Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Heb 10:1-39. Conclusion of the Foregoing Argument. The Yearly Recurring Law Sacrifices Cannot Perfect the Worshipper, but Christ's Once-for-all Offering Can.
Instead of the daily ministry of the Levitical priests, Christ's service is perfected by the one sacrifice, whence He now sits on the right hand of God as a Priest-King, until all His foes shall be subdued unto Him. Thus the new covenant (Heb 8:8-12) is inaugurated, whereby the law is written on the heart, so that an offering for sin is needed no more. Wherefore we ought to draw near the Holiest in firm faith and love; fearful of the awful results of apostasy; looking for the recompense to be given at Christ's coming.
1. Previously the oneness of Christ's offering was shown; now is shown its perfection as contrasted with the law sacrifices.
having—inasmuch as it has but "the shadow, not the very image," that is, not the exact likeness, reality, and full revelation, such as the Gospel has. The "image" here means the archetype (compare Heb 9:24), the original, solid image [Bengel] realizing to us those heavenly verities, of which the law furnished but a shadowy outline before. Compare 2Co 3:13, 14, 18; the Gospel is the very setting forth by the Word and Spirit of the heavenly realities themselves, out of which it (the Gospel) is constructed. So Alford. As Christ is "the express image (Greek, 'impress') of the Father's person" (Heb 1:3), so the Gospel is the heavenly verities themselves manifested by revelation—the heavenly very archetype, of which the law was drawn as a sketch, or outline copy (Heb 8:5). The law was a continual process of acted prophecy, proving the divine design that its counterparts should come; and proving the truth of those counterparts when they came. Thus the imperfect and continued expiatory sacrifices before Christ foretend, and now prove, the reality of, Christ's one perfect antitypical expiation.
good things to come—(Heb 9:11); belonging to "the world (age) to come." Good things in part made present by faith to the believer, and to be fully realized hereafter in actual and perfect enjoyment. Lessing says, "As Christ's Church on earth is a prediction of the economy of the future life, so the Old Testament economy is a prediction of the Christian Church." In relation to the temporal good things of the law, the spiritual and eternal good things of the Gospel are "good things to come." Col 2:17 calls legal ordinances "the shadow," and Christ "the body."
never—at any time (Heb 10:11).
with those sacrifices—rather, "with the same sacrifices.
year by year—This clause in the Greek refers to the whole sentence, not merely to the words "which they the priests offered" (Greek, "offer"). Thus the sense is, not as English Version, but, the law year by year, by the repetition of the same sacrifices, testifies its inability to perfect the worshippers; namely, on the YEARLY day of atonement. The "daily" sacrifices are referred to, Heb 10:11.
continually—Greek, "continuously," implying that they offer a toilsome and ineffectual "continuous" round of the "same" atonement-sacrifices recurring "year by year."
comers thereunto—those so coming unto God, namely, the worshippers (the whole people) coming to God in the person of their representative, the high priest.
perfect—fully meet man's needs as to justification and sanctification (see on Heb 9:9).
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
2. For—if the law could, by its sacrifices, have perfected the worshippers.
once purged—IF they were once for all cleansed (Heb 7:27).
conscience—"consciousness of sin" (Heb 9:9).
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
3. But—so far from those sacrifices ceasing to be offered (Heb 10:2).
in, &c.—in the fact of their being offered, and in the course of their being offered on the day of atonement. Contrast Heb 10:17.
a remembrance—a recalling to mind by the high priest's confession, on the day of atonement, of the sins both of each past year and of all former years, proving that the expiatory sacrifices of former years were not felt by men's consciences to have fully atoned for former sins; in fact, the expiation and remission were only legal and typical (Heb 10:4, 11). The Gospel remission, on the contrary, is so complete, that sins are "remembered no more" (Heb 10:17) by God. It is unbelief to "forget" this once-for-all purgation, and to fear on account of "former sins" (2Pe 1:9). The believer, once for all bathed, needs only to "wash" his hands and "feet" of soils, according as he daily contracts them, in Christ's blood (Joh 13:10).
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
4. For, &c.—reason why, necessarily, there is a continually recurring "remembrance of sins" in the legal sacrifices (Heb 10:3). Typically, "the blood of bulls," &c., sacrificed, had power; but it was only in virtue of the power of the one real antitypical sacrifice of Christ; they had no power in themselves; they were not the instrument of perfect vicarious atonement, but an exhibition of the need of it, suggesting to the faithful Israelite the sure hope of coming redemption, according to God's promise.
take away—"take off." The Greek, Heb 10:11, is stronger, explaining the weaker word here, "take away utterly." The blood of beasts could not take away the sin of man. A MAN must do that (see on Heb 9:12-14).
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
5. Christ's voluntary self offering, in contrast to those inefficient sacrifices, is shown to fulfill perfectly "the will of God" as to our redemption, by completely atoning "for (our) sins."
Wherefore—seeing that a nobler than animal sacrifices was needed to "take away sins."
when he cometh—Greek, "coming." The time referred to is the period before His entrance into the world, when the inefficiency of animal sacrifices for expiation had been proved [Tholuck]. Or, the time is that between Jesus' first dawning of reason as a child, and the beginning of His public ministry, during which, being ripened in human resolution, He was intently devoting Himself to the doing of His Father's will [Alford]. But the time of "coming" is present; not "when He had come," but "when coming into the world"; so, in order to accord with Alford's view, "the world" must mean His PUBLIC ministry: when coming, or about to come, into public. The Greek verbs are in the past: "sacrifice … Thou didst not wish, but a body Thou didst prepare for Me"; and, "Lo, I am come." Therefore, in order to harmonize these times, the present coming, or about to come, with the past, "A body Thou didst prepare for Me," we must either explain as Alford, or else, if we take the period to be before His actual arrival in the world (the earth) or incarnation, we must explain the past tenses to refer to God's purpose, which speaks of what He designed from eternity as though it were already fulfilled. "A body Thou didst prepare in Thy eternal counsel." This seems to me more likely than explaining "coming into the world," "coming into public," or entering on His public ministry. David, in the fortieth Psalm (here quoted), reviews his past troubles and God's having delivered him from them, and his consequent desire to render willing obedience to God as more acceptable than sacrifices; but the Spirit puts into his mouth language finding its partial application to David, and its full realization only in the divine Son of David. "The more any son of man approaches the incarnate Son of God in position, or office, or individual spiritual experience, the more directly may his holy breathings in the power of Christ's Spirit be taken as utterances of Christ Himself. Of all men, the prophet-king of Israel resembled and foreshadowed Him the most" [Alford].
a body hast thou prepared me—Greek, "Thou didst fit for Me a body." "In Thy counsels Thou didst determine to make for Me a body, to be given up to death as a sacrificial victim" [Wahl]. In the Hebrew, Ps 40:6, it is "mine ears hast thou opened," or "dug." Perhaps this alludes to the custom of boring the ear of a slave who volunteers to remain under his master when he might be free. Christ's assuming a human body, in obedience to the Father's will, in order to die the death of a slave (Heb 2:14), was virtually the same act of voluntary submission to service as that of a slave suffering his ear to be bored by his master. His willing obedience to the Father's will is what is dwelt on as giving especial virtue to His sacrifice (Heb 10:7, 9, 10). The preparing, or fitting of a body for Him, is not with a view to His mere incarnation, but to His expiatory sacrifice (Heb 10:10), as the contrast to "sacrifice and offering" requires; compare also Ro 7:4; Eph 2:16; Col 1:22. More probably "opened mine ears" means opened mine inward ear, so as to be attentively obedient to what God wills me to do, namely, to assume the body He has prepared for me for my sacrifice, so Job 33:16, Margin; Job 36:10 (doubtless the boring of a slave's "ear" was the symbol of such willing obedience); Isa 50:5, "The Lord God hath opened mine ear," that is, made me obediently attentive as a slave to his master. Others somewhat similarly explain, "Mine ears hast thou digged," or "fashioned," not with allusion to Ex 21:6, but to the true office of the ear—a willing, submissive attention to the voice of God (Isa 50:4, 5). The forming of the ear implies the preparation of the body, that is, the incarnation; this secondary idea, really in the Hebrew, though less prominent, is the one which Paul uses for his argument. In either explanation the idea of Christ taking on Him the form, and becoming obedient as a servant, is implied. As He assumed a body in which to make His self-sacrifice, so ought we present our bodies a living sacrifice (Ro 12:1).
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
6. burnt offerings—Greek, "whole burnt offerings."
thou hast had no pleasure—as if these could in themselves atone for sin: God had pleasure in (Greek, "approved," or "was well pleased with") them, in so far as they were an act of obedience to His positive command under the Old Testament, but not as having an intrinsic efficacy such as Christ's sacrifice had. Contrast Mt 3:17.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
7. I come—rather, "I am come" (see on Heb 10:5). "Here we have the creed, as it were, of Jesus: 'I am come to fulfil the law,' Mt 5:17; to preach, Mr 1:38; to call sinners to repentance, Lu 5:32; to send a sword and to set men at variance, Mt 10:34, 35; I came down from heaven to do the will of Him that sent me, Joh 6:38, 39 (so here, Ps 40:7, 8); I am sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Mt 15:24; I am come into this world for judgment, Joh 9:39; I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly, Joh 10:10; to save what had been lost, Mt 18:11; to seek and to save that which was lost, Lu 19:10; compare 1Ti 1:15; to save men's lives, Lu 9:56; to send fire on the earth, Lu 12:49; to minister, Mt 20:28; as "the Light," Joh 12:46; to bear witness unto the truth, Joh 18:37. See, reader, that thy Saviour obtain what He aimed at in thy case. Moreover, do thou for thy part say, why thou art come here? Dost thou, then, also, do the will of God? From what time? and in what way?" [Bengel]. When the two goats on the day of atonement were presented before the Lord, that goat on which the lot of the Lord should fall was to be offered as a sin offering; and that lot was lifted up on high in the hand of the high priest, and then laid upon the head of the goat which was to die; so the hand of God determined all that was done to Christ. Besides the covenant of God with man through Christ's blood, there was another covenant made by the Father with the Son from eternity. The condition was, "If He shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed," &c. (Isa 53:10). The Son accepted the condition, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God" [Bishop Pearson]. Oblation, intercession, and benediction, are His three priestly offices.
in the volume, &c.—literally, "the roll": the parchment manuscript being wrapped around a cylinder headed with knobs. Here, the Scripture "volume" meant is the fortieth Psalm. "By this very passage 'written of Me,' I undertake to do Thy will [namely, that I should die for the sins of the world, in order that all who believe may be saved, not by animal sacrifices, Heb 10:6, but by My death]." This is the written contract of Messiah (compare Ne 9:38), whereby He engaged to be our surety. So complete is the inspiration of all that is written, so great the authority of the Psalms, that what David says is really what Christ then and there said.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Sacrifice, &c.—The oldest manuscripts read, "Sacrifices and offerings" (plural). This verse combines the two clauses previously quoted distinctly, Heb 10:5, 6, in contrast to the sacrifice of Christ with which God was well pleased.
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
9. Then said he—"At that time (namely, when speaking by David's mouth in the fortieth Psalm) He hath said." The rejection of the legal sacrifices involves, as its concomitant, the voluntary offer of Jesus to make the self-sacrifice with which God is well pleased (for, indeed, it was God's own "will" that He came to do in offering it: so that this sacrifice could not but be well pleasing to God).
I come—"I am come."
taketh away—"sets aside the first," namely, "the legal system of sacrifices" which God wills not.
the second—"the will of God" (Heb 10:7, 9) that Christ should redeem us by His self-sacrifice.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
10. By—Greek, "In." So "in," and "through," occur in the same sentence, 1Pe 1:22, "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit." Also, 1Pe 1:5, in the Greek. The "in (fulfilment of) which will" (compare the use of in, Eph 1:6, "wherein [in which grace] He hath made us accepted, in the Beloved"), expresses the originating cause; "THROUGH the offering … of Christ," the instrumental or mediatory cause. The whole work of redemption flows from "the will" of God the Father, as the First Cause, who decreed redemption from before the foundation of the world. The "will" here (boulema) is His absolute sovereign will. His "good will" (eudokia) is a particular aspect of it.
are sanctified—once for all, and as our permanent state (so the Greek). It is the finished work of Christ in having sanctified us (that is, having translated us from a state of unholy alienation into a state of consecration to God, having "no more conscience of sin," Heb 10:2) once for all and permanently, not the process of gradual sanctification, which is here referred to.
the body—"prepared" for Him by the Father (Heb 10:5). As the atonement, or reconciliation, is by the blood of Christ (Le 17:11), so our sanctification (consecration to God, holiness and eternal bliss) is by the body of Christ (Col 1:22). Alford quotes the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service, "that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body, and our souls washed through His most precious blood."
once for all—(Heb 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:12, 14).
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
11. And—a new point of contrast; the frequent repetition of the sacrifices.
priest—The oldest manuscripts read, "high priest." Though he did not in person stand "daily" offering sacrifices, he did so by the subordinate priests of whom, as well as of all Israel, he was the representative head. So "daily" is applied to the high priests (Heb 7:27).
standeth—the attitude of one ministering; in contrast to "sat down on the right hand of God," Heb 10:12, said of Christ; the posture of one being ministered to as a king.
which—Greek, "the which," that is, of such a kind as.
take away—utterly; literally, "strip off all round." Legal sacrifices might, in part, produce the sense of forgiveness, yet scarcely even that (see on Heb 10:4); but entirely to strip off one's guilt they never could.
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
12. this man—emphatic (Heb 3:3).
for ever—joined in English Version with "offered one sacrifice"; offered one sacrifice, the efficacy of which endures for ever; literally. "continuously," (compare Heb 10:14). "The offering of Christ, once for all made, will continue the one and only oblation for ever; no other will supersede it" [Bengel]. The mass, which professes to be the frequent repetition of one and the same sacrifice of Christ's body, is hence disproved. For not only is Christ's body one, but also His offering is one, and that inseparable from His suffering (Heb 9:26). The mass would be much the same as the Jewish sacrifices which Paul sets aside as abrogated, for they were anticipations of the one sacrifice, just as Rome makes masses continuations of it, in opposition to Paul's argument. A repetition would imply that the former once-for-all offering of the one sacrifice was imperfect, and so would be dishonoring to it (Heb 10:2, 18). Heb 10:14, on the contrary, says, "He hath PERFECTED FOR EVER them that are sanctified." If Christ offered Himself at the last supper, then He offered Himself again on the cross, and there would be two offerings; but Paul says there was only one, once for all. Compare Note, see on Heb 9:26. English Version is favored by the usage in this Epistle, of putting the Greek "for ever" after that which it qualifies. Also, "one sacrifice for ever," stands in contrast to "the same sacrifices oftentimes" (Heb 10:11). Also, 1Co 15:25, 28, agrees with Heb 10:12, 13, taken as English Version, not joining, as Alford does, "for ever" with "sat down," for Jesus is to give up the mediatorial throne "when all things shall be subdued unto Him," and not to sit on it for ever.
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
13. expecting—"waiting." Awaiting the execution of His Father's will, that all His foes should be subjected to Him. The Son waits till the Father shall "send Him forth to triumph over all His foes." He is now sitting at rest (Heb 10:12), invisibly reigning, and having His foes virtually, by right of His death, subject to Him. His present sitting on the unseen throne is a necessary preliminary to His coming forth to subject His foes openly. He shall then come forth to a visibly manifested kingdom and conquest over His foes. Thus He fulfils Ps 110:1. This agrees with 1Co 15:23-28. He is, by His Spirit and His providence, now subjecting His foes to Him in part (Ps 110:1-7). The subjection of His foes fully shall be at His second advent, and from that time to the general judgment (Re 19:1-20:15); then comes the subjection of Himself as Head of the Church to the Father (the mediatorial economy ceasing when its end shall have been accomplished), that God may be all in all. Eastern conquerors used to tread on the necks of the vanquished, as Joshua did to the five kings. So Christ's total and absolute conquest at His coming is symbolized.
be made his footstool—literally, "be placed (rendered) footstool of His feet."
his enemies—Satan and Death, whose strength consists in "sin"; this being taken away (Heb 10:12), the power of the foes is taken away, and their destruction necessarily follows.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
14. For—The sacrifice being "for ever" in its efficacy (Heb 10:12) needs no renewal.
them that are sanctified—rather as Greek, "them that are being sanctified." The sanctification (consecration to God) of the elect (1Pe 1:2) believers is perfect in Christ once for all (see on Heb 10:10). (Contrast the law, Heb 7:19; 9:9; 10:1). The development of that sanctification is progressive.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
15. The Greek, has "moreover," or "now."
is a witness—of the truth which I am setting forth. The Father's witness is given Heb 5:10. The Son's, Heb 10:5. Now is added that of the Holy Spirit, called accordingly "the Spirit of grace," Heb 10:29. The testimony of all Three leads to the same conclusion (Heb 10:18).
for after that he had said before—The conclusion to the sentence is in Heb 10:17, "After He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them (with the house of Israel, Heb 8:10; here extended to the spiritual Israel) … saith the Lord; I will put (literally, 'giving,' referring to the giving of the law; not now as then, giving into the hands, but giving) My laws into their hearts ('mind,' Heb 8:10) and in their minds ('hearts,' Heb 8:10); I will inscribe (so the Greek) them (here He omits the addition quoted in Heb 8:10, 11, I will be to them a God … and they shall not teach every man his neighbor …), and (that is, after He had said the foregoing, He then adds) their sins … will I remember no more." The great object of the quotation here is to prove that, there being in the Gospel covenant, "REMISSION of sins" (Heb 10:17), there is no more need of a sacrifice for sins. The object of the same quotation in Heb 8:8-13 is to show that, there being a "NEW covenant," the old is antiquated.
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
18. where remission of these is—as there is under the Gospel covenant (Heb 10:17). "Here ends the finale (Heb 10:1-18) of the great tripartite arrangement (Heb 7:1-25; 7:26-9:12; 9:13-10:18) of the middle portion of the Epistle. Its great theme was Christ a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. What it is to be a high priest after the order of Melchisedec is set forth, Heb 7:1-25, as contrasted with the Aaronic order. That Christ, however, as High Priest, is Aaron's antitype in the true holy place, by virtue of His self-sacrifice here on earth, and Mediator of a better covenant, whose essential character the old only typified, we learn, Heb 7:26-9:12. And that Christ's self-sacrifice, offered through the Eternal Spirit, is of everlasting power, as contrasted with the unavailing cycle of legal offerings, is established in the third part, Heb 9:13-10:18; the first half of this last portion [Heb 9:13-28], showing that both our present possession of salvation, and our future completion of it, are as certain to us as that He is with God, ruling as a Priest and reigning as a King, once more to appear, no more as a bearer of our sins, but in glory as a Judge. The second half, Heb 10:1-18, reiterating the main position of the whole, the High Priesthood of Christ, grounded on His offering of Himself—its kingly character its eternal accomplishment of its end, confirmed by Psalms 40 and 110 and Jeremiah 31" [Delitzsch in Alford].
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
19. Here begins the third and last division of the Epistle; our duty now while waiting for the Lord's second advent. Resumption and expansion of the exhortation (Heb 4:14-16; compare Heb 10:22, 23 here) wherewith he closed the first part of the Epistle, preparatory to his great doctrinal argument, beginning at Heb 7:1.
boldness—"free confidence," grounded on the consciousness that our sins have been forgiven.
to enter—literally, "as regards the entering."
by—Greek, "in"; it is in the blood of Jesus that our boldness to enter is grounded. Compare Eph 3:12, "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence." It is His having once for all entered as our Forerunner (Heb 6:20) and High Priest (Heb 10:21), making atonement for us with His blood, which is continually there (Heb 12:24) before God, that gives us confident access. No priestly caste now mediates between the sinner and his Judge. We may come boldly with loving confidence, not with slavish fear, directly through Christ, the only mediating Priest. The minister is not officially nearer God than the layman; nor can the latter serve God at a distance or by deputy, as the natural man would like. Each must come for himself, and all are accepted when they come by the new and living way opened by Christ. Thus all Christians are, in respect to access directly to God, virtually high priests (Re 1:6). They draw nigh in and through Christ, the only proper High Priest (Heb 7:25).
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
20. which, &c.—The antecedent in the Greek is "the entering"; not as English Version, "way." Translate, "which (entering) He has consecrated (not as though it were already existing, but has been the first to open, INAUGURATED as a new thing; see on Heb 9:18, where the Greek is the same) for us (as) a new (Greek, 'recent'; recently opened, Ro 16:25, 26) and living way" (not like the lifeless way through the law offering of the blood of dead victims, but real, vital, and of perpetual efficacy, because the living and life-giving Saviour is that way. It is a living hope that we have, producing not dead, but living, works). Christ, the first-fruits of our nature, has ascended, and the rest is sanctified thereby. "Christ's ascension is our promotion; and whither the glory of the Head hath preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called" [Leo].
the veil—As the veil had to be passed through in order to enter the holiest place, so the weak, human suffering flesh (Heb 5:7) of Christ's humanity (which veiled His God head) had to be passed through by Him in entering the heavenly holiest place for us; in putting off His rent flesh, the temple veil, its type, was simultaneously rent from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). Not His body, but His weak suffering flesh, was the veil; His body was the temple (Joh 2:19).
And having an high priest over the house of God;
21. high priest—As a different Greek term (archiereus) is used always elsewhere in this Epistle for "high priest," translate as Greek here, "A Great Priest"; one who is at once King and "Priest on His throne" (Zec 6:13); a royal Priest, and a priestly King.
house of God—the spiritual house, the Church, made up of believers, whose home is heaven, where Jesus now is (Heb 12:22, 23). Thus, by "the house of God," over which Jesus is, heaven is included in meaning, as well as the Church, whose home it is.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
22. (Heb 4:16; 7:19.)
with a true heart—without hypocrisy; "in truth, and with a perfect heart"; a heart thoroughly imbued with "the truth" (Heb 10:26).
full assurance—(Heb 6:11); with no doubt as to our acceptance when coming to God by the blood of Christ. As "faith" occurs here, so "hope," and "love," Heb 10:23, 24.
sprinkled from—that is, sprinkled so as to be cleansed from.
evil conscience—a consciousness of guilt unatoned for, and uncleansed away (Heb 10:2; Heb 9:9). Both the hearts and the bodies are cleansed. The legal purifications were with blood of animal victims and with water, and could only cleanse the flesh (Heb 9:13, 21). Christ's blood purifies the heart and conscience. The Aaronic priest, in entering the holy place, washed with water (Heb 9:19) in the brazen laver. Believers, as priests to God, are once for all washed in BODY (as distinguished from "hearts") at baptism. As we have an immaterial, and a material nature, the cleansing of both is expressed by "hearts" and "body," the inner and the outer man; so the whole man, material and immaterial. The baptism of the body, however, is not the mere putting away of material filth, nor an act operating by intrinsic efficacy, but the sacramental seal, applied to the outer man, of a spiritual washing (1Pe 3:21). "Body" (not merely "flesh," the carnal part, as 2Co 7:1) includes the whole material man, which needs cleansing, as being redeemed, as well as the soul. The body, once polluted with sin, is washed, so as to be fitted like Christ's holy body, and by His body, to be spiritually a pure and living offering. On the "pure water," the symbol of consecration and sanctification, compare Joh 19:34; 1Co 6:11; 1Jo 5:6; Eze 36:25. The perfects "having … hearts sprinkled … body (the Greek is singular) washed," imply a continuing state produced by a once-for-all accomplished act, namely, our justification by faith through Christ's blood, and consecration to God, sealed sacramentally by the baptism of our body.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
23. (Heb 3:6, 14; 4:14.)
our faith—rather as Greek, "our hope"; which is indeed faith exercised as to the future inheritance. Hope rests on faith, and at the same time quickens faith, and is the ground of our bold confession (1Pe 3:15). Hope is similarly (Heb 10:22) connected with purification (1Jo 3:3).
without wavering—without declension (Heb 3:14), "steadfast unto the end."
he—God is faithful to His promises (Heb 6:17, 18; 11:11; 12:26, 28; 1Co 1:9; 10:13; 1Th 5:24; 2Th 3:3; see also Christ's promise, Joh 12:26); but man is too often unfaithful to his duties.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
24. Here, as elsewhere, hope and love follow faith; the Pauline triad of Christian graces.
consider—with the mind attentively fixed on "one another" (see on Heb 3:1), contemplating with continual consideration the characters and wants of our brethren, so as to render mutual help and counsel. Compare "consider," Ps 41:1, and Heb 12:15, "(All) looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God."
to provoke—Greek, "with a view to provoking unto love," instead of provoking to hatred, as is too often the case.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
25. assembling of ourselves together—The Greek, "episunagoge," is only found here and 2Th 2:1 (the gathering together of the elect to Christ at His coming, Mt 24:31). The assembling or gathering of ourselves for Christian communion in private and public, is an earnest of our being gathered together to Him at His appearing. Union is strength; continual assemblings together beget and foster love, and give good opportunities for "provoking to good works," by "exhorting one another" (Heb 3:13). Ignatius says, "When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith." To neglect such assemblings together might end in apostasy at last. He avoids the Greek term "sunagoge," as suggesting the Jewish synagogue meetings (compare Re 2:9).
as the manner of some is—"manner," that is, habit, custom. This gentle expression proves he is not here as yet speaking of apostasy.
the day approaching—This, the shortest designation of the day of the Lord's coming, occurs elsewhere only in 1Co 3:13; a confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. The Church being in all ages kept uncertain how soon Christ is coming, the day is, and has been, in each age, practically always near; whence, believers have been called on always to be watching for it as nigh at hand. The Hebrews were now living close upon One of those great types and foretastes of it, the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 24:1, 2), "the bloody and fiery dawn of the great day; that day is the day of days, the ending day of all days, the settling day of all days, the day of the promotion of time into eternity, the day which, for the Church, breaks through and breaks off the night of the present world" [Delitzsch in Alford].
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
26. Compare on this and following verses, Heb 6:4, &c. There the warning was that if there be not diligence in progressing, a falling off will take place, and apostasy may ensue: here it is, that if there be lukewarmness in Christian communion, apostasy may ensue.
if we sin—Greek present participle: if we be found sinning, that is, not isolated acts, but a state of sin [Alford]. A violation not only of the law, but of the whole economy of the New Testament (Heb 10:28, 29).
wilfully—presumptuously, Greek "willingly." After receiving "full knowledge (so the Greek, compare 1Ti 2:4) of the truth," by having been "enlightened," and by having "tasted" a certain measure even of grace of "the Holy Ghost" (the Spirit of truth, Joh 14:17; and "the Spirit of grace," Heb 10:29): to fall away (as "sin" here means, Heb 3:12, 17; compare Heb 6:6) and apostatize (Heb 3:12) to Judaism or infidelity, is not a sin of ignorance, or error ("out of the way," the result) of infirmity, but a deliberate sinning against the Spirit (Heb 10:29; Heb 5:2): such sinning, where a consciousness of Gospel obligations not only was, but is present: a sinning presumptuously and preseveringly against Christ's redemption for us, and the Spirit of grace in us. "He only who stands high can fall low. A lively reference in the soul to what is good is necessary in order to be thoroughly wicked; hence, man can be more reprobate than the beasts, and the apostate angels than apostate man" [Tholuck].
remaineth no more sacrifice—For there is but ONE Sacrifice that can atone for sin; they, after having fully known that sacrifice, deliberately reject it.
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
27. a certain—an extraordinary and indescribable. The indefiniteness, as of something peculiar of its kind, makes the description the more terrible (compare Greek, Jas 1:18).
looking for—"expectation": a later sense of the Greek. Alford strangely translates, as the Greek usually means elsewhere, "reception." The transition is easy from "giving a reception to" something or someone, to "looking for." Contrast the "expecting" (the very same Greek as here), Heb 10:13, which refutes Alford.
fiery indignation—literally, "zeal of fire." Fire is personified: glow or ardor of fire, that is, of Him who is "a consuming fire."
He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
28. Compare Heb 2:2, 3; 12:25.
despised—"set at naught" [Alford]: utterly and heinously violated, not merely some minor detail, but the whole law and covenant; for example, by idolatry (De 17:2-7). So here apostasy answers to such an utter violation of the old covenant.
died—Greek, "dies": the normal punishment of such transgression, then still in force.
without mercy—literally, "mercies": removal out of the pale of mitigation, or a respite of his doom.
under—on the evidence of.
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
29. sorer—Greek, "worse," namely, "punishment" (literally, "vengeance") than any mere temporal punishment of the body.
suppose ye—an appeal to the Hebrews' reason and conscience.
thought worthy—by God at the judgment.
trodden under foot the Son of God—by "wilful" apostasy. So he treads under foot God Himself who "glorified His Son as an high priest" (Heb 5:5; 6:6).
an unholy thing—literally, "common," as opposed to "sanctified." No better than the blood of a common man, thus involving the consequence that Christ, in claiming to be God, was guilty of blasphemy, and so deserved to die!
wherewith he was sanctified—for Christ died even for him. "Sanctified," in the fullest sense, belongs only to the saved elect. But in some sense it belongs also to those who have gone a far way in Christian experience, and yet fall away at last. The higher such a one's past Christian experiences, the deeper his fall.
done despite unto—by repelling in fact: as "blasphemy" is despite in words (Mr 3:29). "Of the Jews who became Christians and relapsed to Judaism, we find from the history of Uriel Acosta, that they required a blasphemy against Christ. 'They applied to Him epithets used against Molech the adulterous branch,' &c." [Tholuck].
the Spirit of grace—the Spirit that confers grace. "He who does not accept the benefit, insults Him who confers it. He hath made thee a son: wilt thou become a slave? He has come to take up His abode with thee; but thou art introducing evil into thyself" [Chrysostom]. "It is the curse of evil eternally to propagate evil: so, for him who profanes the Christ without him, and blasphemes the Christ within him, there is subjectively no renewal of a change of mind (Heb 6:6), and objectively no new sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26) [Tholuck].
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
30. him—God, who enters no empty threats.
Vengeance belongeth unto me—Greek, "To Me belongeth vengeance": exactly according with Paul's quotation, Ro 12:19, of the same text.
Lord shall judge his people—in grace, or else anger, according as each deserves: here, "judge," so as to punish the reprobate apostate; there, "judge," so as to interpose in behalf of, and save His people (De 32:36).
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
31. fearful … to fall into the hands—It is good like David to fall into the hands of God, rather than man, when one does so with filial faith in his father's love, though God chastises him. "It is fearful" to fall into His hands as a reprobate and presumptuous sinner doomed to His just vengeance as Judge (Heb 10:27).
living God—therefore able to punish for ever (Mt 10:28).
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
32. As previously he has warned them by the awful end of apostates, so here he stirs them up by the remembrance of their own former faith, patience, and self-sacrificing love. So Re 2:3, 4.
call to remembrance—habitually: so the present tense means.
illuminated—"enlightened": come to "the knowledge of the truth" (Heb 10:26) in connection with baptism (see on Heb 6:4). In spiritual baptism, Christ, who is "the Light," is put on. "On the one hand, we are not to sever the sign and the grace signified where the sacrifice truly answers its designs; on the other, the glass is not to be mistaken for the liquor, nor the sheath for the sword" [Bengel].
fight of—that is, consisting of afflictions.
Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
33. The persecutions here referred to seem to have been endured by the Hebrew Christians at their first conversion, not only in Palestine, but also in Rome and elsewhere, the Jews in every city inciting the populace and the Roman authorities against Christians.
gazing-stock—as in a theater (so the Greek): often used as the place of punishment in the presence of the assembled multitudes. Ac 19:29; 1Co 4:9, "Made a theatrical spectacle to the world."
ye became—of your own accord: attesting your Christian sympathy with your suffering brethren.
companions of—sharers in affliction with.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
34. ye had compassion on me in my bonds—The oldest manuscripts and versions omit "me," and read, "Ye both sympathized with those in bonds (answering to the last clause of Heb 10:33; compare Heb 13:3, 23; 6:10), and accepted (so the Greek is translated in Heb 11:35) with joy (Jas 1:2; joy in tribulations, as exercising faith and other graces, Ro 5:3; and the pledge of the coming glory, Mt 5:12) the plundering of your (own) goods (answering to the first clause of Heb 10:33)."
in yourselves—The oldest manuscripts omit "in": translate, "knowing that ye have for (or 'to') yourselves."
better—a heavenly (Heb 11:16).
enduring—not liable to spoiling.
substance—possession: peculiarly our own, if we will not cast away our birthright.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
35-37. Consequent exhortation to confidence and endurance, as Christ is soon coming.
Cast not away—implying that they now have "confidence," and that it will not withdraw of itself, unless they "cast it away" wilfully (compare Heb 3:14).
which—Greek, "the which": inasmuch as being such as.
hath—present tense: it is as certain as if you had it in your hand (Heb 10:37). It hath in reversion.
recompense of reward—of grace not of debt: a reward of a kind which no mercenary self-seeker would seek: holiness will be its own reward; self-devoting unselfishness for Christ's sake will be its own rich recompense (see on Heb 2:2; Heb 11:26).
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
36. patience—Greek, "waiting endurance," or "enduring perseverance": the kindred Greek verb in the Septuagint, Hab 2:3, is translated, "wait for it" (compare Jas 5:7).
after ye have done the will of God—"that whereas ye have done the will of God" hitherto (Heb 10:32-35), ye may now show also patient, persevering endurance, and so "receive the promise," that is, the promised reward: eternal life and bliss commensurate with our work of faith and love (Heb 6:10-12). We must not only do, but also suffer (1Pe 4:19). God first uses the active talents of His servants; then polishes the other side of the stone, making the passive graces shine, patience, meekness, &c. It may be also translated, "That ye may do the will of God, and receive," &c. [Alford]: "patience" itself is a further and a persevering doing of "God's will"; otherwise it would be profitless and no real grace (Mt 7:21). We should look, not merely for individual bliss now and at death, but for the great and general consummation of bliss of all saints, both in body and soul.
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
37, 38. Encouragement to patient endurance by consideration of the shortness of the time till Christ shall come, and God's rejection of him that draws back, taken from Hab 2:3, 4.
a little while—(Joh 16:16).
he that shall come—literally, "the Comer." In Habakkuk, it is the vision that is said to be about to come. Christ, being the grand and ultimate subject of all prophetical vision, is here made by Paul, under inspiration, the subject of the Spirit's prophecy by Habakkuk, in its final and exhaustive fulfilment.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
38. just—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "my just man." God is the speaker: "He who is just in My sight." Bengel translates, "The just shall live by my faith": answering to the Hebrew, Hab 2:4; literally, "the just shall live by the faith of Him," namely, Christ, the final subject of "the vision," who "will not lie," that is, disappoint. Here not merely the first beginning, as in Ga 3:11, but the continuance, of the spiritual life of the justified man is referred to, as opposed to declension and apostasy. As the justified man receives his first spiritual life by faith, so it is by faith that he shall continue to live (Lu 4:4). The faith meant here is that fully developed living trust in the unseen (Heb 11:1) Saviour, which can keep men steadfast amidst persecutions and temptations (Heb 10:34-36).
if any man draw back—So the Greek admits: though it might also be translated, as Alford approves, "if he (the just man) draw back." Even so, it would not disprove the final perseverance of saints. For "the just man" in this latter clause would mean one seemingly, and in part really, though not savingly, "just" or justified: as in Eze 18:24, 26. In the Hebrew, this latter half of the verse stands first, and is, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him." Habakkuk states the cause of drawing back: a soul lifted up, and in self-inflated unbelief setting itself up against God. Paul, by the Spirit, states the effect, it draws back. Also, what in Habakkuk is, "His soul is not upright in him," is in Paul, "My soul shall have no pleasure in him." Habakkuk states the cause, Paul the effect: He who is not right in his own soul, does not stand right with God; God has no pleasure in him. Bengel translates Habakkuk, "His soul is not upright in respect to him," namely, Christ, the subject of "the vision," that is, Christ has no pleasure in him (compare Heb 12:25). Every flower in spring is not a fruit in autumn.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
39. A Pauline elegant turning-off from denunciatory warnings to charitable hopes of his readers (Ro 8:12).
saving of the soul—literally, "acquisition (or obtaining) of the soul." The kindred Greek verb is applied to Christ's acquiring the Church as the purchase of His blood (Ac 20:28). If we acquire or obtain our soul's salvation, it is through Him who has obtained it for us by His bloodshedding. "The unbelieving man loses his soul: for not being God's, neither is he his own [compare Mt 16:26, with Lu 9:25]: faith saves the soul by linking it to God" [Delitzsch in Alford].