The Word of the Oath and the Son Perfected for Evermore
(Hebrews 7:15-28)15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.The characteristics of the eternal Priesthood of Jesus, inferred by the apostle from the inspired record of the typical history of Melchizedek, both in its statements and omissions, are, as we have seen, that Jesus is Priest and King; that in Him righteousness and peace are united; that He is above Aaron, and that He is Priest for ever after the order of an endless life. All these points receive additional illustration and confirmation from the fifth characteristicthe oathby which Jesus, according to Psalm 110, was made Priest.
The legal dispensation was connected with the Levitical priesthood. Without mediation it was impossible that God should enter into covenant-relation with sinful and guilty men; and therefore even the first covenant was made not without blood. The apostle argues that if there is a change in the priesthood, there must necessarily be a change in the dispensation with which that priesthood is connected. When the apostle speaks of the Levitical priesthood and of the first dispensation in such strong terms as that it was weak and unprofitable, we must remember that here, as well as when he speaks of the law of Moses, he looks upon them as separate from Christ, who was the substance of the shadow; he addresses those who viewed the law and Levitical ordinances apart from their vital connection with the promise of Christ and with the true sacrifice. The believing Israelite, taught by the law and the prophets, looked forward unto the coming of Jehovah, and the redemption that was to be accomplished by the Messiah; he saw in the ordinances pictures of eternal and heavenly blessings; and although under the dispensation of the law still in the spirit of servantship, kept under the guardianship of the schoolmaster, he obtained through faith the forgiveness of sins, and looked forward to that everlasting inheritance which God had promised unto the fathers. But when the Jews looked upon the law as a source of righteousness and life, forgetting its true character and significance; when they regarded the Levitical priesthood and the temple and the offerings apart from Christ, looking upon shadows and types as substance, then it was that the apostle, in all the epistles where he touches upon this subject, is constrained to show unto them that the law, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the priests viewed in themselves, were in no way able to give righteousness or peace or life unto the soul; that they were entirely weak and unprofitable; that they were sent only for a temporary purpose, in order to prepare for the introduction of that which shall never be moved, and in which there is true substance and blessedness everlasting. In this way the whole dispensation of the law and the Levitical priesthood were merely parenthetical. They were never intended to remain. They were only, as the apostle explains it of the law in the epistle to the Galatians, the schoolmaster, the tutor, appointed for a time until the child had reached a certain maturity, in order that then it might obtain real possession of the blessing, being made free by the Spirit of sonship through faith in Christ Jesus.
The apostle announces a great principle in the words, "The law made nothing perfect." There was not a single point in which the law reached the end; for the end of the law is Christ. The law is in itself by its very nature fragmentary and temporary; it is necessarily imperfect. This is an essential characteristic of the dispensation. The law was a revelation and condemnation of man's guilt, and, secondly, a shadow of things to come. The law showed unto the people that God was holy, that man was sinful, and that therefore a perfect mediation was necessary, to bring us into the presence of the Most High. The law typified this mediation; but all types are by the very nature of types mere shadows, and therefore not able to give the real substance except by anticipation. The imperfection of the law appears in these three points especially:
First, The forgiveness of sin. In the old dispensation believers were comforted by the revelation of God's mercy, and by the promise of the Messiah. But, as was shown by the continual repetition of sacrifices, the true atonement was not yet made; everlasting righteousness was not yet brought in, and therefore the conscience was not yet purged from sin. The apostle explains in the epistle to the Romans, that although God forgave and pardoned the sins of the Israelites before Christ died upon the cross, yet they were remitted only through the forbearance of God (Rom 3:25). It was in a temporary manner, in view of the future atonement. But now that Christ has died, He has become the Surety of the new covenant, which has better promises, and the first blessing of which is the forgiveness of sin. In this dispensation we now have no longer any conscience of sin, because he that has come unto Jesus Christ, who died once for all, has received the absolute and entire remission of sins, and needeth not but that his feet should be washed daily, that his trespasses should be acknowledged and confessed to Him who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Secondly, Access unto God was not perfected under the old dispensation. Abraham, Moses, David, and all the fathers, prayed unto God, and knew that God was the hearer of prayer; but their access to God was imperfect, because they were not yet able to enter into the holy of holies, seeing that the way into the sanctuary through the rent veil of the flesh of Christ was not revealed yet. Before Jesus came, the worship of the Old Testament saints was not in liberty of the Spirit. They had received the spirit of bondage, and not the Spirit of adoption. They could not pray as the children, who are identified with the Man who is their Lord and Head, the Son incarnate.
The third imperfection was this: They had not received the Holy Ghost as an indwelling Spirit. This is explained in the apostle's epistle to the Galatians. The more we study this section of the Melchizedek priesthood, the more shall we be convinced that the same mind that argues in the Romans and the Galatians about the law, explains here the superiority of Christ over the priesthood of Aaron. If a law could have been given through which life could come, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die upon the cross. Then righteousness would have come by the law; but the law, the dispensation of Moses, was not able to minister life, that is, to give unto us the Holy Ghost (Gal 3:2, 21); for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because Jesus Christ was not yet transfigured (John 7
). The Spirit of God is from eternity to eternity one with the Father and the Son; but the Lord Jesus refers to the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of the anointed One, who, according to the promise of the Father, dwells in the church. He was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. The Spirit was to be sent from Jesus the Son as our Lord and glorified Head. It required that indissoluble (resurrection-) life of the High Priest, of the Victim slain upon Calvary, and raised again by the power of God out of the grave. It is from our risen Lord that life is now given to believers; the Spirit dwells in our hearts, and we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Such is the threefold privilege of believers in the present dispensationperfect forgiveness of sin, perfect access unto God, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. 8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. 9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. 10 But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? 12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. 13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? 26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. 33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. 35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? 43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 53 And every man went unto his own house.
But the law made nothing perfect. For perfection is true, substantial, and eternal communion with God through a perfect mediation; and this perfect mediation we have obtained in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the apostle says that all this is quite evident from the word of God in Psalm 110. David in the Spirit declared the oath of the Lord: "Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." If "after the order of Melchizedek," he puts aside the order of Aaron. If "a Priest for ever," then there must be perfection in this priesthood; that is to say, this priesthood is continuous, untransferable, unchanging; it brings that ultimate blessedness which endureth for ever, perfect and substantial communion between God and us.
And this ordinance is by an oath. The Lord hath sworn. Thus it is written in the psalm. The apostle deduces a most important argument from this expression; and if, as the Lord Jesus Himself points out, David was "in the Spirit" when he penned this psalm, we have no difficulty in accepting the teaching of the apostle. Are we to judge the expressions of Scripture like the expressions of other books, in which sometimes words are used thoughtlessly, accidentally, superficially, without any further or deeper meaning? This be far from us, if we have indeed learned the mind of God. The priesthood of Aaron was not instituted with an oath. That which is connected with an oath can never be changed; for God is immutable. And in the same way as He swore unto Abraham, "Surely with blessing I will bless thee" (Heb 6:14), in order that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie we may have abundant assurance of hope; even thus is it that because the High Priesthood of Jesus can never be altered, because it is based upon the eternal decree and counsel of God, and because it is essentially connected with the very nature and purpose of God Himself, it is introduced with an oath. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent.
For this royal priesthood was set up in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid. Here is revealed to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself (Eph 1:7-9). Christ, the Lamb without blemish and without spot, the Sacrifice; Christ the High Priest, Christ the Heir of all things, was foreordained in the eternal counsel of God. His royal Priesthood is an eternal one; even as eternal life was promised by God, that cannot lie (the nature of oath), before the world began (Titus 1:2). Thus are believers chosen in Him unto glory, and thus the gospel of grace is connected with eternity; whereas the law, which deals with man's works, belongs in its very nature to the region of time. God's own purpose and grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim 1:9). This is the Priesthood of the Oath, of which it is said: It will never repent Him.
In this declaration the apostle beholds the disannulling or abrogation of the legal dispensation which was connected with the Levitical priesthood, and, in the second place, the introduction of a better hope by which we draw near to God. This oath shows that Jesus is the surety of a better dispensation.(1)
1. διαθηκη occurs here for the first time in the epistle. As will be more fully explained in connection with chapters 8 and 9, the word means dispensation, covenant, and testament. The Levitical priesthood is connected with the law, the old covenant, temporary and imperfect, with a worldly sanctuary; the Melchizedek priesthood of our Lord with the new, eternal, and perfect covenant, of which Jesus is Mediator and Surety (compare 8:5, 9:15), and with the heavenly sanctuary.
Let us look now at the contrast between the priests of the Levitical dispensation and this Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. They were many; He is only one. Their priesthood was successionalthe son followed the father. Christ has a priesthood which cannot be transferred, seeing that His life is indissoluble. They were sinful, but He is holy, pure, and spotless. They offered sacrifices in the earthly tabernacle; He presents Himself with His blood in the true sanctuary, which is high above all heavens, which is eternal. He appears in the very presence before the face of God. In Jesus Christ, the eternal Priest after the order of Melchizedek, all is fulfilled which in the preparatory dispensation could only be shadowed forth imperfectly and by a variety of ordinances. It was impossible to illustrate adequately by any type or combination of types that which is infinite, that which is eternal, that which is both divine and human. All the types taken together are not intelligible to us, and will not bring us to a right conclusion and a right understanding of Christ, unless we always bear in mind their necessary imperfection. Jesus is the sacrifice; but what sacrifice could be a type of Christ? The animals that were slain were only passive in death. It is quite true that they were to be without blemish, and in that way they showed forth that Jesus Christ was perfectly holy. But that offering up of Himself, the giving Himself unto God in our stead, the laying down His life for the sheep, the coming to do the will of God the Father who had sent Him, the obedience of faith and love,this could never be typified. Again, the sacrifice was slain, simply to obtain the blood. Remission of sin was through the blood. It was the blood that was brought into the holy of holies. And this blood existed separately from the sacrifice which had ceased to live. This also was a very imperfect adumbration of the reality. By His own free will, in obedience to the Father, and out of love to us, the Lord Jesus gave His life as a ransom for our sins. With the blood, Himself, the living Jesus, Priest and Sacrifice, entered into the holy of holies, there to abide as our righteousness and life. On the cross He was the victim; in the holy of holies He is Priest, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek. All that was prefigured by the sacrifices, and all that was prefigured by Aaron, the Lord fulfilled; and having fulfilled all, He entered upon His true, real, and eternal Priesthood, which is after the order of Melchizedek. For although He intercedes for us, and bears us on His heart, as was typified by Aaron, His Priesthood itself is now not after the order of Aaron. And although He is Priest after the order of Melchizedek, He has not entered yet on the fulfillment of the priestly reign typified by the priestly king who met Abraham.(2)
2. We still look forward to the ultimate fulfillment of this type. After the final victory over all enemies, over all kings and great powers of earth gathered against the Lord's people, when idolatry is destroyed for ever, and the Most High God alone is worshiped, then shall heaven and earth be blessed in the priestly reign of the Lord Jesus. The King of righteousness and peace shall bless the seed of Abraham, and all the meek who inherit the earth; while the glorified saints, who have overcome in Christ's name and strength, inherit according to His promise all things. Then all things, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, shall be gathered together in one, even in Christ; and God, the possessor of heaven and earth, be blessed, while His blessing flows unhindered through all parts of His dominions.
Christ, in virtue of His priesthood, can save completely (in a perfect, exhaustive, all-comprehensive manner) all who through Him come to God, because He ever liveth to intercede for them.
Let us remember the importance which is attached in all epistles unto the resurrection-life of Christ. He who was our Paschal lamb liveth now, and our only hope is in the risen Lord. There are many Christians who dwell on the crucifixion of Jesus in a one-sided way. We can not dwell too much on the glorious truth that Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. Yet it is not on the crucifixion, but on Christ the Lord, that our faith rests; and not on Christ as He was on the cross do we dwell, but on Christ who was dead and is risen again, and liveth at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. What does the apostle Paul mean when he says, "If we have been justified through His death, much more shall we be saved by His life"? (Rom 5:10) There is a "much more," there is progress, there is a climax. When Jesus died upon the cross He put away our sins, but this was only removing an obstacle. The ultimate object of His death upon the cross was His resurrection and ascension, that through suffering He should enter into glory, that He should be the perfect Mediator between God and man, presenting us unto God and bestowing upon us all the blessings which He has purchased for us with His precious blood. He has obtained eternal redemption on the cross. He applies the blessings of eternal redemption from the holy of holies. Therefore do we testify every Lord's-day that Christ is risen. If Christ was not risen we should still be in our sins; and if such a thing were possible, though we might be forgiven, we should be dead and without the Spirit. The law brought neither righteousness nor life; Christ brings both righteousness and life: for He died in our stead, and He lived again to be our life. Thus the apostle says, in the epistle to the Romans, "Who will condemn? It is Christ who died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, making intercession for us" (8:34). The Father Himself loveth us; it is the Father's good pleasure that Jesus should thus intercede for us. It is of His own free love and sovereign grace that Jesus intercedes for us, that thus the life which through death He has brought unto us might be in us abundantly, and that all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places, which are in Him, and all the temporal blessings which we require for our safety, comfort, and usefulness, may be bestowed upon us by the love of the Father, and through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The Lord Jesus, who through death entered into glory, brings us to God as to His and our Father, and brings God to us by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Thus is His Priesthood perfect.
Consider now the perfection of Christ's Priesthood, and of that better covenant or dispensation of which He became Surety and Mediator.
There are three things that Scripture teaches. God is holy; man is sinful; Jesus is the perfect Mediator. In the old dispensation great stress was laid upon the first two pointsGod is holy; man is sinful. Therefore the godly Israelites prayed: Oh that God would send forth His salvation! Mediation was foreshadowed. Perfection was promised, the true Sacrifice, the gift of the Spirit. Israel was taught of God the nature, depth, and condemnation of sin. The law was the full, comprehensive, and profound commentary on the consequences of the Fall. It revealed to the Jews man's deep-seated estrangement from God, his depravity and corruption, the sinfulness of the very root and fountain of our life. The holiness of God and man's sin and sinfulness were thus vividly impressed on God's ancient people. The sins committed in ignorance required also atonement; the sinfulness of the flesh was constantly brought to their remembrance. Thus they longed for the fulfillment of God's promise, the true Atonement and the indwelling Spirit. In the new covenant the emphasis is laid on the perfect mediation of Jesus; and from the stand-point of perfect acceptance we are to see the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Let us not cherish less profound views of God's holiness and of the nature of sin than our fathers under the less perfect dispensation of the law. In the light of the heavenly sanctuary, where Jesus is as our High Priest, we can never say that we have no sin, or that we have any confidence in the flesh, or that we have not to mourn over and to condemn the evil that is present with us, and the opposition of the old man, who constantly warreth against the new.
The Lord Jesus is the perfect Mediator. The Levitical high priests were sinful men, and required to bring sacrifices for themselves. But the Lord Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled. In His relation to God the Lord Jesus was holy; from His very birth pure, and in His whole life manifesting His inner perfect love to the Father, and conformity with His will. In relation to man He was harmless. He went about doing good; He loved with perfect love, forgiving and enduring all things. With regard to Himself, though living in a world of sin and temptation, He was undefiled. He touched the leper, and the leper was cleansed. He came into contact with death (herein a contrast to the Jewish priest), and conquered death; He took the little maid by the hand, and she arose. He came into contact with the tempter; He remained undefiled. He was "separate from sinners." The description given of the righteous man in Psalm 1 is fulfilled in Him. The only sinless one in the world, He was always alone with God.(3)
3. And yet, although thus in reality separate from sinners, He attracted and befriended the poor in spirit and contrite in heart. Sinners drew near to listen to His gracious words. He received them and ate with them; and at last He was numbered among the transgressors. Let us learn from Jesus the true separation unto God, which manifests itself in humility and in love to sinners, as contrasted with the self-constituted Pharisaic separateness, in which there is neither communion with God nor the attractive power of divine grace drawing men to God.
This Lord is "exalted above the heavens." Jesus went into the holy of holies, which was typified in the tabernacle. Above all created heavens, above angels and principalities, Jesus is now in the true Sanctuary, in the presence of God, and there He is enthroned our perfect High Priest. His position in heaven demonstrates that when He offered up Himself He put away sin for ever, even as it sets forth His divine glory. For who but the Son of God can sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High? As it is written, "Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens" (Psa 57:5, 11, 108:5).
And now the apostle turns again, in a most emphatic and conclusive manner, unto the key-note which he had struck at the beginning of the epistle. The law of Moses constitutes priests that were changing continually. But the Word which came with the oath after the law consecrated for ever more as High Priest Him who is the Son. (Comp. the same emphasis on Son, Heb 1:1, 2.) Only the Son could be the High Priest, and He became the High Priest. Through His incarnation, through all the experiences of His life of sorrow and of faith, through His death upon the cross, through His resurrection and ascension, Jesus is perfected for evermore a High Priest at the right hand of God. He is our one and only royal High Priest, eternal, heavenly, God and Man in one Person.
True peace or communion with God must combine three things. There is no perfect mediation, and there is no real communion with God, unless it fulfils three conditions.
In the first place, the mediation must go low enough. A ladder is of no use unless it comes down exactly to the point where I am. Unless it is there where I can place my foot upon it, it is of no avail. Hence mediation that does not reach down into our fallen, guilty, and lost conditiona mediation in which there is no expiationa mediation that does not remove the wrath of God, that does not take away the curse of the law, that does not blot out the writing of ordinances that is against us, that does not bind and conquer Satan, who has the power of deathI say, a mediation that does not go into this depth is no true mediation for a sinner. But Christ's mediation is based upon His sacrifice on the cross; and therefore it descends to my lost and guilty condition. How can I receive it without repentance, without godly sorrow, without self-condemnation, without the crucifixion of the old man, and of all the flattering hopes which may be built upon self?
The second point is, the true mediation must go high enough; it must bring me into the presence of God. Only that which is pure and that which is living can be brought before God. Hence I need righteousness and life. The Lord Jesus is our righteousness, and by His resurrection and the indwelling of the Spirit He is our life. In Him we are accepted, and filled with the Spirit of life. We have access by Christ unto the Father. Here is our perfection. It is not in ourselves, but in the Lord, who is at the right hand of God. It is not a progressive perfection, or a gradual diminution of the evil and God-opposed character of the flesh. Through all the days of our earthly life the flesh warreth against the Spirit, yet is there no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.
And the third requisite is this: As the mediation must go low enough, reaching us in the depths in which we are, and as it must go high even into the sanctuary of God, so it must go deep into our very hearts. As we are brought unto God, so must God be brought unto us; for the Christ that lives for us must also live in us. Christ, who is our High Priest at the right hand of God, sends the Spirit into our hearts; for to be carnally-minded is death; but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.
Of which things this is the sum: Christ the Son of God died in our stead on the cross; Christ lives for us in heaven; Christ lives in us by the Spirit.
Reviewing the teaching of the first seven chapters of our epistle, let us recall some aspects of truth brought before us with regard to1. THE SCRIPTURE.1. The Scripture: its authority, inspiration, and practical character.
2. THE GLORY OF THE LORD JESUS.
3. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
No other church appears to have been in so perilous a condition as the congregation of Hebrews to whom our epistle was addressed. The abuses which had crept into the Corinthian churches, their discord and divisions, their pride and conceit, the flagrant sins into which some of their members had fallen, were grievous indeed; and the apostle addressed to them words of sharp rebuke, not free from piercing irony, though characterised throughout by his tender and loving spirit. The error into which the Galatians were ready to fall was of vital importance, and the apostle expostulates with them in tones of eager and intense anxiety, warning them that if they do not stand in the liberty of the gospel, but return to the stand-point of law, Christ is become of no effect unto them. And while the character of false teachers and corrupters of the doctrine of godliness became more apparent among the congregations to whom the second epistle of Peter and the epistle of Jude are addressed, yet do we not behold anywhere a congregation in so imminent danger of apostasy. It is therefore remarkable that, although in this epistle the Hebrews are exhorted to obey them that have the rule over them, to submit themselves to those who are called to watch for their souls, and to remember those that preached the word of God to them, yet this is done only in the concluding chapter, while the main argument of fie apostle is to obey the word of God, to hold fast in loyal and persevering faith the Word which was spoken of God in divers portions and ways to the fathers by the prophets, which in these last days was spoken unto us in the Son, and which was declared by the apostles, who had seen Him on earth. Identifying the gospel message with the written Word, with the Scripture, which was received in Israel as the record of divine revelation and as the oracles of God, the writer ot our epistle bases all his arguments and exhortations on the inspired testimony. It is most instructive to notice how the individuality of the writer is kept in the background, how the authority of Scripture is kept prominent. And if the so-called successors of the apostles and some communities lay much stress on central authoritative legislation, by which all doctrinal and practical questions which agitate Christian congregations are to be settled, it is well for us to remember how little the apostles themselves thought of exercising such a mechanical authority, and how they relied exclusively on the power of the Word applied by the Spirit to the heart and conscience.
If it was thus in the apostolic churches, ought it not to be still more so in the present day? Scripture is the only authority in the Church. We are to be guided and moulded by the Word, not by antiquity or the opinions of men, however eminent, or the traditions and customs of churches, however venerable. The church is the bride, and it is hers to obey the Lord, and in all things to carry out His commandment. She has no light of her own; like the moon, she is to reflect the light of the sun. And as the church, so the individual Christian is to abide in the teaching of the Word. Avoiding all subjection to the opinions of men, to the charm of novelty, to the authority of those who are distinguished by their gifts of learning or their character of devotedness, let us seek always the teaching of the Holy Ghost through the Scriptures, that so we may receive truth from God, that we may be taught of Him who alone can teach to profit, and whose teaching is accompanied with the light of peaceful assurance and with vital power. From early childhood we may thus know the Scripture, and be made wise unto salvation; and from the least to the greatest the members of Christ's church may possess that true, individual, and direct teaching from above, by which alone we can retain our liberty and abide in the humble, docile attitude of disciples of the one Master.
The word of God abideth for ever: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt 15:13). Whether it be doctrine or practice, nothing can stand except it be of God; and of plants, not planted by God, it is not enough to lop off some branches in order to prevent their too luxurious growth, but according to the declaration of the Lord, whose love is as infinite as His truth, they must be rooted up. The Reformers, in so far as they were enabled to return to the Scripture, were acting according to the commandment of the gentle and loving Saviour; and their zeal was spiritual and salutary, and for the true welfare of the church and the nation. We cannot be reminded too frequently and too emphatically of the authority of Scripture, and of the relation in which every Christian stands to the word of God. According to the Scriptures, Christ died; and according to the Scriptures, Christ rose again. And as the apostles preached from the Scriptures the gospel in its most elementary and fundamental aspect, so all divine truth, which is necessary and salutary for us, is taught by the Spirit through the prophetic and apostolic word.
The Scripture is the record of God's revelation to His chosen people Israel. God revealed Himself in word and deed, in doctrine and in the works of His redeeming grace and royal rule, in promises and in types. Hence it is impossible to separate in a mechanical way the divine and eternal element from the lower and human, the historical and subjective. In the history of Israel, the institutions and laws of the chosen people, the character, conflicts, and development of patriarchs, prophets, and kings, God reveals unto us His truth, and reveals to us Himself. When the inner life of God's saints is unveiled to us, as in the Psalms, the Book of Job, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and indeed throughout Scripture, so that, as Luther says, "we see into the very hearts of these men, and not merely behold paradise and heaven itself there, but also death, and even hell," we possess in these apparently purely human and subjective delineations the teaching of the Holy Ghost, who presents to us truthfully and perfectly the conflict in human souls between God's grace and their sin and weakness, and provides us with a guide-book in which all possible difficulties and errors are noticed, and the true remedies and correctives indicated. Hence no Scripture is purely human and temporary; all Scripture is divine and eternal. It possesses vitality, fulfilling itself continually, and containing throughout the revelation of God's character and of God's salvation.
In Scripture all lines of thought and history, of type and prophecy, converge and meet in one point, the Messiah. Christ is set forth in the words, deeds, and persons of prophets, priests, and kings. He is typified in the tabernacle with its God-appointed furniture; His advent is heralded and His work proclaimed, not merely by the living voice of God speaking to the patriarchs and prophets, and not merely by the response of faith and prayer of the saints, but even by the creatures whose blood was shed; by the inanimate symbols, as the ark, the laver, altar; by the Sabbath, by the feasts and fasts, and the year of jubilee. Yea, the very infirmities, failures, and sins of prophets, priests, and rulers, whose offices were bestowed by God for the glory of His name and the good of the nation, only increase the desire of the God-fearing, that the perfect Mediator may appear, even the Son, in whom God speaks, and through whom the divine favour and rule are brought perfectly unto His people.
While God-manifestation or Christ-manifestation [Revelation] is thus the central and crowning object of the Scripture, this great purpose could only be fulfilled gradually. Each succeeding need of man was used by God as a new opportunity of manifesting His character, and of unfolding the vast resources of His gracious counsel. Hence Scripture gives us the history of the chosen seed, the people whom God formed for Himself, that they might show forth His praise. It reveals to us Israel in bondage, Israel in the wilderness, Israel worshipping, Israel entering the promised land, Israel now conforming to the nations, now conquering in faith. In all these various aspects is Israel represented, that we may learn thereby the ways of God, the character of the world, the trials and difficulties of the believer, the source of weakness and defeat, as well as the source of victory and strength. Thus while God reveals Himself throughout, it is in such a way that it suits our weak vision, and that it supplies all the guidance, correction, and encouragement which we need during our earthly life.
Our epistle illustrates these truths concerning Scripture in a remarkable way. We read in Acts 17:2, 3 that it was the manner of the apostle Paul to reason with the Jews out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead, and that "this Jesus whom I preach unto you is Christ." In this he only followed the method of the Lord Himself, who after His resurrection began at Moses and all the prophets, and expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself.(21)
This was the method of all the apostles. Like their divine Lord, the apostles regarded the books of Moses and prophets as one; they speak of "the Scripture," and of "all Scripture." The references to Scripture in our epistle, by which doctrines are proved as by an ultimate and all-sufficient authority, show that the writer regarded the whole collection of books as of equal importance and dignity. In a very marked way the Scripture is quoted as God's word; He is the true and one Author, though many holy men were His messengers and instruments.
21. Luke 24:27. It is striking that this is specially recorded in the gospel of Luke, whose Pauline character is acknowledged by all.
For Scripture is not merely the record, it is the inspired record of revelation. Scripture teaches of itself (directly, and still more frequently and strongly indirectly) that it is given by inspiration of God. The choice of biographies, narratives, genealogies, prayers, proverbs, the manner in which these were recorded, the very omission of circumstancesall this was not according to human selection, wisdom, and skill, but according to the mind of the Spirit, who, searching the deep things of God, and foreseeing the end from the beginning, has caused holy men to write in such a manner that the truth of God is revealed in fulness for the instruction and comfort of all generations. To the Holy Ghost we trace Scripture. It is perfect, all-comprehensive, and pure. The Scripture is above every age; for it is written by the eternal Spirit; and our wisdom is to receive Scripture teaching with absolute child-like faith, and to receive Scripture teaching according to its own method, not mixing it up with the enticing words of human wisdom, and the thought and terminology of temporary schools.
While the authority and inspiration of Scripture as a testimony of Christ are vividly brought before us in this epistle, the practical character of the Word is continually urged. The Spirit is still connected with the Scripture. By it He still teaches, guides, and comforts the hearts of men. The Word is living, because the Holy Ghost applies the Word, and the voice of God is heard by the soul. Especially are the exhortations of Scripture attributed to the Holy Ghost. As the Holy Ghost saith, "To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb 4:7). For the Spirit of God, though one with the Father and the Son, identifies Himself in His condescending love with us. As He maketh intercession for us, praying within us, and, as it were, becoming a suppliant with us, expressing our desires and wants, so when God speaks to us, the Spirit continually urges us to listen and to take to heart, as an affectionate mother encourages her child to attend and to mark the important and beautiful instruction of the teacher.
The Scripture is the mirror in which we behold the human heart, with its unbelief, its selfish and carnal thoughts, its tendency to hypocrisy and to rest in mere shadows. The apostle reminds us that by this Word, as by a sharp sword, all that is confused and mixed in our thoughts and hearts is severed, the heavenly separated from the earthly, and the thoughts and intents of the heart discerned. He shows us that the Word brings us into the presence of Him from whom it comes, and with whom we have to do.
Thus while the Word reveals Christ, it judges everything in us that prevents our walking by faith in Him. Solemn and stern as its voice may be, the blessed result, to the faithful and humble who tremble at the word of God, is, that by it they are directed to look off unto Jesus, to look up unto Him who is the way of life above to the wise, and that thus they are kept from the evil that is in the world.
The Word speaks to the heart. The voice of the Lord is powerful and full of majesty; the heart adores and is filled with awe. The voice of the Lord is full of love and tenderness; the heart trusts and rejoices. The voice of the Lord declares mercy; and the heart forgives them that have trespassed against us. The voice of the Lord promises peace and glory; the heart feels the festival of generosity, and becomes cheerful and patient in giving sorrow.
Of a living Christ and to living souls does the living Word speak, that we may walk with God. All Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto every good work. It makes us wise unto salvation; it gives us not that knowledge which puffeth up, but the wisdom which is from above, even love, that edifieth.
2. The person and work of Christ.
The great object of this epistle is to show the heavenly Priesthood of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. But as all the offices of our adorable Lord are rooted in His eternal Sonship, and are most inseparably connected with each other, the epistle brings before us in great fulness the doctrine of the person and work of the Messiah. In the first chapter the Messiah is spoken of as the Son. In relation to God He is from all eternity, the brightness of His glory, the express image of His substance. In relation to the world He is the Mediator by whom it was created, and by whom it is upheld. In relation to the prophets He is the Son, in whom is the perfect and ultimate revelation of God. In relation to the angels He is Lord, whom they worship and serve. In relation to the future world, or the Messianic kingdom, He is appointed Heir of all things. And this glory was not lessened by His humiliation, His sufferings and death; it was by His obedience that He entered into glory, that He ascended into heaven, and was exalted at the right hand of God. We behold the glory of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Man, of whom Psalm 8 and the prophecy of Isaiah witness, the glory of the Lord, unto whom all things are subject, and whose dominion is everlasting.
The first two chapters set before us the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in one Person. We rejoice that He who is the eternal Son of the Father, and the self-subsistent Word, has through sufferings and death entered into glory, and that Jesus is Lord above all, and our High Priest before God. He is the Mediator of the new covenant, greater than Moses; for Jesus is Son in the House and Lord over the House; whereas Moses, though faithful, was only a servant, and for this very reason in a preparatory and imperfect economy. (Com. John 8:35.) Jesus is greater than Joshua; for in Him the rest of God is also our rest, even as through Him we shall finally enter into the everlasting Sabbatism. He is greater than Aaron; for, while fulfilling all that was prefigured by the Aaronic priesthood, He was consecrated a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; and after the power of an endless life He is the true Mediator, who in the heavenly sanctuary represents us before God, and communicates to us the blessings of the everlasting covenant.
But as the epistle unfolds the glory of the exalted Saviour, it dwells also on the humanity of Christ, and on His obedience and sufferings in the days of His flesh. In showing Christ's eternal divine glory, the first chapter of our epistle reminds us of the commencement of John's Gospel, it ascends into the loftiest height; but it is also like the Gospel of Lukein which the beloved Physician reveals to us Jesus the Son of man, in a manner as vivid and touching as it is profound.
In no portion of Scripture are we so fully taught the humanity of our blessed Lord, the sufferings of Christ, and the sympathy of the glorified Saviour. And this is one great and important feature among many which renders this epistle so important and precious to every Christian.
Here we see His real humanity. Moved by a boundless, an infinite love, He took hold of the seed of Abraham; and because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He likewise took part of the same. He was true, real Man, body, soul, and spirit. In His walk on earth He went through every sorrow, trial, temptation, that can oppress and pain the human heart. He lived by faith, putting His trust in the Father. In this epistle we behold the reality of His suffering in, temptation, of His conflict and walk of faith, of His weakness and fear; we see how He became a merciful and compassionate High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, able to help us and sympathize with us in our difficulties and sorrows. The agony in the garden of Gethsemane, which is here described, shows us that Jesus went into all the anguish of death in dependence on God, submitting Himself, and learning obedience, though He was Son. Because His obedience, tried to the utmost, was perfect, He was exalted, and is now the glorified Man; and as Son of man, the eye of faith beholds Him at the right hand of power.
Jesus is in heaven a perfect High Priest. His perfection is twofold. First, in that, having through the sacrifice of Himself obtained everlasting redemption for us, He was by His resurrection and ascension perfectedthe High Priest who, in the power of an endless life, represents us before the Father, and brings to us the blessings of the heavenly sanctuary. Secondly, that through His experience on earth, He possesses a full knowledge of our difficulties and trials, of the power of temptation and the anguish of suffering, and regards with an infinite compassion, tenderness, and sympathy His people below, while His purpose is to keep them faithful, and to make them more than conquerors.
While, according to the purpose of the epistle, the emphasis is laid on Christ's Priesthood, and present glory at the right hand of God, His prophetic and royal office and His future Messianic reign are not left out of view. As the perfect Prophet or Revealer of God He appears already in the first chapter, and the royal character of His Priesthood is indicated, not merely by the name Melchizedek, but also by His session at the right hand of power. And though the object of the epistle is to confirm the Hebrews by showing them the heavenly sanctuary as the place of worship, yet the future reign of Messiah as King is indicated. This is meant by His being the Heir of all things, as Son of David, as Son of man, who by reason of His sufferings is enthroned Lord of all, the King of the whole earth, of whom all prophecy witnesses. Thus the epistle to the Hebrews represents the continuity of God's dealings vith men, and with Israel especially. It shows the gospel of Jesus Christ, as preached by the Lord Himself and the apostles, to be the full culminating manifestation of the revelation of God to the fathers by the prophets; it declares the faith of God's saints from Abel to Abraham, and from Abraham to the Maccabees, as a looking forward to the ultimate kingdom and glory of Messiah, which is also our hope. Likewise it speaks of the new covenant as the covenant predicted by the prophet Jeremiah, as the covenant made with the house of Israel and the house of Judaha promise containing spiritual and eternal blessings but enshrined in and immovably connected with the national restoration in the land of Canaan, according to the purpose of God and the unconditional covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Jer 31
1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. 5 Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things. 6 For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God. 7 For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. 9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. 11 For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. 12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. 13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. 14 And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD. 15 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. 16 Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.
18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. 19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. 20 Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD. 21 Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. 22 How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. 23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. 24 And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks. 25 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. 26 Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.
27 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD. 29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. 31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: 36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37 Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. 38 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. 39 And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. 40 And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
3. The Believer's Life.
(1) We begin with the most important, the highest aspect, worship. As there is only one High Priest, Christ in heaven, so there is only one holy place, the heavenly sanctuary.(22)
And by the blood of Jesus we have boldness to enter into the holiest. As the sacrifice was offered once for all, and the Lord is perfected for evermore, there is now the continued and uninterrupted favour of God resting upon us in Christ Jesus. We possess an unchangeable, perfect righteousness in Him. There is no more remembrance of sin, and we enter into the presence of God Himself in the full assurance of His love. In this epistle the chief point insisted on is access to Godworship in the holy of holies. We constantly fall into sin, and thereby our communion with God is interrupted, and our enjoyment of peace and light. If any man sin, the apostle John teaches us, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Through Christ's advocacy we are restored, and in answer to His intercession we are preserved, so that our faith fails not, and our souls are brought back into the paths of righteousness. But our epistle deals with the subject of the believer's position, of his standing before God, of his access to the throne of grace, and we are taught that in Christ we are perfected for ever. Boldly we may come to God, for His throne is a throne of grace. In the sympathy of the Lord Jesus we have the blessed assurance that, amid all suffering, temptation, and failure, sufficient grace and timely help will sustain us, and that as we are seated with Christ in heavenly places, so the love of God and the grace of our compassionate and merciful High Priest will uphold and succour us during our weakness and warfare on earth. The Christian is still in the wilderness, but his worship is in heaven.
22. This is more fully brought out in chapters 8-10.
We cannot come boldly unto the throne of grace unless we see the High Priest. By one sacrifice Christ hath perfected us, consecrated us, and brought us nigh unto God for ever. Christ having made purification of our sins, sat down at the right hand of God. We are accepted in Him. We possess a righteousness divine, perfect, eternal. Our sins and failures interrupt our communion with God; we are chastened and humbled; we must confess and repent; but our state before God remains the same. We always return to a throne of grace, to the Father and to the Saviour. Hence we worship, as accepted and forgiven, inside the veil, on the other side of the cross, so to say; not at the brazen altar, not at the laver, but in the holy of holies. And here I may appeal to the experience of the Christian, that it requires deep humility, self-abasement, and self-condemnation, to go with our sins and failures unto God as our Father, and unto Jesus as our Saviour and High Priest; to appear in His presence on the ground of perfect righteousness, and in faith of eternal and unchanging love; to turn from sin and disobedience, from forgetfulness and lukewarmness, unto God, believing that in His love to us there was no interruption or diminution, that in the mercy and the intercession of our High Priest there was no pause or alteration, that the same favour, the same righteousness, the same eternal and infinite covenant-love was ours, while we were forgetting the Rock of our salvation and grieving the Spirit of promise by whom we are sealed. To do this is indeed hard and painful to flesh and blood, it is contrary to the carnal mind, for it exalts the grace of God and abases the creature. And if we come otherwise, if we draw near less boldly, if notwithstanding our sins we do not come as those whose warfare is accomplished, whose iniquity is forgiven, and who have received of the Lord of free grace, and according to the eternal covenant, a double Benjamin portion, we fall back into the law, into the spirit of bondage, into the dark and lifeless region of works. True humility praises the glory of His grace, wherein He has taken us into favour in the Beloved.
2. Our perfection.
Christ, according to the teaching of our epistle, was perfected to be our High Priest. God consecrated Him to be the perfect and all-sufficient Mediator, who presents us to the Father, and who brings to us the blessings of the new covenant. After He had put away our sins by one sacrifice, He was, in His resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God, perfected to be our royal High Priest. We are sanctified by the will of God through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. The Lord Jesus hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb 10:10, 14). All who believe in the Lord Jesus, and as soon as they believe, receive the blessings of the new covenant; their sins are forgiven, Christ is their righteousness, and they are consecrated or sanctified unto God; they have access unto the throne of grace, and as a royal priesthood they worship and serve. Christ is our sanctification, He is our perfection. We have been made the righteousness of God in Him, and this the moment we accept in humble faith the gospel, that He who knew no sin was made sin for us.
What other consecration can we speak of? The Son was consecrated (or perfected) for evermore, and the new and living way through the veil that is to say, His fleshwas consecrated or dedicated for us; and we ourselves were brought nigh by His blood, and through faith we realized that we are not our own, but bought with a price. But the question may be asked, Is there not an inward sanctification of the Spirit? This aspect of sanctification is not brought prominently before us in this epistle, although the work of the Spirit in the heart is enumerated among the blessings of the new covenant. Sanctification by the Spirit is essentially connected with our only (objective and) heavenly perfection in Christ; it has no other root and source; and as in idea it has no separate and distinct commencement, so in actual realisation its commencement is coincident with our justification.
If the question is asked, How does our acceptance affect our walk and our relation to sin? the apostolic answer is, How can we continue in sin, seeing that we have died to sin? But when did we die to sin? Was this separate from and subsequent to our believing in the Lord Jesus as the Saviour? No; but when we accepted the Lord Jesus as our righteousness, even then were we set apart unto God, severed from our former life, transplanted into the kingdom of God's dear Son. And how did we die with Christ? Was it by a subsequent and separate act of ours, in which our sin, or the flesh, or the old man, was, by a volition or energy of our own, crucified? or was it not (really) when Christ died on the cross, and (actually) when we believe that Christ died for us? And is not this death the object of our faith, and of faith from the very commencement of its existence? To the believer the apostle says: Reckon yourselves, realise by faith, and bear in mind that you have been crucified with Christ. And this is meant by the exhortation: Yield your members servants to righteousness, put off the old man, mortify the members which are on earth. It is not by a separate and subsequent act converted and saved men are to be "sanctified"; believers are to realize, that by the cross of Christ the world has been crucified to them and they to the world; that they have died with Christ unto sin.
The perfection of the believer is the same from the first moment of his spiritual life to the last, though his knowledge of it increases in depth and strength. Christ is his righteousness in heaven. In Him he is before God. There is no interruption or break in his acceptance and in his standing. In the light of this perfect love the believer discovers continually the true nature of sin and of the flesh. God condemned sin in the flesh, and therefore the believer looks upon the flesh as condemned. It cannot be purified. In us, that is our Adamic man, dwelleth no good thing. There is a fountain within us which can not be cleansed, and out of which God-opposed evil thoughts continually ascend. Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh, but His flesh was pure and holy. Whereas our flesh is sinful; when we are tempted, it is not apart from sin; for we to some extent, and though it be only for a moment, are pleased with the temptation. Besides, our sins of ignorance and omissions are many, and betoken the existence of sinfulness. And this sin, which dwelleth in us, we have to mourn over, to confess, and to fight against. Yet are we not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; for Christ dwelleth in us. Sin has no more dominion over us; for looking continually unto the Lord our righteousness, and reckoning ourselves to have died with Him, we are alive unto God. Still sin remains until we actually die, when beholding the glory of the Lord, seeing Him as He is, we shall be like Him.
According to the Scripture doctrine, there is one Christ and one faith and one life; and according to the Scripture doctrine, Christ Himself, and not what He effects in us, is the object of the believer's contemplation, and the source of his peace, strength, and joy. To look to our own state, and to put our own state of so-called holiness as an object and aim before our mind, is an unscriptural and hurtful thing. We are to behold the perfection of the Lord Jesus as our High Priest in heaven; and beholding Him, we judge ourselves, we have no confidence in the flesh, and rejoicing in Christ Jesus, we are renewed daily after His image.
God's ways are perfect, and they are simple. When Christ is received, all is received. The forgiveness of sins contains the only source and root of all godliness and true service. No subsequent supplement is needed. The apostles nowhere speak to the congregations of a higher Christian life, and of a second act of faith unto holiness; when they rebuke the sins and failures of the churches, and when they point out the remedy, it is always by showing the real meaning and power of the grace which at the first was preached unto them, and in which believers stand.
3. Lastly, let us remember the description of the Christian's life given in this epistle, in which various and apparently contradictory aspects are combined. If we really wish to walk with God, to enjoy communion with Him, and to remain steadfast in the faith unto the end, we shall realise in our own experience that rest and labour, peaceful assurance of our acceptance, and holy, vigilant, and anxious fear can co-exist. Knowing that God worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Life truths must be studied by living them. In theory it may be difficult to reconcile and combine the various aspects of spiritual realities and experiences; but when we do the will of God we come to know the divine character of Christ's doctrine. It is by faith, by a vital, trustful appropriation of truth, that we understand; it is in using the guide-book, in walking with God, that light shines on the path, and that we go on from strength to strength. Let us rejoice in the Lord, and let us rejoice always; yet let us remember that blessed is the man who fearcth alway."In the beholding of God we fall not, and in the beholding of ourselves we stand not; yet while we are in this life it is needful that we behold both at once. The higher beholding keepeth us in joy and in the true love of God; the lower keepeth us in godly fear and self-abasement. Our good Lord would that we hold us much more in the beholding of Him, and yet not wholly leave the beholding of ourselves, until the time when we shall be brought up above, where we shall dwell with the Lord Jesus, according to our heart's desire, and be filled with joy without end, beholding Him as He is." (From Reflections of Julian, Anchorite of Norwich, 1326.)
The Crowning Point: Christ the High Priest in Heaven
(Hebrews 8:1)1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;Jesus is our High Priest in heaven. This is the crowning-point in which all the previous teaching of our epistle culminates. It is the summary of the apostle's preceding argument, in the sense that it is the highest and central-point towards which his exposition had constantly tended, and in which all the truths which he had deduced from Scripture are manifested in the clearest and most convincing light. "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."
This crowning-point may be perceived already in the very commencement of the epistle; for there the apostle declares, that God has spoken to us in His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, and by whom also He made the worlds; and that Jesus, after having by Himself purged our sins, took His position, according to the prophetic word, at the right hand of God, where He is now in royal power and dignity. If as Son Jesus is at the right hand of God, then it follows of necessity that the whole dispensation connected with the priesthood of Aaron and the first sanctuary has vanished, and that, no longer on earth, but in the Holy of Holies is now the true and eternal High Priest, the Minister of the new and better covenant. Here is the solution of all the difficulties which perplexed the Hebrews; here the only safety and consolation amidst the persecutions and temptations which pressed sorely upon them living in the midst of the Jews, who were still cleaving to that which was vanishing away.
The Lord Jesus is our High Priest in heaven. These simple but majestic and weighty words sum up the teaching of the first eight chapters of our epistle. This is the crowning-point of the apostle's profound and massive argument, Jesus, who suffered and died, is consecrated the priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, after the power of an endless life. He is the minister of the heavenly sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. The apostle seems to a superficial reader to interrupt frequently the thread of his argument, when out of the abundant love, sorrow, and solicitude of his heart he addresses solemn warnings and exhortations to the Hebrews, but he never for a single moment loses sight of that luminous centre of doctrine and consolation, Christ, the Priest in heaven; his constant aim is to direct the minds and the hearts of the Hebrews to that perfection which in the glorified Saviour is given to all believers. In the very first verses he sounds the key-note, describing Jesus as the Son, and declaring His royal priesthood. The eternal glory of the Son, His divine power in creation, His central position in the future inheritance, His supremacy over the angels, His session at the right hand of Godall these great truths are brought before us, to show how perfect is the royal priesthood of Him who is on the throne. His true and real humanity, the mystery of His incarnation, is brought before us in the second chapter and for the same purpose; He was made like unto His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest. When in the third chapter the Lord Jesus is contrasted with Moses, it is to show that Jesus, the High Priest, is the perfect Mediator, that He, the Son, is greater than Moses, the servant. Our responsibility is indeed greater than that of Israel in the wilderness, yet while it becomes us in our earthly pilgrimage to take heed, to fear, and to labour in order to enter into rest, and while the Word of God is given unto us, that it may judge and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, we have more abundant reason to hold fast our profession, beholding Jesus, the great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, boldly we draw near to the throne of grace, for He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. (Chap. 4) And after showing how Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of priesthood, being chosen from among men and called of God, and how in the garden of Gethsemane He entered into the lowest depth of human weakness and obtained the victory in the severest test of faith, he reminds the Hebrews that Jesus, being made perfect, both by the obedience which He learned by the things He suffered, and by His resurrection and ascension, was addressed by God an High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Chap. 5) Thus he has reached the long-desired and much-loved summit, but before he describes the glorious sanctuary, which opens here to our view his heart fails him by reason of the weak and infantine condition into which the Hebrews had lapsed, and by a most solemn and piercing, yet affectionate exhortation, he entreats them to go on unto perfection, that is unto that which is within the veil, to behold Him who by His death became the High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.
What is implied in this mysterious and comprehensive word, uttered by David when he was in the Spirit, and uttered by him as the solemn declaration and oath of the Most High, is explained in chapter 7 and again in this chapter, in connection with the new and everlasting covenant in which we stand. For if the priesthood is changed, there is of necessity also a change of the dispensation. And this according to God's counsel. For even Jeremiah, six centuries before the advent of our Lord, had announced that the Lord would make a new covenant with the house of Judah and Israel. The High Priest is in heaven, the covenant is new and eternal, and therefore the sanctuary must likewise be in heaven. And to this latter point our attention is now turned. The old dispensation had a priesthood and an earthly tabernacle. The new dispensation has a high priest and a heavenly sanctuary, and the worship of believersall of whom are priestsis in spirit and in substance, that is, in heaven itself, in the holy of holies.
In no other portion of the new covenant Scriptures is the High Priesthood of the Lord Jesus explained. Hence in this precious and most essential epistle, more than in any other book, stress is laid upon the ascension rather than the resurrection, and upon the fact that Jesus is in heaven. In the book of Revelation also (between which and our epistle are many interesting and instructive points of resemblance and connection; heaven is brought before us; but there it is in connection with the royal dignity and power of our glorified Redeemer. There we behold Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, in the midst of the throne. From Him proceed all the manifestations of the Creator- power and government of God; and all the developments of history, as well as its ultimate consummation, are represented as having their central source in the Son of God, who died once, and who liveth now for evermore. But in our epistle heaven is viewed as the sanctuary, where the High Priest intercedes for us, and whence He bestows upon us all the benedictions of the new covenant in virtue of the blood, by which He entered into the holy of holies.
It has been noticed by attentive readers of the Scriptures that in this epistle, concerning whose authorship there is much difficulty, the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is not brought forward prominently, as it is in all Pauline epistles. This remark is perfectly correct, and of great importance. Let me remind you that in all the epistles of the apostle Paul, as well as in most apostolic epistles, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead holds a very prominent position. In this epistle it is mentioned but once, in that beautiful passage where the apostle speaks of the God of peace who brought again (or rather brought up, i.e. to heaven) from the grave the great Shepherd of the flock. And here also the reference to the resurrection is more, as leading to the ascension and consummation of His exaltation. In all other epistles, where the apostle speaks of man's justification, of man's renewal, and of the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not the ascension but the resurrection which is represented as the great crisis, and as the foundation. He, who was delivered for our offences, was raised again for our justification. If we believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from dead, we shall be saved. Thus Paul teaches in his epistle to the Romans. "Now is Christ risen from the dead," is his triumphant exclamation in his epistle to the Corinthians, and therefore our faith is not vain, and we are no longer in our sins. Together with Christthus he explains to the Ephesians other aspects of this central truth, we, who were dead in trespasses and sins, were quickened, and as the first-born from the dead, Christ is the Head of the Church, is the teaching of the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians (Rom 4:25, 10:9, 1 Cor 15
; Eph 1:20, Eph 2
1 Corinthians 15
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christís at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? 30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. 33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
; Col 1:18; Phil 3:10). How important is the place assigned in them to the resurrection of our Lord in connection with the new life of the believer. As risen with Christ, he is to seek the things that are above, and in the description of the apostle's spiritual experience, we find that his great and constant desire was to know "the power of Christ's resurrection."
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The question naturally arises: "Why is it that in the Epistle to the Hebrews the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is comparatively put into the background, and all the emphasis is laid upon the ascension?"
The answer is simple. The object of the Epistle to the Hebrews was to comfort and also to exhort the Jews, whose faith was sorely tried because they were excluded from the services of the temple in Jerusalem; to confirm unto them the great truth, that they had the reality and the substance of those things which were only temporary and signs, and that the real sanctuary was not upon earth but high in the heavens, and that Jesus had gone to be the minister of the holy things, and of the true or substantial tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. Hence all the emphasis must be laid upon this, that Jesus, the Son of God, in human nature, by virtue of the blood which was shed upon Golgotha, has entered above all heavens into the real and true heaven, and on the throne of God, according to the prediction of the 110th Psalm, is a priest now after the order of Melchisedec.
But in order to understand more fully what is meant by heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ is now exercising the office of High Priest, let us see with what great clearness the doctrine of the ascension of the Lord Jesus is brought forward throughout the whole of the new covenant Scriptures.
Before the incarnation, the true sanctuary was not yet made manifest; but when the Word of God was made flesh He tabernacled in the midst of us, and we beheld the glory of the Only-begotten. Israel was taught that God, who made the heavens and the earth, was omnipresent, and yet combined with this spiritual conception of the omnipresence of God was the revelation of a heavenly sanctuary, of an eternal throne, of a special locality, in which the presence and the glory of God were manifested, unto which the prayers and offerings of His people ascend, and from which divine blessings and powers descend.(6)
With the advent of the Son of God commenced the full manifestation of heaven. At His birth the angels sang, Glory to God in the highest; for the incarnation of Jesus was the unfolding and the accomplishment of that eternal counsel, in which the glory of God shines forth most brightly. The announcement of Jesus to the first disciples, whom He gathered, was: From henceforth shall ye see the heavens opened. The kingdom of heaven is come, was the declaration of the Prophet of Galilee. He speaks of the kingdom of heaven and the reward in heaven to the poor in spirit, unto whom He unfolds the blessedness and the character of His kingdom and righteousness. And in that solemn and decisive moment, in which Jesus, the Son of God, the heavenly High Priest, is brought before the representative of the Aaronic priesthood and the old Levitical dispensation, His testimony is, "From henceforth shall ye see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power."
6. Compare next Lecture.
Now let us look upon the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is narrated or testified in the Gospels.
I begin with the gospel in which the ascension, as an actual event, is not mentionedthe Gospel of John. The apostle, who dwells so emphatically on the divinity of the Lord Jesus, gives us no account of the ascension. Though not narrated, however, it is frequently alluded to; as in a similar manner the institution of the Lord's Supper is never mentioned by this evangelist, though his gospel is full of references to, and expositions of, that eating and drinking of which the Lord's Supper is the outward representation and blessed seal. Let us collect now the testimony of this gospel concerning the ascension. Jesus says to Nathanael, "Ye shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man," the great Mediator between heaven and earth. He says to Nicodemus, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Jesus here explains, that He had come down from heaven in order to go back again into heaven, to be the source of regeneration and life. Again, in the Saviour's arguments with the Jews, when they are astonished and offended at His words, especially at His declaration that He is the Bread come down from heaven, and that we are to live by Him, the Lord asks, "Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?" (John 6:62) Did He not refer to His ascension when He said to the unbelieving Jews, "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come? (John 7:34) Or when on that most solemn last night He spoke to His disciples "plainly""I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go unto the Father" (John 16:28)of His Father's house and its many mansions, of the place He was going to prepare for us, of His return unto glory, and not merely to the apostles, but before them to His heavenly Father. Lastly, what fuller announcement of the ascension than His gracious and majestic words to Mary Magdalene: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but 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) When we consider these passages, which belong to every portion of this gospel, from its commencement to its conclusion, which consist of the Saviour's own words, addressed to inquirers, to opponents, to disciples, and to the Father; when we consider the manner in which the Lord connects in these passages His ascension with His pre-mundane glory, with His eternal relation to the Father, and with His mediatorial work, we feel that although the ascension of our Lord is not narrated by the Apostle John, it is taught by him in the most profound, radical, and comprehensive manner.
In the Gospel of Mark, which narrates the incidents of the life of Christ in the most terse and graphic style, the ascension of the Lord Jesus is mentioned in one verse, in which everything that is necessary is comprehended; namely, that He was taken away from the earth, and that He took His position at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In the Gospel of Luke the ascension is narrated most fully and circumstantially. Both the placeBethany, the mount of Olivesand the manner of His ascension are mentioned. "Jesus lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." The beloved physician, unto whom it was given to write the gospel of the Son of man, thus describes the ascension of our Lord with most instructive and touching detail. In his account we hear the loving voice and see the pierced hands of our blessed Saviour.
In the Gospel of Matthew the ascension is not narrated. It is distinctly implied in Christ's reply to the adjuration of the high priest: "Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt 26:63,64). In this gospel Jesus is chiefly represented as the Messiah, the King of the Jews. The great object is to show that Jesus, though rejected and crucified by His people, is the theocratic Lord; that the stone rejected by the builders is the corner-stone. Hence the conclusion, while implying the ascension in the words, "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth," points to the consummation of this age, to the restoration of Israel, and the Messianic reign.
Thus we have the most spiritual and theological account of the ascension in the Gospel of John; the most concise and terse statement in the Gospel of Mark; the most circumstantial and, if I may say so, human description, entering into the affections of our Lord, in the Gospel of the physician Luke; and a statement of the ascension of Christ, with special reference to His theocratic position as the Messiah and King of the Jews, in the Gospel of Matthew.
Now pass we on to that which is, as it were, the neck, the connecting-link, between the gospels and the epistles and Revelationthe Acts of the Apostles, written by the evangelist Luke, the friend and companion of the apostle Paul.
We have in the first chapter of the book of Acts another account of the ascension, and from a different point of view. Let us only bring to the reading of the Scripture a reverential spirit, taking for granted that the men that wrote it, even apart from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, were men who approached their high task with the greatest solemnity and concentration of mind, whose every expression in the description of the grand events they narrate was based upon deep thought, and who always kept a specific and important purpose in view.
In the book of Acts the evangelist Luke wishes to describe to us how the root of that tree that was now to be developed was not on earth, but in heaven. Therefore he shows unto us how, when Jesus parted with His disciples, they asked Him, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" It is not, as it is generally explained, a question of ignorance, or a question of prejudice, but a question of true spiritual insight into the Word of God. They had been taught by our blessed Saviour after His resurrection that it was from not understanding the whole Scripture that they expected the glory of the Messiah to be revealed without or before His sufferings. It was impossible for Christ to enter into glory, unless first He died upon the cross. But now that He had died, that He had offered the sacrifice, and that His glorified humanity had come forth from the grave, what hindered Him to establish the kingdom of Israel? Why should not now the prophecies be immediately fulfilled? If the apostles had asked Jesus the question before His crucifixion, "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" the Lord Jesus would have told them, that now it behoved Him to suffer. But now that He had suffered the question of the disciples was a perfectly correct one; nor does Jesus in any way contradict them, but His answer confirms the kingdom. He only tells them that it is delayed, it is postponed: there is a new development. The river has taken a new turn unforeseen by Israel.
Now is the time of the Church, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles in one body. Its characteristic is not rule, but testimony; not power, but suffering; not Israel as a nation, and other nations, converted as such; but from among Israel and all the nations a peculiar people, unacknowledged and unloved by the world, witnesses who are to wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven. It is in the Acts, and not in the Gospel of Luke, where it would not be in accordance with the scope of the whole book, that the ascension is related from this point of view. Jesus is King of Israel. He is not forgetting the earth, or the promises, which God had given to the fathers, of which He is the minister unto the circumcision. But in the meanwhile the apostles must be witnesses in Judaea, and in Galilee, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost ends of the earth. And finally, this Jesus shall so come in like manner, the angels declare, as ye have seen Him go up into heaven.
The first chapter having thus explained the relation of the ascended Lord to Israel, and the earthly promise, and the nature of the intermediate Church dispensation, which does not set aside or take the position of a substitute of the earthly promise of the Christocracy, the rest of the book narrates the acts, not so much of the apostles, as of the Lord Jesus, the glorified Head of the Church. It is to the ascended Lord that Peter attributes the gift of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. It is of Jesus in heaven, and of His return thence to fulfil the promises spoken of by all God's holy prophets since the world began (for Enoch, the seventh from Adam, spoke of the coming of the Lord with His saints), that the apostle of the circumcision testifies, after the first miracle in Jerusalem. It is to the ascended Lord Jesus that the prayer of the proto-martyr is directed. The ascended Jesus appears unto Saul of Tarsus, and calls him to be His disciple and His apostle to the Gentiles. The Lord from heaven appears throughout this book as the Head and Ruler of the Church; He guides and blesses His messengers; He opens the heart of Lydia; He comforts and encourages the fainting heart of the apostle Paul in Corinth; His hand is with the evangelists, so that many believe. (Acts 2:33, 3:20, 7:56, 9:5, 16:14, &c.) The whole life, strength, and victory of the Church are derived from Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, who is in this book called emphatically Lord.
Let us glance now at the Pauline Epistles. In the teaching of this apostle we naturally expect that the ascension should hold a prominent position; for it was as the ascended Lord of glory that Jesus first appeared unto him, and thus we find in all his epistles the triumphant conclusion, the glorious consummation, of Christ's life and work on earth. He who was God manifest in the flesh was after His death "received up into glory" (1 Tim 3:16).
In the Epistle to the Philippians we can see more clearly and fully than in any other portion of Scripture the peculiarity of the apostle's inward life. There is no more vivid and accurate portrait of his spiritual individuality. In other epistles we learn more of his conflicts both before and after his conversion (Romans and Corinthians); here the features of his spiritual countenance are, as it were, in repose, and we behold them in their most real and their most beautiful and placid character. And throughout this epistle we see that Christ in heaven was the apostle's constant thought, strength, joy, and aim. His experience was different from that of the twelve disciples. In their case there was gradual development. They knew Jesus of Nazareth as their Master and Teacher, as the Prophet of Galilee, as their Friend. Even after recognizing in Him the Messiah, they did not understand the mystery of His sufferings. After three years' discipleship Philip asked, "Show us the Father." The risen Jesus taught them the whole counsel of God, and at Pentecost they entered into the full enjoyment of light. Not so with Paul. Jesus, the Lord from heaven, appeared unto him, and beholding Him, he entered into a new region, a new life. Here he beheld God's righteousness; here he beheld perfection in glory; here he beheld the source of life and strength; here he beheld joy, which no circumstances could cloud, and the hope of the consummation of blessedness. What is earth now to him? What his former righteousness and all the national distinctions in which he used to trust? What are all things compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus? (Phil 3)
"To me to live is Christ," "Rejoice in the Lord." I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." "Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we look for the Lord." "Christ in heaven," this is his aim and hope; to be like Him, even in His glorious body, this is the perfection, heavenly in its character, for which at the return of the Lord he awaits in hope.
In the Epistle to the Romans, and in kindred epistles, the object of the apostle Paul is to lead the sinner to God. He begins with man in his present condition. He shows the depth of the fall, the guilt of sin, the helplessness of the flesh; then the propitiation that was made by Christ, the death of the Lord Jesus, the resurrection, and the consequent gift of the Holy Ghost. He goes from earth upwards. Such is not the method of the apostle John. He always goes from heaven earthwards. He begins with Godthe life that was with God from the beginning, the Word that was with God, and is now manifested to us. The apostle Paul begins with man, Jew or Gentilethe sinner guilty and condemned, dead and helpless. Now from this point of view the death and resurrection of Christ must needs form the centre. There all lines meet, as in the central nexus. Yet the end must always be Christ enthroned in heavenChrist at the right hand of God. Thus, in answer to the question, "Who is he that condemneth?" his answer culminates in the heavenly exaltation of our Lord. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom 8:34).(7)
Compare also the expression, "Who is over all" (9:5); and the striking passage, Rom 10:6.
In the Epistles to the Corinthians the apostle's testimony is of Christ, the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, and he brings before us the glorious hope, "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly" (1 Cor 15:48). He describes the attitude of the believer, living in the spirit and liberty of the New Testament, as with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord; for the Lord Christ, exalted in heaven, is that Spirit (2 Cor 3).
Look again at his experimental and prophetic epistles. We have already referred to the Epistle to the Philippians, as a comment on the words: "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20). To the Thessalonians he writes more fully about our waiting for the Son of God from heaven, and of the descent of the Lord Himself to gather His saints (1 Thess 1 and 4). In his Epistles to Timothy he concludes his exulting and rhythmical summary of Christian truth, "Received into glory," the first link of the golden chain being God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16).
Again, in the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, which we may call Christological, referring chiefly to the person of Christ, the ascension of the Lord holds a very prominent position. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, although Christ is not spoken of as High Priest, yet His exaltation at the right hand of God is represented in the same manner as in our epistle. From the very outset the apostle speaks of all spiritual blessings as in heavenly places in Christ, and of the Lord as exalted by the Father far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion at His own right hand in the heavenlies, in order to be the head over all things to the Church. In like manner he connects in the fourth chapter Christ's rule over, union with, and gifts to the Church, with His ascension "far above all heavens, that He might fill all things." As in the Hebrews, Christ as High Priest is shown to be in heaven, so here Christ, the Head and Bridegroom of the Church, the Centre and Heir of all things. The Epistle to the Colossians contains the same teaching, and with some new aspects and applications. Here the apostle connects the pre-eminence of Christ, as the first-begotten of the dead and as the Head of the Church, with His eternal glory as the Word by whom all things were made. He shows that being risen and exalted with Christ we have been transplanted out of the region of law and earthly elements (touch not, taste not, handle not), out of the region of shadows and types, into the liberty and substance of heavenly realities; hence His exhortation, "Seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God."(8)
How very striking and close the resemblance is here with the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
8. Compare Colossians 1:15 with Hebrews 1:1-3.
Thus we find in all (the other) Pauline writings the same importance attached to the culminating part of Christ's first adventHis ascension into heaven.(9)
95. Peter, who was an eye-witness of the ascension (as he was likewise one of the three favoured disciples who were with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, and thus saw the Son of man coming in His kingdom; compare Matthew 16:28 with 2 Peter 1:16), declared with joyous emphasis the heavenly exaltation and power of the Lord both in his addresses to the Jews (Acts passim), and in his epistles. "He is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him." "God raised Him up Rom the dead, and gave Him glory" (1 Peter 3:22, 1:21).
The book of Revelation is from beginning to end a testimony of the ascended Lord.
It is because the Son of man, who came down from heaven, hath ascended up into, heaven, it is because Jesus is at the right hand of God, that He is the true and perfect mediator between God and man. Him we in common with all believers invoke, Him we adore as Lord; to Him, as exalted by the Father, pertaineth the name above every name, and the homage of the whole creature-world; unto Him, as the Lord in heaven, all celestial and earthly power is given, and all angelic orders are obedient to His command. From His throne in heaven He gives repentance and the remission of sins; from thence He gives unto His Church all needful gifts, even as He at first sent forth the Holy Ghost, because He had been exalted by the right hand of God. From heaven He shall descend and gather His saints, changing their vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto His glorious body; from heaven He worketh now, and will work, until He hath subdued all things unto Himself.
Christ in heaventhis sums up all our faith.
Here is our righteousness, and our standing before God; here our storehouse of inexhaustible blessings, and of unsearchable riches: here our armoury, whence we obtain the weapons of our warfare; here is our citizenship, and the hope of our glory.
What is meant by the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens? In the first chapter the apostle had used the similar expression, "the right hand of the Majesty," and with evident reference to the prophecy of the 110th Psalm. The expression does not denote the omnipresence of God; as the creed correctly and significantly says, "Sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty," Jesus is now on the throne of omnipotence. He ascended into the eternal, highest, and uncreated heaven. The term denotes the rank of equality which our Lord takes in His glory. He has entered into the participation of the sovereign authority.
The right hand is the place of affection, as well as of honour and dignity.(10)
Christ is on the right hand of the Father, being His beloved Son, in whom He manifests His glory. The right hand is also the symbol of sovereign power and rule. Christ is Lord over all.
10. So we are told in the 45th Psalm that the bride is to stand at the right hand of the King. As the apostle explains in the epistle to the Corinthians, in accordance with this, the husband is the head of the woman; Christ is the head of the Church; God is the head of Christ. The husband is the head of the wife; God is the head of Christ. The wife is the glory of the husband; Christ is the glory of God.
Great is the mystery of the incarnationthe Son of God in human nature, both before and after His exaltation. It was not the human nature of Christ that suffered upon the cross, but the Son of God in human nature. It is not the human nature that is glorified at the right hand of the Father; but the Son of God in human nature, who humbled Himself, is now exalted above all heavens. Unto Him all power is given; the government of all things is upon His shoulder; Jesus rules now. In the book of Revelation His royal dignity is unveiled. There we behold the First-begotten of the dead possessing the keys of hell and of death; the Lamb, who alone can open the book; the Governor, the Lord; who overrules and directs all events; who controls all storms and tempests, and unto whose kingdom all developments of history, and all conflicts and movements among angels and among the nations on earth must serve; who shall finally be revealed, acknowledged, and obeyed as King of kings, and Lord of lords. The royal aspect of the word, "Sit thou at my right hand," is explained in the Apocalypse, where we behold the Lamb in the midst of the throne; in our epistle, the priestly aspect of the word is unfolded.
Heaven being the locality of Christ's priesthood, it must needs be perfect, eternal, spiritual, and substantial. What are the things in which Christ is now occupied as a priest? In one respect He rests, because He finished His work upon the earth, and therefore He is described as sitting down on His Father's throne; His is now the perfect and peaceful rest of victory, for He has overcome. But, on the other hand, His is now a constant priestly activity. Every single individual that is brought unto God, is brought through His intercession; and day by day Christ is occupied with all His children who are upon earth, bestowing upon them the benefits which He has purchased with His blood, sustaining their spiritual life, and overruling all things for their good.
If Christ is in heaven, we must lift up our eyes and hearts to heaven. There are things above. The things above are the spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph 1:3). "Seek those things which are above" (Col 3:1); faith and love, hope and patience, meekness, righteousness, and strength. The things above are also the future things for which we wait, seeing that our inheritance is not here upon earth. All that is pertaining unto the inheritance "incorruptible, and undefined, and that fadeth not away," belongs unto those things which Christ has now to minister in the tabernacle which God has made, and not man.(11)
Our transfigured body, our perfectly enlightened mind, our soul entirely filled with the love of God, all the strength and gifts for government (for we shall be called to reign with Christ upon the earth), all those powers and blessings which we have now only by faith and in germ, are in the heavenly places with Christ, who shall bring them to us when He comes again at the command of the Father.
11. Compare 1 Peter 1.
1 Peter 1
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every manís work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Let us pause here to examine the character of our faith and of our walk in the light of this truth. Our High Priest is in Heaven. The New Covenant Scripture explains to us that there are two kingdoms, two realms, two atmospheres or methods of life. The one shall pass away, and the other shall remain for ever. The one is the world and the earth in its present condition; the other is heavenly, and shall abide for evermore. The one belongs to the first creation, and the power of sin and death; the other belongs to the second creation, to the power of redemption and life through righteousness. To believe is to see the things which are unseen and eternal. It is to behold the land that is afar off, and to take possession of it."(12)
It is to enter into the kingdom (Matt 25:34) prepared for us from the foundation of the world, existing at present, and ready to be manifested at the appearing of our Lord. It is to cherish the lively, animating, and purifying hope of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading, even the heavenly kingdom." (1 Peter 1:4; Col 1:12; 2 Tim 4:18) It is to be transplanted into this unseen and yet most real world of blessing and of power. It is to mind no longer earthly things (Phil 3:19), and to have the affections set upon the things above. It is to be intrusted with the true riches (Luke 16:11). Such is the nature of faith (Heb 11:1; 2 Cor 4:18). It is to prefer spiritual things to carnal; eternal things to temporal; real things to things which are mere shadows.
12. "Faith is the discovery and conquest of a new country." J. Muller.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven." Hence, the whole aim and purpose of our existence here below, all our endeavour, all our works, all our diligence, ought to be given to this one thing, the kingdom of God, which remains for ever. So, while we are occupied with earthly duties, our great object should always be to lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven; to have our affections set upon the things which are above, that thus we may learn Christ in the occupations and discipline of our present life; to be filled with the mind which was in Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself, and obeyed the Father in love; to be heavenly-minded, as they who have a lively hope, and whose citizenship is in heaven. Such is the Christian lifeother-worldly, heavenly.
A spurious or superficial conversion dwells rather on the peace of God than on the God of peace, contemplates the cross of Christ and not the Christ of the cross, rejoices prematurely in deliverance from punishment, instead of cleaving in repentance and faith to Jesus, who delivers us from this present evil world, and raises us unto newness of life; heavenly in its character and hope. Wretched and fatal self-deception, to imagine that after a worldly, selfish, self-centred life upon earth we shall be transplanted into the kingdom of glory, into a blessedness of which we have had no foretaste, into an inheritance of which we have received no earnest in the gift of the indwelling Spirit. Jesus, who died on the cross, is now in heaven; it is only from heaven that the blessings of redemption, forgiveness, and the eternal love of God, are now bestowed by Him; He never delivers from the wrath to come without drawing us unto Himself, without separating us by His cross from the dominion of sin and the tyranny of self, without sending into our hearts the Spirit, as the Spirit of life. If our life is now hid with Christ in God, then, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory. Our citizenship is in heaven, and Jesus, whom we now love and serve, will come to receive us unto Himself.
From the lowest depth of sin and guilt, of weakness and fear, look up to heaven, and behold there the great High Priest. It is because He finished the transgression, and made an end of sins, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness, that Jesus is on the throne of God. Behold in Him the forgiveness of sin, righteousness everlasting, perfect access to the Father, the fountain of renewing grace, of upholding strength, and of endless blessedness. Only believe! Our works and merit are of no avail. Into this height none can ascend. Jesus, who went to the Father, is the way. Faith beholds the great High Priest who died for sinners on the cross, and who as the sinner's righteousness is now before God; faith beholds Jesus at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and faith can rest, and worship, and say, "The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is my God and my Father."
The True Tabernacle.
(Hebrews 8:1, 2)1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.It is the locality where the great High Priest now exercises His functions which the apostle emphasizes. Here the contrast is not so much that of law and gospel, of grace and works, as in other epistles; the contrast is between the earthly and temporary and the heavenly and eternal. In spirit and reality, the Levitical dispensation terminated when the veil of the temple was rent in twain; actually and in outward appearance, it continued till the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple declared unto all the world that the times of the old dispensation had come to an end. While the temple was still in existence, it was difficult for the Hebrews to understand the heavenly character of their calling and worship. It seemed to them that faith in the Messiah excluded them from the blessings and privileges of Messiah's nation. Levitical services in the earthly sanctuary still continued. Where was the place of believing Hebrews? The apostle shows that Jesus is High Priest in heaven, and that therefore ours is a heavenly sanctuary, where all is substance, and possessed of an eternal vitality and glory.
All this is implied in the fundamental fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord said of Peter's confession that on this rock the church is built; but even Peter did not fully understand for some time the truths which necessarily follow from faith in the Christ, the Son of God. The Priesthood of the Son must needs be heavenly and eternal. It cannot be connected with the old covenant; but it is inseparably connected with the new, in which divine love and life are truly bestowed through the righteousness of grace, and in which forgiven and renewed sinners worship the Father in spirit and in truth. It must break down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile; for through the exalted Saviour the Spirit is given, by whom both have the same access to the Father. Hence the apostle returns at the end of the seventh chapter to the key-note struck at firstJesus the Son.
If our High Priest is Jesus, God and man in one person, the only mediator, the sanctuary in which we worship is above. He is the minister(13)
of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. This tabernacle is contrasted with the tabernacle in the wilderness. It is "true," in the sense in which Jesus says, "I am the true vine; that is, the real and substantial vine, of which the outward and visible vines are merely emblems.
13. Compare Isaiah 61:6; Jeremiah 33:21; Nehemiah 10:39an expression used for the service of the priests in the sanctuary, especially as connected with the sacrifices and offerings.
In the second place, this tabernacle was made, not with hands, and not through the mediation of human beings, as was the tabernacle in the wilderness; but it was made by God Himself. And, in the third place, this tabernacle is not a tent in the wilderness, but it is an abiding place in the heavenlies, there to be for ever.
The tabernacle is one of the most important and instructive types. Here is such a variety of truths, here is such a fulness and manifoldness of spiritual teaching, that our great difficulty is to combine all the various lessons and aspects which it presents.
Now, the tabernacle has no fewer than three meanings.
In the first place, the tabernacle is a type, a visible illustration, of that heavenly place in which God has His dwelling. In the second place, the tabernacle is a type of Jesus Christ, who is the meeting-place between God and man. And, in the third place, the tabernacle is a type of Christ in the Churchof the communion of Jesus with all believers.(14)
14. The analogy between the tabernacle and man, or rather the individual believer, has struck Luther. He calls the outer court the body, the holy place the soul, and the most holy the spirit. As the passage is in itself interesting and instructive, I add a translation. Speaking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46), Luther says: "Scripture divides man into three parts, as the apostle writes (1 Thess 5:23), 'The God of peace sanctify you wholly; that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved unblameable.' And each of these three, as well as the whole man, is divided in another manner into two, spirit and flesh, which is a division, not of human nature, but of its condition. That is, each of the three may be either good or bad, spiritual or carnal, of which subject we do not treat here. The spirit is the highest and noblest in man, whereby he is able to grasp incomprehensible, invisible, eternal things; and it is, in short, the dwelling-place of faith, and of God's word, of which David speaks (Psa 51:10), put into my inmost being a right spirit. (Compare Psa 78:37.) The second is the soul; that is, the same spirit according to its natural aspect, in so far as it animates the body, and is often called in scripture life; for the spirit can live without the body, but not the body without the spirit. This soul, we notice, lives and works constantly even in our sleep, and can perceive and understand, not spiritual things, but the things of reason; for reason is the light in this house, and the soul cannot be free from error unless the spirit illumines and rules it with faith or the higher light. . . . The third is the body with its members, the works of which are only exercise and habit, according to the knowledge of the soul, and the faith of the spirit. . . . Now of this I shall show a similitude from Scripture. Moses made a tabernacle with three distinct parts (Exo 26). The first, sanctum sanctorum, where God dwelt, and in which there was no light. The second, sanctum, in which stood the candlestick with seven branches. The third was called atrium, or court, that was without, and in the open daylight. Which is a picture of the Christian. His spirit is sanctum sanctorum, God s dwelling-place, in faith without sight; for he believes what he cannot see, or feel, or comprehend. His soul is sanctum, in which are seven lights, reason, discernment, knowledge, and understanding of outward things. His body is atrium, this is open and patent to all, and every one can see what he does, and how he lives." No doubt this analogy is correct. (Compare on the distinctionsoul and spirit, 1 Cor 2
) What is true of the whole Church, is true of each individual member; but to find in this the purport of the tabernacle chiefly or exclusively is erroneous and untenable.
1 Corinthians 2
1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of manís wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which manís wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Moses, when he went up into the mount, after the glory of the Lord had appeared unto him and unto the elders, received from God a wonderful revelation.(15)
There was shown unto himin what manner it is impossible for us to conceivea pattern of the heavenly places; not the heavenly realities themselves, but he beheld, most likely in a vision, the model of heavenly places, the picture of heavenly realities. And according to that model he was instructed to give the orders in the framing of the tabernacle, and to execute the design; so that the tabernacle in the wilderness was to be a faithful representation of what he had seen, as far as it is possible to represent heavenly and spiritual realities by outward and visible things. Surely when God showed unto Moses the pattern of heavenly things, He showed unto him also the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, by whom there would be brought about not merely a reconciliation, but also the indwelling of God in the hearts of His people; and as Abraham saw the day of Christ, and rejoiced and was glad in itas Isaiah, when he heard the trisagion of the seraphim, beheld the glory of the Lord, even of the Christso there can be no doubt that, when Moses the man of God was on the mount, there was revealed unto him the mystery of the counsel of God, the incarnation, and the mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
15. It is stated four times in the book of Exodus that the tabernacle was built after the pattern shown in the mount (Exo 25:9, 40, 26:30; 27:8). To this Stephen also alludes (Acts 7:44). In like manner the temple was built according to divine direction, as we read (1 Chron 28:11) that "David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses, . . . and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit." (Compare Hebrews 9:8, where, speaking of the high priest's yearly entrance into the Holy of Holies, it is said, "The Holy Ghost this signifying.")
The tabernacle presented wonderful truths(16)
to Israel. In the sacrifices and ordinances of the tabernacle God declared unto His people the forgiveness of their sins; He brought them near unto Himself through expiation and mediation; He healed their diseases and comforted their hearts. But the ultimate object in all this was to reveal Himself, to manifest His divine perfection, to show forth His glory. In all the gifts of pardon, and in all the privileges of approach unto God, the Lord revealed the perfection and manifold glory of Himself. Here Israel beheld the glory of the Redeemer-God. Everywhere the twofold object was accomplished, the need of sinful, guilty, and failing man was supplied, and in this very grace the character and glory of Jehovah was revealed. Thus, as in Christ crucified we possess all we need, and behold all the thoughts and purposes of God, so in the tabernacle the believing Israelite, receiving pardon and help, was taught to exclaim, "Who is a God like unto Thee? "
16. Psalm 119:18: "Wondrous things." (Compare Lectures 5 and 6.)
The tabernacle was a symbol of God s dwelling. There is a sanctuary, wherein is the especial residence and manifestation of the glorious presence of God. Solomon, although he confesses that the heaven of heavens cannot contain God, yet prays that the Lord may hear in heaven His dwelling-place (2 Chron 6). Jeremiah testifies, "A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary" (17:12). The visions of Isaiah and of Ezekiel also bring before us the heavens opened and the likeness of a throne, and the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord; the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon the throne (Eze 1:26, and passim). Of this heavenly locality David speaks, when he asks, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? (Psa 24:3) In the book of Revelation we receive still further confirmation of this truth. "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of the covenant"; and again, "And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened" (Rev 11:19, 15:5). As in the tabernacle there was a distinction between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, so we read of the throne of God and of the temple of the Redeemed, of mount Zion and of the heavenly Jerusalem. Almost all expressions which are employed in describing the significance of the tabernacle, are also used in reference to heaven. As in heaven so in the tabernacle God has His dwelling, and manifests His grace and glory. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. His manifestation in the tabernacle is generally called glory. God, the King, has His palace in the midst of His people. His palace is the sanctuary. The throne, from which He issues His royal law and the declaration of His sovereign grace, is between the cherubim, a symbol of the heavenly throne of divine majesty. "The temple of thy holiness" is the name both of the earthly and the heavenly sanctuary (Psa 5:7; Hab 2:20).
God, who dwells in heaven, and from His heavenly throne dispenses all blessings, manifests Himself on earth and holds communion with His people, and the place or sanctuary chosen for this purpose is a symbol of heaven, and there subsists a real connection between the celestial archetype and the earthly image. When Jacob awoke out of his sleep, in which the Lord appeared unto him, he said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." In the sublime prayer of dedication, Solomon constantly expresses the same thought: "That thine eyes may be open toward this house, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servants, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place."
But the tabernacle is, secondly, a type of the Lord Jesus Himself. For it is in Him that God dwells with us; in Him dwells the fulness of Godhead bodily, that we dwelling in Him should have communion with the Father.
See the fulfillment of the type in the first place in the Incarnation. "A body hast thou prepared for me." He was born of the Virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Ghost. God, and not man, built this tabernacle. He dwelt in the midst of us even as the tabernacle was in the midst of the people. And as that tent, although it was made of materials which were common and earthly, was irradiated and sanctified by the indwelling glory of the Lord, so although He was born of the Virgin Mary, and was in every respect like unto His brethren, and was found in fashion as a man, yet is the humanity of Jesus called that holy thing, for it is the tabernacle in which was beheld the glory of the Only-begotten.
In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus explains unto us how He is not merely the tabernacle, but the temple that was to endure for ever. This temple had first to be broken, Jesus had to die, but it was to be built again on the third day by His resurrection. This is still more fully explained, when it is said that the veil of the temple was rent in twain. As the apostle teaches us, this refers to the crucifixion of our Lord, the veil of His flesh was then rent. For then heaven was not merely revealed, but the way of access was opened to all sinners who believe in Jesus. Nay, more than this. Jesus Himself went thereby into the holy of holies. And now we behold Him at the right hand of God, the true tabernacle, in which all believers worship, even in the very presence of God, before the throne, which is now a throne of grace.
Thus do we dwell in Him, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead; and thus has the Father brought us into His very presence, even in His Son, in a way which could not be adequately symbolized. It was by a gradual development that Jesus became the true tabernacle. First, by His incarnation. The tabernacle was pitched of God, and not of man. The Holy Ghost came upon the Virgin Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her. Then Jesus, in His holy humanity, in His perfect walk of obedience, in His words and works, manifested the Father: God was with Him; the Father was in Him; the glory of the Only-begotten shone through His body of humiliation. Then, by His death on the cross, the holy place became, as it were, the holy of holies; the veil being rent, all that separated God from sinners was removed according to righteousness. Then, by His resurrection and ascension, He actually entered inas our representativefor us, and, so to say, with us.
It is difficult to combine all the aspects of Christ, who is Sanctuary, Priest, Sacrifice; but the more we dwell on Him as the One who is all, the more fully are our hearts established. Behold Him, then, as the tabernacle, where all sacred things are laid up. All that was in the tabernacle is in Him. He is the true Light, the true Bread of the countenance, the true Incense of intercession, with which our prayers and offerings come before God. All spiritual blessings in heavenly places are in Christ.(17)
17. "All the utensils of holy worship of old, all means of sacred light and purification, were placed and laid up in the tabernacle. And these were all patterns of the heavenly things themselves, which are all laid up in Christ, the true tabernacle. They are all inclosed in Him, and it will be in vain to seek for them elsewhere." OWEN, Hebrews, vol. iii. p. 666.
But the tabernacle has yet a third aspect. There God and His people meet. The ark of the covenant was not merely the throne where God manifested Himself in His holiness, but it was also the throne of relationship with His people. In all the offerings and sacrifices God was manifested, just as regards sin, merciful as regards the sinner; there also God and the sinner met. So throughout the tabernacle there was the manifestation of God, in order to bring Israel into communion with Himself. In the tabernacle man's fellowship with God was symbolized through manifold mediations, sacrifices, and offerings. But in Jesus we have the perfect and eternal fulfillment. In Him God and the sinner meet; in Him God and the believer dwell and have communion. In and from Jesus we have received the Spirit. God now dwells in His saints by His Spirit, whereby they become an holy temple unto Him. We are builded together in Him (Christ) for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:21,22). We are, according to the testimony of another apostle, a spiritual house, in which sacrifices and offerings of thanksgiving and obedience are continually brought unto God. In this chosen Temple God has His rest and His joy. This is the glorious gospel: God in Christ, we in Christ, Christ in us.
Thus we have seen that the tabernacle was a picture of heaven, a type of Christ Jesus, and of Christ Jesus in the saints. And therefore, when Jesus Christ comes again with His saints, it will be said, "Lo, the tabernacle of God with men." True, there is a locality where Christ and His saints have their abode. But the glory and substance of that heavenly place is the Lord Jesus, one with the saints. In thinking of the throne of God and of heaven, we must avoid a phantomising hyper-spiritualism, and on the other hand a carnal and materialistic view. Heaven is not a state merely, but a place; yet in our present condition it is not possible for us to form a conception of that spiritual, substantial, and eternal abode which God has prepared for them that love Him. It is sufficient for us to receive the Scripture statements, and to rejoice in the descriptions given in the prophetic books, and especially in the Apocalypse, of the glorious home, of the beautiful and eternal city, in which the Lamb and His Bride shall dwell. It is enough for us to believe the word of Jesus, so simple and sweet: "In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you."(18)
18. Is it merely figurative language which the apostles use when they speak of the city of the living God, and proclaim what they beheld in the Spirit? One day John stood on the mount of Olives, and beheld the city of Jerusalem at his feet, while the Lord ascended into the heights above. Again, on the Lord's-day, he was in the Spirit; an angel led him to a high mountain, and he beheld another Jerusalem descending from heaven. He numbered the gates of this holy city, and measured its walls; he recognized in the Lamb the temple and the light of the city. All this does not sound like mere imagery and similitude. Let us not exchange the green pastures thus revealed to our eyes for the vague abstraction of a colourless existence. There is a higher world in the strictest sense of the word; and into this world, His home, the Saviour returned when He ascended. STEINMEYER.
It is in heaven, and in heaven only, that the Lord exercises His priesthood. "For if Jesus were on earth He would not be a priest at all." As our Lord belonged to the tribe of Judah, and not to the tribe of Levi, it would have been impossible for Him to exercise the functions connected with the Aaronic priesthood. How forcible a demonstration to the Jews, who saw the priests of Levi performing their daily office in the temple at Jerusalem. Godly Israelites might even in those days be taught by the image and pattern of heavenly realities; but those Israelites, who had recognized in Jesus the Messiah, were now to walk in the clear brightness of the gospel light, and in the fulness of the day to perceive the temporary and fragmentary character of the Levitical dispensation.
But as with the Jews, so with us all, the great difficulty is, to realise the spiritual and heavenly character of worship. To lift up our eyes and hearts to heaven, to feel the power and the reality of things unseen, to hold communion from the heart, as man's holy of holies, with God Himself in His holy of holiesthis is, indeed, the gift and grace of God, and blessed are all whom He chooses and causes to approach.(19)
19. "The glory and worship of the temple was that which the Jews would by no means part withal. They chose rather to reject Christ and the gospel, than to part with the temple, and its outward pompous worship. And it is almost incredible how the vain mind of man is addicted unto an outward beauty and splendour in religious worship. Take it away, and with the most you destroy all religion itself: as if there were no beauty but in painting, no evidence of health, or vigour of body. The Christians of old suffered in nothing more from the prejudice of the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, than in this, that they had a religion without temples, altars, images, or any solemnity of worship. And in latter ages men ceased not, until they had brought into Christianity itself a worship vying for external order, ceremony, pomp, and painting, with whatever was in the tabernacle or temple of old, coming short of it principally in this, that that was of God's institution for a time, this of the invention of weak, superstitious, and foolish men. Thus is it in the church of Rome. And a hard thing it is to raise the minds of men, unto a satisfaction in things merely spiritual and heavenly. They suppose they cannot make a worse change, nor more to their disadvantage, than to part with what is a present object and entertainment unto their senses, fancies, carnal affections, and superstitions, for that which they can have no benefit by, nor satisfaction in, but only in the exercise of faith and love, inclining us to that within the veil. Hence is there at this day so great a contest in the world about tabernacles and temples, modes of worship and ceremonies, which men have found out in the room of those which they cannot deny but God would have removed. For so they judge that He will be satisfied with their carnal ordinances in the church, when the time is come that He would bear His own no longer. But unto them that believe, Christ is precious. This true Tabernacle, with His ministration, in their estimation far excels all the old pompous ceremonies and services of divine institution, much more, all the superstitious observances of human invention." Owen.
Now of the holy things(20)
the spiritual and heavenly blessings, and of the true tabernacle, Jesus is the minister or priest. He is ministering before God and towards God on our behalf; He is continually bestowing upon us the blessings of the new covenant. There was no approach unto God without continual respect unto sacrifice and oblation. However excellent the person of the high priest, it was an absolute necessity, that He should have somewhat to offer. And thus our great High Priest had somewhat to present unto the Father when He entered into heaven. The sacrifice, we know, was offered when Jesus died upon the cross. What was typified on the day of atonement, found its fulfillment on Golgotha. Jesus died outside the camp. (21)
20. The expression των αγιων is here neuter, and does not refer to holy persons, or those sanctified by Jesus. It seems to refer to holy things, those things which are essentially connected with the heavenly sanctuary, both the offering which Christ presents to the Father, and the blessings which He sends down to the Church.
His precious blood was shed on the accursed tree,(22)
21. Matthew 27:32, 33; John 19:17, 18. (Compare also Acts 7:58; Hebrews 13:12.)
But as was already understood in the type, the blood of Jesus, though shed on earth, pertains to the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus presents Himself, the victim, before the Father, and enters by His own blood into the holy of holies. This is the only perfect and efficacious oblation. This is the only true and real propitiation or atonement made for our sins. Jesus Himself could not save us, or bring us unto God without this sacrifice; it was necessary that He should bring Himself, the victim and substitute, before the throne of God.
22. Compare the important declaration of Deuteronomy 21:23. There is a reference to the manner of Christ's death in His word, John 12:32. He was to be "lifted up from the earth."
But now the High Priest, by virtue of the one sacrifice, is in heaven. There can be only one temple. There was only one ark in the days of Noah, one tabernacle in the wilderness, one temple in Jerusalem. The forgiving, merciful, and glorious presence of Jehovah is manifested now in the throne on which Jesus is exalted. Now that the Antitype is in heaven, and the living reality of every act of the ritual is fulfilled, and that abidingly, the earthly type has no longer divine right and sanction to exist. Before the coming of Jesus, the shadows symbolized truth to believing worshippers. After the coming of Jesus it must fade and vanish before the substance.
If this is true of the Levitical priesthood, which was of divine appointment, how much more fearful is the assumption of any priestly title, position, and function during the new dispensation. All Christians are priests. To imitate a revival of that which God Himself has set aside by a fulfillment perfect and glorious, is audacious, and full of peril to the souls of men. It is not even the shadow of a substance; but the unauthorised shadow of a departed shade. The one sacrifice and oblation has been offered on Golgotha, and presented to the Father by the ascended Saviour, once for all;(23)
and now believers are a kingdom of priests, drawing near in full assurance of faith.
23. How true and obvious is Owen's remark: "If any one else can offer the body of Christ, he also is the minister of the true tabernacle. For the Lord Christ did no more. He did but offer Himself, and they that can offer Him do put themselves in His place."
The apostle Paul connects "the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Rom 9). These go together, and the character of one link determines that of the rest. In the first dispensation, of which Moses was the mediator and Aaron the priest, the service was connected with an earthly tabernacle, and the promises also possessed an earthly and temporal character. How much more glorious is the new dispensation, where all is substance, and not shadow; heavenly and eternal, and not earthly and temporal! Here one Person is Mediator-Priest; the law is written on the heart; the service is in spirit and in truth; the promise is life eternal. True, the contrast between the old and the new would be viewed in a false light, if we forgot that in the old dispensation spiritual reality and blessings were presented, and were actually embraced in faith by the people of God. The law had a positive or evangelical aspect; although herein also it was elementary and transitory, it acted as a guardian and a tutor; as the snow is not merely an indication of winter, and a contrast to the bright and genial sunshine, and the refreshing verdure of summer, but is also a beneficent protection, cherishing and preparing the soil for the approaching blessings from above. But now the winter is past, the fulness has come. The sanctuary being changed, the dispensation and covenant are likewise changed. The new covenant is now revealed, of which Jesus is both Surety and Mediator. In a previous chapter the apostle had inferred, from the superior excellence of the Priest after the order of Melchisedec, the superiority of the covenant, of which He is Mediator. He calls Jesus the Surety of a better testament. The expression reminds us that the Lord Jesus gave unto the Father all that divine righteousness and holiness demanded, that He gave to man every pledge and assurance of our full and everlasting salvation. In the Lord Jesus, who sanctified Himself for our sakes, the Father possesses all believers; in Him all believers are brought into communion with divine love and life. The expression, "Mediator," used here is more comprehensive.(24)
24. It occurs only in two other Pauline passages. The somewhat obscure passage, Galatians 3:20, and 1 Timothy 2:5.
The mediator and surety of the old covenant was Moses, and not Aaron. Yet since the first covenant also could not be instituted without sacrifice, Moses acted as priest; the priestly dignity and functions were afterwards transferred to Aaron. But now is Jesus the true and eternal Mediator-Priest; not a servant like Moses, but the Son. True mediation is accomplished now because the Mediator as the Son is in the heavenly sanctuary at the right hand of God, and because from thence He sends the Spirit into our hearts.
This new covenant is based upon better promises. The expression "established" means formally established as by a law. It reminds us that here all is arranged, fixed, and secured by inviolable sanctions. The "everlasting covenant is ordered in all things, and sure" (2 Sam 23:5); it is based upon immovable foundations; it is according to the eternal purpose of God and to the divine and unchanging perfections.
The promises are better, because they are now clearly and directly spiritual and eternal. Forgiveness of sin, the knowledge of God, communion with God, His indwelling in our hearts, the inheritance reserved in heaven, such are the promises and gifts of the new covenant. The promises are better because they are unconditional, secured by the great Mediator and High Priest. They are better because they were given to Christ before the world began, and are according to the infinite love which the Father has to His only Son, in whom He hath chosen us. The promises are better because in the new dispensation the blessing comprehends all, Jews and Gentiles, and unites all believers as a royal priesthood, who have access unto the Father by one Spirit.
There is a wonderful simplicity in the new covenant revelation. The true light which now shineth does indeed possess an exceeding greater brightness than that of the old dispensation; and yet everything is full of simplicity, directness, and peaceful calm. When we contrast the old and the new, then we become conscious of the wonderful transparency, simplicity, condensation of divine teaching which we possess. Our little children possess in the words Jesus, Lamb of God, trust in the Saviour, in the simple gospel declarations and promises, that which the old saints had to combine laboriously from the necessarily fragmentary types and teachings, and could only see darkly. We look to Jesus for everything; we have and receive all from Him. Our sins and infirmities, our trials and sorrows, so bind us to the grace of Jesus, and to His High Priestly ministrations, that we are constantly with Him, and experience the power of His blood, and the sustaining influence of His love. Jesus in heaven, at the right hand of God, the Lamb in the midst of the thronethis sums up all our faith, all our love, all our hope. It is the crowning point.
Looking back in the light of fulfillment on the history of God's dealings with mankind and with Israel, on the long- and marvellous, the manifold and complicated, yet harmonious events, ordinances, types and predictions, in which the wisdom and love of God vailed, and at the same time revealed, the central mystery of redemption, we are impressed with a sense of the magnitude and the glory of the new revelation in Christ Jesus, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for us. We do not merely, like aged Simeon, rejoice in beholding the salvation which God hath prepared before all nations, but the salvation which He purposed in Himself from all eternity, to the praise of the glory of His grace.
How wonderful is the love of God, that from all eternity this was the secret, cherished purpose of His willthat He should manifest Himself in Christ Jesus, and bring poor, guilty, and helpless sinners nigh unto Himself, that they should dwell in Him, and that He should dwell in them. How wonderful is the grace of Godthat purpose of grace which was in God before the foundations of the world were laid, according to which He has given unto us eternal life in Christ Jesus, that not in creation, that not in the perfection and purity of angelic beings, who never fell, but that in the redemption, and sanctification, and glorification of sinners there should be made manifest the fulness of God.
See then how everything leads you unto the ultimate love of God. Conceive in an enlarged manner, and with an assured and blessed confidence, that all the thoughts of God concerning you are thoughts of peace. You cannot think too highly of the love of God. You cannot exaggerate how important you are in God's estimation, how precious your salvation is unto Him, how great is His joy and His delight in His people, how culminating is that position which He has given unto Christ as the head of the church, and how this is the one thought in God from everlasting to everlasting, so that in Christ Jesus and the church there should be summed up in one all things visible and invisible, whether they be in heaven or on earth. God loved us and chose us in Christ Jesus that we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace. "The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens"; and what is His throne but Christ Jesus, who is the tabernacle, and in whom we are also become the habitation of God.
Learn, in the second place, the wonderful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Minister of the sanctuary. He is still going on with His service. His thoughts, His prayers, His affections, His energies, are all engaged now with regard to His people who are still upon the earth. He has ascended into the holiest, into the region of perfection and glory; but not to forget us who are still in the wilderness. As He loved His own even to the end, He loves them now, and throughout all the ages; and He will come again to receive us to Himself. He is the same loving, serving Jesus as He was on earth, the minister of holy things even now. In the fulness of His love, power, and glory, our exalted Lord, the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, is ministering continually on behalf of and unto the saints.
Thirdly. Learn here the true character of worship. This is more fully explained in the subsequent chapters of the Epistle. But from what we have seen, it is evident that it is only by faith we can worship, for only by faith we can discern the heavenly and spiritual realities here set forth.(25)
The heavenly sanctuary is the only place of worship. We are brought into the very presence of God in heaven, we draw near in the one great High Priest, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins through His blood. Such are now the elements of worship, and only faith can realize and appropriate these gracious truths and gifts. Believers only can worship; they worship in spirit and in truth.
25. "The fundamental and essential contrast between the former and the latter things is, that the discernment by faith of things invisible is now the alone condition of true worship." A. PRIDEAUX.
The Blessings of the New Covenant.
(Hebrews 8:6-13)6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.The Lord Jesus Christ, as our High Priest in heaven, is the Mediator of the new covenant or dispensation, which is based upon better promises. New as contrasted with old means in Scripture that which is perfect and abiding. God gives us a new heart that we may love and praise Him for ever. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away, all things have become new. "Behold, I make all things new," saith the Lord; I will create new heavens and a new earth; and in the new creation, all is eternal, perfect, possessed of vitality, beauty, and strength, which can never fade.
The old covenant was temporary and imperfect. God findeth fault with it; for although the law was holy, just, and good, yet by reason of Israel's sin neither righteousness nor life could come through it. And as the purposes of divine love could not be attained by the old covenant, so the character of God, as the God of grace, could not be fully revealed therein. Hence the promise of a new covenant, which in itself proves the imperfection and insufficiency of the old; and this new covenant is represented as a contrast, unlike the old; it is new, that is, perfect, everlasting. God is pleased with it because it shows forth the glory of Jehovah as the God of salvation.
Let us remember that this covenant, announced by the prophet Jeremiah, is to be made first with the house of Judah and the house of Israel. It is a spiritual covenant, yet a national one. To Israel pertain the covenants, both of law and of grace. This is taught by Scripture throughout, and most clearly in the chapters in which this precious promise of the Messianic covenant is contained. No one can read this section of the prophetic word (Jer 30-33) and entertain the slightest doubt that literal Israel, the seed of Abraham, and their restoration in their own land, form the subject of divine promise.
The prophet Jeremiah, called in early youth by God to announce unto his people the impending judgments on account of their ingratitude and impenitence, seems little fitted, by his natural disposition and temperament, to be the bearer of a message so awful and stern. A character eminently sensitive and tender, shrinking conflict, almost feminine in his delicacy, was chosen by God to testify against the whole land, the kings of Judah, and the princes thereof, and against the priests, and against the people of the land. The Lord chose this gentle and timid child (Jer 1:6) to be as a defenced city and an iron pillar and brazen walls against the whole nation. The prophet's heart was overwhelmed with grief; his eyes were filled with tears. His soul was distracted; his heart was faint within him, when he would comfort himself against sorrow. The message, that Israel's sin and iniquity had so abounded that judgment was inevitable, filled him with anguish. How solemn and touching are the supplications which he pours out before God! While he was thus consumed by zeal for Jehovah and sorrowful love for his people, he had to experience constant and cruel opposition, hatred, and scorn. His life was continually in jeopardy. Persecution, ignominy, and reproach were heaped upon him. Driven to the utmost verge of despair, he exclaimed, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name." But the Word was in him as a burning fire shut up in his bones. He was faithful to God; and with a breaking heart testified against the nation and her false prophets. During forty years Jeremiah stood firm, a solitary witness among a rebellious and godless nation of adversaries and persecutors, led astray and fortified in their opposition by false prophets. He endured insult and mockery; he was beaten and imprisoned. And when the armies of Babylon proved the divine character of his mission and the truth of his predictions, the lofty height to which God had raised him did not separate him from his nation, his previous sufferings did not embitter his heart or blunt his sympathy and affection. He sat down on the ground as a mourner, and his lamentations over Jerusalem are to this very day the expression of the grief of desolate and banished Israel.
Is he not a type of our Lord? Were the people, who said that Jesus was Jeremiah, not uttering a truth, which was then daily unfolding? For as Jeremiah announced the first destruction, so Jesus, in the days of Pharisees and scribes, predicted the second destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus wept when He beheld the city. And Jesus is greater than Jeremiah. For in the Spirit Jeremiah called Him Lord. Yet were the tears of Jeremiah in the Spirit of the Christ, who said, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now are they hid from thine eyes."
It is in the night of adversity that the Lord sends forth bright stars of consoling hope. When the darkest clouds of woe were gathering above Jerusalem, and the prophet himself was in the lowest depths of sorrow, God gave to him the most glorious prophecies of Judah's great redemption and future blessedness. The advent and reign of Messiah, the Lord our righteousness, the royal dominion and priesthood of Israel's Redeemer, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the renewal and restoration of God's chosen people, the days of unbroken prosperity and blessednessall the golden Messianic future was predicted "in the last days of Jerusalem, when the magnificent fabric of its temple was about to sink into the dust, and its walls and palaces were about to be thrown prostrate on the ground. (26)
Thus, while Jeremiah announced the judgments of God, he was sustained and comforted by the promises of ultimate restoration and glory. Israel, the chosen nation of God, could not frustrate the purpose of God's grace by their unfaithfulness. God's promise unto Abraham rested upon no condition; it rested only on the electing, sovereign, free, and eternal love of God. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Israel's sin abounds unto judgment, and even (temporary) national death; but Jehovah's grace abounds unto resurrection-life, unto restoration and everlasting blessing. Jeremiah predicts the national restoration of Judah and Israel. In most emphatic words the Lord declares, that as the ordinances of the sun, and moon, and of the stars shall not depart from before Him, the seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation before Him. The prophet describes the prosperity of the cities of Judah, once desolate, and the melody and joy of the streets of Jerusalem, once filled with sorrow and lamentation.
But this national and external restoration and prosperity are inseparably connected with Israel's spiritual and inward renewal. It is the new covenant of grace in the Messiah, even King David, which brings life, strength, and joy to the chosen people. As the promise was of grace, to Abraham and to Abraham's seed, so the fulfillment of the promise is not through the old covenant, of which Moses is mediator, but in the new and eternal Messianic dispensation.
In like manner prophesied Ezekiel at the river Chebar among the captives of Babylon. He also beholds Israel restored; dwelling in their own land, in prosperity and gladness; the temple built in a new and glorious manner, and Jerusalem the city of the great king, whence the glory of Jehovah shall never depart again; for she shall be called Jehovah-Shammah (the Lord is there). For Israel restored and glorified is Israel pardoned, cleansed, and renewed. The blessing is both spiritual and national; the heart within and the land without; thus do all prophets testify, and thus the apostle of the Gentiles explains to us in the light of the intermediate church-dispensation the counsel of God. Israel had once the land without the Spirit; Israel now has neither the land nor the spiritual knowledge of God and His love; but the time is coming when Israel shall possess the land, and receive the Holy Ghost from the Lord, whose feet shall stand upon the mount of Olives; in the liberty of the new covenant they shall worship and serve the Lord their God.
Apply this truth to the condition of the Hebrews, whom the apostle was addressing. The law of Moses, the old covenant, was vanishing; but the Messianic promises never were connected with the legal dispensation; they are rooted in the promise to Abraham; they are fulfilled in the covenant of grace. The relation of law to gospel as regards our justification, and also as regards the rule of life and conduct, is a different question, which is fully solved in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, and in the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem. The question which troubled the minds and hearts of the Hebrews was their relation to the Levitical priesthood, and to the old dispensation. The temple was still in Jerusalem, and the Levitical ordinances appointed by Moses were still being observed. Although the Sun had risen, the moon had not yet disappeared. It was waning; it was ready to vanish away. Now it became an urgent necessity for the Hebrew Christians to understand that Christ was the true and eternal High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, and that the new and everlasting covenant with Judah and Israel was connected with the gospel promise, and not with the law. God Himself hath made the first covenant old by promising the new. And now that Christ had entered into the holy of holies by His own blood, the old covenant had passed away; and yet the promises of God to His chosen people remain firm and unchanged.
This is the very question which unbelieving Israel has not been able to solve during the last eighteen centuries. The temple of Jerusalem has been destroyed; the Levitical economy has been taken away; Israel has neither high priest, nor sacrifice, nor altar; it is without temple, and it is, strictly speaking, outside covenant. Where is the old covenant? The sanctuary, with its ordinances of divine service, was intimately connected with the old covenant, with the Levitical dispensation. It has vanished. During all these centuries Israel has not been able to account for their strange condition. When Moses was on mount Sinai, and the people, in their unbelief and impatience, asked Aaron to make unto them gods which should go before them, they added: "For as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him." In like manner Israel, since the destruction of Jerusalem, cannot understand the dealings of God. They know not what has become of Moses, the old covenant. It is impossible for them to keep its ordinances. And in this darkness they have formed to themselves a religion of their own traditions and reasonings,(27)
human and unauthorized substitutes for the divinely-appointed ordinances of the Mosaic dispensation. How clear is the light-shining from the cross of Jesus and from the heavenly sanctuary, where the Mediator of the new covenant is now enthroned. Moses himself and the prophets testified that communion with God in light and peace, that spiritual life and strength could only come by grace, not through the works of the law, not out of man's unrenewed heart. The history of Israel abundantly showed that the law was not able to fill them with the knowledge and the love of God; for they remained a disobedient and idolatrous people, they understood not God's character and ways, and continued not in His precepts.(28)
27. Modern Judaism (both rabbinical and rationalistic) is not able to account for the cessation of sacrifices and the Levitical dispensation. The former acknowledges that in the destruction of the temple and the present condition of Israel without high priest and offerings, divine judgment on the nation's sin is expressed: the idea of atonement through a vicarious sacrifice is not quite extinct, as appears in the rite of the cock performed on the eve of the day of atonement, though devoid of all Scriptural authority. Rationalistic Judaism has departed still further from the truth. Rejecting the idea of substitution and expiation in connection with sacrifices, it regards the present condition of Israel as a more spiritual development, misinterpreting the protests of David and the prophets against a mere external view of the ceremonial law (Psa 40:7; Hosea 6:6; Jer 7:21-23). The old has indeed vanished; but according to the will of God, because the true light now shineth, because the substance has come in Christ.
The purpose of electing grace can only be fulfilled in the gift of Jesus and of the Holy Ghost. The new covenant alone is the complete manifestation of God Himself. It alone is everlasting, because it alone is the fulfillment of God's eternal counsel, according to which divine love and power accomplish the whole work of His people's salvation.
28. In reviewing the history of Israel before the exile, it is most melancholy to notice that the periods of obedience and godliness are comparatively few; they are rather exceptional brief glimpses of light than the normal condition of the chosen people. The forty years in the wilderness, the age under the Judges and the Kings, are on the whole periods of darkness. There was always a remnant according to the election of grace, the seven thousand, who had not bowed the knee unto Baal; but idolatry and heathenish abominations co-existed beside the true worship and the testimony of the prophets. The reign of David and Solomon is a bright exception. The law of Moses, with its stern denunciation of idolatry, with its loving and generous consideration of the poor and its requirements of liberality and devotedness, was rarely carried out, as is evident from the prophetic expostulations. Since the Babylonian exile Israel has not fallen into idolatry, but into an external and superficial view of the law, into dead formalism and self-righteousness. How true then, in the light of history, is the assertion of the prophet Jeremiah and of the apostle Paul, that Israel has not continued in the first covenant.
Thus the apostle confirms and comforts his brethren, who were perplexed and tempted by the outward splendour of the temple, and the outward insignificance of the Christian assemblies. Theirs was the worship in spirit and in truth; they had received the better promises of the new covenant. For now they knew the will of God, not in the form of an outward commandment, but in the power of the indwelling Spirit; not engraven on tables of stone, but written on the renewed heart. Now the knowledge of God, a knowledge full of light and certainty, given directly by God Himself, was the privilege of each believer; they were a congregation of prophets and priests, to whom God revealed Himself, and who could draw near to Him in worship; and these unspeakable privileges are based upon the perfect and absolute forgiveness and remission of sin through the precious blood of Christ.
How great is the contrast between the old and the new covenant! In the one God demands of sinful man: "Thou shalt." In the other God promises: "I will." The one is conditional; the other is the manifestation of God's free grace, and of God's unlimited power. In the one the promise is neutralized by the disobedience of man; in the other all the promises of God are Yea in Christ, and Amen in Christ. In the new covenant Christ is all; He is the Alpha and Omega; all things are of God, and all things are sure and stedfast.
The blessings of the new covenant are all based upon the forgiveness of sin. God promises to put His laws into our minds, and write them in our hearts, and to be to us a God, because He is merciful to our unrighteousness, and will remember our sins and iniquities no more. The forgiveness of sin is not merely the beginning, but it is the foundation, the source; it is, so to say, the mother of all divine blessings. For as long as sin is upon the conscience, and man is not able to draw near unto God, he is separated from the only source of life and blessedness. In the forgiveness of sin God gives Himself, and all things that pertain to life and godliness. Hence David, in enumerating the benefits God hath bestowed on him, commenced with this fundamental one, "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities." Sin is removed, and we are brought nigh to God, and thus enter into the possession of all spiritual blessings. If we look at this most elementary and simple truth, the first which little children are taught (1 John 2:12), we find it contains the germ of all truths. Hence all our progress in the divine life, and all the consolations of the Christian pilgrim, are rooted in this primary doctrine of forgiveness through faith in Jesus.
To know God is the sum and substance of all blessings, both in this life and in that which is to come. Now, although the law manifests to a certain extent the holiness and truth, the justice and unchangeableness, the goodness and bounty of God, the law does not reveal God Himself, the depth of His sovereign and eternal love, the purpose which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world was laid. When in Christ we receive the forgiveness of sin, we behold God.
Here is also the source and the commencement, the root and strength of our love to God. "We love Him, because He first loved us." We love much, because much is forgiven unto us. We are now a kingdom of priests unto God, because Christ loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. When the doctrine of forgiveness in its fulness and freeness is scripturally set forth, it requires no supplemental cautions, restrictions, and additions; for it is the central truth from which all doctrines radiate. The new obedience, the spiritual worship,(29)
the fight and victory of faith, the knowledge and fear and love of God, have their starting-point in the pardon of sin.
29. Compare Psalm 130:4: "With Thee is forgiveness of sin, that Thou mayest be worshiped."
And this is the new covenant blessing. True, the servants of God always knew this blessing. Of the divine righteousness both the law and the prophets testify. David describeth this blessedness. The sacrifices typified, faith looked forward to the great atonement. But now that Christ has come, and that He died once for all, we receive forgiveness in a full and perfect manner: there is no more remembrance of sins; no repetition of sacrifice is needed; no yearly recurrence of the day of atonement; in Christ we have redemption in His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
How precious is this emphatic declaration, "Their sins and their transgressions will I remember no more." Our sins are removed and buried in the depths of the sea, and this according to divine holiness, justice, and truth. Here is the righteousness of God. "The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Rom 1:16,17). Between God and us, there is now no longer sin; Jesus, and Jesus only, fills our view.
It is in giving this perfect pardon that God renews the heart, and writes in it His laws. We must needs contrast law and gospel. Yet let us not forget that the law from the very outset showed its temporary and negative character, pointed beyond and away from itself; sighed, as it were, after Him, who by fulfilling would take it away, and by taking it away would fulfil it in us, and in fulfilling it in us, raise us to the still greater height of the new love! Oh that My people had a heart to obey My commandment! was the language of God in the ancient days. I will circumcise their hearts, was His promise. The law testified, that fallen man could not keep it; that written on tables of stone it only condemned, that it had no power to inscribe itself on the hard, unrenewed heart of man. The law commands love, and love never can come out of law. The fulfillment of the law presupposes life and spirit; and by the law dead souls can never be quickened. As the Apostle Paul fully explains in the Epistle to the Galatians, the Holy Ghost is received through the preaching of the gospel, the new covenant, the forgiveness of sins.
Now the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared, and teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The law of God is fulfilled in the believer, in the spiritual man, who trusts in Jesus.
Of this renewal of the heart and gift of the Holy Ghost the prophet Ezekiel also testifies (Eze 36:26,27). May we not say that the whole of the Old Testament points (both as a contrast and a preparation) to this: Jesus saves His people from their sins; for He comes with water and with blood and with the Spirit: He is Righteousness and Life.
All spiritual life flows from Jesus as our Saviour. When we believe in Jesus we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. His precious blood is not merely our peace, but our strength; and our strength because it is our peace. Justification and sanctification emanate from this One Source.
When Israel is brought in repentance and faith to the Lord, then shall be fulfilled the gracious purpose of God, which under the law was frustrated through Israel's sin and disobedience. Although God was a Husband unto them, they brake His covenant. But now, forgiven and renewed, Israel will be in actual reality, and not merely in position, God's people, and Jehovah will be their God. This is the most exalted and comprehensive blessing which was ever promised. Jehovah is not ashamed to be called their God. He identifies Himself with His people. All His glorious perfections are revealed in His relation to them. In them is fulfilled the good pleasure of His will. And because He is God to them, Source of Light and Life, they are His people. Not merely chosen and appointed; not merely called and treated collectively as God's people; but in reality, according to truth, according to their individual character and experience, the people in whom God's name is revealed, who show forth His praise, who walk in His ways and obey His will. For of Him shall their fruit be found; God working in them both to will and to do, they shall abound in the fruits of righteousness to the glory of His grace.
For then each one individually shall know the Lord. "God is known in Judah," said the Psalmist. God had indeed revealed Himself unto His people. He had taught them and given unto them His Word. In their marvellous history, in the divine messages sent by Moses and the prophets, in the types and ordinances, in the Judges and Kings, God had revealed unto His people His name, His character and will, and His great desire was that they should know Him. How touching is the complaint of Jehovah, that after all the signs which they had seen, and after all His mighty works of redeeming and guiding love, and after all the words of light and of grace which He had sent them, His people did not know Him! So long had He been with them, and erring in their hearts, they did not know His ways! (Isa 1; Psa 95) What could be more grievous to the fatherly heart of God, yearning to be known, trusted, and loved? What gives us a sadder picture of the fall of man, of the alienation of the human heart from God, of our utter incapacity to understand and to receive divine things, than the fact that Israel did not know the revealed God, who taught and blessed them constantly, abundantly, and with most tender compassion? But when the Holy Ghost shall be poured out upon them, they shall all know Jehovah, from the least to the greatest; though one shall encourage and exhort the other, yet they shall not need to teach and to say to their neighbour, Know the Lord.
In the Church this promise is already fulfilled.(30)
Although the apostle John distinguishes between little children, young men, and fathers, he writes unto the whole congregation of believers: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 John 2:20).(31)
30. "And how do I know thee? I know thee in thee! I do not know thee as thou art in thyself, but as thou art to me, and that not without thee, but in thee, because thou art the light, which hath enlightened me. For what thou art to thyself is known only to thee; what thou art to me, according to thy grace, is known also unto me; I know, because thou art my God."Augustine's Soliloquia.
It is true that he sends unto them an epistle, rich in doctrine and exhortation, but, as he expresses it, in full harmony with our passage, "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it." "The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you." "They shall be all taught of God." This promise, uttered by the prophet Isaiah (54:13), is regarded by our Saviour as the promise uttered by all prophets (John 6:45); for it is the great Messianic blessing, the promise of the Father.
31. Compare the apostle Paul's words (1 Thess 4:9): "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." Likewise 2 Peter 1:12.
From Jesus, the Anointed, all Christians receive the Holy Ghost; they have, according to their name, the unction from above. Hence they possess the Teacher who guides into all truth. Knowledge is within them. There is within them a well of living water. They, are not dependent on external instruction. There is given unto them the Paraclete, who always reveals the things that are freely given unto us of God. The spiritual man knows all thingsall the things of the Spirit, all that pertains to life and godliness. True, he does not know all things actually, or in any given moment; but he knows them potentially. There is within him the light which can see, the mind which can receive all truth. It is for this reason that apostles and teachers give instruction. They teach the God-taught; they present spirit-revealed realities to the spiritual. Human erudition, mental acuteness or profundity, are of no avail here. The youngest and most illiterate, the least gifted and most uncultivated, may possess the wisdom which is from above. And this knowledge, God-given, is full of assurance; it possesses the nature of light, of conviction, of absolute certainty. We know that our Redeemer liveth; we know whom we have believed; we know that we are born of God, and that all things work together for good unto them that love Him; we know the things that are freely given to us of God. Every Christian knows himself individually, and that because he is taught of God; he relies not on the testimony of man; his faith stands in the power of God.
This personal knowledge of God is the secret of our spiritual life. It is our safeguard against error, and against sin. It is the great and the constant gift of God, the fruit of Christ's redemption. We now see and know God and His Son; we know Jesus, because Jesus always knows His sheep, revealing Himself unto them, and giving them guidance and life. This knowledge is nothing less than walking with God, walking in the light, praying without ceasing. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. In much darkness, amid many difficulties, and in constant warfare we yet walk in the light of His countenance, until at last we shall see Him as He is, and know even as we are known.
How great is the blessedness of all who are in the new, the everlasting covenant; in the covenant of grace and life, in which God Himself is revealed, and in which all things are of God. Here Christ is to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Our transgressions are pardoned, yea, there is no more remembrance of sin. The heart is renewed, and the Holy Ghost is given as an indwelling Spirit. God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are in constant and filial communion with Him. He is our God, and we are His people; He is our Father, and we are His children. And all these blessings have their root and commencement, their vitality and permanence in the redemption, accomplished on Golgotha, they are dispensed from the heavenly sanctuary by the Mediator, who was the Paschal Lamb on the cross. Little children and fathers, young converts and experienced Christians, always hear the voice of Jesus: This is the New Testament IN MY BLOOD.Hallelujah! I believe!
Now no longer on my soul
All the debt of sin is lying;
One great Friend has paid the whole.
Icebound fields of legal labour
I have left with all their toil;
While the fruits of love are growing
From a new and genial soil.
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