Scripture Notes.


Hebrews 4:15.

No one who has examined this scripture can doubt that the translation of the last two words should be "sin apart," or "apart from sin." When our Lord said to His disciples, "Without me ye can do nothing," He used the word found here, and the sense is evidently, "Apart from me," that is, if the branch had lost its connection with, were "apart from," Christ as the vine, no fruit could be produced. The meaning therefore of our scripture is that our blessed Lord was, having become man, tempted in all points "like as we are," apart from sin. We have sin in us, and many of our temptations proceed from this source (see James 1:14-15); but Christ (far be the thought!) had no sin, and consequently did not enter into the temptations that are connected with our lusts. The context, moreover, points to this conclusion. The apostle is setting before us that our great High Priest is not one that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Two things are thus made plain - first, that he has in view the temptations that spring from our infirmities, not from our evil nature; and, secondly, that in all such temptations we can count upon the sympathy of Christ as the High Priest, inasmuch as when down here, learning obedience by the things which He suffered, He was "tempted in all things in like manner." This is the meaning of the hymn -

"He knows what sore temptations mean,

For He has felt the same."

For our sins we want not sympathy, but unsparing self-judgment and confession. The knowledge of this distinction might have saved Irving from his fatal error. To magnify the perfection of the life of our blessed Lord, as he was deluded into thinking, he taught that Christ had a sinful nature like ours, and yet never sinned - an error which is almost favoured in our translation. But such a doctrine was at once dishonouring to our blessed Lord, and destructive of the atonement, seeing that One, possessed of a nature in all respects like ours, could not have presented Himself as an acceptable sacrifice, without spot, to God. The importation of human thoughts into such a subject cannot but lead to the most perilous consequences.


1 John 1:1.

It is asked if the expression - "the Word of life" - refers to the written Word. This is to miss the point and significance both of the words used and of their connection. John speaks of "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of (peri) the Word of life." It is true that he stops short of saying (and our hearts can understand it) "our hands have handled the Word of life"; but the next verse makes it, nevertheless, very plain that he alludes to the person of Christ, for "that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us," was brought down to earth, and displayed in, and through, the Son become incarnate. The term, "the Word of life," may be used because the living Word was the manifestation of the life. Thus, in the gospel, it is of the Word, who was with God, and who was God, that John says, "In Him was life," and also that He "was made [became] flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten with the Father,) full of grace and truth." In chapter 8, moreover, in answer to the question, "Who art Thou?" the Lord Himself replied, "Even [the same] that I said unto you from the beginning," more accurately rendered, "Altogether that which I also say to you;" that is, His words were the perfect expression of who, and what, He was. The Word (in the phrase, the Word of life) cannot therefore be dissociated from Himself, for His word contained the revelation of Himself, and here of Himself as that eternal life which was with the Father, and which had now been brought down to earth, and manifested before the eyes of His disciples. (Compare John 14:9-10.) It might thus be truly said that Christ Himself was the Word of life, even as He is afterwards described as "the true God, and eternal life."


Luke 23:44-46.

Unless there be some degree of spiritual understanding and faith in the word of God, apparent contradictions are easily discovered. It is undoubtedly the fact that the rending of the veil is put after the death of our Lord in Matthew, and before it in Luke. But the careful reader will observe that Luke does not say, although he calls attention to the rent veil, that it occurred before the Lord "gave up the ghost." He puts this and the sun being darkened together without stating the order of the events, and then passes on to describe the Lord's closing act of commending His spirit into the hands of the Father as He departed. Matthew, on the other hand, evidently gives us the sequence of the events, for after the words, "Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost," he proceeds, "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," etc. There is therefore no contradiction whatever, and not only so, but there is a divine reason for the difference in the two narratives. In Matthew Christ in His death is seen as the sin-offering. Matthew 27 is the fulfilment both of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, and consequently the rending of the veil, coming as it did immediately upon His death, signifies the completion of atonement, and God's declaration of its acceptance. It was, so to speak, the divine announcement of the efficacy of the precious blood, which had opened up the way for the believer into the holiest (Heb. 10:19), and which would moreover set God righteously free to come out in the gospel of His grace to proclaim forgiveness to all who would receive the message. (Acts 13:38-39.) In the gospel of Luke the characteristic presentation of our blessed Lord is that of the perfectly dependent Man. There is consequently no forsaking of God given in the details of His death. He is seen, rather, above all the circumstances through which He was passing. He prays for His persecutors, He saves the malefactor, and lastly, as before noticed, He finally, in perfect peace, commends His spirit into the hands of the Father. Doubtless this explains why the rending of the veil is put here before His death. It is that we might be permitted to see this aspect of the death of Christ, His death as the obedient and dependent Man, and in this aspect He dies in entire confidence, and in undisturbed peace. We may learn from this the danger of deductions from any one scripture concerning our Lord. It is only in the combination of all that the truth is found. It is on this account that God has given us four gospels. Let this be well weighed.