Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE MAINTENANCE OF BROTHERLY LOVE. "Let brotherly love continue."
1. That this affection existed is implied. That it had been exercised in former times is clear from Hebrews 10:32-34. That it was existent and active at the time when this Epistle was written appears from Hebrews 6:10.
2. That this affection was imperiled is also implied. There are several things which may check the growth and extinguish the life of brotherly love.
(1) Diversity of opinion. We are each gifted with individuality; we sometimes look at things from different standpoints; we arrive at different conclusions. This is the case in the interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, and in other matters. Differences of opinion sometimes lead to differences of feeling, to coldness and estrangement.
(2) Diversity of gifts. The great Master gives to one man five talents, to another two, and to another one. There is danger that pride in those of superior gifts, or envy in those who are less gifted, may crush this holy affection.
(3) Misunderstandings may arise amongst Christian brethren and blight their love of each other.
3. That this affection should be maintained. "Let brotherly love continue." Let it remain. Guard against those things which endanger its existence. Cherish it. This love of the brethren is not to be limited to those who belong to the same ecclesiastical community, or to those who hold the same views of Christian doctrine; it should embrace all the disciples of the Lord Jesus. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness. The importance of maintaining this affection is manifest from many Divine utterances (John 13:34, 35; John 15:12, 17; 1 John 3:11, 14-18; 1 John 4:7, 8, 11, 20, 21).
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE. TWO forms in which this affection should be expressed are adduced in our text.
1. Hospitality towards strangers. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Consider:
(1) The duty. Hospitality is frequently enjoined and commended in the Bible (Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 25:34-46; Luke 10:4-7; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9). "The primitive Christians," says Calmet, "considered one principal part of their duty to consist in showing hospitality to strangers. They were, in fact, so ready in discharging this duty, that the very heathen admired them for it. They were hospitable to all strangers, but especially to those who were of the household of faith. Believers scarcely ever traveled without letters of communion, which testified the purity of their faith, and procured for them a favorable reception wherever the Name of Jesus Christ was known." In the parable of the good Samaritan the great Teacher presented to his disciples a perfect example of Christian hospitality.
(2) The motive by which we are encouraged to perform this duty. "For thereby some have entertained angels unawares." There is a reference to Abraham (Genesis 18.) and to Lot (Genesis 19.). Many a guest has proved as an angel to his entertainers, brightening the home by his presence, and leaving behind him precious memories and saving influences. The kindness we have shown to strangers has often come back to us with compound interest, and in higher and holier forms. Therefore, "forget not to show love unto strangers."
2. Sympathy towards sufferers. "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." Notice two points:
(1) The obligation. "Remember them," etc. All who are distressed should be remembered tenderly, sympathized with heartily, and succored as far as opportunity will allow. "Weep with them that weep." "Bear ye one another's burdens," etc.
(2) The consideration presented as an incitement to the fulfillment of this obligation. "As being yourselves also in the body." We are not beyond the reach of persecution or distress. We may be called to suffer as some of our Christian brethren are now suffering, and then we should need the sympathy which they now require. Here is a beautiful example of this sympathy. "Thomas Samson was a working miner, and working hard for his bread. The captain of the mine said to him on one occasion, 'Thomas, I've got an easier berth for you, where there is comparatively little to do, and where you can earn more money. Will you accept it?' What do you think he said? 'Captain, there's our poor brother Tregoney. He has a sick body, and he is not able to work as hard as I am. I fear his toil will shorten his useful life. Will you let him have the berth?' The captain, pleased with his generosity, sent for Tregoney, and gave him the berth. Thomas was gratified, and added, 'I can work a little longer yet.'" - W.J.
I. ESPECIALLY NECESSARY AT THE PRESENT SEASON. It was a time of trial from outside. Brothers needed to be brotherly, helping one another. We cannot expect anything from strangers, and must be ready even for their hostility. But we must do everything to guard against alienation amongst friends at a time when the closest union will be serviceable.
II. THE COUNSEL NECESSARY BECAUSE SELF-REGARD IS SUCH A SUBTLE SIN. Carnal views of the kingdom of heaven, such as seem to have been prevalent among these Hebrew Christians, inevitably led to each one of them thinking what in the expected glorious state of things he would get for himself. So it was among the disciples of Jesus. They disputed who should be greatest. There was even intrigue to get promise of the principal places. Christians need to be ever on their guard lest any feeling get dominion in their hearts hostile to the good of the whole body.
III. WE ARE REMINDED OF ABIDING THINGS THAT DEPEND ON OUR OWN DISPOSITION. The writer has just been referring to things that can be shaken and removed, and things that cannot be shaken. These are things that God deals with by his power. But the continuance of some things depends on whether we will have them continue. Whether brotherliness shall be a deep and abiding thing depends on the state of our hearts.
IV. CONTINUAL REMEMBRANCE OF THE REAL RELATION OF EVERY CHRISTIAN TO EVERY OTHER CHRISTIAN. By the same Spirit we are all born again, and therefore members of the same Divine family. Each of us, therefore, is under certain obligations; each of us may prefer certain claims. But there can be no proper treatment either of the obligations or the claims unless there be real affection underneath. It is in the spiritual sphere as in the natural; the mere relation may only irritate unless there be the feelings that properly belong to the relation. - Y.
φιλαδελφία is enjoined, then φιλοξενία. The stranger as well as the brother must have a proper place in our consideration. Brotherliness must not lead to exclusiveness. We must go by the golden rule. If we came to a strange place at nightfall, footsore with a long day's walking, we should be very grateful to any who would open the door and give us shelter and food. The injunction to hospitality very needful in times when facilities of travel were not what they are now. Hospitable feelings are strong in many who have not yet attained to Christian virtues; let the Christian, then, be in no way behind. He will be prudent and cautious in his treatment of strangers, he will be wise as the serpent; but he will remember, too, that he is under the protection of God. Now and then he will be deceived and robbed, but this is a little matter compared with the maintenance of hospitable duties. It may seem at first as if a low motive for hospitality were here introduced; but if it be considered, we shall see that it is not so much a motive to hospitality as to unremitting watchfulness in hospitality. Let the stranger be ever in your mind. Let not one slip past your gates, or go away knocking in vain. What will it avail to admit a thousand who bring you nothing but their needs, if you let the one go who will bring you blessings far more than anything you can do for him? - Y.
I. THOSE IN BONDS. Doubtless those in bonds for Christ and conscience sake. In the worst of persecuting times there seems to have been a body of Christians suffering nothing, or comparatively little. Some, in bonds, have preached all the more effectively; others have continued free to make known the gospel far and wide. This admonition becoming ever less needful so far as literal imprisonment for Christ's sake is concerned. But still we must bear in mind the admonition, so far as the essence of it is concerned. For the persecuting spirit of the world remains; the world persecutes, not meaning to persecute; does not know all the suffering it inflicts. We must be quick to discover all sufferers for conscience' sake, and intercede for them. Then let the exhortation also include those in bonds as evildoers. Of such, alas! there is still abundance. Civilization is not able to do without the prison. Let us consider that in less favorable circumstances we also might have been criminals. Let Christians be forward in all that tries to prevent the child growing into a criminal manhood, and the liberated criminal lapsing again into evil ways. "Put yourself in his place," and so let your heart go out in pity and effort for the vilest of mankind.
II. THEM WHICH SUFFER ADVERSITY. All that a man can suffer because he is in the body - let that draw out your pity and help. Here, again, no doubt, the primary reference is to a state of things that has largely passed away. Christians had to suffer physical violence. This was a readier and cheaper way of venting hatred against them than putting them in prison. The fist and the cudgel are soon got in action. And here again, too, let the exhortation pass far beyond the limits of its first occasion. You are in the body, and can suffer pain through the senses; and what you can suffer, many actually do suffer.
III. THE MEANING OF THE REMEMBRANCE. Merely to remember would do no good. The remembrance must be so constant, so burdensome, as to make you act. There is a kind of reproach in the word; it implies that we only too easily forget the prisoner and the oppressed. - Y.
I. THE DUTY TO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. This duty is here stated negatively and positively.
1. Freedom from the love of money. "Let your conversation be without covetousness." Revised Version, "Be ye free from the love of money." This is a sin to which many are very prone, and the descendants of Jacob, to some of whom this letter was addressed, as much, or perhaps more so, than others. It is an exceedingly insidious and perilous sin. It does not carry any outward and visible stigma, as some sins do. They who are guilty of it may be respectable in appearance, maintain a good reputation in society, and retain their position in the communion of the Christian Church, while the vigor and health and even the very life of their Christian character are being subtly consumed by it. There is no sin more destructive of spiritual life, or more fatal to the highest and divinest things in man. It quenches the nobler aspirations of the soul. It degrades the soul itself until, oblivions of its high calling, and looking simply upon material or perishable possessions, man says, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry." And it is the prolific parent of other sins," the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Let us endeavor to be free from this ensnaring and destructive sin.
2. Contentment with present possessions. "Be content with such things as ye have." Ward Beecher says well, "It is not to be the content of indifference, of indolence, of unambitious stupidity, but the content of industrious fidelity. When men are building the foundations of vast structures, they must needs labor far below the surface and in disagreeable conditions. But every course of stone which they lay raises them higher; and at length, when they reach the surface, they have laid such solid rock under them that they need not fear now to carry up their walls, through towering stories, till they overlook the whole neighborhood. A man proves himself fit to go higher who shows that he is faithful where he is. A man that will not do well in his present place because he longs to be higher, is fit neither to be where he is nor yet above it: he is already too high, and should be put lower." When we consider how few our real needs are, we may well cultivate contentment "with such things as we have." "Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content." And contentment is blessed. It softens our privations and sweetens our provisions. "Contentment will make a cottage look as fair as a palace. He is not a poor man that hath but little, but he is a poor man that wants much." In St. Paul we have an illustrious example of this virtue: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content," etc. (Philippians 4:11-13). Like him, let us seek to learn this lesson completely, and to practice this virtue constantly" in him that strengtheneth" us.
II. THE FACT BY WHICH WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO FULFIL THIS DUTY. "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." These exact words do not occur in the sacred Scriptures; but the sentiment is frequently expressed therein (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20). Extraordinary is the emphasis of expression in this assurance. No less than five negatives are employed by the writer to give force to this one brief yet blessed promise. The argument of the text is this, that the abiding presence of God with us is a sufficient reason for contentment. It is so because his presence guarantees:
1. The supply of all our need. We have all things in him; e.g.:
2. The sanctification of our portion. His gracious presence will sweeten the poorest fare, and cheer the most depressed condition, and exalt the lowliest circumstances. To his faithful suffering servants his presence transformed a loathsome dungeon into a palace beautiful (Acts 16:24, 25). It is stated that Seneca said to Polybius, "Never complain of thy hard fortune so long as Caesar is thy friend." How much more may we say to every true Christian," Never complain of such things as you have so long as you have God for your Portion"!
"The rich man in his wealth confides, Yes, Lord: thou art as rich today
Yes, Lord: thou art as rich today
1. There can be no contentment along with this love. The Christian is to attain his true contentment in that which becomes an integral part of his own life.
2. There can be no honoring trust in God. God has said, "I will not leave thee," yet every, act of the money-loving man expresses doubt on this point. - Y.
Psalm 118:6. Three distinct, yet closely related topics for meditation are suggested.
I. MAN'S NEED OF HELP. What a dependent creature is man! Mark this in the different stages of his life.
1. How utterly helpless in infancy!
2. How needy in youth! Instruction, direction, counsel, support, are indispensable to youthful life, if it is to grow into usefulness unto men and acceptability unto God.
3. How dependent in manhood! No one is independent. Even the wealthiest, the wisest, the mightiest, cannot stand alone. We need help
(1) from each other. "We are members one of another." "The members should have the same care one for another" (cf. 1 Corinthians 13.) We need help
(2) from God. "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things... for in him we live, and move, and have our being." It was truly said by Fenelon, "God has but to withdraw his hand which bears us, to plunge us back into the abyss of our nothingness, as a stone suspended in the air fails by its own weight the moment it ceases to be held."
4. How imbecile in old age! This is often a "second childhood," a season of almost complete dependence upon others both physically and mentally.
5. There are times, when man specially feels his need of help. In affliction we feel our need of patience; in sorrow, of consolation; in perplexity, of guidance, etc.
II. GOD'S PROVISION OF HELP. God has put it into our hearts to help each other. Many are the ways in which this is done; e.g. by sympathy, by counsel, by gifts, etc. But God himself is the great Helper. A helper does not do everything for us. He supplements our weakness with his strength; our ignorance and inexperience with his wisdom. We must do our part, and he will not fail in his. Consider what a glorious Helper God is.
1. He is all-sufficient. His wisdom is infinite. The treasures of his grace are inexhaustible. It is conceivable that the sun, after the lapse of many and vast ages, may become dark and cold, or that the waters of old ocean may be drank up; but it is impossible and inconceivable that the infinite resources of our Divine Helper should ever fail.
2. He is ever-available. We cannot seek him and discover that he is inaccessible to us. We cannot approach him inopportunely. He is "a very present Help in trouble." "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
3. He is ever-gracious. His willingness to help is as great and as constant as his ability. Man varies in his moods: today he is genial and kind, to-morrow he is cold and harsh. But God is ever merciful, ever disposed to help and bless his creatures.
III. THE BELIEVER'S ASSURANCE OF THE HELP OF GOD. "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?"
1. This confidence rests upon the promise of God. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (ver. 5). His promises are perfectly reliable. "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man," etc. (Numbers 23:19). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" "The Scripture cannot be broken." "He abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." His promise, then, is an immovable basis for our confidence.
2. This confidence inspires the courage of the believer. "The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear: what shall man do unto me?" The man over whom God casts his shield is invulnerable. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" No crafty foe can elude the vigilance of his eye; no subtle scheme can surprise his infinite mind; no strong antagonist can cope with his almighty arm. If he is our Helper, man cannot injure us. If he is our Helper, our resources cannot fail. If he is our Helper, we may pursue our life-path chanting cheerfully, "God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble," etc. (Psalm 46.). - W.J.
I. LISTENING. These men lead and rule because they speak the Word of God. If they spoke their own word then it would not be right to follow them. And because they speak the Word of God we have no choice but to listen. The writer has just been quoting a word of God intended to guard against a great spiritual peril - the love of money. All who really speak the Word of God are to be reckoned as our leaders, Jesus himself in the very front, giving in his own words a sure test whereby every other word is to be tried.
II. REMEMBERING. All instructions and promises must be at hand in the mind when they are wanted. Spoken before being wanted, they were ready when the want came. Hence the value of regularly and penetratively reading the New Testament. We cannot go far anywhere in it without coming across the most profitable directions for our daily life.
III. STUDYING THE EXPERIENCE OF THE LEADERS. As they spoke they acted. The Word of God they pressed on others they first of all believed themselves. There was no inculcated duty in which they did not lead by practice as well as by precept. Some of these leaders, at least, had now passed beyond the vicissitudes of earth. Their whole Christian life was open to observation. Results could be seen. Take a life, for instance, like that of Stephen, consummated by a revelation of glory and reward such as might well inspire any follower. And especially the faith of the leaders is to be studied. Examine the true riches that have come to men by trusting in God.
IV. IMITATING THEM, or rather imitating one particular thing in them - their faith. We are no real followers of any Christian leader unless we do this. It is not peculiarities in a man's teaching, commanding influence of a personality, that should make him a leader. It is the reality of his faith in God. Such a leader we follow most and honor most when his example makes us as true believers as himself. - Y.
I. IN HIS PERSON. "Our Lord's Godhead is the seat of his personality. The Son of Mary is not a distinct human person mysteriously linked with the Divine nature of the eternal Word. The Person of the Son of Mary is Divine and eternal. It is none other than the Person of the Word." This personality is immutable. This has been already asserted by the writer of this Epistle: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth," etc. (Hebrews 1:10-12). He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" in his great attributes - his eternity, spirituality, omniscience, omnipotence, etc. He is the same in his perfect and blessed character - in his righteousness and faithfulness, his love and mercy, his forbearance and tenderness, etc. In this respect how vast is the difference between him and us! We are ever changing in many respects. Our outward appearances, the particles of which our bodies are composed, the opinions which we entertain, the experiences which we pass through, the characters which we are forming, - all these change. But he is sublimely unchangeable, eternally and infinitely perfect.
II. IN HIS WORD. The teaching of our Lord, like his personality, continues and changes not. His words are true, vital, suited to the conditions and needs of human nature and life. More than eighteen centuries have passed away since they were uttered; but they have lost none of their clearness, or freshness, or force. They are still the great fountains of religious light to our race. And the noblest human spirits still say to him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." It has been well said by Dr. Parker, "Plato's definitions are practically forgotten, but the Nazarene's words intermingle with universal civilization. A great composer said he was spending a long time over his work because he intended it to live long, but this Galilean peasant talks extemporaneously, as if simply answering the question of the hour; yet his words float over all generations, and are prized by men today as if they had been addressed exclusively to themselves. These 'sayings' are not local lamps, but suns set in the firmament commanding the range of all nations.... In Christ's 'sayings' there was always something beyond - a quickening sense that the words were but the surface of the thought; there was nothing to betoken conclusion, much less exhaustion; there was ever a luminous opening even on the clouds that lay deepest along the horizon, which invited the spectator to advance and behold yet fuller visions" ('Eece Deus'). How different is the teaching Of Jesus Christ from the changing opinions, speculations, and theories of men - even of distinguished men! Of every province of human thought and investigation we may truthfully say -
"Our little systems have their day; III. IN HIS WORK. Part of his great work was perfectly and splendidly accomplished while he was upon earth. The work which was given him to do upon earth, says Dr. Wardlaw, "was the expiation of human guilt, and the provision of a righteousness for the justification of the ungodly; the laying of the groundwork of man's redemption - the foundation on which might rest together the glory of God and the hopes of sinners. But his mediatorial work did not cease then. It does not properly terminate till 'the end come,' when he shall have accomplished all the ends for which his office as Mediator had been assumed." "He who for man their Surety stood, 1. As Savior of sinners he is the same. The cross upon which he gave himself in death for us has lost none of its ancient power. By his glorious gospel and his Holy Spirit he is still convincing men of sin, drawing them to himself, and imparting to them pardon and peace, liberty and joy. 2. As the Helper of his people he is the same. "He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). "Christ's perpetual presentation of himself before the Father," says Canon Liddon, "is that which constitutes his intercession." He is in the presence of God as our Representative, our Advocate, and our Friend. From the unchangeableness of Jesus Christ we infer: 1. That he is essentially Divine. All created beings change. This is one thing in which each and all of them are alike. We are different today from what we were yesterday, and tomorrow we shall differ from what we are today. Immutability belongs only to God (cf. Hebrews 1:10-12). 2. That be is worthy of our utmost confidence. If he were fickle, changeable in his character and purposes, loving man today and regarding him with indifference to-morrow, how could we trust him? Nay, if it were even possible for him to change, how could we calmly and confidently commit cur souls to him? But seeing that he is what he is in his character and in his relation to us, and that he is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever," we may repose in him the fullest confidence of our being. 3. That the success of His cause is assured. In the preceding verse we were reminded of the death of Christian ministers and elders; but the great Head of the Church ever liveth and is ever the same. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged," etc. (Isaiah 42:4). - W.J.
III. IN HIS WORK. Part of his great work was perfectly and splendidly accomplished while he was upon earth. The work which was given him to do upon earth, says Dr. Wardlaw, "was the expiation of human guilt, and the provision of a righteousness for the justification of the ungodly; the laying of the groundwork of man's redemption - the foundation on which might rest together the glory of God and the hopes of sinners. But his mediatorial work did not cease then. It does not properly terminate till 'the end come,' when he shall have accomplished all the ends for which his office as Mediator had been assumed."
"He who for man their Surety stood,
1. As Savior of sinners he is the same. The cross upon which he gave himself in death for us has lost none of its ancient power. By his glorious gospel and his Holy Spirit he is still convincing men of sin, drawing them to himself, and imparting to them pardon and peace, liberty and joy.
2. As the Helper of his people he is the same. "He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). "Christ's perpetual presentation of himself before the Father," says Canon Liddon, "is that which constitutes his intercession." He is in the presence of God as our Representative, our Advocate, and our Friend. From the unchangeableness of Jesus Christ we infer:
1. That he is essentially Divine. All created beings change. This is one thing in which each and all of them are alike. We are different today from what we were yesterday, and tomorrow we shall differ from what we are today. Immutability belongs only to God (cf. Hebrews 1:10-12).
2. That be is worthy of our utmost confidence. If he were fickle, changeable in his character and purposes, loving man today and regarding him with indifference to-morrow, how could we trust him? Nay, if it were even possible for him to change, how could we calmly and confidently commit cur souls to him? But seeing that he is what he is in his character and in his relation to us, and that he is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever," we may repose in him the fullest confidence of our being.
3. That the success of His cause is assured. In the preceding verse we were reminded of the death of Christian ministers and elders; but the great Head of the Church ever liveth and is ever the same. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged," etc. (Isaiah 42:4). - W.J.
I. THE NEEDS OF MEN DO NOT CHANCE. No doubt there is change and progress in some respects. Each generation of the human race, like each succeeding wave when the tide is flowing, is an advance on the generation going before it. As the world grows older this advance is more marked. Our fathers traveled in stage-coaches, we by express trains; they had to wait weeks for the answer of a letter, we have the telegraph to bring the same answer in an hour. But all these changes, however impressive, are only on the surface of life. Our nature has not changed, it wants the same ministries, though they may come in a different way. Though each wave is an advance on the preceding wave, they are all composed of the same elements. We who travel in railway trains are exactly the same sort of beings as those who rode in stage-coaches. The great facts of existence are the same - birth and death, sin and sorrow, hope and fear. A picture is not altered because you put it in a different frame. Man is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
II. THE SERVICE OF CHRIST DOES NOT CHANGE. Let the words be taken as true of Christ in his relation to us, that relation arising out of his life among men in the flesh. He has come into special relations to us, and it is in those special relations that we have to consider him as "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." He came to this world to do a work for all generations. As to us, the closer we keep to the evident and pressing wants of our generation, the better work we shall do. We know not the wants of posterity, and therefore we had better leave it to look after its own wants. But Jesus in his brief life did a work for the whole world - for all who ever have lived or will live on the broad surface of the earth. Because there are sinners still, Christ is still a Savior, The world is still full of Pharisees and Sadducees, publicans and harlots, sinners of every type and shade; full of the sick and the sorrowing; full of women like the widow of Nain and the sisters of Lazarus, weeping for their departed kindred.
III. NO CHANGE IN THE THINGS TO BE SAID ABOUT CHRIST. Do not be carried away, says the writer of the Epistle, with new doctrines concerning Christ, however attractive and plausible. Let us ever remind ourselves of what Christ has been in the great yesterday. Especially let us consider that yesterday which is revealed to us in the Scriptures of the New Testament. If that day was not a dream of the imagination, then it is one of the most glorious of soul-supporting realities. Jesus justified the name he bore, for he did indeed save his people from their sins. The yesterday of which we are now able to speak is a long one. It has known many changes in the world, but none in Jesus Christ.
IV. NO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE. The world will not change in its need of him. They are certainly wrong who tell us the religion of Christ has seen its best days. Look at the future in the light of the past, and you will be assured of your Savior ever standing in the midst of the golden candlesticks, watching that their light goes not out. We may change in our faith and hope and patience, but Christ changes not. Rising to the measure of our duties and opportunities, this would become a practical truth to us. We are not straitened in him, but in ourselves. He asks to let him do for us what he has done for those going before. He asks for admission. Let the door no longer be locked with the key of unbelief and double bolted with indolence and worldliness. Let us not go from the world without leaving a testimony that shall if possible have a savoir of life unto life to those following in our steps. - Y.
I. THE CHRISTIAN ALTAR. "We have an altar." One of the positions which the writer of this Epistle endeavors to establish is this, that by the renunciation of Judaism these Hebrew Christians had not lost anything of real value, or that the good in Judaism was perfected in Christianity. He shows that in Jesus Christ, the Head of the Christian dispensation, they had One far greater than Moses, by whom the elder economy was given. For giving up the Levitical priesthood there was far more than compensation in the possession of an interest in the great High Priest. Moreover, the tabernacle in which our great High Priest appears for us is "greater and more perfect" than either the tabernacle in the wilderness or the temple at Jerusalem. And in our text he points out that Christians have also an altar with its provisions and blessings. By this altar we understand the cross upon which our Lord offered himself a Sacrifice for human sin.
1. On this altar the perfect Sacrifice was offered. (We have already dealt with the perfection of Christ's sacrifice in our homilies on Hebrews 10:5-10, and 12, 13.)
2. This altar has superseded all other altars. The perfection of this sacrifice rendered its repetition unnecessary, and abolished forever the imperfect and typical sacrifices of the earlier dispensation (cf. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10-18).
II. THE PROVISION WHICH THIS ALTAR FURNISHES. The writer speaks of eating of this altar. The reference is to the fact that certain portions of some of the sacrifices under the Mosaic economy were eaten by the priests, and certain by the Levites also (cf. Leviticus 6:14-18, 24-30; Leviticus 7.; Numbers 18:8-11; 1 Corinthians 9:13). The provision from the Christian altar is Jesus Christ himself, the great Sacrifice. By faith" we become partakers of Christ;" we appropriate him as the Life and the Sustenance of the soul. Our Lord said, "I am the living Bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever," etc. (John 6:51-58).
1. This provision is spiritual. Not of the literal or material flesh and blood of Jesus do we eat and drink, but by faith we become partakers of his mind, his feelings, his principles, his spirit, his life, himself. Hence St. Paul writes, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," etc. (Galatians 2:20). Again, "Christ our Life" (Colossians 3:3, 4).
2. This provision is delightful. To those who are healthy the eating of suitable provision; Is not only necessary and satisfying, but pleasurable. It gratifies the palate. The spiritual appropriation of Christ is joy-inspiring. In Christianity we have "a feast of fat things."
3. This provision is free, and free to all. Some of the Levitical sacrifices belonged to the sacrificing priest only, others only to the priest and Levites. But all may come to Christ by faith, and partake of the inestimable benefits of his great sacrifice. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," etc. (Isaiah 4:1, 2; Revelation 22:17).
III. THE EXCLUSION OF SOME FROM' PARTICIPATION IN THIS PROVISION. "Whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." The reference is to the Jewish priests and Levites. They who clung to Judaism rejected Christianity, and were necessarily excluded from its benefits. They were self-excluded. They would not come unto Christ that they might have life. All who reject the Lord Jesus are in a similar condition: e.g. the self-righteous moralist, the modern representative of the ancient Pharisee; the captious and the scoffing skeptic; the worlding who elects to have his portion in this life; and others. The provision is free, free for all; but these exclude themselves from participation therein. How is it possible for any one to enjoy the blessings of Christianity who rejects the Christ? - W.J.
I. OUR VIEW OF PRESENT SURROUNDINGS. We have cities, but not continuing ones. It would be very foolish in us, knowing all we do and hoping for all we do, to look upon the states and governments of this world as do those in whom nationality is the very strongest feeling. We must pray to be preserved from that narrow and one-sided idealism which so glorifies fatherland as to make it the chief object of one's enthusiasm and effort. Our hearts must not be deceived by the outward splendors of capital cities. And yet, while the pilgrim spirit is in us, let it not be a restless and a carping one. No one should be more interested in the life, prosperity, and good government of a state than the Christian.
II. OUR OUTLOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE. An abiding city, a city where there is true stability and true glory, is no dream. We have it not yet, but we shall have it if we seek for it. What an interest the Christian is exhorted to have in abiding, continuing things! Faith, hope, and love are to abide; all abiding things will be manifested after the great shaking; and they will cohere into the true dignity of the heavenly state. Never has the human imagination been more nobly employed than in bodying forth the conditions and appearances of a perfect state. But those indulging such imaginations had no definite way of reducing them to fact. Here, however, the Christian is spoken of as seeking for the coming city in a very definite way. True, our present life is as it were a camp-life, but not for all that like the life of savage or gipsy. Our camping-places are all stages in the journey to the new Jerusalem. - Y.
I. THE NATURE OF THE SACRIFICES WHICH ARE REQUIRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. Praise to God. "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his Name." The sacrifices which are obligatory upon us are not expiatory or atoning, but eucharistic. The great atoning sacrifice in all its perfection has been offered. To it nothing can be added. But we should confess the Name of God, and gratefully acknowledge his great goodness to us, and celebrate his infinite perfections. Two things show our obligation to offer this sacrifice.
(1) The number and preciousness of the blessings we receive from him. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?... I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." "Bless the Lord, O my soul," etc. (Psalm 103:1-5).
(2) The perfection and glory of his own being and character. We ought to bless God because of what he is in himself. "For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?" etc. (Psalm 89:6, 7). "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," etc. (Isaiah 6:3).
2. Beneficence to man. "But to do good and to communicate forget not." God requires not only "the fruit of our lips," but the fruit of our lives. Our gratitude to him is to be expressed in kindness to our fellow-men. "Thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better." Dr. South has well said, "The measures that God marks out to thy charity are these: thy superfluities must give place to thy neighbor's great convenience; thy convenience must yield to thy neighbor's necessity; and thy very necessities must yield to thy neighbor's extremity."
II. THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED. "By him let us offer," etc. More correctly, "through him let us offer." Our sacrifices should be offered through the mediation of Jesus Christ. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me," or, "through me." "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." We offer our sacrifices through him because:
1. He represents God to us as accessible and attractive. "No man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the besom of the Father, he hath declared him." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "The Father himself loveth you." Through this revelation we are encouraged to draw near to God with our thanksgiving and praise.
2. He represents us to God in his own humanity. "When he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there still, bearing even in his glorified body the marks of the wounds which he endured for us. "A Lamb standing, as though it had been slain."
III. THE TIME WHEN THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED.
1. The sacrifice of praise to God should be offered "continually. Daily praise should ascend from each of us to God, as the perfume of the daily sacrifice ascended in olden times; there must not be fewer sacrifices under the new dispensation than there were under the old; we are priests to offer up unto God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Praise should be not an occasional exercise, but an abiding disposition of the soul. We should cultivate a thankful, praiseful, adoring spirit. "In everything give thanks."
"Not thankful when it pleaseth me;
2. The sacrifices of beneficence to men should be offered according to our opportunities. "As we have opportunity, let us work that which is good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Let us not neglect any opportunity of kindness and beneficence; for all our opportunities may soon be ended, and that forever.
IV. THE FAVOUR WITH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES ARE REGARDED BY GOD. "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." He not only accepts them, but he is gratified by them. He is "well pleased" with them, because they are expressions of that spirit in which he delights. He is infinitely beneficent. He is "good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." "He is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil." He loves to find the same disposition in his creatures. Moreover, our Lord regards our acts of beneficence as done to him (cf. Matthew 25:40). And not even the least of them escapes his notice, or will fail of its reward (cf. Matthew 10:42; Hebrews 6:10). - W.J.
I. OUR CONSTANT AIM MUST BE TO PLEASE GOD. Literal sacrifices had degenerated into a traditional safeguard against displeasing God. The ordinances of Sinai with respect to sacrifice had aimed to lift it into a great teaching and self-revealing institution. But probably only a few in every generation had grasped the spiritual significance of sacrifice. Though, doubtless, many too, because their motive was sincere as far as it went, were accepted, as was the woman with her alabaster box, and the widow with the two mites. The illuminating gospel of Christ leaves us without excuse as to what will please God. We know that the old sacrifices never could have pleased him in themselves. He could not eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats. But now no offering can please unless it be in itself helpful to men or glorifying to God.
II. INTELLIGENT PRAISE PLEASES GOD. Praise which comes from overflowing heart-experiences must always be acceptable to God. For the fruits from outward possessions are substituted the fruits from an inward life. The habitual acknowledgment of God's Name means an habitual consciousness of all the services he renders in supplying all our needs from the highest down to the lowest. It is not enough that there be praise; it must be praise abounding in the right elements. Mere words of the lip can give no more pleasure to God than the mere slaying of animals.
III. THE DOING OF GOOD PLEASES GOD. Praise cannot stand by itself. Real doing of good shows that God's Spirit of love, direction, and power is working in us. Work must not stand instead of praise, nor praise instead of work; going together, they are as the sacrificial body and the smell proceeding from it. Note the significant injunction not to forget. How much easier it is to go through a round of praise than to muster the self-denial needed for a course of practical good!
IV. FELLOWSHIP PLEASES GOD. Christians must associate. Real Christians coming together cannot but associate. God delights in the process of mutual giving and receiving observable in every Christian community. Making up for each other's defects, bearing each other's burdens, having fellowship as the eye has with the hand, the head with the feet, let this be the sight God ever sees when he looks upon his people. So shall the carcasses of all beasts slain in sacrifice be glorified when we think of the real offerings which they typified, and towards which they iF, some manner prepared. - Y.
I. THE SHEPHERD'S AUTHORITY. Christians must maintain the liberty wherewith Christ hath set them free, but at the same time there is a discipline also to be maintained, a provision and protection to be accepted. Few are the Christians who can do without counsel, comfort, and spiritual supply from those who in various ways are qualified to give these. We must look for the shepherd ability and tenderness wherever we can find it. Those formally constituted shepherds may have very few of the qualifications. Let intrinsic authority be recognized; more than that, let it be looked for. It is quite possible to be the shepherd in relation to certain fellow-Christians and the sheep in relations to others.
II. THE SHEPHERD'S FIDELITY. He remembers that he has to give account. If any of the sheep be lost or slain he has to explain how it happened, and show that the blame did not lie with him. This makes a true shepherd ever vigilant and foreseeing, always ready to suspect danger under an appearance of the greatest safety.
III. THE SHEPHERD'S DIFFICULTY. The literal shepherd has difficulties enough. He has to do with stupid sheep who have to be watched continually. But, then, he can always employ main force. The spiritual shepherd, on the other hand, deals with human beings. They have to be persuaded. If they are bent on going into pasture-less and dangerous places, then the shepherd cannot stop. He warns, he expostulates, he entreats, with tears in his eyes, again and again; and that is all he can do. Hence the need of appeal to those who add the responsibility of a human being to the helplessness of the sheep.
IV. THE SHEPHERD'S ACCOUNT. The faithful shepherd can keep the day of account before him, with a calm and ready heart. He can justify himself for every sheep committed to his trust. But all this will not prevent him bewailing the sheep that are lost. Every one with the shepherd instinct in him will think with deepest sorrow of those who would listen to no counsel and believe in no peril.
V. THE SHEPHERD'S REWARD. He is rewarded according to his faithfulness. He may have to present a most deplorable list of lost sheep; but if he can show that no blame is his - that every one has been lost purely through self-will - then his profiting will appear all the same. The shepherd will have sorrow for a season, but he cannot suffer in the end. The sole suffering and loss remain in the end with those who reject the counsels. - Y.
I. THE GREAT BEING WHO IS HERE ADDRESSED. "The God of peace." This title is fitly applied to the Most High.
1. He is infinitely peaceful in himself. All those elements which disturb and distress souls are entirely absent from his nature. Pride, anger, jealousy, remorse, fear, foreboding, - these are the things which agitate and alarm us; but they have no existence in him. He is infinitely pure and perfect, and, therefore, he is infinitely peaceful.
2. He is the Giver of peace to others. He gives peace in the conscience by means of the forgiveness of sin. "Thy sins are forgiven;... thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (Luke 7:48, 50; cf. Romans 5:1). He gives peace in the heart by the expulsion of evil passions therefrom and the inspiration therein of holy affections. Anger, revenge, jealousy, he expels from the heart, and he awakens in it supreme love to himself and love to our fellow-men. He quickens within us confidence in himself, and so gives us peace as we contemplate the possibilities of our future. A calm trust in his fatherhood is an unfailing antidote to our anxieties and forebodings. "Be not anxious for your life," etc. (Matthew 6:25-34). He gives peace in the Church. There is, perhaps, an allusion to this fact in the present application of the title to him. The nineteenth verse suggests that there was danger of disobedience and insubordination amongst those who are addressed. And it was appropriate to remind them that God is the God of peace and the Giver of peace, and to wish for them the enjoyment of this blessing.
II. THE GREAT WORK ATTRIBUTED TO HIM. "Who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus?' We must notice here what is said of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The relation which he sustains to his people. "The great Shepherd of the sheep." This relationship implies
(1) provision for the wants of his people. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," etc. (Psalm 23.).
(2) Direction of their way. "The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out," etc. (John 10:3, 4).
(3) Protection of them from dangers and enemies. "I will save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey." "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep," etc. (John 10:11-14; cf. Ezekiel 34:11-31).
2. The means by which he entered into his relationship. "Through the blood of the eternal covenant." Jesus Christ became the great Shepherd of the sheep through the great sacrifice of himself which he offered. Ebrard: "Christ is the great, true, chief, and superior Shepherd, inasmuch as he has made an everlasting covenant by his blood (cf. Hebrews 10:11, etc.). The best commentary on these words is found in John 10. He is the good Shepherd because he has given his life for the sheep." This great Shepherd of the sheep was brought again from the dead by the God of peace. In the New Testament the resurrection of our Savior is almost invariably attributed to God the Father. "God raised him from the dead, and gave him glory" (1 Peter 1:21). Thus his resurrection was an evidence that the work which was given him to do upon earth was perfectly completed, and was accepted by the Divine Father.
III. THE BLESSING SOLICITED FROM HIM. "Make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." Perfection is the blessing prayed for.
1. The nature of this perfection. "Make you perfect in every good thing to do his will." Absolute perfection is not solicited here; but that they may be enabled fully and heartily to accomplish the holy will of God. Cf. Hebrews 10:36, "That having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise."
2. The means of this perfection. "Working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight." To the same effect St. Paul writes, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure." The inspiration and strength for our out-working of his wilt must come from his in-working with us.
3. The medium of this perfection. "Through Jesus Christ." God works within us through the Savior, through his mediation and by his Spirit. Through him alone can man attain unto perfection of being.
IV. THE HONOUR ASCRIBED TO HIM. "To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
1. Glory is ascribed to God the Father. Some hold that the glory is attributed to Jesus Christ. But it seems to us that it is ascribed to God the Father, "the chief Subject of the whole sentence," as Alford says; "God, who is the God of peace, who brought up the Lord Jesus from the dead, who can perfect us in every good work, to accomplish his will, and works in us that which is well-pleasing to him through Jesus Christ. The whole majesty of the sentence requires this reverting to its main Agent, and speaks against the referring 'to whom be the glory' to our blessed Lord, who is only incidentally mentioned." To the God of all grace the highest, fullest, divinest honors are due.
2. Glory is ascribed to God perpetually. "Forever and ever." "Unto the ages of the ages. Amen." His own essential glory is eternal, and the honors attributed to him will not only continue, but increase throughout endless ages. - W.J.
I. THE REFERENCE TO THE COVENANT. There had been a covenant, not everlasting, seeing there was no possibility of everlastingness in it. But now there is a new covenant, stable and consecrated by the blood of Jesus himself. The very Lord's Supper, in which these Hebrew Christians must repeatedly have taken part, made it impossible for them to forget the blood of the new covenant. This new covenant was really established in the raising of Jesus from the dead. And well might God be called a God of peace in connection with it. As God of the old covenant he had too frequently to be a God of wrath and of hostility to those transgressing the terms of the covenant.
II. THE COMFORTING REFERENCE TO GOD'S POWER AND DISPOSITION. Great as the troubles through which these people were passing seemed, yet they were not as the troubles of ancient Israel, idolatrous and apostate from the living God. It is a matter of the greatest importance to be assured that one is not contending with the Divine wrath. If God be against us, all comforts and hopes, however promising, are only delusions. [But here is the proof that God is for us, in raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus had been the great Benefactor of men, a true Shepherd. Had he not compassion on the crowd, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd? And when he died, how many lost their hope and comfort then] But God raises him from the dead, brings him back from among the corpses, and so constitutes him in a higher sense than ever the great Shepherd of the sheep.
III. THE GREAT THINGS YET TO BE EXPECTED AND PREPARED FOR. A risen Savior is not only to secure us immortality, but to confirm us in a new life in every way. Things are prayed for that belong to the very essence of the Christian life, whatever its external circumstances may be. We need to be properly placed and endowed for every good work; we need to be fitted to carry out the will of God. The Divine intent is that we should in all ways be strong for usefulness as well as strong to bear trial. The God of the resurrection can work in us all that is acceptable to himself, and he will do it through Jesus Christ.
IV. THE DOXOLOGY. How fittingly it comes in after this recital of the Divine power and ability! All true praise must be based upon a real and deep apprehension of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. - Y.