Hebrews 1:1, 2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
These verses form the keynote of the Epistle. The Hebrew Christians were being cast out from Jewish worship and fellowship. To be excluded from the temple, the center of national unity, the home of the people to whom pertained "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises, and the fathers," was to be reduced to the level of the uncovenanted Gentiles. The writer encourages them in their trial by exhibiting the far greater glory of him to whom they had come than that they had been called to leave. Moreover, the old dispensation was hastening to its end; Judaism was dying out; the temple-worship was about to cease. The writer foretells this in prophetic symbolism (Hebrews 12:26, 27), Thus he seems to stand on the ruins of an old world. But the Epistle is to show a new world rising from its ashes - the first done away that the second may be established. The stars are fading, but only because the sun has risen; the types are cast aside, but because the reality has come. Priest and sacrifice, altar and temple, national greatness and sacred lineage, - they are all going. "Let them go," says he," for in their place has appeared with unspeakable glory the great fulfillment of them all - the Lord Jesus, who abideth for ever." That is the substance of the Epistle - the glory of the old economy fulfilled and surpassed in Christ. The subsequent chapters are but "a prolonged echo of this opening strain." The subject of these words is - The two Testaments a progressive revelation of God.
I. THEY TEACH THAT IN HOLY SCRIPTURE GOD HAS SPOKEN TO MAN. "He spake... he hath spoken." We might expect God to speak because a revelation is necessary. The world needs God, perishes without him, cries out after him. The world cannot find God; to the utmost earthly wisdom he is unknown. God is a God of goodness and love; his works declare it; then God must reveal himself to man.
1. Scripture declares itself to be God's voice. Christ and the apostles affirm this of the Old Testament. You cannot believe in Christ without accepting the Old Testament as an infallible declaration of the Divine will; for so he accepted it. They also affirm this of their own teaching in the New Testament: "We speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth."
2. The effects of Scripture prove that this witness it bears to itself is trite. As the apostles proved their mission by "signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost," so does the Bible; that it is a divinely inspired utterance is proved by Divine results. It meets the complicated needs of human nature, satisfies the heart, opens blind eyes, casts out evil spirits, transforms the character, regenerates the world, turns the wilderness into paradise. It does what only God can do; then God is in it.
II. THEY TEACH THAT IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WE HAVE GOD'S PERFECT UTTERANCE TO MAN. "God... hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son."
1. Since God is the Author of both revelations, we may expect to find the new in the old. "God spake to the fathers... God hath spoken to us." And God is One; then we must expect to find the revelation one. Scripture is not two books, but a unity. See this in its outline; it begins with, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;" it ends with the creation of the new heavens and earth. It begins with the story of man's expulsion from the garden - paradise lost; it ends with the vision of redeemed man dwelling under the tree of life, on the banks of the river of the water of life - paradise regained; and between the beginning and the end we have the steps by which that develops into this. Thus the New Testament and the Old throw mutual light on each other; we cannot sever them without hurt. He who only reads one knows neither.
2. Since Christ is the Substance of the New Testament, the new revelation will be a distinct advance on the old. The text contrasts as well as compares them. There is a sense in which Christ may be said to be the Substance of the Old Testament - "To him give all the prophets witness;" and we do not understand it unless we read it with Christ as the key. But in a far higher sense is he the Substance of the New. "God spake to the fathers in many parts," i.e. in fragments. One aspect of truth was seen in one type, another in another; they needed to be combined if the full truth was to be known. "And in diverse ways," by types, prophecies, requirements, providences, angelic ministry, human teachers, etc.; thus the old revelation had great disadvantages. Mark the contrast: "He hath spoken unto us by his Son. No longer in fragments or by many voices, but by one living Person, the embodiment of the Father's thoughts concerning us; the Word" made flesh. Christ not only the Messenger, but the Message.
3. Since Christ is God the Son, there can be no revelation beyond what is given in him. As long as God spoke by human teachers a greater and better might arise; but when he spake by his Son the climax was reached. The Son knows the Father perfectly, and can make no mistake as to the mind of the Father. To know how God feels about men, learn of Christ. "This is my beloved Son: hear him." To know what God is, look at Christ. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." To know what God would give, study Christ. He is God's "unspeakable Gift;" "in him are hid all the treasures," etc. All that God has to say to us we hear in Jesus, and there can be nothing beyond that.
III. THEY TEACH THAT, IN HAVING SPOKEN TO MAN, GOD HAS PLACED HIM UNDER SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY. "God hath spoken!" What then?
1. If God has spoken, it leaves man's ignorance without excuse. No one with this Book need be in ignorance on Divine things. If God has spoken it is to teach us something; then he cannot have spoken so unintelligibly that we cannot understand him. If he has spoken here, we may rely on this Book as on a rock. Distinguish between human interpretation of truth and the truth itself; but when you have discovered the truth, hold it and assert it positively. What is truth? What God hath said.
2. If God has spoken, his Word must be man's ultimate authority. We must have infallibility or we can have no rest. Where is it? The Church in her history has proved that she is not infallible. Man's moral consciousness proves that it is not infallible, for the "inner light" in different men points in different directions, is perverted by sin, bribed into silence, educated into error. There is no infallibility if it be not in the Bible. But it is here, for here God hath spoken. Then find your creed in it, and base your life on it, making it in all matters the final and authoritative court of appeal. It must be madness to oppose personal opinion or expediency to what the Lord says.
3. If God has spoken, irreverence and neglect of Scripture are man's loss and shame. "God hath spoken!" Then with what solemnity should we listen to his voice; with what constancy should we draw near to this temple to hear his will; and with what awe, taking our shoes from our feet, as on holy ground! Think of God speaking, and no "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," rising from our heart! Are you neglecting Scripture? Remember God has no other voice after this; Christ is his last appeal to men. "Having, therefore, one Son, his well-beloved, he sent him last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Son." "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son;" to be deaf to that last appeal is to have God speechless to us forever. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,