God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
In these remarkable words there are two ideas presented to us, which we will consider in order.
1. The first is that of a luminous body. As a sample of such bodies, let us take the sun. Now the sun, a vast luminous mass, at a great distance from our earth, is made visible to us by the rays of light which stream incessantly from its surface. The rays by which the sun becomes visible are not the sun itself. The two things are distinct; they have, if we may so express it, a distinct personality; but in point of fact they cannot be separated from one another. You cannot have the sun without the rays, and you cannot have the rays without the sun; they are contemporaneous; and if one should happen to be eternal, the other, of necessity, would be eternal also. This imagery then represents, as far as such imagery can do, the relation between the first and second persons of the ever-blessed Trinity. The Father and the Son are co-existent and co-eternal. As with the luminous body, and the rays that flow from it, although the Father and the Son are not the same Being, although there is a distinctness of personality, so that they may be conceived of and spoken of apart, yet they cannot be actually sundered, they must have existed together from all eternity. And yet again —
2. As it is the ray which makes the luminous body visible, so it is the Lord Jesus Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, who is the expression of the Father, and brings God within the reach of the finite mind. Scripture tells us that "no one hath seen God at any time"; and it is probably intended that we should understand by the statement, that God in His essence, in His innermost Being, is so withdrawn from the comprehension of a finite mind, that, apart from the Son of God, it would have been impossible for the highest archangel to have understood the character and nature of Deity. It was Jesus in His pre-existent state who enabled the great created intelligences to grasp the conception of the Divine Being; just as it is Jesus, in His incarnate state, who makes God known to us. Thus, as we understand, the Son, in His pre-existent and preincarnate condition, is " the brightness of God's glory." But He is also, we read, the "express image of His substance." Now the "express image" seems to be the stamp or impression produced by a die. The impression thus produced is, of course, the exact counterpart of the implement that produced it. You stamp your seal upon the melted wax, and the result is a reproduction of every feature and lineament of the seal; nay, of every crack and flaw that may happen to be found in it. The two things exactly correspond. Here, then, is part of the idea. But what is the "substance of God"? The substance of a thing is that which lies under all appearances, and makes the thing to be what it really is. For instance: among many men, taken at random, you will find very great difference and variety. Some are tall, some short; some rich, others poor; some clever, others dull. There will be much diversity, too, of character and disposition. But underneath all these outward appearances there is to be found that. which makes each of these a man; and this is their "substance." Perhaps you may prefer to call it "nature," or "essence," or "inner being." It matters little. It is that which makes the person to be what he really is. And so the " substance of God" is the nature or inner being of the great Jehovah. Now we are told in the passage that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, is "the express image," the exact counterpart of the substance of God; that is to say, not of the external attributes of God (if such things there be), but of His very inmost essence, — of that which makes Him to be God. What language can be imagined that would describe a closer relationship, or a more complete identity of nature? Whatever constitutes the nature of God, we must attribute to the pre-existent Son.
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,