12:7 shows.
 
3 For “he” has been counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, by how much he that has built it has more honour than the house. 4 For every house is built by some one; but he who has built all things is God. vv.3-4 Builder and Building. Moses was faithful in God’s house, but he didn’t build the house (i.e. the tabernacle). As a faithful servant, Moses followed the pattern that was given to him by Jehovah on the mountain. The builder of that house was not Moses, but Jehovah, who has been manifest in flesh! The builder has more honor than the building, because the building is a work accomplished by a person. The power, love, and wisdom required to build emanate from a person, logically inferring that the person is superior to his creation. But Christ has built more than the house that Moses served in; the universe is His house, created for Him to inhabit! In Hebrews we find that the tabernacle is a type of the heavens through which Christ passed through, just as the high priest passed through the tabernacle into the sanctuary. The writer is clearly alluding to the truth laid down in ch.1, where the Son is said to be the creator and sustainer of all things. In v.4 we have the argument from design; “For every house is built by some one; but he who has built all things is God”.2 The observation of the universe, its scope, its magnificent variety, is balanced systems, its fine-tuning for life, etc. unclouded by sin and moral blindness gives overwhelming evidence for the existence of an all-powerful, all-wise, Personal Creator! To the atheist who claims the universe “popped” into existence out of nothing, we may reply in the irresistible wisdom of scripture, “every house is built by some one”. But it requires faith to see that “he who has built all things is God”.
 
5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house, as a ministering servant, for a testimony of the things to be spoken after; 6 but Christ, as Son over his house, whose house are “we”, if indeed we hold fast the boldness and the boast of hope firm to the end. vv.5-6 Son vs. Servant. The comparison goes on to consider the relative position of Christ and Moses. Moses was indeed faithful in God’s house, but “as a ministering servant” where Christ is “Son over his house”. We are thankful for Moses’ faithfulness, because in his work we have a “testimony of the things to be spoken after”, or as types of Christ. This is so much different from Christ whose place over the house of God is not because of what He has done but because of who He is! His is Son over the house because He is the Son. There is a sense in which the universe is the house of God, but there is another house which belongs to Him in a higher sense; “whose house are we”. The saints collectively are the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:7; Eph. 2:22). Read more… There is a condition put upon this statement. The Son is faithful over the house (v.2), but will the house be faithful to Him? We are the house of God “if indeed we hold fast the boldness and the boast of hope firm to the end”. This is one of many “ifs” in Hebrews; i.e. conditional statements that show a danger that some might apostatize, while those with real genuine faith hold fast to the end. The “ifs” and “whens” of scripture belong in the wilderness pathway, where there will be either the manifestation of reality, or of apostasy. You don’t get these kind of statements in Ephesians.
 

The Wilderness: Warning Against Unbelief (3:7-19)

7 Wherefore, even as says the Holy Spirit, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; 9 where your fathers tempted me, by proving me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was wroth with this generation, and said, They always err in heart; and “they” have not known my ways; 11 so I swore in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest.” [Psalm 95:7-11] vv.7-11 Warning Against Unbelief. The writer quotes from the ninety-fifth Psalm to warn against unbelief. We find in that Psalm that unbelief is Israel’s old besetting sin; “the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; where your fathers tempted me”. We remember the ten temptations, where Israel murmured because they did not believe the goodness of God, erring in their hearts, although they had proved Him. They saw His deliverance at the Red Sea, and continued to see His works forty years! There are three phases of things in this quotation. It is hard to be certain, but it would seem that the “day of provocation” was actually at the beginning of the journey Meribah (Ex. 17:7). Then there was the journey for forty years. Finally, the last temptation (the tenth) was at Kadesh when they despised the pleasant land. Read more… As a result Jehovah was angry, and swore in His wrath they they would not enter His rest (Canaan). The Psalm is really prophetic of a future day when Jehovah will invite Israel to enter into His rest. There is a new day (“today”), and way has been opened now for Israel to enter the Sabbath rest of the Millennium. Jehovah’s old anger is now gone. The cross has opened a way. Old sins will not bar them from entering the kingdom; but a fresh repetition of the same sin will. Unbelief, that old besetting sin, must be avoided. These words are quoted here in Hebrews 3 in application to the Jews who had made a profession of Christianity, to warn them not to return to dead Judaism in unbelief. 
 
12 See, brethren, lest there be in any one of you a wicked heart of unbelief, in turning away from the living God. 13 But encourage yourselves each day, as long as it is called To-day, that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. vv.12-13 Carefulness and Encouragement. The Hebrews were to be careful that none among them possessed “a wicked heart of unbelief”. This does not refer to doubt, or weakness of faith, which every believer will experience at some point in life. Rather, it refers to a heart that ultimately refuses to take God at His word. It means rejecting God, and for someone who has professed Christ it is apostasy; “turning away from the living God”. But even if we are truly saved, there is a danger that we can be influenced by the spirit of apostasy. Thus, we need to “encourage” ourselves each day in our faith, and continually reminding one another and ourselves that God is to be trusted and obeyed. It is still called “today”, in the sense that the day of God’s grace and patience continues, although it will not continue forever. When we give into the sin of unbelief once, it has the effect of hardening us to the authority and Word of God. In the ultimate sense, a person can be completely “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”, although the extreme case in only possible for an unconverted soul.
 
14 For we are become companions of the Christ if indeed we hold the beginning of the assurance firm to the end; 15 in that it is said, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the provocation;” 16 (for who was it, who, having heard, provoked? but was it not all who came out of Egypt by Moses? 17 And with whom was he wroth forty years? Was it not with those who had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to those who had not hearkened to the word? 19 And we see that they could not enter in on account of unbelief;) vv.14-19 Reality Proved By Steadfastness. In Hebrews we are viewed as in the wilderness, and our salvation is proved out by our steadfast devotion to Christ throughout life; “we are become companions of the Christ if indeed we hold the beginning of the assurance firm to the end”. The writer asks several important questions to highlight the difficulty of maintaining confidence from beginning to end, and to show what Israel had done to result in not entering Canaan. Who were those that provoked Jehovah to anger? It was not just part of Israel, but the whole congregation that “came out of Egypt by Moses”; i.e. they saw the power of God in deliverance, and still provoked through unbelief. Who was Jehovah angry with those forty years? It was with “those who had sinned”, who refused to believe that God was able to bring them into the good land, and their “carcases fell in the wilderness” (Deut. 2:14-15). The sin is emphasized: not a mere mistake, but positive willful sin. Caleb and Joshua as the exception were preserved and brought into the land. A third question is asked: who did Jehovah promise that they would not enter His rest? It was those who heard the Word of God and refused to believe it. The common theme across the three questions is sin by not believing the Word of God. There is a progression: they provoked Jehovah at the beginning, then He was angry for forty years, and then He finally swore in His anger. No one can argue that they deserved the judgment. The rest of God is only shared with those who believe Him and hearken to His word. Unbelief in the heart of man is the root of sin; “we see that they could not enter in on account of unbelief”. Death in the wilderness is a type of apostasy, which is only possible for unsaved persons, and we see it occasionally in professing Christianity. But there is a parallel condition that can characterize true believers, that of apathy. It is possible for a true believer to wander in the wilderness until death without ever entering into the enjoyment of our heavenly portion in Christ.
 

The Rest of God & the Need of Faith (4:1-11)

CHAPTER 4
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you might seem to have failed of it2 For indeed we have had glad tidings presented to us, even as they also; but the word of the report did not profit “them”, not being mixed with faith in those who heard. vv.1-2 Application to Christianity. The writer now begins to apply the lessons of Israel in the wilderness to professing Jews in Christianity. We also have a promise, like Israel did, or entering into the rest of God. This “rest” is viewed as something future. We already have “rest” in our conscience upon conversion, but there is a future rest that we await; when when God Himself will rest and we will rest with Him. We are not looking for rest here in this world; it has become a wilderness to us. But we will fail to enter that rest if we do not receive the glad tidings presented to us with faith, just as the good report that Israel received did not profit those who did not have faith.
 
3 For we enter into the rest who have believed; as he said, “As I have sworn in my wrath, If they shall enter into my rest;” [Psalm 95:11] although the works had been completed from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has said somewhere of the seventh day thus, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works:” [Genesis 2:2] 5 and in this again, “If they shall enter into my rest.” [Psalm 95:11] 6 Seeing therefore it remains that some enter into it, and those who first received the glad tidings did not enter in on account of not hearkening to the word, 7 again he determines a certain day, saying, in David, ‘To-day,’ after so long a time; (according as it has been said before), “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” [Psalm 95:11] 8 For if Jesus had brought them into rest, he would not have spoken afterwards about another day. 9 There remains then a sabbatism to the people of God. 10 For he that has entered into his rest, he also has rested from his works, as God did from his own. vv.3-5 A Future Rest for the People of God. The writer next makes a second application from Israel’s history. The point in vv.1-2 is that faith is required to enter the rest of God, but the point in vv.3-10 is that the true rest is yet future. Two facts are brought together to draw a simple conclusion. First, God rested once at the beginning of creation on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). Second, He speaks of His rest as future (Psa. 95:11). This shows that for Israel, God’s rest was still future at the time of David. The unbelief of Israel barred them from entering the rest of God, but in grace the “today” of David is still open after so long a time. This shows that Joshua (called Jesus, as the Greek version of the same name) was not able to bring Israel into the rest of God. In keeping with the theme of the epistle where were have had Christ’s superiority to prophets and angels (ch.1-2), His superiority to Moses (ch.3) and now His superiority to Joshua. The great point is that “There remains then a sabbatism to the people of God”. The sabbath or rest that is referred to must refer to the Millennium, when Israel will enter into rest, the heavenly saints will enter into rest, and Christ will be vindicated. However, the “rest” that begins in the Millennium will fade into the eternal state, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but then all things will be according to God, and He will rest from all His works. Read more… It is important to see that it is “his rest”. That is what makes it a perfect rest, because it is a state of things in which God will find His satisfaction. There will be no work to do – even good work – and no conflict to spoil the perfection of that rest. A state in which the very nature of God is satisfied is ultimate joy and blessing! This is the rest that we look forward to. The world today is not our rest. Our rest is yet to come!
 
11 Let us therefore use diligence to enter into that rest, that no one may fall after the same example of not hearkening to the word. v.11 Exhortation. The writer applies the “same example” of Israel in the wilderness to the Hebrews he was writing to, to give a powerful exhortation. The same refusal to listen to the word that caused thousands of the Hebrews’ ancestors to fall in the wilderness could cause some to fall away (apostatize) from the profession of Christian faith. The exhortation is to “use diligence to enter into that rest”. How? By believing the Word of God.
 

Three Provisions to Help Us Reach the Rest (4:12-16)

12 For the word of God is living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is not a creature unapparent before him; but all things are naked and laid bare to his eyes, with whom we have to do. vv.12-13 The Word of God: It’s Effectual Penetrating Power. The Spirit of God, having just presented the “rest” that is still future for the people of God and the great barrier to our entering that rest (unbelief), now goes on to present that which God has provided to help us in the wilderness as we journey toward that rest. The first thing is the provision of “the word of God” (v.12). He goes on to give a number of attributes of the Word of God that make it a vital instrument to bring our soul into the presence of God, that what is not according to God in our hearts might be judged. The inspired Word of God is an invaluable resource to us! Various attributes follow:
  • An Active Agent. Some would imagine that the Word of God is a mere passive agent, but this passage shows the opposite. The word of God is both “living and operative”. It is living in that it never becomes dead or outdated, it carries with it the means of giving spiritual life, and also it adapts itself to different needs and situations (John 6:63). The Word of God is “operative” in that it actually works (by the power of the Holy Spirit), and it does accomplish the purpose for which God intended it (Isa. 55:11).
  • A Discerning Agent. We find also that the Word of God is compared to a sword (not only here, but in Eph. 6:17), in the sense that it not only pierces, but also cuts or makes divisions. A physical sword can separate an object into pieces, but the Word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword”. It works not only on the external level (actions), but on the internal level as well (motives), “penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. The division of soul and spirit is something that takes supernatural discernment. The soul is the seat of consciousness, identity, responsibility, and desire (Rom. 7:15). The spirit is very closely connected with the soul, but still a different part of our being. The spirit is above the soul: it gives man the capacity to reflect on his soul, and it also gives him God-consciousness. Animals do not have this, because they have no spirit (Psa. 49:20; Isa. 31:3). True worship is with the spirit, rather than with the body or soul (John 4:24). However, true worship will affect the soul and produce emotion to varying degrees, which in turn (depending on the composure of the individual) may even affect the body; e.g. tears. This is normal; however, we should not forget that emotional or physical response is not worship. It is humanly impossible to discern what is truly of the spirit, but the Word of God is able to “penetrate to the division of soul and spirit”. Read more… He illustrates this with a physical image: “of joints and marrow”.3 These are intricate parts of the skeletal system that are deep within the body, and very difficult to locate from the periphery. The marrow is also physically close to the bone, and it is hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. So with the spirit and soul. Only the Word of God can penetrate the deep recesses of our being, and only the Word of God can separate those things. The Word of God can discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Sometimes our motives and intentions are reflected in our actions, but other times they are disguised (the heart is deceitful, Jer. 17:9). It is humanly impossible to say for certain what a person is thinking or what their intentions are. One day, those hidden things of the heart will be made manifest (1 Cor. 4:5). But for ourselves, we benefit from having the Word of God because it penetrates our minds and hearts, sifts through the murk with the Divine skill, and through it the Holy Spirit identifies the activity of the flesh with the finger of conviction. Prophetic ministry of the Spirit of God in the assembly should have the same effect (1 Cor. 14:25). Also, the Word is compared to a “two-edged sword”, which we could apply as a figure to the double application of the Word: to ourselves and to others. Although the context here is the application to ourselves.
  • A Revealing Agent. In addition to discerning the activity of the flesh, the Word of God by the power of the Spirit brings us into the presence of God, such that our soul is laid bare before Him. He knows all things and searches our hearts (1 John 3:20; Jer. 17:9), weighs our actions and knows our motives (1 Sam. 2:3). Hence the passages goes on to describe how fully we are known of God; “there is not a creature unapparent before him; but all things are naked and laid bare to his eyes, with whom we have to do”. It is the Word of God that brings us into the presence of God and causes us to know how fully what we are is revealed to Him. Nothing of the flesh is allowed to pass unnoticed, and this is something the new nature rejoices in, because any sin that we tolerate will spoil our communion with God (Psalm 139:23-24). This puts us into a position of responsibility before Him “with whom we have to do”. 
The proper response to the action of the Word of God acting, discerning, and revealing our state is to pass judgment on the activity of the flesh. Self-judgment is vital to maintaining a walk of communion with the Lord.
  
14 Having therefore a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast the confession. 15 For we have not a high priest not able to sympathise with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart. vv.14-15 The Priesthood of Christ: Our Sympathetic High Priest. Returning now to pick up from the end of ch.2, the writer presents a second help that the believer has in the wilderness; the high-priesthood of Christ. These verses serve also as an introduction to the next section, which deals more fully with the priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 5-7). The comparison here, as with Heb. 2:17-18, is with the high priest in the Old Testament. However, chapter 2 focused on the exceptional duty of the high priest on the day of atonement, while here it focuses the normal function of the high priest as an intercessor for the people. No priest in the Old Testament was called great. We find that the tabernacle is a type of “the heavens” through which “Jesus the Son of God” passed, just as Aaron passed through the tabernacle into the sanctuary. There are two things that are required for Christ to be our great high priest: (1) He has to be there, on the other side of the cloud, in heaven at the right hand of God, and (2) He had to first tread the pathway of this earth with all its trials and temptations. In terms of Exodus 17, He is both Moses on the mountain and Joshua in the valley! Jesus, though always the majestic Son of God, was not a mere transient visitor, a mere associate of ours. As we learn from Israel’s history even until the time of Jesus, it was always the tendency of the priests to elevate themselves into a privileged upper class, far above the common citizen. Not so with our Priest. He is “able to sympathise with our infirmities”. He knows what trials mean! As a man He was tested beyond what any of us will ever face. His deity did not shield Him from suffering; He was “tempted in all things in like manner”. An important qualification is added: “sin apart”. This is a clear testament to the sinless perfection of Christ. It doesn’t say “without sinning” but “sin apart”. The temptations that Christ faced were from without, never from within (Jam. 1:14). From the moment of His conception, the incarnate Christ was a “holy thing” (Luke 1:35), and Peter could say He “did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22), Paul could say He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), and deepest of all John could say “in him” is no sin (1 John 3:5). His very nature was holy. W. Kelly put it this way, “He was not alone perfectly man but the perfect man”.4 Sin within blinds us and dulls our affections. Christ’s sinlessness makes Him a better sympathizer! But the experiences and sufferings of Christ coupled with His place now in glory having passed through the heavens qualify Him, and only Him, to be our sympathetic, great High Priest. As such He intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), bringing down the grace and mercy of heaven into our lives, to give us endurance in the pathway, and to preserve us from falling. Note: Christ’s advocacy is a different aspect of His intercession (1 John 2). We could not take one successful step apart from Christ’s continued intercession (“Aaron’s rod that budded”, Num. 17:8). Thus the exhortation, “let us hold fast the confession”. Why should the Hebrews turn back to Judaism seeing we have such a resource at God’s right hand? We have every reason to press on. How awful too for Christians to take other men as priests on earth as the Catholic church has done. Their priests have none of the qualifications of Christ!
 
16 Let us approach therefore with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace for seasonable help. v.16 Prayer: the Ever-Approachable Throne of Grace. Finally, there is a third resource: the privilege of prayer. Our approaching the “throne of grace” by prayer is not to be confused with Christ’s prayer or intercession for us. He prays continually (Heb. 7:25), we do not. Nonetheless, it is His presence there as our High Priest that makes the throne of God available to us, and it remains approachable on a continual basis. Without fear, and actually “with boldness”, we are exhorted to approach the very throne of the God of the universe. Yes, it is the throne of a holy God “with whom we have to do”, but the work of Christ has made it to us “the throne of grace”. How precious! There we go at any season, and find help that is “seasonable”, or suited to our needs. This help comes in two forms, broadly speaking: (1) we may receive “mercy” which is blessed deliverance from a trial, or (2) we may receive “grace”, which is the strength to pass through the trial in communion with our God! An example might be Paul, who prayed three times to the Lord that his trial would depart, but Christ said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-9). But whether is is mercy or grace, there is always help available!
    
  1. Anstey, B. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  2. It is interesting to see that the axiom of the fourth verse is the morally irresistible argument from design, which has been more or less ably applied by those who have written on the evidence of creation to its Creator. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  3. Thus God’s word acts “to dividing of soul and spirit,” two things so closely allied and so resembling as to yield to no other discriminating means. “Of both joints and marrow” seems to be a figure of close physical conjunction, which are beyond the reach of human instrument, as “soul and spirit” still more impalpably. It is possible that both phrases go beyond severing one from the other, and mean that each is pierced by the word of God as nothing else could. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  4. Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 5 - 7

 
Christ is Superior to Israel’s Priesthood: Aaron’s vs. Melchizedek’s
Hebrews 5 – 7
 
Hebrews 5 – 7. We now come to the primary doctrinal portion of the epistle which deals with the priesthood of Christ. We had Christ as Apostle in ch.3-4 where He was compared to Moses and Joshua. Now, actually beginning with the end of ch.4, we have Christ as High Priest in ch.5-7, where He is compared to Aaron! It is a continuation of the theme of the epistle, which is to separate the Hebrews from Judaism by showing the superior glories of Christ. A Jew that converts to Christianity loses nothing, and actually gains a great deal, because Christ fulfills and surpasses all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. The structure of this section is similar to the previous two: an opening treatise on the priesthood of Christ, followed by a digression in which apostasy is warned against (c.p. Heb. 2:1-4, 3:7-4:11, 5:11-6:20), followed by a fuller discussion of the priesthood of Christ. Throughout this section we have the features of Christ’s priesthood, but even more central is the personal dignity of the Priest and His qualifications for priesthood.
 
 

Christ’s Priesthood Introduced (5:1-10)

The Superiority of Christ’s Priesthood. The major point of these verses is to show that the earthly high priesthood Israel had pales in comparison with the heavenly priesthood of Christ!

The Qualifications of a Priest (vv.1-4)

Qualifications of a Priest. The Jewish mind would naturally inquire of Christ, was He qualified to be a high priest? The priests were of the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron. Our Lord was of the tribe of Judah. It was therefore necessary to show that Christ not only met, but exceeded every qualification.
 
CHAPTER 5
1 For every high priest taken from amongst men is established for men in things relating to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; v.1 Humanity and Offerings. The first qualification of a high priest is that he must be a man “taken from amongst men”. This is necessary so that he may act on behalf of men as a representative toward God, “established for men in things relating to God”. There is another reason covered in vv.2-3 why a high priest must be a man, in order that he may sympathize with those he represents. But here it is more the idea of representation. A priest in this way functioned as a mediator, as we see with Aaron in the Old Testament, who in two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod did bear the names of the children of Israel before Jehovah, and in the engraved stones of the breastplate over his heart did bear the judgment of the children of Israel continually (Ex. 28). “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). The priest thus represented the people in things relating from God; i.e. his office was to offer to God that which He desired from man. These offerings are divided in two classes: gifts or free-will offerings (Lev. 1-3), and sacrifices for sin like the sin and trespass offerings (Lev. 4-5). How much more Christ offered! Note: it is important to understand that while the Aaronic priesthood is a type of the priesthood of Christ, it does not follow that every action of the priesthood necessarily has a direct parallel with the Lord’s high priestly work today. For instance, the Aaronic high priest offered sacrifices for sins, but that cannot be construed to mean that Christ offering Himself for sins is part of His high priestly work.
 
2 being able to exercise forbearance towards the ignorant and erring, since he himself also is clothed with infirmity; 3 and, on account of this infirmity, he ought, even as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. vv.2-3 Sympathetic. A high priest must be able to sympathize with those he represented. How could he offer sacrifices on behalf of people, plead their cause as a representative, if he had no ability to sympathize with them? The high priest in the Old Testament was in the same plight as the “ignorant and erring” people; “he himself also is clothed with infirmity”. Christ had no infirmities of His own, because infirmities are a result of sin. But Christ knows what infirmities are because He bore our infirmities (Isa. 53:4, Matt. 8:17). An earthly high priest would have a sinful nature, and thus would need to offer for his own sins as well as others. This was emphatically not the case with Christ. 

4
 And no one takes the honour to himself but as called by God, even as Aaron also.
v.4 Called by God. Finally, it was required that a high priest be called by God. It was wrong for someone to appoint themselves to that place, like Korah and his associates (Num. 16:1-3), or Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:16). Nor was it right to be chosen by other men, like Jeroboam who “made of the lowest of the people priests” (1 Kings 13:33). A high priest had to be called by God Himself, as Aaron was! As the line of Aaron descended, we see God’s hand superintending, giving an everlasting covenant to Phinehas, excluding the line of Eli, thrusting out Abiathar when that line intruded, and guaranteeing the Millennial portion to Zadok.

How Christ Exceeds Every Qualification (vv.5-10)

5 Thus the Christ also has not glorified himself to be made a high priest; but he who had said to him, “Thou art my Son, I have to-day begotten thee.” [Psalm 2:7] 6 Even as also in another place he says, “Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.” [Psalm 110:4] vv.5-6 Appointed by God. Even Christ would not take the honor of high priest for Himself, but was given that special place by God! This answers the question as to how Christ could be priest when He is of the tribe of Judah. He was given the priesthood by God, and it is connected with His own personal dignity, hence the double quotation. Psalm 2 is quoted as well as Psalm 110, connecting His personal and official glories. Notice that the statement “Thou art my Son” is given in incarnation, and “Thou art a priest” is given in glorification, after the ascension. Even after the cross and the atoning work was complete, Christ would not glorify Himself! God glorified Him, calling Him to be a priest (v.4), and in this we see His perfection as man. Notice that Christ’s divine glory is carefully maintained: through fully a man since incarnation, He is not merely a man, He is always the Son of God (hence the first quotation). Every earthly priest was taken from obscure origins (vv.2-3), but Christ was, though a man in every sense, the glorious Son of God! Yet the first quotation shows that Christ met the qualification of v.1. The words “Thou art a priest” are prophetic of the Lord Jesus upon His ascension; i.e. Christ is a high priest in heaven! How much greater than Israel’s earthly priesthood! Also, God said “Thou art a priest for ever” in contrast with the earthly priests whose tenure was only for a matter of years. In the eternal state there will be no need for priesthood, because the universe will be free from sin. But the order of Melchisedec, as ch.7 will fully explain, is characterized by that word “forever”; he appears “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually”. Aaron’s priesthood had to be passed to his descendants because he died. No so with Christ, the Melchisedec priest.
 
The Order of Melchisedec. The great point here is that Christ is of a different order altogether than Aaron. The Aaronic order was transient and temporal, constantly interrupted by death. Melchisedec pictures one who is eternal and unchanging (Heb. 7:24). Christ is currently functioning as a priest in the character or function of Aaron; i.e. to intercede on the basis of sacrifice, but He Himself is of a higher order, the order of Melchisedec. This is why the person of Melchisedec is later dropped in Hebrews; because Christ is not yet functioning as Melchisedec, though He is of that order. In the Millennium, Christ will function as a Melchisedec-priest,1 and like the Melchisedec of old whose blessing reached downward to Abram on the earth and upward to God in heaven, the glorified Son of man as the Royal Priest will lead the united Millennial earth in the worship of the Most High God, and be the link through which God’s resources flow out in universal blessing. But the focus in Hebrews is on the Priest Himself and His order, which has to do with His Personal dignity.

7
Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up both supplications and entreaties to him who was able to save him out of death, with strong crying and tears; (and having been heard because of his piety;)
 v.7 Offered Supplications and Prayers. We had earlier that every priest offers gifts and sacrifices for sin (v.1). Here we have what Christ offered, which is of course in addition to the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:14; 9:26). Notice that this was “in the days of His flesh”, before He became High Priest. Even before being glorified as High Priest, Christ met the qualification by offering sacrifices. This passage has especially in view the Garden of Gethsemane, where the horror and immediacy of His death was before Him, and Christ poured out His soul in anguish and “offered up both supplications and entreaties”, asking His Father to remove the cup if possible, but above all submitting Himself to the Father’s will. He offered to God the sacrifices that God desired from man: dependence, submission, and obedience unto death. Why doesn’t the atoning sacrifice “of Himself” come into v.7? Surely it was the supreme offering of Christ! Perhaps the reason is that Heb. 5-7 focuses on the Priest, and we don’t have the sacrifice in view until Heb. 8-10 which is the next section. Whether that one sacrifice for sin or all through His life, Jesus was characterized by offering to God that which He desired from man. As He offered, Christ did so with more devotion than any other priest; with “strong crying with tears”. In Luke we read of His sweat, and His agony so intense that blood vessels burst, and His sweat mingled with blood falling to the ground. We see in these expressions how fully the Lord Jesus felt the weight of the cross, the power of Satan, and the reality of death (Heb. 2:14-15). As a perfect man, He prayed to His God, “who was able to save him out of death”. It says “out of death” not “from death”, “from the lion’s mouth”. The full answer to Christ’s prayer is seen in resurrection (Psa. 22:21)! On the cross Christ was forsaken by God, and there could be no answer at that time (“I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not”, Psa. 22:2). Yet after those hours of darkness, when the mighty work was complete, “from the horns of the buffaloes… Thou hast answered Me” (Psa. 22:21b). The reason is given, He was “heard because of his piety”. It is a different reason than the “answer” in John 13:32, when it is because He had glorified God in the work of atonement.
 
8 though he were Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered; v.8 Learned Obedience. Although He was the majestic Son of God, Christ experimentally learned obedience from suffering. Before He became man, the Son never had to obey. “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:9). But He learned obedience as a man; “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psa. 40:7-8). Truly, He was the perfect Servant! It doesn’t take away one iota from His omniscience! Christ suffered all that a righteousness man would suffer in a world opposed to God, the cross being the highest expression of the Son’s obedience! He is able to be our High Priest because He knows what it means to obey, and to suffer in order to obey. What love on the Son’s part, to undertake such an education, if we can call it that, so that He might be our perfect Sympathizer!
 
9 and having been perfected, became to all them that obey him, author of eternal salvation; 10 addressed by God as high priest according to the order of Melchisedec. vv.9-10 Perfected. Being “made perfect” is not moral perfection. It refers to the whole course of Christ as a man, through His holy and obedient yet suffering-filled life, through the cross, then resurrection, and glorification at God’s right hand, to the pronouncement “Thou art a priest for ever” as v.10 indicates. See Heb. 7:26-28 and note the expression “perfected forever”. What is eternal salvation? Every other high priest was themselves subject to the claims of death, and in a sinful condition that made them utterly incapable of really delivering a soul from sin. In Christ we see by faith a glorified man perfected, living continually at God’s right hand! He is able to save, and not only in a temporal sense, but in an eternal sense. The Lord Jesus will bring those who obey Him into that glorified condition with Himself! How much greater than Aaron! Who does He save? The obedience of the Son in v.8 is connected with the obedience of the saints in v.9. We conclude with the beautiful scene so often touched on in Hebrews, where the Son was greeted by God upon passing through the heavens. We had in ch.1 that He was invited to sit by the Father, and in ch.2 that He was crowned with glory and honor. Here we have the “address” or “salute” that accompanied this scene. The word used implies the highest formal greeting: God saluted His Son as high priest after the order of Melchisedec! No earthly priest was ever saluted in this way!
 

Warning to False-Professors, Encouragement for Believers (5:11 – 6:20)

Sad Need to Turn Aside to Less Spiritual Things (vv.11-14)

11 Concerning whom we have much to say, and hard to be interpreted in speaking of it, since ye are become dull in hearing. v.11 Dull of Hearing. It was the writers desire to continue with the subject of Christ and His priesthood, but concern for the souls of the Hebrews brought him down from that plane, to administer a stern rebuke. They had started well, but then many of the Hebrews had “become dull in hearing” because they insisted on clinging to Judaism. The good seed was falling on stony ground because something was hardening their hearts (Matt. 13:19, 23).
 
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have again need that one should teach you what are the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. 13 For every one that partakes of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe; 14 but solid food belongs to full-grown men, who, on account of habit, have their senses exercised for distinguishing both good and evil. vv.12-14 Babes and Milk vs. Grown Men and Meat. We find that clinging to Judaism had stunted the growth of many among the Hebrews. Spiritual babyhood is an undesirable condition that a Christian might find themselves in (in 1 Pet. 2:2 the believer’s appetite for scripture is likened to a baby’s desire for milk, but immaturity is not the point there). Immaturity is a state of stunted growth, and is in contrast to spiritual perfection, or “full growth”. We get two causes for spiritual babyhood addressed in scripture. The Corinthians were stunted by worldly wisdom (1 Cor. 3:1-2) – the Greek tendency. The Hebrews were stunted by traditional religion (Heb. 5:12-14) – the Jewish tendency. There are two avenues to end up in the same state, and both religion and philosophy are opposed to faith, although religion is worse in that it falsely appeases the conscience and claims to be from God.2 The solution to this condition aroused by earthly-mindedness of one form or another is what we have in the epistle to the Hebrews, i.e. the Person of Christ as glorified in heaven presented to the soul.
 
It was a deplorable state these Hebrews (some) were in! They had sufficient “time” in the profession of Christianity to “be teachers”, but they were far from that. Instead, they were in need of a teacher themselves for the very basic elements of Christianity; “the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God”. These elements are what we have in Heb. 6:1-2, and cover those things that Jesus taught His disciples on earth before the cross, His glorification, and the sending of the Spirit. The “milk” is good, and necessary for “babes” because it is what they need, but “full-grown men” need to have “meat”. To be a mature Christian we need to progress in our understanding of the revelation of God, and see Christ as His is now – and ourselves in relation to Him – glorified in heaven! Mature Christians regularly feed on a diet of doctrine that concerns Christ in glory. Those who are content with the basic morals of Christianity (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount), as good as those are, will be “unskilled in the word of righteousness”. The “word of righteousness” is the Word of God in the aspect of giving us the understanding of how to walk consistently with God’s will. If we reject the meat of Christianity, we will lose our discernment, our hearts will become hardened to Christ, and growth will be stunted. Even those wonderful things Jesus taught His disciples will become a law for us. But if we appropriate the meat, our spiritual “senses” (our conscience) will be exercised to distinguish clearly “good and evil”.
 
Application. We can apply these principles to ourselves today. There is a tendency to make Christianity into a legal religion that mainly governs our walk by means of traditions, like the “tutor” and “governor” of Gal. 4, but otherwise leaves the heart occupied with earthly interests. This will lead to prolonged immaturity, and will make us “dull of hearing” when presented with the glories of Christ. What we need to do is really accept by faith what God has told us, that Christ is glorified at His right hand, and that He alone is our object there. This will draw our affections to where He is (Col. 3), cause us to pass judgment on the flesh, and allow spiritual growth to take place.

The Need for Spiritual Growth (vv.1-3)

CHAPTER 6
Wherefore, leaving the word of the beginning of the Christ, let us go on to what belongs to full growth, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, 2 of the doctrine of washings, and of imposition of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment; 3 and this will we do if God permit. vv.1-3 Move Beyond First Principles. These things are the very basics of Christianity, things taught by Christ himself on earth before the cross, while there was a transition from Judaism to Christianity. Hebrews opens to us the heavens, where we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor. These things were suited to the state of the disciples, but we are told to “go on unto perfection.” Not that we should “leave” in the sense of giving up the basic things; but having them settled, let us go on to the understanding of Christ as He now is: risen, ascended, and glorified (the meaning of the word “perfection”, connect ch.5 v.9). We cannot be perfect (mature Christians) if we do not recognize that Christ has been perfected (glorified in heaven). Those written to were in danger of staying in the position of enlightened Jews, and of only seeing Christ as a Messiah on earth. They needed to apprehend Him as glorified in heaven, and lay hold of the full Christian revelation, and “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).34 He lists two internal things, two external things, and two future things that the disciples before the cross would have been familiar with. He doesn’t say to reject or ignore these six things, but that they are a foundation that does not need to be laid again. We need to move beyond them! The writer was confident, God permitting, that they would move beyond.
  1. Repentance from dead works. Repentance means to change one’s thinking, but it goes deeper than the intellect. It involves a moral judgment, such that the soul takes God’s side in a matter. It results in a change in the life. Truly, repentance is one of the first principles of Christianity, but not the focus.
  2. Faith in God. Like repentance, faith is another vital element for every believer. Faith is implicit and complete trust in God, and is the condition for justification.
  3. The doctrine of washings. Turning now to external things, the “doctrine of washings” would be ceremonial washings such as the Hebrews were familiar with under the Old Covenant, and it may even include John’s baptism, but not Christian baptism.5
  4. Imposition of hands. Laying on of hands was a sign of conferring blessing, fellowship, or authority. It was an outward sign, practiced in both Old and New Testaments. But those things are not the focus in Christianity! 
  5. Resurrection of the dead. The resurrection is another doctrine that is known and precious to Old and New Testament saints alike. Note that it is simple “resurrection from the dead” rather than “from among the dead”. The latter expression conveys the truth of the special or first resurrection, which Jesus introduced and Paul fully developed.
  6. Eternal judgment. Another weighty matter that is considered elementary is that of eternal judgment. This was known in the Old Testament and acknowledged in the New Testament. However, the New Testament brings out the hope of the Lord’s coming as the Christian’s hope, and this shows how sad it would be to never move beyond the basics!

The Folly of Apostasy (vv.4-12)

4 For it is impossible to renew again to repentance those once enlightened, and who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God, and the works of power of the age to come, 6 and have fallen away, crucifying for themselves as they do the Son of God, and making a show of him. vv.4-6 Apostasy Irrecoverable. It may be difficult to see the connection between vv.1-3 and vv.4-5. It helps to see that some among the Hebrews had failed to move forward and partake of the meat of Christianity (Heb. 5:11-14). Now we are shown how the folly of not moving forward can lead to the infinitely more serious folly of moving backwards in the sense of apostasy. It is possible for those who have professed Christ and enjoyed the outward blessings of Christianity to then fall away from their profession, and categorically reject Christ. This is called apostasy and it is an irrecoverable position; “it is impossible to renew again to repentance”. Often those who reject the truth of eternal security will use these verses to assert that a believer can lose their salvation. But the error comes from not understanding what an apostate is. They also do not understand vv.7-8. A number of things are mentioned that these Hebrews had experienced and enjoyed, but not necessarily with faith.
  1. First, they were “once enlightened” by the gospel shining the light of the knowledge of God on their minds. But knowledge is not equivalent to divine life.
  2. Second, they “have tasted of the heavenly gift” which refers to Christ glorified in heaven. This was an object far above this world. The professing Hebrews tasted this gift in that they were surrounded by those who were looking up, sustained by an object in heaven! But to taste the gift is not the same as receiving it.6
  3. Third, they had “been made partakers of the Holy Spirit”, not in the sense of indwelling them, but externally in the sense that they were part of God’s House by profession, in which the Holy Spirit dwells. False professors are part of God’s house, and they thus “partake” in a limited sense of the Spirit. The same word for “partakers” is translated “partners” in Luke 5:7. For example, an unbeliever who was attending a local assembly – Paul spoke of the assembly in Corinth; “…God is in you of a truth…” (1 Corinthians 14:25). But only true believers are individually indwelt by the Spirit.
  4. Fourth, they had “tasted the good word of God”. A person may hear and be attracted to the Word of God, and especially the offer of salvation – even witness the impact of the Word on consciences with power like Simon Magus (Acts 8) – and yet it not be “mixed with faith” (Heb. 4:2).
  5. Fifth, they had seen “the works of power of the age to come”. The “age to come” refers to the Millennium (Heb. 2:5), when the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh with great power in blessing on the earth. What was witnessed by the Hebrews near the Day of Pentecost displayed in miracles, tongues, and mighty acts of power (Heb. 2:4) was a foretaste of that same millennial power! But even with this testimony, some of the Hebrews would reject it.
These things have to do with the special circumstances of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, as a consequence of Jesus being glorified (John 7:39). These were the fruits of heaven’s response to Christ’s work on the cross. To turn back after tasting these gifts would be an unpardonable insult; “crucifying for themselves as they do the Son of God, and making a show of him”. It is to return to the position of the Jews who crucified Messiah! It would be to tear open an old wound, only worse. This is why for such a person to apostatize would mean it was impossible to “renew them again to repentance” because God has nothing more to offer than what they have tasted and rejected.
 
7 For ground which drinks the rain which comes often upon it, and produces useful herbs for those for whose sakes also it is tilled, partakes of blessing from God; 8 but bringing forth thorns and briars, it is found worthless and nigh to a curse, whose end is to be burned. vv.7-8 An Example From Nature. The writer of Hebrews goes on to describe the condition and judgment of the Hebrew apostates with an example from nature. He uses the example of rain which falls on two kinds of ground. Both good and bad ground receive the same rain, but they produce different results. If the tilled land produces useful herbs, it proves that it really “partakes of blessing from God”. But if the ground brings forth thorns and briars, then it is “found worthless and nigh to a curse”. Useful growth manifests reality (Luke 8:15). Regression to a worthless state manifests a false profession only, and warrants severe judgment; “whose end is to be burned”. It is remarkable that rain is used as a picture of the blessing of the Spirit, and in the Millennium in a literal way, springs and rivers will be everywhere (Isa. 35:1,7; 41:18), even where there was once desert!

Encouragement for the Faithful (vv.9-12)

9 But we are persuaded concerning you, beloved, better things, and connected with salvation, even if we speak thus. v.9 Better Things. Although the writer had spoken of apostasy and judgment for those who brought forth thorns and briars, yet there was an expectation of better things from the Hebrews that were especially on his heart, those who are referred to as “beloved”. He was not casting doubt on their reality. What are the “better things”? Things that are “connected with salvation”. Salvation is viewed as at the end of the pathway, and it cannot be separated from fruit in the life. A person who is laboring in love (v.10), assured by hope (v.11), and living by faith (v.12) is a person who is real. Those three elements of Christianity were the same proofs of reality in the young Thessalonians. Though a sober warning was necessary, there were many who were genuine believers.
 
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which ye have shewn to his name, having ministered to the saints, and still ministering. v.10 Past Labors. As an encouragement for the Hebrew Christians, the writer reminds them that God had seen and would remember their past labors. It was a labor of love, the motive for all Christian service, first of all toward God, and secondly toward the saints. Love serves (Gal. 5:13; Luke 22:27). Ministering to the saints could be fellowship, hospitality, meeting financial needs, etc. It is remarkable that ministering to the saints is put forward as a proof of divine life!
 
11 But we desire earnestly that each one of you shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; 12 that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience have been inheritors of the promises. vv.11-12 Steadiness to the End. The Hebrew Christians had demonstrated evidence of Divine life, and now the exhortation was for each one (individually, 2 Tim. 3:14) to continue steadfastly to the end with “the same diligence”. There is no neutral ground for the Christian, and it is never good to decelerate in our service for God. One of the things that will help us to be diligent “unto the end” is hope. Hope has a tremendous effect on how we live. When we live with “the full assurance of hope” it makes that which God has promised very real in our hearts and minds. In Hebrews the hope is of rest and reward at the end of the pathway! The Hebrews were to imitate their forefathers, the saints of Old Testament, who “through faith and patience have been inheritors of the promises”. As Hebrews 11 shows, the men and women of faith in the past lived by faith which gave substance to the things they hoped for. 
 
Love, Faith, Hope.

The three things mentioned - faith, love, and hope - are the three great moral principles of Christianity; without which there would be no Christianity. Many times in the New Testament faith, hope, and love are put together (1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5-6; Col. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:3; 1 Thess. 5:8-10; Heb. 6:10-12). Faith is implicit and complete trust in God: a total contrast to the unbelief and skepticism in the world around us. Hope for the believer is a deferred certainly; whether it be the hope of the Lord's coming, or of being conformed to the image of Christ, or of enjoying the glory of God. Love is a settled disposition of favor: something God has toward us, and what we ought to have toward our brethren. These three principles "now abide" (1 Cor. 13:13), and are necessary for the pathway.

But not all three will abide forever. Faith and hope are good companions for the pathway, but we will part company with them at door of heaven. Faith and hope are only needed because of the limitations of the human nature. When we get to heaven, we will see that which faith is the evidence or conviction of presently (Heb. 11:1). Our hope, being seen, will no longer be hope (Rom. 8:24). In other words, faith and hope will give way to sight. But love is the essential character of God, and it will never fade nor be replaced! Therefore, “the greater of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

The Sureness of Our Hope (vv.13-20)

13 For God, having promised to Abraham, since he had no greater to swear by, swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee;” [Gen. 22:17] 15 and thus, having had long patience, he got the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by a greater, and with them the oath is a term to all dispute, as making matters sure. 17 Wherein God, willing to shew more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his purpose, intervened by an oath, 18 that by two unchangeable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie, we might have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us, vv.13-18 Two Unchangeable Things. Having brought up the subject of faith in God’s promises, and the example of Old Testament saints, the writer examines the specific example of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 22. He notices that the Lord doesn’t merely tell Abraham what He will do, but He swears. To swear or make an oath is a human convention in resolving any doubt, “with them the oath is a term to all dispute, as making matters sure” (see Gen. 47:30-31). The Lord stooped down to Abraham’s level so to speak, and swears an oath to Abraham and to his seed! The Lord is in the business of giving personal guarantees. Not only that, the Lord swears “by Himself”. Men will make their oaths in the name of a great person, to lend weight to what they say. But when Jehovah swore to Abraham, “because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself”. This shows us that the Lord is exceedingly resolute in what He promised Abraham. His word was good enough, because God “cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2). Yet the Lord added His oath to the promise so that there would be a double assurance. God was anxious to demonstrate “the unchangeableness of his purpose”. The two immutable things are God’s word and God’s oath, “in which it was impossible that God should lie”. God wanted Abraham to have a strong assurance, and that assurance was soundly placed, because “having had long patience, he got the promise”. God did not give that double assurance for Abraham alone, but for all those who live by faith and look for the fulfillment of God’s promises (Gal. 3:7-8, 29). How sad that many believers think God has changed (mutated) His promise. The expression “who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us” is an illusion to the manslayer, who to escape the avenger of blood would flee to the city of refuge to lay hold of the promise made before Israel entered the land (Deut. 19:1-13; Josh. 20:1-9). The Hebrews must flee (Acts 2:38-40). Their sentence of murder was commuted to manslaughter (Acts 3:15-17). The slayer would be safe there for as long as the high priest lived. Just so, Christ our High Priest living for us at God’s right hand is our hope! See v.20 for the connection.
 
A Contradiction? Hebrews 6:15 indicates that Abraham received the promise of Genesis 22:17, at least the part that is quoted in Hebrews. There may at first seem to be a contradiction with Hebrews 11:13, 39 which says that Abraham died in faith not having received the promises. In his lifetime, Abraham did not actually see the numerous seed that was promised, nor did he see the promised “seed”, i.e. the Messiah who would descend from him. Notice what is omitted in the quotation in Hebrews: “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore… and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”. What did Abraham see? Before Abraham died he saw Isaac born to Sarah (that was past when Gen. 22:17 was uttered), but also Jacob and Esau born to Isaac. The multiplying had begun!7 See Gen. 25:23, and notice “two nations”. Abraham also had many other sons through Keturah. Furthermore, by faith he saw the day of Christ’s glory as Jesus told the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad”. He saw by faith the Messiah in the distance, and had the certainty that all the blessings would be accomplished as a result of His coming. What an example of faith! It is well suited to the character of this epistle. As to Hebrews 11:13, the reference is to seeing the wider hope fully realized, and that Abraham did not see, and thus died in faith.
 
19 which we have as anchor of the soul, both secure and firm, and entering into that within the veil, 20 where Jesus is entered as forerunner for us, become for ever a high priest according to the order of Melchisedec. vv.19-20 Anchor, Veil, and Forerunner. Turning deeper now to the issue of the believer’s hope which was introduced in v.18, the writer gives two practical illustrations as types that we can easily visualize. Our hope is likened to an “anchor of the soul”. The word ‘agkuras’ is found once here and three times in Acts 27 in reference to a ship’s anchor. A ship’s anchor is used in shallow water, usually within a harbor, to keep the ship from drifting. Hope is what keeps our souls from drifting away from Christ. Our hope is nothing like the vain “wishing” of men in this world. Our hope is “both secure and firm”. It cannot be moved or shaken, like a nail fastened in a sure place (Isa. 22:23)! The reason is that our hope, like an anchor, has been dropped inside the “veil”. This is reference to the veil in the tabernacle, which was the entrance to the holy place. It represents “heaven itself” (Heb. 9:24)! We are like a ship in stormy waters that is not yet inside the harbor, but our anchor is securely fastened there, giving assurance to those on board that the destination will certainly be reached. In keeping with the theme of Hebrews, Jesus glorified in heaven is the touchstone of our faith! To the unbelieving eye, the view is obfuscated. But the eye of faith can see Jesus already there (Heb. 2:9). It then says Jesus is entered “as forerunner for us”. A forerunner is ‘one who goes ahead to prepare for those who follow’. The word ‘prodromos’ occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and was used by the Ancient Greeks to reference a light cavalry unit used for scouting ahead of the main army. Usually the forerunner was a person or group of less importance, like John the Baptist compared to Jesus. But in our case, the greater Person has gone on ahead, and we follow as His servants. Jesus has made a “new and living way” through the vail for us (Heb. 10:20), prepared the place for us (John 14:2), and He now appears in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24) as “a high priest according to the order of Melchisedec”. What gives us certain hope that we shall reach heaven at last is the reality that Christ is already there! Furthermore, on our journey He is interceding for us as our High Priest.
 
 

Christ’s Melchizedek Priesthood Greater than Aaron’s (7:1-28)

Hebrews 7. The writer of Hebrews is going to show that Christ’s priesthood is greater than Aaron’s, and the way he will do this is by turning to another Old Testament priest named Melchizedek, who was greater than Aaron, and then showing that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and therefore far superior to Aaron. The aim of all this is to show the Hebrews that they lost nothing, and actually gained a great deal more, by leaving Judaism for Christianity. Two scriptures are referenced primarily, Genesis 14 in the first ten verses, and then Psalm 110 in the remainder of the chapter.

Melchizedek’s Personal Dignity in Contrast with the Greatest of Israel’s Ancestors (vv.1-10)

Melchizedek’s Personal Dignity. The first line of argument is that there is another priest besides Aaron who is a much greater person in terms of personal dignity, and the obvious conclusion being that since Christ is called by God a priest after the order of Melchizedek, He is far superior to what Israel had in Judaism. This first line of argument flows from Genesis 14.
 
CHAPTER 7
For this Melchisedec, King of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from smiting the kings, and blessed him; 2 to whom Abraham gave also the tenth portion of all; first being interpreted King of righteousness, and then also King of Salem, which is King of peace; vv.1-2 Both King and Priest. Beginning again with Melchisedec, the writer considers in greater detail the personal dignity of Melchisedec. There are two things that are mentioned about Melchisedec, his name and title; “first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace”. The order is important: what Christ is in His own Person (righteousness) must come before the effect of His work (peace). Melchisedec is a type of Christ in the Millennium, who will function as a priest, standing between heaven and earth; “and the work of righteousness shall be peace” (Isa. 32:17). It says in Gen. 14:18 that Melchisedec was “priest of El Elyon”, that is, “the Most High God”. The name El Elyon is a Millennial name of God. Read more… None of Israel’s earthly priests were royal priests, and this is further emphasized in that the priesthood was given to Levi and the scepter to Judah. But Christ is of the order of Melchisedec and He is both priest and king!
 
Priest and King. As both king and priest, Melchisedec combined two great offices of the Messiah. We see it again in David, when he danced before the ark, wearing a linen ephod. In David’s person the roles of king and priest were combined. He symbolized the relationship between God and His people, as much as He symbolized the sword of Jehovah’s government. God used David to pen that thrilling Psalm 110, in which we find that Christ is both king and priest “after the order of Melchisedec”. Both Melchisedec and David are shadows of the coming Royal Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. In prophecy we find that Christ will be King of kings and Lord of Lords, but also the Priest of the Most High God! “He shall be a priest upon his throne” (Zech. 6:13). Christ will wear both the crown and the mitre, so to speak. We who are associated with the rejected Christ, are given to share in those offices. Rev. 1:6 tells us that Christ has “made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father”.
 
3 without father, without mother, without genealogy; having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but assimilated to the Son of God, abides a priest continually. v.3 A Timeless Existence. Where Melchisedec came from, we are not told. The writer of Hebrews remarks that Melchisedec was “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God”. Of course Melchisedec had a father and mother, but his genealogy is not given in Genesis 14; he just appears majestically on the scene. He was neither angelic nor Divine, but he is introduced in a abrupt and peculiar way, such that he serves as an excellent type of Christ, the eternal Son of God. This timeless or eternal character of being is a complete contrast with the Aaronic priesthood which was characterized by change and death. Genealogy was vital to the Levitical priesthood (Ezra 2:62), but not genealogy is given with Melchisedec. The earthly priests were limited to service between the ages of 30 and 50 (Num. 4:3), but not so with Melchisedec.
 
4 Now consider how great this personage was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth out of the spoils. 5 And they indeed from among the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have commandment to take tithes from the people according to the law, that is from their brethren, though these are come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 but he who has no genealogy from them has tithed Abraham, and blessed him who had the promises. 7 But beyond all gainsaying, the inferior is blessed by the better. vv.4-7 Greater than Abraham. Referring now to the events of Genesis 14, the writer shows that Melchisedec was greater than Abraham, who was the greatest of Israel’s patriarchs, because Abraham gave Melchisedec a tenth part of the spoils from defeating the kings in league with Chedorlaomer. The principle of the tithe is found in the law as pertaining to the Levites, who “take tithes from the people according to the law” (see Num. 18:21-26). The “tenth part” is often the Lord’s portion (Isa. 6:13). It represents giving God His portion, as when one of ten lepers returned to give thanks (Luke 17:15). The Levites took tithes from their own brethren, all being descendants of Abraham. But Melchisedec “has no genealogy from them”. The tithes Abraham paid Melchisedec showed that the royal priest was person of superior dignity. If Israel gave tithes to the Levites, and Abraham gave tithes to Melchisedec, how much greater the priesthood of Christ must be than that of Aaron! A second proof of Melchisedec’s greatness is that he blessed Abraham (Gen. 14:19), and “beyond all gainsaying, the inferior is blessed by the better”.
 
8 And here dying men receive tithes; but there one of whom the witness is that he lives; v.8 The Witness that He Lives. Another point is made about Melchisedec, that “the witness is that he lives”. Israel’s priests were constantly being replaced by others because they died. Death was an essential feature of the Aaronic priesthood. But with Melchisedec, we read neither of his birth nor his death. He majestically appears almost outside of time. The only witness of Melchisedec is that he lives! Of course the real person Melchisedec was born and died, but the way scripture witnesses about him is striking that respect. So with our Lord. His priesthood begins on the other side of the cloud as a risen and glorified man, beyond the reach of death!
 
9 and, so to speak, through Abraham, Levi also, who received tithes, has been made to pay tithes. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him. vv.9-10 Greater than Levi, Abraham’s Descendant. To carry the point a little further, it is noted that Levi was in the loins of Abraham in a manner of speaking when Melchisedec met him and received tithes. This shows that in principle, Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec. Therefore, the earthly priesthood which springs from Levi is inferior to that priesthood which is after the order of Melchisedec!

The Earthly Priesthood and Its System Would Be Changed (vv.11-28)

A Necessary Change. The second line of argument is that since scripture foretells a change in the priesthood, there must be some inherent lack in the first priesthood. And if the priesthood much change, so also the system that governs the priesthood. Just as the first line of argument flows from Genesis 14, the second line flows from Psalm 110.
 
11 If indeed then perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, for the people had their law given to them in connection with “it”, what need was there still that a different priest should arise according to the order of Melchisedec, and not be named after the order of Aaron? 12 For, the priesthood being changed, there takes place of necessity a change of law also. vv.11-12 A Different Order, Melchisedec vs. Aaron. The fact that the Aaronic order of priesthood would be surpassed by the Melchisedec order shows that there was some inherent inadequacy in the Levitical priesthood. It fell short of perfection. Why, the writer asks, was there a need for a priest to arise after a different order unless the law that governed that Levitical priesthood was incomplete? The priesthood of Aaron was a provision of God for Israel consequent on their putting themselves under law at Sinai. Contrary to their arrogant boast, it was not possible for Israel to continue under law apart from grace. The priesthood of Aaron was the gracious gift of God to Israel, in order that they might not be consumed altogether under law. We see in Numbers how Moses’ rod (judgment) fades to the background and Aaron’s rod (grace) comes to the foreground. But no one familiar with the law, or the priesthood, can fail to see the shortcomings of that system, which things Hebrews examines in detail. Further, Psalm 110 shows that the priesthood would be changed, and “of necessity a change of law also”. It isn’t “the law” but “law”; i.e. the principles on which God was dealing with His people. The dispensation of law would inevitably pass away, and this transition would take place when the Melchisedec priest arose! When Christ took His seat at the right hand of God and began to function as a priest,8, the whole order of Aaron was superseded, and along with it the economy that was introduced at Sinai. The Hebrews needed to understand that change, and the vital importance of not clinging to something that God was done with.
  
 
13 For he, of whom these things are said, belongs to a different tribe, of which no one has ever been attached to the service of the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord has sprung out of Juda, as to which tribe Moses spake nothing as to priests. vv.13-14 A Different Tribe, Judah vs. Levi. Another question the writer deals with in this chapter is how Christ could be a priest when He came from the tribe of Judah. In fact, the priesthood being separated from Israel’s kingship is something that is emphasized in the Old Testament. King Uzziah, a king of the line of Judah, was struck with leprosy for approaching the altar. But Psalm 110 assures a royal priesthood to the Messiah, of the tribe of Judah. The fact that a priest would arise from Judah shows that the Old Covenant would be taken away, and that the change would be associated with the establishment of the Melchisedec priest.
  
15 And it is yet more abundantly evident, since a different priest arises according to the similitude of Melchisedec, 16 who has been constituted not according to law of fleshly commandment, but according to power of indissoluble life. 17 For it is borne witness, “Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.” [Psalm 110:4] vv.15-17 A Different Principle. Christ is the “different priest” who “arises according to the similitude of Melchisedec”. Christ’s priesthood is sustained by the power of a different principle. Aaron’s priesthood was constantly interrupted by death, and needed a “law of fleshly commandment” to put the next generation of priests into the place of those who had died, etc. Christ’s priesthood is sustained by a totally different principle: “according to power of indissoluble life”. We have already had a reference to Melchisedec’s apparent timelessness. Here we see it is a type of Christ’s risen life: beyond the reach of death. His life is invulnerable to death, and thus His priesthood is never-ending. Hence the word “for ever” in the quotation from Psalm 110 verse 4: “Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.”
 
18 For there is a setting aside of the commandment going before for its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 (for the law perfected nothing,) and the introduction of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God. vv.18-19 Setting the Law Aside. The writer goes on to speak of the insufficiency of the law; “its weakness and unprofitableness”. The parenthetical expression “for the law perfected nothing” is extremely important. The law fell short of perfection in every way. It could not make a sinner holy, nor could it give life to a person dead in their sins. The priesthood was an institution that fell short of perfection.  The law itself spoke of a coming prophet greater than Moses, of a priest greater than Aaron, and a king greater than David. But what Judaism fell short in, Christ has brought to perfection! The “introduction of a better hope by which we draw nigh to God” refers to the approach that we have through Christ, whose death opened the way (Heb. 10:19-22), and who lives continually for us at the right hand of God! Christ perfects everything, and He alone can bring us to Himself in the glorified state; spirit, soul, and body. There is a contrast between the conditional “commandment” and the unconditional “hope”.
 
20 And by how much it was not without the swearing of an oath; 21 (for they are become priests without the swearing of an oath, but he with the swearing of an oath, by him who said, as to him, “The Lord has sworn, and will not repent of it, “Thou” art priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec;” [Psalm 110:4]22 by so much Jesus became surety of a better covenant. vv.20-22 An Oath: Surety of a Better Covenant. Another difference between the earthly priesthood of Aaron and the heavenly priesthood of Christ is seen in that Christ’s priesthood was given with an oath from God. This is a contrast with how Aaron and his sons were made priests. The fact that the Lord “has sworn, and will not repent” concerning the everlasting Melchisedec priesthood of Christ shows two things: (1) the surety of His priesthood and (2) the far greater honor of that priesthood. The oath that accompanied Christ’s priesthood shows the “surety of a better covenant” secured in the Person of Jesus. The better covenant is the New Covenant (Jer. 31) characterized by grace (simply “I will”, in contrast with the law which said “if you, then I will”). The New Covenant rests not on man’s efforts but on the shed blood of Christ. The covenant will be formally entered into in the future, between Jehovah and the houses of Israel and Judah. As Christians we are not under the letter of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), but God is dealing with us unto the spirit of the New Covenant (grace), and we do enjoy its blessings now because our great High Priest is after the order of Melchisedec! Read more… There will be much more on the New Covenant in the following chapter.
 
23 And they have been many priests, on account of being hindered from continuing by death; 24 but he, because of his continuing for ever, has the priesthood unchangeable. 25 Whence also he is able to save completely those who approach by him to God, always living to intercede for them. vv.23-25 Continuing Forever. The superiority of Christ’s priesthood is seen on another count. The Levitical priesthood was continually interrupted by death, and therefore there were “many priests”. By contrast, Christ continues forever in the power of His resurrection life, and thus His priesthood is “unchangeable”. This aspect of His continuing forever is connected with the efficacy of Christ’s priesthood; “he is able to save completely those who approach by him to God, always living to intercede for them”. An earthly priesthood interrupted by death could never “completely save” anyone. But Christ at the right hand of God is “ever living” for us, interceding constantly for those who approach to God by Him. Because of this, Jesus is able to bring us all the way home to heaven! A good example of this is Moses in Exodus 17 during the battle with Amalek. While Joshua led the fight in the valley, Moses was up on the hill with his hands lifted up. It represents the ongoing practical salvation that Christ is working for us from His seat in heaven. Christ’s action in us (Joshua) is dependent on His action for us (Moses). Moses interceded for the people below, and that was the key to their success. We need the continued intercession of Christ for each step of our pathway! We speak often of the one-time work of Christ on the cross and the salvation which, without His work, we could never have. But in a similar way it is the on-going work of Christ, not in death but in His living for us now (Rom. 5:10; Rom. 8:34) as our High Priest, that is the sole means of our preservation in this treacherous wilderness pathway, where Peter says the righteous will “scarcely be saved” (1 Pet. 4:18). Moses was a failing and feeble type, and his hands grew weary. Christ never grows weary in His intercession! It is our portion to “approach by Him to God” in prayer, to avail ourselves of that grace.9
 
26 For such a high priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens: 27 who has not day by day need, as the high priests, first to offer up sacrifices for his own sins, then for those of the people; for this he did once for all in having offered up himself. 28 For the law constitutes men high priests, having infirmity; but the word of the swearing of the oath which is after the law, a Son perfected for ever. vv.26-28 A Perfect Priest. The final area in which the superiority of Christ is shown is that of His moral perfection. The high priests of the the Levitical priesthood fell short of moral perfection in two ways. First, the Aaronic priests were sinners themselves, and so a priest like Aaron had to first “offer up sacrifices for his own sins”. By contrast, Christ is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens”. Christ is “holy” as regards good and evil in both His nature and His objective state, “harmless” or inoffensive, “undefiled” in terms of moral uncleanness, “separated from sinners” concerning His associations, and now “higher than the heavens” in terms of His place now, which is another wonderful proof of His moral perfection as it is the only place fitting His presence. What a contrast to the corrupted priesthood that these Hebrews were accustomed to, with Caiaphas and Annas. Second, the Aaronic priests were continually offering for the sins of the people. By contrast, Christ offered “once for all” when He “offered up himself”. The work of Christ on the cross is the supreme sacrifice that forever satisfied the claims of God and the needs of man. It is the ultimate expression of His sinlessness. A perfect man offered a perfect sacrifice: He gave Himself. Notice that the sacrifice of Calvary was not in itself a priestly work, because the priesthood of Christ did not begin until He was ascended and glorified. However, the sacrifice of Calvary shows Christ to be in Himself far superior to the earthly priests whose continual work could never meet the needs of the people. In summary, the law established earthly priests that were inherently defective, but the sworn oath of Psalm 110:4 established a heavenly priest, the Son, who is “perfected for ever”. This is the high priest that becomes us. We, the holy brethren and partakers of a heavenly calling, are given a priest who is already perfected or glorified! What grace, that such a statement could be made about us!
 
  1. In the Millennium Christ will still function in the Aaronic character for the saints on earth, but the additional function of His Melchisedec character will be added!
  2. But of the two the religious rival is the more dangerous, because it has more seeming devotedness and humility, and so appeals, however groundlessly, to conscience instead of to mere mind. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  3. What is really meant here is “the word of the beginning of Christ,” that which was revealed in the days of His flesh and in due time recorded as His ministry in the Gospels. To limit the soul to this, perfect as it was in its season and in itself, is to do without that blessed use of His redemption and heavenly headship which the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to preach and teach, and which we have permanently in the apostolic writings. His cross totally changed the standing of the believer. To ignore this is in fact to stop short of full and proper Christianity, to remain infants, where the Lord would have His own to reach their majority. Let us not slight the riches of His grace. – Kelly, W. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  4. … the weak notions of Christ which a Jew or a Pharisee could have understood and admitted, “let us go on to perfection,” receiving the testimony of God respecting the Christ whom He has raised to a heavenly glory. Why cleave to these Jewish notions when in possession of the precious revelations which belong to the heavenly calling? – Darby, J.N. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  5. Take again yet lower things, “of doctrine of washings and imposition of hands.” These had their place, as we know, and many heed them much now as then, external though they are and in no way perfecting the worshipper as touching the conscience. The “washings” may include John’s baptism, or that of the disciples, though the word slightly differs in its form; and the laying on of hands was certainly an ancient sign of blessing, which we see practised in various ways even after the gospel. But those whose hearts dwell in such signs and set not their mind on things above betray the symptoms of their infantine condition. God has provided some better thing for us. They are among the things whatever their teaching might be, which the light of the glory now revealed in Christ leaves in the shade. – Kelly, W. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  6. 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. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  7. What then, we ask again, was it that Abraham received? We think ver. 14 of our chapter clears that up. The sacred writer, it will be perceived, quotes only part of the angel’s words which were addressed to the patriarch on Mount Moriah, and stops at “multiplying I will multiply thee.” Was it simply for brevity’s sake that the Apostle stopped there? We think not. Of course, as we recall to mind that incident in Abraham’s history, we can never forget the rest of the angelic communication, interested as we all are in it. But may not our author have meant, by stopping at “multiply thee,” to draw attention to this one promise as apart from the rest? Now in measure Abraham did see this promise in process of fulfilment. For when he saw the twin children, Esau and Jacob, Isaac being then sixty years old, he could say that the multiplying had begun. Yet patiently had he to wait for many a year even for that. But those two then born were the earnest, as the prophetic announcement made to Rebekah before their birth declared, that nations would in time appear. Their birth was the earnest of all that was to follow. So he obtained the promise — the promise, let us mark, not promises. He obtained that after years of patient endurance. – Stuart, C.E. The Old Faith or the New — Which?
  8. Although not yet functioning in the character of Melchisedec (Millennial), He functions in the character of Aaron, but He Himself is after the order of Melchisedec.
  9. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people despised the priesthood and then had to find out that the priesthood was the only thing standing between them and death. In chapter 17 we find more positively the Lord showing the people by Aaron’s rod that budded, grew flowers, etc. that the one thing they ought to value and appreciate above all others was the priesthood.

Hebrews 8:1 - 10:18

 
Christ is Superior to Israel’s System: A Better Covenant, Sanctuary, Sacrifice
Hebrews 8:1 – 10:18
 
Hebrews 8 – 10. What we have in these chapters is a continuation of what we had in Hebrews 5 – 7. In the previous three chapters the emphasis was on the greatness and personal dignity of Christ as our great High Priest in contrast with Aaron. That having been thoroughly established, the writer of Hebrews goes on to a broader subject. He compares what Christians have in and through Christ to the entire Jewish system. He takes up the ministry of Christ compared with Aaron’s, the better covenant of which Christ is Mediator in contrast with the Old, the sanctuary in which Christ serves in comparison with the earthly sanctuary, and the sacrifice that Christ has offered in comparison with the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Christ’s priesthood is still germane in this next section, but the emphasis shifts to a different aspect. In the previous three chapters the emphasis is on Christ as our Intercessor, ever living at God’s right hand for us. In the next three chapters the emphasis is on Christ as Minister of the Sanctuary, bringing us near to God. As such, the emphasis changes from the Person of Christ to the Work of Christ, although we certainly get both all throughout.
 
 

A Better Ministry (8:1-13)

CHAPTER 8
Now a summary of the things of which we are speaking is, We have such a one high priest who has sat down on the right hand of the throne of the greatness in the heavens; 2 minister of the holy places and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord has pitched, and not man. vv.1-2 A Summary: A High Priest in Heaven. The writer gives a summary of the doctrine up to this point concerning Christ. Instead of numerous, imperfect, earthly priests standing daily to minister in the earthly Tabernacle, we have one quintessential High Priest who has sat down at the right hand of God in heaven. The focus is really on the place and sphere of His ministry as High Priest. The earthly priests were themselves at a distance from God, but Christ is in the very nearest place, having “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the greatness in the heavens” (even stronger than Heb. 1:3). Christ is said to be “minister of the holy places and of the true tabernacle”, not that the old holy places and tabernacle were untrue, but simply that they were earthly representations of the heavenly reality. Jehovah caused the glory cloud to come down over the Tabernacle as a symbol of His presence on earth. However, God’s true dwelling place is not in a tent pitched by men, but in heaven above. And it is there, in heaven, the true holy place and true Tabernacle, where Christ functions as our great High Priest!
 
3 For every high priest is constituted for the offering both of gifts and sacrifices; whence it is needful that this one also should have something which he may offer. 4 If then indeed he were upon earth, he would not even be a priest, there being those who offer the gifts according to the law, 5 (who serve the representation and shadow of heavenly things, according as Moses was oracularly told when about to make the tabernacle; for “See,” saith He, “that thou make all things according to the pattern which has been shewn to thee in the mountain.” [Exodus 25:40]) vv.3-5 A Heavenly Ministry. The fact that Christ’s priesthood is carried out in heaven implies that there is a change in the principle on which the priesthood is based. This is borne out in the following argument. First, as a high priest, Christ must do what all high priests do, i.e. offering gifts and sacrifices on behalf of men to God (v.3). Second, because there were already priests on earth offering sacrifices according to the law, for Him to do so would conflict with that priesthood. This progression of thought supports the point that Christ’s priesthood is heavenly, and did not begin until He was seated above. The experiences of Christ as a man below fitted Him to be our sympathetic High Priest, and the work of the cross fulfilled and surpassed the sacrifices that were offered, but those things do not make up the priesthood of Christ. He could not be a priest if He remained on earth (v.4). Jesus’ priesthood began when He was glorified at God’s right hand. In v.5 we have a parenthetical statement that explains the relation between the earthly ministry of the tabernacle and the heavenly ministry of Christ. The tabernacle and its service is “the representation and shadow of heavenly things”. To support this, the writer quotes from Exodus 25 where the Lord warned Moses (about to commence building the tabernacle) to diligently follow “the pattern which has been shewn to thee in the mountain”. The fact that the tabernacle was built following a pattern showed Moses on the mountain proves that it is only a representation and shadow of heavenly things that are far greater! We tend to think of what we can see with human eyes as “more real”, but actually what is unseen is more real (2 Cor. 4:18). What is more real, that which Moses built as an earthly replica, or the heavenly pattern itself? This will be further developed in ch.9.
 
6 But now he has got a more excellent ministry, by so much as he is mediator of a better covenant, which is established on the footing of better promises. 7 For if that first was faultless, place had not been sought for a second. 8 For finding fault, he says to them, “Behold, days come, saith the Lord, and I will consummate a new covenant as regards the house of Israel, and as regards the house of Juda9 not according to the covenant which I made to their fathers in the day of my taking their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because “they” did not continue in my covenant, and “I” did not regard them, saith the Lord. 10 Because this is the covenant that I will covenant to the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: Giving my laws into their mind, I will write them also upon their hearts; and I will be to them for God, and “they” shall be to me for people. 11 And they shall not teach each his fellow-citizen, and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord; because all shall know me in themselves, from the little one among them unto the great among them. 12 Because I will be merciful to their unrighteousnesses, and their sins and their lawlessnesses I will never remember any more.” [Jeremiah 31:31-34] 13 In that he says New, he has made the first old; but that which grows old and aged is near disappearing. vv.6-13 Mediator of a Better Covenant. Not only does Christ function as High Priest from heaven, but He has an entirely different ministry, which is “more excellent”! His ministry is according to “a better covenant”, which is the “New Covenant” described in the quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34. A covenant is an agreement between two parties, and in scripture, God’s covenants with man govern the relationship in which man can approach Him. Christ is the mediator of the promised New Covenant, “which is established on the footing of better promises”. The “better promises” are those that are unconditional, characterized by grace (simply “I will”, in contrast with the Old Covenant which said “if you… then I will”). The Spirit of God shows the “fault” or inferiority of the Old Covenant in that He promised a New Covenant. Israel’s blessing could not be achieved under a covenant that depended on their own faithfulness. Israel’s future blessing is dependent on the New Covenant and its unconditional promises. The fact that Christ is the mediator of that New Covenant, which antiquates the Old, further shows that He is superior to the entire Jewish system, and that the Hebrews ought to leave that system entirely! Why were some of them still clinging to the Old? The earthly center of that Old Covenant was about to be destroyed. Note that it doesn’t say Christians are under the New Covenant, as Covenant Theologians would allege. Rather, the writer reasons from the fact that God promised a New Covenant, and that Christ is the Mediator of it.
 
The New Covenant.

The two great Covenants have to do with Israel, not the Church, as we clearly see from Rom. 9:4; "... Israelites; to whom pertaineth ... the covenants". Covenant theologians argue that the New Covenant is with the Church; but if we look at Jeremiah 31:31 we find that the New Covenant will be made with "the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah". The covenants are with Israel and for the earth. The Church is heavenly, and called out of the earth. If we compare the two covenants we will see striking differences:

 
  Old Covenant New Covenant
Made with: Israel at Sinai in the wilderness Israel and Judah in the Millennium
Character: Blessings or cursings conditional upon Israel's obedience Unconditional blessings
Blessings:
  • Long life on earth
  • Protection from enemies
  • To remain in the land
  • Crops and herds, etc.
  • New birth
  • Personal knowledge of the Lord
  • Forgiveness of sins
A system of: Demand (works) Supply (grace)
 

The great difference between the two covenants is that the Old was on the basis of works, and the New is on the basis of grace. The language of the Old is "if thou shalt ... then I will...", but the language of the New is just "I will...". The prophecy of Jeremiah 31 was given after the utter failure of Israel under the Old Covenant was manifest, which set God on His part free to make a New Covenant. On the people's part, the cross must come in first, because it was necessary to transfer the issue of their responsibility to Israel's smitten Messiah. The guilt of breaking the Old must be cleared before the New could be established. Therefore, we can see that the death of Christ was needed to "take away the first and establish the second" (Heb. 10:9). If the New Covenant is made with Israel, why does the cup in the Lord's Supper represent "the blood of the New Covenant" (1 Cor. 11:25, etc.)? If we look at the blessings of the New Covenant we will see that Christians have those same blessings in Christianity, although we also have many blessings that go far beyond those of the New Covenant (Eph. 1; blessings "in Christ"). Therefore, it can be said that Christians share the blessings of the New Covenant, without being formally under the covenant. Paul clearly says that Christians are "competent, as ministers of the new covenant" (2 Cor. 3:6) although we are not under it as a binding contract; "not of letter, but of spirit". The spirit of the New Covenant is grace, and that is what characterizes our relationship to God in Christianity. The same blood that has secured the New Covenant blessings for future Israel has secured our blessings in Christianity today.

 

A Better Sanctuary (9:1-12)

CHAPTER 9
The first therefore also indeed had ordinances of service, and the sanctuary, a worldly one. 2 For a tabernacle was set up; the first, in which were both the candlestick and the table and the exposition of the loaves, which is called Holy; 3 but after the second veil a tabernacle which is called Holy of holies, 4 having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant, covered round in every part with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, and the rod of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tables of the covenant; 5 and above over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; concerning which it is not now the time to speak in detail. vv.1-5 The Worldly Sanctuary. The old covenant had a sanctuary associated with it, but it was “a worldly one”. Notice that the tabernacle is in view in Hebrews rather than the temple because we are in the wilderness in Hebrews. The temple represents the presence of God when the saints are at rest (at times a picture of the Millennium), and thus when the ark was set in the temple we read it contained neither the golden pot with manna nor Aaron’s rod that budded (2 Chron. 5:10); i.e. things that pertain to the wilderness are left out. The parts and furniture of the tabernacle are now unfolded. Coming into the tabernacle through the first veil one would enter the place called “Holy”, where they would see the table of showbread, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense which remarkably is omitted. Inside the second veil one would enter the “Holy of holies”, which contained the ark of the covenant, and the “golden censer”. The censer was used in making atonement, and it would be brought in by the High Priest once a year when he approached the Ark to make atonement for the people. We gather from the omission of the golden altar and the inclusion of the golden censer that the writer is giving a snapshot the tabernacle on the day of atonement. The golden censer would do the function of the golden altar (produce sweet clouds of incense) only it could be carried into the holy of holies. Further details of the “ark of the covenant” are given, its gold covering, the three items that were contained inside, and the mercy seat above, overshadowed by the two cherubim of glory”. All of this was vague, suited to the old creation, supported by the old covenant, and in no way capable of bringing the soul near to God. The writer of Hebrews does not dismiss the value of the details and meaning of the various elements, only he must pass over them for the sake of time (v.5), and instead focus on the system as a whole in contrast with Christianity. Read more…
 
 
6 Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle the priests enter at all times, accomplishing the services; 7 but into the second, the high priest only, once a year, not without blood, which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people: 8 the Holy Spirit shewing this, that the way of the holy of holies has not yet been made manifest while as yet the first tabernacle has its standing; 9 the which is an image for the present time, according to which both gifts and sacrifices, unable to perfect as to conscience him that worshipped, are offered, 10 consisting only of meats and drinks and divers washings, ordinances of flesh, imposed until the time of setting things right. vv.6-9 The Shortcomings of the Earthly Sanctuary. The writer now unfolds the shortcomings of the earthly tabernacle. There were two great shortcomings: first to do with access, and second to do with representation. Into the “first tabernacle” or holy place many priests could enter “at all times”, performing the various services of the tabernacle, such as lighting the candlestick, offering incense, and presenting the loaves. But the “second” tabernacle, or inner chamber, called “the holy of holies”, was off-limits to the priests with one exception. The veil with its cherubim guarded that place, which represented God’s immediate presence. Only one could enter there (the high priest), only once a year (on the day of atonement), and he must come with blood to offer “for himself and for the errors of the people”.1 In this way, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that access into the immediate presence of God was not yet opened in the Old Testament while the Tabernacle was functioning. This was the greatest limitation of Judaism: the soul was left at a distance from God. Secondly, the earthly tabernacle was but a representation or “image for the present time”, and the material things that pertained to that tabernacle including animal sacrifices, meats, drinks, washings, and various ordinances could not fully cleanse the conscience before God. That whole system was but a type, imposed by God on a temporary basis, until a better approach to God could be opened up. He calls this time, described in vv.11-12 as “the time of setting things right”. This refers to Israel in the future under the New Covenant, but includes Christianity too.2 How foolish to cling to that system which was imposed before things were set right?
 
How Far Could Old Testament Saints Come? We might wonder after hearing this comparison between the earthly sanctuary and what we have in Christianity, how does this shape our understanding of the portion of the Old Testament saints in approaching God? Surely, they had the privilege of prayer, as many examples would show. Some even enjoyed communion with God, as we see with Abraham and David. But it was often God coming to seek them, rather than them boldly entering His presence with free access. Further, they did not have a purged conscience, because the work of the cross was not yet accomplished. When it comes to worship, only a soul with a purged conscience can draw near into the presence of God in the appreciation of His revealed character (as both light and love) and commune with Him about the Person and Work of His Son! Godly Israelites knew God as Jehovah, but we have access to the Father! There is a vast difference between the limited access the Old Testament saints had with what the Christian has today. But do we appreciate it? Do we spend time in that place where no Old Testament saint would dare to set foot: in what answers to the holiest of all?
 
11 But Christ being come high priest of the good things to come, by the better and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, (that is, not of this creation,) 12 nor by blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, has entered in once for all into the holy of holies, having found an eternal redemption. vv.11-12 Christ in the True Sanctuary. The new approach to God was opened up by none other than Christ Himself, who in contrast with the high priests of Israel is called “high priest of the good things to come”, alluding to the blessings of the New Covenant. The good things to come look on to the Millennium, but we enjoy them today.3 In contrast with the Aaronic priests who entered an earthly tabernacle made with hands and suitable to this old material creation, Christ entered heaven itself, “the better and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands”. The high priest of old went within the veil on the day of atonement “by blood of goats and calves” to obtain a temporary “passing over” Israel’s sin, but Christ entered “once for all into the holy of holies” in virtue of “his own blood” which has obtained “an eternal redemption”. Animal blood is contrasted with Christ’s blood, year-by-year action with once-for-all action, temporary atonement with eternal redemption. When it says Christ entered “by His own blood” it does not mean that Christ entered heaven with His own blood to make atonement there. Instead, atonement was made on the cross in the suffering and death of Christ (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:6), and the shed blood of Christ contained all the value of that work before the eye of God. In ascension and glorification, Christ entered heaven as our great High Priest, and He entered by or through His own blood, on the basis of eternal redemption already accomplished.4 This introduction of the sacrifice of Christ opens into a wider treatment of the same precious subject in Heb. 9:13 – 10:18.
 
A Heavenly Sanctuary. We don’t have earthly sanctuary in Christianity according to scripture, and yet Christendom has borrowed so much from Judaism that we can see many similarities to it (candles, altars, special priesthood, etc.) including an earthly place of worship. The New Testament makes very clear where the Christian is to worship, and it is not a physical location, as Jesus told the woman at the well of Sychar; “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:22-23). Hebrews opens up the true place of worship; “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19-20). No matter where a person is located physically, they can look up to God in prayer and find themselves there, in the holiest of all, in the immediate presence of God without fear and with consciousness of the favor wherein they stand.
 

A Better Sacrifice (9:13 – 10:18)

The Sacrifice of Christ. Having introduced the subject of the “better sacrifice” of Christ in v.12, the writer of Hebrews now enters on that subject directly, showing the parallels and contrasts with the sacrifices of Israel’s earthly system. All blessing for man comes always and only through the death and blood of Christ. All the death and blood of Old Testament sacrifices had a ceremonial application, but no efficacy to remove sin or give the conscience peace.

The Necessity and Results of Christ’s Death and Shed Blood (9:13-28)

What We Have Through the Blood (vv.13-23)

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and a heifer’s ashes sprinkling the defiled, sanctifies for the purity of the flesh, 14 how much rather shall the blood of the Christ, who by the eternal Spirit offered himself spotless to God, purify your conscience from dead works to worship the living God? vv.13-14 To Give A Purged Conscience. Now we have a comparison (“how much rather”) between the ceremonial purification of Israel’s sacrifices with the purification of the conscience that we have through the blood of Christ. The blood of goats and bulls is seen in the sacrifices of the day of atonement, but the ashes of a heifer has to do with the purification of defilement in the red heifer offering (Numbers 19). One tremendous result of the work of Christ is seen in v.14. The because of the shed blood of Christ the believer has the knowledge of a finished atonement, and therefore a conscience that is purged as regards their sins (Heb. 10:2). A purged conscience has to do with the peace that the believer has concerning his standing judicially before God (Rom. 5:1). A person who is unsure of their salvation does not have a purged conscience. A good conscience has more to do with our state (1 Tim. 1:5, 19), and it is important to maintain it through self-judgment. The sacrifice of Christ is described in unique language; “by the eternal Spirit offered himself spotless to God”. What is described is what Christ did as a man, but according to and by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three Persons are involved in that sacrifice. He gave Himself, offering His whole person up to God, to meet whatever requirements His holiness and glory demanded. This is like the burnt offering! The Spirit is called “eternal” here, in contrast with the transitory character of the earthly system, but it also shows the eternal existence and deity of the Spirit of God. In a parallel way to the offering of sacrifices in the Old Testament, Christ offered what no other could – Himself – as a spotless sacrifice to God. He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). It is the efficacy of that supreme offering that has purged the believer’s conscience “from dead works” and made him fit “to worship the living God”.
 
15 And for this reason he is mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having taken place for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, the called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 (For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must needs come in. 17 For a testament is of force when men are dead, since it is in no way of force while the testator is alive.) vv.15-17 To Give Us An Eternal Inheritance. There had to be a dealing with the sins that were committed under the Old Covenant in order for the blessings of the New Covenant to be mediated our by Christ. His death on the cross was in part “for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant”; the transgressions of Jews under law, much like these Hebrews, to redeem them from its curse (Rom. 3:25; Gal. 3:13). The death of Christ answered the moral obligation of the Old Covenant, and thus established its authority to the utmost, but set God free (if we can use the expression) to unleash His heart of love and grace, causing the saints to “receive the promise of the eternal inheritance”. There was nothing in Jeremiah about a mediator of the New Covenant, but we have it here: the dead of Christ laid the foundation for its blessings. Even in natural things, for an inheritance to be passed on there must be a death. The person who holds the will must die in order for that will to be executed. So in spiritual things, in order for us to receive “an eternal inheritance”, there had to be the death the testator. This brings out the blessedness of the death of Christ; He died and left us the blessing! Christ died to give us the inheritance, but then in resurrection He shares it with us! The “eternal inheritance” here would be first the blessings of the New Covenant including salvation, but for Christians it goes further to include all our spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3-7; Col. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:4).
 
Testament vs. Covenant. It can be a little hard to follow the use of the Greek word ‘diathemeke’ sometimes used to mean ‘covenant’ and sometimes ‘testament’ (or will), and ‘diathemenos’ (‘covenanter’), translated testator. It is helpful to see that vv.16-17 is a parenthesis following the word ‘inheritance’, which connects more with a testament than a covenant.5 The switch from covenant to testament is upon the mention of the inheritance. Another reason is that what is said of testaments in vv.16-17 is not true of covenants and what is said in vv.18-22 is not true of testaments; i.e. death has nothing to do with a covenant coming into force, and blood-shedding has nothing to do with a testament. This more than implies a change in vv.16-17. 
 
The Blood of Christ. Blood in scripture is always connected with death, because, as we read in Lev. 17:11, "the life of the flesh is in the blood". Blood can sometimes be a symbol of death generally, usually as a judgment, of life being taken, like the river of Egypt turned to blood. But in a sacrifice the blood speaks of the value of the life offered up. Hence, on the cross the Lord suffered, died, and then His blood was shed. The shed blood of Christ contained all the value of His sufferings and of His life offered up. In the Old Testament we have the blood mentioned in connection with three purposes.6 Blood is used: (1) to seal a covenant made, (2) to cleanse or purify, and (3) to remit sins. There is a fulfillment of each of these in connection with the blood of Christ!
 
18 Whence neither the first was inaugurated without blood. 19 For every commandment having been spoken according to the law by Moses to all the people; having taken the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, he sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined to you.” [Exodus 24:8] 21 And the tabernacle too and all the vessels of service he sprinkled in like manner with blood; 22 and almost all things are purified with blood according to the law, and without blood-shedding there is no remission. vv.18-22 The Necessity of Shed Blood. Here we have the three great uses of the blood under the Mosaic economy.
  1. First, the blood was used to inaugurate the Old Covenant. In Exodus 24, after Moses had read the law to the people, and the people had agreed to keep it (Ex. 24:3), Moses took blood and sprinkled the book and the people, stating “This is the blood of the covenant which God has enjoined to you.” The blood in this way inaugurated the Old Covenant, and formally placed the people under it. In a parallel way, the blood of Christ has been shed so that Israel, when the New Covenant is made with them, will come under its blessings. We as Christians already enter into the blessings of that covenant without being under it. This is why the cup in the Lord’s Supper represents “the blood of the New Covenant” (1 Cor. 11:25, etc.), because that blood that has secured the New Covenant blessings for future Israel, as well as our blessings in Christianity today. The blood of sprinkling at Sinai was a solemn warning of death if Israel disobeyed, whereas the blood of Christ speaks of grace and blessing. It is interesting that some of the details recorded here are not mentioned in Exodus. We read nothing of the water, scarlet wool, or hyssop at the inauguration of the Old Covenant, but all three are found in the cleansing of the leper (Lev. 14) and in the cleansing of contact with death, or the red heifer offering (Num. 19). Obviously they were involved at Sinai, but not recorded in Exodus.
  2. Second, the blood was used for purification; “the tabernacle too and all the vessels of service he sprinkled in like manner with blood; and almost all things are purified with blood according to the law”. It is clearly as distinct aspect from the inauguration of the covenant, because the tabernacle and vessels were not then built! This “sprinkling” in v.21 alludes to the Day of Atonement when Aaron, at Moses’ direction, would “make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel”, and this was done by the sprinkling of blood (Lev 16:16-20). This sprinkling was done to guard against any defilement of the meeting place which man, on his part, might bring in. This aspect is taken up further in v.23. It is added that “almost all things are purified with blood according to the law”. In the Old Testament things were purified sometimes by water, which represents moral cleansing, but sometimes by blood, which represents a judicial cleansing. Jesus came by water and blood (1 John 5:6). Even if something cannot be charged with guilt, it can still be defiled by sin, and thus needs purification.
  3. Third, the blood was used in the remission of sins. This final aspect of the blood is the greatest; “and without blood-shedding there is no remission”. Remission of sins means the cancelling of the guilt of sins. The word remit means ‘to cancel or refrain from exacting or inflicting a debt or punishment’. It is the moral foundation for the forgiveness of sins; the blood of Christ has been “shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The offering of Christ vindicated and glorified the nature of God in respect to sin, and this set God at liberty to cancel the the guilt of those who come to Christ in faith, and bless them according to His own purpose of love. The sacrifices under the Old Covenant could only remit sins in a ceremonial way, and thus the veil remained under that system. Only the sacrifice of Christ and His precious blood has efficacy to remit sins judicially before God. Not until the blood of Christ was sprinkled before the eye of God could that veil be rent and the believer invited to draw near!
23 It was necessary then that the figurative representations of the things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with sacrifices better than these. v.23 The Heavens Purified by Better Sacrifices. Expanding more on v.21, the writer explains that the sacrifice and blood of Christ had far reaching effects that extend all the way to the created universe! The tabernacle and vessels that were sprinkled with blood are “the figurative representations of the things in the heavens”. The layout of the tabernacle is also taken up in Hebrews as typical of heaven in three aspects . The outer court of the tabernacle represents the first or physical heaven (Psa. 19:1; Gen. 1:14-17; Heb. 3:4), the first veil opened into “the holy place” representing the second or spiritual heaven (Eph. 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; Eph. 6:12), and the second veil opened into “the holiest of all” representing the third or eternal heaven which is the immediate presence of God (2 Cor. 12). Jesus as our great High Priest has passed “through the heavens” – as in type Aaron on the Day of Atonement passed through the outer court and holy place – and is seated at the right hand of God! But the point here is that there are things that sin has defiled, in the first and second heavens, that are purified by the blood of Christ. Sin has infected the physical creation, and we know that in the spiritual realm Satan has his stronghold (Eph. 6:12). Job tells us that “the heavens are not clean in his sight” (Job 15:15). If the blood of bulls and goats purified the figurative representations, then it required “better sacrifices” to purify the heavenly things! Thus John the Baptist could consider Christ with admiration, and say “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Notice it is sin, not sins; i.e. the whole issue of sin in general, as in v.26. This introduces the widest aspect of the death of Christ, in which He tasted death “for every thing” (Hebrews 2:9). The blood of Christ becomes the foundation for the reconciliation of all things to Himself, “whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens” (Col. 1:20). Read more… Truly, the better sacrifices refer (in the plural) to the one sacrifice of Christ!

Three Appearances of Christ (vv.24-28)

Three Appearances of Christ. In what follows to the end of the chapter, there are three appearances of Christ mentioned: to earth at His first coming (v.26), in heaven now (v.24), and to earth at His second coming (v.28). In these three appearances of Christ we have three aspects of salvation. Our past salvation is connected with His death and resurrection (Heb. 9:25-28a). Our present salvation is connected with His life now glorified at God’s right hand (Heb. 9:24). Our future salvation is connected with His coming again (Heb. 9:28b)! Read more…
  
24 For the Christ is not entered into holy places made with hand, figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: v.24 His Appearing in Heaven (Present). The first appearing that is mentioned is that of the present time; Christ appears now in “heaven itself… before the face of God for us”. This is the central truth of the book of Hebrews, that Christ as a glorified man is seating at God’s right hand in heaven! This is a contrast to the high priest on the day of atonement who passed through the outer court and sanctuary into the holiest of all. Those were “holy places made with hand” and only “figures of the true”. Christ as a man has actually gone into the third heaven itself; the place were God dwells. Notice that His appearing in heaven is “for us”; i.e. on our behalf. In that place He intercedes for us, conducts our worship, and represents us before God (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). His being there secures our position and future destiny, but also gives us grace for the wilderness path. Another has said, “There He is for us before God in all the efficacy of His work, in all the acceptance of His person.”7
 
25 nor in order that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy places every year with blood not his own; 26 since he had then been obliged often to suffer from the foundation of the world. But now once in the consummation of the ages he has been manifested for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice. vv.24-26 His Appearing to Put Away Sin (Past). The next appearing mentioned is that of Christ’s appearing in this world to put away sin. The emphasis is that Christ appeared “once” to put away sin, in contrast with the high priest under the old covenant who had to come with blood repeatedly. If Christ’s one offering was not enough to vindicate God’s nature and settle the issue of sin, that Christ would have been obliged to suffer often. But we know that He came and suffered only once, showing that the matter has been settled once-for-all. The issue is viewed from the broadest standpoint. It is the putting away of sin in its totality – the issue as a whole – from before God. To do this required the most complete sacrifice; “the sacrifice of Himself”. This is the highest aspect of the work of Christ. Here it is the putting away of sin judicially before God, but that sacrifice laid the foundation for what will be accomplished in actual fact when God makes a new heavens and earth; “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
 
The Consummation of the Ages. The “consummation of the ages” refers to the time at which the outcome the ages are made known. The outcome of all the times of the testing of the first man is seen at the cross. The outcome determined is that the first man is proved a complete failure after 4000 years of testing. So, once in the consummation of the ages Christ has been manifested “for the putting away of sin by his sacrifice”. The Second Man appeared to put right and glorify God in all that the first man has ruined. The “end of the ages” (1 Cor. 10:11) is the moral outcome of the ages, and we are living in that light of that today; we have all the accumulated light of the ages in view! When you get the expression “consummation of the ages” or “ends of the ages” it isn’t talking about the days of end-times prophecy but a moral end or outcome of the testing of the first man.89 Read more… 
 
27 And forasmuch as it is the portion of men once to die, and after this judgment; 28 thus the Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear to those that look for him the second time without sin for salvation. vv.27-28 His Second Coming (Future). Now we have that third appearing, this time in the future. It refers to the second coming of Christ to this world, specifically the aspect of His coming that is for His saints; i.e. the rapture. These verses contrast the portion of men apart from Christ (death) with the portion of those who belong to Christ (salvation). Because of our sins, “it is the portion of men once to die, and after this judgment”. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and then eternal judgment (Rom. 2:5). For believers, the work of Christ has dealt with the issue of judgment; He had “been once offered to bear the sins of many”. Our sins have been put away, and though we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, the issue of our sins will never be raised. But further, we have been given a different hope. Not all believers will keep their appointment with death; “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” (1 Cor. 15:51). Those who look for the Savior when He comes will be taken without passing through the article of death, like Enoch who “was translated that he should not see death” (Heb. 11:5). The salvation spoken of here is in the future sense; as something that we will receive at the end of our pathway (Rom. 5:9; Rom. 13:11; Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 Thess. 5:8-9).

The Believer Perfected by the Sacrifice of Christ (10:1-18)

Hebrews 10. In the tenth chapter we are coming to the close of the main doctrinal part of the epistle, and with v.19 the practical section begins. The Spirit of God is pressing home the vast importance of the Person and Work of Christ, especially in comparison to the Jewish system. The first eighteen verses unfold how the believer has been perfected by the sacrifice of Christ, which the law was incapable of doing. In vv.1-4 we have the weakness of the law, in vv.5-10 the will of God, in vv.11-14 the work of Christ, and in vv.15-18 the witness of the Spirit.10

The Weakness of the Law and Its Sacrifices (vv.1-4)

CHAPTER 10
For the law, having a shadow of the coming good things, not the image itself of the things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually yearly, perfect those who approach. v.1 The Law. The writer now summarizes all that he has explained regarding the law. The law had “a shadow of the coming good things”, in the types of the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices, but these shadows were far inferior to the heavenly realities they represented. Furthermore, the yearly sacrifices (the day of atonement in view) had no efficacy to “perfect” those who approached God by the law. The evidence for this is given in vv.2-3, and the reason is given in v.4. 
 
2 Since, would they not indeed have ceased being offered, on account of the worshippers once purged having no longer any conscience of sins? 3 But in these there is a calling to mind of sins yearly. vv.2-3 Evidence of the Powerlessness of the Law. The evidence that the law and all its sacrifices could not purge the guilt of sins is seen in that (1) the consciences of the worshippers were never actually purged, except in a ceremonial sense, and (2) the sacrifices had to be repeated yearly, bringing up the issue of the people’s sins time and time again. As we noted in Heb. 9:13-14, a purged conscience has to do with the peace that the believer has concerning his standing judicially before God (Rom. 5:1). A person who is unsure of their salvation does not have a purged conscience. The purged conscience should not be confused with a good conscience, which has more to do with our state (1 Tim. 1:5, 19), and it is important to maintain it through self-judgment. Laying hold of the work of Christ alone is what gives us a purged conscience. Someone who is approaching God on the basis of their own works, whether in Judaism or in some works-based perversion of Christianity, can never have a purged conscience.
 
4 For blood of bulls and goats is incapable of taking away sins. v.4 Insufficiency of Animal Blood. The reason is now given why the sacrifices under the law could not purge the sinner’s conscience; the “blood of bulls and goats is incapable of taking away sins”. To understand this better, it is helpful to see the reason that God required a sacrifice of blood. God required a life to be given, and blood to be shed, but those of an animal could not suffice. The Jewish sacrifices looked on to the one sacrifice of Christ, which alone could take away sin!
 
Necessity of Jesus' Blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). The life of a body of flesh is contained in its blood. When Adam sinned he forfeited his life, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17; see Rom. 6:23). Once sin has come in there is no way to set man on another footing before a holy and righteous God apart from a life being given. Hence, God required the sacrifice of blood. But the life of an animal could not redeem a man’s, other than in a ceremonial sense, as Hebrews 9 and 10 show (Heb. 9:12; 10:4). It must be a human life given in exchange for another human life. But “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), and so none could give himself a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), because that life is forfeited, and therefore not free to offer. It must be a sinless human life. Further, the one whose life was given must be a Divine person (Zechariah 13:7; 1 Timothy 2:5; Heb. 9:14; Ecc. 8:8; Eph. 5:2; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16). In incarnation, the Son became a man in order to be the sacrifice that God’s righteousness required; thus a body was prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5). On the cross He offered up His holy life in death, and shed His precious blood - blood that contained all the value of that life - before the eye of God, in order to bring us into a new standing before God! Hence the preciousness of the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:12; Heb. 10:19; 1 Pet. 1:19; 1 Jn. 1:7).

The Will of God: Accomplished by Christ (vv.5-10)

5 Wherefore coming into the world he says, “Sacrifice and offering thou willedst not; but thou hast prepared me a body. Thou tookest no pleasure in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin. Then I said, Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of me) to do, O God, thy will.” [Psalm 40:6-8] vv.5-7 The Coming of Christ as Sin-Bearer. The writer now quotes from Psalm 40, bringing out an exceedingly beautiful truth. The fact that this Psalm is quoted with the preface “Wherefore coming into the world he says..” shows that the words are spoken by Christ Himself as a man.
 
No Pleasure Therein. Concerning all the Jewish sacrifices under the law, God said that He took no pleasure in it. This might seem strange at first, but it is found in the Hebrew’s own scriptures. Notice that statement was made long before the testing of man was complete, showing that God’s displeasure with animal sacrifice was not a late development. What does it mean that God had no pleasure in the offerings? No doubt Jehovah was pleased with the obedience of those who offered, and with what the offerings represented (Christ). We read that the burnt-offerings were a “sweet smelling savor” unto the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The actual offerings smelled horrible to man (burning flesh, etc.), but they represented Christ, and so were a sweet-smelling savor to God. Yet here we find that in the actual sacrifices God had no pleasure. Instead, that whole Jewish system of sacrifice under the law has been completely replaced through the coming of Christ to fully accomplish the will of God; “Lo, I come to do thy will” (the thrust of vv.8-9).
 
The Volume of the Book. The words “in the volume of the book” refers to the end of a scroll, equivalent to the spine of a modern book. The title of a book would be written on the end of a scroll so that you could see the general contents of a book at-a-glance. Christ gives us a summary title that could be written over His whole life! His entire purpose on earth as a man was this, “Behold, I come… to do thy will O God”. His entire life is book-ended by that one, singular goal: to accomplish His Father’s business (Luke 2:49; John 19:30; Luke 23:46). It wasn’t mere willingness to do the will of God, but His “delight”. Here in the quotation in Hebrews the word “delight” is dropped because atoning suffering is in view; Christ could not find His delight in being made sin. The system of law was that of endless symbols and sacrifices which could never take away sin, offered for hearts that were reluctant to do God’s will. But when Christ came into the world, there was something that had never been seen before. Here was a Man who was totally here for the pleasure and interests of God! Every other man by nature walks according to his own will, but Christ was totally different (John 4:34).
 
A Body Prepared. The expression in v.5 refers to the incarnation; “a body hast thou prepared me”. This is the rendering as the Septuagint translation puts it, and as quoted by the writer of Hebrews, the Spirit of God gives it His approval. Why then in the Masoretic text is it translated “ears hast thou prepared me” or “mine ears hast thou digged”? Of course, forming an ear implies a whole body. It is because in this sense, in the context of what is being brought out in Psalm 40 by the Spirit of God, the ear of Christ was that which embodied His whole humanity. As the body of Christ was formed in the womb, the leading feature was His hearing ear! An ear that was “digged” refers to a man whose whole being was trained toward one object, of doing the good pleasure of God. But a body He must have in order to bear our sins (1 Pet. 2:24), to give that body in death (1 Cor. 11:24), and shed His precious blood for God’s satisfaction and our eternal blessing (1 Pet. 1:19).
 
The Digged, Opened, Pierced Ear. It is a very helpful study to look at the ear of Christ in the Old Testament prophecies. The ear of the Lord Jesus was: digged (prepared) at His incarnation (Psalm 40:6), opened morning by morning throughout His devoted life in daily dependence (Isaiah 50:4), pierced at His death (Exodus 21:6), showing that He was fully devoted to the obedience of God unto death, and to remain as a servant forever.1112
 
8 Above, saying “Sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou willedst not, neither tookest pleasure in” (which are offered according to the law); 9 then he said, “Lo, I come to do thy will.” He takes away the first that he may establish the second; vv.8-9 His Person and Work Replacing the Old System. Here Psalm 40 is quoted again, but the words are reordered slightly, and “thou hast prepared me a body” is omitted. The focus now is now on the whole Jewish system being replaced. Notice that we have four things listed which would encompass all the offerings of Leviticus 1 – 6; “Sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin”. After God had expressed His displeasure with that entire system, “then he said, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will.'” What he is getting at is explained in v.9; “He takes away the first, that he may establish the second”. The “first” is the old approach by Levitical sacrifices, and the “second” is the new and only approach to God by the sacrifice of Christ, who said “I am the way” (John 14:6). The Person and Work of Christ has completely replaced and set aside the whole order of Judaism, which in many ways pointed forward to the “coming good things” (v.1). What a powerful point for the Spirit of God to draw from Psalm 40 in addressing the Hebrews!
 
10 by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. v.10 Christ’s Offering. Having seen that Christ come in flesh to do the will of God, now we have what Christ did in order that God’s will toward us might be accomplished. The “which will” of v.10 is the will of God, the same as in v.7 and v.9, which Christ came to accomplish. God’s will was for His elect to be “sanctified” or set apart for a holy purpose. This is what we call positional sanctification; an aspect of sanctification that God does, and it can never be undone. Read more… There is a practical side of this which will later be taken up (Heb. 12:14). This inward and positional “sanctification” may be a contrast to the outward separation that characterized the Jew; i.e. that of circumcision, which set Israel apart for God. That blessed body which was prepared in the womb of Mary was offered on the cross. It was a “once for all” work, efficacious for the salvation of “all” who come to God by faith (Jews and Gentiles), and never to be repeated like the Levitical sacrifices.

The Work of Christ: Done Once For All (vv.11-14)

11 And every priest stands daily ministering, and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But “he”, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from henceforth until his enemies be set for the footstool of his feet. vv.11-13 Christ: Offered One Sacrifice, Seated in Perpetuity. Another great contrast between Judaism and the work of Christ is that the priests under the Old Covenant were continually standing, because their repetitive work was never done. In fact, when we read of the tabernacle furniture, we do not read of any seat for the priests to sit down on. We find that Eli, in a time of Israel’s ruin, had a seat outside the door. This was out of place because the priest’s work was never done.13 What marks Christ’s sacrifice as so distinct from all the others is that after it, He “sat down in perpetuity”. It signals the expiration of that whole system of repetitive sacrifices that were never enough. Christ took His seat at the right hand of God; sat down in the satisfaction of an accomplished work (v.12), and also in anticipation of future glory (v.13). How could there be the anticipation of coming glory, “waiting from henceforth until his enemies be set for the footstool of his feet” (ref. Psalm 110:1), if there was any question as to the acceptability of Christ or His finished work? Christ will rise from that seat in other enterprises (e.g. Acts 7:56), but never again to deal with the issue of sin.
 
14 For by one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified. v.14 Believers: By One Offering, Perfected in Perpetuity. Having shown that Christ is seated on the right hand of God in perpetuity, which testifies to the completeness and acceptability of His one-time offering, we have the blessed outflow of that for the believer: “by one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified”. That one offering was the completion of the work. God is satisfied and even glorified in His nature, and we are perfected through that same finished work. What the countless sacrifices over many centuries could not do, Christ did once for all, and then cried in a loud voice, “Finished!” (John 19:30, c.p. Mark 15:37). Now His acceptance is ours before God (Eph. 1:6). To be “perfected” by the offering of Christ is to be given a perfect standing and a purged conscience; no more dread of the presence of God. In another sense, our bodies also will be “perfected” at the rapture, when they are changed to be like Christ’s (Heb. 11:40; 12:23). We can see from these verses that any system that teaches a need for repetition of the work of Christ is erroneous. In vv.11-14 the believer’s acceptance is linked to the place that Christ has at God’s right hand!
 
And now we draw near to the throne of grace,
For His blood and the Priest are there;
And we joyfully seek God’s holy face,
With our censer of praise and prayer.
The burning mount and the mystic veil,
With our terrors and guilt, are gone;
Our conscience has peace that can never fail,
‘Tis the Lamb on high on the throne.

The Witness of the Spirit: The Work Is Done (vv.15-18)

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears us witness of it; for after what was said: 16 This is the covenant which I will establish towards them after those days, saith the Lord: Giving my laws into their hearts, I will write them also in their understandings;” 17 and “their sins and their lawlessnesses I will never remember any more.” [Jer. 31:33-34] 18 But where there is remission of these, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin. vv.15-18 The Witness of the Spirit. After having shown the weakness of the law (vv.1-4), the will of God that Christ came to accomplish (vv.5-10), the work of Christ and its blessed results (vv.11-14), now we have the witness of the Spirit, which testifies to these vital truths (vv.15-18). Another has said, “There is, first, the will of God – ” By which will,” etc. Second, the work whereby it is done – “By the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ, once for all.” … Third, there is the knowledge of it given to me. Without this my conscience is not purged. … I was full of sin; someone was needed to think about me, someone was needed to do the thing required, and then someone to tell me the effect”.14 Here we have the gracious witness of the Spirit to assure the believer that the work of atonement is indeed finished. We have the witness of the Spirit in a number of ways in scripture, and each reference has to do with giving the believer assurance. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), bears witness in us that God has given us eternal life (1 John 5:5-11), and bears witness to us that the work of atonement is finished once for all (Heb. 10:15). Here the witness of the Spirit is by the Word of God, and thus another quotation from Jeremiah 31, concerning the blessings of the new covenant. Notice the quote is partial. He quotes the part introducing the new covenant, then jumps to “after”, picking up on the forgiveness of sins. It is a contrast with “a remembrance of sins every year” (v.3) under the Old Covenant to, “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”. Clearly, the promise of a New Covenant looked on to a day when there would be “no longer a sacrifice for sin” (v.18) because the sins of Israel would be remitted, not remembered. Notice the carefulness of language. We as Christians are not under the New Covenant, but we have the blessedness of it. The witness of scripture, even in the Old Testament, was that a day was coming in which everything would rest on a finished work. Notice that it doesn’t say “forgotten”, because  forgetfulness is weakness. God doesn’t remember our sins in the sense that He doesn’t bring them up any more. The issue has been dealt with once and for all. What an assurance this is!
 
  1. Notice that it says “errors of the people”. The sin offerings of the Old Testament only covered “sins of ignorance” (Lev. 4:2, 13, 27; 5:15, 17), but provided no remedy for “presumptuous sins” (Num. 15:30-36). This also shows the shortcomings of that old system.
  2. “Certain things were imposed on them until the time of reformation. Christ came, ‘an High Priest of good things to come.’ What does that refer to? Some may find a difficulty as to whether ‘to come,’ refers to what was future for the Jews, while that tabernacle was standing, or to what is now future. I believe both. All was new in Christ. It was to come on a new foundation. The basis is laid for the entire and perfect reconciliation of man with God.” – Darby, J.N. Collected Writings, vol. 27, p. 385.
  3. …If these good things were now acquired, if it could be said, “we have them,” because Christianity was their fulfilment, it could hardly be still said — when Christianity was established — “good things to come.” They are yet to come. These “good things” consist of all that the Messiah will enjoy when He reigns. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  4. C.E. Stuart and W. Scott promoted an evil teaching that Christ entered heaven in the disembodied state to sprinkle his own blood before the throne of God. He twisted this verse (Heb. 9:12) to that end. However, a careful examination of the verse will reveal that it does not say Christ sprinkled His own blood. He entered heaven by it, but this was as a glorified man, and as our High Priest. The sacrifice of the cross was not a priestly sacrifice, and it forms no part of the priesthood of Christ, which began with His glorification.
  5. Heb. 9:16-17 is the sole passage of scripture which requires or even admits of such a sense; and it is there due to “eternal inheritance” in the verse immediately preceding. The word in itself is capable of either sense, meaning in human relations a disposition, especially of property by will, and in divine things a covenant, which naturally predominates in the LXX. and the N.T. The context decides with certainty. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  6. There are three aspects in which the value of Christ's blood is here seen. First, it was the seal of the covenant, connected with its dedication to God. That was also done in connection with the covenant with Abraham; Gen. 15. A person, binding himself to death in the most solemn way, passes through the pieces of the sacrifice. It was the seal of the covenant. Second, it is purifying. Third, the blood is for remission. - Darby, J.N. Exposition of Hebrews.
  7. Kelly, W. Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  8. The “end of the ages,” or “consummation of the ages,” are all the dealings of God with man to test his general condition. In this general sense the state of innocence came in; but the proper connection is what comes after the fall, yet not looking at man as lost, but testing his state and whether he was recoverable; or was lost and had to be saved. Without law; under law; God manifested in the flesh, were the great features of this [testing of the first man]. Hence in John 12 the Lord says, “Now is the judgment of this world.” Though there was testimony, there were no religious institutions before the flood, unless the fact of sacrifices. There were after: government; promises to Abraham, showing it was grace to one separated from an idolatrous world and head of a new race [not an accurate description]; the law; the prophets; and at last the Son as come, not as offered. Then God laid the foundation of His own purposes in righteousness. – Darby, J.N. Letters of J. N. Darby 3:442.
  9. The expression, “the ends of the ages,” which will be found in 1 Corinthians 10:11, is rather strange; but to preserve the sense of the Greek, we could not say, “the last times,” any more than “the end of the ages,” still less “the end of the world.” The end of the ages was not yet come; but all the different dispensations by which God had put Himself in relation with man, so far as they were connected with man’s responsibility, had come to one point, and were brought to an end in the death of the Lord Jesus. After that — great as had been His longsuffering — God established a new creation. We have therefore used the literal translation, “the ends of the ages.” – Darby, J.N. Collected Writings 13:169.
  10. We have had the will of God as the source of our salvation, and the Saviour’s work as the efficacious means. There now follows the no less indispensable witness of the Holy Spirit as the unfailing power of bringing our souls into the possession and knowledge of the blessing. Thus each person of the Godhead has His appropriate place, and all contribute to this end as worthy of God as it is needed by man. – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
  11. Here the ears "dug" express His incarnation, as "opened" (Isa. 50) His daily dependence, and "bored" (Ex. 21) His devotedness in death and forever. - Kelly, W. Notes on Psalms.
  12. I highly recommend the following address: Address by Chuck Hendricks, The Digged, Opened, Pierced Ear, Toledo 1987
  13. Notice that Eli later died by falling off a seat, although it was probably a different seat, “by the wayside… by the gate” (1 Sam. 4:13-18). He was never able to overcome his tendency for laziness: sitting when we first read of him, and sitting when he died (but then, “very heavy”).
  14. Darby, J. N. Collected Writings, vol. 27, p. 386

Hebrews 10:19-39

 
Practical: The Results of Christ’s Superiority in the Believer’s Life
Hebrews 10:19 – 13:17
 
Practical Section: “Let Us”. Now we come to the practical portion of the Epistle to the Hebrews. As with most epistles, the practical exhortations follow the doctrine, because right practice flows from right doctrine. Having considered the glories of Christ, His superiority over every element of Judaism, should He not have our full and unwavering devotion? Should He not have superiority in our lives? Do we allow Him to have that place practically? The exhortations do not take the shape of legal commands as Israel was used to under the Old Covenant. Instead of “thou shalt” we have the expression “let us”. The expression “let us” occurs no less than seven times from here to the end of the epistle! See Heb. 10:22, 23, 24; 12:1, 28; 13:13, 15. It begins with the exhortation to “draw near” inside the veil (ch.10) and closes with the exhortation to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” without the camp (ch.13). These exhortations are for things that our new natures long to do, but need instruction. Hence we need to learn these things then simply make room for the Spirit of God to act in and through us. This is what James calls “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25).
 
O U T L I N E
 
Exhortations That Flow From Access Into the Holiest
Hebrews 10:19-39
 
Hebrews 10:19-39. The fact that the Person and Work of Christ has granted us access into the very presence of God is a motivation for us to live in a way that would be pleasing to God. Hence we have a number of exhortations that flow from that, beginning with the exhortation to “draw near”. There is another warning against apostasy, followed by the principle that “the just shall live by faith”. This sets up the following chapter which is a digression into the life of faith.
 
 

Draw Near to God by Faith (10:19-22)

Christian Priesthood. The subject of the individual priesthood of the believer is found in the writings of Peter (1 Pet. 2:5, 9), John (Rev. 1:6), and Paul (Heb. 10:19-22). The privileges that were granted to the family of Aaron under the law, and these only but types of good things to come, are granted in full to every believer in Christ without distinction! Our priesthood is the highest sphere of Christians activity, and it covers things like prayer, worship, discernment, and testimony. The fact that Christ is our “great high priest” is evidence the He has a company of priests about Him, of which every sanctified one is a member.
 
Encouragements to Draw Near. In the following verses we have a number of encouragements to draw near, and this is based on three things: the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the great high priest.1 The law put Israel at a distance from God (Ex. 19:12-13), but grace brings us into the presence of God!
 
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness for entering into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus, 20 the new and living way which he has dedicated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, vv.19-20 The Passage Opened. As “brethren” made “holy” by sanctification (Heb. 3:1), we are encouraged to do who Aaron in type could only do once a year; to enter into the holy of holies. The earthly high priest entered with fear and trembling, and only at the direct command of God. We are not only tolerated in the presence of God, but given “boldness” to enter! And this access is not restricted to one family, but all the brethren have access (Eph. 2:18). How can we enter the presence of God? It is because the passage has been opened for us! In Heb. 9:12 we find that Jesus entered heaven “by His own blood”, and we enter the same way; “by the blood of Jesus”. He entered bodily; but we enter in spirit (until the rapture). How different from the old approach! Christ has made a “new and living way”. It is “new” in contrast with the old system done away, and “living” in contrast with an external ceremony. The veil that separated the priests under the law from the presence of God was notably “rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt. 27:51), when Christ died. The veil speaks of Christ’s flesh. If He had not gone to the cross, the way into the holiest would never have been made manifest. It was in the death of Christ, symbolized by the rending of the veil, that He has made a way of access for the believer into the presence of God (Eph. 2:18). The way could not be opened without that sacrifice, whereby the holy and righteous claims of God against sin have been answered. It is a touching way that it is put; “the new and living way which he has dedicated for us”. Christ dedicated that way for us it by going through the first time. Once the veil was rent: (1) God was free to come out in blessing, and (2) redeemed man was free to go in for worship.2
 
The Practical Side. What does it mean to go into the holiest? It is a different thought from what we have in Ephesians, that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. That is a positional thing, but this is practical. Besides, the “heavenly places” are the spiritual realm, while the “holiest of all” is the immediate presence of God. Positionally, the way into God’s presence is always open. But to avail ourselves of that access is another thing. By faith we look up to God in the attitude of prayer, and in that instant we are there, in His presence! We can seek His face night or day, in sickness or health, at any moment and in any circumstance. You could be could be assembled with believers, or alone on a desert island. You could be a galley slave chained to an oar in the Mediterranean in the 1st century, or an astronaut hurtling through space in the 21st century, but the access is the same! The presence of God is where we worship. We do not worship in a physical place (John 4:21), and we need no earthly man to conduct us there. We enter in spirit (John 4:23) and worship in the very presence of God!3 We love to meet other priests in that place, and thus collective worship is a precious privilege. But worship is not exclusive to when we are gathered together, nor does our gathering together constitute worship!
  
21 and having a great priest over the house of God, v.21 The Person Present. There is One who has led us into the holy of holies: our “great high priest”. He is “over the house of God”, like the high priest of old who would handle the sacrifices brought to the Lord. Christ Himself takes our prayers and praises, and laying aside anything that is not of God (Lev. 1:16; Ex. 28:36-38), He conducts them to God. They go “to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; Heb. 13:15). We are encouraged to draw near and commune with God because Christ – our great High Priest, a glorified man – is there! The thought of the “house of God” brings in responsibility. As priests in the house of God, we are responsible – and privileged too, because it is an aspect of our priesthood – to reflect the character of God to this world; “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
 
22 let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water. vv.21-22 The Priests Prepared. Like the high priest of old, we too are prepared for entering the presence of God. It isn’t through outward ceremony, but through the work of Christ that we are prepared. First, we have been to the brazen altar (in type), and there been “sprinkled” with blood for judicial cleansing “from a wicked conscience” (Ex. 29:19-20; Lev. 8:24). This takes place when we believe the gospel and have the blood of Christ applied to us, giving us a purged conscience (1 John 1:7, Rev. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:2b). Second, we have been to the laver (in type), where our “bodies” have been “washed” with “pure water” for moral cleansing (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6). This is the once-for-all aspect in which we are “washed all over” or bathed when born again (John 13:10; John 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11), rather than the daily aspect of washing which we need ongoing (Eph. 5:26). These were once-for-all actions that have prepared us for the presence of God. We are made fit! It required Christ coming “by water and blood” (1 John 5:5-10). Read more… Now that we are sprinkled and washed we can answer that invitation at any time, to “approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith”. These last two things are more practical. A true heart is had through honesty, confession, and self-judgment. The “full assurance of faith” is the conscious knowledge that God desires us to be in His presence.4
 

Hold Fast in Hope (10:23)

23 Let us hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering, (for he is faithful who has promised;) v.23 Hold Fast the Confession. Having seen the completeness of the work of Christ and the call to draw near, the next exhortation is to “hold fast the confession of the hope unwavering”. It is a call to be strong in faith. The Hebrews had confessed Christ as their Messiah, but some of them stood in danger of giving that confession up (apostasy). There was great pressure from their unbelieving natural brethren, including severe persecution (vv.32-33). The writer addressed the true believers (“let us”), encouraging them to maintain their confession without wavering. The “hope” here is the same as throughout the whole epistle: the hope of being with and like Christ where He is in glory, of finishing the wilderness pathway, and being perfected in the ultimate sense! This hope will be realized at the rapture. But we are not to look within ourselves for strength. When faith is encouraged, we are also directed to faith’s object; “for he is faithful who has promised”. We get our strength from outside ourselves: a heavenly object. Our hope is not uncertain. It rests on the faithfulness of Him who always keeps His promises (vv.36-37). But closeness to Christ is what will enable us to be strong in faith. We must “draw near” in order to “hold fast”.
 

Stir Up One Another in Love (10:24-25)

24 and let us consider one another for provoking to love and good works; v.24 Mutual Edification. The Christian path is not intended to be walked alone; our Captain is leading many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). We have a responsibility toward one another. In Hebrews 3:13 we find that we are to “exhort one another daily” for our mutual benefit. We do need to exhort one another, but “provoking” is gentler. To provoke is stimulate or give rise to a reaction or emotion in someone. It us usually used in a negative way, such as provoking someone to anger. Here it is a very positive thing; “provoking to love and good works”. When you provoke someone you are getting a reaction from them, because their nature is inclined to react a certain way. Those who know you best know how to provoke you. This is true in the positive sense as well. Children in a family respond differently, and so wisdom is involved in provoking; we need to “consider” one another. This is not merely a passive thing. Some would limit it to assembly together with believers, but provoking goes beyond that, although coming together is certainly prerequisite. It is intentional. It has to do with awakening desires that are there in the Divine nature, but lying dormant as to their exercise. For example, Paul reminding Timothy of the gift that was in him, to stir it up. This is not done by laying down the law, but by encouragement, example, and feeding the new nature. Another example might be in an assembly where believers keep to themselves outside of meetings, if one person begins to show hospitality to others, it can kindle a flame of love that can warm a cold assembly!
 
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom is with some; but encouraging one another, and by so much the more as ye see the day drawing near. v.25 Mutual Encouragement. We can’t encourage one another by staying home when the saints are assembled. Here we find that with some, they had falling into the custom of forsaking the gatherings of the saints. It is an easy habit to fall into. The Lord’s custom was to go into the synagogue every sabbath to hear the scriptures read (Luke 4:16). We should have the habit of being with the saints when they come together, whether in the assembly or at other times. When Peter was let out of prison, he “considered the thing” and then “came to the house of Mary… where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). And what an encouragement that was! As we see “the day drawing near”, we should encourage more and more. Perhaps “the day” here is the day of Christ’s appearing (v.13). Usually when we are exhorted to do something in view of a “day” it is the day of manifestation: when Christ appears (2 Tim. 1:12). We want to pleasing to Him in that day!5 But in a positive sense too, when we realize that the time of Christ appearing and having His rightful place is drawing near, it lifts our hearts in anticipation! The lateness of the hour does not slow our feet in service; “but so much the more”. Notice too that “the assembling of ourselves together” was a very literal gathering of believers. In the New Testament we have the highest honor placed on long distance communication (epistles, etc.) but there is no substitute for physically assembling together. Electronic communication is good, but also no substitute for in-person fellowship.
 

(A Warning: Don’t Despise the Sacrifice of Christ) (10:26-31)

Another Parenthesis. In vv.26-31 we have another parenthetical warning against apostasy, of which there are five in Hebrews. Each warning addresses those among the Hebrews who had made a profession without reality, and were in danger of abandoning their profession. As ch.6 shows us, this would put such a person in a hopeless condition. The five warnings are Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7–4:11, 5:11–6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:16-27. These warnings have been twisted by some to support the false doctrine of conditional security; that a person can be saved then lost again. It is important to understand what apostasy is, and how these passages relate. We do not want to blunt the warning on one hand, or deny eternal security on the other.
 
26 For where we sin wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries. vv.26-27 Sinning Wilfully. It is solemn to consider the word “for” in v.6 as a connecting link between those with the custom of forsaking the assembling of the saints together and those who apostatize from the faith. Forsaking the fellowship of Christians is one perilous step away from Christ, and the final, fatal step is to reject His person and work. To “sin wilfully” in the context of this epistle is to reject Christ and His work after having been fully presented with Him, “after receiving the knowledge of the truth”, and after having made a profession of faith. A person who does this is an apostate. Notice that it doesn’t say they have received the truth, but only the knowledge of the truth. The “we” is the Hebrews, not believers.

Apostasy is abandoning a belief once professed, especially in the context of renouncing the profession of faith in Christ. Apostasy is different from backsliding. A backslider is one who has truly believed on the Son of God, but has fallen into systematic failure, and is in need of restoration. An apostate is one who once made a profession of Christ, even partook of the outward blessings of Christianity, entertained the truth of it in their thoughts, yet never truly believed it, and ultimately turned away from it (1 Tim. 4:1). An apostate for a time is part of "the faith", but then abandons it, having never truly possessed "saving faith". For for such a person there is no possibility of restoration.

Read more… When a Person turns their back on that one sacrifice described in Heb. 10:1-18, they have turned their back on the only thing God will accept, and therefore “there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins”. God has nothing more to give than what He has given. The only prospect for those who reject the sacrifice of Christ is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and heat of fire about to devour the adversaries”. Without a sacrifice for sin, the only expectation is of judgment!
 
28 Any one that has disregarded Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses: 29 of how much worse punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? vv.28-29 Worse Punishment. The writer now labors to warn the Hebrews of the severity of judgment for those who reject the Person and work of Christ. Scripture shows that the more light a person has, the more responsibility they bear, and the more severe judgment will result from rejecting that light (a principle that runs throughout scripture, see Luke 12:47-48, Rev. 20:12, Prov. 24:12, Psa. 62:12). To blatantly disregard the law of Moses, as seen in a presumptuous sin, resulted in a death sentence, under the testimony of two or three witnesses (Num. 15:30-36; Deut. 17:12). No mercy was shown under that system of types and shadows – no sacrifice was provided for strident rebellion. How much more severe would be the judgment on one who was presented with the Person and work of Christ and rejected it! An apostate:
  1. “Has trodden under foot the Son of God” by rejecting the Person of Christ, casting aside the greatest gift God ever gave as worthless.
  2. “Esteemed the blood of the covenant, whereby he has been sanctified, common” by rejecting the work of Christ. How can someone who was sanctified by the blood of Christ be lost? When a person makes a profession of Christ (usually through baptism), they come onto Christian ground, and in a provisional sense they are set apart (this is an example of Provisional Sanctification, see also 1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 11:16). The “blood of the new covenant” (Matt. 26:28) is involved in this. To turn away from Christianity is to regard the precious blood of Christ as a common thing.
  3. “Has insulted the Spirit of grace” by rejecting the witness of Spirit, a Divine Person sent according to the gracious heart of God in response to the finished work of Christ being accepted, and Him glorified at God’s right hand.
30 For we know him that said, “To me belongs vengeance; “I” will recompense,” [Deut. 32:35] saith the Lord: and again, “The Lord shall judge his people.” [Deut. 32:36] 31 It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God. vv.30-31 Testimony of Scripture to the Judgment of God. The writer now quotes from Deuteronomy 32 concerning the judgment of God against Israel should they abandon Jehovah and turn to idols. It might seem strange to find these quotations in the New Testament, but we must remember that they are addressed to those who were in danger of apostasy, and that they come after eight chapters of the greatness of Christ’s Person and two chapters of the greatness of Christ’s work. They are solemnly appropriate in the context of the Hebrews being addressed. The most severe judgments of God are reserved for false profession, those who claim to be “His people” (Rev. 17-18). But as to dealing with these ones, it is a matter for the Lord to handle, and He will in due time. There is every reason for those who have made an empty profession to fear the judgment of God; “It is a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God”.
 

Exhortation to Endure Persecution (10:32-39)

32 But call to mind the earlier days in which, having been enlightened, ye endured much conflict of sufferings; 33 on the one hand, when ye were made a spectacle both in reproaches and afflictions; and on the other, when ye became partakers with those who were passing through them. 34 For ye both sympathised with prisoners and accepted with joy the plunder of your goods, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better substance, and an abiding one. vv.32-24 Remember the Past. Turning from the warnings, the writer now encourages the true believers. The first thing is to remember the past. This does not mean we should dream about the old days (Ecc. 7:10), nor does it mean we should dwell on past failures and achievements (Phil. 3:13). It is good to think back on the freshness of first love. These dear Hebrew believers had, in the earlier days after their conversion, “endured much conflict of sufferings”. They suffered greatly both physically and socially at the hands of their natural unbelieving brethren. They themselves were publicly shamed when they confessed Christ, and also they suffered by association with imprisoned believers (similar to how Onesiphorus suffered for associating with Paul, 2 Tim. 1:16-18).6 It is a sign of faith that they took their place with others of faith amidst suffering. This cost them dearly, even the plundering of their goods, perhaps because the Jews treated them as traitors. But the Hebrew believers had taken that persecution “with joy”, because they had a “better substance, and an abiding one”. Their portion in Christ was something that could not be taken away! This was the character of their faith in those early days, and the writer appeals to it for their encouragement at the present time. The Lord uses the past victories of the saints for their present encouragement.
 
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense. 36 For ye have need of endurance in order that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. 37 For yet a very little while he that comes “will come, and will not delay” [Hab. 2:3]. vv.35-37 Look to the Future. The exhortation is to not cast away the confidence that the believers had placed in God, in view of a coming reward; “which has great recompense”. The hope of a bright future with Christ motivates endurance in the present; ” ye have need of endurance in order that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise”. To endure pain, discomfort, persecution, trial with joy is possible because of what lies ahead. When we are with and like Christ, we will have the effect of the “promise”. It is our place now to “do the will of God”, encouraged by the promise of coming blessing, similar to Abraham and other Old Testament saints. Here the recompense for faith is being with and like Christ in the glorified state! It may imply also specific rewards for service, which will be given at the judgment seat of Christ, following the Lord’s coming. The Lord’s coming is kept before the saints as their immediate hope. It is a touching way in which the intervening time before the Lord’s coming is called “a little while”“For yet a very little while he that comes will come, and will not delay”. The whole period of Christ’s absence, almost 2000 years, is viewed as “a little while”. When the time comes, the Lord will not delay. He will not wait a moment longer than necessary! The wording here is borrowed and modified appropriately from Habakkuk 2:3, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry”. Our hope is different from Habakkuk’s, but the passage is suitably applied to Christians. The point is that “He will come”. The second coming as a whole is in view, not only the Lord’s coming for us, but also His appearing when reward for responsibility will be manifested!7
 
38 But “the just shall live by faith;” [Hab. 2:4] and, if he draw back, my soul does not take pleasure in him. 39 But “we” are not drawers back to perdition, but of faith to saving the soul. vv.38-39 Live by Faith in the Present. The writer now quotes from Hab. 2:4 (brought in by the allusion in v.37) to show that our life here in this world can only be lived for God’s pleasure if we live by faith. The quotation from Hab. 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament, and each time with a different emphasis.89 Habakkuk was frustrated that he didn’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises in his day, when everything was upside down. The Lord’s answer to him was to wait for the fulfillment, and in the meantime to “live by faith”. Habakkuk eventually learned this lesson, and expressed it beautifully in Hab. 3:17-19. The writer uses this scripture powerfully to encourage the believing Hebrews to hold fast in their faith. This quotation from the Old Testament brings out the principle that living for God has always been by faith, for saints from all ages, and it sets up the next chapter which is a digression on the life of faith. On the other hand, to draw back from the profession of faith in Christ (apostasy) is a fatal step, leading to “perdition” or eternal judgment. The expression “my soul does not take pleasure in him” is drawn by the Spirit of God from the next part of Hab. 2:4; “his soul is puffed up, it is not upright within him”. A soul that ultimately turns away from Christ was never right in the first place, and God has no pleasure in them. Just as Cain rejected the sin offering, so these ones reject the sacrifice of Christ. But the writer is not addressing unbelievers, but those of faith, who hold fast their profession “to saving the soul”.
 
  1. Now, we have in this scripture, to speak generally, three things — the blood of Jesus, the rent veil, and the High Priest (literally, the great priest) over the house of God; and it is on the foundation of these three things that we have the exhortation to draw near for worship. – Dennett, E. Twelve Letters to Young Believers. Chapter 8.
  2. If we think about the rending of the veil of the temple when Jesus died, what could be seen through that opening? The ark was no longer there. The emptiness of Judaism was exposed! – Stewart, Stephen. Reading on Hebrews 10. Vestal, NY. 2022.
  3. And the place to which we are invited to approach, or into which we are urged to enter, is the holiest — the holy of holies. That is the place which was typified by the holy of holies in the tabernacle in the wilderness, the place into which Christ, as our Representative and Forerunner, has already entered (Heb. 4:14; Heb. 6:19-20). Our place of worship therefore is in the immediate presence of God, the scene of the ministry on our behalf of Christ, as the High Priest. True that we are down here on the earth as strangers and pilgrims when we think of priesthood. But this earth can never be the scene of our worship; for we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” and there alone can worship be rendered or accepted. Nay; if I would do homage even to the King, I must go to the place where he sits in state to receive it. Much more, if I would worship God I must do so in the place where He sits on His throne, and into which, for this very purpose, He has, in His ineffable grace, given me a title to enter at all times through the precious blood of Christ. There above, therefore, inside the rent veil, in His own immediate presence, and in no other place, must His people worship. – Dennett, E. Twelve Letters to Young Believers. Chapter 8.
  4. Hence, the first two things (“bodies washed” and “hearts sprinkled”) make us priests and the second two (“a true heart” and “full assurance of faith”) make us priestly. The first two are connected with our position before God and the latter two have to do with our state of soul. – Anstey, Bruce. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  5. As responsibility is here in view, it is “the day” or appearing of the Lord that follows, when our fidelity or the lack of it will be manifested. – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
  6. Some translations render this “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds”, limiting the application to their compassion for the writer, but better translations render it “For you had compassion on those in prison”, leaving the application of it wider. W. Kelly commented, “All the old English versions save that of Rheims (1552) narrow their sympathy according to the Text. Rec. to the bonds of him who, now wrote. but the better reading seems to be “the prisoners” i.e. those of the Lord in general.” – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  7. Some passages in Hebrews are intended to be intentionally vague, so that, in this instance, the believing Jew, not yet knowing the body of Christian hope and blessing could rightly apply it to the appearing; but, on the other hand, as we read it, to realize it also applies to the rapture. Christ is coming in the both senses and exactly when He should, without delay. – W. Brockmeier quoting D. Graham
  8. In Rom. 1:17 the emphasis is on faith, showing that is the principle on which God justifies. In Gal. 3:11 the emphasis is on the just, showing that justification is by faith alone. In Heb. 10:38 the emphasis is on live, showing that faith is the way the believer lives pleasing to God in this world.

  9. It is plain that in this Epistle the order is adapted to the object in hand, which is not to enforce justification by faith as in Rom. 1:17, nor to set aside the interpolation of the law in opposition to grace as in Gal. 3:11, but to insist on faith as the power of life, and this too practically, as in all else; of which the chapter that follows is the weighty, full and interesting illustration. – Kelly, W. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 11

 
The Life of Faith: A Great Cloud of Witnesses
Hebrews 11
 
Hebrews 11. Having brought out the principle of Hab. 2:4 that “the just shall live by faith”, the writer enters into a digression on the subject of the life of faith. The principle that a believer can only continue for God’s pleasure in the world by faith is nothing new. It is true of Old and New Testament saints alike. This chapter gives us numerous examples of faith in the lives of Old Testament saints. Remarkably, these examples give us God’s side of history, where failures are not mentioned, and in many cases the faith that only God can see is revealed. What we have in Hebrews 11 is not really a definition of faith, but rather a description of what faith does in a believer.12 A nice definition of faith is given in John 3:33, even though the word “faith” is not used; “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true”. The chapter has been into three sections after the introductory verses. Each section deals with a different character of the life of faith. In vv.3-7 we have the intelligence of faith, wherein the soul is able to grasp a number of vital principles in Divine things. In vv.8-22 we have the patience of faith, wherein the soul walks as a stranger and pilgrim through this world, making certain sacrifices, because they have believed and are waiting patiently for the promises of God. In vv.23-38 we have the energy of faith, wherein the soul by faith acts according to the mind of God to overcome challenges or endure trials.3 Another way to state this would be the chapter gives us in order the principles, patience, and power of faith! The examples given generally follow chronologically through the Old Testament from Genesis 1 through the prophets!
 
 

Introduction: What Faith Does (11:1-2)

CHAPTER 11
Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For in the power of this the elders have obtained testimony. vv.1-2 What Faith Does. In the very beginning of this wonderful chapter, which gives many examples of faith, we are told what faith does in the broadest terms. Faith is “the substantiating of things hoped for”. This means that faith is what makes the Word of God real to the soul. God has promised us things in His Word that we believe with no outward proof of their fulfillment. Faith gives substance to those things, and makes the Word of God real to us. Further, faith is “the conviction of things not seen”. We have never seen the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, heaven, or hell, and yet as believers we know these things are real; “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It is not merely a high probability in our minds, but a firm conviction or assurance in our soul. The conviction of faith leads to action, as the rest of the chapter unfolds, and as the writer encapsulates with the statement, “For in the power of this the elders have obtained testimony”. The “elders” of course refers to Old Testament saints, who God commended in His Word because they had faith. This is interesting, because throughout the book of Hebrews we have had many contrasts between Judaism and Christianity, but now the point is made that saints from all ages have something in common: they walk by faith. Israel had the tabernacle with its visible representation of heavenly things which they did not understand, but faith was still required to lay hold what God had revealed about Himself, and to enable a righteous walk here in this world. Many examples follow, but the main principle is that faith is the vital link between the soul and God, leading to a walk that is pleasing to Him.
 

The Intelligence of Faith: Apprehending Divine Principles (11:3-7)

The first section of the character deals with a particular character of the life of faith. In vv.3-7 we have the intelligence of faith, wherein the soul is able to grasp a number of vital principles in Divine things, and act on them.4 This character of faith is seen in the saints who lived before the flood.

Faith Apprehends the Truth of Creation – Genesis 1 (v.3)

3 By faith we apprehend that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that that which is seen should not take its origin from things which appear. v.3 The Truth of Creation. The first great principle is not connected with any one Old Testament saint, as we have with the following examples, because it is universally true of the family of faith. “By faith we” – all believers included – “apprehend that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that that which is seen should not take its origin from things which appear”. This refers to Genesis 1:1, the creation of the universe when nothing material existed.5 We are not told when or how God did this, except that it was by His Word. The witness of creation from every vantage point cries out that the universe has an infinite, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator! But without faith, man cannot receive the truth of creation. Hence, the unbelieving world is full of false theories of the origin of the universe, but these are just foolish attempts by man to avoid acknowledging that he has a Creator to whom he is morally responsible. The history of the heathen shows where man’s mind leads him apart from the revelation of the Word of God and faith to apprehend it. The most honest of unbelieving minds can only reach the point that that Athenians reached when they erected an altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17). Even science cannot reveal God, although true science points to the existence of God. But the Word reveals the truth plainly, and faith lays hold of the profound yet simple fact that God created everything by the power of His word!

Faith Understands Sin and Sacrifice – Abel (v.4)

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained testimony of being righteous, God bearing testimony to his gifts, and by it, having died, he yet speaks. v.4 Sin and Sacrifice. The next great principle that faith apprehends is that of sin and sacrifice. Unbelievers do not understand why death and blood-shedding are required, but faith does! In the garden, the Lord was free to come down to walk with man in the cool of the day (Gen. 2). After the fall (Gen. 3), because of sin, fallen man must approach God on the basis of sacrifice. Cain offered first, then Abel. The ground had been cursed, yet Cain chose to bring fruit out of a cursed earth, by the labor of his own hands, for God. He never took to heart that the ground was cursed. God had provided coats of skin for Adam and Eve, which required the death of an innocent animal – a life offered up. Cain ignored this too! Abel chose to bring of the first-lings of his flock, which required the slaying of an animal, and the shedding of its blood. Abel brought a burnt offering – the “more excellent sacrifice” – and God accepted it. Abel believed what God had said about the cursed ground and the coming Seed. He acknowledged that he was fallen, and by his sacrifice confessed his guilt. He took to heart the lesson of the animal skins, and offered accordingly. This is faith; hearing the Word of God, taking it to heart, and putting it into practice. It isn’t that Abel was a better person then Cain, nor did the sacrifice make Abel righteous. It says that by his sacrifice Abel “obtained witness that he was righteous”. He was “righteous” in the sense that he acted consistently with the revealed mind of God. Cain’s offering was not accepted, because God cannot be pleased with the efforts of the first man. The sacrifices of Cain and Abel represent two approaches to God. All down through human history, there have only been two approaches. The first approach is to come to God seeking acceptance on the ground of our own works; a bloodless sacrifice. Jude speaks of this as “the way of Cain”. The second approach is to come to God on the value of a life offered up in death. Our chapter reveals that this was an act of faith; “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain”. The last clause says “and by it, having died, he yet speaks”. This refers of course in the first place to Abel’s blood that cried from the ground, but further to his enduring testimony recorded in the Word of God. What Abel believed and stood for could not be silenced by his murdering brother!

Faith has Fellowship with God and Is Rewarded – Enoch (vv.5-6)

5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he has the testimony that he had pleased God. v.5 Fellowship with God Rewarded. The next individual that comes before us is Enoch, the seventh from Adam in the line of Seth. The striking event in Enoch’s path was the end, although the key to his end was how he walked. Rather than die as all his predecessors had, of whom it was said, “and he died… and he died, etc.”, Enoch “was translated that he should not see death”. Mark the abruptness of Enoch’s end. The genealogical account in Genesis 5 is interrupted with a man who did not keep his appointment with death! Enoch was taken out of this world by God without seeing death. Exemption from death was the greatest triumph an Old Testament saint could know, prior to the “appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light by the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). For those who belong to Christ, Paul could reveal that mystery, “We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Like Enoch, when the Lord comes, many Christians will be glorified without passing through the article of death! We have a life that is beyond the reach of death, and our portion, “whether we wake or sleep” (1 Thess. 5:10), is to live with Christ in heaven! In Genesis 5 it says that Enoch “walked with God”, and this resulted in “the testimony that he had pleased God”. He sought the fellowship of God, and drew near to Him, walking with Him each day. His life was an example of godliness to the godless world around him, and he carried a prophetic message concerning the world that Christ was coming (Jude 14-15). That character of faith was rewarded with a singular event: his translation, that he might bypass death and go to be with the One he loved. His walk was associated with heaven, and God rewarded him by taking him to heaven! 
 
Enoch and Elijah. Another man to experience such a thing was Elijah, who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Both Enoch and Elijah lived in times of great and growing wickedness, both were prophets of judgment, and both were translated without going through death (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11). In the same way, the translation of Enoch and Elijah typify the rapture. Elijah might speak of the individual believer being taken up, and Enoch might picture the Church collectively being translated. There was a flood coming on the world, but Enoch was taken out before it came. Likewise, the church will be taken out before the tribulation. Also, Enoch did not see his own death! He was exempted from death. In a similar way, the Church’s hope is not death, but the return of the Bridegroom to take us up to be with Himself, in the Father’s house.
 
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him. For he that draws near to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them who seek him out. v.6 Faith and Nearness to God. A little addendum is added to the example of Enoch’s faith, because his life is a wonderful illustration of a vital truth: “without faith it is impossible to please him”. The axiom is explained in the rest of the verse. A life that pleases God is a life of fellowship with God, and it is impossible to draw near to God if you do not believe in Him. Two things must be believed: (1) that God exists, and (2) that He is good, “he is a rewarder of them who seek him out”. Some never come to the first step, of believing that “he is”.  Others stop short of knowing His heart, and thus never enjoy fellowship with God. His heart is toward man, seeking fellowship with man. He will abundantly reward those who “seek him out” as He did with Enoch over 5000 years ago!

Faith Believes What God Says About the Future – Noah (v.7)

7 By faith, Noah, oracularly warned concerning things not yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. v.7 Faith Believes What God Says About the Future. The next example of faith is that of Noah. God warned Noah “concerning things not yet seen”. The flood was a judgment at that time totally foreign to human experience, but Noah believed God anyway; “And Noah did it; according to all that God had commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). Noah’s faith was more that casual belief; he was “moved with fear” so much that he devoted over a century to prepare the ark so that his family might be saved from the flood. For “a hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3) God pleaded with man through His preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). This pleading is what we read of in 1 Pet. 3:19, that Jehovah’s Spirit, through Noah as an instrument, “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”. None but the eight souls were saved, but Noah’s faith was a condemnation of the unbelieving world which was covered with the flood. Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” in that he was justified by faith. Noah and his family are a type of the Jewish remnant who will pass through the flood of God’s judgments in the tribulation, sheltered miraculously by providential means. This is a contrast to Enoch who was taken out (caught up) before the judgment fell. Abel is a type of Christ rejected, Enoch is a type of the Church, and Noah is a type of the faithful Jews. Like Noah, we too have been told of things to come – e.g. prophecy is a secret that Christ has has confided to us as His friends (John 15:15) – and by faith we believe.
 

The Patience of Faith: Waiting for the Promises (11:8-22)

To illustrate another character of faith, the writer next takes up the saints who lived after the flood, to whom God gave wonderful promises, and whose lives reflected that they believed what God had promised. We might call this the patience of faith.6

Faith Takes the Place of Strangership – Abraham and Sarah (vv.8-16)

8 By faith Abraham, being called, obeyed to go out into the place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and went out, not knowing where he was going. v.8 Abraham’s Answer to the Call of God. Abraham was called by God to leave Ur of Chaldees to go hundreds of miles to a foreign land he had never seen, leaving all the constructs of social support, and from every other claim on him. Trusting God, Abraham obeyed, “not knowing whither he was going”. He obeyed without questioning, reasoning, or calculating. God would not show Abraham the land until he obeyed the call. Abraham was called individually by God, just as the believer today is called. Abraham walked without a visible, tangible object before him. The Christian does too; “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The Hebrews were being called out of Judaism, a system full of things to touch, taste, and see, into Christianity where the only senses are spiritual.
 
9 By faith he sojourned as a stranger in the land of promise as a foreign country, having dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, of which God is the artificer and constructor. vv.9-10 Abraham’s Strangership and Patience. The Spirit of God sets Abraham forth as an apt type of the Christian, who is called to a life of faith. Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance for his children, yet “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles”. As Christians, we are co-heirs with Christ, and we know that this world as well as the whole universe is our inheritance! Yet we are left here to live as “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11), living in tents, so to speak, without putting down roots. We are NOT to live here as kings, although we are royalty. We are fully persuaded of the promises, yet we are willing to confess that, as our Savior was rejected, we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Abraham lived one hundred years in tents, i.e. in a temporary dwelling! What motivated Abraham to live as a stranger was that he was sure of the promise. It is nice to see that Abraham lived “with Isaac and Jacob”, showing that Jacob had the influence of a godly grandfather! They were “heirs with him of the same promise”, because the promise made to Abraham was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, but not others (e.g. Joseph). Perhaps this is why He is called “the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob”. After Jacob it was not reiterated, but Joseph enters into it by faith, and it was extended to the nation (Acts 2:39; Rom. 9:4). Yet it is remarkable to see that Abraham was looking for something permanent that God would provide him, in contrast to tents. He somehow was looking beyond the earth to a heavenly home (Heb. 12:22)! Like Abraham, we look for “the city which has foundations”. Though we have a material inheritance, we have a higher aim still – a heavenly country (v.16; Heb. 13:14)! This would be a powerful example to Abraham’s descendants, the Hebrews, who were called to leave Judaism with its earthly hopes in exchange for Christianity with its superior, heavenly hopes. The believer can look into the life of Abraham with great interest, because it typifies the pathway of faith. The dangers and failures, the successes and joys, are full of meaning for us who look for a city which hath foundations, “whose builder and maker is God”.
 
His call we obey,
Like Abram of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold;
For though we are strangers,
We have a sure guide,
And trust in all dangers
The Lord will provide.7
 
11 By faith also Sarah herself received strength for the conception of seed, and that beyond a seasonable age; since she counted him faithful who promised. 12 Wherefore also there have been born of one, and that of one become dead, even as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the countless sand which is by the sea shore. vv.11-12 Sarah’s Faith in the Promise, Received Strength to Conceive. The patience of faith is seen in Sarah as well as Abraham. It is quite interesting to compare v.11 with what we have in Genesis 18. There the Lord repeated His promise to Abraham that Sarah would have a son, but did so in Sarah’s hearing. This was something that seemed totally impossible. She was “beyond a seasonable age” and he was “as good as dead”. Naturally speaking, conception was totally out of the question. God waited until it was medically impossible for both Sarai and Abram to reproduce. He waited until all human efforts were exhausted. God will allow man no part in the accomplishment of His promises. It is all grace! Hearing this promise at the tent door, Sarah “laughed within herself”. It was a laugh of unbelief, and when the Lord pointed it out, “Sarah denied, saying, I did not laugh; for she was afraid. And he said, No; but thou didst laugh” (Gen. 18:15). Sarah tried to deny that she had laughed. She was ashamed because she knew it was wrong. It was a mistake she made once, and never repeated, as far we we know. We wouldn’t know it from Genesis 18, but in the months that followed this visit, Sarah’s unbelief was changed to faith, and her faith (not her failure) is recorded in Hebrews 11. It is very specific; “Sarah herself” (c.p. v.23). It was in the strength of this faith that she was able to conceive and deliver the child, “because she judged him faithful who had promised”. When Isaac – whose name means ‘laughter’ – was born, Sarah laughed again, but it was the laugh of joy as opposed to the laugh of unbelief! The writer of Hebrews could reflect that God had indeed kept His promise, and from Abraham sprang multitudes as the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea shore. Read more…
 
13 All these died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth. 14 For they who say such things shew clearly that they seek their country. 15 And if they had called to mind that from whence they went out, they had had opportunity to have returned; 16 but now they seek a better, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a city. vv.13-16 Summary of the Patience of Faith. In summary of the particular character of faith that Abraham and Sarah represent, the Spirit of God brings out the fact that these men and women lived their entire lives in expectation of the promises, and “died in faith”. By faith, they saw the promises afar off, and “embraced them”, meaning that they were convinced that God would keep His word. The conviction of this led to a particular character of lifestyle for these ones; “and confessed that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth” (e.g. Gen. 23:4). They didn’t feel the need to hold onto things around them, because they were seeking another country, a “fatherland” (W. Kelly translation). Their minds weren’t dwelling on the country they were called out from (an earthly country) but instead were seeking a “heavenly” country. To “return” (v.15) would be apostasy. In some way, although no doubt it was with limited understanding, these men and women of faith were looking forward to heaven. Their faith laid hold of the promise, but it also longed for heaven. That is the kind of faith that God delights in; “wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a city” (see Heb. 13:14). He loves to identify Himself with them (Ex. 3:6).
 
We are but strangers here;
Heaven is our home!
Earth is a desert drear;
Heaven is our home!
Dangers and sorrows stand
Round us on every hand;
Heaven is our fatherland,
Heaven is our home!8

Faith Has Confidence in the Promises – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph (vv.17-22)

17 By faith Abraham, when tried, offered up Isaac, and he who had received to himself the promises offered up his only begotten son18 as to whom it had been said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called:” [Gen. 21:12] 19 counting that God was able to raise him even from among the dead, whence also he received him in a figure. vv.17-19 Abraham Offered Up Isaac. The crowning act of faith in Abraham’s life was when he obeyed God and offered his son on Mount Moriah. The event is a vivid type of the sacrifice of Christ, and it is perhaps the most outstanding example of faith in the Word of God, except for the faith of Christ Himself as a man on earth.9 Abraham was “tried” or tested by God in a way that no other Old Testament saint was tested. It was a trial of Abraham’s faith (1 Pet. 1:7). The test for Abraham was staggering. He was to take his “only begotten”, whom he loved, and offer him as a burnt offering to Jehovah. Abraham’s heart must had shuddered at the thought of sacrificing his son. He had waited so long for a son. Why was God asking him to do this? His mind must have gone back to the promises of God, in which Isaac was named as the one through whom the promises would be fulfilled. “Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called”. How then could Isaac be sacrificed? Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed. His conclusion was not that God had changed His mind about the promises. His conclusion was that God would make a way to keep His word regardless of every barrier, including physical death. Abraham came to the belief that God would raise Isaac from the dead; “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure”. God stopped Abraham before he killed Isaac, but God viewed the act as good as done. Abraham had already made the sacrifice in his heart and mind.
 
God Who Raises the Dead. Abraham had never seen a person raised from the dead before, but he had experienced the power of resurrection in his own life. Romans 4:17-22 reveals that in Genesis 15, Abraham believed in the God who raises the dead. His own body and Sarah’s womb were as good as dead, yet he “hesitated not at the promise of God through unbelief; but found strength in faith, giving glory to God”. His faith was in “the God whom he believed, who quickens the dead, and calls the things which be not as being”. Many years later, the same faith is tested in a different way. Once again, Abraham chose to believe God in spite of all the circumstances, and even against the paternal pleadings of his own heart. He was fully persuaded that God would give Isaac back to him, and he was committed to go through with the sacrifice. There is no higher test of faith in the Old Testament. But while Abraham had seen resurrection power before in his life, in this trial his obedience rose to new heights. Although as a sacrifice, Isaac is the type of Christ, yet there is a certain sense in which Abraham is a type of Christ.10 Christ was in Himself the depositary of the promises. Going to the cross, Christ put His faith in God, counting that God would raise Him from the dead, and that the promises would not be in vain. Similar way to how Abraham trusted God to raise Isaac, Christ trusted God to raise Him from the dead once the sacrifice was complete!
 
Only Begotten. The expression “only-begotten” is one word in the Greek; ‘monoganes’. It is an expression that confers the thought of uniqueness. A modern English equivalent is “one and only”. Most notably, “only-begotten” is used to convey the special place that the Son has in relation to God the Father. The use of the term in Hebrews 11:17 and its equivalent in Gen. 22:2 helps us to see this. Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But Isaac was his “only-begotten”. The term “only-begotten” has the sense of ‘one of a kind’, and it is used in this way with regard to Isaac. There was only one Isaac. It has to do with the son’s place of affection in the heart of the father. Read more… 
 
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. v.20 Isaac Blessed Jacob and Esau. The crowning act of faith in Isaac’s life seems to be the time when he “blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come”. We might wonder that such a statement could be made considering that Genesis 27, where the events took place, is a chapter of blindness, guile, and suspicion. We are familiar with the treachery of Jacob and the trickery of Rebecca in which they fooled Isaac, his eyes dim with age, into thinking Jacob was Esau. Isaac blessed Jacob thinking he was Esau. Then, when Esau returned just after Jacob had left, he was totally unaware of all that had transpired. Isaac was confused at first, but on hearing Esau’s voice, he knew that he had been fooled. We cannot help but wonder where was ‘faith’ in all of this? There wasn’t faith in Isaac’s being deceived. But we read that “Isaac trembled with exceeding great trembling”. He must have realized the seriousness of not only the deceit of Jacob, but of his own intention to bless the wrong son “concerning things to come”. God had intervened and stopped Isaac from doing what he intended to do: to greatly bless the older son according to the claims of nature. Furthermore, Isaac told Esau “yea, he shall be blessed.” Isaac accepted the intervention of God, and did not try to thwart it. This was the activity of faith!11 Isaac then went on to confer the inferior blessing on the broken-hearted Esau (Gen. 27:39-40). As our chapter highlights, Isaac was looking forward to “things to come”. He was sure that the blessing he conferred would be fulfilled in time. This shows his faith. We too are living for the future, not the present; “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). How gracious God is to recognize faith, faint though it may be, wherever He finds it.
 
21 By faith Jacob when dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped on the top of his staff. v.21 Jacob Blessed the Sons of Joseph. As with his father, so the crowning act of faith in Jacob’s life seems to be at the end, “when dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph”. In blessing the sons of Joseph, Jacob demonstrated once and for all that he had learned the lesson God was seeking to teach him throughout his lifetime (Gen. 48:5-14). Jacob was conferring the double portion of the firstborn on Joseph via his two sons. Jacob’s eyes were physically dim with age, but spiritually his sight had never been keener! Compare with Isaac. The natural order would be for Manasseh to be by Jacob’s right hand as the eldest, to receive the blessing of the eldest, and Ephraim toward the left hand as the youngest. Joseph directed the boys according to that order, but Jacob “guided his hands wittingly” such that his right hand was on the head of the younger. Jacob had learned the lesson that God had been seeking to teach him. God’s ways are not man’s ways. Joseph interrupted Jacob in the middle of the blessing, after the general blessing was given, and before the first-born’s extra portion was given. Joseph thought his father was making a mistake, and tried to correct him, but Jacob in turn corrected Joseph! In his response, Jacob communicated a great depth of understanding; “I know, my son, I know”. Jacob understood that God works according to His own sovereign will, and this is in spite of (or sometimes against) the flow of nature. He had been given wisdom from God to give the greater blessing to the younger son. Jacob had a wisdom that could not be conferred or explained. He just knew it. It was the intelligence of faith, perhaps with a wisdom that had been deepened by years of trial followed by years of reflection and worship; “and worshipped on the top of his staff”. The staff speaks of dependence. A much younger Jacob sought to merit the blessing of God by his own strength. By discipline, most of which he made for himself, Jacob learned that blessing is God’s prerogative, and man’s place is to lean on Him in dependence (Gen. 32:31). Jacob made divine application of what God had taught him in His school, and this was the expression of his faith.
 
22 By faith Joseph when dying called to mind the going forth of the sons of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones. v.22 Joseph Gave Commandment Concerning His Bones. The event that the Spirit of God selected to encapsulate the faith of Joseph is recorded in Gen. 50:24-25. Although Joseph was prosperous in Egypt, and enjoyed rest and a flourishing family, he never forgot God’s promise. Egypt was not his home, and he was sure that God would keep his promise. Joseph made his brethren promise to carry up his bones into Canaan; “the land that he swore unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”. Note that Jacob made a similar request (Gen. 47:29-31), but it was a much greater act of faith for Joseph the governor of Egypt to do this than for Jacob the impoverished shepherd! When the day finally came of God’s deliverance for the children of Israel, Moses did indeed carry up Joseph’s bones; “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (Ex. 13:19). It is quite something to think that all through the wilderness on Israel’s journey, not only were the people accompanied by the pillar of cloud and the smitten rock, etc., but also the bones of Joseph. It was an enduring reminder of the faith of their ancestors. In times of doubt, when many in Israel were tempting Jehovah with their murmurings, etc., the faithful could look at that coffin and be encouraged that, many years before, Joseph was convinced of the surety of God’s promises! But those bones were also a symbol of something else; Joseph’s ultimate separation from Egypt. The grandeur of that world had not dimmed his spiritual eyesight! We too live in a world that is constantly trying to drag us down to its level, but faith patiently waits for the promise, and remembers that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
 

The Energy of Faith: Overcoming Obstacles (11:23-39)

Another character of faith is turned to next; the energy of faith seen in the saints overcoming obstacles in the path. To illustrate this, the writer next takes up the saints from Moses through the prophets who faced challenges and trials. These ones acted by faith according to the mind of God to overcome the obstacle or challenge.12

Faith That Overcomes Danger and Hardship – Moses (vv.23-27)

23 By faith Moses, being born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw the child beautiful; and they did not fear the injunction of the king. v.23 Faith Gives us to Fear God rather than Man. In the series of verses that deal with Moses, the first attribute of faith is illustrated by Moses’ parents. The king of Egypt had commanded that all male babies be thrown into the river at birth (Ex. 1:22). When Moses was born, his parents saw that he was “fair” or “beautiful” (Stephen says, “and was exceeding fair” or “fair to God”, Acts 7:20). They knew that it was God’s plan to raise up a deliverer (perhaps looking forward to the woman’s seed) and by faith knew it was God’s mind to preserve the child’s life. They didn’t have a clear commandment from God, but they had the instincts of faith. It is clear that it was not human affection for the child that caused them to hide him, but it was something they did by faith. For three long months they hid the child, and when they could no longer hide him they put him in an ark in the river, and the rest of the marvelous history is well known. In Exodus 2:2 we only read of the action of Moses’ mother, and in Acts 7 it speaks only of his father, but here in Hebrews we get the faith of both parents! Faith gave them courage to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
 
24 By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction along with the people of God than to have the temporary pleasure of sin; 26 esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect to the recompense. vv.24-26 Faith Makes Us Sacrifice Worldly Advantages. When Moses, who was raised in the court of Pharaoh, “had become great”, he chose to identity himself with the Hebrew people, called here “the people of God”. He had great worldly advantages in the court of Pharaoh by the providence of God. Moses could even say “The Lord provided this for me”. But he saw the condition of the children of Israel, and knew that they were the Lord’s people. Perhaps he could’ve tried to use his position in their  court to negotiate the freedom of the Hebrew slaves. But Moses would not stand aloof from them in their suffering. He had to make a choice: on one hand “to suffer affliction along with the people of God”, or on the other hand to “have the temporary pleasure of sin”, which is what abandoning his people for worldly advantages would have been. There is pleasure in sin, but it is only for a season (c.p. Psa. 16:11). The fact that Israel was enslaved and cruelly treated cast a dark shadow on the advantages of Egypt. For us, the true character of the world is seen at the cross where Christ was rejected, and thus the cross jades our view of the world, and rightly so (Gal. 6:14). Pharaoh’s daughter might speak of the “warmth” of the world, i.e. the praise and affection that the world gives to those it wants to claim for its own subjects. He refused to be called her son, and instead he chose a place of association with the people of God. It was a once-and-for-all refusing and choosing. No doubt the time when Moses was nursed by his mother had a profound impact on him, but he had to make the choice for himself.
 
History shows how vast the splendor of Egypt was, and this was nothing small to give up, according to a worldly valuation. But faith in Moses caused him to have a different set of values. He esteemed “the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt”. Why would it say “the reproach of Christ” if Moses lived long before the Messiah came? The reproach of Christ is the reproach that Christ felt on being rejected, and which God’s people feel in association with Him as rejected. Moses, by faith experienced the feeling of association with a rejected Christ – the coming woman’s Seed, for Whom he looked – when he took his place among the enslaved Hebrews! These were the people of God, and it was a precious privilege to suffer with them. Moses was looking forward to “the recompense”, which is a vague reference to faith’s anticipation of the reward God will give those who follow Him, not in this lifetime, but in a time to come. So we have in this account of Moses two things that encouraged him in his step of faith: the present privilege of suffering reproach with the people of God (called “riches”, Acts 5:51; 1 Pet. 4:14), and anticipation of a future portion (called “recompense”, Matt. 5:12).
 
Moses in the Wilderness. When Moses began to come to his senses about who he was and who he wanted to be associated with, he thought he could immediately be used to God to deliver the people. However he had to find out painfully that this was premature. God had a special tuition for him on the backside of the desert, forty years where he would unlearn much of what he had learned in Egypt. This is all passed completely over in Hebrews 11, as is the forty years of Israel’s wandering, which is absent between v.29 and v.30. The wilderness was necessary because of unbelief, and so it is passed over. But what is needed for the wilderness is given in chapter 12.
 
27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as seeing him who is invisible. v.27 Faith Separates from the World, Seeing God. It would seem that v.27 refers to the exodus, rather than Moses’ flight in Ex. 2:15, even though that would fall chronologically between v.26 and v.28. The reason is that Moses flight in Exodus 2 was in fear of Pharaoh, who had discovered Moses’ actions, and v.27 says “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king”.13 Pharaoh did not want to let Moses leave Egypt, taking with him the children of Israel, but he persevered through much conflict (the ten plagues), and at last forsook Egypt. Pharaoh’s anger was real, but Moses lived in sight of a greater King; “him who is invisible”. Faith caused him to go courageously into the presence of the most powerful monarch on earth and say “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go” (Ex. 5:1). When threatened with death, he could boldly answer, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (Ex. 10:28, 29). The decision Moses made in vv.24-26 is brought to a culminating action in v.27. Faith gives us spiritual eyesight, which gives us the ability to apprehend the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and to live in fear of Him, displacing the fear of man (Psa. 118:6).
 
Naught can stay our steady progress,
More than conquerors we shall be,
If our eye, whate’er the danger,
Looks to Thee, and none but Thee.15

Faith That Trusts God and Leans on Divine Resources – Egypt to Canaan (vv.28-31)

Three Obstacles. In the verses that follow we have three great obstacles that faced the children of Israel: (1) their sin in the presence of God’s justice as seen in the Passover, (2) the power of sin and Satan as seen at the Red Sea, and (3) the opposition of the world to the enjoyment of the inheritance as seen at Jericho. What overcame each of these obstacles was faith!
 
28 By faith he celebrated the passover and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. v.28 Faith Trusts the Efficacy of the Blood (Passover). The next great aspect of the life of faith is that it lays hold of God’s provision for the issue of sin. In the tenth plague there was no difference between Israel and the Egyptians; all are sinners. It was a matter of obedience for Moses – it is put in the singular “he” – to command the people to keep the Passover as the Lord had told him. Death would either fall on the firstborn or on the lamb as a substitute for the firstborn. The Passover is a type of Christ; “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Passover speaks of the death of Christ in the aspect of screening us from the judgment of God which hung over us because of our sins. The sprinkling of the blood is the application of the work of Christ to the believer through simple, saving faith. The blood is what has efficacy before God. Faith apprehends God first as a Judge (v.28), Christ being the sacrifice, then as a Savior (v.29).
 
29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as through dry land; of which the Egyptians having made trial were swallowed up. v.29 Faith Experiences the Power of Redemption (Red Sea). The next obstacle Israel faced was the Red Sea, and the approaching army of Pharaoh who was come to bring them back to Egypt. The Passover and the Red Sea really illustrate two sides of one work of redemption. The deliverance of the Passover (Exodus 12) pictures the deliverance of the soul from the penalty or guilt of our sins. The deliverance of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) pictures the deliverance of the soul from the power of sin. One was a deliverance by blood, the other by power. After the Passover, Israel was safe, but not saved. At the Red Sea, God showed Israel that He was for them. It was the “salvation of the Lord”, and therefore not by Israel’s efforts (Ex. 14:13), but it was still a demonstration of faith. There was a mixed multitude that went up (1 Cor. 10:5), but many of them had faith. The children of Israel were in an impossible situation. It was the very worst place for a fleeing people to be found when pursued by an army. They were locked in between two mountains with the sea in front of them. But God ordered this so that His power would be greatly displayed! He opened a way “through the Red sea as through dry land”. It was an inexplicable path (Job 28:7). The Egyptians tried to follow Israel through the sea, but they were “swallowed up” in the process. Only faith can experience this power of redemption. We too are faced with circumstances that sometimes seem impossible, and the temptation at that time is to give in to the desires of the flesh. Walking daily in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) is a continual demonstration of the life of faith, and of the practical victory the believer has through the death and resurrection of Christ!
 
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, having been encircled for seven days. v.30 Faith Sees Difficulties Disappear (Jericho). The entire wilderness journey of Israel – that which was necessary as discipline because of unbelief – is passed over, as well as crossing the Jordan. We next read of the the walls of Jericho that rose up before the people, standing as a barrier to their entrance into the promised inheritance. Those walls, thick and strong, were far beyond the strength of the people. We know about the instructions to the people for the men to march around the city each day for six days, seven times on the seventh day with the priests blowing trumpets, and the people’s great shout. There was no logical sense to all of this. The strategy must have appeared foolish to the inhabitants of Jericho. But Israel’s success required obedience to the Word of God, and nothing else. Faith lays hold of the Word of God, and sees barriers like the walls of Jericho fall down! “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). We are not to take from this that the Lord will simply deliver us from every difficult circumstance if we have enough faith. The remainder of the chapter bears this out (“and others…”, vv.35-39). Often the Lord will give us the grace to pass through the trial (2 Cor. 12:9), and this is His way of delivering us! The point is this: Israel had to learn at the very outset of the conquest of Canaan that success in conflict is only had through unquestioning obedience to the Word of God.
 
31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with the unbelieving, having received the spies in peace. v.31 Faith Identifies with the People of God. The inhabitants of Jericho had the testimony of what the Lord had done for Israel; “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites,” etc. (Jos. 2:10). However, only “Rahab the harlot” had the faith to receive the spies and identify herself, and all her house, with the people of God. Apart from faith, she would not have done this. All the inhabitants of Jericho were terrified, but only she surrendered to Joshua. Many sinners are afraid of death and judgment, but only those of faith will come forward and submit to the Lord Jesus. Rahab was a Gentile, a stranger to the children of promise, and a woman with an immoral occupation and reputation. But God worked by grace in her heart and she believed the report before the judgment fell; therefore she acted in faith when the two spies came to her house. “Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (Jas. 2:25). She was willing to be faithful to the Lord at the expense of betraying her country. She and her house were saved when Joshua took the city. As a testimony to the grace of God, Rahab was brought into the royal line, from which the Messiah came! In order to be saved, Rahab had to leave her former association, and identify herself with the alien people. In a similar way, the Hebrews were being called to separate from Judaism, and instead associate themselves with a heavenly calling.

Faith Under Various Characters: Two Classes (vv.32-39)

32 And what more do I say? For the time would fail me telling of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 who by faith overcame kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped lions’ mouths, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, became strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, made the armies of strangers give way. 35a Women received their dead again by resurrection; vv.32-35a Faith of Those who had Miraculous Lives: The Power of Faith. The Spirit of God now covers the history of Israel in the land without going into specific details, simply because of the lack of time! The order is not chronological; i.e. Gideon before Barak, or David before Samuel. Perhaps the order has more to do with the character of faith, in declining order, but still there was real and precious faith. In each of these cases, we have examples of faith that resulted in miraculous victory. Those from the era of the judges four are mentioned, “Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah”, all had failure in their administration. Gideon failed in discernment (making the golden ephod), Barak failed to take the lead, Samson was blinded by love for Philistine women, and Jephthah failed in his rashness. Yet no mention is made of these failures, but only of their faith. Each experienced great victories. From the era of the kings one is mentioned. David was the first of the proper kings. Samuel was the last of the judges but first of the successive prophets, and he is placed after David in connection with the other prophets. The Old Testament record of David and Samuel’s lives is full of examples of faith! The faith of “the prophets” is mentioned, spanning the whole period of time from Samuel to Malachi, if not later.
 
In vv.33-35a we have a number of general references to acts of faith without names given, although we can find names that fit. Joshua “overcame kingdoms” by military conquest, and Esther turned the empire of Persia around through relationships! Ones who “wrought righteousness” individually would include Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezek. 14:14), and kings like Hezekiah and Josiah did so administratively. One who “obtained promises” in the sense of being given a promise was Phinehas when he received the everlasting covenant of the priesthood, and Israel “obtained promises” in the sense of seeing them fulfilled (Jos. 23:14). One who “stopped lions’ mouths” was Daniel (also David and Samson), and those who “quenched the power of fire” include Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. One who “escaped the edge of the sword” was Jeremiah, but it could also be said of David and Elijah. One who “became strong out of weakness” was Gideon, and another was the left-handed Ehud. Those who “became mighty in war” would include David’s mighty men. Those who “made the armies of strangers give way” would include the armies under Joshua, Gideon, and David. Women who “received their dead again by resurrection” would include the widow of Zarephath and the Shunamite woman. These are all examples of those who, by faith, saw the power of God active in their lives to deliver them from difficult circumstances!
 
35b and others were tortured, not having accepted deliverance, that they might get a better resurrection; 36 and others underwent trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, and of bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, died by the death of the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, evil treated, 38 (of whom the world was not worthy,) wandering in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caverns of the earth. vv.35b-38 Faith in Those who Suffered Greatly: The Endurance of Faith. But God does not always deliver His people from the trial, and faith is seen also in the endurance God gives the believer to pass through a trial without giving up! This is more that character of faith that is needed in Christianity, as the Hebrews had learned. In v.35b we have the untold numbers of the martyrs, who had a chance to compromise their testimony to get a temporal, earthly deliverance, but instead endured torture and death “that they might get a better resurrection”. A “better resurrection” is what the saints look forward to! The Old Testament saints didn’t know of the rapture, nor of the mystery of 1 Cor. 15:51-52. But faith looks on to a brighter tomorrow, when the sufferings of this life are a distant memory. Those who endure great suffering by faith do not see the power of God visibly in their lives in the same outward way as others (vv.32-35), though it is still there in a different way, as a power that preserves the soul. Yet they will see that power visibility in their own bodies at the resurrection! No doubt there is some connection here with the thought of reward (2 Tim. 2:11-12).
 
There were those who were “tortured”, like Micaiah at the hands of Ahab (1 Kings 22:27). However, the word is ‘tumpanizō’, and it implies the use of a drum or wheel as a mechanism of torture. We have no specific examples of this in scripture, but some did pass through it. There were those who “underwent trial of mockings” like Samson (Jdg. 16:25), “sourgings” like Jeremiah (Jer. 20:2; 37:15), “of bonds and imprisonment” like Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6) and Daniel (Dan. 6). In these things we are also reminded of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. Some were “stoned” like Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:21), and others were “sawn asunder”, as perhaps was Isaiah the Prophet at the direction of Manasseh, according to Jewish tradition.16 They were “tempted”, like Abram and Job. Many died “by the death of the sword”  and others were dispossessed of their homes, driven out of society, and forced to live as animals. The world cast them out as unfit for society, but the Spirit of God gives us the perspective of heaven; “of whom the world was not worthy”.
 

Conclusion: Some Better Thing (11:39-40)

39 And these all, having obtained witness through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having foreseen some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us. vv.39-40 Old and New Testament Faithful. “All these” refers to the Old Testament saints who “obtained witness through faith”, meaning God honored them by associating Himself with them, as we see in this chapter; “God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God” (v.14). But they died in faith without receiving the promise. The full good of the promises made to them will not be realized until those saints are “made perfect” in resurrection! But God has seen fit to make those dear saints wait, “having foreseen some better thing for us”, the Christian saints. The “better thing” is the full revelation of God in the Person of His Son, which the believer lays hold of by faith, and which the Hebrew saints had been called into. The perfection of the Old and New Testament saints, which takes place when our bodies are glorified, will happen together; “that they should not be made perfect without us”. This hints that the Old Testament saints will be “made perfect” (glorified, including raised bodies) at the same time as Christians who have died. By comparing with 1 Thessalonians 4, we know this will take place at the rapture.17 To this we add 1 Corinthians 15:23, which says, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” In 1 Thessalonians 4 it is “the dead in Christ”, which would be Christians strictly. But in 1 Corinthians 15, it is “they that are Christ’s”, which is broader, including all those of faith who have died.18 Old Testament Saints are part of the “twenty-four elders” in Revelation 4-22, who witness the judgments of the earth from heaven, seated around the throne of God. But neither Old nor New Testament saints can come into their full blessing until Him who is at the center of all the promises of God comes into His (2 Cor. 1:20)!
   
  1. It is not a definition of this principle, that the epistle gives us at the commencement of Hebrews 11, but a declaration of its powers and action. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  2. Some have made a difficulty for themselves by the mistaken assumption that we have here a definition of faith. This is clearly not the object, but rather a description of its power, range, and effect. Faith scripturally in itself is simply believing God, accepting His word because He says it, not on visible evidence or on reasoning but on God’s authority. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  3. In general we may say that verses 8-22 are faith resting assured on the promise, the patience of faith: verse 23 to the end, faith resting on God for the activities and difficulties faith leads to, the energy of faith. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  4. … the great fundamental principles of faith in action… – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  5. There is not universal agreement on this point among expositors. Some feel this refers to the reconstruction of Gen. 1:3-31. “This is a reference to the reconstruction of the earth and the heavens outlined in Genesis 1:3-31. The word “framed” in the Greek (“katartizo”) means “repaired,” or “mended” (Strong’s), or “to put in order again” (Liddell and Scott), or “adjusted” (Nestle). The same word is translated “mending,” in the KJV in Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19. And it is also translated “restore,” in Galatians 6:1. Hence, this verse indicates that God mended or restored that which He had previously created.” – Anstey, B. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  6. Abraham gives occasion to a large and varied scope of faith, and stands at the head of those who illustrate its patience, rather than its energy which wrought in Moses and those that follow. And this is the true moral order: first, waiting on God who had promised; secondly, overcoming difficulties and dangers in His power. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  7. Newton, J. Though Troubles Assail. Little Flock Hymnbook #160.
  8. Taylor, J.R. We Are but Strangers Here. Little Flock Hymnbook #180.
  9. Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find such absolute trust in God, as when the father was proved willing to sacrifice his only son, with whom were bound up all God’s promises and his own expectations. To man death is the end of hope; to God it is but the occasion to exercise the power of resurrection. – Kelly, William. Abram, the Friend of God.
  10. It is thus that Christ renounced His rights as Messiah, and went even into death, committing Himself to the will of God and trusting in Him; and received everything in resurrection. And this the Hebrew Christians had to do, with respect to the Messiah and the promises made to Israel. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  11. Isaac’s trembling very exceedingly was on the discovery, not only of the guilt of Jacob, but of his own will against God who had overruled him; whereon he says emphatically that he had blessed him, “yea, he shall be blessed.” Nature in Isaac sought to bless otherwise, and had seemed all but to prevail; but “by faith Isaac, blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” according to God. – Kelly, William. An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  12. Now comes a fresh series in the display of the power of faith no matter what the enemies, the dangers, or the difficulties; Moses has a place as marked in its power as Abraham had in its patience. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  13. Another forty years intervenes between verses 26 and 27, during which Moses had learned in solitary experience, in “the backside of the desert,” that all the wisdom of Egypt was nothing to God. Then God called him to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel out of it.
  14. 14Williams, W. Savior! Lead Us by Thy Power. Little Flock Hymnbook #42A.
  15. Talmud, Yevamot tractate
  16. “…before the Lord comes, when we and all the O.T. saints shall be perfected in the likeness of His body of glory, and go to meet Him on high.” – Kelly, W. Exposition of Hebrews.
  17. “…those saints who are dead must be raised for that. When I say “saints,” I mean all the saints, those of the Old Testament, as well as those under the New Testament, dispensation.” – Darby, J.N. Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ.

Hebrews 12

 
Exhortation to Run the Race of Faith
Hebrews 12
 
Hebrews 12. Having turned aside in the previous chapter to show many wonderful examples of faith, the writer returns to his purpose of exhorting the saints to live by faith as Christians. He compares the life of faith to an endurance race. The race, its hindrances, and its Object are described first (vv.1-3). Then, the subject of chastening is brought in, because God chastens us in the race of faith to help us rather than hinder us (vv.4-16). Our Father does not delight in chastening us. He would much prefer to draw us by attracting us to the person of Christ. But if we do not lay aside every weight and the sin in our lives then He can and will bring in chastening. If we do not understand chastening, we can become discouraged under it. Following this we have a number of helpful instructions for how to run the race (vv.12-17). At the close of the chapter, the writer takes up the great contrast between Judaism and Christianity, and the very serious danger that some of them were in, of rejecting Christ (vv.18-29). So we have another warning against apostasy.
 
 

The Race Set Before Us: Christ the Object and Example of Faith (12:1-3)

CHAPTER 12
Let “us” also therefore, having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, laying aside every weight, and sin which so easily entangles us, run with endurance the race that lies before us, v.1 Laying Aside Weights and Sin in Order to Run with Endurance. The Christian pathway is likened to an endurance race. The list of Old Testament saints in ch.11 is referred to in ch.12 as a “great cloud of witnesses”. The witnesses are those who have finished the race before us. Although they lived in a different day, yet it is the same race in many respects. The main difference is what we have in v.2; we look to Jesus. They are not witnesses in the sense of watching us run, like spectators, but in the sense that they witness the path of faith in general. It is not a 100-meter dash; rather, it is a long-distance race. It will require patience or endurance to complete the race successfully. These witnesses encourage us, yet now it is our turn; “let us run”. There are two things mentioned in v.1 that can hinder us in running the Christian race: weights and sin.
  • Weights are those things are are not positively sin, but can be a hindrance to our running the race of faith. For the Hebrews, the “weights” were the outward things of Judaism that many were still occupied with. For us, it could be something else. Weights spoil our enjoyment of Christ, and hinder us from pursuing Him. They are like “the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines” (Song. 2:15). One weight that is often a hindrance to young men is following professional sports. It consumes hours of their free time, fills their minds with interesting and exciting things, thereby displaces time and interest in the things of God. This is just one example; but there are many more. A weight for one person may not necessarily be a weight for another.
  • Sin on the other hand is positively wrong. There are certain types of sin that each one of us are more prone to, and therefore they can be considered “besetting sins”. However, that isn’t exactly what this verse refers to. Certainly, every kind of sin needs to be laid aside, but specifically here it is simply “sin”; i.e. the general issue of sin, which so easily besets us. For the Hebrews, the “sin” was the sin of unbelief, of rejecting faith in Christ. They could look back over their history and see how the sin of unbelief had beset them many times. Now they must lay it aside once for all. Likewise, we also are easily “entangled” with sin. We are prone to choose not to believe God, and rather to act in self will.
If “weights” slow us down in the race, then “sin” takes us off course. Before the race begins, a runner lays aside anything that might slow or trip him up. The cloud of witnesses encourages us that the race is worth running, and so we must exercise self discipline in order to run with endurance!
 
2 looking stedfastly on Jesus the leader and completer of faith: who, in view of the joy lying before him, endured the cross, having despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. v.2 Focus on Jesus, Who Ran Perfectly. It is hard to run with endurance without a goal in view. The Christian has an object in the race; and that is Christ Himself! We are to remain looking “stedfastly on Jesus”, and if we do, our feet will remain in the path. The thought of “looking” is really “looking off” to Jesus (W. Kelly Translation), in contrast with looking at the cloud of witnesses.1 If the the cloud of witnesses are imperfect portraits of faith, Jesus is the unequaled masterpiece! We are not to look to the cloud of witnesses as our object, because – faithful as they were in life – they are not sufficient to be the believer’s object. Only Christ can be our goal. Christ is not only our object as a glorified man in heaven, but He is there as One who has completed the race; the perfect example for us. Hence, He is called “the leader and completer of faith”, because He began it, ran it, and finished it perfectly! Christ had an object before Him as well; “the joy that was set before Him”. What was the joy that lay before Him? The highest joy was perhaps that of bringing glory to His Father (John 4:34; John 13:31-32). There was also the joy purchasing the inheritance (Matt. 13:44), that He might redeem His people and gain a bride (Eph. 5:25-27). Having that joy before Him, Jesus was willing to suffer intensely on earth, because He knew what lay ahead. The Spirit of God brings before us the awfulness of the sufferings of Christ at the hands of man. He “endured the cross” or literally “crucifixion”, which was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die (Phil. 2:8). The horrors of the cross, awful as they were, and beyond our comprehension, did not dissuade Jesus from running the race.2 No, instead He “despised the shame”, not because He was unfeeling or callous, but because He had a goal in view. Jesus did indeed reach the finish line. He has finished His race, and “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”. One day our race will be done as well. Jesus, having crossed the finish line ahead of us, now turns to help is in our race. Four times in Hebrews we have Christ seated in heaven: Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, and 12:2. How wonderful that Jesus Himself waits at the finish line to welcome us (Acts 7:55)! 
 
3 For consider well him who endured so great contradiction from sinners against himself, that ye be not weary, fainting in your minds. v.3 Consider Jesus Who Suffered Greatly Yet Persevered. The Spirit of God returns again to the suffering of Christ, and His endurance through it, as an encouragement to us. The race is going to be difficult, and we will surely suffer. But it is a help to “consider well Him”, that we might be encouraged by the supreme example of faith. Particularly the “great contradiction from sinners against himself” is brought before us. The word ‘contradiction’ means to speak (‘diction’) against (‘contra’) someone. This refers to the wicked speech that was constantly directed toward the Savior. Examples would be the Jews’ false accusations in John 8, or the insults hurled against Him while hanging on the cross. Why is this aspect of the Lord’s sufferings presented to us as an example? Perhaps because it is an aspect of suffering that is hard to take. Can you imagine being taunted and insulted your whole life long, without just cause? These verbal attacks only intensified toward the end of our Lord’s public ministry. In the final days, the Lord experienced a sense of being surrounded by enemies – bulls (Jewish enemies) and dogs (Gentile enemies) – who were gaping upon Him “with their mouths” (Psa. 22:11-13, 16). Words can hurt, and the Lord’s enemies used them. In perfect contrast the these hard speeches, the Lord never retaliated. During His trials, the Lord was led from one judgment hall to another. Isaiah 53:7-8 speaks of His perfect harmlessness during those trials, as He was led from place to place; “he opened not his mouth”. Jesus never gave in to the taunting and mocking; and neither should we. His example encourages us to press on in the race, to not grow “weary” or “faint” in our minds.
 

The Lord’s Chastening and Our Response to it (12:4-11)

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, wrestling against sin. v.4 Our Natural Unwillingness to Suffer. In contrast to what the Lord suffered, we have barely suffered at all. He resisted evil to the point of death. We “have not yet resisted unto blood”. We are naturally unwilling to suffer, and this can be problematic in the race that is set before us. We don’t like to suffer, but we need to, especially when it comes to “wrestling against sin”. This verse is not teaching that we should fight against sin with the energy of the flesh. Rather, it is showing that, if we are going to live a holy life, it will require us denying the lusts of the flesh, which is unpleasant to the old nature within us. While He did not have sin in Him, the Lord Jesus is the perfect example to us: He would rather die than disobey!
 
Chastening. The word paideuo could be translated chastening or discipline, and it really refers to the training of a child. Just as natural parents discipline their children, so the Lord disciplines us! This chapter deals extensively with the subject of chastening. Another book that deals with the topic is the book of Job. Chastening is not the Lord’s preferred method of changing us. He would first seek to draw us by attaching our hearts to Christ in glory. But like natural children, when the heart is not reached, chastening must come in. A very real danger is that if we don’t understand the chastening of the Lord, we might allow it to discourage us from running the race of faith. But when we understand chastening, it helps us to run with endurance. Read more…
 
5 And ye have quite forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when reproved by him; 6 for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” [Prov. 3:11-12] 7 Ye endure for chastening, God conducts himself towards you as towards sons; for who is the son that the father chastens not? 8 But if ye are without chastening, of which all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. vv.5-8 God’s Motive in Chastening. Not only do we tend to be unwilling to suffer in denying our flesh, but we also tend to shy away from the chastening of the Lord. The writer quotes from the early chapters of Proverbs, which the Hebrew believers ought to have been very familiar with, although they had forgotten it, where “my son” is addressed repeatedly. It is a term of affection. It is also very individual; God has an individual tuition for each one of us. The quotation from Proverbs reveals that the Lord chastens those whom He loves! Chastening is not a sign that God hates us, but rather that He loves us! If we aren’t chastened by the Lord (which he carefully adds “of which all have been made partakers” because is common to every believer), then we really do not have God as our Father, and we are not legitimate children in the family; “then are ye bastards, and not sons”. The point is simply this: chastening is inseparable from the father-child relationship. We are to remember that God chastens us because He loves us, and because we are His sons. The quotation from Proverbs 3 further reveals two attitudes which we must avoid in order to profit from the chastening of the Lord.
  1. On one extreme we can “despise” the chastening of the Lord. To despise the chastening of the Lord is to ignore that it is taking place, or discount it as unimportant.3
  2. On the other extreme we could “faint” when we are reproved by Him. To faint under His chastening is to become depressed or discouraged by it.
The proper response to chastening is in v.11; to “be exercised by it”. This is the only way to profit from chastening; to really seek to learn from it the lesson the Lord is trying to teach us. A duck simply lets the rain roll off its back, the chicken flaps its wings and squawks when it gets wet, but the robin endures the rain, and then it sings!
 
Reasons for Chastening or Discipline. There are a number of reasons for chastening in the believer's life. Chastening does not always come into our lives because of some sin we have committed. It is important to see that. Job and his three friends had a very limited understanding of God's ways, and all fell into error in their thoughts about God relative to Job's suffering. Bruce Anstey has nicely organized these reasons under four English words that begin with 'P'.
  1. Punitive. To punish the believer when positive sin is committed. The goal is to correct the believer, and if refused, it could lead to one being taken in death (Heb. 12:6; 9-10; 1 Cor. 11:32).
  2. Purgative. To remove unnecessary hindrances from a believer's life. The goal is to make the believer more fruitful, and more radiant (John 15:1-2; Psa. 139:2-3).4
  3. Preventative. To keep a believer from doing something he would have otherwise done; to preserve us from spiritual harm (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:11; 12:7-9; Job 33:17-19).
  4. Preparative. To prepare a believer for a new phase of life or field of ministry, such as being a help to others who are suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-6; Heb. 2:17-18).
 
9 Moreover we have had the fathers of our flesh as chasteners, and we reverenced them; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they indeed chastened for a few days, as seemed good to them; but he for profit, in order to the partaking of his holiness. vv.9-10 God’s Object in Chastening. The writer compares the chastening of the Lord with the discipline or child training of natural parents . There are many parallels between the two, yet the Lord’s chastening is far superior! The “fathers of our flesh” chastened us while we were young according to what “seemed good to them”, yet we revered them. It may not have always been the best administration of discipline, because natural parents are often self serving and lack wisdom in discipline. Sometimes they are too slow or fast, sometimes they do it for appearance, and sometimes they discipline in anger. Yet we still summitted to our natural father, as is proper for children in a family. Far superior is the discipline of God our Father. His discipline is balanced and perfectly suitable to our state, according to His divine wisdom. His object in chastening is “for our profit”. God wants us to be able to partake of “His holiness”. He wants us to have fellowship with Himself. We cannot have fellowship with God if there are certain hindrances in our lives (like “weights” and sin, v.1), and chastening is one means of removing those hindrances. Notice that God is called “the Father of spirits”. God doesn’t just deal with our behavior, but with our spirits or attitudes. Parents should strive for the same with their children. It is relatively easy to get children to do certain things, it is much harder to get them to do things with a good attitude. God’s discipline deals with the heart! Seeing how far superior the discipline of God is, and seeing that it is for our blessing, shouldn’t we readily submit to His hand?
 
11 But no chastening at the time seems to be matter of joy, but of grief; but afterwards yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those exercised by it. v.11 Chastening During and After. The writer now compares the experience of a soul during chastening and after it. This is true of child training, but more so  in connection with the discipline of the Lord. While undergoing chastening, “at the time” it is a thing of grief. The Spirit of God in no way cheapens or downplays the grief that a soul passes through in trial. But “afterward” the outcome of chastening, if a soul is exercised by it, is very much a thing of joy. The “peaceful fruit” of chastening in our lives is practical “righteousness”. God wants our spirit and our conduct to be consistent with Himself, and this will result in peace in our spirits. It is a principle generally with God, that true peace is always a result of righteousness; “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. 32:17). See also James 3:17. We have a similar thought in John 15. Our Father as the husbandman prunes the true branches in order that they might bear more fruit (John 15:2).
 
Example of an Exercised Soul. A beautiful example of one who was exercised by the chastening of the Lord is seen in Psalm 38-40, three Psalms of David. In Psalm 38 (a penitential psalm), we have David under the chastening hand of the Lord, feeling deeply the suffering he was passing through. Yet we find him exercised by it; “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” (Psa. 38:18). In Psalm 39 he continues to pour out his heart to the Lord, seeing God at work behind the circumstances, and calling out for deliverance. In Psalm 40, the Lord delivers David from the trial, bringing the chastening to an end, and the result is beautiful; “he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psa. 40:3). At the time, the chastening for David was a matter of grief; but afterwards it yielded the peaceful fruit of righteousness because he was exercised by it.
 

How We can Successfully Run the Race (12:12-17)

Having taken up the subject of chastening, the writer now returns to the theme of the chapter, which is running the race of faith. There are a number of things that we must do, aside from laying aside weights and sin, that will help us to successfully run the race that is set before us.
 
12 Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the failing knees; v.12 Take Courage. The picture of one whose hands are hanging and knees failing is one of discouragement, of someone who is exhausted in a race. No doubt many among the Hebrews were discouraged. Perhaps they had gotten their eye off Christ, having been taken up with the outward trappings of Judaism. Perhaps they had experienced some of the Lord’s discipline. They needed to take courage and find their strength in the Lord, like David who “encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6).
 
13 and make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame be not turned aside; but that rather it may be healed. v.13 Have Consistency and Singleness. To make straight paths for our feet is to have singleness in the race of faith. The best path is one that goes straight toward the goal, without swerving and mis-stepping. Our own consistency or lack thereof affects not only ourselves, but other companions in the race. There are those who are “lame”, who have some weakness that hinders their spiritual progress. In the language of Romans 14, these are the “weak in the faith”. We are responsible to set a good example for others. Every believer should have his eye trained on Christ, but we do influence one another. If I am inconsistent in my faith (up and down) the lame can be turned aside from the pathway. We should instead run the race in a way that would cause no further damage to the lame, but would allow time for the injury to heal. With time, those who are weak in faith – in this case it was Hebrew believers having difficulty letting go of Judaism – will grow stronger.
 
14 Pursue peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord: v.14 Maintain Right Relationships with God and Man. God wants us to pursue peace with believers and unbelievers alike, as Paul says elsewhere “if it be possible, as much as lieth within you, live peacefully with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Someone who is growing in grace will generally be at peace with others. We see this in the development of the Lord Jesus as a perfect man. He increased with perfect balance; “in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). But this “peace with all” is not peace at the expense of holiness, but peace coupled with holiness. From the context of the passage, we can see that this is practical holiness. If it was a positional holiness the Spirit of God would not urge the believer to pursue it, because there is nothing we can do in ourselves to gain a holy standing before God. But God would have us to know that we cannot enjoy fellowship with Him unless we are sanctified. Holiness is not only outward separation from evil, but an inward nature that delights in what is good, and hates what is evil. To pursue holiness is what we call practical sanctification. Read more… The Lord cannot have sin in His presence, and thus we must be clear of sin to enter His courts. God would have us consider the importance of holiness, and therefore it is a word to the conscience. But it is not something that need trouble the heart of a believer seeking to please the Lord. We know that our standing before God is “holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4), and when the Lord comes, the work of sanctification will be completed, and we will be transformed morally to be like Christ (1 John 3:2). Yet there is another side of this which is equally important. Sin blinds our spiritual eyesight. If we have sin in our lives we will not be able to “see the Lord” as the object of the race we are running, and we will be turned out of the way.
 
Holiness. The word 'holy' is used in scripture in two different ways. It can refer to the character of a nature, or to an objective state. In the first sense, holiness is the character of God's own nature. It is the love of good and the hatred of evil. As we have in Psalm 45, speaking of the Messiah, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hast hated lawlessness”. God is light, and His nature is "holy, holy, holy" (Rev. 4:8). The believer is also said to be “light in the Lord”, because we have divine life, although we are not Divine. The reason we do not always experience the holiness of the divine nature within us is because we have also a fallen, evil nature as well. Paul’s teaching on deliverance explains that by walking in the Spirit, we have deliverance from the fallen nature. But holiness is also used in another sense, referring to an objective state. For example, a sacrifice in the Old Testament was said to be “holy unto the Lord”, because it was sanctified or separated to the Lord. This aspect answers to sanctification. There is an inward character, but there is also a outward condition. By positional sanctification the believer is made holy in an absolute sense. The is also practical sanctification, which is a process. The holy nature and the holy walk are connected. If a person does not have the inward character (new birth) it will be impossible to stay clean practically. Holiness is important, because God cannot have communion with evil; "holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Holiness cannot be attained by following a legal standard, such as the law of Moses. Believers already have the holy life of Christ, and practical holiness is a matter of walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
 
15 watching lest there be any one who lacks the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and many be defiled by it; 16 lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright; 17 for ye know that also afterwards, desiring to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, (for he found no place for repentance) although he sought it earnestly with tears. vv.15-17 Have Concern for One Another in the Path. We are to watch out for one another. Particularly, there were those among the Hebrews in danger of going back to Judaism. There is progression here:
  1. Someone turning legal, “lest there be any one who lacks the grace of God”. To lack of the grace of God is to lose the sense of the grace of God in our life. This turns a person legal, because they being to see the favor of God as something they merit through their own works. There are many different kinds of legality, but the root is always the same. Read more…
  2. Someone turning bitter“lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you”. If we lose a sense of God’s grace toward us, it can lead to us becoming bitter. Firstly, a soul can become bitter against the Lord, and have hard thoughts toward Him. This can happen when we do not understand His chastening, if we lack an appreciation of grace. Second, we can become bitter against others. Bitterness is called “a root”, because if suppressed in one area but not fully judged, it will spring up somewhere else. Bitterness spreads like an invasive weed, defiling many. Sometimes an entire family over multiple generations can be destroyed by bitterness. An example of this is with Esau, who was bitter that God had chosen Jacob. His bitterness was carried out in the lives of his descendants for generations. We see it in Obadiah, where the bitterness is exposed, condemned, and judgment pronounced. A sense of God’s grace is the strongest antidote to bitterness (Eph. 4:31-32). 
  3. Someone turning away, “lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright”. We have two forms of evil: “any fornicator” is someone engaged in gross moral sin, and a “profane person” is someone to treats the sacred things of God as though they were common. An example of the latter is Esau. He despised the birthright (sold it for “one meal” of pottage) and later was denied the blessing. Esau had no value for the promises of God. Jacob connived to take the blessing, but here it is viewed as something God refused to give Esau, because he had despised the birthright. In a typical sense, for one morsel of meat (their place and nation), the Jews sold their birthright (crucified their Messiah). Later, Esau sought the blessing earnestly with tears, but he was rejected. He found no place for repentance in the sense that his heart was unchanged. Compare the reaction of Esau, “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (Gen. 27:34), with the reaction of the prodigal son, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:21). Esau sought the blessing earnestly with tears, but did so without repentance. The prodigal came to the father in repentance and got the blessing! Repentance is a moral change that takes place in a person whereby they take God’s side against themselves because of their sin. Read more… Esau is a picture of one whose life proved that he had no value for the things of God. He despised the promises and was himself rejected. It is a picture of an apostate, one who despises their birthright (what they have professed, Christ and all blessing associated with Him), and for such a person it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. But even for a true believer, if they carry on with unjudged bitterness in their life, it can lead to them turning away from the Lord.
Having warned of the solemn condition of a profane person, the writer next takes up a warning about apostasy.
 

(The Choice Between Two Approaches to God) (12:18-29)

The second half of the chapter is a warning against apostasy; the great danger that some among the Hebrews were facing. They had made a profession of Christianity, but some were not real and were in danger of ultimately rejecting Christ and going back to Judaism. The writer warns them of the seriousness of such a choice by reminding them of the great difference between the two approaches to God. The two approaches are pictured by mountains, by which one might ascend. On the one hand there was the approach on the grounds of man’s responsibility, and it was accompanied by fear and judgment. On the other hand there was the approach on the grounds of grace, it was accompanied by many wonderful things that are a total contrast to law. This warning takes the form of a parenthesis, being one of five such warnings in the epistle.

The Mount Sinai Contrasted with Mount Zion (12:18-24)

18 For ye have not come to the mount that might be touched and was all on fire, and to obscurity, and darkness, and tempest, 19 and trumpet’s sound, and voice of words; which they that heard, excusing themselves, declined the word being addressed to them any more: 20 (for they were not able to bear what was enjoined: And if a beast should touch the mountain, it shall be stoned;” [ref. Exodus 19:13] 21 and, so fearful was the sight, Moses said, I am exceedingly afraid and full of trembling;) vv.18-21 Mount Sinai and Law. The writer would remind the Hebrews of the character of the old system by looking at the occasion of the giving of the law. There are a number of things we are not come to, that the Spirit of God would bring before the Hebrews:
  1. Tangible yet inaccessible. It is remarked that we are not come “to the mount that might be touched and was all on fire”. The “mount” that is spoken of is Mt. Sinai, that Jehovah called “my mountain”, where He first appeared to Moses, and where later the Law was given to Israel. It was a physical, tangible thing “that might be touched”, much like the earthly system of Judaism. However, they were not able to touch it because the mountain was “all on fire”. Fire is often a symbol of God’s judgment because of His holiness. The system of the law could not bring man near to God because it took man up on the ground of his own responsibility. Sinful man must be kept at a distance! In fact, Moses was told to put a boundary around the mountain that Israel could not cross (Ex. 19:12).
  2. Obscure and frightening. The Israelites were confronted with “obscurity and darkness and tempest”. The clouds of smoke obscured the view of what was going on upon on Sinai. In a similar way, the Law was only a partial revelation of God, in contrast with the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The darkness and high winds that accompanied the Lord frightened the people, rather than drew them near.
  3. Overwhelming. There was a “trumpet’s sound” that grew louder and louder, and overwhelmed the people’s senses. Such is the character of a holy God in judgment. God as He is revealed in Jesus is the same God that came down on Sinai. His holiness has not diminished one iota. But the cross of Christ has satisfied His holy claims and glorified His nature such that God is free to come out to us in love and grace.
  4. Unbearable. Israel heard the “voice of words”, which refers to the “ten words”, or decalogue. The ten commandments were spoken aloud by God in His thunderous voice, but Israel declined to hear any more, although He was not done speaking. They wanted God to speak to Moses only, and then Moses could relay the message; “They that heard, excusing themselves, declined the word being addressed to them any more”. Hence God “added no more” (Deut. 5:22), and would afterward not speak directly to them, but through a mediator. In a parenthesis, a few examples are given of Israel’s great fear and the reasons for it (vv.20-21). Even an animal that touched the mountain would be put to death, and Moses himself – the mediator of the covenant – was very afraid. Even the very beginning of the law, the bare minimum standard that God had for man, was unbearable to the people!
When you consider the system of the law as inaccessible, obscure, frightening, overwhelming, and unbearable, how foolish to go back to it after having been delivered from it!
 
22 but ye have come to mount Zion; and to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem; and to myriads of angels, 23 the universal gathering; and to the assembly of the firstborn who are registered in heaven; and to God, judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; 24 and to Jesus, mediator of a new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling, speaking better than Abel. vv.22-24 Mount Zion and Grace. Having outlined the system of law pictured by Mount Sinai, which we are not come to, now the writer talks about what we have come to, a system of grace pictured by Mount Zion. There are eight things that are delineated by the word “and”. We are come to each of these things, but with some of them we have the guarantee, while the final accomplishment of them is still future.
  1. First, we are come “to mount Zion”. The mountain upon which the city of David was built is a picture of grace. The Hebrews would have been familiar with Zion as a picture of grace, because in their history the mountain is connected with the promises of God. When the ark was taken by the Philistines and the people and the priests were in a state of ruin, Jehovah intervened in grace and gave them a king after His own heart, connected with Zion, “As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psa. 133:3, see also Psa. 78:65-72). The same grace characterizes the new approach to God.
  2. Second, we are come “to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem”. Lest our thoughts be confined to earth, and God’s grace here below, we are next lifted up to heaven. It is a heavenly Jerusalem in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem. The city referred to here is heaven itself, the third heavens where God dwells with all His own. In Revelation 21 the “holy city, Jerusalem” is “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” i.e., the church. But in Hebrews 12, the “assembly of the firstborn” is distinguished from the “heavenly Jerusalem”. This shows that the “heavenly Jerusalem” in Hebrews is not the church, but rather the heavenly home of the redeemed saints of the Old and New Testaments. It is the “city which hath foundations” that Abraham and others looked for (Heb. 11:10, 16).
  3. Third, we are come “to myriads of angels, the universal gathering”. This speaks of the whole heavenly host, the huge number of angels that surround the throne of God and do His bidding; “the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Rev. 5:11). Within this universal assembly of angels there are various classes and orders of angels, but this views all of them together. As Christians, we are superior in rank to the angels, being associated with Christ! A Jew could never say this.
  4. Fourth, we are come “to the assembly of the firstborn [or ‘firstborn ones’] who are registered in heaven”. This is the only reference we have in the book of Hebrews to the church (‘ecclesia’, or ‘called out ones’), which is mentioned frequently in the epistles of Paul. Often we use the word ‘firstborn’ in connection with birth order in time, but it is also used in scripture in reference to preeminence. For example, Christ is called the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). Here the Greek word ‘prototokon’ is in the plural, and it refers to Christians, who have a preeminent place in the family of God, however inferior to Christ who has utmost preeminence. For Christians, not only are our names written in the Lamb’s book of life, but our elevated place in the Church is “registered” in heaven! Our citizenship is in heaven.
  5. Fifth, we are come “to God, judge of all”. Under Judaism the people were at a distance from God. In Christianity, although God is still the holy “judge of all”, we are brought through the veil into the holiest of all! For all eternity we will enjoy the glorious presence of God Himself. God’s judgment over “all” will be displayed over the whole world in a coming day (the Millennium, see Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20).
  6. Sixth, we are come “to the spirits of just men made perfect”. This refers to the spirits of Old Testament saints, the great cloud of witnesses, “just men” whose spirits are departed their bodies, but who will be “made perfect” when the Lord comes and raises them with changed bodies! “They without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:40). These ones will join Christians in heaven, viewed together in Rev. 4-5 as the twenty-four elders.
  7. Seventh, we are come “to Jesus, mediator of a new covenant”. The greatest possession we have is the Person of Jesus. No Old Testament saint could say this, because Jesus had not yet come! He is said to be mediator of a new covenant”. Christ will function as the mediator of the New Covenant in the Millennium when that covenant is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Meanwhile, we enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant secured to us through the blood of Christ.
  8. Eighth, we are come “to the blood of sprinkling, speaking better than Abel”. The blood of sprinkling is the blood of Christ, but in reference to the blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the day of atonement. The blood of Christ is the basis of all blessing for mankind, and for the eventual reconciliation of the earth (John 1:29). It speaks “better things” than Abel’s blood, because Abel’s blood cried from the ground to God for vengeance (Gen. 4:10). The blood of Christ speaks of mercy and blessing, because the value of that shed and sprinkled blood has satisfied the claims of God against sin, and perfectly glorified His nature!

Warning Not to Refuse Grace (12:25-27)

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaks. For if those did not escape who had refused him who uttered the oracles on earth, much more we who turn away from him who does so from heaven: v.25 His that Speaks from Heaven. As he has numerous times in the epistle, the writer reasons that, seeing those who despised the word spoken by the Lord on earth came into judgment, how much more serious to refuse His voice now speaking from heaven. It doesn’t refer to the words of Christ on earth, but to the revelation that He has given as a glorified man in heaven, delivered to us through inspired channels. It is the glorified Son of God speaking from heaven! How much more serious to refuse that heavenly voice, especially since it is grace! Grace rejected is far worse than law rejected. As a side note, we can learn from this that is a mistake to elevate the words of Christ on earth above the inspired words in the rest of the New Testament. They are still the words of Christ, not as speaking on earth, but as speaking from heaven!
 
26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, saying, “Yet once will “I” shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” [Haggai 2:6] 27 But this Yet once, signifies the removing of what is shaken, as being made, that what is not shaken may remain. vv.26-27 Shaking All Things. When God spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai, the whole mountain shook. But Haggai predicts a far greater shaking that is yet future, and not limited to earth only but also the heaven! No doubt Haggai refers to the great turmoil that will unfold in the prophetic week, where the earth and the nations in it are shaken, and the heavens with their angelic hosts are shaken too (Rev. 12:7). As a tender encouragement to the faithful remnant, the Lord says that the latter glory of that house (in the Millennium) would be greater than the former. However, the writer of Hebrews shows that this signifies an even greater shaking of all things, whereby the things of this present creation are removed, and God brings in a new creation. He connects Judaism with this present creation, as suited to it. Christ has spoken from heaven, announcing the end of Judaism, with all its outward forms for the flesh to lean on. Shortly, the earthly center of that religion would be shaken by a great military destruction (70 A.D.), and the temple itself would be destroyed. However, a greater shaking is yet to come, so that in the end, only that which is of Himself might remain.

Our Response to Grace (12:28-29)

28 Wherefore let us, receiving a kingdom not to be shaken, have grace [‘be thankful’], by which let us serve God acceptably with reverence and fear. 29 For also “our God is a consuming fire.” [Deuteronomy 4:24] vv.28-29 Thankfulness. God is going to shake all things, but for us, those who have faith, we possess something that cannot be shaken; a kingdom not to be shaken”. This “kingdom” refers to the kingdom of God in its heavenly aspect, in contrast with an earthly kingdom. When God shakes all things (vv.26-27), there is an aspect of the kingdom that continues for all eternity! It is called the “everlasting kingdom” (2 Pet. 1:11, see 1 Cor. 15:24). Everything the believer has in Christianity is founded on an eternal Person who has accomplished an eternal redemption! Therefore, it is a kingdom that will never suffer decay or defeat, and it is beyond the reach of sin and death. We are already in the new creation by virtue of being in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even the dissolution of the elements (Rom. 8:38-39). When the old creation is dissolved, making way for the new creation, we will flourish in our native climate. We come to another “let us” statement; “let us… have grace” or “be thankful”. Being established in the unshakable kingdom, we can have an abiding sense of the grace of God wherein we stand. This grace produces a response of thankfulness in our hearts (the word could be translated ‘thankful’), and causes us to “serve God acceptably”; to know and do His will. The law will not cause us to serve acceptably. But grace will not cause us to live carelessly. Instead, we will serve “with reverence and fear”. The holiness of God is unchanged. The Jealous Jehovah who spoke on earth is still “a consuming fire” in His righteous government (Deut. 4:24), although we know Him as Father, and know ourselves accepted in the Beloved. His holiness, proven fully at the cross where it was satisfied by the work of Christ, is not at all diminished though we are under grace.
    
  1. “It means, looking away from other things and fixing the eye exclusively on One.” – J. N. Darby Translation footnote.
  2. It is fitting that the martyrdom sufferings of Christ should be brought in here, because in those sufferings we can follow our Savior. Whereas with the atoning sufferings, we cannot follow or share.
  3. One way of despising the chastening of the Lord is to attribute the Lord’s chastening as the Devil’s opposition. It is true that the Devil can oppose the believer, and try to hinder the work of God. We need to be sensitive as to the mind of God in our service. But when it comes to circumstances allowed in our lives, we must remember that God is in control, and the Devil is only His instrument. Job could have despised his chastening by attributing it to the Devil, but he didn’t. It was from the Lord.
  4. Sometimes the Father prunes the productive branches more than the unproductive because He wants them to produce even more.

Hebrews 13

 
Exhortations for Christian Living & Conclusion
Hebrews 13
 
Hebrews 13. In this final chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews we have a number of practical exhortations for “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). Amidst these exhortations is the call to go to Jesus outside the camp, which is really the culmination of the whole epistle. It is wonderful to see that this call comes at the very end of Hebrews, after the writer has set forth the superior glories of Christ in the preceding chapters. We are drawn by the excelling glories of Christ! At the end of the chapter we have closing salutations and instructions.
 
 

Exhortations for Holy Brethren (13:1-17)

CHAPTER 13
Let brotherly love abide. v.1 Brotherly Love. The first in the series of exhortations is to “let brotherly love abide”.

New Testament exhortations on love are centered around two main types of love: divine love ('agápe') and brotherly love ('philia'). Agápe love is sacrificial and unconditional. It is selfless in that it gives and expects nothing in return. It is the love of a settled disposition. An example would be God’s love for us in sending His only-begotten Son to die for us (John 3:16). The noun ‘philia’ and the verb ‘phileo’ originate from the Greek term ‘philos’, meaning “beloved” or “dear”. Phileo love is the love of affection or friendship. It includes loyalty, virtue, equality, and familiarity. As Christians, we are to love one another with ‘philia’ love (Romans 12:10). It is a love shared by the family of God. Read more...

The expression “let brotherly love abide” indicates that (1) brotherly love is something the new nature delights to do and we need to “let” it be manifested by treating the flesh as crucified, and (2) the Hebrew believers had begun well in that regard but needed to see to it that brotherly love “abide” or continue. Maintaining healthy friendships with our brethren takes energy and effort, and if we do not make an effort, brotherly love will not continue. Satan does everything he can to disrupt unity in God’s family. The next two verses give us ways that brotherly love expresses itself, and which also tend to build up the bonds!
 
2 Be not forgetful of hospitality; for by it some have unawares entertained angels. v.2 Hospitality. If we love our brethren, we will carry that out in practice. One of the most practical ways to show brotherly love is in hospitality. By showing hospitality we serve the practical needs of the saints, often by welcoming them into our home, to willingly serve and refresh them and make them comfortable in whatever way we can. It is good to show hospitality to brethren we know well and to those we have never met (3 John 6). If we are discouraged, self-occupied, or offended by those who take advantage, we can slack off in showing hospitality. Abraham in Genesis 18 gives us a wonderful example of hospitality! In fact, the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah (or perhaps even Lot) is referred to in this verse; “by it some have unawares entertained angels”. They entertained three strangers; two of them were angels and the third was Jehovah Himself! Our motive in hospitality should be to have others blessed and refreshed, but very often we find that we ourselves receive the greater blessing.
 
3 Remember prisoners, as bound with them; those that are evil-treated, as being yourselves also in the body. v.3 Sympathy. Another way that brotherly love manifests itself is in sympathy for others. Particularly here it is sympathy for fellow believers enduring persecution to the point of imprisonment and torture. There is a particular tendency to neglect these ones because of the stigma attached to imprisonment for the name of Christ (Heb. 10:32-34). Selfishness is not to characterize a believer. We should not be content because we ourselves live in comfort while our brethren in many parts of the world are suffering for the name of Christ. We are to have sympathy for those in prison and consider ourselves “as bound with them”. Likewise with those who are suffering hunger and other forms of ill-treatment. We ourselves are “in the body” and we know what hunger, thirst, and pain feel like. This goes beyond sympathy. We can empathize with our persecuted brethren by trying to “put ourselves in their shoes”. The word “remember” here is the practical remembrance of need (c.p. v.7), not merely recalling to mind.1 In other words, we are to remember to help them. We can remember these ones in prayer, as we come daily before the throne of grace, to lift them up before the Lord for help in their time of need. Further, as we have opportunity and resources, we should seek to be a help in whatever way we are able (e.g. 2 Tim. 1:16-18; Matt. 10:40-42; 25:36; 2 Tim. 4:11; 2 Cor. 8:8).
 
4 Let marriage be held every way in honour, and the bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers will God judge. v.4 Purity in Marriage. The writer then changes to speak about a new topic: moral purity in marriage. Natural love is fitting in its place, along with brotherly love. Marriage is to be held in honor; i.e. not that married people are to be revered, but that marriage ought to be carried on in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. Marriage is an honorable estate, and “the bed” has its appropriate and happy fulfillment within the bounds of marriage. The warning is to see to it that “the bed be undefiled”. Any sexual relation outside of the marriage union is sin. Fornication covers any kind of sexual immorality outside of the biblical marriage. Adultery is specifically the violation of the marriage bond through sexual relations with another person. The principle that “fornicators and adulterers will God judge”, is universal. Whether it be unbelievers or believers, there is a government on God on those who engage in immorality. This doesn’t mean that a believer who falls cannot be restored. There is grace with God, as well as righteous government.
 
5 Let your conversation [‘course of life’] be without love of money, satisfied with your present circumstances; for “he” has said, “I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.” [Jos. 1:5; Deut. 31:6] 6 So that, taking courage, we may say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid: what will man do unto me?” [Psalm 27:1] vv.5-6 Contentment. The next exhortation has to do with contentment. Our manner of life ought to be “without love of money”. In 1 Tim. 6:10 Paul warns that covetousness leads to a path of sin; “the love of money is the root of every evil”. In other words, every form of evil that exists, every kind of vice, can be motivated by the love of money. Man seeks money as a defense (Ecc. 7:12), and as a means of satisfying his lusts. The path of covetousness is not a happy path. When people pursue money, they are often trying to make themselves happy, but they end up pierced through “with many sorrows”. Instead we are called to contentment; “satisfied with your present circumstances”. It doesn’t mean that our present circumstances are easy, but we can take them as given to us by the Lord. No matter how little we have materially, we have the greatest possession there is! The Lord Himself has promised to never leave us. This gives us courage to press on without fear, in spite of challenging circumstances. We are not afraid what man can do (Heb. 10:34), because we have the Lord! What the Lord says to us “I will never leave thee” and what we say to Him “The Lord is my helper, etc.” are both quotations from scripture. Peace in our daily circumstances has much to do with our familiarity with the Word of God. If we walk in fellowship with the Lord we will find true profit; “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
 
7 Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come. vv.7-8 Remember Leaders, and Imitate Their Faith. The next exhortation is to recall to mind those who have been our leaders or guides, but who have finished their course; i.e. they have passed off the scene. These ones are like those called “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22). In v.7 we are told “remember your leaders”, in v.17 to “obey your leaders”, and in v.24 to “salute your leaders”. These ones might do the work of oversight in the local assembly, but their sphere is larger than that. They “have spoken to us the Word of God” in teaching and preaching, and they also lived it out in their lives. We are to remember them as “considering the issue of their conversation”; i.e. the substance or objective of their lives. What were they living for? We have the answer in v.8; the focus of their lives was “Jesus Christ”. We are to imitate the faith of these leaders, having the same focus in our own lives. It doesn’t say we should imitate their actions, because even good leaders make mistakes. But we are to follow or imitate their faith! The One who is the object of their faith and ours is the Unchangeable One; “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”. Christ will never fail us. His love does not ebb or wane. If we focus on Him, we will have a consistency in our walk much like the leaders we are called to remember. In fact, the expression “the Same” is one of the names of Jehovah (Psalm 102:27) that has to do with His immutability.
 
While all things change, He changes not,
Nor e’er forgets, though oft forgot;
His love’s unchangeably the same,
And as enduring as His name.2
 
9 Be not carried away with various and strange doctrines; for it is good that the heart be confirmed with grace, not meats; those who have walked in which have not been profited by them. v.9 Strange Doctrines. The effect of having our focus on Christ who is “the Same” is that we will be preserved from being “carried away” strange doctrines. In scripture sound doctrine is always spoken of as singular, whereas false doctrines are spoken of as plural, perhaps because they often found in groups. Here the strange doctrines are the effects of Judaism on the believer, steeping the soul in religious ordinances such as “meats” or dietary restrictions, but also washings, special garments, and holy days.3 There were many such restrictions in Judaism, as the Hebrews were well aware (Heb. 9:10), but these are obsolete in Christianity (Acts 10:15). The danger was to be carried away with doctrines that would blend or mix Judaism with Christianity. For all the “good” that the legal teachers boasted of, pursuing outward ordinances did not profit the soul or produce practical holiness. This was true in their day as in ours. In fact, such occupation only leads to bondage and spiritual harm. Legalism in various forms puts man on the ground of his own responsibility before God for blessing. Instead, the writer exhorted the Hebrews that “it is good that the heart be confirmed with grace”. To be established in grace is the cure for legalism. As Paul told Timothy, we need to “be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). This means to have an appreciation for the grace of God, and the place of favor in which the believer stands, not through our own efforts, but by virtue of our standing in Christ Jesus. When we have an appreciation for the grace of God, it motives practical holiness in our life (Titus 2:11-14).
  
10 We have an altar of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle; 11 for of those beasts whose blood is carried as sacrifices for sin into the holy of holies by the high priest, of these the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 Wherefore also Jesus, that he might sanctify the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate: 13 therefore let us go forth to him without the camp, bearing his reproach: 14 for we have not here an abiding city, but we seek the coming one. vv.10-14 Leaving Judaism. The Spirit of God brings out that “we have an altar” in Christianity, by which we approach God. It is not an altar of copper or gold as in the Jewish system, whereby the children of Israel approached God (1 Cor. 10:18). Our altar is a spiritual one, and it speaks of Christ who has opened a “new and living way” into the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-22). How much greater than the altar of Israel! But here we have a solemn statement: those who serve the old order have “no right to eat” at the altar of Christianity. God no longer sanctions the old altar. There is a moral reason why those who approach God on Judaistic principles cannot partake of Christian worship. To explain this reason, the writer goes back to the same Old Testament type that he had used prior in Hebrews 9 – 10; i.e. the day of atonement.
 
Having already showed that it was not possible for the people to enter into the holiest of all, now the writer speaks of another place where the people could not go, or rather would not go; i.e. to the place where the bodies of the sin offerings were burned. After the blood was taken inside the veil by the high priest and sprinkled on and before the mercy seat, the body of the sin offering was carried “outside the camp” to be burned (Lev. 16:27), like other sin offerings (Lev. 4:12). The death of Christ has carried us within the veil, but also outside the camp.4 Two extremes are brought together: (1) the perfect suitability for God’s presence through the blood, and (2) the utter scandal and shame of the burning body. The Christian is accepted in God’s presence in heaven, but rejected by man’s religion on earth.
 
The Holy Spirit gives us the fulfillment of the type, connecting it with the circumstances of our Lord’s crucifixion. In order to sanctify us “with His own blood” – to separate a people positionally for God – Jesus was led outside the Jerusalem city gate, and there suffered on the cross. Jerusalem was the political and religious center of the nation, and so literally and symbolically Jesus was rejected by the Jewish system. The Jews deemed our Savior “unfit” for their society. He equates “the camp” to what Judaism had become; religion apart from Christ. The camp is what rejected Jesus and sanctimoniously said “we will not have this man to reign over us”. In Christianity, we possess both of the things the camp was separated from: access into the holiest, and the shared rejection of Christ.
 
The call to “go forth” is to Hebrew believers, exhorting them to leave Judaism entirely.5 They were to have nothing to do with the system that rejected Jesus.

Separation is always looked at as to something and from something. We are to be separate unto the Lord first (Num. 6:2), and then from the world and defilement (Num. 6:3). The order is important. We can fall into a legal frame of mind if we forget that separation is first positive, then negative. In fact, the negative aspect will follow almost automatically when the heart is right. However, God still does speak extensively about the negative side of separation because our consciences need to be exercised.

Here we are called to go “to him without the camp, bearing his reproach”. The fact that Jesus Himself is there makes us willing to share His reproach. And there will be reproach, because the world and its religion cannot tolerate those who are not of the world. He went outside the camp to bear put sins, we go outside to bear His reproach.
 
Christians do not have a geographical center. Instead of a place we go to a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 18:20; John 10:16). Therefore the writer goes on to say, “for we have not here an abiding city, but we seek the coming one”. An earthly religion is connected with an earthly center, and aims to perpetuate an earthly establishment. The Hebrews were soon going to see Jerusalem destroyed (70 AD). The city we are looking for is a heavenly city (Heb. 11:10, 16; 12:22). We are not to be looking for an earthly home, to be comfortable here with a religion that makes our presence palatable to the world. We are to expect reproach on earth for the name of Christ, and to suffer for Him and in association with Him, the rejected Man. But at the same time we are to look forward to acceptance in heaven, with the same Man, now glorified and crowned at the right hand of the Majesty on high!
 
Does this have any practical meaning to us today? Of course. In the early centuries of Church history, great sectors of Christendom failed to do exactly what this verse commands. They refused to leave the camp of Judaism. As a result they ended up with many of the outward forms of Judaism; forbidden meats, special robes and candles, musical instruments, selective choirs, the priestly order, etc. These are all things imported from Judaism, and they make Christianity respectable to the world so as to avoid the reproach of Christ. We are called to leave all that, and go forth unto Jesus, the rejected One. He alone can satisfy the void that natural religion attempts to fill. To summarize: the camp is Judaism apart from Christ. Yet there is a broader application of the camp today to the many sectors of Christendom that have not abandoned Judaism in a moral sense, and for that reason many Judaistic principles of the camp are reflected in their worship and ministry.
 
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is, the fruit of the lips confessing his name. v.15 The Sacrifice of Praise to God. While Hebrews shows us that Christ is our great High Priest, it also shows that every believer is a priest before God. This next “let us” exhortation is for each believer to exercise their individual priesthood in praising God. This is something that we can do “continually”. This may be an allusion to the “continual burnt offering” that was to be maintained by the priests before the door of the tabernacle (Ex. 29:42). However, the action of our High Priest is involved, because it says “by Him let us offer”. This raises a question: what is praise, and how does it differ from worship? It would seem from John 4 where true worship is described as “in spirit and in truth” that worship is not necessarily expressed audibly, although it can be.  Worship comes from the Greek word ‘proskynéō’, meaning to kiss the hand or prostrate oneself before another. Worship is homage shown to another person to express a profound reverence or awe. Praise on the other hand is audible, “the fruit of our lips, confessing His name”. Praise is often connected with applause for a person’s work or accomplishment. Another has said, “We worship God for who He is, we praise Him for what He has done”.6 It is notable that there is no mention of musical instruments with Christian praise. Praise is the fruit of the lips, not the fingers. Musical instruments were featured in the Jewish system, but are never mentioned in Christianity.
 
Much incense is ascending
Before th’ eternal throne;
God graciously is bending
To hear each feeble groan;
To all our prayers and praises
Christ adds His sweet perfume,
And love the censer raises,
These odors to consume.7
 
16 But of doing good and communicating of your substance be not forgetful, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. v.16 The Sacrifice of Giving. The next exhortation concerns good works and giving, which is something the saints are aft to forget. Naturally we might consider giving as a thing far below the sacrifice of praise, but God honors it along with praise, saying “for with such sacrifices God is well pleased”. In fact, some have found fault with brethren who pass the collection basket right after the emblems at the Lord’s Supper, viewing it as unrighteous mammon. But this verse shows that there is nothing unrighteous about giving money or possessions to God to be used in His service! This sacrifice can be made by us as individuals (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6) or as an assembly (2 Cor. 8; Phil. 4:14-16). 
 
Three Christian sacrifices with which God is well pleased:
  1. Our person (Rom. 12:1)
  2. Our praise (Heb. 13:15)
  3. Our possessions (Heb. 13:16)
17 Obey your leaders, and be submissive; for “they” watch over your souls as those that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you. v.17 Submit to Leaders. The last in this series of general exhortations for the Hebrews is concerning the leaders or guides among the saints. In v.7 it was an exhortation to remember the leaders who had passed off the scene, but here it is to obey and submit to those still living. These ones might do the work of oversight in the local assembly, but their sphere is larger than that (Acts 15:22). These are leaders that God has raised up for the blessing of His people. The are under-shepherds that the Great Shepherd (v.20) has given to diligently “watch over your souls”. They help guide us to avoid pitfalls, judge sin, and live godly lives. They have wisdom from God as to how the saints should handle matters, respond to challenges, etc. To “be submissive” goes beyond obedience, because obedience can have the thought of distance (such as a husband who treats his wife as a child). Submission implies a deeper subjection of the will. Nevertheless, submission will manifest itself in obedience as in the case of Sarah (1 Pet. 3:6). There is a reason given for the saints to obey their leaders; ” for they watch over your souls as those that shall give account”. Those who are leaders are responsible to watch for the souls of Christ’s flock, “as stewards of God” (Titus 1:7), and faithfulness in these matters will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ. If the saints live happy fruitful Christian lives, their leaders will have cause for great joy at the judgment seat (e.g. 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 1 John 2:28). If the saints live worldly, sinful, or unproductive lives their leaders will give an account for how they cared for the flock “with groaning”. Read more… This would be unprofitable for the saints, as it would mean they were a cause of grief to their leaders, and in a certain sense become a discipline for them.
 

Concluding Instructions and Salutations (13:18-25)

18 Pray for us: for we persuade ourselves that we have a good conscience, in all things desirous to walk rightly. 19 But I much more beseech you to do this, that I may the more quickly be restored to you. vv.18-19 Prayer Request and A Good Conscience. The writer (likely Paul) and his companions desired the prayers of the Hebrews, and he could do this because he had “a good conscience in all things”. This would instruct us that we must first exercise self judgment and personal godliness before we solicit the prayers of the saints. It puts prayer and intercession in a holy and sanctified place. But as saints, it is our privilege to support the servants of the Lord by praying. There are two things in this epistle that the writer would “beseech” fervently beg the saints to do: (1) to pray for him, and (2) to receive the exhortations. It is possible that Paul, the likely writer, was still under some kind of restriction or guard, although it is not definitely said that He was in prison. His desire was to “the more quickly be restored” to the Hebrew believers. 
 
20 But the God of peace, who brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, in the power of the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 perfect you in every good work to the doing of his will, doing in you what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for the ages of ages. Amen. vv.20-21 The Apostle’s Blessing. The writer gives a unique blessing or benediction on the saints. It is a prayer of the apostle’s, that God would bring the Hebrew believers into Christian perfection or full growth. He had warned them earlier that many of them were immature due to lingering in the quasi-Judaic position (Heb. 5:12-14). But God is able to bring us to the place where we are “doing of his will”. It is an internal work in our souls that God alone can do; “doing in you what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ”. It is God’s work, yet it still requires exercise on our part, which follows in v.22. This is a work that the Lord Jesus does as “the great shepherd of the sheep”. Shepherding involves feeding, protecting, guiding, etc. (see Psa. 23). It is often difficult work, but the Lord Jesus has charged Himself with the work of being our Shepherd. It is wonderful to see how the Spirit of God connects the power of resurrection with the power of perfecting the saints. The “the power of the blood of the eternal covenant” was shed by Christ on the cross. The “eternal covenant” takes in the whole plan of salvation from the eternal counsels of God. It encompasses all of God’s dealings with mankind through all ages, on the basis of the blood of Christ. It is similar to the New Covenant in that the foundation is the blood of Christ, but, but also distinct in that the New Covenant deals with a particular people and time. Perhaps the eternal covenant is connected with the promise of eternal life  – from the Father to the Son – made before the ages of time (2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:2). That covenant can never fail, because it was made in the counsels of God, and secured by the blood that will never lose its power. It is called here “eternal” in contrast to the Jewish system of things that was passing away. In Hebrews we have eternal salvation, eternal judgment, eternal redemption, the eternal Spirit, an eternal inheritance, and the eternal covenant.891011121314 That blood answered every claim of God against sin, freeing God to come out to man in blessing. The power of this blood was put forth by “the God of peace” (far greater than the peace of God, Phil. 4:7,9) when He “brought again from among the dead our Lord Jesus”. Power and peace are often linked with resurrection in scripture. The work of Christ took our sins away, and thus provided God the moral basis to raise our Lord Jesus from the dead; He who went into death under the sentence of our sins was raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:24-25). But having been raised in the power of the blood, our Lord Jesus command that same power for the present blessing and perfection of our souls, and also for the future resurrection and perfection of our bodies!15
 
Blest Lamb of God, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till every ransomed saint of God
Be saved to sin no more.16
 
The Good, Great, Chief Shepherd. It has been remarked that Psalm 22 presents Christ as the "Good Shepherd" giving His life for the sheep (John 10:11), Psalm 23 presents Him as the "Great Shepherd of the sheep" raised from the dead by "the God of peace" and comforting His saints (Heb. 13:20), and Psalm 24 presents Christ as the "Chief Shepherd" who shall appear in His kingdom glory, giving crowns to the faithful (1 Peter 5:4).
 
22 But I beseech you, brethren, bear the word of exhortation, for it is but in few words that I have written to you. v.22 Call to Receive the Message. If we have God’s word through Christ in our souls in vv.20-21, we now have our own responsibility in v.22. The Spirit of God had inspired some strong words for these Hebrew believers. The writer would beg the saints to “bear the word of exhortation”, to let it have its rightful place in our souls, not making excuses or applying it to others. We are to put on the girdle of truth (Eph. 6:14), to receive with meekness the engrafted word (Jam. 1:21). The vast and important truth of the epistle was conveyed in relatively few words, which is a fact worthy of our admiration! How reasonable that we should take the time to read it, and receive the message contained in its pages.
 
23 Know that our brother Timotheus is set at liberty; with whom, if he should come soon, I will see you. v.23 Timothy’s Release. This verse gives us a significant clue as to who the writer is. Who other than Paul would speak and write of Timothy in this way, as “our brother Timotheus”? This fact coupled with the fact that Peter tells us Paul wrote to the Hebrews (2 Pet. 3:15) makes it fairly clear who the likely writer was. Paul had an intimate knowledge of Timothy, and planned to travel with the younger servant to visit the Hebrews. This verse also gives us an interesting note on the life of Timothy that we get nowhere else. Timothy himself was imprisoned at some point, which casts a different light on the two epistles of Paul to Timothy, which would have been written later. Now Timothy had been released, but was not yet with the apostle, suggesting Paul was not in Rome properly, although the salutation (v.24) suggests he was either still in Italy or had recently left it. The exactly location of the writing of Hebrews is not known, but a location in Italy or a nearby island like Crete (Titus 1:5) are likely possibilities. Timothy’s release from prison was news that would comfort the hearts of the faithful, as well as the hope of a visit from Paul and Timothy. 
 
24 Salute all your leaders, and all the saints. They from Italy salute you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen. vv.24-25 Salutation. In closing, Paul called on the Hebrews to salute their leaders. The same ones they were called on to submit to and obey the saints should greet with friendliness and love, extending the fellowship of the apostle Paul. The unity of the family of God would be expressed by the salutations passed on through the Hebrews to “all the saints”. Paul conveyed the greetings of the saints in Italy where he either was the time of writing, or had just left on a fourth journey. Finally, he prayed for grace among the saints. Surely, they would need grace. Grace to receive the exhortation to leave Judaism and go to Christ, grace to run the race of faith with endurance, and grace to profit from the chastening of the Lord. We too need the same grace to benefit from the epistle to the Hebrews.
 
  1. Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.
  2. Evans, J.H. Rejoice, Ye Saints, Rejoice and Praise. Little Flock Hymnbook #237.
  3. The “meats” here are not the same “meat” as we have in Hebrews 5. There it is the doctrine that concerns Christ in glory, but here it refers to the dietary restrictions of the law, such as clean and unclean animals. To misunderstand this distinction could lead someone to conclude that feeding on sound doctrine is counterproductive to being established in grace.
  4. This reference to “outside the camp” refers to the sin offering (Lev. 16:27), not to the removal of the tent in Exodus 33:7-8. In the case of the tent (which wasn’t the full Tabernacle), it was removed only temporarily because the Lord’s presence could not be associated with the defilement that had come in, but was seen later (Num. 1) back in the camp. Compare the tabernacle of the congregation in Num. 1:1 with the tabernacle of the testimony in Num. 1:50. In v.13 we may have an allusion to Exodus 33.
  5. Perhaps the allusion is to an earlier occasion when the camp of Israel was defiled by idolatry (Exodus 33:7-8).
  6. Jim Hyland
  7. Bowley, Mary. The Holiest We Enter. Little Flock Hymnbook #114
  8. “The blood of the everlasting covenant” in Hebrews 13 is that which is finished and done with, and will go all the way through, and is available for all. The blood will never lose its value. It is the groundwork of all God’s dealings with man in all ages. – Darby, J.N. Miscellaneous, Vol. 3
  9. It is everlasting because, without testing, it was settled in the counsels of God Himself. – Darby, J.N. Notes of Readings on 2 Corinthians.
  10. Ques. What is “the everlasting covenant”? That is the whole thing, between the Father and the Son, I suppose you may say, “A body hast thou prepared me,” and, “Lo, I come to do thy will.” We are not under the new covenant, though we do get the good of it, and a great deal more. – Darby, J.N. Reading at Lonsdale Square. Notes and Jottings.
  11. The everlasting covenant has a different character from the new covenant. There are many covenants in Scripture, but the old and new are distinct, and with Israel only. – Darby, J.N. Notes on 1 and 2 Timothy. Collected Writings, Expository #6.
  12. The blood was as much the proof and witness of the love of God to the sinner as it was of the justice and majesty of God against sin. This covenant is founded on the truth and holiness of the eternal God having been fully met and answered in the cross of the Lord Jesus. – The Christian’s Friend: 1874 : Obedience, the Saint’s Liberty
  13. God thus confirmed His covenant with Israel before Sinai by blood — the blood of animals; but the new covenant He has ratified by the blood of Christ. By so much more, therefore, as the blood of Christ is more precious than the blood of oxen, is the new covenant of more value than the old. In other words, by confirming the new covenant with the blood of His Son, God has declared not only its everlasting and immutable character, but also the priceless nature of the blessings which He has thereby secured to His people. – E. Dennett. The Blood of Christ.
  14. He is ascended on high, not only as Son of God, but according to the efficaciousness of His work, in virtue of which He appears before the Father, the everlasting covenant being thus established in His blood. The question here is not of an old or a new covenant, which refers to particular circumstances, but of the intrinsic and essential worth of the blood of Christ. – Darby, J.N. The Gospel of Matthew.
  15. God is He “that brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” The blood shed by Jesus gave Him the right to rise from death with the same efficacy for others. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  16. Cowper. There Is a Stream of Precious Blood. Little Flock Hymnbook #322.