The Epistle to the Hebrews
An Exposition

Adolph Saphir
(1873)

 

Chapter 4. Christ Above the Angels
(Hebrews 1:5-2:4)
5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? 2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
I continue the argument of the apostle to prove that Jesus is exalted above the angels. He began with the second psalm, in which, based upon the promise which God gave unto David, and which is recorded in the second book of Samuel, the glory of the Messiah, as the omnipotent King of all nations, appointed and upheld by the Father, is described, founded as it is upon the eternal and essential Sonship which was manifested in His resurrection from the dead. Well known was this psalm among the Jews, and well understood was it that it spoke of the divine dignity of the Messiah; for it was in the light of this psalm that Nathanael, as soon as Jesus manifested Himself unto Him as the searcher of hearts, exclaimed, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel" (John 1:49). It was on the basis of this psalm that the high priest adjured Jesus to tell him whether He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.(1) Nathanael and all Israelites knew that the Messiah, who was to be King, was to be in the dignity and glory of the Son of God. As in the second Psalm the Son of David is addressed in a way in which God never spoke to any of the angels, so in the 97th Psalm, which describes the coming, or in New Testament light the return, of Messiah to earth, He is said to be Lord and King, and all angels are commanded to worship Him. The 97th Psalm speaks of the advent of the Messiah, which is yet in the future, to which both the believing synagogue and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are looking, when He is to be manifested in great power, and to be acknowledged as King of the whole earth. Fire and darkness go before Him, and He shall execute judgment upon the nations, and divide the idolaters from the faithful, and the wicked from the godly. For in this psalm the world is described as in the same condition as that referred to in the book of the Revelation. When Jehovah comes, the man who is to be the Lord and King of the whole earth (as is said also in Zechariah and all the prophets), then shall all idolaters be confounded, and they that are upright in heart shall enter into the harvest of light. And so in the book of Revelation, His own people are they who have not worshiped the beast and yielded to idolatry; whereas all the rest of the world shall have fallen away both from the Son and from the Father. In our own day, religious questions begin to concentre on this point—Is God the Creator? or is there no God? Men who deny that Jesus is the Son, begin to deny the Father also.

The apostle reminds us, that while Jesus is thus spoken of, as the Son, the angels are only the swift and penetrating messengers in obedience to the power and will of God. He proceeds to another psalm, the 45th, and he asks the question: "To which of the angels said He at any time, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom?" That 45th Psalm is unique among all the Psalms of David. It is the germ of the Song of Solomon. If there is a doubt whether the Song of Solomon refers to Jehovah in His covenant relation to His people, then it must likewise be doubtful whether this 45th Psalm refers to the Bridegroom, who is to be the divine Man, the Lord of Israel; and if not, it is impossible to explain how this psalm finds its way into a collection of hymns, whose great and constant theme is God as King and Lord of Israel and the nations. But we see from the opening verses that it is a mysterious psalm, and that here, as in all the Scriptures, we have to search and dig below the surface, that we may discover the hidden treasure of pure gold which rewards those who pray to behold the wonders of God's teaching.

The author of the psalm is himself astonished at the wonderful, beautiful, and multitudinous thoughts which rose within his heart, and looks upon them as given to him by a higher power, he feels that he is carried away by a mighty afflatus, by a powerful tide, that he is only the pen of a ready writer; and he begins to consider the thoughts which are in him, but not of him. His heart is overflowing with the abundance of the revelation which the Lord God is giving unto him. Then he beholds in the Spirit one who is beautiful and fair, a true and real man, yet free from all imperfection and all defilement; in whom there is that true beauty of holiness and uprightness which manifests itself in words of truth and grace, poured into His lips. And this holy and lovely One, although He belongs to the human race, is yet not of them, but stands quite by Himself, and towers high above them, even as heaven is above earth. He is One with us, yet above all the children of Adam. He is also the mighty One, El Gibbor, the mighty God, who (compare Isa 9:6) subdues all enemies by that meekness and righteousness which He introduces into the world. And because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows; or, in New Testament language, "because He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God highly exalted Him" (Phil 2:8, 9). The Son of man is the Christ; He is anointed with the Holy Ghost, the oil of gladness, above all His equals. As He speaks also in the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives; to give to them that mourn beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (61:1, 3). The psalm thus reveals unto us the mystery of the Trinity—the Son, God and man in one person, "fairer than any of the children of men," obedient unto death, exalted by the Father, and anointed by the Holy Ghost. God the Father thus addresses the Son of man—"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom" (Heb 1:8).(2)

To which of the angels was ever language addressed as unto this One, who indeed is born of a woman, the Son of man, a descendant of David, who lived upon earth the servant of God, honouring the law of Moses, and obedient to all the commandments of God? But to Him the Father has given a throne and a sceptre for ever, and speaks to Him as His equal from all eternity unto all ages.

But the apostle continues by quoting another psalm. Christ is in all the psalms; they speak of Him. The divinity and humanity of the Lord are set forth in all the Scriptures. It is the delight of the Father, in all the Word, to honour the Son, even as it is the delight of the Son continually to point to the Father that we may see His glory. The apostle refers to the 102nd Psalm—a psalm which, without apostolic teaching, I doubt if any of us would have had the boldness so to apply; for in many respects it is the most remarkable of all the psalms—the psalm of the afflicted One while His soul is overwhelmed within Him in great affliction, and sorrow, and anxious fear. He has been righteous, He has been holy; but men persecute Him. He is forsaken, His tears are His meat day and night, and yet God had exalted Him. God had shown unto Him that He was His chosen One; God had prospered Him up to a certain point; He upheld Him, carried Him through, sustained and honoured Him, caused His work to prosper and His word to bring forth fruit. But then, instead of entering into glory, He felt that His path was shut up, that all His people forsook Him and rejected Him; that instead of light there was darkness; that instead of a throne there was the cross before Him. God had lifted Him up, given Him power, given Him the hearts of His people. God had for thirty- three years continually said unto Him, "Thou art my Son. Thou art my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul is well pleased"; and at last, in the middle of His days, before His work was completed, He was to be cut off. Persecution and dismay, and the unbelief of the people, met Him; and His soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matt 26:38). The shadow of the cross fell into His heart, and His soul was straitened within Him.

Thus, in the 12th chapter of the gospel of John, we read that His soul was sorrowful in the anticipation of that hour, for the sake of which He had come into the world. Thus it was in the garden of Gethsemane, and yet He knew and believed that God would deliver Him. And when this afflicted One pours out His heart He says, "Thou wilt arise, and have mercy upon Zion. The time to favour her, the appointed time, will come" (Psa 102:13). He rests with firm faith on the promises of God, in which light and glory are secured to Israel. God's counsel must stand, His counsel must be fulfilled. Then it is that God the Father replies to Him, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands" (Heb 1:10).(3) Then it is that God the Father replies with this word of assurance to this afflicted, mourning, distressed One, reminding Him that although for a little season He has become a servant, and entered into darkness and sorrow, though He has humbled Himself, and feels like David, "I am a worm and not a man" (Psa 22:6), yet is He none other but the Lord, the Word, the Creator of heaven and earth. He was in the beginning with the Father, when the word went forth from God to lay the foundations of the earth. By Him also the heavens were framed. He is the Eternal, the First and the Last, who shall remain the same for ever. Although the elements shall melt away, and the heavens and earth be moved; although the world in its present phase shall pass away and be put off like an old vesture, yet this suffering One is the Lord; He is the same, and His years fail not.(4)

How marvellous is this! how incomprehensible this union of divine and human, of eternity and time, sadness and omnipotence! Do not wonder that such language of anguish, faintness, and sorrow, of agonising faith, is attributed by the Holy Ghost to Jesus. Remember that the life of Jesus was a life of faith, a real, true, and earnest conflict; that "He is the author and finisher of faith" (Heb 12:2); and that, although He continually took firm hold of the promises of God, yet His feeling of sorrow, His sense of His utter dependence on God, His anxious looking forward to His last sufferings, all this was a reality. He gained the victory by faith; He knew that He was through suffering returning to the Father; He knew that as Son of man and Redeemer of His people He would be glorified with the glory which He had with the Father before the foundations of the world were laid. To which of the angels said God at any time, as He said to the meek and lowly Jesus, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth"?(5)

And lastly the apostle quotes the short but most comprehensive 110th Psalm. Of all the psalms it is most frequently quoted in the New Testament. Martin Luther says this is "Der Haupt Psalm," the chief psalm, the head psalm, the psalm which was the greatest strength and consolation to him, as it ought to be to all God's people. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

The Jews in the time of Jesus all knew that this psalm referred to the Messiah. There was not the slightest doubt about this. Hence our blessed Saviour asks them this question—How is it that David, speaking of the Messiah, in the Spirit, by the Holy Ghost, calls Him Lord, if He is his Son? Here was a dilemma. The 110th Psalm refers to the Messiah; how then does David call Him Lord? In three of the gospels is this passage quoted; and the question of our Saviour is so important and so much a leading central one that all the (synoptic) evangelists reported it. Christ always referred the Scripture unto the Holy Ghost, and in this passage He does so explicitly—"David in the Spirit"; that is to say, when by the Holy Ghost there were revealed to him eternal truths. It was impossible for man's mind, unassisted, to know what is declared in this psalm, to rise to this height, and to have the comprehensive view opened to us here. Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (and it is to be noticed that that great model and typical sermon was nothing else but unfolding of Scripture), says to the Jews, "David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:34). The Jews regarded David with the most profound veneration. They felt that Messiah was, in a peculiar sense, connected with their great king. The apostle is almost afraid to refer to David's death and burial. And therefore he says, "Let me freely speak unto you of our father David; that he is dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" (Acts 2:29). But as a prophet, and knowing the promise of the Son of David—the Messiah—he said, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand." This is the passage(6) that the apostle Paul afterwards expounds so fully in our epistle, showing from it the peculiar glory of the priesthood of Jesus as the true Melchizedec. On this psalm are based the expressions of the epistles on the ascension of Christ,(7) What does it mean? That the Son of man, the Son of David, was to be exalted by God high above all things, and that He was to be placed upon the throne as His equal, endowed with all might and all dominion. And thus it is that our blessed Saviour says, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt 28:18); and thus is it that He ascended high above all heavens, in order that in His humanity as well as in His divinity He might govern and fill all things. "Unto which of the angels said He at any time, as unto Jesus, Sit thou on my right hand?"

But now you may ask, Why does the apostle speak about the angels? He has shown from the 2nd Psalm, from the 97th Psalm, from 2 Samuel 7, from Chronicles, from the 110th Psalm, most clearly that this man Jesus is none else but God, Lord, of infinite and eternal Majesty; and that, therefore, in His humanity also He is highly exalted above all angels. But what is the point of this comparison? what is its importance and the inference to be drawn from it? The argument is simply this: the old dispensation, the law, was given by the mediation and administration of angels. If Jesus was above angels, then His dispensation, the new covenant, His priesthood, are high above that of the law.

The Jews thought much about the angels. As Stephen said, and the apostle teaches in the epistle to the Galatians, the angels were connected with the giving of the law: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels. The Lord is among them, as in the holy place of Sinai" (Psa 68:17). The chariots of God do not consist of anything that is material and inanimate. Intelligent living worshippers, loving and obedient spirits, are the chariots upon which God moves. Thus, in the ancient prayer of the synagogue, the angels are called the Ophanim, or the wheels. Stephen says, "You have received the law by the disposition of angels" (Acts 7:53). In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul reminds them that "the law was given through the administration of angels" (3:19).

Scripture speaks often of the angels. Let me remind you of some of the doctrines which the Bible contains concerning them.

In the first place, human beings know nothing about angels, except what God pleases to tell them. Hence all that human poets have imagined about them is of no importance or value, unless it agrees with the record of the divine Scripture.

With regard to the angels, I may notice three tendencies to error. The first tendency to error we see in the epistle to the Colossians, and we may call it "the Gnostic error," when men, following their own speculative reason, endeavour to penetrate mysteries which are not revealed to us, and form erroneous views of the angels as to their nature, and their relation to God and to Christ.

Secondly, the Romish error, according to which the angels are placed in a false mediatory position, and are invoked, when men rely upon their intercession, or call upon their aid. The only case recorded in Scripture of the angels being invoked in any way is when David calls upon them to bless the Lord, and with His other creatures to exalt Him, their God and our God. And the third tendency is what I may call the Protestant one—to think too rarely and in too isolated a manner about them; not to consider sufficiently what is said about them in Scripture, and not to feel and remember vividly that they are constantly with us, that we and they are members of one great Family, and that the angelic worship and the worship of the church are harmonious.

Now Scripture tells us of the angels only, as it were, incidentally. It is as if someone who dwells in a great and vast realm, but who does not think it wise, necessary, or salutary to give us full and systematic knowledge of it, occasionally, as we require it, lifts the curtain, and gives us a glimpse of the perfect and harmonious whole of that world in which He is enthroned.

Notice the multitude of angels: "We have come to an innumerable company of angels" (Heb 12:22). In the book of Revelation it speaks of "myriads, tens of thousands, and thousands of thousands," millions of angels (5:11). In the gospel of Luke "the multitude of the heavenly host" praise God, and announce in songs of gladness the Saviour's birth to the shepherds (2:13). An immense, countless multitude of angels! Let our minds expand to the idea. Let the innumerable company of angelic beings who have loved and served God for thousands of years show us how grand is that world in which we live, and in which this poor earth, on account of the blood of Jesus—the Son of God—which redeemed it, is the dearest spot. This innumerable multitude is a polity, a state. There are gradations in it, groups, orders, legions of angels. "Jacob called the name of the place Mahanaim" (Gen 32:2). There are the cherubim and the seraphim; thrones and dominions. There is Michael the defender, the champion of God's people, especially called forth in the latter days. We read of the archangel, whose voice shall be heard when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven. There is a kingdom with gradations, with order. This kingdom is intimately connected with the kingdom of grace. Jesus tells us every day to think of this connection and harmony. He teaches us to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10; Luke 11:2). When a sinner is converted, the angels rejoice; and when Jesus comes again, the angels will come with Him. There is only one kingdom of angels and men; and all that God has created form one wonderful united whole. We cannot see the angels; not because they are invisible; for we could see them at this moment if God saw fit to open our eyes. The things which are true, substantial, lasting, and real, are things as yet invisible, and apprehended only by faith. They will last for ever, though they are not yet seen by us; and when all that is unreal and shadowy shall disappear, then they shall be made visible at the appearing of our great God and Saviour. Whenever there is a crisis in the history of God's kingdom the angels appear, as at the giving of the law, and at the incarnation of the Son of God. Thus we read of angelic manifestations before and after the birth of Jesus (Matt 1:20, 21; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:8-14). The Son of man often speaks of and always beholds the angels. In the garden of Gethsemane an angel appears to strengthen Him (Luke 22:41-43), and angels appear to the disciples at the resurrection (Matt 28:5-7; Luke 24:23) and at the ascension of the Saviour (Acts 1:9-11). When He comes again multitudes of angels shall come with Him and separate the evil from the good (Matt 16:27, 25:31, 32; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess 1:7); before the angels Jesus shall confess His people.

Angels are connected not merely with salvation and with the spiritual kingdom of God, but with all the kingdom of God; with all physical phenomena. There was an earthquake at His resurrection. Why? Because angels had been and rolled away the stone. The Pool of Siloam had miraculous powers; "for an angel came down at certain seasons and troubled the water," and endowed it with healing power (John 5:4). The angels carry on every development in nature. God does not move and rule the world merely by laws and principles, by unconscious and inanimate powers, but by living beings full of light and love. His angels are like flames of fire; they have charge over the winds, and the earth, and the trees, and the sea. Through the angels He carries on the government of the world. And these angels, whom God has made so glorious, who excel in strength, hearken to the voice of His commandment and obey Him, while they in worship continually behold the countenance of the Father. They are always ascribing glory and praise, and constantly adoring with joy and wonder the glory of God as it is revealed in the Lamb that was slain, and made manifest in the Church of Christ. For as Christ is the centre, so the church is exalted in Him, that in the church the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to principalities and powers.

Now, glorious as the angels are, they are in subjection to Jesus as man; for in His human nature God has enthroned Him above all things. Their relation to Jesus fixes also their relation to us. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:14). You who are the children of God, begotten by the Holy Ghost, you are the brethren of Jesus; for "He took not hold of angels, but in His great love He took hold of the seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16). You are the future kings and rulers, and unto man in Christ all things are put in subjection, as it is said in the 8th Psalm: "Are they not all ministering spirits?" They love us. We know it, because they showed a most unselfish and tender interest in our salvation. When Jesus descended from heaven, and visited our earth, so far from being filled with envy, they rejoiced, and with great alacrity came down and brought the glad tidings to the shepherds. With joy they also announced that Jesus is risen, that He is exalted, that Son of man whom—O mystery of mysteries!—they had seen agonizing in the garden, who was then strengthened by an angel; whom they had beheld on the cross. How glad were they to roll away the stone; how rejoiced when they saw Him exalted above the heavens; how tenderly they expressed their sympathy with the sorrowing women; "for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said" (Matt 28:5, 6). We know they love us; for they rejoice when a poor, fallen, degraded sinner turns from ungodliness and takes hold of salvation as it is in Jesus. They watch us in our dangers, in our difficulties. "God has given His angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways, lest we dash our foot against a stone" (Luke 4:10, 11). They are astonished, and marvel when they see Lazarus in his poverty, in pain, in distress, despised and forgotten by man. Day by day they watch his patience, his faith, his trustful cleaving unto God, and eagerly they learn from him more and more of the mystery of suffering, and of man's fellowship with Jesus; and lovingly they wait for the appointed hour, when, delivered from the body of pain and death, they carry him safely, and gently, and swiftly into Abraham's bosom. And after having ministered unto God's people to the end of this age, they shall rejoice when they hear His voice saying unto the children, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt 25:34).

For Jesus sake, "are they not all ministering spirits?" Oh, how great is Jesus! How great is the covenant of grace! How great is the glory of the Son, and how wonderful is our position as children of the Father!

And now, brethren, the apostle is not able to continue his argument without first giving vent to his feeling of solemn anxiety about our salvation, and exhorting us earnestly and affectionately. We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard. So great a salvation has been revealed to us; salvation which has its origin in eternal depths of love; salvation which is built upon the rock, even the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God; salvation which is consummated in glory, greater and higher than that of the angels, by which the highest position is given to us among all creatures in the kingdom of God. If so great salvation is neglected—I do not say rejected or treated with contempt and unbelief; but if it is neglected; if we do not rise to the height of this argument; if the love of God does not melt our hearts; if we do not think salvation the one thing that is necessary, important, essential; if we do not devote to it our whole heart, our whole soul, all our energies; if we do not strive to grasp it with all our might, concentrating all our earnestness and strength, how shall we escape? Jesus has Himself declared and brought it; God the Father has ratified it and sealed it; the Holy Ghost has confirmed it with His gifts and wonders. It is the ultimate revelation of God; it is the unspeakable gift of His love, according to His eternal purpose.

Have we this first chapter? Is it ours? Do we possess it? Can we say, "I will go with this into eternity"; I believe it from my heart; it is a treasure to my own soul; I stand upon this rock; I hear His voice in the Son, and therefore I can go to Him with child-like confidence? Let me sum up, and apply the teaching of this chapter in four questions. Do we worship Jesus? In this chapter He is called by divine names, the Son, Lord, God. Divine works are assigned to Him; the creation of the world, the upholding of all things, the atonement upon the cross, and the government now from the right hand of the Majesty. Divine attributes are given to Him; He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is unchangeable, He is eternal. Divine worship is accorded to Him. God the Father Himself commands the angels to worship Him. Do you worship Jesus, Jesus the Son of David, who was crucified upon the cross? Have you learnt, like Thomas, to say unto Him, "My Lord and my God"? (John 20:28).

The second question is this: Do you know truth? Do you belong unto the generality, the majority of this world, who think that one religion is as good and true as another, one religious opinion not more valuable or certain than another? Have you the truth, the one truth? Do we know that God, who has spoken in times past by the prophets, has now spoken unto us fully, clearly, and finally in His Son? Jesus saith: "I am the truth" (John 14:6); we have received the true, real, full, perfect, ultimate revelation of the mind of God in Jesus Christ His Son. Oh, what a blessed thing it is when, instead of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and instead of depending upon the wisdom and ingenuity of human reason, we have this rock—God hath spoken; in Jesus hath God spoken!

The third question I ask—Are you free from all your sins? Are they all forgiven? Are you forgiven? Jesus has purged away our sins by one sacrifice upon the cross. "The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Of Him all the prophets witness, all the apostles witness, and the angels witness, and God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost witness, that "Whosoever believeth in Him has," that moment, "the perfect absolution, remission, and forgiveness of all sins," and is pure and spotless in the sight of God. Do you believe that Jesus who died on the cross is now at the right hand of God? Oh, then, understand also the full meaning of David's word—"With God is forgiveness of sins, that He may be feared!" As we were crucified together with Jesus, so, in consequence of our justification, Jesus was raised and we are accepted in the Beloved. We are now free from sin, and in the presence of God. In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He hath taken away all our transgressions.

Lastly, Do you know that Jesus, your Saviour, your Lord, your God, is at the right hand of God, and that you are the brethren of Jesus and the children of the Father, and the heirs of the kingdom? Do you live in the hope that you will behold Him, that you will see Jesus as He is, and that then you will be like Him? And having this hope in you, do you purify yourselves even as He is pure? Oh, live in the love of God! Live on the love of God! Live from the love of God! Start with the fulness of God's love in Jesus Christ! Never be tempted to go back again to the terrors or to the method of the law! Never be tempted to look again to anything else but the blood of Jesus, which taketh away all sin! And each time you go to the Lord's table and commemorate the dying love of Christ, say to yourself, "Now I am showing to all the world the death of the Lord; that He has finished the work, that salvation is perfect, that He has offered a complete, all-sufficient, and full atonement." Rejoice that Christ is here who was crucified, yea, rather, who is risen again, and that we who believe are the body of Christ, one with Him for evermore. Who is he that will condemn or that will separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus? He who died for us is none else than the Son of the Most High!

May the Lord grant unto us "that we may know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings; that we may be made conformable unto His death" (Phil 3:10); and that we may attain unto the glory of the first resurrection when the heirs of salvation shall be made manifest with Jesus Himself. Amen.

 

Chapter 5.
Jesus, the Son of Man, made Lower than the Angels,
for the Suffering of Death.
(Hebrews 2:5-10)
5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
The apostle now enters into the holy of holies. He approaches the great subject of the epistle—Jesus Christ exalted through sufferings; by death, even by His own blood, entering as a great High Priest into the heavenly sanctuary. He has reminded us already that Jesus as the Son of God hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than the angels. He now wishes to show us what humiliation and sufferings He endured upon earth, and that these did not merely not interfere with His glory, but are the meritorious cause of his exaltation.

"Unto whom hath God put in subjection the world to come of which we speak?" The world to come was a topic of instruction and conversation among all God-fearing Jews; and when they came to believe in Jesus, their attention was still more directed to the fulfillment of prophecy, and their affections more deeply interested in that future of which all the prophets had testified. Jesus Himself had spoken of the regeneration of the world, when the twelve apostles should "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt 19:28). The world to come evidently does not mean heaven, because heaven is a present kingdom, in which the glory of God is manifested, and in which the worship of the angelic and the beatified hosts continually ascends to the throne of God. It is evident from Psalm 8, in which the world to come is described, that it has reference to earth and to the future dominion of Messiah, the Son of man. The world to come does not mean the gospel dispensation; for that began with the preaching of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. But this world to come is something future, to which all the apostles were looking; for Peter testifies, "We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13); and again, that "the heavens must receive Jesus until the times of the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). The world to come, according to the opinion of the ancient synagogue, means the renovated earth under the reign of the Messiah; it means the time predicted in the prophets, when the kingdom shall be given to the Son of David, and Israel shall dwell in their own land in peace and righteousness, and all the heathen nations shall walk before Him and worship the God of Jacob; when abundance of food and raiment shall be for all the poor and needy; when oppression shall cease on the earth, and the voice of cruelty shall no longer be heard; when even the outward creation shall manifest the presence of the peace of God and of the blessing of the Most High; when from the river even unto the great sea the King shall reign; when war shall be learnt no more by the nations; when the will of God shall be done upon earth as it is done in heaven.

This world to come, which is so fully described in the prophets, must be under subjection, under the government, and under the rule of some one. It has not been put in subjection unto the angels; but, as the word of God teaches us continually, it has been put in subjection under the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of God. He it is who is to be the beloved of God, to reign upon earth, fulfilling the whole counsel of God; in whom all the promises given unto the fathers were to be "yea and Amen."

Now the testimony of one concerning this reign upon earth in the world to come is given in Psalm 8, and in speaking of it the apostle does not say "David said"; for, as we have already noticed, all his quotations in this epistle are given in this impersonal way, and reference is immediately made to the source of all Scripture, even the Lord God Himself. Although it is very instructive for us to know what David saw, and what Isaiah thought and felt, and in what peculiar circumstances they were placed historically when the predictions were given to them, yet it is important for us to see the higher truth, that these men were the medium and channel of a higher revelation which they themselves did not fully understand.

The apostle Paul reminds us that these things happened and were written for our instruction. The apostle Peter reminds us that the prophets enquired diligently into the things they were enabled to write, and that they described them not for themselves, but for us, to whom the gospel is now preached in clear fulness. Scripture is thus spirit-breathed and eternal; and it is for us to enter in faith and reverence, and meditate on the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the counsel of God. How marvellous, when we remember that David and Isaiah did not understand fully what through their inspired lips was uttered! How wonderful when we think of it, that all the great periods of the church, from the first to the second coming of Jesus, were to a very large extent hidden from them, so that they saw the first coming in suffering and the second in glory, as if they were two continuous events, scarcely separated by any interval, and that they beheld at Messiah's coming, Israel on the restored earth in peace and blessedness. And the Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation, fill up that great and wonderful interval, during which Christ gathers from Jews and Gentiles a body for Himself. And, notwithstanding this great distinction between the prophetic and apostolic writings, there is such a harmony of truth and of sentiment, such, a oneness of spirit, such an inter-penetration of the two portions of Scripture, that, wherever we go in this grand and spacious temple of God's word, we see the one central idea and the one pervading thought; we feel that the Builder is the Lord of ages, who was, and is, and is to come. What is it that we see? The glory of God Himself. In the morning of the world's history, in the early dawn, all was mysterious, dark, and dim. The truth was only given in a fragmentary manner, yet the manifestation of the glory was continually assuming more distinct features. Glimpses are given unto us of a wonderful human countenance, like the son of Abraham, Isaac, suffering in meekness; like Joseph, entering through humiliation and glory; like David, ruling in lowliness, beloved, though persecuted. We behold a heavenly, divine One, appearing as the Messenger of the covenant; the Angel, in whom is the Name, the Rock that followed them in the wilderness; the Captain of the host of Israel; the Son of David; until in the gospel of Matthew we see the glory of God "in the face of Jesus Christ"—the same countenance and the same character; all these various luminous streaks breaking through the darkness; all these various and occasional approximative manifestations; all these beams of light, if I may so speak, condensing themselves at His appearing, and showing themselves at last in perfect distinctness and brightness; so that what many prophets and kings desired to see and to look into is, in God's great condescension, come unto us. We behold unveiled, what they beheld afar off.

If such is the unity of Scripture, it is a very important subject to dwell upon. We can easily understand the difficulties which outsiders find in perceiving how thoroughly convinced we are of the truth of Scripture; how no shadow ever crosses our minds about the divine authority of the word of God; how the objections and discrepancies which science and criticism bring forward, and the difficulties in the interpretation of the word of God do not affect our faith; how we have an inward perception and conviction of the inspiration by beholding the perfect unity of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. "One"—whether David, or Zechariah, or king Solomon—one in a certain place "testifies." He is a witness to what God has revealed.

Now, what is the testimony of Psalm 8? Look at the psalm. What does it mean? David praises the goodness of God, and the condescension of God to man. The name of God is known all over the earth; the glory of God is high above the heavens. He who has made the heavens, and the moon, and the stars, condescends to frail and feeble man, and to the son of man. He is mindful of him, only placed a little below the angels, but crowned with glory and honour. He has given him power over all things in the world, over the beasts, and over the cattle, and over the fowls of the air. This psalm is evidently responsive to the original investiture of man with power when first created by God. God created him in His image, and appointed him to be the ruler upon earth. But does this explain the psalm? Let us look candidly, and say if this key is sufficient to open it. God's name is not now known over the whole earth; and this man, of whom the psalmist speaks as ruler, is it Adam? It cannot be Adam, because he does not speak of man, but the "son of man." He speaks evidently of the descendants of Adam. "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise" (Matt 21:16). Is it fallen man? True, he is lower than the angels, inasmuch as he inhabits a mortal body, and is limited and finite in many ways. But where is his power over creation? As it says in the epistle to the Hebrews, "We do not see all things yet put under him" (2:8). But the apostle gives to us the key, that the psalmist speaks of the world to come, and of Jesus the Son of man; and when we think that this psalm is written by the Holy Ghost, and when we take in connection all the passages referring to it in the word of God, we shall understand that this is one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching predictions that the word of God contains.(8)

God created man to be the ruler of the earth; he was to be the representative of God and king here below. All things were to be subject to him. This is the very idea of a king, as we find in the book of Daniel. "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold" (2:37, 38). The idea of kingship is that it is not an authority entrusted to man by man. It does not come from below. It is a power and sovereignty given by the supreme Lord of heaven and earth Himself. And the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar, as it comes from God direct, so it involves everything upon earth. Not merely are all peoples and nations and languages to render allegiance to him, but the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, which move on and over his territory, are also subject to him. He is invested with power by God Himself, and over all things is his dominion. Now this kingship which Adam lost by his sin is to be given unto one who is called the "Son of man." Jesus our Lord evidently referred to this passage also, when He called Himself the Son of man. It is in this expression that the passages in Daniel are rooted. "From henceforth ye shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt 26:64). He is called the Son of man because He is the sum and substance of the human race, the representative and restorer of humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He is the second Adam; in Him there is a new commencement of humanity given unto us. He is the Son of man not merely in that He is a partaker of flesh and blood, and that, born of a woman and appearing in the likeness of sinful flesh, He has become one with our race; but because it is given to Him to be the head of the new humanity: He is to be Lord and Ruler, the King of the earth. This Son of man, made a little lower than the angels, is to be the King; and through Him the knowledge, love, and life of God shall be brought to the ends of the earth. All people that on earth do dwell, all people to the furthest islands of the sea, shall know and worship the God of Israel. God's name shall be excellent on the earth while He has exalted His glory above the heavens; that is, the whole earth shall see the manifestation of grace in the church which is to the praise and glory of His name; the manifestation of salvation-glory, which is above all angels and all things belonging to the first creation.

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise." This was fulfilled at the time when the children sang "Hosanna" to the Lord; it is a symbol, and it is fulfilled now continually when out of the mouth of babes are declared the mysteries the Father reveals to them (Matt 11:25-30); and it shall be fulfilled when it shall be found that by the foolishness, and weakness, and nothingness of believers, God brings to nought the wisdom of the wise, and the power and glory of the world.

But this Son of man whom God chose for Himself was made a little lower than the angels that He might taste death; for through this death was He to enter into the glory and honour with which the Father decreed to crown Him for His obedience and humiliation.

Let us consider what it is that the Son of man, humbling Himself for us, has endured. There are two expressions used—to suffer death, and to taste death. Let us remember that between Jesus, as He was in Himself, and death there subsisted no connection. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. He was without sin, without spot and blemish. He had never transgressed the law. In Him Satan could find nothing. Death had no personal or direct relation to Him. Do we look upon death as being the punishment of the transgression of the law? Christ fulfilled all righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ, as far as His humanity was concerned, was free from the power of death. No power could kill the Lord Jesus Christ. "No man taketh my life from me; but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18). The Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, of His own power and will, laid down His life. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ in this respect is different from the death of any human being; it was the free, voluntary, spontaneous act and energy of His will. When the Lord Jesus Christ died He put forth a great energy. He willed to die. And so in one sense we may say that His death was a great manifestation of His power.

Let us consider that the Lord tasted death. A man may die in a moment, and then he does not taste death. John the Baptist was beheaded; it was in the twinkling of an eye that the severance took place between body and spirit. Men may die in a moment of excitement, and, as extremes meet, almost in unconsciousness, or with calmness and intrepidity, with lion-like courage, as many a warrior; but that is not tasting death. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ was a slow and painful death; He was "roasted with fire," as was prefigured by the Paschal Lamb. But it was not merely that it lasted a considerable time, that it was attended with agony of mind as well as pain of body; but that He came, as no other finite creature can come, into contact with death. He tasted death; all that was in death was concentrated in that cup which the Lord Jesus Christ emptied on the cross. During His lifetime He felt a burden, sorrow, grief; He saw the sins and sorrows of the people; He had compassion, and wept. In the garden of Gethsemane He realized what was the cup which He would have to drink upon Golgotha. He was in great agony, not instead of us, but because He shrank from that impending substitution on the accursed tree. There is no substitution and expiation in the garden—the anticipation of the substitution was the cause of His agony; but on the cross He paid the penalty for the sins of men in His own death. But what was it that He tasted in death? Death is the curse which sin brings, the penalty of the broken law, the manifestation of the power of the devil, the expression of the wrath of God; and in all these aspects the Lord Jesus Christ came into contact with death, and tasted it to the very last. He tasted it as the consequence of sin, though He knew no sin in Himself personally; but He, as the perfect, pure, and spotless Son of God, and Son of man, had an infinite appreciation of the evil of sin in its loathsomeness, in its cruelty, in its apostasy from God, in its contrariety to the will of the Holy One. He saw the true nature of sin Godwards and manwards; upwards to the throne of holiness, and downwards to the bottomless abyss; in its depths, and in its everlasting consequences, did He perceive it. We do not see the real consequences of sin, not knowing the exceeding sinfulness of sin. We find it difficult to realize that such awful infinite results should come from it; but He saw sin in all its mystery, in all its reality.

Death is the penalty of the transgression of God's law. He had magnified the law and fulfilled the law all the time that He was upon earth. In His heart the law was written as upon the tables in the ark of the covenant. He delighted in the will of God, not as something external to Him, but as something that lived within Him, the music and rhythm of His soul. He saw death as the result of the transgression of the law, and the curse and punishment of the law. He was made under the law, and now He was made a curse for us.

Satan has the power of death. Jesus says, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53); and it was Satan, the prince and the power of darkness, whom Jesus vanquished upon the cross. He came into contact with the prince and the power of darkness, whose right it was to insist upon the hand-writing of ordinances, which is against the transgressors, and who can fix the sting of death by applying it with the strength of law (1 Cor 15:56).

And last of all, and most fearful of all, it was the expression of the wrath of God. The just displeasure and indignation of God against sin makes itself felt in death. Death is being forsaken of God; it is the expression of the withdrawal of God's favour and strength. Death is to be left without God. The Lord Jesus Christ came into contact with death as the wrath of God. He tasted death with full and perfect consciousness. Therefore He said, at the end of the three mysterious hours during which the Sun lost his light,(9) "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" With fulness of faith He continued clinging to God; for in all this He acknowledged the truth, the righteousness, and the faithfulness of God, and called Him "my God." Thus did He taste death. Thus did He who was life itself come into contact with death; thus did He who was holiness itself come into contact with sin; and thus His love to God and to man was sublimated, as it were, to the highest perfection. Thus He satisfied the holiness, justice, truth, and faithfulness of God; and thus He took away the sting of death as the penalty of sin and the strength of Satan.

Christ was made a curse for us; He was forsaken of God, and left alone with the power of darkness. But though He emptied the cup of wrath, though all the billows and waves of death went over Him, He continued to live, to trust, to love, to pray: He gained the victory in the lowest depth of His agony. His love was stronger than death, and in His death He brought life to all those whose sins He bore. He tasted death by the grace of God. It was the grace of God that gave Him up unto death. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isa 53:10). The ultimate reason of Christ's death is the love of God to Jesus and the children given to Him; its ultimate purpose, the manifestation of God to angels and to men. "That He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every one" (Heb 2:9). Scripture throughout refers to the sacrifice of Jesus as the consequence of the love of God; and as the manifestation of divine love God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. It is only the enemy, the unbeliever, who represents the Scripture doctrine to be that the anger and the wrath of God the Father had to be appeased by Jesus, in whom there is greater clemency and mercy than in the Father. This is a false witness. It is the love of God that Jesus revealed; nay, it is God's love that Jesus died for the guilty. Christ did not die in order that God might love the world; but it was because God loved the world that Jesus died. Through Christ crucified we behold God as Father.

But what love would it be if Christ's death was only an example? What if there had been no necessity for that unspeakable gift—for that stupendous sacrifice? What if sin could be forgiven without the character of God being vindicated? without the manifestation of His justice, truth, and holiness? if the law could have been set aside, and its penalty and condemnation passed over? if the favour of God could rest immediately on the sinner who recognizes the love of God, and the real obstacles between God and the transgressor remain as they were, untouched, unremoved? And these objective obstacles are the hatred of God against sin, the wrath of God against evil—wrath as a necessary and essential manifestation of love, which is in perfect holiness and justice—the condemnation of God's law, which is holy, just, and good, the power of death, and Satan, the prince of darkness. The subjective obstacles (in man) are not less real—his hardness, hatred against God, and death in trespasses and sins. If Jesus died only as a martyr and example, or as manifesting the love of God, who was willing to receive repentant sinners, we cannot understand the reason of agony and sacrifice so awful and of miracle so transcendent as the incarnation. Nor would such a death bring us nigh unto God. There would still be the infinite distance between God and the conscience; and the mountains of our guilt, the condemnation and curse of the law, and the righteous displeasure of God, would still separate between Him and us. Christ would be no mediator; for He would, on this supposition, never have entered into our real position, difficulty, and death. The lost sheep would still be in the wilderness, and the Good Shepherd would have only shown His willingness to rescue it, His compassion, self-denial, love, but would not actually have found and saved it. Only when we believe the Scripture testimony, that He laid down His life for and instead of us—that He became sin and a curse in our stead—that His blood was shed as a ransom for the remission of our sins—only then do we see that in Jesus we have the love, favour, and blessing of God, that in Him we have redemption, and are brought nigh to the Father.

And notice, He tasted death by the grace of God for every one. We speak about the pardon of sins. We are pardoned; but all our sins have been punished. God forgives us, but our sins He never forgives, never pardons, in the sense of remitting their punishment. All our sins were laid upon Jesus, every one was punished. "God condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3). He executed judgment upon all our sins, for every one of us, for all the children of God. For each of them Jesus tasted death. Here there is not merely the forgiveness of sin, but there is the actual putting away of all our sins; and the apostle explains to us that this great and marvellous mystery of the death of Jesus as our Substitute, bearing our sins, bearing our curse, enduring the penalty of our sins, and overcoming all our enemies (that is the law, and Satan, and death), that this is in order to manifest unto us the fulness of the perfection of God.

"For it became Him, of whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings." What a marvellous declaration! "It became Him." It is in accordance with the divine perfections. All divine attributes are harmonised here—His wisdom and His mercy, His justice and His holiness, His power and His truth. "It became Him because of His love, it became His justice, it became His wisdom that thus it should be. There was in it no triumph of one attribute over another, no prodigality which infinite wisdom could reprove, no facility which infinite holiness could challenge; there was a common rejoicing of all God's attributes in their common and harmonious exercise." God's attributes (we speak humanly and with great imperfection) are all simultaneous. They all move together, because they are all-perfect and all-glorious. In His mercy He must be righteous, in His justice merciful; in His wisdom there is strength, in His power patience.

Everything that is in God is beautiful and perfect. "Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Rom 11:36); and that in which He has concentrated the revelation of Himself must become Him. The more we look upon Jesus as our Redeemer, and contemplate the atonement upon the cross, the more do our thoughts expand, and the more do we see the image and glory of the Most High; the more do we dread sin, the more do we enter into the knowledge of God and into fellowship with Him. Who brings out the perfection of God but the Lamb slain? Well then may it be said, "It became Him to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings."

If I may so say, God is never so Godlike as when He reveals Himself in Jesus crucified for sins. Oh, how did the Jews shrink from the mystery of the Crucified One! How did every thought in them rebel against the idea of their King being hanged upon the tree! How hard is it for them to believe that the Messiah was the Crucified One! They turn away from the cross of Jesus, and rest, in what they believe a spiritual faith, in the one incomprehensible, invisible, glorious God. They forget that throughout the Old Testament times God revealed His glory, and that the promise is the appearing of the glory, the manifestation of Jehovah. They do not understand the mystery—God revealed and glorified in the death of His Son. It became Him, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. He brings many children to glory. We use the word glory often in a superficial and thoughtless way. What is glory? What glory do we possess? Are our bodies glorious? Soon they will be in the grave, the food of worms. Are our minds glorious? We may, in a moment, lose the light of reason, and forget all the information we have acquired, and be unable to think connectedly. Are our hearts glorious? They are polluted with sin. Are our souls glorious? We have no strength or life in ourselves. Then what is the glory? What glory is ours? What do you expect when you are laid in the grave? You remember that Jesus said to Martha at the grave of Lazarus, when the signs of corruption were so evident and repulsive, "Only believe, and thou shalt see the glory of God" (John 11:40). Ah! God's glory. Not the glory of Lazarus. Not our glory, but His own glory. "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). Now see how easy it is to believe that there is no other righteousness but God's righteousness. A mortal, sinful, and weak creature, I expect glory, though my body is laid in the grave, and mind and heart fail me. The glory I hope for is Christ's—to be glorified together with Him. It is divine glory. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. What righteousness have I? I have no righteousness but Christ's righteousness. Just as God will give me His glory, so He hath given me His righteousness; not the righteousness which is by the works of the law, the fruit of my own endeavours, not partly mine, and partly the result of looking to the Lord Jesus Christ. The sinner is guilty, lost, and imperfect; but, clothed in the righteousness which is from above—God's righteousness—he is perfect, glorious, beautiful. Then I understand what the apostle Paul says—"Whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom 8:30). If He has given me Jesus as my righteousness, then He has also given me Jesus as my glory. It is His purpose to bring many children unto glory, and it was necessary to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. The apostle touches here only briefly on what forms one of the chief themes of the epistle to the Hebrews—the connection between Christ's sufferings and glory.

Without entering now on this truth, I conclude with this remark: Most of us last Lord's-day commemorated the dying love of Jesus. The Lord's Supper is the connecting link between the first and second coming of Christ. Looking back we see the finished work of Jesus, the sacrifice which He has made; by which one sacrifice, once for all, He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. By faith we are sanctified, separated unto God; our sins are forgiven, our righteousness is divine, we are complete in Christ. Looking forward, we expect the world to come; we show the death of the Lord till He come. That same Jesus whom now, in His personal absence, though we see Him not, we love and trust, in whom we rejoice, and who is specially with us while we commemorate His dying love, shall return to take the kingdom and the power. Now during the interval we live by and on what Jesus has done for us when He died upon the cross. We are always celebrating the Lord's Supper. And this is His wondrous love, that day by day He gives us His body to eat, which is meat indeed, and His blood, which is drink indeed. This is outwardly expressed at the Lord's table. The daily, hourly, secret but most real life of the Christian, which is nothing else but eating Christ and living by Him, even by Him who gave His body and shed His blood for us; this is manifested to ourselves, the Church, and the world, by the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, in which the union between Christ and the believer is renewed, confirmed, and sealed. The spiritual Lord's Supper is for every day and all the day; for this is our life, to feed on Jesus, who died for us. This is the glorious consequence of His death—"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev 1:18). And this is, if I may so speak, His blessed occupation now to feed and strengthen the children until He shall come again in glory. He continually renews and imparts to us that love which died for us upon the cross.

Oh that we may know what it is to be justified and what it is to be glorified! that we may be clothed with God's righteousness now, and that we may be glorified together with Christ at His coming! Let us take the cup of salvation, behold Christ crucified, but now exalted, our righteousness and glory. Amen.

 

Chapter 6.
Jesus, in All Things like unto His Brethren, through Sufferings
and Death our High Priest
(Hebrews 2:11-18)
11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and according to that glory into which in His humanity He has entered through His sufferings and death, is high above the angels. It was necessary for Him to pass through sufferings and through death; it was in accordance with the divine plan, and in harmony with all the divine attributes and perfections. Through His sufferings and death He glorified the Father. He put away sin; He abolished death; He destroyed the power of the devil; and for Himself, and for all those who are His, He has obtained that high position in which, as the 8th Psalm testifies, all things are put under His feet; and not merely this, but He Himself has become a merciful and faithful High Priest, able to succour us who are tempted, and to sympathise with us in all our sorrow and in all our trial.

Now, the first truth which is brought before us in the verses which we have read is, that Jesus, who is not ashamed to call Himself brother, and us His brethren, is one with us. We who are sanctified by Him, and He who sanctifies, are of one. Christ is He who sanctifies. The source and power of sanctification are in Jesus the Son of God, our Saviour, we who were to be brought into glory were far from God, in a state of condemnation and death. What can be more different than our natural condition and the glory of God which we are awaiting? Condemned on account of our transgression of the law, we lived in sin, alienated from God, and without His presence of light and love. We were dead; and by dead I do not mean that modern fancy which explains death to mean cessation of existence, but that continuous, active, self-developing state of misery and corruption into which the sinner has fallen by his disobedience. Dead in trespasses and sins, wherein we walked; dead while living in pleasing self (Eph 2:1, 2; 1 Tim 5:6). What can be more opposed to glory than the state in which we are by nature? And if we are to be brought into glory, it is evident we must be brought into holiness; we must be delivered and separated from guilt, pollution, and death, and brought into the presence of God—in which is favour, light, and life—that His life may descend into our souls, and that we may become partakers of the divine nature.

Christ is our sanctification. "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb 10:14). By the offering up of His body as the sacrifice for sin He has sanctified all that put their trust in Him. To sanctify is to separate unto God; to separate for a holy use. We which were far off are brought nigh by the blood of Christ. And although our election is of God the Father (who is thus the author of our sanctification, Jude 1), and the cleansing and purification of the heart is generally attributed to the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:4, 5); yet as it is in Christ that we were chosen, and from Christ that we receive the Spirit, and as it is by the constant application of Christ's work and the constant communication of His life that we live and grow, Christ is our sanctification.

We are sanctified through faith that is in Him (Acts 26:18). By His offering of Himself He has brought us into the presence of God. By the Word, by God's truth, by the indwelling Spirit, He continually sanctifies His believers. He gave Himself for the Church, "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" (Eph 5:26). "Sanctify them through thy truth" (John 17:17, 15:3). Through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2).

Christ Himself is the foundation, source, method, and channel of our sanctification. We are exhorted to put off the old man and to put on the new man day by day, to mortify our members which are upon earth. But in what other way or method can we obey the apostolic exhortations, but by our continually beholding Christ's perfect sacrifice for sin as our sufficient atonement? In what other way are we sanctified day by day, but by taking hold of the salvation which is by Him, "the Lamb that was slain"? Jesus is He that sanctifieth. The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is sent by Christ to glorify Him, and to reveal and appropriate to us His salvation. We are conformed to the image of Christ by the Spirit as coming from Christ in His glorified humanity.

"He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one"; namely, of God the Father. And here we are reminded of the teaching of Scripture, that all things are of the Father, and to His glory. Christ is the vine, we are the branches; but the Father is the husbandman. Christ is the bridegroom, and we are the church, the bride; but it is the Father who is the King, which made a marriage for His Son. Christ is the head, we are the members; but as we are Christ's, so Christ is God's. "The head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Christ is of the Father; we are of the Father. As the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6); and as in the epistles of John, we are taught that we are of God, and the seed of God abideth in us. What a wonderful brotherhood is this, rooted in the mysterious election of eternal love! Christ, the only begotten of the Father, and we who by nature are children of wrath and disobedience, are eternally and indissolubly united with Him. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. As it is said also in the 22nd Psalm, in which the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross and His exaltation are described: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (22:22). Notice how literally that was fulfilled; for it was immediately after His resurrection, and in reference to this Psalm, that Jesus said, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). The risen Saviour, as the first-born among many brethren, hastens to declare the name Father unto His disciples, and to assure them, that He who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are both of one.

Christians, if Jesus is our brother; if Jesus and we are both of one; if Jesus says, "I will sing thy praise in the midst of the congregation"; if He is the leader of our prayers and praises before the throne of God, then we may approach the Father without fear and without doubt! Christ's peace is our peace, and our worship is the worship of perfect acceptance, of perfect trust and love in union with the Head of the Church, Jesus crowned with glory after His sufferings. Thus do we praise and pray in the name of Christ; thus does Christ Himself praise and pray in the midst of the congregation. Where is doubt now? For is Jesus in doubt of His acceptance with the Father? Is not His atonement upon Golgotha most glorious in the sight of God? It is Jesus who is our representative and spokesman. As on that night on which He was betrayed He sang the hallelujah with His disciples, so now He presents to the Father our sacrifice of thanksgiving, our adoration, our petitions, and the Father hears the voice of Jesus in the voice of the church.

The apostle illustrates the relationship which subsists between the Lord Jesus and His people by another typical prediction. The prophet Isaiah is not merely an eminent evangelist of the Old Testament, but his position in the important crisis of Jewish history is typical. The judgment which was then threatening Israel, the judicial blindness and hardness of heart which fell upon the great majority of the nation, was a type of that culminating sin and obstinate rejection of Jehovah which is described in touching and solemn words in Matthew 13:13-15, John 12:37-41, and Acts 28:25-27. But Jehovah promises protection and grace to those who trust in Him. The prophet by faith has his refuge in God, and looks with confidence to the future. He and the children whom God has given unto him are types of the Redeemer and His people. The children of the prophet are signs and wonders. The application of this typical prediction by the apostle to Christ and His people is bold, but beautiful, and in harmony with the whole spirit and scope of the prophecy.

The Lord Jesus all the time He was on earth exercised faith in the living Father. Even His enemies bore witness at the crucifixion, "He trusted in God" (Matt 27:43). All His lifetime He was one of those peculiar people who, instead of being guided by what is called "common sense," instead of being influenced by public opinion, prudence, and the power of the world, was always beholding Him who is invisible; was always walking with God, and doing His will. "I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:32). He was continually leaning upon the Father. Thus we understand these two quotations: "I will trust in Him," and "Behold I and the children whom thou hast given me" (Heb 2:13). Christ is represented as Brother and as the everlasting Father. The promise was given to the Messiah:—"He shall see His seed. Who shall declare His generation?" (Isa 53:10, 8). Christ who sanctifies and we who are sanctified are both of one—the Lord Jesus, who is not ashamed to call us brethren, who hastened to declare to us the Father's name after His resurrection, who during His lifetime exercised to the fullest extent faith in God, at the last shall acknowledge us as the children given to Him of the Father. Brotherhood is now the relationship subsisting between Him and us, a relationship which can never be altered. We may lose friendship; but brotherhood is fixed and unchangeable. Thus our Lord Jesus and we are rooted and united in God the Father.

Christ is the Elect of God, and we are chosen of the Father in Christ Jesus. In Him we are predestinated unto the adoption of children. Of God are we in Christ; and of God Christ is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. God the Father gave us to Jesus, even as the Father gave Jesus to us. And because Jesus and the Father are one, the union between the Lord Jesus, given unto us by the Father and the children, given unto Jesus by the Father, can never be broken.

The Son of God being appointed to be the Captain of our salvation, it was necessary that He should become partaker of flesh and blood. "Inasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same." What is the meaning of "flesh and blood"? The human race, in its creature dependence and weakness, is described in Scripture by "flesh." "O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come" (Psa 65:2). Christ said in His prayer, "As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh" (John 17:2). "Flesh and blood" describe us in our present earthly condition. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 15:50). A change must take place to fit us for the heavenly region. The flesh and blood which the Lord Jesus Christ took shows that He became truly and really man. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). This seems a wonderful contrast. The Word, eternal, all-perfect, all-glorious, the Son of the Most High, who was with God from the beginning, and was God, He became flesh, He was born of the Virgin Mary. "The flesh" shows the weakness of which the Lord Jesus Christ became partaker. It is written that He was crucified through weakness; that He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. When people saw Him, they did not notice in His outward appearance anything superhuman, glorious, free from earthly weakness and dependence. He did not come in splendour and power. He did not come in the brightness and strength which Adam possessed before he fell. "In all things He became like unto us." In everything; in His body, for He was hungry and thirsty; overcome with fatigue, He slept. In His mind, for it developed. He had to be taught; He grew in wisdom concerning the things around Him; He increased, not merely in stature, but in mental and moral strength. In His affections, He loved. He loved the young man who came unto Him, and was not willing to give up his riches. He loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha—the disciple who leaned on His bosom. He was astonished; He marvelled at men's unbelief, and said to the Syro-Phoenician woman, "O woman, great is thy faith" (Matt 15:28). Sometimes He was glad, and "rejoiced in spirit;" sometimes angry and indignant, as when He saw the hypocrisy of the Jews, who accused Him of having broken the Sabbath. Zeal, like fire, burned within Him: "The zeal for the house of God consumed me" (John 2:17); and He showed a vehement fervour in protecting the sanctity of God's temple. He was grieved; He trembled with emotion; his soul was straitened in Him. Sometimes He was overcome by the waves of feelings when He beheld the future that was before Him. In all things He was made like unto us. Do not think of Him as merely appearing a man, or as being a man only in His body, but as man in body, soul, and spirit. He exercised faith; He read the Scriptures for His own guidance and encouragement; He prayed the whole night, especially when He had some great and important work to do, as before setting apart the apostles. He sighed when he saw the man who was dumb; tears fell from His eyes when at the tomb of Lazarus He saw the power of death and of Satan. He wept over Jerusalem, as He foresaw the fearful results of their grievous sin. His supplications were with strong crying and tears; His soul was exceedingly sorrowful; He was sorely pressed, and He agonized in Gethsemane.

"He suffered being tempted." The temptation was a reality to Him. He felt most keenly and painfully the weight and the pressure of the test. His soul was full of love to Israel, and eager to gather children of Jerusalem. The broad road, easy and attractive to the flesh, would have led to immediate recognition and reception by Israel; the way of humility and obedience, of faith and suffering, was narrow to Jesus also. He felt hunger, reproach, hatred; Satan was permitted to test Christ's most sensitive heart, with the most penetrating and painful trial.

When His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, His soul was shrinking from the awful cup of Golgotha; and to strengthen Him in this most real, and to us unfathomable, conflict, an angel from heaven appeared unto Him. The world also was a temptation to Him. The spirit of the world was enmity against Him, and came into collision with Him every moment. His own brothers said, "Why do you not go up to the feast and shew yourself?" (John 7:8). His own disciples said, "Far be it from thee to suffer, Lord." But He saw Satan in all this; and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matt 16:22, 23). Not for a single moment did He yield—erect He stood. But, nevertheless, and by this very perfection of His victory, He felt every moment all the burden of the weight. If He had given in, that very moment the pressure would have been relieved. Because He remained without sin, He suffered being tempted. Jesus, as Messiah, felt the sorrow of love rejected, of instruction refused, by the people to whom He came in mercy infinite; He felt keenly the pain of being called a blasphemer in His own beloved city. As the prophet describes it, He mourned and wept before God, that He had spent His strength and labour in vain. He felt that Satan could give unto Him the allegiance of the nations, if He would only yield to him on one point. The narrowness of the path He chose was a reality to Him. "He suffered being tempted"; and His suffering was again a temptation to Him. "This," He said, "is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). In the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, He saw in His sufferings the power of Satan's temptation, He felt the fearful strength of the adversary, endeavouring to make Him swerve from His loyalty to God. "He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are one." Mysterious brotherhood! "He became in all things like unto His brethren." "He suffered being tempted," and was tempted in all His sufferings.

Now we advance a step further. By death He took away the power of him who has the power of death, that is, Satan. We considered the expression, Christ tasted death,—that He did not merely die, as it were, in a moment of enthusiasm, as many a warrior has lost his life courageously. But, laying down His life, He came into contact with the whole sting of death; measured its length and breadth and intensity, the power of Satan, the wrath of God, the condemnation of the law. How clear it is from this passage what Jesus Christ suffered in death!

But which death did He die? That death of which the devil has the power. Satan wielded that death. He it was who had a just claim against us that we should die. There is justice in the claim of Satan.(10) He stands upon the justice of God; upon the inflexibility of the law; upon the true nature of our sin. But when Christ died our very death, when He was made sin and a curse for us, then all the power of Satan was gone. It was of the grace of God that He tasted death for every one. This is often set before us in Scripture, lest we should imagine that the Lord Jesus loved us more than the Father loves us, or that the Father did not love Him with the most intense love at the very moment He hid His face from Him as our Substitute. In the expiatory death of Jesus all the attributes of God are in sweetest harmony; but grace shines brightest through all. "By the grace of God He tasted death."

And now what can Satan say? The justice, majesty, and perfection of the law are vindicated, more than if all the human race were lost forever. In the sufferings of Christ there was not merely punishment endured, but there was faith and love; the highest and deepest obedience; the law was magnified. There was a burnt-offering in this sin-offering. The penalty due to the broken law Jesus endured, and now, as the law is vindicated, sin put away, death swallowed up, Christ has destroyed the devil. In connection with this word, I must refer to the extraordinary delusion of supposing that "destroy" means to annihilate. Christ did not annihilate the devil; Satan still exists, and will exist for ever and ever. But the Lord has taken his power from him: He "bruised his head" (Gen 3:15). Satan, we are taught here, has the power of death, even as Satan introduced sin into the world. While we are without Christ we are under the power of darkness (Col 1:13); we walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph 2:3). But when we come to believe, by Jesus we are delivered from the power of Satan, and brought into the liberty of the children of God (Acts 26:18). Only through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross can men be delivered from Satan. As we are delivered from the dominion of Satan, who has the power of death, we are also delivered from the fear of death. And this is to some extent the special privilege of believers living in the new covenant. Now, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, we may serve God without fear. The children of God in the old dispensation had faith in God and the Messiah, and lived in the hope of everlasting blessedness. They enjoyed the peace of God, yet it was natural they should be afraid of the darkness and gloom of the grave; and many passages in the Psalms and prophets, referring to the realm of death before the advent of Messiah, appear sad and mournful. This is natural; but when Messiah comes, they expected God would put all things under Him: joy will come in the morning, and Israel will then see the salvation of God. But the intermediate period was to them a time of great darkness. But how different is it now that the true light shineth. Jesus has abolished death. He has the keys of death and of hades. In His resurrection we have obtained the victory. The Christian can look death in the face, and say, "O death," and ask the question: "Where is thy sting?" (1 Cor 15:55). We know that to depart and to be with Christ, to die, is gain. Absent from the body, present with the Lord. "Are you afraid of death?" said a friend to a German pastor. "Which death do you mean?" replied the dying man. "Jesus my Saviour saith, He that believeth in me hath eternal life. He that believeth in me shall not see death. Why should I be afraid of what I shall not even see? The real death is past. Outward death, separation of body and soul, we have to endure, and God gives us grace and strength in this last trial; but the sting of death has been taken away."

The apostle now states the result and fruit of the Lord's condescension and work. The Son of God became man; He took hold of the seed of Abraham; He became in all things like unto us, He was tempted, He suffered, He died, He saved us; and now, by virtue of His incarnation, obedience, sufferings—through all the experiences of His earthly life, and perfected in His death He has become "a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." In no book of the New Testament is our Saviour called the High Priest, except in the epistle to the Hebrews; not even in the book of Revelation, where the heavenly sanctuary and its worship are disclosed to us. How precious is this epistle to us in revealing the whole rich cluster of truths and consolations which gather round this central word, High Priest.

In the 110th Psalm it is said, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (v 4); and in the prophet Zechariah, Messiah, the Branch; that is, Jehovah's servant, who shall build the temple, is called a priest upon the throne. But the full exposition of the fulfillment of Levitical type, and of the eternal Melchizedek priesthood of the Lord Jesus, we possess only in this profound and precious portion of Scripture.

Believe then that Jesus, by His experience, by His sufferings, and above all by His death, has become a merciful and faithful High Priest. We are now on earth, in the flesh, sin around, and alas, within us. How can the Holy God look on us, and grant us blessings? How can there be communion between heaven and earth? Jesus is ascended, and having put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, presents us to the Father; and we are holy and unblameable before Him; and Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are able to send down the fulness of blessings, of grace and strength; to have communion with us, notwithstanding all our sin and defilement. Christ is a merciful High Priest; not merely full of pity, compassion, and grace, but full of sympathy. He knows what is in man, He understands fully all our sorrows, and is able to measure the strength of all our temptations. He is most lovingly and earnestly anxious that we should always obtain the victory and suffer no injury; for having gone through all the conflict Himself, without a single moment's wavering or surrender, He wishes us to be found continually in Him, and to conquer continually. He is faithful in bringing down to us all the gifts of God; all the counsel, will, and blessings of the Most High; faithful in taking up to God all our need and trial; all our petitions, fears, and tears; all our sufferings and all our works. What deep and infinite sympathy is in Jesus! And how much we should dwell upon it, and strengthen ourselves in the Lord. For He wishes to succour us; to take us by the hand when we are sad, weary, and exhausted; to help and encourage us; to cheer and gladden us who are still in manifold temptations and sufferings. He is Immanuel, God with us, as the Man Christ Jesus. We are comforted and upheld when we remember the humanity of Jesus now enthroned in glory, even as He in His dealings with us remembers what He endured upon earth. And thus we can say to Him, "O Thou, who art not ashamed to call us brethren, who Thyself didst suffer in being tempted, fulfil in us the good pleasure of Thy will, that in nothing we may yield to the adversary; however heavy our trials, however overwhelming our afflictions, and however painful our experiences in a world of sin and unbelief, O do Thou grant of Thine infinite faithfulness that through it all we may be kept looking unto Thee and following Thee, that we may always have peace and joy in Thee, and never waver in our childlike confidence in the Father!"

Now dear friends, what else can I say in conclusion but what the apostle says, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Heb 3:1). Think of Him; gaze stedfastly on the Lord Jesus. Consider; ponder. Let your mind be filled with Christ. Make not your sanctification the object of your contemplation, the theme of your meditation. What is it? Do you wish to ornament yourselves, and to come before God beautiful, or as a sinner? Do you wish to say from time to time, I have made great progress; I have advanced many steps in my heavenward journey; I have got into the higher Christian life, as people call it? Do you wish to come before God beautified? or do you wish to humble yourself, and ascribe glory unto the Lamb that was slain?. . . Where do we see Christ? Are we beholding the image of Christ reflected in our own hearts, in our own dispositions, states, and phases of faith? Then it will be reflected in troubled and muddy waters; and unstable and uncertain shall be the features which meet our eye there. Or shall we behold Jesus in the glory of His excellence, in the perfection of His holiness, in the beauty with which God has adorned Him? Are we not to look off unto Him in heaven, and to know that we are seated together in heavenly places, and complete in Him? Shall we say, "Oh, if I was only more holy, less selfish, more patient! if I could only see more of Jesus reflected in me!" Or shall we say, "Oh, if I could always behold the Man who died upon the cross! if I could always see Jesus, the Lamb of God that was slain! if I could always remember that I am bought with a price; and that He was wounded for my transgressions, and bruised for my iniquities!"(11)

I will ask you still further, Why do you wish to be holy? Is it to depend more on Christ, or to be less dependent on Christ? To think more of the sacrifice which Jesus made upon the cross, and to know and feel—

"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling!"
Have you not detected it in yourself, that sometimes, when you have given way to temptation, fallen into sin you wished to avoid—when you have in the performance of duty stumbled over the same difficulty as before, that a feeling of distrust, disappointment, and despondency comes over you, a feeling of wounded pride, and vanity, of impatience and irritation, and you say, "I am not making progress; it is really too bad; I am always falling into the same low state?" And then the lowest depth of self-abasement and humiliation is to go to God and to find no change in Him; the same Fatherly love, the same High Priestly compassion and grace, the same Comforter patient and gentle, and you discover, that in your best moments as well as in your worst, you depend exclusively and entirely on the grace of God, which saves the chief of sinners. In fact, you have only stood by grace through the blood shed for vile sinners. How much we need to avoid the snare of cultivating vanity and self-seeking even in our sanctification! How apt we are to make a Saviour of self! I am anxious and troubled about the unscriptural view of the Christian life, of which we hear. Look at it. What was it in the Church of Rome that for so many centuries made the cross of Christ of none effect? They did not wish to ignore or reject Christ's salvation, and to make Christ of none effect. Do not imagine that grievous errors and heresies began as it were in a bad and wicked purpose. How was it for centuries in the Church of Rome? Christ was put in the background, and the Reformers had to dig very deep, and put away a great amount of rubbish that had accumulated—the gold and silver and precious stones lay buried among wood and hay and stubble—till at last they found that Christ in whom alone we must rejoice. Look at the theology of such a book as, for instance, Thomas a Kempis, in which there is much that is excellent, but which suffers from the radical error of not distinguishing Christ for us, and Christ in us. These good men began to be exclusively thinking of Christ in them. All their attention was centred in that aspect of truth. They said, "It is true, Christ died for us; but now we must go higher; and according as we realize Christ in us, we rest and have peace." It was by this well-meant praising of Christ in us that they forgot Christ for us. They saw that a hypocritical and superficial trust in the merits of Christ was a dead thing, which brought forth no fruit, which gained no victory over sin and the world. They therefore were anxious to see life and power. But they did not perceive clearly that our only power, peace, and life are in Christ, who died for us, and in whom we have perfection. By looking to their love to Jesus, to their imitation of His perfect example, to their resemblance to His holy image, they never could have true, perfect peace.

As a Christian never loses comfort but by breaking the order and method of the gospel, looking on his own and looking off Christ's perfect righteousness, so he that sets up his sanctification to look at, sets up the greatest idol, which will ultimately strengthen his fears and doubts, though at first it may soothe his feelings and please his imagination.

The young Christian is especially apt to fall into error. After his first zeal and love, after the spring and dawn of his spiritual life, when he is full of praise and strength, when prayer is fervent, when joy and praise abound, when love to the Saviour is ardent, when work for Christ seems refreshment, there generally succeeds a period of languor and of darkness, when he is led into the experience, painful but salutary, that even after his renewal, the old man, the flesh, is enmity against the Spirit, and that our all-sufficiency is of God. Now it is for him to enter more deeply into the valley of humiliation, to see more clearly the need and the preciousness of the blood of Christ, to ascribe more cordially and with greater contrition all glory to the God of salvation. He is, however, tempted to choose the path of what appears progress, victory, strength, and beauty; whereas God's saints say—Christ must increase; I must decrease. Christ is comely; I am black. Christ is strength; I am weakness. In Christ is all good; in me, that is, in my flesh, there is nothing good. The saints of God find, that instead of progressing from one degree of perfection to another, they discover in themselves daily more that sin which is exceeding sinful; they behold themselves vile, and cling with all intensity of faith to Jesus, who saith unto them, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor 12:9). They are saved by grace; they know Christ only as their righteousness and perfection; and even at the end of their earthly journey, of their labours and sufferings, they grasp "the faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Tim 1:15).

Rest in the Lord, and in Him alone. Consider the Apostle and great High Priest, Christ Jesus. Place your confidence and have your joy only in the Lamb slain. Call Jehovah, Jehovah-Tsidkenu. Day by day you are a burden to Jesus, and His grace alone upholds you, while you stand only in His perfection. You would not have it otherwise. And while you are looking off unto Him, you will run with patience the race set before you. You will fight the good, but real and painful, fight of faith; you will crucify daily the old man, who to our last breath is enmity against God; you will have no confidence in the flesh, but rejoice in Christ Jesus; and your life will be hid with Him in God. And at last Christ will present His children unblameable in body, soul, and spirit. Then shall we be like Him; then shall we have no more conflict, and no more sin. Faithful is He who hath promised, who also will perform it. Amen.

 

Chapter 7.
Christ the Lord, and Moses the Servant
(Hebrews 3:1-6)
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
We commence the second section of the epistle to the Hebrews. It extends from the beginning of the third chapter to the fourteenth verse of the fourth chapter. The contents of this section may be stated briefly thus: That the Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, is high above Moses, the mediator of the old dispensation, inasmuch as Jesus is the Son of God, and Lord over the house; whereas Moses is the servant of God, who was faithful in the house. And upon this doctrinal statement is based the exhortation, that we should not harden our hearts lest we fail to enter into that rest of which the possession of the promised land was only an imperfect type.

This section consists of two parts—a doctrinal statement, which forms the basis, and an exhortation resting upon it.

The doctrinal statement, contained in the first six verses of the third chapter, is the subject of our meditation this morning.

Before the apostle advances in the argument, and shows the glory of the great High Priest by contrasting Him with the glory of Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, he recapitulates in an exhortation the teaching of the preceding chapters, and he admonishes the "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling," to be continually, perseveringly, and earnestly looking unto "the Apostle and High Priest of their profession, Christ Jesus." He does not say my brethren, because in this epistle he keeps himself in the background; and when he speaks of them as "brethren," he evidently refers to the blessed truth just announced, that Jesus, the Son of God, is not ashamed to call us brethren. He means therefore those who by the Spirit of God have been born again, and who can call God their Father. He addresses those who of God are in Christ Jesus, who were quickened together with Him; for when He rose from the dead He was "the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). He calls them "holy brethren," because upon this fact of brotherhood is based their sanctification. "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one" (Heb 2:11). Set apart by the blood of Jesus unto the service and love of God, they are sanctified forever by that one sacrifice which Jesus offered upon the cross. He reminds them of the "heavenly calling" which they have received now, and of which the earthly calling unto Canaan was only a type; "heavenly" because God the Father and Jesus the exalted High Priest are in heaven, and because the Holy Spirit who brought the glad tidings of salvation came down from the heavenly sanctuary to dwell among men; "heavenly" because the end of their calling is, that as the many children of God they shall be brought unto glory; "heavenly" because while waiting upon earth their citizenship is in heaven, and the whole spirit, character, and aim which characterise them is not according to this world, but according to that sanctuary and city where is their hope.

It is therefore for us to "consider" or (as the very expressive word implies), to look carefully unto "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession." This is the only Scripture in which Jesus is called the apostle, yet, though the word is not used, the thought is of frequent occurrence. Often Jesus testified that the Father sent Him, that He came obedient to the mission and will of His heavenly Father, that His whole life was only a fulfillment of the mission entrusted to Him; and as He was called in the Old Testament times "the Angel or Messenger of the Covenant," so it is in accordance with the whole teaching of Scripture that He is called here by the name "apostle."(12) Of Christ the Head are all energies and ministrations in the body. If there are bishops, it is because Christ is the Bishop; if there are pastors or shepherds, it is because Christ is "the Shepherd of the flock"; if there are evangelists, it is because Christ came and brought to mankind the glad tidings; if there are apostles, it is because He is the Apostle, the head of all apostolic dignity and work. He is the Apostle sent by God to us men; the High Priest, as representing us before the Father. Him we are to consider in faith; for herein is all our safety: looking unto Jesus, we have peace and joy; for this is the joy of our life, that all perfection is in Christ. And in prayer; for can we see Him in His holiness without the petition rising in our hearts, "O that I might be conformed unto Him!" We are to look upon Him as a painter looks upon a model, with the full intention and desire of imitating Him. We are to keep constantly in sight of Him, as our only infallible Guide upon earth. All this is included in that one word, that one expression, "consider." Gaze upon, meditate upon, "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."

Let us look at the word "profession." We are very apt to undervalue things with which abuse and danger are connected, and which may be easily counterfeited. There is such a thing as a mere outward, empty, hypocritical profession; but is that a reason why we should not attach importance to confessing Christ? Jesus says, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I Confess before my Father, and before the angels. And whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny" (Matt 10:32, 33; Luke 12:8, 9). With the heart we are to believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth we are to confess that Jesus is the Lord. It may be merely an outward thing, a mere lip-utterance, to say, "I believe in Jesus"; it may be only a form to sit down at the Lord's table; but as the outward expression of an inward reality, it is a great and blessed fact. Let us not be secret disciples; let us not come to Jesus merely by night, ashamed to bear testimony to the gospel. Let us not despise the outward and visible, church, although, alas! there is much error and sin connected therewith. Our confession of Christ in the outward church, in the congregation of professed disciples, in the ordinances of Christ's institution, let us not under value it! Remember with gratitude that you have publicly professed Christ; that into the Church of Christ you have been received by baptism, and acknowledged at the Lord's Supper as a brother and partaker of the heavenly calling. Let the remembrance of this be to us continually helpful, and stimulate us to adorn the doctrine of the gospel by a Christ-like life and walk.

The Hebrews are exhorted to look unto the Apostle and High Priest Jesus, to Him of whose glory (chap 1) and of whose sufferings and death (chap 2) they had been reminded; they are to look unto the Man Christ Jesus, the Son, who through His self-humiliation on earth became the merciful and faithful High Priest, having finished the work which the Father sent Him to do. And in order to show to the Hebrews the exceeding great glory of Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him(13) Mediator of the new covenant, he contrasts the Lord with Moses, the servant of God.(14)

To speak of Moses to the Jews was always a very difficult and delicate matter. It is hardly possible for Gentiles to understand or realize the veneration and affection with which the Jews regard Moses, the servant of God. All their religious life, all their thoughts about God, all their practices and observances, all their hopes of the future, everything connected with God, is with them also connected with Moses. Moses was the great apostle unto them, the man sent unto them of God, the mediator of the old covenant; and we cannot wonder at this profound, reverential affection which they feel for Moses. You read in the gospels and in the book of the Acts with what joy and pride they said, "We are the disciples of Moses." It was their glory and boast; and we cannot wonder at this when we think of Moses, of his marvellous history, of his grand character, of the unique position assigned to him in the history of God's people, and the wonderful work given him to perform.

Think of the history of Moses. It was wonderful from the very commencement. Sheltered in his tender infancy from the cruelty of Pharaoh, courageously tended by his God-trusting parents, watched over by the angels and rescued from the persecution of his enemies, he was brought up at the very court of Pharaoh. Trained and educated by the Egyptian sages, he became learned in all the wisdom of the most advanced nation of the age. When he was a young man he was the only free man of his people; and of his own voluntary choice, by faith, he esteemed the reproach of Israel greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. And afterwards, when his fiery zeal, not yet chastened by the grace of God, brought him into conflict with Pharaoh, he was led into quiet and obscurity for forty years, that, leading a shepherd's life, he might learn the wisdom and patience of the saints. Then, called by the mysterious appearance of God in the burning bush, he was appointed to be Israel's deliverer, and endowed by God with power, he went forth. By faith he led his people out of Egypt, and through the Red Sea; and after ruling over the children of Israel for forty years, after a life of prayer and self-denial, of unparalleled trial and suffering, and of heroic patience and strength; after forty years of divine manifestations, blessings, and miracles, see him at last ascending mount Nebo; his eye was not yet dim, nor his natural force abated. He beheld the land, and died, and the Lord buried him, so that no man knoweth of his sepulchre. No doubt the angels who had watched him in his cradle on the waves of the Nile were there, ready to carry him into his place of rest, and with awe witnessing the conflict between Michael the archangel and the great adversary (Jude 1:9). What a marvellous history is the life of Moses! And look at his character. There is no man in the whole history of the Jews to compare with him, until you come to Him who is Lord of all, the Lord of glory, and to that chief of apostles, who was able to say, "Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). How wonderful is his faith in God! his zeal for the glory of God, and for the honour of Jehovah! his importunate prayer and wrestling with the Most High! his love for his nation, which makes him willing to die, and be blotted out of the book of life, rather than that Israel should be destroyed! his never-wearied patience and meekness! His whole life was a sacrifice of love and of obedience to the God of his fathers Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who appeared to him in the burning bush; a life of self-denial and affection to the people of his choice.

Look at his peculiar position. He was mediator of the covenant, the ambassador (apostle) and plenipotentiary (as it were) of God. All God's dealings with Israel were transacted through him. He was a prophet, priest, and king in one person, and united all the great and important functions which had afterwards to be distributed among a plurality of persons. As a prophet he was different from all other prophets; for God spake to him face to face; and therefore he said, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me" (Deut 18:15). Jesus in His prophetic office is foreshadowed by all the prophets; but none of them except Moses could describe Jesus as a prophet like unto me. It is frequently and emphatically stated that Moses obeyed God fully, and made all things as he saw the pattern on the mount. As a prophet, and in the priestly spirit of love and meekness, he ruled over Israel, and showed them God's mighty wonders.

Look again at the work Moses accomplished, at the great things which the grace of God performed through him. Through him God brought Israel out of Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea; He gave the Ten Commandments and the whole law by him; by him the whole national life of Israel was organized; through him God laid the foundation of the theocracy, and all subsequent revelations of God have their root in the work which was wrought by Moses. Even in the future, restored Israel will remember and honour him, and be guided by the law given through him. God bears witness to His servant that he was faithful in all God's house. In every department of this great and complicated building Moses obeyed the Lord implicitly and fully; according to everything that God told him, he performed it. Faithfulness is what God marks, loves, and honours; a perfect, sincere, and constant desire to obey the will of God in all that is entrusted to our care.

But after admitting fully the grandeur and excellence of Moses, the apostle proceeds to show the still greater glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must have struck you that in many respects Moses was a type of Jesus. Both were as infants threatened by cruel rulers, and both were marvellously sheltered by the living God. So in after life Moses was in some respects like Christ. Moses was the only freeman who espoused the cause of the nation; and Jesus was the only free and Holy One who could take up the cause of the leper. But yet, what a difference! The zeal of Moses was not free from earth-born elements, and had to be purified. But there was nothing in Jesus that was of the earth earthy; no sinful weakness of the flesh was in Him who condescended to come in the likeness of sinful flesh. His love was always pure, His zeal holy, His aim single. Moses spake face to face with God, and was the mediator between God and Israel. The Lord Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King in one person, but He is perfectly and eternally the true Revealer, Reconciler, Ruler, as the Son of God. Moses was willing to die for the nation; the Lord Jesus actually died, and not for the nation only, but to gather all the children of God into one. Moses brought the law on tables of stone; the Lord Jesus by His Spirit, even the Holy Ghost, writes the law on our hearts.

But notice the imperfection of Moses as a servant. The one sin of his life, which is mentioned as the cause of his not being permitted to enter the promised land, seems at first sight not to merit such a severe punishment. Moses was doubtless guilty of other sins; but why is this one sin singled out? Not merely because he was impatient, but because he did not sanctity the name of God among the people. Whereas God was willing to show pure mercy, Moses was not able to rise to the height of this great argument, and showed the vehemence of his anger and displeasure. How different was Jesus! He declared the full, perfect, and free love of God. He exclaimed on the cross: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). And the message He now sends is nothing but salvation for the lost and guilty.

The house, the building, means the children of God, who by faith, as lively stones, are built upon Christ Jesus the foundation, and who are filled with the Holy Ghost; in whom God dwells, as in His temple, and in whom God is praised and manifested in glory. The illustration is very simple and instructive. We are compared unto stones, and as every simile is defective, we must add, not dead stones, but lively stones, as the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians speaks of the building growing. The way in which we are brought unto the Lord Jesus Christ and united with Him is not by building, but by believing. The builders rejected the "chief corner stone" (Psalm 118:22); but "coming unto Christ," simply believing, "ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:4, 5). When we go about the works of the law we are trying to build, and as long as we build we are not built. When we give up working, then by faith the Holy Ghost adds us to Christ, and grafts us into the living Vine, who is also the Foundation. We are rooted and grounded. The house is one, and all the children of God are united in the Spirit. Some are strong and are pillars, others are weak and rest upon those whom God has appointed to be strong, and to support and encourage the feeble. "None liveth unto himself"; and "if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." If one grows and rejoices, it is for the good of the whole. The glory of the Lord is to show itself in the whole church, thus united by the indwelling Spirit. But not merely does God dwell in the church as a whole, it is the peculiarity of everything spiritual that every part of it is again a whole.(15) Not only is it true, that "wheresoever two or three are gathered together" in Christ's name, He is in the midst of them (Matt 18:20); but if a single person loves Him, the Father will love him, and will come and make His abode with him. An individual is thus also a temple, a habitation filled with the Holy Ghost. The Father and the Lord Jesus Christ dwell in him. Israel could understand this because it was symbolized by the temple, and the reality and substance of the symbol was also promised to them in the days of the Messiah. For what was the promise of the new covenant? "I will dwell in them, and they in me" (2 Cor 6:16). What a marvellous idea is here presented to us! A Christian is like the tabernacle; he is a sanctuary. There is the holy of holies, the holy place, and the outer court. But in all the glory of God is to be revealed; the holiness of God to be shown forth. His body is the Lord's; the members of his body are Christ's members. His eyes, his lips, his feet, all the physical energies which God has given unto him, are a part of the house in which the Father and the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Ghost, take up their abode. His reason, memory, imagination, affections, will, conscience, all that is in him, behold, it is a house where God is to dwell. God is to walk in it, to dwell in it, to rest in it. He is to be not merely a visitor, but an indwelling guest, "abiding in him." Sometimes God will convert this wonderful dwelling-place into His temple, and there will be heard the voice of prayer and praise. Sometimes He changes it into a banqueting-hall, and there will be heard the voice of rejoicing and the melody of thanksgiving, the assurance of that love which is better than wine. Sometimes it becomes a battle-field, and the Lord is a man-of-war, and conquers the enemies of the worm Jacob, and succours the saint who is tempted.

How manifold are the mansions in which He dwells! As there are many mansions in the Father's house above, as there are many mansions in His Church below, so also are there many rooms in the spiritual house of the individual believer; in various manifestations of grace, strength, and love, does God dwell in us.

You who believe in Jesus are His house, His own; for as the Father appointed Him to be Mediator, as the Father laid the foundation in Zion, so Jesus the Lord bought you with His own blood, and sent into your hearts His own Spirit. We are emphatically Christ's. This is of God, and by the Spirit; but Christ dwelleth in us; we are His own house.

But the apostle adds—shall I call it a condition? shall I call it an encouragement? Oh, there is nothing hard in the exhortations of Scripture!—"If you hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of your hope unto the end." I do not look upon it as a condition in the sense of contingency. If it were possible that we who have come unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and who have loved and served Him, or rather let me say, have experienced His grace and faithfulness—if it were possible that, after all, we should forsake Him, and turn away from the faith, oh, of all things this would be most fearful and of all prospects this would be the most wretched! What is the one thing which the Christian desires? What is the one great thing which he does? What is the one great secret which he is always endeavouring to find out with greater clearness, and grasp with firmer intensity? Is it not this: "My Beloved is mine, and I am His"? (Song 2:16). The inmost desire of our heart and the exhortations of the word coincide. To the end we must persevere; and it is therefore with great joy and alacrity that we receive the solemn exhortations: "He that endureth unto the end shall be saved" (Matt 10:22); "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). We desire to hear constantly the voice which saith from His heavenly throne, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my kingdom, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne" (Rev 3:21).

And with the exhortation is the word of promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6). "They that trust in the Lord shall be like mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but standeth fast for ever" (Psa 125:1). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one" (John 10:27-30).

Oh, blessed word and promise of God, that He will keep us unto the end! But how is it that we are kept? Through faith, through watchfulness, through self-denial, through prayer and fasting, through our constantly taking heed unto ourselves according to His word. "Hold fast," if you desire it to be manifested in that day that you are not merely outward professors, not merely fishes existing in the net, but the true and living disciples of the One Master, "Hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of your hope firm unto the end." Faith is the mother of hope; but how often is the mother strengthened and cheered by the daughter! There is first faith—"By faith are ye saved, not of works"—then hope. "For we are saved by hope," looking forward to the recompence of the reward. Do not imagine that hope is in any way inferior to faith and love. Some seem to think hope is of nature, a feature of our natural character, an element in our natural disposition. They would not be ashamed to say they had little hope, although they would not like to confess they had little faith or little love. Why? Because they take a perfectly erroneous view of what hope is. It is a gift and fruit of the Holy Ghost just as much as faith and love. As hope is an essential feature of the Christian character, so it is of grace, and not of nature. The lively hope which God by the Spirit gives unto us, comes through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It has not its root in the first creation, and is not strengthened by that which is of the flesh. The same apostle who teaches us that we are saved by faith, declares that we are saved by hope (Rom 8:24). For though the grace of our Lord is exceeding abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (1 Tim 1:14), yet we are still in conflict with sin and temptation, in a body of death and a world of evil. We hope for the full and perfect salvation; we shall see Christ as He is, and be like Him; we wait for the redemption of the body, and the regeneration of the world. Hence hope refers to the future, even to the coming of the Lord Jesus; and yet it possesses already the substance and earnest of the inheritance. For is not Christ, who is our hope, ours even now by faith and in love? But hope, looking to the glory of Christ and to the transfiguration of our body, is the very strength, essence, and impulse of heavenly-mindedness. In proportion as we hope, we rise above the sins and vanities of earth.(16)

Cherish the hope which in Christ Jesus is given unto you who believe in the Saviour. Look forward to the coming of the Lord, to the joy and glory which He will bring unto His disciples. Be not afraid, for He will sustain you during all your difficulties and trials, and you will surely be kept unto that day. And be not afraid that the glory and brightness will overwhelm you; for Christ the Lord will be glorified in you, and thus be your strength, and you shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of your Father. Hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of your hope. In calm and humble assurance, looking only unto Christ crucified for sinners, you cannot but rejoice in hope of the glory of God. As you trust in Jehovah your righteousness, you look forward to Jehovah your glory. The God of hope (the source and object of hope) fill you with joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom 15:13).

What more suitable encouragement could we have than these words of the apostle? The end spoken of is nothing else but the appearing of the Lord Jesus, when hope shall be changed into sight. The day is approaching (10:25), and with it our glory. We look back on the years through which we have been led. On a day like this we feel as if we had come to a milestone, on one side of which we can read the inscription, telling us how many years and stages of our journey have been completed. But on the other side, where curiosity expects to find the number of years yet before us, what do Faith and Love and Hope read? What else but this—"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Psa 23:6). And again—"Unto them that love God all things work together for good" (Rom 8:28). And again "Whose house are ye, if ye hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of your hope unto the end." We know how many years have elapsed since the First Advent; but on the other side of the milestone we read, no date, but the words—"Watch, for ye know not the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man doth come" (Matt 25:13). And we can also testify, "If you believe in Jesus, if you love and follow Him, if you abide in Him, then when the Lord comes again you will have confidence, and stand before Him."

Look unto Him, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; and you, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, oh, consider, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession—Jesus! Amen.

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This book has been edited.
Copyright 2007 JCR