(Hebrews 11:8-22)8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.With the election of Abraham commences a new period in the history of revelation. Hitherto God's dealings had been with mankind as one family; but after the destruction of the tower of Babel, mankind was divided into languages and nations. That tower was the expression of a deep-seated apostasy, a type of the God-defying infidelity which in the last days shall rise against the Lord and His anointed. Judgment was sent, and, as we notice in all God's dealings, judgment according to His infinite wisdom preparing greater manifestations of redeeming love.
The origin of nations, apparently coincident with the beginning of idolatry, is the occasion of the election of Abraham, to be the father of a divinely-given nation, which was to be the witness of God and the channel of His revelation. And the other nations, though for a season left in ignorance, are reserved, to be brought by Jesus the Son of Abraham unto the knowledge of God, and the unity of peace.
Since mankind is now divided into nations, salvation is ultimately to be brought to mankind by a nation. Hence the restoration of humanity, which we yet await, shall be through the medium of Israel. The promises shall be fulfilled, when all nations of the earth, with Israel, and round Israel as a centre, fear the Lord, and confess Him with one accord in unity of spirit.
This chosen nation must needs have a peculiar origin and character. It is to show forth God's praise; it is to bring to fallen, helpless, guilty humanity God's salvation. Now, as Christ the Saviour, though true man, must come from above, as He is God-given and conceived by the Holy Ghost, though born of the Virgin Mary, so Israel, the nation, must likewise have a supernatural character. As Jesus among men, so Israel among nationsHe a real and true man, yet God's Son; they a real nation, with a true human history and development, but different from all other nations in the manner in which God by direct interference originates them, forms them, and gives them His guidance.
The election of Abraham and the birth of Isaac show at once the supernatural character of Israel's history. Their history throughout is an embodiment of the principle, "Salvation is of God." It illustrates the contrasts of divine omnipotence, and the utter weakness of nature; the promise of grace, and the utter inadequacy of the present actual condition; heavenly treasure in earthen vessels, worm Jacob, God-conquering Israel. Abraham, nearly a hundred years old, and childless, is to be the father of a multitude like the stars of heaven; the dwellers in tents, who have to purchase a burial-place for Sara, the inheritors of the land; nay, heirs of the world. Such from the beginning was the contrast, stamped upon, infused into the God-chosen people.
Now, what else but faith could bridge over these contrasts? How could Israel have any other life than the life of faith? What was their history but a continuous declaration: With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible? From the song of Hannah to the song of Mary, Israel was in the low estate of the handmaiden, and God, who is mighty, did great things to her. The same principle is declared by the gospel. The life of the apostle Paul eminently illustrates the kindred truth, that Christians have been crucified with Christ, and die daily; but, raised by Divine power, walk in newness of life before God.
Why does God call Himself so frequently and with such peculiar emphasis the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? It was not on account of their excellence, because there are many other saints of the old covenant who are equal to them in faith and devotedness. God never calls Himself the God of Moses, of David, or of Daniel. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they are the fathers, unto whom He revealed Himself as the Covenant-God, and unto whom He gave the threefold promise of the nation, the Seed, or Messiah, and the land of inheritance. God's promise to the fathers, the relation in which He stood to them, was the foundation on which the confidence and hope of Israel rested; with the invocation of this Name they drew near. And since this covenant is for all ages, and centres in the salvation which is by Jesus Christ, God, in calling Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is revealing a name which can never lose its importance and significance. Jesus the Son of Abraham has come, and Israel, fallen through unbelief, is still reserved for the ultimate fulfillment of the promise at His second advent. Then shall the promise be fulfilled to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and that which they never saw during their life, but realized by faith, shall then be revealed.
The thoughts and ways of God are indeed very different from our thoughts and ways; and even after they are revealed in Scripture, man is slow to receive divine teaching. The history of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is received as a very instructive record of the past, and as illustrating spiritual truths; but few recognise the covenant with Abraham as the basis of history, and look forward to the fulfillment when, according to God's promise, all nations shall be blessed with God's chosen nation Israel. Hence the apostle calls it a mystery; that is, something which man could not discover without divine revelation, but which he is anxious the Gentile Christians should understand. The unbelief of Israel, rejecting the Lord of glory, has made no change in the divine counsel. For a season Israel as a nation is rejected and scattered; they are deadcut off. But the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. What He promised to Abraham, what He announced by all the prophets, can never be revoked. Messiah, the land, and the glory, are theirs. Jehovah-Shammah must yet be the name of Jerusalem. From Zion shall go forth the law of light and love and peace to all the nations. Israel's resurrection shall be the regeneration of the earth. As was typified by all deliverances from captivities, the ultimate deliverance shall be wrought by Jehovah Himself, and Israel shall be glorified, and the Gentiles shall come to her light, and kings to the brightness of His rising. As the angel, descending from the heavenly heights, and declaring the divine counsel, announced unto Mary, "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
See then what significance this name has, and shall have as long as sun, moon, and stars endure; for as God said through Jeremiah, "If those ordinances depart from before me, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever." Thus through the millennial ages Israel shall praise God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and all Gentile nations shall thus praise God, and rejoice in the world-wide covenant made with these fathers; and the patriarchs themselves shall behold with joy the fulfillment of the promisethe land of blessing, the whole earth of blessing, until finally the city descends from heaven, and the tabernacle of God is for ever with man.
Jesus is of the seed of David, of the seed of Abraham (Matt 1). Israel is chosen in Him for all ages. Israel's history has scarcely yet begun. The faithful Israelites, the kernel of the nation, though a minority, waited, believed, hoped. At the first coming of the Messiah the nation rejected Him, yet a remnant according to the election of grace believed. Throughout the period of Israel's national unbelief and dispersion, there are at all times some who as representatives of the true seed believe; but the real history of Israel, according to the eternal counsel and the prediction of prophets, and the announcement of the angel Gabriel, has not commenced yet. The land is Palestine, the King is Jesus, the Son of David; the beginning of the reign is the return of Jesus, when His feet shall stand upon the mount of Olives, and when He shall pour out the Holy Ghost upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah. After this Israel shall never turn back. Their true David shall reign over them, and all nations shall rejoice with the Lord's people.
Thus the history recorded in the book of Genesis contains the outlines of the world's history. It is not an ancient or antiquated narrative of events which have served their end, but it is the foundation upon which rests the yet future history of earth. The next direct interference of God, the next personal and visible manifestation of Jesus, will introduce a new period of national and earthly history. It will not be the end of the world's history, and commencement of a heavenly and endless eternity; we are waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus from heaven to fulfil the promises given to the fathers, and by the prophets, concerning Israel and the nations.
How clear and striking is the reply which our Saviour gave to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection from among the dead! "Ye do err greatly," the Lord, the heavenly wisdom, said unto them, "because you know not the Scriptures, the written Word and revelation, nor the power of God, by the inward experience of the Holy Ghost." But how does Jesus prove from Scripture the resurrection? There are many passages which we should have deemed much more appropriate, such as Joseph giving commandment concerning his bones; or such passages in the prophet Isaiah "Thy dead men shall live"; or the prediction in Daniel: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The Lord goes, however, to the very root of the question. God called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob long after they had died; and God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
They to whom God vouchsafed to reveal His name, whom He drew into communion with Himself, with whom He established His covenant, must needs possess a life which death cannot terminate or extinguish. Knowing and loving God, known and loved of Him, they possessed even in time life eternal; and since the everlasting God called Himself their God, immortality was theirs. And not merely immortality, but resurrection; for redemption must be connected with resurrection, as sin is connected with death, and moreover the promise of the covenant referred to the land; and as the psalmist and prophets, so the patriarchs looked beyond the grave to the time when the meek shall inherit the earth.
The period of the patriarchs has a very peaceful and lovely character. God appeared and spoke to them. There was as yet no law. God revealed Himself, and simply said: "Walk before Me, and be thou perfect." The word "patriarchal" has in all languages of Christianized nations the meaning of simple, childlike, transparent, peaceful. But this character attaches more or less to all nations in the early stage of their history. What is the real peculiarity of the patriarchal life? What else but faith; that they lived before and with God, waiting for the promise, the heavenly country? They were not worldly, they were other-worldly. God was a very present God to them; while the future, the tabernacle of God on earth with man, was their constant hope.
Abraham is the father of the faithful; and he is also the model of a believer. His faith is recorded that we also may learn from it the nature, energy, trial, and victory of faith. How great is this man, called the friend of God, the father of all them that believe, the father of us all (Jews and Gentiles) who trust in the living God. How great is the honour of Abraham when the apostle says: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:26-29; Rom 4:11-16; James 2:23).(1)
God, who chose him to this eminent position, appointed him also to be to us an example of faith. First, in obeying the call of God, to leave his kindred and to go whither he knew not; secondly, in believing impossibilities, looking away from facts simply to the promise of God; thirdly, in cherishing the God-given promise of the land though as yet only a stranger and pilgrim; fourthly, in sacrificing the visible fulfillment of the promise, believing that God would bring Isaac from the dead.
1. Sara's faith is also mentioned. At first she doubted, but then she "also" received the promise. As Eve is the mother of all living, Sara is the mother of the faithful (1 Peter 3:5, 6). She symbolizes "Jerusalem which is above and free, and the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26, 27). God spoke of her: "I will bless her: yea, I will bless her" (Gen 17:16-19, 18:10). And she received the word by faith. She is the only woman in Scripture whose age is recorded. A whole chapter is devoted to the narration of her burial.
Abraham's faith was the substance of future things hoped for, and a conviction of things not seen. It triumphed over reason; it laughed at impossibilities; it looked beyond death and the long night of the intermediate state; and in all this it gave glory to God; for this is the only glory we can give to God, believing that He can and will do what He promised.
To leave home and kindred, and to go forth into a new land, was at that time common enough among Shemitic tribes; but to do this in obedience to the call of God, and in sole reliance on His guidance and help, was the obedience of faith. Abraham was called to become a servant of God, and to found a society of men, whose centre was to be God, they were gathered round the name of the Lord, and His worship and service. The reward which was promised him was, that God would make him the father of a great nation, and that God's blessing would come through that nation to all the earth. Only faith could even understand this reward; for only faith knows what it is to be blessed of God. Only faith could grasp the promise; for reason could only reject it. Reason, considering the circumstances, could only stagger at the promise. But this was the excellence and strength of Abraham's faith, that he did not consider his own body now dead; that he did not reason; that he did not look at difficulties and impossibilities; but that he honoured God by "being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform." "If you would believe," says Luther, "you must crucify the question, How?" To believe God when reason says it may be so, and when sight says it is possible and likely, is not to honour God; for under these conditions you would believe any one. But if you cannot look away entirely from difficulties to God's promise, then look first at God's promise; and in the light of God's Word consider your difficulties, and see them vanquished.
How sorely was Abraham's faith tried! How long had he to wait for the fulfillment of the promise! Meanwhile, though living in tents, and though not possessing any portion of the land, and knowing that in this life he would not see it, yet he believed the inheritance was his; and that God Himself had prepared a city, a permanent, substantial, organized dwelling-place for him and his seed, and all the nations to whom the blessing was to come. He and his sons after him waited for that country, which would be heavenly in its character, given and established by divine power. It is not necessary here to enter into a distinction between the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalem;(2)
the expectation of the patriarchs and the prophets is the renewed earth in which Israel and all nations dwell in righteousnessthe prospect stretches forth into the boundless ages when ultimately the tabernacle of God shall be with men. The patriarch's hope reached beyond death, and it had reference to themselves and their children and all the righteous, they expected that God would give to them and their seed the earth, that they would live then before and with God in their inheritance, and that from this centre blessings would flow to all lands. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit"because chosen of God unto adoptionthe earth."
2. As is remarked by Delitzsch, the promise given unto the fathers never goes beyond Canaan as their future home and inheritance; not even when Jacob calls the place where God appeared unto him the gate of heaven, does the divine promise go beyond the land "upon which thou sleepest." The apostle applies New Testament language to the faith of the fathers, because in substance their desire was after the promised permanent inheritance, in which God in His glory and love will be their everlasting portion. Compare the concluding remarks of Lecture 18.
In this hope of Messiah and Messiah's inheritance, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph lived and died. As illustrations of their faith, the apostle refers to their last acts of blessing. It is only by faith that we can bless; for God alone is the fountain of blessing, and it is only in communion with Him, and in reliance on His promise, that men are able to pronounce benediction. The fathers, realizing the fulfillment of the promise, treated the future possession as if it was theirs already, and disposed of it, as the Spirit directed them, by their last will and blessing. It is this firm and assured conviction of the future things, the things hoped for, that is so strikingly illustrated in the last words of the patriarchs. Isaac looked to God alone, and to His will and promise. The weakness and sin of Jacob in obtaining the blessing did not disturb Isaac's conviction that he had declared the will of God, which man's unfaithfulness and unworthiness cannot frustrate.
Jacob also, at the end of his long and weary pilgrimage, during which the Angel, the Redeemer, had been his guide and shepherd, blessed the sons of Joseph; and here again faith, and not sight or reason, caused him to give the greater blessing to the younger. "I have waited for thy salvation" was Jacob's exclamation; and worshipping (Gen 49:18), adoring the Lord, who had redeemed him from all evil, he died.
The apostle does not speak of Joseph's varied life, but his faith shone forth brightly in his last injunction. Future things hoped for were present and certain to him. He knew God would remember His people in their affliction, and fulfil the promise given to Abraham; and he was anxious to show that his heart was with the children of Jacob, and that the blessing of the God of Abraham was his joy and hope (comp. Gen 50:25; Josh 24:32).
To return to Abraham. His faith was tested still more severely. He was called to offer up Isaac his son, his only son, the son in whom all his affections centred. But the natural affection of a father to his child was in this case inseparably connected with Abraham's whole spiritual life. In Isaac was the promise. All the hopes and expectations of faith centred in him. To offer up Isaac was to sacrifice the very object of faith. Here God seemed to contradict Himselfto take away His own gift, to revoke His promise. And here faith saw what reason could not see. Faith perceived the hidden meaning of the command. It was to try faith. Before Isaac's birth Abraham simply believed God's Word. Faith had no outward help; it rested solely on God's promise. Now Isaac was given, faith's object had become visible, and hence there was not the same exclusive leaning on God. The Lord tested Abraham when He commanded him to offer up Isaac. It was faith's wisdom which recognized the command as a temptation from God. Now this is the believer's experience. God takes from us that which by faith was first obtained, because we make a Christ of it, because we rest in our faith, in our peace, in our conversion, in our experience. God teaches us that we must believe in Him always, as we believed in Him at our conversion, when we had nothing else to trust in but His Word. All gifts obtained by faith have to be given up unto death, and that by faith.
But Abraham believed again, as at first. Isaac's non-existence was no difficulty to him when the promise first came; and now Isaac's death is no difficulty. God can bring him again from the dead. This Abraham believed as the only solution of the difficulty; for God's word must be fulfilled; and since Isaac is to be offered up, the Lord God Almighty will surely raise him from the dead.
What depth of self-searching, what agony, what crucifixion this trial involved, who can describe? Here was indeed a summing-up of all his previous life and conflict of faith. But faith conquered, and in faith, love and hope. For when we believe God, and only then, and only in that proportion, we love God, and do not withhold from Him the most cherished heart-object, and when we believe God, we hope even against hope; as Luther says, "I could run into Christ's arms though He had a sharp sword in each hand." Abraham received back Isaac in a figurea figure of the resurrection of Jesus, the consummation of Israel's history; resurrection-life after death and burial; the pledge and source of our incorruptible, undefined, and unfading inheritance.
Children of God, on whom the blessing of Abraham has come through Jesus Christ, live by faith! Crucify reason, consider not the things which are visible; confess, manifest it by your character and walk, that you are strangers on earth; wait for the heavenly country, living even now in the spirit of the golden millennial age. Learn from Abraham to believe in God that raised up Jesus from the dead. Reason sees your guilt; faith sees your acquittal, for Christ is risen; reason sees your sinfulness and infirmity; faith sees your power and strength in newness of life, for Christ is risen; reason sees your affliction, sickness, sorrow, old age, and death; but faith sees your glory, renewal of youth, joy, and strength everlasting, for Christ is risen. Live in tents; set not your affections on things below. Live in the tents the patriarchal life of prayer, and a reverent filial walk with God. When the soul is cast down and disquieted within you, when the heart is heavy, when Isaac, in whom you delight, faith's child, is to be sacrificed, then believe, hope in God, and know that you shall yet praise Him. Thus we give glory to God.
(Hebrews 11:23-29)23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.Of all the great men whom God raised up in Israel, there is none whom the nation regarded with a more profound veneration than Moses. By him they were brought out of Egypt; through him they received the law. During forty years he ruled in Jeshurun, combining prophetic, priestly, and royal dignity. They owed to him, under God, all that was precious to them as a nation. There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face; who had assigned to him the position of mediator, of a servant in all God's house. And as his position was wonderful, his character also was marvellous. In him we see the majesty of a solemn, God-fearing, and chastened man, whose soul was constantly dwelling apart in the adoration of the Most High, combined with a most singular meekness, and a most fervent and self-denying affection. His love to God shines forth in his love to Israel, which forgave, hoped, endured all things; which ingratitude never weakened, and disappointment never blunted. We see in this man of God courage and gentleness, fortitude and patiencezeal for God's glory and motherly meekness towards the people. He bore the image of Him who afterwards came to Israel the perfect manifestation of divine love.
His words also seem to surpass all other prophetic words in grandeur, lucid simplicity, and power. And the five books which bear his name, as they are unequalled in all literature in their beauty and majesty, became the most cherished treasure of his nation.
It is most interesting that Scripture gives us a picture of Moses, from his infancy to his departure. The Scripture biography of some great men begins with their manhood. We do not know anything of the early course of their lives. Thus we read abruptly of Elijah the Tishbite, appearing with a prophetic announcement. But in the case of Samuel, of David, of our blessed Lord Himself, we are told the history of their childhood and youth. Now the apostle, in reviewing the life of Moses, wishes to show us that it was the life of faith. And thus the history of Moses is to testify of righteousness by faith, though he is the lawgiver. In like manner Paul often proved, that the law was only given to point out the righteousness which is by faith.
Faith in the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, faith in the divine promise, enabled the parents of Moses to look away from the king's commandment, and to confide in the unseen God, and to realize the promised future. Thus was his life preserved by an act of faith in the power and mercy of the covenant God.
Brought up by the daughter of Pharaoh as her son, instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the faith which was in his father and mother, and of which they doubtless constantly testified to him, seemed to be in an uncongenial atmosphere, and exposed to most adverse influences. But when he was come to years, when he reached the age in which the world with its attractive beauty is fully appreciated by the youthful heart, it was then that his faith was not eclipsed, but manifested, not shipwrecked, but, as it were, consummated; it was then that the good seed which for years had quietly been cherished by the divine Spirit in his soul sprung up in most lovely flower; the riches and honours of the world had not choked it.
The only free man of his nation, the only son of Abraham, who need not have called him a Hebrew, he voluntarily made the choice; he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daugher. His heart was with God, and with God's people he would take his position. Abraham was called to leave his kindred, Moses was called to join his kindred. In both cases the choice was the sameequally free, equally difficult.
Moses gave up the world; ambition had the prospect of honour and greatness; the culture of the most civilized state was fascinating to the mind; treasure and wealth held out potent allurement. All thisand does it not comprise "all that is in the world," and in its most attractive and elevated manner?Moses gave up. And, on the other side, what awaited him? To join a down-trodden nation of slaves, whose only riches was the promise of the invisible God.
As the choice of Moses was perfectly free, so we enquire with greater interest, What was it which determined the choice? And here we might at first fancy it was the impulse of a generous and patriotic heart, which espoused the cause of the suffering and despised race. Such a feeling is indeed noble, but we may doubt whether it would have been strong enough to make the sacrifices which Moses made; and whether it would not have preferred the path of worldly wisdom and policy, and sought to ameliorate the people's condition by securing first a position of power and influence. The Scripture and the subsequent history prove that it was faith which made the choice. Not reason, not sentiment but the mysterious clinging of the heart to the promise of God, the realizing of things not seen, and the confident expectation of the future reward. Moses chose to suffer affliction with Israel, not because they were his people, but because they were God's people. The object of his choice was God; the God who chose his fathers, who revealed to them His truth and grace, and commanded them to walk before Him without fear; the God who was not ashamed to be called their God, and to whom he had been dedicated in his infancy.
We call this choice free, because Moses was in the anomalous position of an Israelite at the court of Pharaoh severed from the bondage and the reproach of his nation. But it was free in a yet higher sense. For in choosing God as the object of our love and service, the heart for the first time becomes free. Mysterious as this act is, this turning-point in the history of the soul, we know that it is the birth of our liberty; that it is really the first act of perfect liberty, of conscious liberty, the first act in which the soul, looking down into its depths as into a transparent lake, does what it wills to do. "I will arise and go to my Father." I will love and serve God. I will confess Christ. I will be the Lord's. And so God makes us "willing," and sets us free; and here is the great triumph of divine power in its wisdom and love. We cannot but obey God, yet we freely turn to God. Necessity and liberty are blended. The choice was made by faith; and that which was attractive to faith was the very thing which to reason and nature is repulsivethe reproach of Christ. It is the cross, which is a magnet, drawing the heart.
There seems an anachronism in the expression "the reproach of Christ." But the expression is chosen purposely. We know that the outgoings of Messiah were from of old. In the sacrifice of Isaac, in the humiliation of Joseph, in the sufferings of Israel, we see foreshadows of the perfect Servant, who was to be both the Sufferer and the Redeemer of His people. "Out of Egypt have I called my Son." Israel is a type of Christ. The ancient Jewish teachers spoke of the pangs and sorrows of Messiah, and divided them into threethose which He would suffer Himself, those which would be endured by His people before and by His people after the advent. Thus as the apostle speaks of filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in his body for his body's sake, Moses by faith beheld in Israel's sufferings, and those that awaited him, the reproach of the true Israel, Israel's glory and hope, the Messiah.(3)
3. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 1:10. Christ, as the Word, the Messenger of the covenant, was with Israel. The coming Christ was also typified by Israel; hence the typical meaning of Israel's sufferings, of Joseph's, of David's. The expression "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches "is therefore one which comprises many aspects. The New Testament counterpart may be seen in 1 Peter 4:13; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 2:23; 2 Timothy 3:12, &c.
Moses thus believed in the Redeemer-God that was to come, and by faith he became a partaker of the sufferings, even as he expected to be a partaker of the inheritance. He had regard to the recompence of the reward. His faith was the confidence of things hoped for. And through the most painful trials, during forty years of incessant care, toil, sorrow, grief of heart, amidst the greatest difficulties and struggles, he held fast this hope; he bore the burden of the nation patiently and lovingly, in the constant exercise of priestly intercession, relying on the Lord, rejoicing in the Christ, the Rock, that followed them. As he himself expressed it in his Psalm, the everlasting God was his dwelling-place; he knew the sin of man, and the righteous anger of God, but Jehovah's mercy made him rejoice, and the beauty of the Lord was upon him (Psa 90).
On mount Nebo his earthly pilgrimage was ended. Mysterious, unwitnessed by mortal eye, was his exodus from this troubled life. Only angels were present, who had guarded the little ark of bulrushes in which a hundred and twenty years before the beautiful babe lay helpless, except for the omnipotence and faithfulness of the covenant-God, to whom the faith of loving parental hearts had commended him. While the peace of God filled his soul, the archangel Michael guarded his body. Centuries after, we behold him and Elijah descend from the celestial realms, and on the mount of transfiguration they conversed with the Son of God about the exodus which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. How bright is the light, how exceeding great is the glory, how abundant the recompence of the reward! How blessed was the choice of faith, which preferred the affliction of God's people and the reproach of Messiah to all the pleasures of sin and treasures of Egypt!
The forty years which Moses lived as a shepherd in the wilderness of Midian seem a long period of inactivity and obscure leisure. For what purpose, we feel inclined to ask, this waste of years? God watches over the days and hours of His chosen people. He who has numbered the very hairs of our head, will He not watch also over our years? Moses had made the great choice; he had forsaken Egypt's grandeur and felicity; he had embraced the reproach of Christ. He learned now in the solitude of Midian to crucify self; to wait quietly on God; to give up his own will and strength; to be a stranger and pilgrim, even as his fathers were.
God's servants are often sent into the desert. So was John the Baptist, ere he began his short but brilliant witness-life, a bright torch; thus did Saul, after his conversion, go into Arabia. And was not the ministry of Jesus, in whom was no earth-born impure element of false zeal or strength, preceded by the thirty years stillness of Nazareth?
After forty years the Lord appeared unto Moses. Scripture does not conceal from us the timidity, the unbelief, the resistance of Moses, when the great command was given to him to deliver Israel out of Egypt. Formerly he was too ready and swift to unsheath the sword, and to rescue the oppressed. Now he is conscious of man's weakness, of his own utter inability for so great a task. But God's word and promise overcame all his difficulties. Moses asked, Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh? The Lord answered by reminding him who He was, He revealed His name, and promised His presence and all-sufficient help.
By faith Moses went to Egypt and to Pharaoh, and neither the wrath of the king nor the murmuring, the bitter reproaches and the unbelief of his own nation, moved him. He endured, because before the eyes of his heart stood the mighty God, who is invisible. Moses is the first of whom Scripture tells us that performed miracles; believing the Word of God, he showed great and mighty signs.
By faith he ordained the passover and the sprinkling of blood. He believed the mercy of God, who had chosen Israel, and was their Redeemer, passing over their iniquity, transgression, and sin, delivering them through the blood of the Lamb. Here was the centre and heart of his faith. As the representative and leader of the nation, he had first to receive himself the salvation of God by faith. Notice this passover is his first ordinance to Israel: before the giving of law was the gospel. "Believe, and thou shalt be saved." The first command given by Moses was, "Believe and live." Afterwards the law was given by him, and the law speaks not of faith, but says, "Do this and live." But salvation is of God through faith, redemption is by the blood of the Lamb. Moses himself preaches here salvation without works, by grace, through faith in the Substitute.
By faith he led them through the Red Sea. Israel murmured. They reproached him for bringing them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. On the faith of Moses rested the burden of the whole nation. He said unto the people, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew to you to-day." But while he spake these courageous words in the name and for the honour of Jehovah, his heart was crying to the Lord, "Deliver us." And to this silent prayer was the answer, "Why criest thou unto Me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward." God's miracles pass through some believers hearts. They are not merely the children of divine omnipotence and mercy, but the travail and anguish of believing and praying hearts. Elijah prayed, and it rained not; he prayed again, and it rained. Thus we are told in the epistle of James; but in the book of Kings we read only the miraculous facts.
This faith of Moses will be remembered for ever; and the song of Moses, the servant of God, for ever associated with the song of the Lamb; for Israel's deliverance out of the Red Sea is a type of the true and final deliverance from all evil, from sin and death, from the world and Satan. And it is by faith only that we can pass through the sea as by dry land. We grasp the promise: "When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and they shall not overflow thee." The Lord is our salvation, and in Him is our trust.
Israel is a typical nation. The things which happened unto them are recorded for our instruction and comfort. The things which happened unto them, happen unto us also. Hence all Scripture is to us truth, reality, experience; it is not a record of the past merely, but it is an ever-new description of the experience of all God's children.
We also were in Egypt, and had to learn that we could not bring about our deliverance by our own strength and zeal. Like Moses, we had to flee from such attempts of self-wrought emancipation into the wilderness, and wait quietly upon the Lord. When we were still, and knew that it was not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, God showed mercy. We also have kept by faith the passover and the sprinkling of blood; when, acknowledging our guilt and helplessness, we believed in the Lamb of God, when in faith we repented, eating bitter herbs, and began to gird our loins and to prepare for the walk and fight through the wilderness. We also went through the Red Sea, and then sang the song of praise to God; when we were taught the power of Christ's resurrection, and when the Holy Ghost, separating us by the cross from Egypt, brought us through resurrection unto the new life, and raised our affections to the things above.
This history of the spiritual Israel, described in Scripture and by the saints of God, is so clear and so full of great thoughts, that many know and appreciate it intellectually; it is so beautiful and ideal that many grasp it admiringly with their imagination. But do we know it by faith? Have we by faith kept the passover, left Egypt, and passed through the Red Sea? In the intellectual and imaginative belief there is no pain, no contrition of heart, no repentance, no godly sorrow; there is no travailing in birth. But faith is the trust of a guilty, sin-convinced, and helpless soul in a crucified Saviour.
Israel in Egypt. Look at another aspect of this history: "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." The saints who are precious in His sight, whom He purchased with the blood of His own Son, and for whom He has prepared an everlasting inheritance, God's elect must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Who would recognize them in their earthly sufferings as the favourites of God? Despised of the world, they are a royal priesthood, and the joint-heirs of Christ; and oppressed with manifold trials and sufferings, they are yet the possessors of all things.
God chasteneth whom He loveth; and it becomes the future kings to have the experience of the Master, and to take their cross upon them. Yet even while they are thus bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus, they are upheld by God. The measure of their trial is fixed by infinite wisdom and tenderness. The angel of the covenant is afflicted in all their afflictions; God regards them as the apple of His eye. The suffering and tried believer has the most consoling experience of God's goodness and faithfulness; nay, of God Himself as their portion. Joseph in his prison, David in the mountain solitude, Jonah in the belly of the whale, Daniel in the lions' den, the three men in the fiery furnace, Peter chained to Roman soldiers, Paul and Silas in their fetters at Philippi, John in the isle of Patmos, were they not all able to praise the Lord, and to rejoice in His love?
Weak and despised believers are the pillars of the world. The intercession of Moses prevails to avert judgment from a whole nation; Samuel prays, and it thunders, and the enemies are defeated; Elijah's faith brings down rain on the parched ground; for the sake of Paul, and through him, the ship's crew were saved, and not one of them perished. God will do all things to secure His people's good. Sun and moon stand still in their course; the dial's hand goes back more than an hour; iron swims on the river; the barrel of meal and cruse of oil fail not; five loaves and two fishes feed a multitude.
It is the will of God to do great things for us. All things are ours; all things work together for good to them that love Godwho are the called according to His purpose; all things are freely given unto us with Christ, the Son, whom God spared not, but gave up for our everlasting salvation. But it is the will of God that we should learn faith.
By faith a poor and guilty sinner looks to Jesus Christ crucified, and says, By grace I have been saved; by faith, continuing his gaze on Jesus, he adds, The Father Himself loveth me; by faith he beholds in the wounds of Jesus the election of God, free, spontaneous, never-changingthe choice which in the still eternity counted him one of the jewels, and set him apart for the glory of the ages to come. Resting in this boundless and amazing love of God, as it shines through the Saviour Jesus Christ, the believer lives a life of constant difficulty, trial, conflict, and yet of continual victory and thanksgiving. Faith says, Who can lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? Faith asks triumphantly, Who can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? Triumphantly it is true; but with deep humility, and in the painful conflict with sin, with troubles and temptations of the present life, a wretched man is the believer, and yet a man giving thanks to God (Rom 8:23, 7:24,25). Saving faith humbles. No mark is more certain and more universal. Suspect all faith that does not clothe the soul with humility. Suspect all faith in which there is not pain, sorrow, conflict.
But if we die daily, let us also rejoice in Christ Jesus.
True faith hath a "yet not I."(4)
There is a threefold "yet not I." One that relates to sin, one that relates to spiritual life, and one that relates to duties. "I sin; yet not I." Delight ing in the law of God after the inward man, I still do that I would not; it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
4. From Bridge's Sermons on Faith. (Edited by the Countess of Huntingdon.)
"I live; yet not I." Christ liveth in me, and that because I believe in the Saviour, that He loved me, and that by His own gift of Himself He is mine.
I work, yet not I, as the apostle Paul writes: "I have laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
Christ dwells in the heart by faith. Hence the wonderful paradox: I, yet not I. He that by grace gives up himself shall find his soulhis life; his name, his individuality shall endure for ever; he shall abide and dwell in God for evermore. He has found himself, he has been found of the Great Shepherd. And he, who belongs to the Christ of God, shall inherit all things; for all things are ours if we be Christ's, who is the Son and the glory of God.
From the Judges to the Maccabees: the Better Thing Foreseen for Us
(Hebrews 11:30-40)30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.Do we think enough of faith, chosen by divine omnipotent love to be its channel? God alone doeth great marvels, but it is through the faith of His saints.
All the victories of Israel were wrought by faith. Divine power and grace redeemed them on that memorable night; but it was the faith of Moses which kept the passover and the sprinkling of blood. It was God who divided the Red Sea, but in answer to the silent prayer of faith which ascended from the heart of His servant. All miracles of healing recorded in the Gospels were wrought by faith. Jesus prayed to the Father, and then fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, and then said, "Ephphatha. Be thou loosed." Jesus by faith thanked God that He heard Him alway. and then uttered His mighty "Lazarus, come forth."
And faith was wrought also in the recipient of divine favour. "Thy faith hath healed thee"; "Be it unto thee as thou hast believed." Such were frequently Christ's words.
The people who perished in the wilderness entered not into God's rest because of unbelief; and because of their unbelief, Jesus could not show many miracles in some places. "Believe only, and thou shalt see the glory of God."
Israel's history is the history of God's omnipotent saving grace, and of man's faith. From heaven descends miracle; from earth ascends faith. From the election of Abraham to the birth of Moses, from the passover and the Red Sea to the dividing of the river Jordan, all is miracle, and all has to go through the faith of some chosen saint. Israel is before Jericho, a walled and fenced city; it is not by power and might, but by faith, that they are to take it. How utterly foolish it must have seemed to the Canaanites, to see that procession day after day: the men of war went round the city, and seven priests before them, bearing the ark of the Lord and blowing trumpets. But Israel believed. To give up their own strength, and to put no confidence in their number or valour, and to trust in God, who commanded themto do what to reason appeared so utterly uselesswas indeed faith. The walls of Jericho fell; and, according to God's command, the city was burnt with fire, and all that was therein; for the iniquity of the Amorites was full.
Is this not written for our learning? The walls of unbelief, superstition, and ungodliness, yield to no earthly armour and power. It is not by compulsion, nor by reasoning; it is not by the weapons which this world supplies, that these walls can be destroyed. It is by the Word of God, and by the Word declared in faith. Ministers and people, they who blow the trumpet, and also the people who are with them, are to be united believing in the power of God. Congregations are only too apt to let the ministers go forth by themselves with the message; they forget that they are all called to strive with the minister in the gospel, to pray, to labour with him.
The inhabitants of Jericho all perished except one. We ask, what virtue, what excellence, distinguished this chosen one among so many thousands, and commended her to the divine clemency? God hath chosen things base in this world. Sin red as scarlet He can forgive, and make whiter than snow. Rahab believed. She heard the message, that God was with Israel, and that He was about to give them Canaan, because the measure of Canaan's sin was full. All Jericho had heard it. The fame of Israel had gone forth while they were yet in the wilderness. Their victories over Amalek, over Og king of Bashan, over Sihon, king of the Amorites, had been noised abroad. Jericho had heard that Jehovah was leading forth His people, and coming to judge Canaan. The message was clear, the evidence proving its truth strong and patent; but only Rahab believed. Man's unbelief has its source, not in the want of evidence or proof, with which the divine message is accompanied, but in the self-righteous, sinful heart, which does not acknowledge the justice of God's anger, and does not thirst after His mercy. But Rahab, though a great sinner, believed both that Canaan was to be judged, and that Israel was God's chosen people. God had granted her conviction of sin and true repentance.
We measure things by an earthly and false standard. We make a great distinction between vice and sin; between crime and the inward transgression of God's law; between outward degradation and the pollution of the heart. But how solemn and touching is the fact, so emphatically brought before us in the Gospels, that moral Pharisees rejected, hated, and crucified the blessed Jesus; and that publicans, and sinners, and harlots received Him in repentance, in faith, in love, and life-long self-sacrifice. Rahab believed with that true and genuine faith which, looking away from the things seen, grasps the promise and trusts all to the unseen God. Her faith manifested itself in action, in obedience. And she was saved; though her house was most exposed to danger, yet she was at peace and in safety; she was separated from judgment and destruction. The line of scarlet thread was to her the sign and seal of the covenant of pardon and salvation. Thus is the chief of sinners safe, if he trusts in the Saviour. Who more exposed than he to the righteous judgment of God? Who safer in the cleft of the smitten Rock?
By grace through faith. This is the explanation of the history of Rahab the sinner. She was pardoned and rescued, numbered now among Israel, a daughter of Abraham, father of the believing. We see her name enrolled in the imperishable annals of the sacred history. The evangelist Matthew records her name among the ancestors of Jesus. She is one of the mothers of Jesus, and teaches us the wondrous love of our Saviour God.
And in that earnest, severe, and most searching epistle of James, the only two examples given of true, genuine, living faith are Abraham, the friend of God, and Rahab.
"And what shall I say more? "Time would fail to go through the whole history of Israel, the period of the judges and kings, and to show all the golden links of faith in the wonderful chain. Let us learn from this the eternal and spiritual character of these Scriptures. The history of the judges, Gideon, Barak, Jephthae, and Samson;(5)
the history of the kings from David downward; the history of the prophets beginning with Samuel, last of the judges and first of the prophets, is a history of faith, grasping the promises, obeying the divine voice, overcoming the world, suffering and dying in the Lord.(6)
5. "Fides nobilitat omnes: it is faith that raiseth a man. They did great things; but those things are upon record only as they were wrought by faith; yet their faith was weak, and laboured under many infirmities. Look into the 11th of the Hebrews; there is no mention made of Samson's infirmities, nor of Rahab's. Mention is made of their faith, but their infirmities passed by, and not one mentioned; and all the great things which they did were mentioned only upon the account of faith. God honours His own work, faith."
6. Verses 32-38. It is evident that the apostle feels quite overwhelmed with the numerous illustrations of the power of faith in the acts and sufferings of Israel's great men. This accounts for the absence of strict chronological order in these verses. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, and David are enumerated first (without conjunctive particle) as warriors, then (joined by τεκαι as introducing something different) the group of prophets. Verse 33: "Subdued kingdoms" refers to period of judges, "obtained promises" to 2 Sam. 7, "stopped the mouths of lions," Daniel 6:22. Verse 34: "Quenched the violence of fire," Daniel 3, "escaped the edge of the sword" (Elijah, Elisha, David, also Maccabees 2), "out of weakness were made strong," like Samson, after his declension (some think of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38), "waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens," 1 Maccabees, where the same expressions are often used. Verse 35: "Women received their dead raised to life again," 1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4:1 7. "Tortured," &c., refers to the touching story of Eleazer, and of the seven brothers and their heroic mother. (2 Macc, 5:1; 7.) Verse 37: "Stoned," Zechariah (2 Chron 24:20; Matt 23:35), "sawn asunder," according to old tradition, Isaiah the prophet; "slain with the sword," 1 Kings 9:20. The saints had to endure poverty and every kind of destitution. Notice how all the opposition of the world and rage of Satan cannot pluck Christ's sheep out of His hand, or prevail against the congregation of the Lord. There will always be a testimony for God. How cheerfully ought we to bear our comparatively light burden. And if any brother reading these lines has been counted worthy by the Lord to "suffer great things for Christ's name sake" (Acts 9:16), may the voice of the Saviour uphold him: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."
By faith they wrought great things. They subdued kingdoms and wrought righteousness. You remember the victories over Philistines and Moabites, Syrians and Edomites, which judges and kings obtained by faith in the living God. You remember the justice and equity with which Joshua, Samuel, and David ruled in Israel. They executed justice and judgment unto all the people. They were able to appeal to the whole nation, that in faithful and disinterested love they had ruled over them. And what was the secret spring of this righteousness? It was what Joshua expressed, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (23, 24; 1 Sam 12:3,4; 2 Sam 8:15); what David said, "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me?" They believed in God. By faith they obtained promises; for David and the prophets were still and lowly before the Lord, and received His message with meekness and a trembling heart. Thus were they the children of Abraham, who by faith subdued kings, judged righteously, and received the promises and the confidential disclosures of the divine counsel. They had Abraham's faith, and did the works of Abraham.
Faith accomplishes marvellous deliverances. The mouths of lions can do no injury to believing Daniel, for his God sent His angel to shut the lions' mouths. The violence of fire, heated seven-times furiously, is quenched not by water, but by faith; the fourth manfourth, where there are three believers; third, where there are two Emmaus discipleswas with them because they believed. They escaped the edge of the sword, as David escaped Saul's wrath, and Elijah that of Jezebel.
But faith has not merely great works and great victories, it has also great trials, sufferings, and painful deaths. Now the apostle enumerates not the persons who suffered, but the evils which faith endured. Hoping for a better resurrection, faithful Israelites in the times of the Maccabees endured agonizing tortures; others in faith endured stripes, imprisonments, protracted hardship, destitution, hunger and nakedness, constant suffering and dying. Some, like Zechariah, were stoned; others, as tradition says of Isaiah, were sawn asunder; others, like the prophets in the days of Jezebel, were put to death by the sword. And ill lived and suffered by faith, looking forward unto the self-same golden time which we are awaiting, the coming of the Lord, to establish His kingdom and manifest His glory. God has so united the children of the old dispensation and the disciples of Jesus, that the fathers are not to receive the fulfilment of their hopes until we also receive the full adoption.
Let us learn from these bright examples. We may make use of extraordinary examples to encourage our ordinary faith in ordinary times. These models are on a very grand and large scale, and so we can plainly see them.
Faith works and suffers; faith is busy and energetic. It is our only strength and victory. In suffering we glorify God as well as in action; and in suffering it is only faith which grasps the promises, and rests on the bosom of God in quiet and loving humility. Suffering is an honour God puts on His saints. To them it is given to suffer for Christ's sake. A life without affliction and self-denial, a life without the cross, is not likely to precede the life with the crown. When the Church becomes lukewarm, there is little hardship endured, and little cross-bearing. Let tried believers not doubt that they are precious in God's sight. They whom the world despises are generally the God-chosen nobility, of whom the world is not worthy.
See to your faith, listening to God's Word, hear ing His call, relying on His promise. "What is sanctification but faith incarnate?" (Bridge). And as a true believer is very sensible of his unbelief, dwell much on Christ as the Alpha, the ever-new and sweet beginning. Christ rebukes, but acknowledges, honours, and helps little faith, though He commends strong faith.
Look also at Christ, the Omega. The saints of old looked forward to the better resurrectionthat first resurrection of the just spoken of by Daniel, by our Lord, by the apostle Paul, and in the book of Revelation (Dan 12:2; Luke 20:35; Phil 3:11; Rev 20:6).
These all, having the grace of God in their hearts, so manifested it in their lives, sufferings, and death, that they obtained a good report. They are now waiting in the realm of peace for the final consummation.
Meanwhile new covenant believers have received some "better thing." What is the better thing foreseen by God for us?
The first and most obvious difference between the old saints and the Church is, that the promised salvation was to them entirely in the future; while we have lived to see the first advent, we also are looking forward to the fulfilment of God's promises at the second coming. But to Israel the Messianic advent, with its salvation and glory, was altogether in the future. It is a wonderful privilege that we can say, "Messiah has come! The sacrifice has been offered!" But does this difference imply anything real, or is it merely a difference in clearness of vision and degree of enjoyment? While we must never forget the unity of all God's saints in the one faith and one hope, yet we must not overlook the clearly-taught difference between the position of the Church of Christ and that of believers before the advent.
The promise of the Father, which is contained according to Christ's teaching in all the prophets, was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. This great culminating and comprehensive promise, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, presupposes the incarnation, death, and ascension of the Son of God. Thus John the Baptist perceived that the first link of the chain had appeared, and declared that Jesus "shall baptize with the Holy Ghost." This baptism had never taken place yet in Israel. Nor could it take place during Christ's life. John spoke of it as something future. John himself, though in the old dispensation there was none greater than he, is declared by our Saviour to be less than the privileged saints of the new covenant. This gift of the Holy Ghost is connected by our Lord with His death and His going to the Father; and the evangelist John explains to us that it is connected with the glorified humanity of Jesus (John 7:38,39, 14:16, 15:26, 16:7). Hence, in a very real and important sense, the Comforter has come, since the ascension of the Lord, in a manner in which He never did and could come before.
The day of Pentecost is the beginning of days. Here is not an isolated and exceptional manifestation, but the commencement of a new period. Believers henceforth are spoken of as sealed with the Spirit, as having received the Spirit of God's Son in their hearts, as having an unction from above. They were exhorted, not to seek "a fresh baptism of the Spirit," but not to grieve the Spirit, whom they had receivednot to forget that they were the temple of the Holy, Ghost; and as they had received the Spirit, so to walk in the Spirit.
The reasons why this gift is now bestowed are manifold and obvious.
1. The Spirit's advent is connected with the finished work of redemption. Because the blood has been shed, the Spirit descends.
2. The Spirit comes through the preaching of faith, and not by the law. It is when the forgiveness of sin is declared that God puts His Spirit within our hearts. Now it is true that Old Testament believers looked forward to the atonement, and were comforted by the assurance of God's grace. But, as we have seen, the way of access into the holiest was not yet made manifest; the conscience was not brought perfectly into liberty. Hence the influence of the Holy Ghost during their period must have been different from His indwelling now, when we have been actually brought nigh by the blood of Christ But,
3. The Spirit, as an indwelling Spirit, descends from the incarnate, crucified, and glorified Son of Godthe Christ or anointed Head of the Church. Now as before the advent there was not the humanity on the throne, the relation of believers to the coming Lord and Jehovah was indeed mediated by the Spirit; but it must have been different from the mystical union as it now subsists between the Head and the members.
Wonderful is our position; and nothing does so humble and abase the believer as the contrast between the high position given to him of God, and his actual state, life, and conduct. How glorious is the Head! how weak, wayward, and sinful are the members! Are we indeed one with Christ, called to live in the perpetual sunshine of God's love, in the blessed and lively hope of glory; called to represent Jesus in our daily life, to speak and act, to suffer and overcome, as He gave us an ensample, and in the strength of the life, which descends from Him into our souls, have we received the Spirit, who dwells in us constantly, who bears witness with our spirits that we are God's sons, who intercedes in us, so identifying Himself with our sorrow and need as to become a suppliant with us? Are we thus identified and united with the Lord Jesus, He the Christ, and we the Christians, anointed with the Spirit, as His? Oh, what manner of men ought we to be! And when we compare ourselves with the fathers, who were not chosen to see and hear on earth the things which were reserved for us, how gigantic does the faith of Abraham and the patriarchs appear, how stupendous the sacrifice, the patience, the love, the unworldliness of Moses and the prophets! Do we believe, love, suffer, and endure as the fathers did?
Here is no cause for elation, but for humility; let none of us be puffed up by a merely intellectual head knowledge of the "glorious position of the Church, as distinguished from the Old Testament saints"; but let us glorify God in these men of faith, whose lives are recorded for our learning; let us imitate their example; let us always cherish their memory with veneration and affection.
And as for their future position, let us rest satisfied with what Scripture reveals. God is not ashamed to be called their God. Jesus shall bring them with Him at His coming. At present the spirits of just men are perfect, and in the heavenly Jerusalem. It seems that in the future kingdom they shall stand in a special relation to the earthly Jerusalem and Israel; that they shall be more immediately connected with the earthly inheritance which was promised them of old. The twelve apostles also, though they belong to the Pentecostal Church, we are told, shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
At the coming of the Lord, the hope of the ancient Israel (including also the saints before Abraham) and the hope of the Pentecostal Church will be fulfilled. The union of all believers will be manifested. This union will be to the glory of God, and part of the blessedness of His people. And in this union we think there will be variety; differences of glory. Different positions and relationships may be maintained during the millennial age, while there is perfect union and communion, Christ Himself being the all-glorious centre.
And as we believe that there will be differences of glory among individuals, why may there not be differences of glory and position for the saints of the various dispensations? These things are partly hidden, that we may dwell all the more on that which is clear, and hasten to the coming of our God and Saviour.
The Exemplar of Faith
(Hebrews 12:1, 2)1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.To continue stedfast in faith, patient and enduring to the end, looking unto the appearing of the Lordthis was the exhortation with which the apostle concluded the tenth chapter. This exhortation was not so much interrupted as confirmed and illustrated by the review of the past history of God's children, who exemplify in a most striking manner the nature, trial, and victory of faith. Appealing to their sense of the union of the family of God, and reminding them that God had provided some better thing for them, he repeats the exhortation to steady perseverance in the ways of faith and patience. If all the saints of God lived, suffered, endured, and conquered by faith, shall not we also? If the saints who lived before the incarnation, before the redemption was accomplished, before the High Priest had entered for us into the heavenly sanctuary, trusted in the midst of all discouragements and trials, how much more ought we who know the name of Jesus, who have received the beginning, the instalment of the great Messianic promise.
We who have still to walk in the narrow path which alone leads to glory are encouraged and instructed by the cloud of witnesses, the innumerable company of saints, who testified amid the most varied circumstances of suffering and temptation, that the just live by faith, and that faith is the victory which overcometh the world. The memory of those children of God, whose lives are recorded for our learning and consolation, animates us, and we feel upheld as it were by their sympathy and by the consciousness, that although few and weak, strangers and pilgrims on earth, we belong to a great and mighty, nay, a victorious army, part of which has already entered into the land of peace.
But the cloud of witnesses(7)
is not the object on which our heart is fixed. They testify of faith, and we cherish their memory with gratitude, and walk with a firmer step, because of the music of their lives. Our eye, however, is fixed, not on many, but on One; not on the army, but the Leader; not on the servants, but the Lord. We see Jesus only, and from Him we derive our true strength, even as He is our light of life.
7. "So great a cloud" denoting the exceeding great number of saints, a multitude which no man can number. The most remarkable instances of faith had been singled out by the apostle; but soon he felt that time would fail him to enumerate all, while he implied that these eminent saints whom he singled out were only representatives of the thousands of faithful ones who in every age served God. "Witness" may either refer to the saints as beholding us, and our walk of faith or unbelief; or it may mean their testimony to the necessity, the nature and power of faith. In favour of the first view may be adduced (a) The nature of the illustration itself. In a race there are spectators who judge, and by their presence encourage. (b) The similar use of the word witness in 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:2. But the second view seems more in accordance with the whole scope of the passage, and is both simpler and more comprehensive. The saints witness, which is recorded in Scripture, and which we are always to remember, is to the faithfulness of God the transitory character of suffering and persecution, the power and comfort of faith, &c.
There are many witnesses, and yet Jesus only is the true and faithful witness. His witness is also of faith. He is the root, the source, out of which proceeded all the faith of which the eleventh chapter speaks. He is the true Israel, the servant of the Lord, who trusted in God, and by faith glorified the Father who sent Him. As the great Exemplar of faith, Jesus is set before us; as the Captain of salvation, who is the author and finisher of faith; who is not merely the new and living way, by whom we have access to the Father, but who is the way, that we may walk in Him.
Let us first consider the example of Jesus as the great motive of our obedience of faith, and then look at the nature and method of our Christian race.
By faith Jesus lived, suffered, and died; on account of His obedience of faith He entered into glory. Here is not merely our righteousness and peace, but this is also the model and strength of our life. Jesus is the way to the Father. By Him we first come; like Him, and in Him, we who have come must walk; tor Jesus is the first-born among many brethren, and to His image we are to be conformed. Jesus suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. We who know Him as our Saviour know also the fellowship of His sufferings, and the power of His resurrection; we know Him as the author and finisher of faith. The Lamb who was slain for us is also the Lamb whom we follow; the cross is both the source and method of our new life.
You who trust in Jesus learn to trust also like Jesus. You who believe in the blood of Christ, and who rejoice in His resurrection, learn as the sons of God to live the life and to be possessed of the spirit of your Head and Lord, your elder Brother. For this purpose has the Father quickened you together with Him, that you should walk as the Son of God also walkedby faith.
Jesus walked by faith. "I will put my trust in God." This was the description given of Messiah in the prophets. He, who in the eternal counsel undertook our salvation in obedience to the Father's will, entered by His incarnation on the path of faith. In the eternal counsel of the ever-blessed Triune God, we see not merely the equality of the Son with the Father, but also the voluntary subordination of the Son, undertaking our salvation, and becoming according to the divine purpose the Christ, the Head of the Body, entering thus on the relation of the servant: and this mind was in Him, the Son of God, from all eternity, even obedience unto death. Who can comprehend this mystery of divine love! But herein is the very power and efficacy of the obedience of Jesus, that it is the voluntary condescension and obedience of the Son of God; and that it is a true and real obedience, submission, dependence, struggle, sufferingthat it is the obedience of faith.
By faith He walked, looking always unto the Father, and speaking and acting in filial dependence on the Father, and in filial reception out of the Father's fulness. By faith He looked away from all discouragements, difficulties, and Oppositions, committing His cause to the Lord, who had sent Him, to the Father, whose will He had come to fulfil. By faith He resisted and overcame all temptation, whether it came from Satan, or from the false Messianic expectations of Israel, or from His own disciples. By faith He performed the signs and wonders, in which the power and love of God's salvation were symbolized. Before He raised Lazarus from the grave, He, in the energy of faith, thanked God, who heard Him alway. And here we are taught the nature of all His miracles. He trusted in God; He gave the command, "Have faith in God," out of the fulness of His own experience.(8)
As the apostle Peter says, "Jesus went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of devils; for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38).
8. It is equally true and important that Jesus performed miracles, not as Moses and the other servants of God, but as the Lord, the Son of God. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The Jews rightly inferred that Jesus made Himself equal with God. Again: "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." Again: Jesus, unlike any mere human prophet, did miracles to manifest forth His glory (John 2:11). We must seek the solution of these apparent contradictions in the Sonship. Jesus is Son; Jesus is God's sonfilial faith and equality.
The incarnation of the Son of God, His condescension in emptying Himself, was most real and true! He who was rich did really become poor. He who was God's own Son in glory did really empty Himself, and take upon Him the form of a servant. Born of a woman, and made under the law, the Messiah came to do the will of the Father that sent Him. Real were His prayers, the expression of dependence and trust; real was that lifting up of the eyes to the Father above, before Jesus blessed and healed, before He fed the multitude, before He uttered the word of power; real the supplications in the still night before Jesus appointed His apostles; real the petition, "Glorify Thy Son." Not His own divine omnipotence, but the Father's protection, was His strength; not His own power, but the Scripture promises echoing the eternal promise, were His hope and consolation.
The Lord Jesus believed. By faith He rested in the Word of God which was written concerning Him: "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied." He pierced by faith the dense, dark cloud of suffering, ignominy, agony, death, and He beheld the joy set before Him. He knew that Israel would reject Him; the cross, with all its shame, the scourging, and spitting, and the mockery, all stood before Him; and yet by faith He added: "And on the third day the Son of man shall rise again from the dead." He who knew that the first part of the 22nd Psalm yet awaited its fulfillment, even His own suffering, believed that the conclusion was also concerning Him. "Thou hast heard me. I will declare Thy name unto my brethren" (faith's family): "in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise to Thee." His faith appropriated the words of the 16th Psalm: "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Was it not by faith that on that night, and after having by a glorious and majestic anticipation instituted the memorial of His expiatory death, He sang a hymn of praise? "The Stone which the builders rejected has become the head corner-stone. This is the Lord's doing, and wondrous in our eyes." In His sufferings, as the apostle Peter writes, "Jesus committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously"; and His last word was the act of faith: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit."
Jesus believed. He is the author and finisher of faiththe only perfect, all-sided embodiment of faith. Since without faith it is impossible to please God, and since Jesus always and perfectly pleased the Father; since faith is the very root and spirit of obedience, and Jesus was the servant of the Lord, who finished the God-given work, Jesus was perfect in faith. In the cloud of witnesses we see faith manifested in scattered fragments, each saint illustrating some aspect, overcoming some difficulty, enduring some test; but Jesus had all faith. The whole realm of faith was traversed by Him; He ascended the whole scale, from the lowest to the highest step; He endured, and He conquered all things. To the end, even unto the death of the cross, He trusted in God.
The joy set before Him was not His motive, but His encouragement. His motive was God's glory, and His love to the Father and to man. Hence we may also say, that the joy set before Him was His motive. For what else is that joy but that the Father is glorified, that His name is declared, that sinners are saved; that the Church, the body, is gathered; the Church one with Jesus by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, who came after His ascension; that the kingdom is established at His appearing, when the Church, the bride, is associated with Him; that throughout the ages God is all in all? This joy, anticipated by faith, sustained Him here below; upon this joy He entered at His resurrection; this joy is fulfilling itself even now, and is yet awaiting its perfect manifestation and consummation.
Thus by faith He endured the cross, despising the shame. "The cross," the only time in which the word occurs in our epistle as the symbol of the obedience, the expiatory sacrifice, the offering up of Himself unto the Father. Who can fathom the depth of His suffering on Golgotha? The more we think of His divinity, and the more we think of Him as the Son of man, of His infinite and eternal love to the Father, of His most sensitive and perfectly holy humanity, the more we wonder with deep sorrow and contrition, yet with adoring gratitude, that He endured the cross, despising the shame. Pain and shame were most real to Himto Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, one person.
Jesus is now at the right hand of the throne of God. You know how the apostle, in harmony with all Scripture, delights in presenting the glory and exaltation of the Saviour as the result and reward of His obedience unto death.(9)
9. So in Philippians 3, and in the epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians.
Who is this glorious One, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come? It is Christ, whom He raised from the dead, the man Jesus, who suffered, was crucified, dead and buried (Col 1). Who is it that ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things? Who but He that also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (Eph 4) Thus Jesus Himself, before His ascension, declared unto His disciples that all power was given unto Him in heaven and on earth; that is, given by the Father unto Him as the incarnate Son, who obeyed the salvation-will of God. It is unto His God and our God, unto His Father and our Father, that Jesus ascends; and when in the heavenly glory He appears unto the beloved disciple, He reveals Himself as the First-begotten of the dead: "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore."
Jesus, the Messiah, is represented to us in Scripture both as Lord and as servant; both as the King, whom we honour even as we honour the Father, and as the first of worshippers, who in the heavenly glory continually maketh intercession for us. In the book of Revelation, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ in this sense also, that it manifests unto us the glorified Christ, the Saviour speaks emphatically of God as His God. Blessed truth, that He who is the First and the Last, the Only-begotten of the Father, has become the Servant, the Anointed, the Head of the Church; that the Father has given Him unto us for ever; that on His throne of glory He identifies Himself with the brethren, praying with them as well as for them; that even now He is waiting for His return to us and for His reign with us, even as we are longing for His appearing. In the light of His infinite, eternal divine glory, we behold His marvellous condescension and love. And as the fruit and reward of His obedience we behold His majesty, power, and kingdom.
This truth is full of consolationfull of the most searching and animating consolation. Jesus is our Example; He is our Forerunner; He is the Prototype of all God's saints; the first-born among many brethren. We also are through suffering to enter into glory. Who would venture to rise to such a conception, had not the Lord Himself, from His throne of exaltation, addressed these words to His churches: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne."
Learn then that as we are saved by faith in Christ crucified, so we are saved in the faith of Jesus, knowing the fellowship of His sufferings. Jesus suffered and died to deliver us from wrath and to give us glory. But Jesus suffered and died, that we should arm ourselves likewise with the same mind; that choosing to suffer in the flesh, we should cease from sin; that being chastened of the Lord, we should not be judged; that by dying daily, we should rejoice in the resurrection power through the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus did indeed suffer, in order that we should not suffer the wrath of God, separation from His presence and the eternal death. But Jesus suffered that we should suffer all the pain and struggle, all the loneliness and opposition, all the self-denial and crucifixion, which the flesh must experience when the Spirit of Christ rules and guides. Jesus died to send a sword, to send death to self, sin, the love of the world, nay, to our whole life, as it is of the first Adam. Oh, how sad is it to notice these two inseparable aspects of Christ separated! Some speaking of Christ as our model, who know not Christ as our Sacrifice and High Priest; others again speaking much of Christ's blood and perfect peace, and not remembering that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. Let us hold fast the simplicity of God's method. In the obedience, sufferings, and death of Jesus we have righteousness and peace, and that first and always; and in them also we have the source, the example, and the strength of our life of faith.
And since the words death and crucifixion, suffering and self-denial, have a gloomy and discouraging sound, let us remember that here is nothing legal, hard, impossible, or even uncertain. All real bitterness was tasted in our stead by Jesus. The light of resurrection shines into our hearts, even while we mortify the members which are upon earth. The peace of God and the sympathy of Jesus uphold us, even while we offer up Isaac, our only son. The assurance of the Father's unchanging love, and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost bring us joy, even while we groan in this our tabernacle, being burdened, and while we feel the presence and power of sin and temptation. Our blessedness is not in that we mourn, but in that even now Christ is our consolation. We are indeed sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing. We show the death of the Lord; but it is in a feast, the banquet of love and joy. For He died that we should henceforth truly live, and we hear the words, "Till I come."
(II.) There is a race set before us. Every human life may be viewed as a race, even as every human life may be compared with a fight. There is, however, a good fight of faith, and there is a bad fight against and without faith. So there is the race which the world sets before us, which our own ambition chooses, and which we run in our own unrenewed energyand there is the race set before us of God, on which we enter when we give our hearts to Jesus, and hear from His lips the words of majesty and love"Follow Me." The one race appeals to us in our natural state; animated by merely human, if not sinful motives, and pursuing earthly methods, we may reach the goala crown of fading leaves; but in the God-appointed race all is of Godheavenly, spiritual, and eternal. The prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus is the crown, immortal and unfading, the inheritance of light and blessedness, the throne of Jesus Himself, who will associate with Himself the disciples, who have overcome and finished their course. The method and laws of the race are the words of Jesus abiding in the heart, the mind of Christ implanted by the Holy Ghost. The strength and energy of the race is the influence, faith-renewing, which the Lord sends unto all that wait upon Him. The race is set before us of God, and God renews our strength to run the race.
It is a race; hence constancy, stedfastness, perseverance are absolutely necessary. He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Many, like the Galatians, run well at first, rejoicing in the liberty of the gospel, and with enthusiastic love receiving the messenger of peace; but they are soon hindered and turned aside. Many who at first and immediately rejoice, and perhaps owing to the very absence of sorrow, contrition, and self-distrust, soon fall away, because they have no root.
It is a race, and therefore requires concentration of purpose, singleness of aim, and self-restraint: they who have determined to gain the prize lay aside every burden, and free themselves from every entanglement. They need no exhortation to do so. Of their own accord they lay aside everything that hinders. This points out the necessity (must I say also the difficulty?) of sincerity and singleness of heart. Jesus says, "One thing is needful." May the heart respond, "One thing I ask of the Lord"; and the life, "One thing I do." Every weight, the burden of cares and difficulties, of earthly plans and self-chosen toil, must be laid aside; and that sin of unbelief, which is always within and about us, always obstructing our progress, clouding our view, paralysing our energy, and above all lessening our love. Is not faith victory? Is not unbelief defeat?(10)
10. Whereas weight designates everything that hinders, though in itself not wrong, the apostle proceeds to mention sin, designating it by a word which occurs nowhere else (εξπεριστατον), and which seems to mean, coming in our way, standing round us, obstructing us in our progress. To refer the word to unbelief is in harmony with the whole argument and with the whole epistle (3:12). The words of Owen appear to me to express it most concisely: "It is the nature of indwelling sin, at such seasons, to work by unbelief towards a departure from the living God or the relinquishment of the gospel."
The apostle asks us to lay aside every weight, and the besetting sin, as if we could do it, and could do it easily. "Lay aside," he says, "these useless and hurtful things; leave them behind." It is easy, when we look unto Jesus; but impossible unless our thoughts and affections are centred in Christunless we behold Him as our Lord and Bridegroom, our strength and joy. This is the only method of the new covenant. We are not under the law, but under grace. It is not by introspection, by self-discipline, by attempting first to lay aside our weight and our sin, that we gain the victory. These things do not precede the look unto Jesus. It is the light which dispels the darkness; it is the love of Jesus which separates us from the world; it is the grace of Christ that delivers us from all fear and doubt.
Thus the apostle describes his own experience (Phil 3
). His only object is to win Christ, and to be found in Him. His constant desire is to know Christ in His fulness, and the fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection, being made conformable unto His death. Starting with Jesus, he entered the race; looking unto Him, walking with Him, he desired to finish his course. Christ is the end of the way, and the way itself.
1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
"Look away" unto Jesus: averting our eyes from the difficulties before us. The difficulties of our path are great; we know and feel them; we must look at them, but we must then look away from them unto Jesus. Like Abraham, we must not consider the obstacles and even impossibilities; we must not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief. We are not to be insensible in sorrow and trial; we are not to forget our cares; but feeling the weight of our cares, cast them upon the Lord: rejoicing in Him, we may be delivered from all painful anxiety. Stoicism enables men to endure, but the heart is hardened, and still more estranged from God. Looking off unto Jesus, the difficulties and trials of our path only accelerate our progress and deepen our peace.
What is the secret of holiness, peacefulness, and strength, but to have no will, separate from and prior to the will of God? To run the race God sets before us, to walk in the good works foreordained by divine wisdom and love. It is one thing to ask, What good thing should I like to do for God? Here self is still choosing, and we please and serve after all ourselves. But to ask, like Saul, beholding the divine Master, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? "is the beginning of true separation to God. If we run the race set before us, engaging in duties God-appointed and not self-chosen, and bestowing all our energies, and that cheerfully, on the God-appointed tasks and sorrows, then may we rest in full assurance that our strength shall never fail, that our fruit shall remain (John 15:16), that our life shall, though apparently fragmentary, be complete, that we shall reach the end, and be counted faithful in that day.
"Run with patience." Always remembering that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy; that he that believeth shall not make haste, that the race is not to the swift (Eccl 9:11); but learning the divine paradox, that they who wait on the Lord run, and are not weary. We have the example of the prophets (James 5); in patience or endurance, and above all of our blessed Lord. This endurance (in which faith shows its meekness as well as strength) is the great characteristic of the saints, the followers of the Lamb. Here also is wisdom. He who gives up self rejoices in God, and he who has died to this present world anticipates the joy of the heavenly kingdom. Experience teaches us that there is an unreal and unfruitful way of speaking of heaven and the future glory, when we forget that Jesus Himself is the heaven we expect; and that we have received even now the earnest pledge and foretaste of our inheritance. Oh, how much of heaven may we not have even now! for are we not even at present the sons of God? and beholding Jesus, are we not even now to be like Him? It is not so much our sufferings, our infirmities, or our trials which separate us from the joy to come, as sin, and above all unbelief. For if a man love Jesus, will not the Father and the Son come and take up their abode in him?
"Whom the Lord Loveth He Chasteneth."
(Hebrews 12:3-13)3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.Looking unto Jesus, we behold both the way and the end of the way. We walk in Him, with Him, to Him. We are to be glorified together with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him. And therefore we are constantly to consider Jesus; not the sufferings of Jesus, but Jesus, who suffered and entered into glory; not the work of Christ, as bringing to us salvation, but Himself, our Saviour, our life, the strength and the model of our walk.
Look at Jesus glorified, and you will behold His wounds; you will see Him, the Lamb as it was slain. Look at Jesus on the cross, and you will behold His glory, and the Father glorified. The sufferings of Christ are remembered in heaven, and in the Church. The image of the suffering Jesus is engraved on the hearts of all believers. To remember Jesus is to remember Jesus crucified.
When we are inclined to become weary and faint in our minds, when our courage fails and our patience wavers, let us consider Jesus, and His experience on earth. To live on earth among sinners, this in itself was trial and sorrow to the Holy One. Not even His own disciples could understand Him; for they savoured the things that are of man. Even they called forth constantly the exercise of patience and forbearance. Jesus was always alone. His soul dwelt apart, with thoughts, desires, sorrows, and hopes, which none could fathom and share. And what contradictions did He suffer from sinners! Jesus was by reason of His purity so clear-sighted and sensitive that from the beginning He knew that He was hated and rejected. He did not commit Himself even to those who admired and followed Him, or who seemed to believe in Him (John 2); for He knew what was in mancontradiction to divine love. Sinners, whom He came to bless and save, opposed Him, the Holy One. He knew and felt their contradiction. It was deep-seated, strong, and bitter; and at last it manifested itself in the cruel hands which nailed Him to the cross. Jesus only loved, blessed, prayed, wept, and died. Let us consider Him as our example! Let us learn of Him to be meek and lowly in heart; always willing to submit to God's will and commandment.
It is in the heart that the burnt-offering is brought. We have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. This refers not so much to the death of martyrdom. We ought to be willing to lay down our lives both for Jesus and for the brethren. But in the conflict with sin, we ought to dread no pain, no wounds, no crucifixion, even when asked to pluck out the right eye, or to cut off the right hand, to sacrifice the thing most cherished."Take the heart from out my heart,Chastisement,(11)
Though it cost me bitter smart." (Silesius)
which is the true character of all painful and trying experiences of the saint, is spoken of throughout Scripture; but we are apt to forget this most important teaching of the word. We remember the verses well enoughthey have become proverbs and commonplacesbut we forget to apply them to ourselves; and when the afflictions and difficulties come, we often fail to recognize in them the fulfillment of the Scripture word. In the world you shall have tribulation. Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. They that sow with tears shall reap with joy.
11. The sufferings of God's children are sent either to chasten and correct, to bring them to the knowledge of and victory over hidden sin or transgressions, or to prove, test, and thus strengthen and raise to a higher level of experience and usefulness, or they are a privilege and honour as a testimony for Christ, for His name's sake, and to show forth His praise. But they may all be summed up under παιδεια, parental discipline, and are contrasted with the judgments of divine displeasure and anger. The apostle uses here (v 5) a personification of the divine voice of exhortation speaking to us in love (Prov 3:11). In Proverbs the eternal wisdom addresses warning, counsel, and encouragement to "her children" (Matt 11:19).
Scripture is a book for life; and as life is full of affliction, so the Word of God abounds with counsel and comfort for the afflicted. For to view and to bear affliction aright is not easy; it is impossible without God's Word and Spirit. We are inclined either to despise the chastening of the Lord, or to faint under it. Either we try to bear trials in pride, in our own strength, without recognizing that they are sent by God to humble us, to lead us to self-examination and repentance, to deepen our sense of dependence on God, to fix our thoughts and desires more on heavenly things. The world generally endeavours, in time of sorrow, bereavement, or trial, to get over it; that is, to feel it as little as possible. God does not mean us to get over it, but to feel chastisement, and in and through it to be drawn nearer to Himself.
The spirit of Stoicism is far removed from the spirit of God's children. They are sensitive; they feel the displeasure of God; they stand upon the watch-tower and ask, "Shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me?" The Christian does not harden his heart against sorrow and bereavement; he does not look upon suffering as an iron necessity, to be borne with an iron and impassive calmness; it is sent of God.
There is the other danger of sinking into despondency; we think we cannot endure it; darkness seems to swallow us up; hard thoughts rise within us; our hearts fail us; and the voice of thanksgiving and hope seems hushed for ever.
Now knowing from the Word of God and our own experience that such is the tendency of our hearts, either in undue elation to despise God's chastening, or in undue depression to faint, let us pray for ourselves, and for all the afflicted, that we may not lose the benefit of the precious, though sad, gift of chastisement, that we may humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt us in due time.
Chastisement is sent by fatherly love. In heaven no chastisement is needed; in hell no chastisement is possible; earth is the scene, and the children of God the subjects of chastisement.
God is our Father, and therefore He chastens us. Jesus is our loving and faithful Saviour, and therefore He rebukes us. And the Holy Ghost, although it is His to comfort and sustain the believer, reveals unto us first, with piercing conviction, the sins and failings which are to be judged and given up. Chastisement has reference not merely to sins, but God's object is to conform us to the image of Christ. God had one Son, without sin, but not without sorrow.
But we are sinful, and our hearts cleave to the world and our souls to the dust. To love God truly, and to find our joy and delight in Him and in heavenly things, to give up trust and complacency in self, and to ascribe glory to God only, how far are we from this! and sometimes when we or others least think so. Was not Job upright and devoted to the fear of God? Why is David a man of sorrows, and Jeremiah a man of tears? Paul, caught up to the third heaven, and beholding the glory of the Lord, has to bear the thorn in the flesh. John the beloved is in Patmos. God knows why. He has chosen the saints and appointed the sufferings of the saints, that they may win Christ; that they may be made like unto Him; that they may hereafter be glorified together with Him. We see the gentlest, the most heavenly-minded Christians tried; they themselves are the first to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, and to acknowledge that God is trying and refining them, to condemn sin in the flesh, to vivify the Spirit.
And this chastisement is severe. He scourgeth every son. Even an apostle beseeches the Lord three times to remove it. There, where we are most sensitive, God touches us. The thorn in the flesh is something which we fancy we cannot bear if it were to remain life-long. We have emerged as it were out of a dark tunnel, and fancy that the rest of our journey will be amid sunlit fields. We have achieved steep and rugged ascents, and imagine the period of great and exhausting exertions is over. But Abraham was above a hundred years old when his faith was severely tested. The trial, deepest and sorest, seems to leave us for awhile, yet it returns again. For God's love remains, and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If the apostle Paul stood in danger of spiritual pride and self-trust, and needed this perpetual scourging to cling to Jesus grace, which is all-sufficient, oh let us remember that in each one of us there is the same flesh which needs painful crucifixion. And what shall I say of daily trials, losses, wounded affection, sickness, loneliness?
One of the platitudes of the present day is, that religion is not a gloomy, but a cheerful thing. Although it is easy to see what was meant by him who first opposed this assertion, either to morbid and self-assumed gloom, or to the ignorant representation of the world; yet, as it is generally understood, nothing can be less true. Blessed are they that mourn. Woe unto you that laugh. Narrow is the way. If any man will serve Me, let him take up his cross, and follow Me. He that seeketh his life shall lose it. Although the Christian anoints his head and washes his face, he is always fasting; the will has been broken by God, by wounding or bereaving us in our most tender point; the flesh is being constantly crucified. We are not born to be happy either in this world or in our present condition, but the reverseto be unhappy; nay, to try constantly to be dead to self and the world, that the spirit may possess God, and rejoice in Him.(12)
12. As there is a false and morbid asceticism, so there is also a false and pernicious tendency to cover a worldly and shallow method of life under the phrase of "religion being joyous, and no enemy to cheerfulness." To take a very simple and obvious instance. What is meant by a "cheerful, pleasant Sunday"? No doubt men may have erred on the side of strictness and legalism; but is a "cheerful "Sunday one in which there is much communion with God in prayer and meditation on God's Word, much anticipation of the joys of heaven in praise and fellowship with the brethren? Alas! too many understand by a cheerful Sunday a day in which the spiritual element is reduced to a minimum.
God is our Father; this present life is only a school, a period of childhood and minority , discipline and chastisement are the tokens of God's unchanging love and constant watchfulness. Childhood is both solemn and peaceful. We look back on it with reverence and affection. For in childhood everything has the character of education; it is spiritual, and for the sake of the real inner man and his future. Parents and teachers are constantly directing, and rebuking; the whole life is under rule, restraint, and guidance; but the only and constant object is the child himself, his good, his character, his future; the only motive is love. There is more reality in a child's life than in our subsequent life; the whole day, with its lessons and recreations, is devoted to the true and real interests of the child. Hence, when we look back on it, we say, How happy we were! Not that we forget the constant troubles, sorrows, cares, and fears which children have; but we feel that then every one connected with us loved us, and sought our welfare; that we were the object, not means to an end, but the end itself.(13)
13. The contrast between the discipline of earthly fathers and of God. (1) The one is father of our flesh; God is the Father of spirits, the Creator and source of life, spiritual and everlasting, as well as physical and temporal. (2) The one for a brief period; God during our whole lifetime. (3) The one with imperfect knowledge, in much infirmity "after their own pleasure"; God with unerring wisdom, and in pure love. (4) The aim of the one, our earthly future; the aim of God, to make us partakers of His holiness. Yet imperfect as is the earthly father's discipline, we gave it reverence, "as was right" and according to God's will, and for our safety. How much more ought we to be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, of whom is our true life.
Now, as childhood is to the rest of our earthly life, so is the whole of our earthly life to the future heavenly one. Let us cultivate then the spirit of childhood. Let us think it natural that we are daily rebuked and chastened, that our thoughts, words, and actions need constant correction and alteration; let us receive this with the docility and meekness of children, and with the trustful and sweet assurance that love breathes in all our chastening, that we are in the most tender and fatherly hands. God's only object is our blessedness, and this is our blessedness, to be like Jesus, the only-begotten of the Father, the first-born among many brethren.
No chastisement while it lasts is joyous, but grievous; but afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby. Even on earth we reap the fruit, and enter into the harvest. "Afterwards." Does not this word search and try us? Have we not all had chastisement? Have we not all passed through sorrow? Can we look back on the past without recalling seasons of deep and heart-felt affliction? Has no sword pierced our soul, has no painful sacrifice been exacted of us? Do these things belong to the past? Have they gone and disappeared without leaving behind them peaceable fruits unto righteousness? After such experiences, tears, conflicts; after such solemn, silent, chastened seasons in the wilderness; after such views of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus, of the fourth Man in the fiery furnace, are we still worldly, proud, impatient, volatile? do we still seek our rest and joy in the broken cisterns instead of the living-Fountain? God forbid that we should forget the chastening of the Lord, that we should "get over" sorrow, or be comforted like the world. Now is our 'afterwards' peace and godliness to-dayby reason of yesterday's sorrow and trial.
Especially in the new covenant dispensation God's people are called to suffer. The saying of the great philosopher is well known: "Prosperity was the characteristic of the Old Testament; adversity is the characteristic of the New" (Bacon). The full meaning of this remark does not lie on the surface. The Israelites had the promise of earthly prosperity. God promised to reward His people with temporal blessings, if they obeyed His commandment. He Himself was to be their portion, and their exceeding great reward; and such was the spirituality of the law, that the saints under the old covenant dispensation knew that in God, and in Him alone, was their life and joy. In connecting thus obedience and earthly prosperity, God not merely wished to help and attract the people in their spiritual weakness and infancy, but also to teach them that every good gift cometh from above; that Jehovah is Lord of all, and that even on this sin-defiled and Satan-enslaved earth the divine laws of holy love contain the true and permanent sources of physical and social happiness. And this will be seen when Israel, converted by the Holy Ghost and restored to their own land, shall walk in God's precepts. Then, as the psalms and prophets describe, on the basis of the original promises in the law, all earthly lands will be prosperous. No war, no oppression, no abject poverty, no famine shall then bring misery and suffering to mankind; but the original purpose of the loving and generous Creator shall then be realized, and hitherto unknown resources of health, wealth, and social well-being be developed.
Israel was chosen for this purpose alsoto reveal on earth the blessedness of a God-fearing commonwealth. But only in the future Messianic kingdom will this be realized. When Israel had these promises of earthly blessing, the sufferings and afflictions of the godly must have been a most perplexing problem. We can understand the difficulties propounded in the book of Job, and in such psalms as the 37th and 73rd: "Fret not thyself because of evildoers. Let not thy footsteps slip, doubting God's truth and faithfulness, when thou seest the righteous in trouble and anguish, and the wicked without care and sorrow." This exercise of faith was very great. How intense and ardent was then their soul-cleaving unto Jehovah! "Whom have I in the heavens but Thee?" "Though He slay me, yet will I stay with Him." How firm was their hope, that ultimately Jehovah would come and establish the kingdom, when the poor will have bread and be satisfied, when justice and equity would reign. The Old Testament is indeed the religion of prosperity; but only in idea and in the hope of Messiah's reign. In actual reality, it was the religion of suffering, of tears, of self-denial, of faith in the Unseen. Hence the Psalms of David and the prayers of the prophets.
Gradually the divine method of glory through suffering was made known to God's people. From righteous Abel onward, the servants of God suffered for righteousness. From the days of Abraham, the true yet imperfect believers suffered while they were tested, and led into a higher region of light. From the days of Joseph, the faithful ones had to be bound in fetters, and the word of the Lord tried them, by a divine chemistry separating in them the carnal from the spiritual. Moses preferred Jehovah's reproach to Egypt's honour and treasure. Chosen of God, and nearest to Him, Moses was the most plagued of all men; the burden of a sinful and disobedient, yet tenderly-beloved, nation rested on him. But in David a new manifestation of suffering was given to Israel. See the shepherd-youth, in the simplicity and beauty of childlike faith, performing heroic acts, unseen by man, on the silent field; no feverish ambition or youthful self-confidence, but trust in the God of his fathers steeling his arm against the lion and bear; see this true Israelite without guile, strong in faith and with a tender and loving heart overflowing with song and melody, chosen of God, anointed by Samuel the prophet, champion and deliverer of Israel's armies, beloved of the nation; yet meek and lowly, without pride and elation of impatience. How noble his bearing to Saul! how quiet and humble towards the people! True king, by the grace of God; lover of God, and companion of all them that fear Him; yet who ever suffered like him persecution, reproach, famine, or nakedness? He was hunted like a partridge on the mountains, surrounded by foes, despised, forsaken; tears were his meat day after day, while the enemy continually said, "Where is thy God?" The reign of David was full of trouble and most heart-searching sorrow. What prayers of anguish and desolate mourning ascended from his soul! Yet was he God's chosen and anointed; the Beloved was his name; in and through him God's blessing rested upon Israel. Since that time the prediction of Messiah as the suffering servant of Jehovah assumes increasing distinctness, the picture of the One, the only One, of whom David, of whom the true righteous Israel, were only imperfect types.
To us, the New Testament Church, a clearer light has come, a brighter blessing is given. What is it? One word expresses itthe cross. Jesus is our Lord; if the world hated Him, it will hate us also. If Jesus came into the world to suffer and to die, can we call ourselves followers of Jesus, or brothers resembling Him, unless we suffer with Him, and are made conformable unto His death? We have to suffer for righteousness' sake; we have to suffer because of our sin and of the corruption of our flesh. But in both these kinds of suffering it is our blessed privilege to have fellowship with Christ crucified. When we suffer as Christians, we say, This is because I belong to Jesus; I fill up what is behind of His sufferings. If God sends affliction and sorrow, we say, God made the Captain of salvation perfect through sufferings; He treats me now as one of the children. If we find it painful to overcome impatience, self-love, and the various manifestations of sin, we say, I have been crucified together with Christ, then God condemned sin in the flesh; and by virtue of my union with Jesus I must now mortify the members that are on earth. Christ's cross separates us from sin and the world. Here is our station. Here is the nexus of justification and sanctification. Here we learn to become a burnt-offering. Here we spend truly sweet moments, yet full of sorrow and pain, while we behold not merely our sins forgiven, but crucified; while we behold ourselves not merely acquitted, but cast into the fiery mould, to be made like Jesus. Every child of Adam has trouble, sickness, suffering; only Christ's people have the cross.
The cross of Christ is despised and hated, not merely by self-righteous Jews and wise and worldly Greeks; but within the professing Church the apostle weeps over many who are enemies of the cross of Christ. Not of the doctrine, that Christ died instead of sinners, but of the teaching, that we have been crucified with Him, and have been planted in the likeness of His death; that we have been saved, and are being saved, not from death, but out of death; that dying daily the painful death by crucifixion, we live the spiritual, resurrection-life together with and in Christ. We are to be partakers of God's holiness. When God commands us to be holy, He knows that, there is only one holiness, even His own. Man trying to be holythat is, separate from sin and the worldcan only fail; he is only going to a greater distance from God, from the only position in which God can have communion with us as poor and helpless sinners. But God gives us His holiness. In Christ Jesus, who is both the Temple and the High Priest, we are brought nigh, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy people. As Jesus covers, shelters, and beautifies us with His righteousness and peace, so He separates also by His holiness from sin and worldliness. Chastisement is one of the instruments by which the Father prunes the fruit-bearing branches. By affliction and the inward crucifixion we learn to seek our true life, treasure, strength, and joy, not in earthly affections, possessions, pursuits, and attainments, however good and noble, but in Him who is at the right hand of God; and the end will be glory. Christ's people, who have passed through much tribulation, shall stand before the throne and the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palm branches in their hands.
Let us therefore not faint, but lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; let us run with patience the race set before us,(14)
making straight paths for our feet, that thus even the weak and lame may not stumble, but gain strength and skill in the divine and peaceful path.
14. Verse 13 returns to verse 1).
Peace and Holiness
(Hebrews 12:14-18)14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. 18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,The two exhortations,(15)
to follow peace with all men, and that holiness without which none can see the Lord, comprise the whole Christian life. They refer to our relation to God and to our neighbour. They embrace both tables of the law. Love to God is the first and supreme commandment. But, as Jesus so beautifully expressed it, the second is like unto it: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
15. The preceding exhortation, "Lift up the hands," &c.; "Making straight paths for your feet," &c., alludes to Isaiah 35:3, and Proverbs 4:26. As Delitzsch remarks, the total apostasy of weak and hesitating members was to be prevented by the whole congregation rousing itself to decision and faithfulness. This would exert a salutary and helpful influence, as a smooth and even path encourages weak and lame feet to the effort of walking.
The intimate connection between these two exhortations is always pointed out in Scripture. In loving our brother we abide in God. If there is a cloud between me and my brother, there is also a cloud between me and the Lord. Our growth in grace is according to God's will and Christ's institution within the Church, and in and by the communion of saints. Hence we are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; for there is one body and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope.
Christ has indeed promised to each individual, "If a man love Me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." And we can scarcely lay too much stress on the necessity of secret prayer, of solitary meditation, of each one working out his own salvation with fear and trembling. But neither can we lay too much stress on the institution of the congregation, on the communion of saints, on the special blessing, on the special presence promised to the meeting of believers in Jesus' name, on the necessity of continuing stedfast in doctrinethat is, in the apostolic teaching as continued by God-given teachers and pastorsin fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in united prayer. The individual spiritual life is to be nourished in the Church, and is again to nourish and enrich the congregation; and as no general and comprehensive philanthropy can be genuine without love to parents and children, neighbours and friends, or can be a substitute for the affection, claimed first by divine and natural law, so as a rule no Christian is in his right place, or in a healthy condition, who does not live and work in a congregation, and give his energies, beginning with his prayer and intercession, to a community of believers, united together for worship and work in one special place. When the Hebrews became cold in love and wavering in the faith, they began neglecting to assemble themselves together, and cultivate Christian fellowship. Edification in Scripture always refers to the building up of believers as a community. Fellowship and co-operation are inseparably connected with the development of many aspects of Christian life.
Now the characteristic feature of the Church ought to be the spirit of peace. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." And this concord proceeds from that peace with God, which the individual Christian possesses, even as the absence of concord must be traced to the absence of peace in the heart with the Lord.
The peace the world cannot give, which passeth all understanding, comes from the God of peace, the Father who loved us. It comes through Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross; it enters the heart by the Holy Ghost, who assures us of our acceptance. But this is only the first experience of peace. Our peace is the very peace of Jesus. "My peace I give unto you." How then can they who have Christ's peace, as well as the peace purchased by Christ, be without love to the brethren, without patience and meekness? How can clamour and bitterness and malice, uncharitableness and envy, enter into the heart which rejoices in God, and which is one with that Saviour who washed the disciples' feet; who prayed for Peter, while he denied his Master; who shed His blood, interceding for His enemies, and loving His own to the end?
"Follow peace with all men." "Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the sons of God." Why has this beatitude the highest reward attached to it? Because the only begotten Son of God is the Peace-maker. He came to make peace, true peace in righteousness and holiness. He made peace by His life and death; He sends the message of peace to all, far and near; He brings peace to the greatest enemies, and despisers of His gospel. By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, He gives believers to be partakers of His own peace.
Christians are therefore at peace, and the makers of peace. They are faithful to God, and to His truth; their testimony is against sin and unbelief in the world, against hypocrisy and unfaithfulness in the Church; but as love is their life-element, so peace is their characteristic. "Into whatever house ye go, salute it"; and this is the salutation, "Peace be with you." "And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you." As if Christ said, You possess peace as your own, inalienable and most precious, deep-seated in the very heart of hearts. You go forth to wish, to declare, to bring peace. They who receive you shall through your peace be brought to peace, as flame kindles flame. They who reject you shall not disturb your peace, or even diminish it, or embitter you, or discourage you for your further work.
We are to follow peacecultivate it earnestly. We must have peace within first, if we are to be the sons of peace, the peacemakers. Let us there fore look constantly to Jesus.
There are dark thoughts in the heart; a discontent with things around us, and a dissatisfaction with our spiritual state and attainments: a discontent which is barren of useful or helpful thoughts and actions. There are fears and misgivings which paralyse and fetter; a downward bent, the soul cleaving to the dust; the mind running to and fro in fruitless retrospect, calculating and planning future amendment. But it need not be so. The child of God ought to walk in the light of His countenance. Saved by grace, his life is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved him, and gave Himself for him.
Again, there are Christians who, although they know the grace of the Lord, seem always to be in search of something to give them a fuller peace. They run eagerly after every new doctrine and movement, as if it might bring them the unknown treasure. Oh, dear soul, remember thy baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost! Look unto Jesus, who died for thee, and who now liveth to pray for thee, and by His Spirit to conform thee to His image. If Jesus dwells in the heart by faith, it is peace. We rest in the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, and from which nothing shall be able to separate us. Christ's peace, beginning in the conscience, pervades the heart with its affections, and the mind with its thought and purpose. It passes all understanding; it manifests itself in humility and quietness. There is sometimes among Christians a restlessness and feverish energy, running to and fro in order to draw water, which shows that there is a want of the true peace within. Christ has given to us to have within us a well of water springing up into eternal life.
If God's peace is within us, we love the brethren and all men. We are able to deal with them tenderly and calmly. Humility, affection, and hopefulness characterise the son of peace; for he is always praising the boundless grace of God in which he stands.
Thus, in our relation with our fellow-men we are in communion with God; therefore the apostle adds: "Holiness, without which none shall see the Lord." How beautiful and solemn are these words. They seem to descend from the very throne of God, out of the brightness of that light which no man can approach unto. And yet every heart must assent, and every conscience set to its seal. "Holiness, without which none shall see the Lord." Who can hear the words without bowing in reverence, and saying, Amen? And such is the divine simplicity and power of these words, that once heard they can never be forgotten. They live for ever in the memory. But do these words fill me with fear or with love? do they repel and chill? or do they attract and animate? Do they disturb or deepen my peace, and the sweet assurance, I am the Lord's, and He is mine?
Some of us may remember the time when this word and similar declarations of Scripture brought to us fear and the spirit of bondage. Some here may still be in this state. Is it not strange that we should think this a hard saying, and that we should avoid looking it earnestly in the face? and yet we pass so lightly over a word like this, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And what is this declaration, "Holiness, without which none shall see the Lord," but another form of the same most solemn truth: The flesh cannot please God, and sinners cannot stand in His presence. Only the renewed, who by faith in Jesus have received power to become the sons of God; only the spiritual, born of the Spirit, have fellowship with the Father and the Son. But when you hear, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," you think of a doctrine and of a past experience. While when you hear, "Holiness, without which none shall see the Lord," you think of God and yourself, living now, and this indeed is full of awe and solemnity.
God is holy, separate from all darkness and sin; but not in isolated majesty banishing the imperfect and sinful from His presence: for God is light; God is love. It is the nature of light to communicate itself. Remaining pure and bright, undiminished and unsullied, it overcomes darkness, and kindles light. The holiness of God is likewise mentioned in Scripture, mostly in connection with love, communicating itself, and drawing into itself. "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts." The angelic creation is also holy; for it is God's. "Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory"; for in Christ both heaven and earth are to be filled with the divine light and love. "The Holy One of Israel, and your Redeemer." "I am holy"but God does not remain alone, separatebe ye also holy." "He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name."(16)
16. Compare also Psalm 99; Hosea 11:9. The Spirit, who in condescending love comes most directly into contact with us, is emphatically called "holy."
I behold then in the holiness of the Lord His most pure, righteous, solemn, and yet most tender and compassionate, love condescending to me; not willing to leave me in my sin, opaque darkness, flesh, Adam, but to bring me unto Himself; nay, to make me a partaker of His holiness. I see the holiness of God manifested in Jesus. I see Jesus, the Holy One, God and Man, Creator and Creature, Lord and Servant, Adored and Adoring; I see the Babe, that Holy Thing which was born of the Virgin Mary, holy, and yet flesh; I see Him on earth, the Tabernacle of God; I see Him on the cross, the Holy Temple broken, nay, the Holy Temple accounted sinful, and deserted by God; I see Him risen, the Holy Temple built again; I see Him ascended, the great High Priest. "Holiness unto the Lord" is written on His forehead; and I know that in Him I also am holy to Jehovah. By the blood of Jesus we are brought nigh to God. In the great High Priest we are priests, holy, set apart to worship and serve God. We who were formerly darkness, are now light; we who were enemies, are now in the love of God. In Jesus we are sanctified. As Luther frequently said, "My holiness is in heaven."
Hence the exhortation of the apostle, when he says, Follow holiness, is the same which he urges in all his epistles: "Remember, that by the death of Christ you have been delivered, and separated from sin and this evil world; reckon yourselves to have died with Christ, to have been buried, and to have been raised to seek the things which are above." "As you have received Christ, so abide and walk in Him." "Follow" (as the one constant and earnest object of life) "that holiness, without which none shall see the Lord."
There are two errors against which we must guard. Justification and sanctification proceed from one source. When we first believed in Jesus, we received not merely pardon, but the renewal of heart and will. Then we were separated from sin unto God. Then faith saw the old man condemned and crucified. Then we began the new life of faith, in which there is conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. Now, we must always remember and hold fast this beginning. There is no second starting-point for sanctification; there is only one starting-point and beginning of the new life. It is not by some subsequent resolution, in which we concentrate our energy, and by an act of our will that we determine henceforth to live a godly life, but by faith constantly grasping what it grasped at conversion, the grace of God in Christ, that we are disciplined and conformed to the will of God. The apostle never exhorts Christians to make a new beginning, to resolve, to consecrate themselves, to seek a fresh baptism; but to reckon themselves to have died, to have been transplanted, to remember that they had received the Spirit, and that they were set apart unto God. God is holy; Christ is my holiness; I am holy in Him, who died for me, and for me is now in heaven. Humbled and comforted by this assurance, let me abide in Christ; let me put away, in His strength, all sin and worldliness, from which His death separates me; let me live by faith in Jesus.
Again, it is not a matter of degree. The flesh is condemned; sin is judged; the world is crucified. My aim is not to be a little less sinful, carnal, and worldly to-day than I was yesterday. My aim is to mortify the old man, with all its affections and lusts; not to love the world, and any of the things that are in the world; to follow that holiness according to which I have been brought into the position of a child of God, a member of Christ, and a temple of the Holy Ghost. It is not said to me, Become perfect, but be perfect; I am to be a partaker of God's holiness.
This is the peculiarity of the divine method. All human religions are ignorant of this mystery. Ask a Jew, a Mohammedan, a Rationalist, any one but a Christian, "What do you mean by your righteousness, or your holiness? "His reply is, "I mean my integrity, my kindliness, my purity, my benevolence, my good thoughts, feelings, and works." It is always "my." Ask a Christian, "What is your righteousness?" His answer is, "JehovahChrist is my righteousness." "What is your holiness?" "My holiness is in heavenChrist." "What is your life?" "My life is hid with Christ in God, and Christ liveth in me."
Christ then is made unto us sanctification. If only holiness can admit us to the blessed vision of God, it must be Christ; for imperfect holiness is as great a contradiction as unclean purity.
But what is meant by following (striving after) holiness?
If you are one with Christ, you must know that there are within you two, which war against each other with a most determined hostility. The aim of the flesh is nothing less than to kill the Spirit. Its object is total extermination. It is not that you should pray less, but that you should not pray at all. It is not that you should love Christ with less fervour, but that you should forget Him. The aim of the Spirit is to kill the flesh, even sin.
This warfare is painful; for sin is still in us. It is not like a garment that we wear. It has entrenched itself in our flesh; that is, the old Adam-nature of body, soul, and spirit. Hence cleaving to Christ and our holiness in Him is crucifixion of the flesh, and that is painful. To overcome the temptations of the world, with its allurements, fascinating errors, or alarming frowns, involves conflict and sacrifice; implies painful watching and constant self-denial. To follow a human standard of holiness, to perform the self-imposed task, to deny oneself the self-chosen number and kind of enjoyments, may involve a certain amount of hardship and pain; and the world has an admiring eye for this kind of saintliness. But what is it to the fight of faith? What to the task of presenting our bodiesour whole self, and that alwaysa living sacrifice unto God? What to the conflict, in which there is no intermission, to the aim of glorifying God which enters into the minutest detail of our life, whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do? What to the desire to walk in love, even as Christ loved us, to be imitators of God as dear children, to have the same mind in us which was in Christ? Let us study the epistles of the apostle Paul, and learn the solemn and awful character of the Christian life, warfare, and race; the constant need of watchfulness and concentration of energy; of diligence, self-restraint, and self-denial. But let us learn from them that it is a blessed and joyous thing to follow "the Holiness"; to abide in the light and love of God; to dwell in Him who is Light, and in whom is no darkness at all; who is Love, and who hath shed abroad His love in our hearts.
While we thus know the fountain of holiness, let us use with diligence and reverent humility the channels of divine blessing. God has given His word, that the man of God may be furnished thoroughly unto every good work. We are sanctified through the truth. The commandments of God, and the precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ, are to be our constant study, our inward delight, and our daily path. If we keep Christ's commandments, we abide in His love. The child of God regards all the commandments of God as channels of blessing, and of communion with the Father and the Son; as safeguards against the inroads of the enemy; as expressions of the divine love seeking our love. "Be ye holy, for I am holy," is the language of infinite love, which has chosen us to be His portion for evermore.
He who seeks the holiness, without which none shall see the Lord, must remember that our whole manbody, soul, and spiritis to be presented unblamable, that in all things we are to glorify God. Let us therefore have regard to all the commandments and warnings of the Word. Two dangers are here pointed out by the apostle, worldly lusts and profanity, or ungodliness.(17)
Believers still need such exhortations. The apostle writes to Timothy, faithful and spiritual as he was, "Flee youthful lusts." The epistles contain many direct and pointed warnings against different sins. No humble Christian will pass over these injunctions as unnecessary.
17. In verse 15, the apostle exhorts the congregation to remember their corporate responsibility for each member. They are to look diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God. An outward professor may be brought, through the loving care and zeal of the brethren, to true faith. But if this object is not attained, church-discipline is an important ordinance and duty, "designed by Christ Himself to prevent these contagious evils in churches" (Owen). The reference is to Deuteronomy 29:18. Out of such, as a root, spring bitter resultsa burden of guilt which oppresses and denies the whole congregation. Even when the bad example does not infect the rest, the guilt resting upon the Church, neglecting discipline, acts as defilement.
The character and history of Esau is a beacon. We know from Genesis 24:37, 27:46, and 28:1-6, that Esau had no appreciation of the divine blessing and promise. He was "profane"; that is, earthly-minded or ungodly. We are here told that Esau was also sunk in carnal ways. (This statement rests probably on tradition.) Yet the time came when he regretted that for a paltry gratification he forfeited his right. Afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected. For though he sought carefully with tears to change his father's mind (αυτην, that is, μετανοιαν), he found (in Isaac) no place for change of mind. This seems to be the meaning of tins difficult passage. Esau is never represented as an apostate, as one who professed and appeared to be a believer, and then fell away. So (apart from other reasons) the meaning of the apostle cannot be that Esau, as an apostate, was not able to find repentance. But we know that, notwithstanding his vehement and urgent entreaties, Isaac could not change his mind, or repent him of what he had done in conferring the blessing on Jacob, which God approved of. This explanation is adopted by Owen, and fully defended by Kurtz.
The child of God, separated by the blood of Jesus, and sanctified by the indwelling Spirit, has received from God the love of holiness. He has been made by grace partaker of the divine holiness, and his daily desire and aim is to realize his position, to live according to it, and to resist and overcome sin, the flesh, and the world. Amid many falls and failures, in fear and trembling, with tears and sighs, his soul followeth hard after God. But the Lord says, "Only be strong, and of a good courage." If our sincere desire is, Show me Thy glory! the Lord will declare unto us His name. If we wish to see God, our hearts, purified by faith, shall behold Him, and in the glory we shall see Him face to face. Living in the presence of God, he who loves and seeks holiness offers this prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Walking in the light (following peace and holiness), we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.
And as there is nothing here to discourage the weakest believer, so let the very knowledge that God's holy people in glory behold the Lord, preach glad tidings unto the sinner. What were the Corinthians whom the apostle Paul brings and espouses as a chaste virgin unto the heavenly Bridegroom? They were once sinners, transgressors, living far from God and His ways; but they are washed, they are sanctified, they are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Saints are sinners saved by grace. Having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, they walk by faith as strangers here, and shall behold the face of God in glory everlasting. Thus the future glory preaches present grace to all sinners.
Mount Sinai and Mount Zion
(Hebrews 12:18-29)18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.As to his epistle to the Romans the apostle had argued, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace"; so here he confirms his exhortation to follow peace and holiness by the assertion, "for ye are not come unto mount Sinai, but unto mount Zion."
Mount Sinai and mount Zion are contrasted, as in the epistle to the Galatians Hagar and Sara are contrasted. The contrast is very great, striking. and far-reaching.
The apostle speaks first of Sinai. He reminds us of seven things in connection with the giving of the law.(18)
The mount which, writing to Hebrews it was not necessary to name, is that "mount Sinai in Arabia, which gendereth to bondage." "The Lord descended upon it, and the whole mount quaked greatly" (Exo 19:18). There was fire also, that burned, symbolic of God's jealousy, and His holy anger against sin. We read also of blackness and darkness, the thick cloud upon the mount (Exo 19:16), and tempest; that is, thunders and lightnings on the third day in the morning. And more awful than the thunder was the sound of the trumpet, which sounded long and waxed louder and louder; and last of all, most solemn and more awful than the sound of thunder and the trumpet, the voice of words, "God spake all these words, saying," beginning, "I am the Lord thy God"; and ending, "Thou shalt not covet."
18. (1) The mount touched by God; (2) Fire; (3) Blackness of cloud; (4) Darkness; (5) Thunder; (6) The sound of a trumpet; (7) The voice of God.
The terrors of the majesty of God kept the people at a distance. Even Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, said, "I exceedingly fear and quake." Nothing can give us a more vivid impression of the awe and terror connected with the dispensation of mount Sinai than the significant fact, that even Moses, the chosen servant of God, and the mediator between God and the people, was not able to approach without fear and trembling. Nothing can show us more clearly that Moses was not the true mediator; that the true mediation by which the love of God is brought to us, and we are brought unto the holy God, is not through a sinful and finite man, but through Jesus, the holy Son of God.
We are not come to mount Sinai, but to mount Zion. Here are also mentioned seven great and solemn heavenly realities.
1. Mount Zion. Mount Sinai represents the law. It manifests the majesty of God above us as creatures, the wrath of God against us as sinners; it reveals to us God's judgment and our condemnation; it convinces us of our guilt and of our strengthlessness; it represents the state of fear and darkness, of distance and alienation from God. There is no true mediation; Moses and the angels minister, but cannot truly and fully bring God and man together. Here we are not children and heirs of salvation; here we are in bondage, and under condemnation. It is winter, without sunshine, without flower and fruit, without the song of birds, the melody of praise.
2. Mount Sinai has passed away. It was only temporary. God touched it, but did not abide there. There is another mount, even Zion. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Psa 132:13,14). Upon God's holy hill of Zion He hath set His King, even the Son. Mount Sinai represents the law, temporary and intermediate; mount Zion the Gospel, eternal and abiding; mount Sinai is connected with God's dealings with man according to responsibility; mount Zion with the eternal election of grace. The one is touched by God as it were for a moment; the other chosen to be His habitation. The one brings fear and terror; the other brings joy and peace, because God delights in it. In the one, the very Mediator trembles; in the other, God's own Son, crowned with glory and power, brings nigh His people, who approach "boldly" in the peace and joy of Christ.
Mount Zion represents the Gospel, but we know there is a real mount Zion, of which the earthly mount Zion was only a type. We read of mount Zion, the citadel of David, the King of Israel, the place of the sanctuary of God, the glory of Jerusalem, the city of peace, where David had assembled the godly of the land, whither the tribes of the Lord went up to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. We know that these earthly places symbolized the heavenly, true, and eternal Zion and Jerusalem. There is the throne of God and of the Lamb: we read of the holy city coming down out of heaven (Rev 21). Jesus is preparing a place for us. The earthly Zion and Jerusalem have also a glorious future; but we believers are now come to the true mount Zion, even to the throne of grace, to the Jerusalem above, the heavenly city, free and holy.
3. We have come to myriads of angels. This expression reminds us of what is written: "The Lord came with ten thousands of His holy ones" (Deut 33:2); and again, "Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Dan 7:10; comp. Rev 5:11). It is an innumerable multitude. The Lord is the Lord of hosts. While this thought fills us with awe, and helps us to realize the majesty and grandeur of the kingdom into which we have been brought, it also strengthens and gladdens the heart to think of so many bright and loving angels, who show forth God's glory, and who minister unto the heirs of salvation. When the thought of Satan and his legions brings fear, we ought to comfort ourselves with the assurance that more in number, and greater in power, and may we not also say nearer to our bodies and spirits (for they are in communion with the Lord), are the loving and watchful angels, who for Christ's sake regard us with the deepest interest and affection.(19)
The moment we came to Christ, He brought us unto all the angels, who rejoice in the salvation of sinners.
19. The Bible teaching on angels has not been sufficiently woven into our daily thought. According to the teaching of the Lord's Prayer, we should always remember "as it is in heaven."
4. We have also come to the general assembly of the Church of the first-born ones, whose names are written in the heavens. The term general assembly (πανηγυρις) implies not merely a great, but the full number. And this circumstance, that all the members are collected, gives the assembly a character of solemn and joyous festivity (Kurtz). The Church of the first-born ones, whose names are written in heaven, means evidently the New Testament believers who first trusted in Christ, who are the first-fruits unto God. As the priests in Israel represented the first-born, as Israel itself was called the first-born, and therefore the heir of the promise, so believers are chosen in Christ to be the first-born sons and heirs of the eternal inheritance.(20)
Their names are enrolled as citizens of heaven. Christ Himself is the First-born. In eternity He is the Only-begotten; with reference to creation He who is the image of the invisible God is the First-born of every creature (Col 1:15; Rev 3:14). Being thus the true First-born, His priesthood is perfect. After His death on the cross, as the First-begotten of the dead (Rev 1:5), He entered (strictly speaking) on His priesthood. Believers possess, by virtue of their union with Jesus, the rights and privileges of primogeniture. Their names are enrolled in the lists of the heavenly city (πολιτευμα); they all enjoy the same privilege of access, and the same hope of the inheritance. When we come to Jesus, we are admitted to communion with all the saints.
20. Compare Ephesians 1:12; James 1:18; Numbers 3:12, 13.
5. In this blessed city of God there is no condemnation, there is no more judgment. But there is order, rule, government, to which all render obedience with joy and praise. We are come to God, the Supreme Ruler and Governor, who will vindicate His people, falsely accused and unjustly oppressed, who will give unto each his true position and just reward, who at present upholds the persecuted and tried saints on earth. By "the spirits of just men made perfect," are meant the Old Testament saints. They have finished their course. The discipline of divine grace has accomplished in them the purpose of wisdom and love. Every believer is called from earth at the right, the appointed moment. The measure of sorrow and trial, experience and work, is then complete. Delivered from sin and the body of death, they enter at once into the more immediate and, need we say, conscious communion with God. They are "perfected," they have reached the end of the journey and conflict, and are free from sin. They are called "spirits," because they are still waiting for the resurrection. In one sense, they are not made perfect, "without us," till the second coming of Christ; in another sense, as there is no sowing, and working, and trading with the talent beyond the grave, they have reached their ultimate condition. The departed saints of the old dispensation are now with the Lord, in whom, as the coming Saviour, they trusted; and we are brought into union with them because (6) we have come to the "Mediator of the new covenant." He, God and man, is the One Mediator between God and sinners; and having removed all our guilt, and overcome all obstacles which separated us from God, Jesus brings now to His people that perfect peace and joy which He Himself possesses. The apostle calls the great and glorious divine Mediator by His greatest and sweetest nameJesus! In the Pauline epistles especially, the name of Jesus is frequently brought out as the name of greatest significance and consolation, as the name of the exalted Lord. The apostle seems to have been always hearing the Voice that said unto him, on that memorable day, "I am Jesus." This same Jesus, who died for us, is on the throne; and the blessings of the new covenant are in His pierced hands. Blessed are we, if by faith we always come to the Lord Jesus, and hear His voice: "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore"; when we see it is Jesus, our brother Joseph, who is now exalted a Prince and Saviour.
Lastly (the seventh link of this chain), we have come to the blood of sprinkling.(21)
21. (1) Mount Zion; (2) The heavenly Jerusalem; (3) The myriads of angels; (4) The Church of the First-born (The Judge, the God of all); (5) The spirits of just men; (6) The Mediator of the new covenant; (7) The blood.
The precious blood of Christ, which was shed in Golgotha, is sprinkled (using a symbol of the Old Testament sacrificial ordinances) on the conscience and heart, and sinners are thus justified and sanctified.(22)
We have frequently had occasion to notice in this epistle the special importance attached to the blood of Christ as distinguished from His death.(23)
22. Compare 9:13, 14, 10:22, 13:12.
When we believe in Jesus, then the blood of Christ is applied to us. It is a great and solemn transaction, spiritual and real in its character. Christ is set forth by God a propitiation, and faith beholds the blood of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary as a great reality. Abel's blood cried to heaven, and testified against his sinful brother; but the blood of the Lord Jesus, who was hated and killed by man because He was righteous, speaks more powerfully and effectively, securing our pardon and acceptance.(24)
23. Lecture 6.
24. Holding last the spiritual character of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ by which we are sanctified, we may ask: When the apostle says we have come to the Mediator of the new covenant, Jesus, and to the blood of sprinkling, when he teaches us that Jesus entered with His own blood into the holy of holies, or that God brought Jesus from the grave (into heaven) through (εν) the blood of the everlasting covenant, is the language merely figurative, reminding us that, because Christ shed His blood on the cross, He is now our High Priest and Mediator? or does he mean that the blood of Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary?
The latter view seems right for the following reasons: 1. According to the Old Testament type, the blood of the atonement, as we have already seen, pertains to the holy of holies. Jesus died outside the gate. Did He not fulfil the other part of the type, in which the high priest brought the blood into the most holy place? (9; 13:11, 12). 2. It is written that God will not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. The life is in the blood. The blood of our adorable Lord is called precious, it is contrasted with things that are corruptible, and compared with the "incorruptible" seed of the Word of God. 3. Our Lord distinguishes the body which is broken, and the blood which is shed. After His resurrection, speaking of His glorified body, He said, "It is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). He does not say "flesh and blood"; for "flesh and blood," coexisting as in our present condition, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50).
1 Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
This view is very fully defended by Bengel, Otinger, and more recently by Stier. Some of their inferences do not seem to me scriptural. Calvin and Goodwin use expressions which tend in the same realistic direction. It is better to take Scripture literally, even when we cannot fully understand or picture to ourselves the thing stated, than to have recourse to weakening the force of the inspired expressions.
In this grand contrast of seven things, as the first link of the series was the two mounts, Sinai and Zion, so the last link is the voice of God uttering the Ten Commandments, and the blood of Jesus speaking peace. In our actual experience, the last link comes first. When we behold the blood, we are delivered out of Egypt, and from the condemnation of the law. Jesus is the door and the way. The door comes first, and then the path. The door is an open door, when we see Christ crucified. By this open door we must enter. Then comes the narrow way, the life of obedience in communion with God. But there is no walking on the narrow way before we enter in at the strait gate. Jesus is Alpha. Until we believe in the blood of Christ, we are outside the gate, and do not even see the path. The path commences when you enter in at the strait gate. What a discovery it is to one who has known only mount Sinai and the ten commandments, to behold the Lamb of God and the blood of atonement! Convinced of sin, condemned as guilty, trembling before the majesty of the Holy God, and yet feeling that only in Him are blessedness and life for the immortal and God-created spirit, the heart looks up and sees nothing but thick darkness and clouds; it can discover no blue of loving heaven-speaking peace and hope; the mighty voice, louder than the trumpet-sound, is echoed in the conscience, and there is none to help. When to such a heart is brought the message of salvation by grace through a crucified Redeemer; when he hears of Jehovah-Tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness); of the Son of God, who was wounded for our transgressions,and bruised for our iniquities; when there is declared to him complete and immediate forgiveness according to divine justice and truth, the infinite and never-changing love of God in Christ Jesus, what peace and what joy enter the soul! what astonishment, gratitude, and adoration! How beautiful is the light of peace which proceeds from the Lamb! How glorious is the love of Him who in Christ is now the Father, the justifier of the guilty who believe in Jesus! How sweet is the welcome of the Church, into which the Spirit baptizes us! How near are the angels who rejoice with the Shepherd over His found sheep! How radiant with grace is the heavenly sanctuary! Do you know the contrast between mount Sinai and mount Zion?
But as our privilege, so our responsibility is much greater under the gospel-dispensation. See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. God came down from heaven to earth, and spoke on mount Sinai; Jesus ascended from earth to heaven, and speaks now to us from mount Zion (v 25). The character of the present dispensation and of gospel-speaking is heavenly (comp. John 3:31; 1 Peter 1:12). The heaven-descended God gave the law on Sinai. The heaven-ascended Son declares glad tidings from His throne of glory. The blood of Abel cried from earth to heaven for vengeance; the blood of the Lord Jesus speaks peace from heaven to earth. How can we escape if we neglect so great salvation?
Mount Sinai passed away, and the dispensation of the law has vanished; but Jesus is the Mediator of the new and everlasting covenant. Jesus speaking from heaven is God's most perfect and loving, as well as His ultimate message. Jesus is the first and the last; He shall come again and reign for evermore. Heaven and earth shall pass away; all things that can be shaken shall be removed; Jesus shall make all things new, and the saints who have learned on earth the new song of eternal redemption shall rejoice in Him for ever. How can we escape if we neglect the eternal salvation?
How solemn is it to hear the message proceeding from Him who is exalted above all heavens: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken." To listen to the voice of the eternal Word, the Only-begotten of the Father, who declares to us the salvation-will of God, the counsel of eternal loveis most solemn and awful. It is the greatest and most sublime message. It is the sweetest message; for the salvation it declares has its source in electing love, its channel is the sacrifice of Christ, and its end in the glory, even the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the ultimate and everlasting revelation of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away; this present world shall vanish; but the word of Christ, the word of the gospel, shall abide for evermore.
The blessed gospel reveals to us God our Father in Jesus, and therefore perfect peace; it reveals also the inheritance of glory, and therefore a lively hope for the future. This peace and hope are full of solemnity, we therefore serve God acceptably and with godly fear; for we know that our God is a consuming fire (v 29).
Before we are brought to Christ, we know there is a spiritual world as well as a world to come. Conscience testifies, and the heart believes, that beside the outer world, there is the true and spiritual world; in which God is the great Centre, Lord, and Judge, and that our true and real life depends on our relation to God Most High, whether we are with Him and in His favour, or whether God is against us, and we are far from Him.
We know also the future world. From earliest childhood we know that life is short, that all flesh is grass, that the flower fadeth, that the dearest and sweetest tie of earth must be broken, that the world passeth away, that it is appointed unto man to die. When we have scarcely a past to remember, when we have only emerged out of the mysterious morning-land of infancy, we already look forward to a boundless, never-ending future; for God has written eternity in the human heart. When the child of man stands thus before God, not daring to lift up his eye unto the high and holy heaven; when God is above and against him; when he is convinced of sin, and yet thirsteth after the living God; and when he knows he is hastening to eternity on the wings of inexorable timethen out of the highest sanctuary, high above the clouds of Sinai, high above all created heights, comes forth the voice of the gospel, majestic and sweet, full of authority and grace, bringing light and love, "I am Jesus." In this gospel we hear that all that separated the heart from God, all that prevented the heart from breathing the atmosphere of divine life and love, is removed, and that according to the perfections of God. And now that sin, the condemnation of the law, the wrath of God, the sting of death, and the power of Satan are taken out of the way, the heart looks up to the Father and to Jesusit looks forward to the Bridegroom's return and the glory.
What else can we say to such a gift, but thanks! glory to God! Now we believe, and trust in God. Faith towards God (fiducia) never was in our hearts till Jesus came revealing the Father's love and His grace. Faith is the daughter of revelation, the echo of the divine voice, the reflection of the manifestation of Christ to the soul.
In Christ, whom God hath appointed heir of all things, we have also the promise of the inheritance. The object of God's eternal purpose was the new, eternal, holy, and perfect world, which can never be moved; the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. They who trust in Jesus have received in Him the kingdom which cannot be moved. The apostle speaks now of this eternal and immovable kingdom as our great and immediate prospect; having such a promise, we are without excuse if we refuse to listen to the Lord in heaven (vv 25-29).
The prophet Haggai, whom the apostle quotes, comforted his people, who in troublous times, in the day of small things, were cast down. The glory of Solomon's temple was remembered by the aged, and the present seemed to be a time of weakness and trial. Then the prophet announces that the second temple would excel the first in glory, that David's house would be exalted. But before this kingdom is established, and this glory manifested, the whole world of nations will be shaken, and mighty signs of divine judgment and power will be seen throughout the realm of creation. "I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come." This catastrophe, crisis in the world's history, hope of the godly, reminds the prophets of the awful signs and wonders and voices at the exodus and the giving of the law. God shall again appear with all His saints. All His enemies shall be subdued, and Jehovah be King of the whole earth.
From this prophecy the apostle infers that the things that will be shaken will be removed, in order that there may be established that which is to be abiding. In other words, that the kingdom will be established which, according to the prophetic word, is to take the place of the powers and kingdoms of the world (Dan 2:7); that the age will commence in which the name of the Lord alone shall be exalted, after all that is proud and lofty has been abased (Isa 2).(25)
25. "In the prophetic word the final manifestation of Jehovah is compared with the redemption out of Egypt, and the descent on mount Sinai (Micah 7:15; Hab 3). What the LXX render yet once more means, that between the prophet's time and the final catastrophe is only one period; that is, one uniform period, possessing the same character; and that this period will be short." (Condensed from Delitzsch.) The dealings of God with Israel in Egypt and on mount Sinai form the beginning and type of that final manifestation of Jehovah in judgment on His enemies and in grace to His people, in the establishment of the theocracy (Christocracy), of which Haggai prophesies. Hence the apostle's quotation, "yet once more," gives the true meaning of the passage. Only one other great crisis, and then the final change of things that can be shaken and moved into the enduring and abiding kingdom, which was the purpose of God from the beginning.
Let us therefore have and show gratitude for God's unspeakable gift. If Jesus is ours, need we, can we, covet anything?(26)
If the kingdom is ours, are we not separated from this present evil world? Let us serve God acceptably with reverence and fear.
26. Compare the first word, "I am the Lord thy God," and the last commandment, "Thou shall not covet."
For our God, God in Christ, is a consuming fire. In Jesus we behold the holy, righteous, jealous God. We trust and rejoice, but it is with solemn awe, with godly fear. We have been brought nigh to God; we live in the presence of the Most High. The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all that is within us keep silence before Him. Let us worship and serve as priests, the first-born sons who are separated by the blood of the covenant, and by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; as kings who do not suffer sin to have dominion over them, and even in this present time of weakness and suffering live in the spirit of the future glory. "Our God is a consuming fire," perfect light, perfect love. In the everlasting covenant He is the Lord our God, who hath chosen us to be His, entirely and for ever.
Exhortations and Benedictions of the Apostle Paul
(Hebrews 13:1-16)1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. 10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.The argument and exhortation of the apostle seem to have reached their solemn and impressive conclusion in the twelfth chapter, especially in the heart-searching words of the last verse: "For our God is a consuming fire." But, as we find in other Pauline epistles,(27)
that after the apparent conclusion of the doctrinal and practical portion, the apostle adds isolated concise counsels, injunctions and benedictions, so also here. As if the apostle could not separate himself either from the theme or the people, so dear to his heart, and as if he felt that he had still much to communicate out of his abundant treasure of knowledge and love.
27. Compare in Romans, first conclusion, Romans 15:33; second, Romans 16:24; and third, 27.
But this concluding chapter possesses a special interest and value, because we seem to see more distinctly the writer's individuality, and his personal relation to the Hebrews. As we read the chapter, in which many Pauline peculiarities occur, and in which we meet for the first time in this epistle the personal pronoun "I," we see more clearly the beloved countenance of the apostle, and feel more confirmed that we have been listening to the well-known voice of the chosen witness to "the Gentiles, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15).
Verses 1-3. "Let brotherly love (φιλαδελφια) continue." The intimate connection between love to God and love to the brethren, is constantly pointed out both by the Lord Himself and in the apostolic writings. In the epistles of John, this seems almost the central thought.
"Love never ceaseth"; and as the Hebrews had just been reminded that the things that are made shall be shaken and removed, they are now exhorted to let that abide which is of God, which is eternal, even love. Even prophecies, tongues, and knowledge shall vanish; but love never faileth. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us" (1 John 4:12). Love to the brethren is always represented as the first indication and fruit of the new life (1 John 5:1; Acts 16:33) as well as the final aim and result of divine grace.
The Hebrews had given striking proof that they possessed this mark of Christ's disciples, and the apostle had commended them for their love, their sympathy, and their compassionate and helpful charity (6:10, 10:33). Like the divine Master, he connects exhortation with commendation. We must watch and cherish the gifts of grace which we have received. Love to the brethren manifests itself specially in sympathy with the afflicted. "Whether one member suffer, all the members of the body suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26). The children of God are to resemble their heavenly Father, who is a lover of the stranger (Deut 10:18,19). In showing hospitality they are often rewarded by receiving messengers of divine truth and blessing. The disciples of Jesus are to remember with sympathy and intercession their brethren in adversity; as long as we are in the body we may all be called to suffer, and the fellow-heirs of glory ought to abound in kindness and tenderness towards those who are counted worthy to endure affliction and persecution. It is one of our privileges on earth to weep with them that weep, and to comfort and help the Master Himself in succouring His tried and fainting disciples. Thus also shall we retain the spirit of strangers and pilgrims, whose home is above.
The next exhortations have reference to earthly life in two important aspects. First, as to marriage. It was instituted by God in Paradise before the fall, it was irradiated by the presence and blessing of Jesus at Cana, it is invested in Scripture with a sacredness most solemn and tender, for it is used as a symbol of the relation between Jehovah and His people, between Jesus and the Church. Let marriage then be regarded as honourable by all. Some are not called in providence to enter into this state; some, like the apostle Paul, voluntarily choose a single life, that they may serve God more freely; but let all regard this relation, as appointed by God, holy and full of blessing. And where the sacred character of marriage and of the family is recognised and felt, the result will be purity. All sins of impurity are sins against His holy ordinance of marriage, and against the divine institution of the family. God Himself will judge those who violate this fundamental law of His goodness.
Secondly, as regards the occupation whereby we earn our livelihood. Covetousness is idolatry; the love of money(28)
is the root of all evil. Jesus commands us, not to lay up treasure on earth, because our heart is where our treasure is. He does not merely forbid us to set our affection on earthly treasure, but to cut off the possibility of such heart-estrangement from God by not aiming at the accumulation of wealth. And as in the sermon on the mount, so here, covetousness is viewed as connected with a lack of faith in the living God; for God Himself (in the Scripture) hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Deut 31:6-8; 1 Chron 28:20; and often in Isaiah). The first expression assures us that God will never withdraw His guiding hand; the second, that He will never withdraw His protecting presence (Kurtz). Having God's gracious and considerate promise, may we not, like David, say with a soothed and quiet heart, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me" (Psa 118:6).
28 αφιλαργυρος. Compare 1 Timothy 3:3, 6:10.
Our earthly life will be full of peace and contentment, of light and strength, though not without the needed difficulties and chastenings, if we obey these apostolic injunctions; if we cherish love to the brethren, and a sympathetic, considerate, and helpful spirit towards the suffering and needy; if we cultivate family affection and communion; and if we keep ourselves free from the feverish race for riches and worldly distinction, and learn to be content with such things as we have, eating our meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Have we not "enough" for the journey? When we reach home, and Jesus asks us, "Did you ever lack anything?" what will our answer be?
Having warned them against the dangers of selfishness, fleshly lusts, and covetousness, the apostle proceeds to warn them against the dangers threatening their faith and loyalty to Christ. He reminds them of the guides, the teachers and rulers, which God had given to themmen who laboured in the ministry of the Word, had sealed their testimony in their death (v. 7.) Some have thought the reference is pre-eminently to martyrs like Stephen. But all their departed teachers and elders had shown them in life and death what they had declared by their word: the just shall live by faith. They had passed away; but the great Prophet, the great Apostle and High Priest, the true Shepherd, remainedJesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. He is the only foundation, and His the only name. The heart finds rest in thinking of Him, the Rock of ages, the eternal, unchanging Son of God, our Lord, Saviour, and Mediator.
Of this inexhaustible verse, let us only indicate a few aspects for meditation. We contemplate here the Son of God as the Christ, set up from all eternity in the divine counsel. We behold Him as incarnate, God and man, two natures in one person. By a bold anticipation, not more bold than true, we call Him Jesus Christ even before His advent (comp. Phil 2:5). He is eternal, and yet He has a yesterday, to-day, and an endless future. His "yesterday" has no beginning, but it ends with His burial in that new tomb. His "to-day" commences with His resurrection, and is even nowthis acceptable year of the Lord, the gospel dispensationthe "to-day "while we hear the voice of grace. His "for ever" commences with His second advent. His dominion is everlasting. And throughout He is the same. From all eternity He is the Lover of our souls, the Friend of sinners, the Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator; His incarnation is only the manifestation of the mind that was in Him from all eternity. Let us adore, and adoring, let us love and rejoice. Let us adore Jesus as our apostle did, when he, in this very epistle, applied to Jesus the words: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth"; and, with the beloved disciple, let us hear the voice of Jesus in heaven, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8).(29)
And thus beholding the glory, let us also behold the love, divine and brotherly, of the Lord Jesus, the Saviour, as Christ, Prophet, Priest, and King. Time's waves and billows cannot move our Rock; we are but as grass, and as a flower of the field, but the eternal mercy, without beginning and without end, is upon us (Psa 103).
29. The same expressions which we read in the prophet Isaiah of Jehovah, "He is First and Last," Α and Ω; there are many intermediate letters, and some of them rebellious ones, that assert themselves. But He alone abideth.BENGEL
This is the sure foundation on which we are to build. The heart can only be established on this Rock, and only by grace (v 9); for by grace (not by works) we were built on the stone which God laid in Zion; and only by grace, continually received by faith, we continue. The various Jewish laws (teaching both complicated and foreign from the gospel ποικιλαις και ξεναις) concerning eating and drinking, whether it refers to daily ordinary life, or to the sacrificial meals, stand in no connection with the life and growth of faith. For, as the type already taught, of that sacrifice which was offered up as an atonement for sin, only the blood was brought unto the most holy; the bodies were burnt outside the camp (Lev 6:36). The meat of other sin-offerings had to be eaten by the priests in the holy place ("it is most holy"); but the sin-offering for atonement was to be carried forth without the camp. The priests were forbidden to eat of it (Lev 16:27; comp. Lev 6:25, 26).
In the fulfillment Jesus suffered without the gate. The beloved city, Jerusalem, is viewed as the camp. Our Lord was crucified and buried outside the tent and the camp. In the type the sacrifice was slain in the outer court, and the body burnt outside the camp. In the fulfillment the idea is carried out even more fully. Jesus was the sin-offering. God made Him to be "sin" for us. He was numbered with the transgressors. To the eye of the world and of the unbelieving Jews, He was a transgressor dying on the accursed tree.
By His precious blood, with which He entered the most holy, He has sanctified us. Here also the fulfillment is beyond the type. The blood is brought into the heavenly sanctuary, and we are separated unto God, and perfected for ever.
We who believe possess therefore the true altar.(30)
Of the type of this altar they who serve the tabernacle were not allowed to eat. But the reality is hid from them. By faith we behold it, and our hearts are established.
30. Verse 10 has had a great variety of interpretations, and offers many difficulties. εχομεν can, I think, refer only to believers. The expression have is emphatic in this epistle. θυσιαστηριον, altar, does not refer to the actual cross, of which it cannot be said that we have it, but to Christ Himself, as the sin-offering. As Owen remarks, that which the apostle throughout opposes unto all the utensils, services, and sacrifices of the tabernacle, is Christ alone. So here Christ is both sacrifice and altar, and by Him we offer the sacrifice of praise and good works. "They that serve the tabernacle." The Levitical priests (tabernacle is always used for temple) had no right to eat of the typical sin-offering of atonement, and in their ignorance of Christ and unbelief they did not know the true altar.
The connection of thought seems to be: Do not think of the meat of the temple altar; look to Christ in heaven, in order that your heart may be established. He is our altar and sacrifice. Even in the type there was no eating connected with the sin-offering for atonement. Now Christ has sanctified you, and brought you nigh unto God. And this very position calls on you to go outside the camp and bear the reproach of Christ, to separate yourself from that which is waxing old.
The thought lies very near, that in the fulfillment Christ gives us His body, which is meat indeed; and His blood, which is drink indeed. This however is connected with the Passover, which is the most comprehensive sacrificial type, and does not fall, we think, within the scope of the apostle's present argument.
But our position, while it is heavenly with Christ, is here upon earth outside the camp. If with Jesus we have entered into the holy of holies, let us also go unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. We must be separate from all that is against Christ, from all that beguiles men from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus, and substitutes forms and outward legal observances for the body, the substance. In proportion as our worship, our affections, our aims are heavenly, as we seek the future and continuing city, we must expect to bear the reproach of Christ. For the "cross" of Christ will always be "outside the camp." True faith in Jesus will never, in this dispensation, be according to the spirit and taste of the world. Spiritual worship will always be an enigma to the world, and its aversion.
But we have Jesus; and by Him we draw near as priests, and with sacrifices well-pleasing to the Father (v 15). We now worship the Father offering unto God praise, and bringing unto Him gifts with cheerful and thankful hearts. Praise and gifts are the sacrifices of the Christian. Nor must we forget that while there is nothing meritorious in our offerings, yet the praise of our lips, if it proceeds from the heart, and is confirmed by our lives, and the offering of our gifts, be it out of our affluence or poverty, be it the word of sympathy or the sacrifice of time and talent, are pleasing to God. So the apostle says here, "With such sacrifices God is well pleased"; and the apostle Peter, speaking of the same spiritual sacrifices, calls them "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Again, when alluding to the gift of money sent by the Philippians, Paul says, "The things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, \ well-pleasing to God." Let not a one-sided view of justification by faith, or our latent sloth and selfishness deprive us of this most comforting and stimulating teaching of Scripture, that both our words and works, our praise-worship and our offerings and ministry to the poor and the house of God, are regarded by God with delight, and accepted by Him; that thus praise and works have a substantive importance, not merely as evidencing our faith, but as actual sacrifices offered through Jesus, and accepted sacrifices with which the Lord is pleased.
When God has taken away all our iniquity, and has received us graciously, then, to use the significant expression of the prophet Hosea, "we render the calves of our lips." Song is but the outward expression of the inner praise, and of the general confession of Christ in word and life.
The first song of praise is recorded in Exodus; for it is redemption, which brings praise. In Paradise man was able to sing unto God, the Creator, and with the angels ascribe glory and thanksgiving unto the Lord. But after the fall, sinners could only praise through redeeming grace. In Egypt, the house of bondage, were heard tearful sighs and earnest supplications; on the great night of the Paschal lamb Israel waited in solemn and awe-filled silence; at the Red Sea the cry of anguish unuttered rose up from the heart of Moses; but at last came completed redemption. The Red Sea separated Israel from Egypt; old things had passed away; and "then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously."
This is our song: "Christ our passover was slain, Christ our Lord is risen again." On this God-made day may we indeed rejoice and be glad (Psa 118). For He who died for us, liveth now for evermore.
It is good to give thanks unto God; to behold the beauty of the Lord; to rejoice in Him, our unchanging, faithful, and ever-blessed God. This thankfulness is an offering unto the Lord. He is pleased with it. Jesus still asks: Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Jesus loves to hear the voice of melody. Seven times a day, constantly, let us praise God.
The heart that praises God is delivered from anxious care and self-centred gloom. The heart that praises God is like the temple filled with God's glory (1 Chron 22:5). Praise is heaven anticipated; in praise we even now join angels and perfected saints.
How much did the apostle Paul abound in praise! His epistles are full of thanksgivingof doxologies. His heart was always giving thanks, and ascribing glory. Think only of this man, who, like his divine Master, was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. From the hour that Jesus appeared to him, from those three days of awful, intense soul-dealings with God, in which his whole past life, righteousness, strength, were taken from him, and through dying to the law he became alive unto God, what was his whole earthly career but taking up the cross, and following Jesus? Hated by Israel, whom he loved so profoundly; persecuted, derided, imprisoned, and scourged; in poverty, in toil, in danger by land and sea; with the burden of all the churches upon his priestly heart; suspected by Jewish Christians, grieved and hindered by schismatic and self-willed disciples; without the solace of wife or child; going from city to city with this only certainty, that bonds and afflictions awaited him everywherecan you picture to yourself this man of prayer, of vigil, of tears, of heart-breathed intercessions for unbelieving Israel, and for unfaithful Christians; this lonely, suffering man, with his burning soul, with his toil-worn frame, with his body bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus, with all the world against him, and with the martyr's death before him? Oh, then, see that in all this he was constantly offering the sacrifice of praise! (Phil 2:17, 4:4) In his heart is melody; he finishes his course with joy; and out of the overflowing thankfulness of his soul he writes to all the Christian churches, "Rejoice in the Lord: and again I say, Rejoice!"
Learn from him to offer up the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.
We praise God in declaring His name. The preacher's petition is: "Open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise." I praise God when I preach Jesus, the Saviour of the sinner, the High Priest, example and joy of the saint.(31)
To confess and to praise is the privilege of God's people, to show to the world that we are at peace, that we rejoice, that heaven is our home even now, that in sorrow and prosperity God is our song. We are to praise God always. When Christians are in deep sorrow, and when they are called to endure great trials, it is often given unto them to rejoice in God, and to praise Him who is good, and whose mercy endureth for ever. Many of David's most jubilant songs were written in hours of persecution and distress. The Christians who are most deficient in praise are not the suffering, poor, bed-ridden, and afflicted; but those whose earthly path is smooth and easy, who fall into a languid and dull routine, whose hearts become forgetful of the Lord and His marvellous love.
31. Some churches are reproached for being preaching, and not praying churches. Let us remember that true spiritual preaching is also praising God, and declaring His name.
A joyous heart is also a generous heart. When we praise the Lord, the bountiful giver, and thank Him for the gifts of His gracegifts so undeserved, precious, and abundantour hearts will be liberal. We shall not forget to do good and to communicate; rather shall we be anxious to discover the good works ordained for us, that we may walk in them, to find out the poor and needy, the lowly and afflicted members of Christ, that we may help and cheer them.
With such sacrifices God is well pleased. He beholds in them our gratitude and love, a manifestation of the Spirit of His own Son, who for our sakes became poor. When we "abound" in this grace also (2 Cor 8:7), the blessing of God on our souls will descend plentifully, and we shall reap an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit.
Let us study and imitate the example of the first congregation at Jerusalem. They were filled with the Spirit, they rejoiced and praised, they did not suffer any member to lack. And thus they found favour with the people, and the beauty of the Lord was upon them; and the Lord added to the Church daily (Acts 2:44-47). Study the exhortation to the grace of liberality given by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians; so urgent, so loving, so full of the gospel. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift" (2 Cor 8 and 9) is"the conclusion as well as the foundation and the centre of his admonition.
The sacrifice of praise and of good works can only be offered "by Christ." As all the offerings of the old dispensation rested on the atonement, through the sacrifice for sin, as the necessary foundation, so it is only the forgiven children of God who offer now the sacrifice of praise, confessing the name of Christ, and declaring His truth; who by ministering unto the saints, by doing good to all men, by helping the mission-work of the Church, bring thank-offerings to God. And as both these sacrifices rest on the one and only sacrifice of Christ, and proceed out of a renewed heart; as both the praise and the works are fruits of the Spirit, brought forth by the living branches, so it is by Christ's intercession they ascend unto the Father, and are well-pleasing unto Him.
Exhortations and Benedictions of the Apostle PaulContinued.
(Hebrews 13:17-25)17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. 18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. 19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. 23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 25 Grace be with you all. Amen. Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy.Teachers and rulers(32)
are again recognized, and the Hebrews are exhorted to obey them, and to yield themselves to their teaching and rule, to adapt themselves to their peculiarities, and to carry out their wishes and arrangements with a willing mind; for therein God is honoured, and the welfare of the congregation promoted. Ministers watch for your souls as they that must give account of their stewardship. Their responsibility towards God is great; their labour towards you is incessant and anxious. You may well meet them with confidence and a plastic mind, trusting that their counsels are the result of thought, prayer, and experience. Nothing discourages a minister more than the want of response on the part of Christians to his advice, entreaty, and plans. He returns from his work to God, not with joy, but with sighs and tears, with complaints and grief. "This is unprofitable for the people." They only hinder and retard the blessing which would otherwise come to their hearts, homes, and neighbourhood.
32. Verses 7 and 17 show that there was a stated ministry, that there were recognised and regular teachers and pastors in the congregation, whose gifts not only, but whose office was acknowledged.
"Pray for us." This is eminently Pauline. No other apostle writes thus, requesting the intercession of the Church (Rom 15:30; Eph 6:19; Col 4:3; Phil 22; 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 3:1). It is very instructive and touching to notice how constantly and earnestly the apostle asks the Churches to pray for him, that utterance may be given him; that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified; that he may be preserved amidst the persecution of unbelievers; that he may be restored to the brethren. He who laboured more than the other apostles, and who was endowed with so many gifts, seems to have had the greatest craving for sympathy, for affection, for communion, and the most vivid conviction that God only giveth the increase; that it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Of all the apostles, Paul was the most affectionate, the most tender-hearted, the most brotherly, fatherly, motherly. "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." And none was more willing to be nothing, nay, to be accounted as the offscouring of the earth, that Christ alone may be exalted. The reference to "a good conscience" is very touching. His whole apostolic life is the comment. His farewell address to the elders of Ephesus, while it reveals his "tears" as the characteristic feature of his ministry, also discloses the high standard of integrity, unselfishness, and blamelessness, at which, in common with Joshua and Samuel, he constantly aimed.
He asks specially prayer for himself, that he may be "restored to them the sooner." From this expression it is evident that he had been with them at some former period, that he wishes and intends to go to them again, but that this depends on circumstances, which may either retard or expedite his return. He requests their prayers that he may be set free.
Verses 20, 21. The apostle concludes with a benediction, very comprehensive, and in a manner a summary of the whole epistle.
"The God of peace" is likewise a Pauline expression. It does not occur in any other book of the New Testament. In the Pauline epistles we meet with it frequently (1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 3:16; 2 Cor 13:11; Rom 15:33, 16:20; Phil 4:9).
1. The Author of peace.
From all eternity God purposed in Himself the counsel of peace; and when by reason of sin, discord and misery came into the world, the Lord always comforted His people by the promise of redemption, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." In the fulness of time came Jesus, the Peace-maker, and He declared the love of God, and preached the acceptable year of the Lord; and when the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, the Father made peace through the blood of His cross. Jesus Himself is our peace; but it is the God of peace who gave Jesus, and who by His atonement made peace, and reconciled all things to Himself. For all things are of God; of Him are we in Christ Jesus, and of Him Jesus is made unto us all in all. The Spirit leads us to see in and through a crucified and exalted Redeemer the God of peace.
Peace means not merely calmness and rest of conscience and heart, based on the righteousness ot God, but it means also restoration to health and well-being; or rather, since in Christ God makes all things new, not a restoration to Adam's state of innocence, but the creating us anew after His image. This seems to be the reason, why the title God of peace is connected by the apostle with our sanctification, our being made like unto Jesus: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"; and likewise in our passage, "The God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do His will." The God of peace can have no other purpose than our perfect blessedness and glory, that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. This purpose is fulfilled in Jesus, and through His precious blood. Our peace is complete the moment we believe in Jesus; our peace is consummated when we are presented unto the Father at the coming of our Lord. In like manner we are still looking forward to our salvation and our adoption (1 Peter 1:5,9; Rom 8:23).
2. Jesus the channel of peace.
Our Lord Jesus was the Paschal Lamb on Calvary. From that moment our peace was purchased, and we were identified with the substitute. Now the Lamb that was slain is also the good Shepherd, that laid down His life for the sheep; He is not merely the good, true, genuine Shepherd; He is also the great Shepherd, the mighty, sublime, the only one, who leads the flock out of the grave to the heavenly glory. He is here contrasted with Moses. "Then He remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the Shepherd of the flock? (Isa 63:11) We read also, "By the blood of thy covenant have I sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water" (Zech 9:11). God brought Him not merely again, but up even into heaven. For Jesus returned not to the days of His humiliation and flesh; He was glorified, and He ascended high above all heavens, that He might fill all things. It is God who raised and exalted Him, and us with Him; God has thereby made peace and perfection.
3. God works in us.
Have we thus risen to the thought of the God of peace, the Redeemer, the Restorer, who through the sufferings of Jesus, and by His blood, delivered us from all evil, and has raised us together with Christ, unto a new, spiritual, and endless life, then we can understand the benediction, that God should work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are humbled by the sense of our trangessions, of our sins of ignorance and omission, and above all of the sinfulness of our old nature. Let us be exalted by the grace of God. True we groan in this tabernacle, being burdened, but we rejoice in God. The Lord works in us. He gives good desires, true petitions, living words and works. He prepares us for the work in time, as He prepared the work for us in eternity. He works in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight, for what is born of the Spirit is Spirit. The cup of cold water given to a disciple, the gift of gratitude and kindness sent to Paul, the visit of Onesiphorus to the prisoner, the word spoken in season to the thoughtless or the afflicted, the affection and training given to our children, the disciplined walk at home and in the world, the faithful and diligent discharge of duty in our earthly callingall is begun in us, carried out and finished by the grace of God, by His holy Spirit, and it is well-pleasing in His sight. Conscious as we must be of our failures and sins, let us rejoice in the mercy of our heavenly Father. He regards all Spirit-wrought words, feelings, and works with delight.
And all is wrought through Jesus Christ. For He is our life and strength. Only abiding in Him can the branches live and bear fruit. The spirit in us is not a substitute for Christ, but the connecting-link between the Lord and us. Thus the divine energy within us acts simply through our faith in Jesus. Lean then on Jesus, and you will conquer sin. Trust in Him, and your strength will be renewed. Look with the eye of faith to the Lord, and you will receive not merely the commandment, but the spirit and the power to obey it; you will not merely see the example, but be conformed to His image.
The apostle describes his epistle as the word of exhortation (v 22). For his object throughout was to exhort the Hebrews to continue stedfast; to consider the great Apostle and High Priest of their profession; to live by faith; to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Scripture exhortation is based on doctrine, or rather on the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. All Scripture teaching is practical, and only Scripture teaching is practical, because godliness can result only from beholding, believing, and loving God in Christ. The whole Scripture is given us that we may be furnished unto every good work, strengthened for every duty, and fortified against all temptation. No doctrine is rightly understood unless it appeals to conscience and heart; unless it affects our walk and conversation. To separate life from doctrine is to separate life from the revelation of God, from Christ; and is not He our life?
But this word of exhortation, as it comes out of the bright atmosphere of truth, so it comes out of the genial atmosphere of affection. As in the epistle to the Romans, the messenger of God does not command, but beseech; the very mercies of God are the heart-constraining motive and the sustaining strength of obedience.
The apostle asks a favourable and loving reception of His word. In the epistle to the Romans the great apostle, in that spirit of humility and meekness which characterized him, writes in like manner: "Nevertheless, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God." He calls the exhortation short, "in few words"; not with reference to the length of the letter, but to the proportion between the length of the epistle and the comprehensive and sublime subject of which it treats. It was necessary to bring the whole subject of the heavenly high-priesthood before them; and this vast and grand subject he endeavoured to put before them briefly, so as not to tax their patience too severely.
Verses 22-25. With the benediction the epistle is concluded, just as in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The epistolary form has been gradually adopted. The concluding verses are quite in the form of a letter. The apostle uses the first person singular, and addresses his readers quite personally.
Verse 23. He cheers them with the news that Timothy (whom he loved so dearly, and to whom he likes to refer in his epistles) had obtained again liberty. With him, if he comes shortly, he hopes to see them. The apostle, it seems, had already left Rome, and was anxious to start on his journey from Italy to the readers of this epistle. He sends them salutations from the brethren in Italy.
Verse 24. The apostles, and especially Paul, address their epistles rather to the people than the teachers and elders (Phil 1:1) including women, children, servants, young people, they write to all (Eph 5:22; 1 John 2:18; 2 John 1: 1 Peter 3:8, 5:5). Paul sends a message to Archippus by the Colossians (4:17). So here. "This epistle, containing strong meat for the perfect, is addressed to the whole congregation. If any part of Scripture was to be kept from the common people, we might fancy it would be this epistle. The writings of the apostles, as well as the prophets, were read in the public assembly, how much more ought it now to be left to every one to read them according to his need?" (Bengel)
The concluding benediction, "Grace be with you all," is common to all the (thirteen) epistles of the apostle Paul. "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (2 Thess 3:17,18). The expressions are sometimes slightly varied; but the substance of all his subscription is the same: "Grace be with you all." Now when the apostle mentions, as a token whereby an epistle might be known as his, this concluding benediction, and not the fact that his name is prefixed at the commencement; and when we observe that the epistles of Peter, of John, of James, and of Jude conclude with words entirely different,(33)
may we not regard this as an additional confirmation of the Pauline authorship of our book?
33. Entirely different. Take the trouble to compare James 5:20; 1 Peter 5:14; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:21; 2 John 13; 3 John 14; Jude 25. Is this accidental?
"Grace be with you all. Amen."
This is the most comprehensive, the best, the sweetest wish. Grace bringeth salvation. Grace contains all things pertaining to life and godliness. By grace we have been saved; by grace we stand; in grace we rejoice, and grace will end in glory. May the free, unmerited, boundless, all-sufficient love of the Father in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the blood of the everlasting covenant, shed for the redemption of guilty and helpless sinners, be with us through the power of the Holy Ghost. By Jesus, and in Jesus, we say Amen. For He is the Amen, in whom all the promises of God are sealed.
"The atoning work is done,
The Victim's blood is shed,
And Jesus now is gone
His people's cause to plead;
He stands in heaven their great High Priest,
And bears their names upon His breast
"No temple made with hands
His place of service is;
In heaven itself He stands,
A heavenly priesthood His:
In Him the shadows of the law
Are all fulfilled, and now withdraw.
"And though awhile He be
Hid from the eyes of men,
His people look to see
Their great High Priest again:
In brightest glory He will come,
And take His waiting people home."
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Copyright © 2008 JCR