Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews

from notes of readings by F. W. Grant.

Division 3 (Heb. 4:14 — 10).

We now come to the third division of the book, which is at once the largest and most characteristic of it. In it we have Christ in the heavens, and the sanctuary opened for us by His priestly work: but again we have, as introduction to it, first, the Priest Himself as called, qualified perfected by suffering, and then in His resurrection place, Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and so upon the throne. That is the first subdivision (Heb. 4:14-7). The second, more briefly, speaks of the better covenant and more excellent ministry that this implies (Heb. 8). The third occupies the next two chapters.

Subdivision 1 (Heb. 4:14 — 7).

We have first, then, the Priest Himself — three chapters; of which more than one, however, is an interruption to the argument, made necessary by the slowness of heart to accept the setting aside of the Levitical priesthood, and all that which was involved in this. No doubt, the apostle uses this parenthesis — which is quite after the Pauline manner to speak of other things very necessary to his theme; but we are made to feel the intensity of Jewish opposition by the difficulty of speaking out here what is in his mind, vital as it is to Christianity itself. It seems probable to be of this (at least, especially) that Peter speaks, when praising the wisdom of the epistle to the Hebrews, he yet says that in it are "some things hard to be understood." Paul fully agrees with him and therefore the earnestness and energy of his language.

Section 1 (Heb. 4:14 — 5:10). The first section, then, identifies for us the true Priest with God. And there are three subsections here, the first of which introduces us to two fundamental conceptions in what follows: "A great High Priest who is passed through the heavens" and a "throne of grace." I take the latter as characterizing this subsection (vers. 14-16).

"A throne of grace" is now to Christians a happy and familiar thought. It is only here, however, that we have precisely this expression, although we have the thought in Romans: "Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life" (Rom. 5:21). The blood upon the mercy-seat before God, put there by the high priest once a year when on the day of atonement he entered the holiest, was the typical rendering of such a thought. The mercy-seat was the throne of Jehovah in Israel, where He dwelt between the cherubim. Literally, it was the kapporeth, the "propitiatory," where the blood made propitiation for the soul; the blood of atonement meeting divine righteousness, vindicated God's grace in abiding among the people in spite of their sins.

All that was typical, merely — a shadow, and nothing, more. For us the true sacrifice has been made, the High Priest has passed through the heavens (the antitype of those holy places), and the throne of God is abidingly a throne of grace, to which we are but giving honor when we "come boldly" to it for our need.

But this implies for us the veil rent; for the throne of grace is in the holiest of all, and the rending of the veil is what has made for us a "new and living way" of approach there. The verses before us are therefore a real introduction to that which follows.

It is the sympathy of the High Priest which we are here encouraged to reckon on; and this is in connection with His being over the house of God. It reminds us of the words of the Lord in teaching us the consequences of His departure out of the world unto the Father: "If ye shall ask anything in my Name, I will do it" ( John 14:14). How great an encouragement to know that upon the throne of God there is One who can be "touched by the feeling of our infirmities," and was "in all things tempted like as we are, sin apart."

Sin was to Him no temptation: there was nothing within that answered to it; it only caused suffering. There was and could be with Him no sinful infirmity; but He was true Man, His divine nature taking nothing from the verity of His manhood; living a dependent life as we, with no callousness such as the flesh in us produces, in a world racked with the results of sin, the trial of which He knew as no other could. In the garden He faced the awful cup with an agony that required angelic ministry to strengthen Him physically to sustain it. What a world it was for the Son of God to pass through Has He forgotten it, or is He altered by being out of it and on the throne? No; the very throne is characterized now as the throne of the Lamb, and for eternity will be — "the throne of God and of the Lamb." How well furnished for us now as a throne of grace!

The second subsection here (Heb. 5:1-4) is a statement simply as to the high priest in Israel. It is important to keep it distinct as that. How far it applies to Christ we find as we go on; but in every type there is an element of dissimilarity as there is of resemblance, because it is a type. How could there be in Israel a high priest who never offered for himself? It would have falsified everything. And so with the veil: how could it have been rent under the legal system? These exceptional contrasts have a purpose, therefore; they do not in the least hinder a careful, spiritual mind from finding Christianity in Leviticus. Of course, it needs that we should have learned Christianity first from the New Testament; we should not go to Leviticus as a Jew would, and expect to find the unveiling of the truth of Christ. Moses has always a veil over the glory in his face; but the veil for us is done away in Christ.

The third subsection (Heb. 5:5-10) gives us the fulfilment in Christ. Vers. 5, 6 give His calling, in which we find the foundation of His priesthood; then (vers. 7, 8), His suffering, even to death, and His deliverance out of it; and lastly, (vers. 9, 10) , His greeting by God in resurrection as the Royal Priest (Melchizedek).

First, we have the call — the Priest must be called of God: as was Aaron, so was Christ. Moving only in obedience, He who had come only to do the will of God in the already marked-out way, glorified not Himself to be made High Priest, but received His call distinctly to that office. God's recognition of the Son in manhood is quoted in this connection, "Thou art my Son: today have I begotten Thee." The same form of citation is used in Heb. 7:21: "But He with an oath, by Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever." The quotation is again from the second psalm, which puts it in connection with His claim as Heir to the sovereignty of the nations; for God's Priest and King are one, and the two offices are founded upon the same personal qualification. Godhead and Manhood united in Him constitute Him the true Mediator between God and men. We have seen Him taking flesh and blood for this purpose, that He might be the First-born among many brethren; and as the First-born is the Heir, so has He the right of redemption. Thus He is Priest and King by the same title.

Now if we look at the Gospels, there can be no doubt where His call to the priesthood occurs. It is after His baptism by John that the Lord is first openly recognized as the Son of God by the Father's voice from heaven, and the Spirit of God coming upon Him makes Him now in full reality the "Christ" — the anointed. It answers to the first anointing of Aaron alone, without blood (Lev. 8:12). John then recognizes Him as Son of God, and as the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29, 34); for this blessed Priest is one with His offering: "He offered up Himself."

This, then, is our Lord's call to the Priesthood; the apostle confirms the fact by a more direct quotation, the force of which he takes up later, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek."

Immediately now we are called to see Him in the white linen robe of the day of atonement. Here, then, though Son of God, He had to learn the reality of that obedience which He had voluntarily undertaken. So intense is it that even He makes supplication with strong crying and tears to Him that was able to save Him — not "from" death, which was impossible, but — out of death. That prayer was heard in resurrection; but notice what the answer was based upon: "He was heard for His piety," as in the margin of the common version, or "for His godly fear," as in the revised. Here is the white linen garment with which alone the sanctuary could be entered.

The priest is characterized first of all as the one able to draw near to God. And the first question involved is Is he such as can really draw near? is he personally and entirely fitted to draw near to God? That is the question as to the priest. Nothing but the white linen garment will do here. Then, Is it a perfect, unblemished offering? That is the question as to the sacrifice.

This is what the burnt-offering most strongly enforces. The offering is flayed and rigidly inspected; then the fire brings out for God nothing but sweet savor. It is what Christ is, as no other offering — certainly not the sin-offering — develops it. And thus day and night that sweet savor goes up to God.

Here it is the priest; and it shows us why the garments of glory and beauty are not yet upon him. Not because he is not High Priest, but because atonement is in question; while the garments of glory and beauty show the acceptance of the work. Here he is being "perfected," and while personally nothing could perfect Christ, we have already seen that as "Originator of salvation" there must be perfecting.

Thus, then, we see Him here. He is in the awful depths from which no other could have emerged — where He alone could stand; and being perfected by bearing the load which was upon Him, "He became to those that obey Him the author of eternal salvation, saluted of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek."

Notice that it is not exactly "called," as before: it is "saluted." The Priest has accomplished the fundamental work of His priesthood, and is hailed and acknowledged as having done so. The linen garments are now exchanged for the garments of glory and beauty, His priesthood now assuming the Melchizedek character. But we shall have with the apostle to break off here, and take this up more fully in the seventh chapter.

Section 2 (Heb. 5:11 — 6). The second section is, as has been said already, a parenthesis. It is to meet the unbelief of the Jews upon a matter vital to Christianity, and affecting the whole system of Judaism in replacing the Levitical by the Melchizedek priesthood. Even for Jewish Christians these things were hard sayings; and, it may be, had caused the defection from the faith to which the apostle presently refers. The two parts of his address to them here, however, are very different: the first part only is warning; the second is pure encouragement. In the gracious ways of God, these two things are never far separated. He is the "God of all encouragement," and all warnings are but, in effect, to draw us from every false ground of hope, that we may find in Him the fulness of unfailing blessing.

The first subsection (Heb. 5:11 — 6:8) characterizes Judaism from its divine side, all the more to show its essentially introductory nature to the full light of truth which was to follow. It was "the word of the beginning of Christ" very wrongly rendered in the text of both the common and the revised versions, as first "principles of the doctrine of Christ" or "first principles of Christ," which assuredly we are never called to "leave." Judaism was only suited to a state of nonage, now passed, and which they must leave to go on to the "perfection" or "maturity" of Christianity.

The Hebrew Christians were in fact not going on. For the time they had been learning, they ought to have been able to teach others; but instead of that they still needed themselves to be taught, and taught the very elements. They still needed milk, rather than solid food suited for people accustomed to exercise in spiritual things, and thus educated to discern between good and evil. How much of right knowledge lies for us in this kind of discernment "The man is become as one of us, to discern good and evil." To innocence we cannot go back; and though we have got into our present condition by a fall from God, He in grace would turn it into blessing. The world, such as it is, is a place well fitted to produce and cultivate such moral discernment. If it does not this, however, it dulls and hardens the soul; and as the word of God is that which God would use to form us after His mind, the not going on with it shows this dullness of soul; and light, neglected or refused, becomes darkness.

Judaism in some form has continually been used by the enemy to oppose and corrupt Christianity, and in fact has largely done so. That it is a religion given of God, and therefore owned by Him at one time, is pleaded in its behalf by those who have never understood, or cared to understand, its true nature. The law which God took up, because it was already in man's heart, to show him the folly and impracticability of it, man pleads as God's revelation. They ask, "Did not Christ say, 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments?'" But we only need to be true to realize our inability to meet the requirements; we are only bidden to put up our ladder to reach heaven with, that we may realize how far above us are the stars.

So when He gave "carnal ordinances," with plenty of signs to show their incapacity, and that they were only fingers pointing on to that which was to come, men always found opportunity to say, These are the very things themselves. And this is the enormous evil of ritualism in all its forms today, that it takes these Jewish forms to clothe them with the Christian realities to which they only pointed, and make that which only "sanctified to the purifying of the flesh" (as in the case of baptismal water), to cleanse the soul, which water never does.

Thus the word of God itself is abused to seal up men in delusion, and they say, See how Scripture may mislead. But Scripture is given "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished," and gives no security to any other.

The "word of the beginning of Christ" is given us in the six doctrines stated, which lead on to Christianity; if they were the Christian "foundation," it would be a Christianity without Christ. The apostle says, "not laying again a foundation," because he has in view Jews who had accepted the Christian one, and who, if they went back to Judaism would be turning back to what they had given up. There is nothing in this which is distinctively Christian. It is not a question as to the truth of what is stated, but of its being the Christian foundation. Two things come first, which are in fact, fundamental — "repentance from dead works, and faith in God," not the Lord Jesus. Two doctrines come last, which concern the future, "resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" — not "resurrection from the dead," which is Christian truth. Between these two pairs, we have what may be more questioned, but comes to the heart of the matter as characterizing Judaism — "a teaching of baptisms and laying on of hands," which has been claimed a$ Christian baptism and confirmation (!) or baptism and ordination, almost equally strange associates as a foundation. The truth is of nearer connection with the subject before us than such things would imply.

In the first place, it is not "baptism" but "baptisms," and the baptism of the Spirit would surely not be associater with the baptism of water in such a manner. Moreover Christian baptism is always baptisma, while this is baptismos, a difference of form which is no doubt connected with the application in each case. Baptismos is the word used for the Jewish purifications, as plainly in the case of the "divers baptisms" (not "washings") in the ninth chapter of this very epistle (ver. 10). These are really what is referred to — or mainly referred to here, though we must anticipate somewhat the doctrine of that chapter to make this plain.

The great failure in Judaism, as the apostle shows there, was its failure to really purify the conscience, so as to set the soul at rest in the presence of God. In the tabernacle of old, he says, "were offered both gifts and sacrifices, which could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience." Why? Because they consisted only in "meats and drinks, and divers baptisms," or purifications, "carnal ordinances" — that is, ordinances which could not in their very nature affect the condition of the soul.

He contrasts them then with that which does purify: "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer purifying the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh" — here are the divers baptisms (of blood or of ashes) , ordinances of flesh, purifying only the flesh" how much rather shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The sacrificial baptisms were an important part of the Jewish service, and in connection with these the "laying on of hands" was that which identified the offerer with the victim, his sacrifice. The two things (the baptisms and laying on of hands) go thus together as fundamental points for consciences wounded by the law. In this way a "teaching" (not "doctrine") "of baptisms" is significant. The point is that what was taught was rather a ritual than a doctrine, and the conscience was not purged. Clearly, it is of Judaism the apostle speaks as "the word of the beginning of Christ."

He goes on now to show the terrible condition of those who went back to this Jewish system, out of the light and blessing of Christianity. It was vain for them to think that they could replace themselves where the saints of old had been. Judaism had passed away for God; and those who went back there would find that they had left the only ground of peace and salvation. It would be even impossible to renew again to repentance those who, once enlightened, had tasted of the heavenly gift, been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and turned away from it all. In the Israelitish cities of refuge those who had slain another without intending murder might take refuge from the avenger of blood; and Christ Himself was the true city of refuge for those who had been partakers in the common guilt of the nation. For such He Himself had pleaded at the cross, "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do;" and Peter, by the Holy Ghost had, in view of that ignorance, preached repentance to them. But those who now went back open-eyed, among His rejectors, could no longer plead this. They were crucifying for themselves the Son of God afresh, and there was no city of refuge to open its doors to such.

The warning here has been a sore perplexity to many who are as far as possible from the condition which is here contemplated. The description of these apostates, solemn as it is, does not speak of them as children of God, as justified by faith, or in any way which would imply such things as these. And the apostle after describing them, immediately adds as to those whom he is addressing, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, even things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." This is the most distinct assurance that he had no thought of one who had known salvation incurring the doom of an apostate. What he says of them is, first of all, that they had been enlightened that they could plead ignorance no longer. Secondly, they had "tasted" — but one may taste and, after all, refuse. Thirdly, they had been made "partakers" — and the word does not mean necessarily more than external participation; it is the word "companions" which we have had before — "partakers, companions of the Holy Ghost." They had been brought into that in which the Spirit of God bore witness to Christ and the fruit of His work. The "powers of the age to come" are miracles, the mighty works by which the consequences of sin and the destructive power of Satan will be banished from the earth in the millennial reign.

But all this goodness of God had been to them like rain which had brought from the ground of their heart only thorns and briars, as worthless and nigh to cursing. Christ having been rejected, God's last and best gift had been in vain.

The apostle goes on, however, now to comfort and encourage those he is addressing (Heb. 6:9-20). In them he has seen better things — love to Christ's name, proved practically and continuously in ministrations to His saints. God would not be unrighteous in forgetting these fruits of His grace. Far from discouraging them, he would have them give diligence so that hope might be in full assurance with them, imitating those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises.

Abraham, the father of all them that believe, the one in whom faith as the way of blessing has been openly inaugurated and proclaimed, naturally becomes here a most instructive example. He had to have patience — saw little fulfilment on earth of that which God had promised; for not elsewhere than in God Himself does faith find its true strength and support. Here God gave all that could be desired — not His word merely, but His oath: precious and wonderful condescension to human weakness — God will give as ample security as we exact from one another! While faith must be faith, and therefore only in God, yet how tender is He! How well may we trust Him!

Our hope however has security of another kind than verbal. It is anchored within the veil, in heaven itself, into which our Forerunner has entered, Jesus, made a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. There we return to the great theme of the epistle.

Section 3 (Heb. 7). We have now before us the subject of the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ and there are questions connected with it which require, I believe, more consideration than they have yet obtained. What exactly does this priesthood mean? Is the whole matter for us that Christ is a priest after that order? Is He not acting as yet in that character, and is such action purely millennial, and therefore having respect only to Israel and the earth? This is how most among us understand it, no doubt; but does Scripture require or warrant this? And what is the practical value of it for us? We must take up carefully the chapter before us before we can answer such questions; but let us keep them in mind all through.

Whatever we may understand as to Melchizedek, it is certain that the section here, in accordance with its numerical place, shows the Priest in the sanctuary: that is, with His propitiation-work accomplished, and in possession of the place resulting from it, "great Priest over the house of God."

There are three subsections here. The first (vers. 1-10) dwells upon Melchizedek himself as presented in the book of Genesis, made typically like the Son of God, having an indissoluble priesthood in the power of an endless life; not only thus higher in character than that of Levi, but its primacy owned, as it were, by Levi himself.

The second subsection (vers. 11-19) shows, as a consequence of Christ being priest of this order, the setting aside of the law.

The third subsection (vers. 20-28) shows us therefore the Priest of Christianity, perfected for ever and made higher than the heavens, in possession of a place to which the Levitical priesthood could lay no possible claim.

The first subsection cites and comments upon the brief story of Melchizedek in that wonderful way which has been to many of us such a revelation of the perfection of the inspiration of Scripture, and such an unfolding of the typical history of the Old Testament. The apostle interprets for us both the speech and the silence of the narrative, the names and the order of the names. Every jot and tittle must be taken into account: and it is surely very much from disregard of this that we fail to get clear and assured knowledge of what Scripture contains. We credit it with idle words, and thus dishonor the Spirit who has given the Word, and we lose the "deep things of God" which the Spirit searches. Let Melchizedek teach us this truth, that no jot or tittle of the Word shall pass away unfulfilled, and let us act as if we believed it.

First, his name is Melchizedek, i.e., "King of righteousness," then "King of Salem," i.e., "King of Peace:" that is always a principle in the divine ways. In the millennium righteousness must first have its way for peace to be brought in; and, as the prophet says, "The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever" (Isa. 32:17). This is of course as true for the present as for the future, and fulfilled in the gospel in a far more wondrous way. As the effect of righteousness by the Cross peace has come to us, and our Melchizedek has indeed made good His name.

Next, he is "without father, without mother, without genealogy." So he is presented in the history, alone, without record of any preceding or indeed following him; again, "without beginning of days or end of life," thus made like unto the Son of God" — not actually like Him, but "made like;" the type perfectly preserved from any contradiction or anything irrelevant, that we might have the picture of a non-successional, unending priesthood, such as that of the Lord Jesus is, who is also King and Priest in one Person. And so it was prophesied of Him: "Behold the Man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up out of his place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord: even He shall build the temple of the Lord, and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and He shall be a Priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zech. 6:12-13).

This is doubtless millennial, and yet very like the line of things which the apostle has been pursuing here, even to the building of the house of God. But here all is higher: here the "house" is the universe, the Throne upon which He sits is the throne of God (Heb. 8:1). He has not yet taken His own throne as Son of Man (Rev. 3:21), but is on the Father's; and we are "in the Kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13). Thus He is already King as He is Priest, in both characters as Son of God. His is a priestly rule over the house of God.

If we look back to the book of Genesis, we shall find the life of Abraham, fourth in a series of seven lives which give us the perfect picture of the divine life in man, from the time of its beginning in repentance and faith in Adam, until in Joseph we see the image of Christ fully formed. Following Noah, who is brought through the judgment of the old world into a new scene which abides in the value of accepted sacrifice, Abraham gives us the practical life of faith which is the result of being in Christ a new creation. By his very call to Canaan, he is a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth. His life divides into two distinct parts; in the first of which (Gen. 11:10-14) we have the call of God and his obedience to it; while in the second (Gen. 15:21-21) we have the conflicts of faith. Thus the whole as indeed Genesis as a whole — is an elaborate and perfect type in which most certainly the Christian life is set before us — not that Israel is forgotten, for God is dealing with her in a love that cannot forget her, but this only makes more distinct what is our own in the book. Thus Abraham's own call to Canaan, the heavenly country, and his walking in it by faith and a pilgrim, is not and cannot be a type of Israel. And again, in his sons Isaac and Ishmael, Isaac is distinctively the type of the "children of the freewoman."

Now it is in the end of the first part of Abraham's history that the type of Melchizedek appears. It is to Abram the Hebrew (i.e., "pilgrim") returning from his conflict with the kings of the East, a Babylonish confederacy, that at the king's dale Melchizedek brings forth the "bread and wine," which speak to us so plainly of our Royal Priest's provision for us, with the memorial of a sacrifice which has been offered once for all. True, God is not yet manifested as Most High, and men and Satan seem to be joint-possessors of the earth, rather than God. But in the picture here there is also a King of Sodom from whom Abraham refuses to be enriched. Faith, in Abraham, counts God to be Possessor of heaven and earth;" and faith now receives just such ministry from the true Melchizedek, and owns God as Possessor where most He seems to be displaced. How the "bread and wine help to assure us of that!

Every detail in all this story suits us admirably, and we may be confident that our Melchizedek exists for us today: not One who shall be that in the millennium. though then He will be recognized openly as such; and Sodom will get, not faith's refusal merely but, the judgment of God. Meanwhile we have this ministry of bread and wine, and One with us who blesses us from the Most High God, and who, on our part, blesses the Most High God: "In the midst of the assembly will I sing praise unto Thee."

The apostle goes on to prove from the history, brief as it is, the superiority of Melchizedek to Levi. "He was in the loins of his father (Abraham) when Melchizedek met him" and in Abraham Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek. Thus the whole Levitical priesthood owned its inferiority, and Melchizedek, as one greater than Abraham, blessed him who had the promises. But this leads us on to consequences of far greater importance.

In the second subsection, therefore (vers. 11-19), the apostle goes on to argue the setting aside of the law itself by the change of the priesthood. It was incontestable that, according to the psalm, a Priest was to arise according to this higher type — a "Priest after the order of Melchizedek," and not of Aaron. We have but to consider a moment to realize how complete a change as to the law this involved. As we see in the day of atonement, all the relation of Israel to God hung upon the priesthood. The blood put upon the mercy-seat by the high priest year by year alone enabled God to dwell in their midst and this could only be done by one of the family of Aaron: the law contemplated no other. Yet Christ had sprung out of Judah, and the law said nothing of priesthood in connection with that tribe. But again, why was it necessary thus to define the succession? Plainly, because it had to do with mortal men who could not continue in the office by reason of death. Thus it was a law of fleshly commandment. He having come, who lives eternally, sets aside the law necessarily by the very "power of an indissoluble life."

All is manifestly upon a higher plane, outside the law. There is a setting aside of the commandment going before, and that because of its weakness and unprofitableness. It perfected nothing: there was under it only a priesthood of dying men, with animal sacrifices unable really to atone, and a closed sanctuary into which timidly the high priest entered once a year, and immediately withdrew — this was plain, but is to be developed presently, in contrast with what is now made good to us in Christ. Now there is the "bringing in of a better hope, by which we do (as they did not) draw nigh to God." This introduces us to what is to be the theme of after-consideration.

The apostle now in this third subsection (vers. 20-28) exhibits, in contrast with the priests of a fleshly and earthly system, the true and heavenly Priest to whom as types they pointed. God had announced with an oath His unrepenting purpose as to Him. As a Priest forever, He is surety of a better covenant than the legal, conditional one, and, in contrast with dying men, abides eternally to care for and bring through to heaven those who draw near to God by Him always living to intercede for them. We see how different is this view from that in Romans, where position in Christ is contemplated, and also from that in the Gospel of John, we living because He lives (John 14:19). Here it is the living activity of the Priest to which we are entrusted, as having all power with God: this salvation to the uttermost being to that full final rest, which has been dwelt upon already in the epistle.

Finally, the character of our High Priest is briefly dwelt upon: such an one as "became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and become higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for this He did once when He offered up Himself: for the law maketh men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the oath which was since the law maketh the Son, perfected for evermore."

This shows how far the Lord as Antitype transcends the type. The Jewish high priest was but a sinner among sinners: Christ in absolute holiness is One separate from sinners, and yet the apostle can say, "such an One becomes us." For the blood of Christ as before God has perfected in perpetuity those who are sanctified by it. and the "worshipers once purged have no more conscience of sins" (Heb. 10:2, 14).

Thus it is not as sinners that Christ as High Priest intercedes for us with God, but as the many sons whom He is bringing to glory: the High Priest is for infirmity, not sin; but "if any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). Christ is both Priest and Advocate: but the question of sin is settled for us as toward God; while between the child and the Father it may need frequent settlement.

Subdivision 2 (Heb. 8).

The discussions of what has gone before are now summed up: Our Lord has a better ministry than that of the earthly priesthood, founded as it is upon a better covenant. The first six verses emphasize the fact that it is of the true tabernacle He is minister. The last seven verses speak of the change of covenant.

We must remember that it is the Priest in the Sanctuary the apostle is now showing us — a Priest who has sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. In the Lord's case we must separate widely (as with the mere human high priest one could not) between the ministry outside and the ministry inside the tabernacle. The one ceased for Him before the other was entered upon. Yet He was the High Priest when He offered up Himself, and He was High Priest when He passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14). Upon this there should be no need to insist; yet verse 4 has been interpreted to mean the opposite that the Lord was not Priest upon earth — and other statements of Scripture have been discredited to uphold a mistaken interpretation. The apostle does not say that, when Christ was upon earth, He was not a priest, but that, "If then indeed He were upon earth, He would not even be a priest." Plainly he is speaking of One not on earth, nor is he looking back to the time when He was there. He is speaking of Christ as the glorified High Priest, "the Minister of the true tabernacle," and the reason he gives is conclusive as to this. Why would He not even be a priest on earth? Because, he answers, "There are those who offer gifts according to the law:" the law defined its priests as of the family of Aaron, and Christ has no place in the line of that succession. But that has nothing to do with the Lord's work on earth, as is evident. It is a totally different thing from saying that when Christ offered Himself He was not a priest.

The law, of which the apostle has been speaking, does not govern in relation to the "new covenant." It but defined the terms of the old and the fact of a "new covenant" being promised showed that God was not satisfied with the old. Nay, the prophet himself, speaking in Jehovah's name, contrasts the two. The new covenant, even though contemplating Israel and Judah, is expressly "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them up out of the land of Egypt." Thus, though the heavenly portion of Christianity is not in it, yet on the other hand God's grace is — and all of grace. All is absolute promise of what God will do and be. He will give them a spirit of true obedience, writing His laws upon their minds and hearts, and thus He will be their God and they shall be His people. Nor will this be a partial blessing, leaving still the need of personal appeal from brother to brother to know the Lord; for all shall consciously know Him — the small and the great. And in that day, all their unrighteousness will be put away completely, and remembered against them never more.

This is manifestly and statedly not Christianity: it is for Israel and Judah in days to come, and Christ will be the Mediator of it to them. But the grace expressed in it is, of course, the very foundation of Christianity, and is ministered now by One who has absolute right to minister it as He will. A covenant to them that they shall have it, shuts out no one from similar blessing, and Christ being the Mediator of the new covenant shows at once the character of His ministry. But it is only characteristic: Christianity with its "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" cannot be measured by it. The apostle's main purpose in quoting it is shown by the way he concludes his appeal to it: "In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." He passes on to what is his great theme — the opening of the heavenly places.

Subdivision 3 (Heb. 9, 10).

This third subdivision treats of how the way has been opened. There are four sections; and the fourth, as we have found elsewhere, is exhortation in view of all that is involved.

The first three give the subject itself: the first (Heb. 9:1-10) speaks of the "first tabernacle" of the first covenant, which showed that the way into the holiest was not made manifest. The second (Heb. 9:11-28) shows the removal of the hindrance to manifestation. The third (Heb. 10:1-25), the sanctification of the worshiper for the opened sanctuary.

Section 1 (Heb. 9:1-10). The first section carries us back to the tabernacle of old, to show briefly the disposition of things there. Here, stress is laid upon the division into two parts — divided from each other by the interior veil. The outermost one was constantly open as the place of priestly service; the inner was (with the exception of the brief visit of the high priest on the day of atonement) as constantly closed. The things which had their place in each are mentioned, but without any purpose to speak particularly of them: the great point is this strict separation of the two: the one shut off being the place in which (when things were right in Israel) the glory of God abode; so that "no access to God" was what the veil proclaimed.

The "first tabernacle" was characteristic of the law when, even to Moses, the mediator, it was said, "Thou canst not see my Face: for there shall no man see Me and live." It was an image for the time (then) present, when gifts and sacrifices of such sort were being offered as could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. In their nature they could not: they were but meats and drinks and divers baptisms (the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean) sanctifying only to the purifying of the flesh. Such a system plainly could not satisfy God — could not bring man near to God. It must, therefore, pass away.

Section 2 (Heb. 9:11-28). The second section shows us now the coming in of redemption, the putting away of sin from before God, which hindered the manifestation of Himself as He desired. For the things to which the Levitical system pointed are now fulfilled — the true day of atonement, the great High Priest of a better tabernacle, who has entered the Sanctuary, not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by His own blood; having found, not an atonement which would last a year, but "eternal redemption." Thus the worshiper has at last his conscience purified from dead works, from that which had in it no savor of life which would not suit, therefore, the living God. The legalism of the old covenant has been replaced in this by the grace of the new. The eternal inheritance is secured to those who are called by the grace of the gospel.

A parenthesis is added here, in which the "covenant" of which Christ is Mediator is identified, as another* has remarked, with a "testament" of which Christ is the Testator. The word diatheke means both these; and the covenant has in fact come to us in the shape of a testament, which His death has made good. But the apostle returns immediately to the former thought of "covenant."

{*W. Lincoln: "Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews."}

The first covenant was not inaugurated without blood the book and all the people were sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice. This seems strange, because the covenant was the legal one, but the blood of atonement did in fact affirm the righteousness of the penalty of the law for those under it. Christ affirmed this decisively when to redeem us He took the curse of the law, and this blood of sacrifice showed what would be the issue of that first covenant.

But not only so, the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry were in like manner sprinkled with blood, and here the typical meaning is evident. Almost all things according to the law are purified with blood; and for remission of sins there was no other way but this. Thus the mere figurative representations bore witness, but the heavenly things themselves needed a better sacrifice. Christ has entered into heaven itself, with a sacrifice never needing to be repeated. If He offered again, He would have to suffer again, but neither is possible: once at the completion of the ages of probation, when man's ungodliness and hopelessness of self-recovery had been perfectly demonstrated, Christ was manifested for the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

The consequence for faith is a complete deliverance by His work from the common portion of men in death and judgment. As to death, those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord do not die at all. As to judgment, He appears the second time apart from sin for our salvation. Personally the believer does not come into judgment, and the reception of reward at the judgment-seat of Christ will be the most triumphant declaration of the supremacy of grace: everything brought fully into the light, and love found free to satisfy itself after this manner: "Then shall each have his praise from God."

Section 3 (Heb. 10:1-25). The third section shows our perfect sanctification for worship in the holiest as the present fruit for us of this glorious work. This, we are reminded, was impossible under the law. It was not even the perfect image of the good things it typified; and the yearly repetition of this day of atonement showed the inefficacy of these multiplied sacrifices. For then, asks the apostle, would they not have ceased to be offered? Because the worshipers once purged would have had no more conscience of sins.

We must remember, in order to realize the completeness of this, that even in Israel no sacrifice was offered twice for the same sins, and that in Christendom the putting away of sins as they arise is the common thought not indeed a fresh sacrifice, but a fresh application of the blood is thought a necessity. But that is just what the apostle would call having "conscience of sins," instead of the conscience being purged once for all. One who needs a fresh offering or a fresh application of the blood to cleanse him, is not purged once for all. How dreadful the presence of God would be for one who fully accepted the thought of being left but for a moment there an unpurged sinner! No doubt for the Christian the thought of God's grace, though contradictory to his system, prevents him from clearly realizing what this would mean. But the apostle plainly says that to need a repetition of such purging would mean never having been purged according to God; for He could not leave so great a need less than perfectly mot. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins at all; that was what their constant repetition meant. It was not true purging that was accomplished in this way.

Christ therefore comes to substitute for these inefficacious sacrifices His own perfect one. This was what those typical ones foreshadowed: in the volume of the book it was written of Him. This does not refer to eternal counsels, but to the book of the law. Coming into the world, He says this: not in eternity. It is, "Lo, I am come," not "I come." He sees the offerings going on, but with no divine satisfaction in them, and He brings them to an end by the accomplishment of His own work.

Now then we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. It is not the sanctification of the Spirit in Hebrews, but by sacrifice: not the oil, but the blood is the foundation of everything, and by which the priestly family is set apart to God. The offering is offered, never to be repeated: He is not busy in continual sacrifice as the legal priesthood were. He has sat down at the right hand of God, not needing to rise any more on this account; sitting perpetually there until the time comes for His enemies to be put under His feet. There is no more to be done as regards offering: "By one offering He has perfected in perpetuity those that are sanctified" — there is never a moment in which they are not in the full value of that work before God.

For this the apostle can appeal again after his manner to the inspired writings in the hands of the Jews themselves, and thus brings the testimony of the Holy Ghost to confirm what he is saying. It is no reference to the coming of the Spirit after the ascent of Christ to the right hand of God, as some have made it, but (as should be evident) an appeal to what He had uttered long before. The words of the new covenant itself show fully the cessation of sacrifices for the putting away of sin, for God says in it, "Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more" — but the repetition of sacrifice would be such a remembrance.

Now the point is reached to which the apostle has been so long coming, and for which he has so carefully prepared the way. We have boldness now to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. There are things here which we need to consider attentively, especially in view of what has lately been said about them.

First of all, let us notice that the word for the holiest of all is really "the holies" or "holy places." J.N.D. has "[holy of] holies" both here and in Heb. 9:8, 12; Heb. 13:11, indicating by the bracket the word introduced, which is really found once and only once, Heb. 9:3. In Heb. 9:24-25, he translates rightly "holy places," where the Revised Version translates, as elsewhere, "holy place," without any marginal indication of the change they have made. There is absolutely no necessity for any such alterations. In 9:3, where there is need to distinguish between the "holy place" and the "holy of holies," the apostle uses the correct term for the latter; and where he has not done so, we may be sure that he had design in not distinguishing. Scripture is as accurate here as always.

In fact, to read here, as we should, that "we have boldness to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus," destroys at once two statements that have recently been made to the confusion of the interpretation of the epistle: the first, that there is no rending of the veil in Hebrews; the second, that the "first tabernacle," the outer holy place, is now entirely removed in Christianity, and only the holiest of all remains. As a consequence of the latter, neither lamp of the sanctuary, nor table of show-bread, nor incense-altar, has anything to do with us. These are wholly Jewish, and to apply them to Christianity is a grave mistake.

Notice how this collapses by simply taking Scripture as it is undeniably given us. We have boldness in this case to enter into the holy places both of them — by the blood of Jesus; and thus the outer Sanctuary abides for us as well as the inner.

No doubt, it will be asked how this consists with Heb. 9:8, in which it is stated that the way into the holy places was not yet manifested, as long as the "first tabernacle" had its standing. But this only leads us to the true statement as to the veil being rent: for the rending of the veil it is which makes both tabernacles one: so that, in fact, the first tabernacle has no standing — no existence as such. If we have come into the true tabernacle at all, we have come into the holiest. If the veil be not rent, then indeed we could come (ideally) into the outer sanctuary first, and worship afar off until we found our way or were admitted into the holiest; but Hebrews knows nothing of this: there is but one entrance, by the blood of Jesus, into the united sanctuaries; and this is the access given us in the grace of Christianity.

But it is actually contended that if we go "through the veil, that shows that the veil is not rent; and we have to go through it.* One would have thought that the "new and living way" made through it was the very thing that enables us to go through it. It may be said, perhaps. that this is not the rending of the veil; which is said to be only in the Gospels for. God to come out, and not for any one to go in. The Gospels give us no such comment, and it will assuredly not bear investigation from the side of Scripture. For this "new and living way" is through the "flesh" of Jesus, and we approach the Throne with boldness through His blood. This brings us near to what we have in the Gospels; and the word "new" here, though used in the sense of "recent," has a better signification which is its primary one. Its strict force of "newly slain" harmonizes contrastively with "and living," which completes the thought. By death and resurrection the way has been made for us into the heavenly sanctuary through the flesh the human nature of Jesus; and here the doctrine of the epistle is plainly interpretative of the fact in the Gospels.

{*"Truth for the Time" (1895), p. 174.}

The veil is rent in Hebrews; and that is why, as has been said, it is not really "having boldness to enter into the holiest," but into the "holy places," because the two are thus united. Yet that does not mean, as it seems often to be taken to mean, that the veil is removed. "Rent" and "removed" are different things. If the veil is Christ's flesh, that is not removed, nor do we want it removed, By Him we draw near to God; but He had to die that it might be so. Look at the beautiful veil, and see what it implies!

Again, it is said: "If it were rent on our side as it is on God's side, we could go in as men in the flesh." Surely if the holiest be for us a heavenly reality, and drawing near be spiritual realization, as it is, the flesh will never be able to draw near to God. Why need we try to guard this approach in a way God has not? Can we put it better than the apostle, "Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus?" And he urges and encourages even these Hebrew Christians, immature and slow to learn and backward as they were, to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." God having opened the way, it was their responsibility to draw near. Of course that must be real; and if we are not so, we may sadly deceive ourselves; but let us keep Scripture as it has been written for us.

Besides the way secured, we have the living Person of the "great Priest over the house of God:" we have One who in the tenderness of divine grace ministers to our infirmities, and lifts us up above ourselves. On our part therefore "let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith." That is the proper answer to the grace that has thus provided for us, the "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience," which is the Christian purification of the conscience previously insisted on as necessary for the opening of the sanctuary. The "body washed with pure water" was what was done at the consecration of the priests (Ex. 29:4) , and which answers to the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5), the word of God bringing us out from a world in rampant insubjection to God, into whole-hearted allegiance to the Son of His love, as His true kingdom. This is the spiritual reality of which baptism is the expression outwardly; but the "washing of regeneration" is not baptism.

Immediately as we are brought to the question of responsibilities here, we recognize our weakness, and the general need: we must "hold fast unwaveringly the confession of our hope;" we must "consider one another to provoke to love and to good works;" we must not "forsake the assembling of ourselves together;" we must "encourage one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching." Ali, is it not just the drawing near to God that exposes our essential weakness? The presence of God is the true sanctuary the place of holiness, the refuge from ourselves, and from the power of things around us: but how feeble are we in the enjoyment of it! And our feebleness, instead of making us draw together for mutual help, tends to disorganize and make us drift asunder; and instead of awakening pity and longing over one another, makes us often the subject of unsparing criticism. Oh, for the ability to provoke to love and to good works! If souls have got away from God, nothing but the power of the love of Christ can break down and restore.

It may seem strange to us now to think of Christians then "seeing the day" of Christ "approaching." But the signs of the end to observant eyes began soon to show themselves. The mystery of iniquity was already at work, and when John writes his first epistle, "many antichrists" show it to be the "last time." Disheartening things these, but the apostle would tell us that we have not received a "spirit of cowardice" (2 Tim. 1:7). and we are not to be disheartened. Nothing more effectively cuts the nerve of all activity than the loss of hope: the devil knows this well. Love itself will be reduced to idleness if assured there is no good in working. God is the "God of all encouragement," and the moment we get to His side of things we are on the winning side. Divine love invites us to draw on it without stint.

Section 4 (vers. 26-39). The fourth section follows this naturally with the warnings which in Hebrews are so constant. The wilful sin here spoken of supposes, as in the sixth chapter, the "knowledge of the truth" with the will in error. The apostle here speaks of a special class whom he has to warn as those before, against treading under foot the Son of God, going back to a Judaism all the impotence of which has been exposed, and which now has manifestly "no more sacrifice for sins." They are (not failing saints but) adversaries, who as such must expect sorer judgment than under Moses' law, by so much the more as that which they had despised was greater. The blood of the covenant could not avail for one who had given it up as "common" — having no virtue; and grace itself must fail those who insult the Spirit of grace.

"Wherewith he was sanctified" is naturally a difficulty, though the reference to the day of atonement helps us to realize what is intended. The blood put before God then was truly the "blood of the covenant," as being that in virtue of which the relation between God and Israel was maintained. Thus it sanctified the people, every one among them abiding in the value of it. The Christian assembly now abode under the blood of a better covenant, and of this assembly the person spoken of had formed part. If his profession had not been true, he had still the responsibility of it in giving it up, as all the blessing of it had been open to him to enjoy. He is thus credited with that which on God's part nothing hindered being made good to him, and which he had claimed to be his own.

But again the apostle comforts those he is addressing with the remembrance of what they had endured, and how the Lord's grace had upheld them under it: a right use of experiences in which what had been trial becomes in result abiding blessing. Still they had need of endurance, and would in due time find the recompense. For He who cometh will at last come. Meanwhile the just shall live by faith, and he who draws back, God can have no pleasure in him. The principle always remains true; but these are distinct classes: we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.