Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
appreciate, and appropriate to his unspeakable advantage the thoughts of God concerning him. He is under obligations to do so. Man's attitude towards the communications of God should be that of devout attention and earnest investigation. Our text teaches that God's revelation of redemptive truth to man -
I. WAS MADE THROUGH MAN. "God... spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets;" Revised Version, "in the prophets." The prophets were not simply predictors of future events; the word is applied to the sacred lawgiver, historians, poets, etc. God spake in them and through them to the fathers. "It was the very condition of the prophet's inspiration," says Robertson, "that he should be one with the people. So far from making him superhuman, it made him more man. He felt with more exquisite sensitiveness all that belongs to man, else he could not have been a prophet. His insight into things was the result of that very weakness, sensitiveness, and susceptibility so tremblingly alive. He burned with their thoughts, and expressed them. He was obliged by the very sensitiveness of his humanity to have a more entire dependence and a more perfect sympathy than other men He was me, re man, just because more Divine - more a Son of man, because more a Son of God."
II. WAS MADE GRADUALLY. "At sundry times;" Revised Version, "by divers portions." The revelation was given piecemeal, by fragments, in and by various persons, and in different ages. Very gradual was the revelation of redemptive truth to man. God's first communication (Genesis 3:15) was like the evening star, serene and solitary; the fuller communications of the patriarchal age were like the starry hosts of night; the revelations made to Moses were like the light of the fair and full-orbed moon, in which that of the stars is lost; and those made by succeeding prophets were like the dawn of the day, when the moon grows pale and dim; and the supreme revelation was like the radiance of the sun shining in noontide splendor. This gradualness of revelation may be seen in many things, e.g.:
1. The character of God. Very gradual was the unfolding of the nature and character of the Divine Being to man. The measure of the revelation was adapted to the measure of the human capacity. Jesus, the Son, revealed the essence and heart of the Father. "God is a Spirit." Parable of the prodigal son. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
2. The salvation of man and its method.
4. The immortality of man. We find in the Bible longings for immortality, inquiries after it, hints concerning it, anticipations of it, but not until the final revelation in Christ was it brought into clear and assured light (2 Timothy 1:10). This gradualness of the Divine unfoldment should be remembered by us we study the Divine communications. Let us not expect to find in the earlier portions what the later alone can contain, or put to Moses inquiries which only the Son can reply to.
III. WAS MADE VARIOUSLY. "In divers manners." This is true:
1. Of God's communications to the prophets. He communicated with them by Urim and Thummim, by dreams, visions, ecstasies, by quickening and directing their thoughts, etc. God is not limited as to his modes of access to and influence over the minds of men. He can call them into active exercise, impress them with deep convictions, etc.
2. Of the communications of the prophets to men. They spoke in prose and poetry, in parable and proverb, in history and prediction, in forcible reasoning and glowing eloquence. Each prophet also has his own style. God's revelations in the Bible and in nature are alike in this, that they are characterized by endless and delightful variety. In nature we have the majestic mountain and the lowly valley, the massive oak and the modest daisy, the serene stars and the storm-driven clouds, the booming ocean and the rippling rivulet. Equally great and beautiful is the variety in the sacred Scriptures.
IV. IS CHARACTERIZED BY UNITY. The revelation was given "by divers portions and in divers manners;" it came through different men and in widely distant ages; yet all the portions are in substantial agreement. The voices are many and various, but they meet and combine in one sweet and sublime harmony. In the different portions of the revelation we discover unity of character - every portion is spiritual, pure, sacred; unity of direction - every portion points to the last great revelation, the Divine Son; unity of purpose - to make man "wise unto salvation." We conclude, then, that while the speakers were many, the inspiring Mind was One only. Or, keeping more closely to the phraseology of the text, though the voices were many, the Speaker was but one. In this marvelous unity in such great diversity, we have the basis of a cogent argument for the Divine origin of the sacred Scriptures.
V. IS PERFECTED IN HIS SON. "God... hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;" Revised Version, "hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son." The revelations made in and by the prophets were imperfect. "They were various in nature and form, fragments of the whole truth, presented in manifold forms, in shifting lines of separated color. Christ is the full revelation of God, himself the pure Light, uniting in his one Person the whole spectrum" (Alford). It is quite appropriate that the perfect revelation should be made in and through the Divine Son. The Son will be perfectly acquainted with the Father, and therefore able to declare his will. The Son wilt resemble the Father, and therefore be able to manifest him. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son," etc. No one knoweth "the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him;" "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The Divine revelations of redemptive truth to man culminate in him. No new or further revelations will be granted unto us; but to the devout, patient, and earnest student, new and brighter light will stream forth from the revelations already given. Many of the utterances of the Son are as yet only very partially and imperfectly understood even by his most advanced pupils. His words are of inexhaustible significance; and. that significance will become increasingly manifest to the prayerful and patient inquirer.
CONCLUSION. Let us rejoice that we have this latest and brightest revelation of God, this clearest utterance of his will concerning us and our salvation. Let us heartily accept this revelation. It is truly accepted only when it is acted upon; i.e. when we have received the Son of God as our Savior and Lord. - W. J.
Hebrews 12:26, 27), Thus he seems to stand on the ruins of an old world. But the Epistle is to show a new world rising from its ashes - the first done away that the second may be established. The stars are fading, but only because the sun has risen; the types are cast aside, but because the reality has come. Priest and sacrifice, altar and temple, national greatness and sacred lineage, - they are all going. "Let them go," says he," for in their place has appeared with unspeakable glory the great fulfillment of them all - the Lord Jesus, who abideth for ever." That is the substance of the Epistle - the glory of the old economy fulfilled and surpassed in Christ. The subsequent chapters are but "a prolonged echo of this opening strain." The subject of these words is - The two Testaments a progressive revelation of God.
I. THEY TEACH THAT IN HOLY SCRIPTURE GOD HAS SPOKEN TO MAN. "He spake... he hath spoken." We might expect God to speak because a revelation is necessary. The world needs God, perishes without him, cries out after him. The world cannot find God; to the utmost earthly wisdom he is unknown. God is a God of goodness and love; his works declare it; then God must reveal himself to man.
1. Scripture declares itself to be God's voice. Christ and the apostles affirm this of the Old Testament. You cannot believe in Christ without accepting the Old Testament as an infallible declaration of the Divine will; for so he accepted it. They also affirm this of their own teaching in the New Testament: "We speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth."
2. The effects of Scripture prove that this witness it bears to itself is trite. As the apostles proved their mission by "signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost," so does the Bible; that it is a divinely inspired utterance is proved by Divine results. It meets the complicated needs of human nature, satisfies the heart, opens blind eyes, casts out evil spirits, transforms the character, regenerates the world, turns the wilderness into paradise. It does what only God can do; then God is in it.
II. THEY TEACH THAT IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WE HAVE GOD'S PERFECT UTTERANCE TO MAN. "God... hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son."
1. Since God is the Author of both revelations, we may expect to find the new in the old. "God spake to the fathers... God hath spoken to us." And God is One; then we must expect to find the revelation one. Scripture is not two books, but a unity. See this in its outline; it begins with, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;" it ends with the creation of the new heavens and earth. It begins with the story of man's expulsion from the garden - paradise lost; it ends with the vision of redeemed man dwelling under the tree of life, on the banks of the river of the water of life - paradise regained; and between the beginning and the end we have the steps by which that develops into this. Thus the New Testament and the Old throw mutual light on each other; we cannot sever them without hurt. He who only reads one knows neither.
2. Since Christ is the Substance of the New Testament, the new revelation will be a distinct advance on the old. The text contrasts as well as compares them. There is a sense in which Christ may be said to be the Substance of the Old Testament - "To him give all the prophets witness;" and we do not understand it unless we read it with Christ as the key. But in a far higher sense is he the Substance of the New. "God spake to the fathers in many parts," i.e. in fragments. One aspect of truth was seen in one type, another in another; they needed to be combined if the full truth was to be known. "And in diverse ways," by types, prophecies, requirements, providences, angelic ministry, human teachers, etc.; thus the old revelation had great disadvantages. Mark the contrast: "He hath spoken unto us by his Son. No longer in fragments or by many voices, but by one living Person, the embodiment of the Father's thoughts concerning us; the Word" made flesh. Christ not only the Messenger, but the Message.
3. Since Christ is God the Son, there can be no revelation beyond what is given in him. As long as God spoke by human teachers a greater and better might arise; but when he spake by his Son the climax was reached. The Son knows the Father perfectly, and can make no mistake as to the mind of the Father. To know how God feels about men, learn of Christ. "This is my beloved Son: hear him." To know what God is, look at Christ. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." To know what God would give, study Christ. He is God's "unspeakable Gift;" "in him are hid all the treasures," etc. All that God has to say to us we hear in Jesus, and there can be nothing beyond that.
III. THEY TEACH THAT, IN HAVING SPOKEN TO MAN, GOD HAS PLACED HIM UNDER SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY. "God hath spoken!" What then?
1. If God has spoken, it leaves man's ignorance without excuse. No one with this Book need be in ignorance on Divine things. If God has spoken it is to teach us something; then he cannot have spoken so unintelligibly that we cannot understand him. If he has spoken here, we may rely on this Book as on a rock. Distinguish between human interpretation of truth and the truth itself; but when you have discovered the truth, hold it and assert it positively. What is truth? What God hath said.
2. If God has spoken, his Word must be man's ultimate authority. We must have infallibility or we can have no rest. Where is it? The Church in her history has proved that she is not infallible. Man's moral consciousness proves that it is not infallible, for the "inner light" in different men points in different directions, is perverted by sin, bribed into silence, educated into error. There is no infallibility if it be not in the Bible. But it is here, for here God hath spoken. Then find your creed in it, and base your life on it, making it in all matters the final and authoritative court of appeal. It must be madness to oppose personal opinion or expediency to what the Lord says.
3. If God has spoken, irreverence and neglect of Scripture are man's loss and shame. "God hath spoken!" Then with what solemnity should we listen to his voice; with what constancy should we draw near to this temple to hear his will; and with what awe, taking our shoes from our feet, as on holy ground! Think of God speaking, and no "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," rising from our heart! Are you neglecting Scripture? Remember God has no other voice after this; Christ is his last appeal to men. "Having, therefore, one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Son." "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;" to be deaf to that last appeal is to have God speechless to us forever. - C.N.
I. HERE ARE FOUND THE PROGRESSIVENESS OF DIVINE REVELATION. God conveyed portions of truth to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and the prophets; and in divers manners, as in vision to Abraham, face to face to Moses, by Urim and Thummim, by proverb and psalm, and by prediction and apocalyptic images. This was gradual revelation, and was suited to the ages of the Church before Christ came, who treated his disciples in this way and said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12).
II. NOTE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PROPHET OF THE CHURCH. This is to be seen in his superiority to all preceding teachers who were sent by the Divine Spirit to make known the will of God. He was the Son:
1. In his resemblance to his -Fail, or in creative energy. "Without him was not anything made that was made."
2. In resemblance of sustaining power, by which he upholds all law, preserves all harmony in creation, and maintains all life, from the highest seraphs to the humblest believers, and even to the lowest forms of existence.
3. Resemblance in personal glory. Jesus Christ is the Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person; the latter idea drawn from the monarch's portrait stamped upon golden coin. Such words are the best human language supplies; and the treasures of these Divine ideas are put in the earthen vessels of our speech, and fall infinitely below the sublime reality. Our Lord's condition on the holy mount best illustrates the thought of his resemblance to the glory of his Father, when the ineffable resplendence which streamed from himself appeared to add emphasis to the words, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
4. Resemblance of power of enjoyment. He is to be "Heir of all things." Abraham was to be heir of the world; but here is a wider inheritance, which no finite mind can ever grasp. Jesus Christ is to be the Heir of all the results of his incarnation, ministry, and sacrifice. He is to see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied; and through eternal ages he will receive the gratitude and adoration of a "number that no man can number." All judgment is committed to him, and on his head are many crowns.
III. OBSERVE THE PERFECTION OF CHRIST AS THE PRIEST. There is here a suggested contrast to priests of the Jewish Law. It is said he purged our sins by himself; then he stands before us as the One in opposition to the many who did not continue by reason of death. Aaron, Eli, Zadok, and Joshua successively disappear. There is a contrast between other priests and our Lord, who did not offer victims, as sheep, goats, lambs, and kids; but offered himself through the eternal Spirit. There is unlikeness inasmuch as the services of the ancient priests did not purify the conscience; but the sacrifice of our Lord cleanses by faith from all sin, restores to the Divine favor, and imparts the enjoyment of Christian hope. There is a contrast between the priests of the old Law in respect of dignity. The ancient ministers of the temple had to offer for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people; our Lord was "holy, harmless, separate from sinners." The descendants of Aaron had to minister in the holy of holies when it was darkened by the smoke of sweet incense, and none dare to sit down near the mercy-seat; but the Redeemer sits down "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Once more, the Jewish high priests ministered for their own nation, while other populations in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria had no share in their service; but our Lord is exalted, and sits a priest upon his throne, and a multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues enjoy the benefit and blessing of his ministry. - B.
I. THE GENERAL TRUTH THAT GOD SPEAKS TO MEN. The possibility is assumed of such a communication from God to men. Nothing less can be meant than this - that even as one man can clearly make known the thoughts and wishes that are in him to another, so God can communicate his thoughts and wishes to a being with a nature like man. It is quite allowable to say that a voice of God speaks forth from the things he has made, just as a voice speaks forth from our works and actions; but beyond all voices we thus infer there is surely a direct utterance of God. What an inspiring thought, that at any moment a voice may come to the heart of man out of the infinite depths, not heard indeed by the outward ear, but still making evident that it is not something imagined from within, or something that rises from a purely human and earthly level! Thus we may classify the words that are spoken to a man:
1. There is soliloquy. When a man listens to his own heart, to its suggestions, its apologies, its speculations, its putting of pros and cons. There are things said and listened to which dare not come out in audible speech.
2. The speech of men to each other, full of limitations and imperfections, only too often trifling, frivolous, barbed with sneering, contempt, envy, jealousy.
3. The speech of God to men, of which the first chief thing to be noticed is that it does come from above; not from the confusion within, or the confusion without and around.
II. GOD SPEAKING TO CERTAIN MEN BY PROPHETS. This Epistle went forth originally within the limits of a nation. The writer is writing to Hebrews; he at once bids them look to the past, the distant past, and yet the past out of which their present had come. They had to consider their fathers, and thus the succession in which they themselves stood. As they looked hack they looked along a line illuminated by a special and heavenly light. The sacred books, the Scriptures which they have to search, are pervaded by the recorded speeches and acts of Jehovah; so that if these speeches and acts be cut out, all the rest drops into incoherent fragments. Surely this description of God here gives us one of the rules whereby we are profitably to read the Old Testament. We have in the Old Testament God speaking to the fathers - to the fathers in many generations, to the fathers in different circumstances; we have words to Israel in its beginnings, words to it in its bondage, in its wilderness and tent-life, in its settlement, in its glory as a united kingdom, in its civil discord and separation, in its idolatries, in its time of desolation by foreigners, anti its final exile. Hence the opportunities for warning and threatening on the one hand, and consolation and promise on the other. It must also be considered how God spoke to each generation of the fathers by men belonging to that generation. What was true of the fathers was true of the prophets; one generation goeth and another cometh. We must not measure the prophetic work by the writings that have been preserved. There must have been many, many prophets beyond the few whose names we know, and some day all their faithfulness and usefulness may be revealed. In any case, we can estimate the class from the specimens, and while we estimate we glorify the class, seeing what God can do through the agency of brother men - picked men, it is true, but still entirely men of like passions with ourselves; and thus, while we see the glory of the prophets, we see also their limitations. The prophet lives, speaks, dies, and his work is done. When he dies another living man must rise, who has a sensible contact with his fellow-man. New times bring new needs, and new needs have to be met by new voices. Prophecy is in many parts and after many fashions, it is spoken to many generations by many prophets; but note behind all the uniting force. It is one God who speaks in all and to all. There is variety, advance, light, at the beginning, ever increasing toward the perfect day, but nowhere any discord, any contradiction. In studying the Old Testament it is wisdom to feel sure that there is harmony in its utterances, if only we can find that harmony out.
III. GOD SPEAKING TO US BY HIS SON. Jesus, of course, was a Prophet; One who came from God, had the Spirit of God in him, and spoke the words of God. But he was not a prophet as his predecessors were. The marks of frailty, ignorance, and sin are on them. Manward they may be faithful enough, speaking every word Jehovah has put in their mouths, whatever the peril, whatever the pain. But Godward, what a difference between the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus! Jesus never speaks out of such ignorance and despondency as does Elijah. The words of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5-7, how strangely they would sound if imagined ascending from Jesus! God has spoken to us by a Son. The one ever-living Son, as contrasted with the many-dying prophets. The prophet had his day, a glorious day if he was faithful, but brief at the longest. The day of Jesus, as God's Speaker to men, is described in that later expression of the Epistle - "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Jesus ever liveth, not only to make intercession for us, but as the well-beloved Son of God, to speak to us the words of his Father. The words of Jesus, inwrought as they are with the very substance of the New Testament, are ever to be taken as the word of a being still living, still in contact with men, still making one in every company gathered together in his Name, still saying, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age." - Y.
I. IN THE VASTNESS OF HIS POSSESSIONS. "Whom he appointed heir of all things." Because he is the Son of God he is constituted Heir of all things. The whole universe is his. "He is Lord of all." "All things that the Father hath are mine; "All mine are thine, and thine are mine? His lordship is universal. His possessions are unlimited. His wealth is infinite. What an encouragement we have in this to trust in him! "The unsearchable riches of Christ" are available for the supply of all who follow him.
II. IN THE GREATNESS OF HIS WORKS.
1. He is the Creator of all things. "By whom also he made the worlds." The innumerable worlds in the universe of God were made by the Divine Son as the" acting Power and personal Instrument" of the Father. Alford: "The universe, as well in its great primeval conditions - the reaches of space and the ages of time, as in all material objects and all successive events, which famish out and people space and time, God made by Christ." He "laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of his hands." "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that hath been made;" "In him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth," etc. (Colossians 1:16). All creatures in all worlds were created by him. Creation is a revelation of his mind and might. The glory of creation, rightly understood, is the glory of the Creator - the Son of God.
2. He is the Sustainer of all things. "And upholding all things by the word of his power." The universe which he created is upheld and preserved in being by the expression of his almighty power. "In him all things consist;" they are held together by him. The universe is neither self-sustaining nor is it forsaken by God. It is not a great piece of mechanism constructed by the Creator, and then left to work of itself, or to be worked by others. His almighty energy is always and everywhere present in it. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." How stupendous the conception that the boundless universe, with its countless worlds and much more countless inhabitants, is constantly sustained in existence and. in beautiful order by the word which utters his power!
3. He is the Savior from sin. "He by himself purged our sins;" Revised Version, "He made purification of sins." This does not mean purification by the moral influence of his teaching and example. There is a reference to the purifications of the Levitical law, by which ceremonial uncleanness was typically removed. "According to the Law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "In the atonement," says Ebrard, "in the gracious covering of the guilt of sin, consists purification in the scriptural sense. So that an Israelitish reader, a Christian Jew, would never, on reading the words καθαρισμὸν ποιεῖν, think on what we commonly call 'moral amelioration,' which, if not springing out of the living ground of a heart reconciled to God, is mere self-deceit, and only external avoidance of evident transgression; but the καθαρισμὸς which Christ brought in would, in the sense of our author and his readers, only be understood of that gracious atonement for all guilt of sin of all mankind, which Christ our Lord and Savior has completed for us by his sinless sufferings and death; and out of which flows forth to us, as from a fountain, all power to love in return, all love to him, our heavenly Pattern, and all hatred of sin which caused his death." This atonement is completed. It admits of no repetition; and nothing can be added unto it. "When he had made purification of sins." The purification is finished, and it is perfect. Thus we see that in his works, as Creator, Sustainer, and Savior, our Lord is supremely glorious,
III. IN THE DIVINITY OF HIS BEING. "Who being the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his person; Revised Version, "the effulgence of his glory, and the very Image of his substance." These words suggest:
1. That the Son is of one essence with the Father. Canon Liddon: "That he is one with God as having streamed forth eternally from the Father's essence, like a ray of light from the parent fire with which it is unbrokenly joined, is implied in the expression ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης." Let us not think of this glory as a material thing. It is moral and spiritual. Moses prayed," I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee," etc. (Exodus 33:15-23). Beyond this, perhaps, it becomes us not to speak of the glory of the Divine essence; it is mysterious, ineffable. Jehovah said to Moses, "While my glory passeth by, I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by," etc. (cf. 1 Timothy 6:16).
2. That the Son is the perfect revelation of the Father. He is "the very Image of his substance," or essential being. The word χαρακτὴρ signifies the impression produced by a stamp, a seal, or a die. As the impression on the wax corresponds with the engraving on the seal, so the Divine Son is the perfect likeness of the essence of the Father. Hence he said, "He that beholdeth me beholdeth him that sent me." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." And St. Paul, "He is the Image of the invisible God."
3. That the Son is personally distinct from the Father. As the impression on the wax is quite distinct from the seal by which it was made, so the figure suggests that our Lord is "personally distinct from him of whose essence he is the adequate imprint."
IV. IN THE EXALTATION OF HIS POSITION. "Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
1. Here is a glorious position. "At the right hand of the Majesty on high." This is spoken of his exaltation as the Messiah and in his human nature, after the completion of his work upon earth and his ascension into heaven. "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross," etc. (Hebrews 12:2). "Being in the form of God, he counted it not a prize to be of an equality with God," etc. (Philippians 2:6-11).
2. Here is the highest realm. "On high;" i.e. in heaven. "Christ entered, into heaven itself" (Hebrews 9:24). "Heaven, in Holy Scripture, signifies... usually, that sphere of the created world of space and time, where the union of God with the personal creature is not severed by sin, where no death reigns, where the glorification of the body is not a mere hope of the future" (Ebrard). Into that sphere our Lord in his crucified but now risen and glorified humanity has entered, and is enthroned "on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22).
3. Here is a waiting attitude. "Sat down." "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." He is waiting for all things to be subjected unto him, "in the majestic certainty of his triumph over all who shall oppose the advance of his kingdom."
1. In him who "made purification of sins "let us trust as our Savior.
2. Unto him who is essentially Divine let us render the full homage of our heart and life. - W.J.
I. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE PERFECT DEITY OF CHRIST. If the doctrine of the Trinity is not here, it is at least implied that in the Godhead there are more Persons than one. "God hath spoken by his Son;" "God hath appointed him;" "Through him God made," etc. Then the Father and Son are distinct Persons. But, as clearly, they are one God, for there are statements here with reference to the Son which could not be made of one less than Deity. The Deity of Christ is here set forth in three particulars.
1. In his possession of the Divine nature. "The effulgence of his glory, the very image of his substance." Not "the brightness of his glory," as though there were one point where God's glory is greatest, and that point Christ; but "the effulgence," the shining forth of what else would be hidden. The beams of light are the effulgence of the sun; without them we could not see the sun or know he is there. So Christ is" God manifest in the flesh." Not "the image of God," as though parallel with "Let us make man in our image;" but "the very image of his substance." The idea is that of a showing forth what else would be concealed. "The Image of the invisible God;" "No man hath seen God," ...the only begotten ...hath declared him." Christ is the showing forth, shining forth on man of God, so that "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." But this would be impossible unless he were himself God. A created being can utter something about God, or bear faint resemblance to him, but he who reveals God perfectly must be God's coequal self.
2. In his fulfillment of the Divine work. "Through whom he made the worlds,... upholding all things by the word of his power." Only God can create. But "all things were made by Christ; without him was not," etc. Take the hundred and fourth psalm, "the natural theology of the Jews," and in every verse in which David speaks of the natural world subsisting on God's bounty you may insert the word "Jesus." Where Coleridge, in his 'Ode to Sunrise in the Vale of Chamounix,' makes snow-clad peak, and thundering avalanche, and mysterious glacier, and verdant valley, and azure sky, echo back the one word "God," we may substitute the word "Jesus." Isaiah heard the angels sing," Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." But "this spake he of Jesus;" that greatness is that of Deity.
3. In his occupation of the Divine position. "Whom he hath appointed Heir of all things." Christ on the throne of the universe, "Lord of all." That involves a right to the homage of all, the position of Controller of all, and the end for which all things exist. That can only be true of God. "Jehovah reigneth; he doeth his will," etc.; "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only;" "The Lord hath made all things for himself." Christ can look abroad on everything that is and happens, and say, "It is mine." And when the end comes, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels will be heard crying, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and. strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing;" and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, will respond, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne."
II. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE UNION OF DEITY AND HUMANITY IN ONE GLORIOUS PERSON. No word about Christ's humanity, but the idea is here. The passage could not have been written had not God become man. For it declares his Godhead. Then he was God from everlasting. But mark the expressions: "Appointed Heir of all things;" "Made better than the angels." Neither of those expressions can you apply to Deity. As God, Christ has an inalienable property in the universe, and cannot be "appointed" heir to it; so, too, he is better than the angels, and cannot be "made" better. He who can be "appointed heir" anti "made better" must be a creature. Here, then, is a great mystery; there must be a sense in which Christ who was God, was also, at some time, a creature. This would be inexplicable but for our knowledge of the Incarnation. See what this points to.
1. The assumption by him of human nature. We depend for our knowledge of that entirely on Scripture; but there it is stated plainly, "The Word was God... the Word was made flesh." He who creates and upholds and is Heir of all things, he who is "the effulgence," etc., was born, and lived, and suffered, and worked, and obeyed, and died, and was buried as man.
2. The necessity for the union of these two natures for his mediatorial work. Apart from the Incarnation Christ could be no Savior. Since the Law had been given to man, man must keep it if God's moral government is to be vindicated; and since man had broken the Law, by man must the penalty be endured. The Savior, therefore, must be man. But the race had sinned; no man, therefore, could redeem his brother; none, moreover, who was not under personal obligation to fulfill the Law. The Savior, therefore, must be God. The Incarnation alone met the necessity.
3. The reassumption of Divine glory in the capacity of Mediator. Christ ascended to the throne of the universe as God-Man; that explains his being "appointed" to that position. As God he had an inalienable right to it; his appointment to it was in that twofold nature he had adopted as Redeemer; he was always "Head over all things," but on his ascension he was made "Head over all things to the Church. He has now received his eternal glory for the good of his people. All he is and has as God, he holds in pursuance of his redemptive work. What a future for the world, when the glory and resources of the Godhead are given over to secure its salvation! What security and benediction for the people of God!
III. THIS PASSAGE SETS FORTH THE RELATION OF THIS GLORIOUS PERSON TO A SINFUL WORLD. The worth of dwelling on the glory of Christ is in the fact of the relation he has entered into with regard to men; to cherish the thought of his greatness is to find redemption glow with a new meaning. What is Christ to man as Redeemer? The Old Testament speaks of him as Prophet, Priest, and King. All these are in our text. God hath spoken unto us by his Son - there is Christ our Prophet. He made purification of sins" - there is Christ our Priest. "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" - there is Christ our King.
1. Think of his prophetic work in the light of his glorious nature. What does he teach? He is not merely the voice, he is "the Word." He himself is what God says to us; the substance of the gospel is just Christ. How much we hear in him when we know that he who, as Jesus of Nazareth, was humbled, sorrowful, bruised, accursed for us, was the God of such surpassing glory! In proportion as we understand that glory will be the force and sweetness of the message heard in beholding Jesus, that "God is love."
2. Think of his priestly work in the light of his glorious nature. The expression, "he made purification of sins," was used in the sense in which the Hebrews would naturally understand it - the sense of cleansing of sin by sacrifice - and evidently refers to Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, "the offering of his body once for all." But what wonderful light beams on that redemption when we know the glory of him who made it! What grace is in it then! what security! It is the glory of Jesus that makes him able to save the worst. It is because he is God that his blood cleanseth us from all sin.
3. Think of his kingly work in the light of his glorious nature. The sitting down on the right hand of the Majesty on high must refer to his mediatorial kingship, for it was after he had made purification of sins. But think of the glory of that kingship. Christ "Heir of all things" for us. For us he is Lord of providence; then providence is on our side. For us he is Lord of all temporal resources; then the supply of our needs is assured. For us he is Lord of the spiritual world; then no foe above our strength shall assail us. He Who on the highest throne is crowned with glory is as truly there for us as for us he was crowned with thorns. The hand which now wields the scepter of the universe, wields it as truly for us as for us it was pierced at Calvary. What safety, what blessing, that means for the Church! We cannot speak of the glory of the Son of God as we would, nor think of it as it is; but we may meditate on it, rejoice in it, try to understand it better, and praise him for it, till in the fuller light and with the fuller powers of the higher world -
"We at his feet shall fall,
Matthew 21:33). There is little doubt that it was in the mind of the writer, and the slightest hint to the wise is enough. Thoughtful readers of the Epistle who knew their Gospels would be quick enough to take the hint. For when thus a mention had been made of God speaking in the prophets, and then speaking in the Son, there was obviously further suggested how these prophets had been treated, and finally how the Son himself had been treated. As to how the prophets were treated, read onward from Hebrews 11:32. And. now the Heir comes forward. Thus we are at once brought face to Face with a claim. We are not allowed time to plume ourselves on privileges, in that, while former generations had only prophets to speak to them, we have a Son. The claim is the same, whether it be made through the humblest of the prophets - even through a murmuring Jonah - or through Jesus, the Son of God. It is a claim on us for the result of our work in the great inheritance. Jesus is Heir of all things, therefore Heir of that little section in which we have been working. Let it also be recollected that Jesus, in being Heir of all things, makes us as children of God - joint-heirs. Every one who lives for Christ enriches all the sons of God. Jesus is Heir of all things that he may make believers in him sharers with trim according to the widest of their capacities and. opportunities. What a glorious picture of deep, exhaustless satisfaction is here, and how much beyond the dreams, generous as they are often reckoned to be, of an earthly communism! - Y.
I. THE GLORY OF GOD IS MANIFESTED TO MEN. Our relations of dependence upon God are exalted by our perception of him upon whom we depend. It is not as if a hand stretched out of the unseen, laying before us our daily bread, and then withdrawing itself, as if it concerned us nothing to know the Giver provided only we got the gift. God. is desirous that we should both know him, the Giver, and as much of his glory as it is possible for man to know. "The glory of God." could not have been an unfamiliar phrase to Hebrew Christians. The glory of Jehovah appeared to the children of Israel just before the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:10). Also on Mount Sinai, at the giving of the Law. Also when the tabernacle was completed the glory of Jehovah so filled it that Moses was not able to enter (Exodus 40:35). When Solomon built a house for Jehovah, the glory of Jehovah so filled the house that the priests could not stand to minister. Consider also the crowns of Isaiah and. Ezekiel. Every created thing has its glory, and though there are times when that glory may be in retirement, yet there are other times when the glory comes forth into full manifestation. How much more, then, must there be a suitable and sufficient manifestation of the glory of God himself!
II. THE FULL MANIFESTATION OF GOD'S GLORY IS IN JESUS. The expression here, "brightness," or rather "effulgence," is in harmony with all those numerous passages in which light is connected with the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. The light which we see is but the expression of an invisible existence behind it. We speak of the rays of the sun; but what is the sun itself but condensed radiance? And so when we come to Jesus and. think of the light streaming forth from him upon human ignorance, misery, and despair, we are reminded by the way in which he is here spoken of that Jesus is not to be considered by himself. By him the invisible is made visible. The love of the Father becomes a radiant, communicable emotion in the incarnate life of the Son. All those bursts of intolerable light which filled the tabernacle were but symbols of that true light, the effulgence of the Divine glory, which lighteth every man coming into the world, and. which has dwelt among us in flesh as in a tabernacle. Blessed are those who can see this Divine effulgence, and discern the difference between it and the effulgence of other lights. The dwellers in the immediate district where Jesus had been brought up never thought of explaining the wonders of his life by the fact that he was the ἀπαύγασμα of the Divine glory. Many thought it a sufficient explanation to say that he was Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Consider in connection the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4., where he speaks of the god of this world blinding the minds of unbelievers, so that there should not shine unto them the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the Image of God; and then he goes on to speak of how the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shined in our hearts, to illuminate them with the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - Y.
correspondence in all possible ways. To say that God is the Father and Jesus the Son is not enough; for the son does not always resemble the father; indeed, the deep differences between son and father are but too often emphasized by the natural relation between them. Hence the multiplication of terms to indicate the closeness of correspondence between Jesus and God. They are bound in one, even as the ray of light with the source from which that ray emanates. And then comes this peculiarly difficult expression concerning the χαρακτὴρ and the ὑποστάσις. Evidently no English words can set forth exactly the meaning either of the Greek words themselves or of the relation indicated by them. We can only make a guess at the writer's drift. He is referring, we may take it, to the connection between form and essence. Every essence has its approximate form, and every form indicates a peculiar essence. Thus we always find the essence of humanity along with a certain kind of body, a certain shape, a certain arrangement of organs, a certain quality of intelligence; and wherever we see these signs we infer a peculiar essence underneath. We can know nothing of the essence apart from the form it takes, nor can we imagine the form continuing without the essence. Form and essence make up the unity. Even so the writer of this Epistle seems to look upon the unity which is constituted when God, the Essence, flows out to us in the form furnished by the person of Jesus. - Y.
sacrifice. If we would get to truth, we must break away from appearances and get to the essence of everything Christ has said and done. Things are not what they seem. Have we not the best of evidence in our senses every day that the sun goes round the earth? Yet it can be proved by flawless logic, to him that will understand, that the earth goes round the sun. Realities contradict appearances. The natural man has his standard of life, movement, possibility; and the spiritual man, taught and guided by the Spirit of God, has his standard. - Y.
etc. The angels of God are great and exalted beings. Our Lord spake of them as "holy angels" (Matthew 25:31). David said they "excel in strength" (Psalm 103:20). St. Paul designates them "his mighty angels' (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Deeds involving stupendous power are ascribed to them (Isaiah 37:36; Acts 12:7-11). They are said to be "full of eyes," to indicate their great intelligence (Revelation 4:6, 8). They are represented as occupying a most exalted position and. offering the highest worship (Isaiah 6:1-3). In their ranks the highest order of created beings is to be found (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). But our Lord is greater than the angels.
I. IS THE PRE-EMINENCE OF HIS NAME. "He hath inherited a more excellent name than they."
1. The pre-eminent name - the Son of God. This appears from ver. 5, "For unto which of the angels," etc.? The first quotation is from Psalm 2., which is generally regarded as Messianic. The second is from 2 Samuel 7:14, which is applicable primarily to Solomon, but principally to him who is both "the Root and the Offspring of David." Angels are called "sons of God" in the sacred Scriptures (Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7); so also are true Christians (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1, 2). But to One only is given the title the Son of God, even to "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father," and of whom the Father speaks as "my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It is probable that in this name there is a depth of significance, a height of dignity, and a fullness of glory of which at present we have little or no conception.
2. The acquisition of this name. "He hath by inheritance obtained" it. "He hath inherited" it:
(1) Because of his relation to the Father. It belongs to him by his very Being, "by virtue of his Divine filiations. Angels may be, in an inferior sense, the sons of God by creation; but they cannot inherit that title, for this plain reason, that they are created, not begotten; whilst our Lord inherits the 'more excellent name,' because he is begotten, not created."
(2) And, perhaps, because it was promised to him in the Old Testament Scriptures; as in the passages quoted in cur text.
II. IN THE CORRESPONDING PRE-EMINENCE OF HIS NATURE. Names and titles in the sacred writings, generally speaking, are neither given for their euphony, nor are they merely complimentary, but they express realities in the circumstances, or character, or calling of the person to whom they are applied. This is especially the case in respect to the Son of God. "The dignity of his titles is indicative of his essential rank." He is called the Son of God because he is the Son of God in a peculiar and exclusive sense. The name is indicative of his nature, which is essentially Divine.
III. IN HIS CORRESPONDING PRE-EMINENCE AS MEDIATOR. "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath," etc.; Revised Version, "Having become by so much better than the angels," etc. The "having become" refers to the exaltation of our Lord in his humanity. In like manner it seems to us that the "This day have I begotten thee" refers to his resurrection from the dead. St. Paul certainly applied the words thus (Acts 13:32, 33). And he writes, God's "Son, who was born of the seed, of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection of the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord. And St. John speaks of Jesus Christ, the First-begotten of the dead" (Revelation 1:5). We conclude, then, that "begotten" is used figuratively, and that by it is intended the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, by which he was declared to be the Son of God with power, and his exaltation to his mediatorial throne. And this brings us to our present point, which the fourth verse teaches us, that the exaltation of our Lord consequent upon the completion of his redemptive work upon earth is commensurate with the exaltation of his essential nature; or, that his glory as Mediator corresponds with the dignity of his name and nature. Alford: "Observe, that the κρείττων γενόμενος is not identical with the κεκληρονόμηκεν, but in proportion to it: the triumphant issue of his mediation is consonant to the glorious name which is his by inheritance; but which, in the fullness of its present inconceivable glory, has been put on and taken up by him in the historical process of his mediatorial humiliation and triumph." The redemption of humanity was an undertaking beyond all human power, and transcending even angelic wisdom, love, and might. Its accomplishment demanded the resources of Godhead. Our Lord has redeemed man in a manner worthy of himself as Son of God, and his exaltation as Redeemer corresponds with the pre-eminence of his transcendent Name. And more, this "exaltation must be conceived of as belonging, not to his humanity only, but to the entire undivided person of Christ, now resuming the fullness and glory of the Godhead (John 17:5), and in addition to this having taken into the Godhead the manhood, now glorified by his obedience, atonement, and victory (see Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:6-9; Acts 2:36; 1 Peter 3:21, 22). The Son of God before his incarnation was Head over creation; but after his work in the flesh he had become also Head of creation, inasmuch as his glorified body, in which he triumphs sitting at God's right hand, is itself created, and is the sum and the center of creation" (Alford).
1. Let his pre-eminence as Mediator inspire us with, confidence in him as our Savior.
2. Let his essential lore-eminence inspire us with adoring reverence towards him. - W. J.
is - The greatness of the angels revealing the greatness of the Lord.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE ANGELS. This is implied in the fourth verse - " having become by so much better than the angels." Unless they were most exalted, the writer could not venture to bring Christ into comparison with them. How great must they be of whom it can be written that Christ is greater! Let us think of them briefly. We might almost assume, apart from Scripture, that angelic beings exist. In other departments of nature there is a regular gradation from lower to higher forms of life; it is therefore improbable that man is the only creature of his order. Man's powers are so limited that there is evidently room for a race, or indeed for an ascending series of races, of intelligent beings superior to man. Moreover, when we consider the greatness of God, and the worship and love and service due to him, it is hardly conceivable that the dwellers on one small planet are the only creatures in the universe capable of rendering these. Nor can we imagine that, if man had not been created, God would have been left without worshippers, or that when men fell there were none left to praise him. When we turn to Scripture this assumption is confirmed. There we read of "principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world;" an "innumerable company of angels;" angel and archangel, cherubim and seraphim; "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands."
1. Think of the sublime position of these celestial beings. As in Isaiah 6:1-3 or Revelation 5:11. They have nearest access to Jehovah, surround his throne, attend his Person, behold his glory. That future blessedness which is the highest hope of the people of God is already inherited, to a great degree, by the angels. They are at home in heaven.
2. Think of their holy character, With no human imperfection, no stain of sin, for ever beholding the holiness of the Most Holy, how perfectly they must reflect his holy image!
"Eternal Light! Eternal Light! 3. Think of their glorious nature. "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow, and for fear of him the keepers became as dead men;" "I saw another mighty angel clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." The "living creatures" were "full of eyes before and behind." Some are called "seraphim," i.e. burning ones. The cherubim were described by a combined symbol of man, lion, eagle, ox, i.e. utmost intelligence, strength, flight, and service. 4. Think of their exalted work. See instances in Scripture of the varied and high missions of judgment and mercy and ministry on which they are sent. They serve the King ceaselessly. Our prayer for earth is that the Divine will may be done here as in heaven. Jacob's vision is always being fulfilled, and the ancient hymn of the Church, "To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens," etc. II. THE GREATNESS OF THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. That is the substance of vers. 5-13. These verses consist of a series of quotations from the Book of Psalms. From certain psalms (which were applied to Christ) the writer draws certain statements with regard to our Lord, and the angels, and he uses these to show that the greatness of the angels illustrates the surpassing greatness of the Redeemer. There are, thus, three lines of contrast drawn here. 1. Christ is the God whom these exalted angels worship. (Vers. 5, 6.) In a sense peculiar to himself the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son. Others may be sons of God, but he is the" Only-begotten," which must mean equality and oneness with the Father; for he who commands, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only," says also of Christ, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Christ the supreme Object of the worship of these exalted and innumerable angelic beings. Rank above rank, angel and archangel, principality and power, cherubim and seraphim, rise in the order of being and glory, these above those, others higher still, and still others higher, till the highest rank of created majesty and splendor is reached. But far above the highest is one glorious central throne, round which these countless hosts all circle, and before which they bow in worship - and the Lamb is in the midst of the throne. 2. Christ is the Creator from whose hands they came. (Ver. 7.) In the great powers of nature are depicted the resistless might and rapid movement of the heavenly hosts as they sweep through space, unrestrained by the laws that bind us lower creatures. But however great they be, they owe all to him, the Son, whose handiwork they are. "He maketh his angels winds." As the work extols the worker, and the greater the work the more glorious the worker is seen to be, so of all created things none more truly extols him by whom all were made, than the exceeding glory of the angelic host. 3. Christ is the King whose will they perform. (Vols. 8-14.) The idea here is in the main that Christ is the King, righteous, eternal, universal, victorious. The angels only stand as servants before him, or fly at his bidding. How great must the King be that has such a retinue (see Ephesians 1:20-22)! Angels escorted him on his ascension; attend him in his redeeming work, and rejoice with him over repentant sinners; fly from his presence to minister to his people; when he comes in judgment he "will bring all the holy angels with him." How great the King served by myriads of such servants as these, and leading in his train princes, powers, potentates, dominions, of such surpassing glory! III. THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST AND THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER. See what a practical truth we have been considering. The apostle closes this sublime description of Christ with its bearing on "the heirs of salvation. This chapter leads up to them. Very suggestive that it does close with that word. The greater the angels are, the greater Christ is. The greater Christ, our Helper, Friend, Savior, Sanctifier, is, the greater we, his people, are. See here. 1. The believer's greatness in being made, in so glorious a universe, the subject of Divine love. How great the contrast between man and the angels! And of them the universe is full. This shows the marvel of the grace which fixed its love on the fallen sons of Adam. Why should our lower and comparatively insignificant race be the object of redeeming mercy? Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" How great is man when he becomes the object of such love! 2. The believer's greatness in the exalted relationship between him and the celestial beings. Take the first verse of this passage: Christ "became so much better than the angels;" that can only refer to him as God-Man, for as God he was better than the angels. Christ, then, holds this position as Mediator; that is, for us; the greatness of Christ is on our behalf. Take the last verse of the passage: "Are they not all," etc.? All the angels, however high their rank, wait unseen on us, doing their Lord's will. However lowly the "heir of salvation" may be, angelic messengers are passing from the throne to him perpetually, upholding, guiding, protecting, comforting, enriching. "Cherubim rally at his side, and the Captain of that host is God." How great is the believer, heir with such a King, and attended by such ministrants! 3. The believer's greatness in the glory of that future state of which angelic life affords a glimpse. Christ said that in the resurrection we should be "equal to the angels." What may that mean of new powers, dignity, service, holiness, and all immortal! But the tenor of Scripture affirms that we shall surpass the angels. They are servants, we are sons - "joint-heirs with Christ." They bow before his throne, we are to sit thereon. How great is "the heir of salvation"! This unspeakable glory is the end of his journey, and the King of kings himself, and the celestial hosts, his convoy by the way! - C.N.
3. Think of their glorious nature. "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow, and for fear of him the keepers became as dead men;" "I saw another mighty angel clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." The "living creatures" were "full of eyes before and behind." Some are called "seraphim," i.e. burning ones. The cherubim were described by a combined symbol of man, lion, eagle, ox, i.e. utmost intelligence, strength, flight, and service.
4. Think of their exalted work. See instances in Scripture of the varied and high missions of judgment and mercy and ministry on which they are sent. They serve the King ceaselessly. Our prayer for earth is that the Divine will may be done here as in heaven. Jacob's vision is always being fulfilled, and the ancient hymn of the Church, "To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens," etc.
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. That is the substance of vers. 5-13. These verses consist of a series of quotations from the Book of Psalms. From certain psalms (which were applied to Christ) the writer draws certain statements with regard to our Lord, and the angels, and he uses these to show that the greatness of the angels illustrates the surpassing greatness of the Redeemer. There are, thus, three lines of contrast drawn here.
1. Christ is the God whom these exalted angels worship. (Vers. 5, 6.) In a sense peculiar to himself the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son. Others may be sons of God, but he is the" Only-begotten," which must mean equality and oneness with the Father; for he who commands, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only," says also of Christ, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Christ the supreme Object of the worship of these exalted and innumerable angelic beings. Rank above rank, angel and archangel, principality and power, cherubim and seraphim, rise in the order of being and glory, these above those, others higher still, and still others higher, till the highest rank of created majesty and splendor is reached. But far above the highest is one glorious central throne, round which these countless hosts all circle, and before which they bow in worship - and the Lamb is in the midst of the throne.
2. Christ is the Creator from whose hands they came. (Ver. 7.) In the great powers of nature are depicted the resistless might and rapid movement of the heavenly hosts as they sweep through space, unrestrained by the laws that bind us lower creatures. But however great they be, they owe all to him, the Son, whose handiwork they are. "He maketh his angels winds." As the work extols the worker, and the greater the work the more glorious the worker is seen to be, so of all created things none more truly extols him by whom all were made, than the exceeding glory of the angelic host.
3. Christ is the King whose will they perform. (Vols. 8-14.) The idea here is in the main that Christ is the King, righteous, eternal, universal, victorious. The angels only stand as servants before him, or fly at his bidding. How great must the King be that has such a retinue (see Ephesians 1:20-22)! Angels escorted him on his ascension; attend him in his redeeming work, and rejoice with him over repentant sinners; fly from his presence to minister to his people; when he comes in judgment he "will bring all the holy angels with him." How great the King served by myriads of such servants as these, and leading in his train princes, powers, potentates, dominions, of such surpassing glory!
III. THE GREATNESS OF CHRIST AND THE ANGELS REVEALS THE GREATNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER. See what a practical truth we have been considering. The apostle closes this sublime description of Christ with its bearing on "the heirs of salvation. This chapter leads up to them. Very suggestive that it does close with that word. The greater the angels are, the greater Christ is. The greater Christ, our Helper, Friend, Savior, Sanctifier, is, the greater we, his people, are. See here.
1. The believer's greatness in being made, in so glorious a universe, the subject of Divine love. How great the contrast between man and the angels! And of them the universe is full. This shows the marvel of the grace which fixed its love on the fallen sons of Adam. Why should our lower and comparatively insignificant race be the object of redeeming mercy? Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" How great is man when he becomes the object of such love!
2. The believer's greatness in the exalted relationship between him and the celestial beings. Take the first verse of this passage: Christ "became so much better than the angels;" that can only refer to him as God-Man, for as God he was better than the angels. Christ, then, holds this position as Mediator; that is, for us; the greatness of Christ is on our behalf. Take the last verse of the passage: "Are they not all," etc.? All the angels, however high their rank, wait unseen on us, doing their Lord's will. However lowly the "heir of salvation" may be, angelic messengers are passing from the throne to him perpetually, upholding, guiding, protecting, comforting, enriching. "Cherubim rally at his side, and the Captain of that host is God." How great is the believer, heir with such a King, and attended by such ministrants!
3. The believer's greatness in the glory of that future state of which angelic life affords a glimpse. Christ said that in the resurrection we should be "equal to the angels." What may that mean of new powers, dignity, service, holiness, and all immortal! But the tenor of Scripture affirms that we shall surpass the angels. They are servants, we are sons - "joint-heirs with Christ." They bow before his throne, we are to sit thereon. How great is "the heir of salvation"! This unspeakable glory is the end of his journey, and the King of kings himself, and the celestial hosts, his convoy by the way! - C.N.
I. THIS APPEARS IN THE GLORY OF HIS NAME, which is his by nature and inheritance. Angels are called "sons of God," and rejoiced as creation with its wonders rose before their view. Israel was named "Jehovah's firstborn" and his "children;" and magistrates and judges were, as bearing the Divine image of authority, called "sons of God." But no monarch or angel is called "the Son," and this our Lord seems to recognize. When about to ascend from earth he said," I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17).
II. THE ROYALTY OF THE SON OF GOD IS ASSENTED, It is said in Psalm 2:7, "This day have I begotten thee;" and in 2 Samuel 7:14 it is written, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a son." These passages declare in a prophetic manner the appointment of our Lord to the office and dignity of a King. He is placed above all angels, and is described as an all-conquering Monarch. The promise originally made to David is fulfilled in the person of our Lord, who, according to the angel's message to Mary, should be called "the Son of the Most High," and should reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:33). "All power was given unto him in heaven and in earth." After Daniel had seen visions of the worldly empires represented by fierce monsters, he beheld the form of the Son of man, whose dominion should last forever.
III. THE FUTURE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GLORY IS ANNOUNCED, according to eminent authorities, in the words, "when he shall have brought his First-begotten into the world." This refers to his second coming, when "he shall come in the glory of his Father with his holy angels." There is to be a sublime and unrivalled manifestation of his majesty, when myriads of the angels shall come to swell his triumph and to attend him, as ministers and servants of state attend their monarch on occasions of public importance.
IV. CHRIST IS THE OBJECT OF ADORATION TO ANGELS. The text, "Let all the angels of God worship him," is derived from the Septuagint translation of Deuteronomy 32:43, which is a part of a grand prophetic outline of the future of Israel. To offer worship presupposes that he who bends the knee is inferior to the person who is honored. St. Peter refused worship, and said to Cornelius; "Stand up; for I also am a man." St. John fell down at the feet of the angel and was counseled to worship God. Here, as a proof of the unutterable superiority of our Lord, we are told that the mighty angels, principalities, and powers are commanded to pay homage to him who is Lord of all.
V. THE GLORY OF HIS KINGLY CHARACTER AND RULE JUSTIFIES THEIR ADORATION. The proof is drawn from the ancient prophecy of the forty-fifth psalm, which was placed in the liturgy of the Jewish Church. Here we note the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ, who always loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and whose words, works, and sufferings shone with the Divine beauty of holiness. His scepter was one of uprightness, and was a contrast to the crooked policy and cruel oppression of some earthly monarchs. God anointed him with the oil of gladness above all his fellows in the royal line of David - with the joy of his exaltation to the right hand of the Majesty on high, where he has an enduring throne.
"The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
I. CONSIDER THE ANGELIC DIGNITY. The word "angel" as employed here to be taken in a very wide sense, as "angel" primarily denotes office and service rather than nature. Jesus himself, looked at from a certain point of view, was an angel, a messenger, an evangelist. God can make a messenger, as we are reminded in this passage, from the winds and the flame of fire: e.g. the burning bush was a messenger to Moses. But doubtless there is also a special reference to those who in the Scriptures are peculiarly indicated by the word "angel." Such a being came twice to Hagar in her need, and stayed Abraham when he was on the point of slaying Isaac in sacrifice. The angels Jacob saw ascending and descending are not to be taken as merely creatures of a dream. An angel touched the great Elijah in his solitude and despair, and more than once directed him in his goings. Notice, also, the glorious appearing to Manoah and his wife. Nor must the dreadful errands of angels be forgotten - their connection with the destruction of Sodom and of Sennacherib's army. These are the visitations mentioned, but how many more there may have been unrecorded! The angelic visitations of the New Testament must particularly be recollected, because they were fresh to the knowledge of writer and readers of this Epistle. And if we are not to set down these manifestations to mere hallucination, then it is plain that the beings manifested must have belonged to a glorious order. Such a being, breaking suddenly upon the vision of a man, could not but awe, and might even terrify. Of such a one it might even be said, "Surely this is a son of God." But that would be a fallacy, springing from mere magnificence of appearance. And yet it is a fallacy which, in other shapes, will ever deceive the judgment of men till they put that judgment under guidance of the Spirit of God. Men of great intellectual power, men of genius, are reckoned to have in them something that lifts them for ever above common men. Whereas the dazzling brightness and beauty flowing from them should put us on our guard. In the Divine order of existence the spiritual man is ever higher than the natural man, although the natural man may look far more imposing. Mary saw an angel once, and probably the glory from him appealing to the senses was such as she did not see in her own Son all the time he was on earth. Angels are to be taken as the crowning illustration of all that is most magnificent and impressive in the way of outward splendor.
II. THE ELEVATION OF JESUS ABOVE THE ANGELS. To emphasize this, the writer appeals to certain passages from the Old Testament Scripture. The line of his appeal is plain. He assumed that these passages related to the Christ. He knew, and his readers knew, that Jesus was the Christ, and hence they all feel that God himself has exalted Jesus in his way far above all principality and power. And it must have been a very practical thing in those days thus to insist on the supremacy of Christ over angels. For, as there were pseudo-Christs, so there was danger of pseudo-angels. The devil appearing as an angel of light may not have been the mere figure it seems to us. Paul hints at the possibility of an angel from heaven preaching some other gospel. There might be a splendid appearance seeming to have authority in it. Spirits had to be tried whether they were of God. We know from the First Epistle to the Corinthians how the wonderful attracted men rather than the useful. And so we need to be reminded that it is not an angel, purposely glorious to the outward eye and appearing occasionally to a Zacharias or a Mary, or even as that terrible form who rolled back the door of the sepulcher and made the keepers shake and become as dead men, who is nearest God in heaven. The meek and lowly Jesus, moving about among men, despised and rejected, so that they see no beauty that they should desire him, is far above the angels. And, indeed, he also in due time and for certain purposes can appear in a visible glory which makes all angelic glory seem a common and feeble thing trey.
1. An august relationship. "His First-begotten." This title is appropriately applied to the Son of God:
(1) Because he existed before all creatures. "He is the Firstborn of all creation' (Colossians 1:15); "In the beginning was the Word."
(2) Because it was given to him in prophecy. "I will make him my Firstborn," etc. (Psalm 89:27).
(4) Because of his resurrection from the dead. "He is the Firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). And it may well be that in this place all these applications of the title are combined in setting forth the unique and august relation of the Divine Son to the God and Father.
2. A remarkable epoch. "And again, when he bringeth in the First-begotten into the world." There is much diversity of opinion as to what event in the history of the Son of God is referred to here. Some take it as denoting the resurrection of our Lord. Others, his second coming; as Alford, who translates," But when he again hath introduced the First-begotten into the world." And others, his incarnation. "It cannot be 'a second bringing in of the Firstborn into the world' that is here spoken of," says Ebrard, "seeing that nothing has been said of a first." This seems to us the correct interpretation. It is very significant that the heavenly intelligences should be summoned to worship him "even when he was entering upon his profound self-humiliation." The angel Gabriel foretold his birth (Luke 1:26), the angel of the Lord announced it, and a multitude of the heavenly host celebrated it in joyful worship-song (Luke 2:9-14). This introduction of the First-begotten into the inhabited world is the greatest epoch in history. Antecedent ages looked onward to it; subsequent ages date from it, and have been influenced by it to a degree far surpassing human conception.
3. A significant command. "He saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." Whether these words are quoted from Deuteronomy 32:43 (Septuagint) or Psalm 97:7, or whether both passages were in the mind of the writer, we shall not attempt to determine. To us it seems most probable that he quotes from Deuteronomy. But we turn to the homiletic suggestions of the quotation.
I. ANGELS WORSHIP, THEREFORE WORSHIP IS BECOMING IN ALL INTELLIGENT BEINGS. Angels are the highest created beings. If worship is necessary for them, it is necessary for those also who are less in their faculties and lower in their positions, yet capable of reverent approach to the Supreme Being. Man needs worship for the right and harmonious development of his being. Without worship the highest powers of his nature will decline and die for want of exercise, and its holiest possibilities will not even be attempted. Moreover, since worship is appropriate and becoming in the angels of God, it is not less so in his human creatures. No attitude is more befitting in us than that of adoration.
II. ANGELS WORSHIP THE SON OF GOD, THEREFORE HE IS WORTHY OF THE WORSHIP OF ALL INTELLIGENT BEINGS. We make this statement on the following grounds: -
1. Angels, by virtue of their intelligence, are capable of estimating his claims to their worship.
2. Angels, because of their holiness, would not pay their worship to one who was not worthy of it. Hence, in worshipping the First-begotten of the Father, they are an example to us. Their worship attests his worthiness.
III. "ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP" THE SON OF GOD, THEREFORE HE IS WORTHY OF THE WORSHIP OF EVEN THE HIGHEST CREATURES. Angels even of the highest rank worship him (Isaiah 6:1-3; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 5:11-14). Hence we infer that the most intelligent, the wisest, the mightiest, the most exalted of men should worship him.
IV. ANGELS ARE UNDER OBLIGATIONS TO WORSHIP THE SON OF GOD, BUT MAN IS UNDER MORE AND MIGHTIER OBLIGATIONS TO WORSHIP HIM. Angels are commanded to worship him. "He saith, Let all the angels," etc. They worship him because of what he is in himself; because he is essentially Divine, and supremely, infinitely perfect - " the effulgence of the Father's glory," etc. They worship him also because of what he is in relation to them. He is their Creator and Sustainer. These reasons for worshipping the Son apply to us as much as to these heavenly intelligences; and, in addition to these, we are impelled to worship him by a motive more tender in its character and more mighty in its constraining force than any of these. He is our Savior. He gave himself for us. He died for us. He redeemed us with his own precious blood. And now "he ever liveth to make intercession for us." How sacred and strong, then, are the obligations which bind us to worship him! "Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power," etc. (Revelation 5:12); "O come let us sing unto the Lord," etc. (Psalm 95:1-7) - W. J.
Psalm 104:4, the second from Psalm 45:6, 7. Whether the latter Psalm applied primarily to Solomon or any other king of ancient Israel or not, it seems to us quite clear that it applies to the ideal King, the Messiah. Our text presents additional illustrations of the great superiority of the Son to the angels.
I. THE ANGELS ARE MESSENGERS OF GOD, THE SON IS HIMSELF GOD. They are messengers who execute his behests. "His angels do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word" (cf. Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26). But the Son is called God by the Father. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Since God the Father thus addresses him he must really be God; for he calls persons and things by names which correspond to their natures. There is a wide interval between the most honored messenger and the only begotten Son and Heir of the Father, between the highest of created beings and the uncreated God.
II. THE ANGELS ARE SERVANTS, THE SON IS THE SOVEREIGN. They are "his ministers." They serve him swiftly and joyfully. All their service is religious in its spirit. Their work is indeed worship. But, however important the nature of their service, however exalted its spirit, however perfect its performance, they are still servants and subjects. But the Son is the Sovereign. The Father saith unto him, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever," etc. The throne and scepter are symbols of royal authority. "All authority hath been given unto me," said our Lord, "in heaven and on earth;" "I sat down with my Father in his throne;" "His kingdom ruleth over all."
III. THE ANGELS SERVE IN THE PHENOMENA AND FORCES OF NATURE, THE SON REIGNS RIGHTEOUSLY IN A SPIRITUAL EMPIRE. "Who maketh his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." These words are variously interpreted. Dean Perowne (on Psalm 104:4) says, "He clothes his messengers with the might, the swiftness, the all-pervading subtlety of wind and fire." Alford's exposition is different: "He makes his messengers winds, i.e. he causes his messengers to act in or by means of the winds; his servants flames of fire, i.e. commissions them to assume the agency or form of flame for his purposes." And Ebrard: "Throughout the New Testament (for example, Romans 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22) the angels, at least a class of them, are regarded as δυνάμεις of God, i.e. as personal creatures furnished with peculiar powers, through whom God works wonders in the kingdom of nature, and whom he accordingly makes to be storm-winds and flames of fire,' in as far as he lets them, so to speak, incorporate themselves with these elements and operations of nature. It is a truth declared in the Holy Scriptures of great speculative importance, that the miracles of nature, for example the lightnings and trumpet-sounds on Sinai, are not wrought immediately and directly by God, the Governor of the world, but are called forth at his will by exalted creatures specially qualified for this work. This position the angels hold; they are there to work terrible wonders in the sphere of nature before the eyes of a yet uncultivated people." But the relation of the Son to man is spiritual, and his rule is supremely righteous. The eighth verse gives us three ideas concerning his government.
1. It is perfectly righteous. "The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom."
(1) His rule over man as an individual is righteous. All his requirements are in harmony with and tend to promote our well-being. In keeping his commandments "there is great reward."
(2) His rule over man in his social relations is righteous. What could be more equitable or more wise than the great rule laid down by our Lord for the regulation of our conduct toward each other? - "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
(3) His rule over man in his relations to God is righteous. He requires us to obey, reverence, and love God. Is it not reasonable and equitable that the most excellent and gracious Being should he loved? that the greatest and most glorious Being should be reverenced? that our Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign should be obeyed? "The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just; and good." His reign is not only equitable, but benevolent.
2. It is perfectly righteous because of his love of righteousness. He reigns in uprightness, not as a matter of policy, but of principle; this grand feature of his government springs from his own infinite affection for righteousness, and the perfect righteousness of his character. "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;" "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness."
3. It is perpetual because it is perfectly righteous. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." His reign is eternal because it is equitable. "The throne is established by righteousness." Earthly "Empires wane and wax, Are founded, flourish, and decay." But "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end," etc. (Isaiah 9:7). "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
IV. THE JOY OF THE ANGELS IS MUCH INFERIOR TO THAT OF THE SON. "Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" Notice:
1. The nature of this anointing. "Anointed thee with the oil of gladness." This anointing does not indicate the inauguration of our Lord to his mediatorial office. The figure is taken from the custom of anointing the head of the guests at festivals (Psalm 23:5), and is intended to set forth the supreme joy of the Son upon the completion of his redemptive work, and his exaltation to "the right hand of the Majesty on high."
2. The reason of this anointing. "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee." Because of the perfection of his character, and of his life and work upon earth, the Father has blessed him with supreme joy.
3. The extent of this anointing. "Above thy fellows," or associates. Since the design of the writer is to exhibit the superiority of the Son "to the angels, we must, I think, take μετόχους as representing other heavenly beings, partakers in the same glorious and sinless state with himself, though not in the strict sense his 'fellows.'" His joy is deeper, higher, greater, intenser than that of any angel. Behold, then, how much greater is the Son than the angels in all the points which have come under our notice! - W.J.
I. THE SON IS THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands." Notice here:
1. His existence before the universe. In the beginning he laid the foundation of the earth. When was that? Six thousand years ago? Nay, millions of years ago. The expression takes us "back to the fathomless abyss of ages of ages." Yet the existence of the Son takes us back beyond that, to us, incomprehensibly remote period. As the artist must have existed before the picture which he painted, and the architect before the edifice which he designed, so the Son existed before the universe which he made. "His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
2. His agency in the creation of the universe. He "laid the foundation of the earth," etc. The heavens and the earth have not always existed; they had a beginning. They were not self-originated, but were made by Another. In the strict sense of the word, they were created by our Lord. He did not merely arrange or form the heavens and the earth out of pre-existent materials; he created them. He "laid the foundation." He began at the beginning, etc.
II. HE PRESIDES OVER THE CHARGES OF THE UNIVERSE. "They all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed." Changes are ever going on in the universe. Spring with its fresh and youthful beauty passes into the glowing and. gorgeous summer, etc. There are changes in the earth and in the seas. Even the mountains, which seem so stable and immutable, are subject to change. Suns and stats also are mutable. The heavens and the earth are growing old; they have had their infancy and. youth, etc. These changes are not effected by blind, unintelligent forces or laws. The Son of God superintends all of them. He is the Framer of all the laws of Nature, and the Force of all her forces. He is the Sustainer as well as the Creator of the universe. To the thoughtful and devout man this fact imparts a deeper, tenderer interest and attraction to the changes which take place in nature. Our gracious Savior and Lord is also the Superintendent and Sovereign of the universe.
III. HE IS UNCHANGEABLE AMIDST THE CHANGES OF THE UNIVERSE. "But thou art the same." He is the same in his being and character, in his will and purposes. Presiding over a universe in which all things are continually changing, yet with him there "is no variableness or shadow of turning." He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." He is the same in knowledge. His understanding is infinite, and he knoweth all things. He is the same in purpose. The writer of this Epistle speaks of "the immutability of his counsel." "He is of one mind." He is the same in affection. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, nor shall the covenant of my peace be removed." "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." What an inspiration this supplies to trust in him! It was thus, indeed, that these words were originally employed by the psalmist; for, as Ebrard points out, it is not "his unchangeableness as the immaterial Spirit that is spoken of (in Psalm 102:27), but the unchangeableness of Jehovah in his acts, in his relation to Israel, in a word, the Divine covenant-faithfulness. And upon this the psalmist bases his hope of the restoration of prosperity to Israel. Because he is immutable in his character and purposes and relation to his people, we may safely confide in him. He abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."
IV. HE SURVIVES THE DISSOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE. "They shall perish; but thou remainest .... And thy years shall not fail." We do not think that the annihilation of the heavens and earth is taught here, but that their present form and aspect shall pass away. Their substance will remain, but their present appearance will perish. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
"The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
CONCLUSION. How immeasurably greater, then, is the Son than the angels! They could not create a world; but he created the entire universe. They have no sovereign control over the transformations of any world; but he is the supreme Agent effecting all the changes in every province of all worlds. They change; their knowledge changes by way of increase, and with new discoveries they have new admirations; their affections also change, growing more deep and intense; but he is superior to all change - the Immutable. They are not essentially immortal; their continued existence depends upon him; but he is essentially immortal - "the living One," the Eternal. Seeing that the Son of God is immutable and eternal, we have the strongest encouragement to trust in him at all times. Both in his power and in his willingness to save he is ever the same, and-" he ever liveth." His "years shall not fail." - W. J.
Hebrews 1:10-12Hebrews 1:10-12. These verses affirm the glory of Christ in his creative power, and in the unchangeableness of his nature. The quotation from Psalm 102. is cited with fearless confidence as belonging to him "who was God," and was "with God," and without whom "was not anything made that was made." This truth, addressed to Christian Jews by a Jewish writer, is the most conclusive proof that it was the work of the Holy Spirit to raise their minds, so jealous for the honor of Jehovah, to an understanding and cordial acknowledgment of the sublime mystery of the glorious Three-One. Our Lord is immutable and always like himself, and therefore stands in rightful contrast to angels; and to men, who are exposed to changes in action and feeling, and now are weak and then strong, now sorrowful for sin and then rejoice in forgiveness and recovered peace. He is ever the same, and amid the vicissitudes in which the foundations of the earth will be overthrown, and the fabric of heaven will become like some threadbare and worn-out garment, he will be unchangeable. This truth is repeated at the close of the Epistle, in words well known to Christian hearts, which declare that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." This thought was full of the richest consolation to those who looked with anxious eyes at the disappearance of the Mosaic Law; and is an abiding justification of the faith and hope of believers, who have begun a career of spiritual life which must be marked by changes now, changes in death and the resurrection, and through the experiences of eternity; for his word remains in all its validity and power, "Because I live, ye shall live also." - B.
I. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE SON OF GOD. "But to which of the angels said he at any time, sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" This quotation the writer makes from Psalm 110. This psalm is confessedly Messianic. It is frequently quoted in the New Testament as applying to our Lord. "And no psalm more clearly finds its ultimate reference and completion only in Christ." The quotation teaches that:
1. The Son is exalted to the mediatorial throne. "Sit thou on my right band." "He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (See our notes on "The exaltation of his position" as stated in ver. 3.)
2. He is exalted by the highest will. "But to which of the angels said he at any time," etc.? "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand," etc.; "Him God exalted with his right band to be a Prince and a Savior."
3. He is exalted with the sublimest expectation. "Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." Here are several points.
(1) Our Lord has enemies; e.g. ignorance, superstition, unbelief, vice, crime, wicked men, etc.
(2) These enemies will certainly be subjugated to him. Their subjugation is guaranteed by the Most High: "Till I make," etc.
(3) These enemies will be completely subjugated to him. "Thine enemies the footstool of thy feet." The reference is to the ancient custom of conquerors placing their feet upon the necks of vanquished nobles or princes in token of their complete subjection (cf. Joshua 10:24).
(4) He is waiting their subjugation with assured expectation.
II. THE SERVICE OF THE ANGELS OF GOD. "Are they not all ministering spirits," etc.? Notice:
1. The nature of the angels. "Spirits." We do not enter upon the question whether angels are pure spirits or not. It seems to us that they are not without some form or vesture; that they are not "unclothed, but clothed upon." Their bodies are spiritual. "There is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." Angelic forms are not gross and material, but refined and ethereal. They do not impede their activities or clog their aspirations, but are the exquisite vesture of their bring and the suitable vehicle of their power. (On the qualities of these spirits, see introduction of our homily on vers. 3, 4.)
2. The office of the angels. "Ministering spirits."
(1) They are servants of God. Alford: "The διακονία is not a waiting upon men, but a fulfillment of their office as διάκονοι of God. And Robert Hall: They are not the servants of the Church, but the servants of Christ for the benefit of the Church." They are "ministers of his that do his pleasure" (Psalm 103:20, 21).
(2) They are servants of God on behalf of his people. "Sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation;" or, "Sent forth for ministry on account of those who shall be heirs of salvation." Christians are called "heirs of salvation" because they "are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:14-17). And the salvation which they shall inherit is not mere deliverance from danger or release from the penalty of sin; but complete and everlasting salvation; transformation into the image and participation in the blessedness of the Lord. Unto these children of God angels minister. The nature of their ministry in ancient times we are able to gather from the Bible; e.g. to Lot (Genesis 19.); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8); to Elisha (2 Kings 6:16, 17); to Daniel (Daniel 6:22; Daniel 9:20-27; Daniel 10:10-21); to Zacharias (Luke 1:11-20); to Mary (Luke 1:26-38); to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-14); to Mary Magdalene and other women (Luke 24:4-7; John 20:11-13); to the apostles immediately after the Ascension (Acts 1:10, 11); to the apostles in prison (Acts 5:19, 20); to St. Peter (Acts 12:7-10); to St. Paul (Acts 27:23, 24). They also ministered to our Lord after his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11), and in his agony in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). And there are statements of Holy Scripture which bear upon their ministry. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him," etc. (Psalm 34:7); "He shall give his angels charge over thee," etc. (Psalm 91:11, 12). They minister to us now chiefly by their influence upon our spirits. They quicken within us true thoughts and pure feelings; they help us to detect Satanic suggestions and to repel Satanic solicitations; they inspire the timid with courage, and whisper hope to the despondent -
" And the wearied heart grows strong,
(3) They are commissioned by God for this service. He appoints to each one his sphere of ministry; and by him they are "scat forth" to fulfill their commissions.
"Oh, th' exceeding grace "How oft do they their silver bowers leave, CONCLUSION. Learn: 1. The dignity of the Christian. Angels minister unto him. God cares for him; for he sends forth the angels to promote his interests. 2. The dignity of service. Angels, the highest orders of created beings, serve God by ministering unto little children, distressed Christians, and afflicted saints. 3. The supreme dignity of the Son of God. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many;" and now he "is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him," Well does Dr. J. H. Newman say, "When we survey Almighty God surrounded by his holy angels, his thousand thousands of ministering spirits, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before him, the idea of his awful majesty rises before us more powerfully and impressively. We begin to see how little we are, how altogether mean and worthless in ourselves, and how high he is and fearful. The very lowest of his angels is indefinitely above us in this our present state; how high, then, must be the Lord of angels! The very seraphim hide their faces before his glory, while they praise him; how shamefaced, then, should sinners be when they come into his presence!" - W.J.
"How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
1. The dignity of the Christian. Angels minister unto him. God cares for him; for he sends forth the angels to promote his interests.
2. The dignity of service. Angels, the highest orders of created beings, serve God by ministering unto little children, distressed Christians, and afflicted saints.
3. The supreme dignity of the Son of God. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many;" and now he "is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him," Well does Dr. J. H. Newman say, "When we survey Almighty God surrounded by his holy angels, his thousand thousands of ministering spirits, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before him, the idea of his awful majesty rises before us more powerfully and impressively. We begin to see how little we are, how altogether mean and worthless in ourselves, and how high he is and fearful. The very lowest of his angels is indefinitely above us in this our present state; how high, then, must be the Lord of angels! The very seraphim hide their faces before his glory, while they praise him; how shamefaced, then, should sinners be when they come into his presence!" - W.J.
Hebrews 1:13, 14Hebrews 1:13, 14. The contrast between our Lord and the angels reappears in the impressive quotation from Psalm 110., which is so entirely Messianic that it is alluded to no less than ten times in the range of the New Testament. It affirms the superiority and supremacy of our Lord in so conclusive a manner that no ingenuity of perverse interpretation can successfully apply it to any monarch, priest, or warrior whatsoever. All enemies who steadfastly resist his claim must be overthrown by his righteous and sovereign might. Some have been brought down and are now under his feet. Rebellious Jerusalem was overthrown. Western idolatries have left their witness to his power in broken columns and deserted temples. Hereafter systems of evil, false philosophies corrupt institutions, impenitent and irreconcilable men, and probably some nations, must yield to his judicial sentence and final punishment. Some things he will dash in pieces like a potter's vessel. He sits at the right hand of the Father; but the angels are ministering spirits, and go forth at his bidding to assist and protect those who shall in time enjoy the fullness of salvation. - B.
I. THE HABITUAL POST OF THE ANGELS. They are ministering spirits, literally, "liturgical spirits." The work of the priests and Levites in connection with tabernacle and temple was known as a liturgical work. Again and again in the Septuagint the work of Aaron and his subordinates is indicated by this verb, λειτουργεῖν. AS the angels are called liturgical spirits, so the priest and his subordinates might have been called liturgical men. They were the men who, on behalf of all the people, managed things pertaining to the worship of Jehovah. So in several passages the officials connected with the court of a king are known as liturgi - liturgical men. And if we would see what is meant by calling the angels liturgical spirits, we cannot do better than consider, first of all, Isaiah 6:2, 3. There we read of the six-winged seraphim, who cried one to another and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." Saying this, they were engaged in liturgical service. Then turn to Revelation 4., where we read of the four living things, each, like the seraphim, six-winged, who rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." These four living things were also engaged in liturgical services. What priest and Levite were on earth, angels were and are in heaven. Nor angels alone. The spirits of the just made perfect are joined to seraphim, and all others of the heavenly host by whatever name they may be called, in liturgical service.
II. THE SPECIAL SERVICE OF THE ANGELS. These liturgical spirits are sent forth on errands of helpfulness to God's people on earth in their times of emergency. They are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation - heirs of salvation, but not yet rejoicing in a deliverance from every sort of evil. We are saved by hope; we are in process of salvation, but the process involves trials and sufferings. We are not without notable instances of what is meant by angelic service to the heirs of salvation. Jesus himself was, in a certain sense, an heir of salvation. He had to be saved from this body of death, if not from this body of sin. And concerning him we read how, at the close of the temptation, angels came and ministered to him. Then, more important still, because the service is more definitely indicated, is the opening of the prison doors to liberate the apostles (Acts 4:19), and the after-opening to deliver Peter from the hands of Herod (Acts 12:7). And though comparatively few such instances of διακονία be recorded, that is not to say that only a few happened. Nor is it to be said that angelic service has ceased. Angels may render very important and comforting services to men, although they themselves may not be seen.
III. THE EXAMPLE ANGELS THUS GIVE TO CHRISTIANS. Angels find their habitual employ in adoring God, in serving him in heavenly worship. But from worship they may at any moment be turned to work, and work most agreeable to the will and pleasure of their Master, doing something which will be felt as a help by some one who is dear to Christ. The λειτουργία fits for the διακονία, and. the διακονία, faithfully rendered, sends back with fresh zest to the λειτουργία. There is a place for both; and we, who have also to go forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, shall find our ministry all the more effectual if only it can be truly said. of us, in the best sense of the word, that we are liturgical Christians. That man whose reading of the Scriptures has in it not only quantity but quality, not only recollection of words but increasing perception of meaning, who reads that he may understand and obey - such a one is a liturgical Christian. He is constantly enriching his heart, getting nearer to God, and, as a matter of course, better able to serve men. We must always be serving God, whether in those things which have the formal look of Divine service, or in those which may look nothing more than a temporal ministry to men. We may at the same time be λειτουργοί towards God and διακονοί towards men; we can pray without ceasing, and also follow in the footsteps of him who came, not to be ministered to, but to minister. - Y.