THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.
This begins the third great section of the Epistle.
Christ’s superiority to the angels through whose ministration the old dispensation
was said to be established.
Section II. (chapters 3 and 4) set forth the surpassing greatness of our Lord as
compared with Moses, the great leader of the old dispensation.
Section III. (chapters 5-10) will present our Lord as greater than Aaron,
the representative of the purely religious element of the old dispensation.
Christ infinitely greater than all these, and therefore the new covenant in Him
infinitely better than the old — that now is the writer’s argument. The first
ten verses of this chapter are an introduction to the third section. Before
Christ’s fulfillment of high priestly work is discussed, it is necessary to show
that He does actually hold that position. Christ is really High Priest; the first
proof of that is in the passage before us. Subject: Christ’s Divine appointment
to the high priesthood the fulfillment of one essential qualification for that
The purpose of the first part of this chapter (vs. 1-10) is to corroborate
the position arrived at in the conclusion of Hebrews 4., viz. that we have in
Christ a true High Priest sufficient for all our needs. This is done by
analyzing the conception of a high priest, and observing that Christ in all
respects fulfils it. And thus the full exposition of Christ’s heavenly
priesthood above that of Aaron is prepared for. But this full exposition is
still not entered on till after an exhortation (beginning at ch.5:11), longer
and more earnest than any former one, called for by the slowness of the
Hebrew Christians to apprehend the doctrine. It is at length taken up and
carried out in ch.7. The intention of vs. 1-10 being as above explained, it is a
mistake to suppose any contrast intended here between the Aaronic priesthood
and that of Christ; e.g. to take vs. 1-3 as meaning, human high priests can
sympathize in virtue of their own infirmity, — otherwise Christ; or, human
high priests have need of atonement for themselves, — not so Christ. The
main drift, on the contrary, is that all recognized essentials of high
priesthood are found in Christ. These essentials are that, the high priest’s
office being to mediate between man and God,
(1) he should be of the same nature, and sympathetic with those in whose
behalf he mediates; and
(2) that his credentials should be Divine, i.e. that God Himself should have
appointed him to his office.
1 “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in
things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices
for sins:” Here ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος - ex anthropon lambanomenos –
taken from among men; out of humans being obtained – is not (as the rendering
of the Authorized Version might suggest) a limitation of the subject
of the sentence, confining it to merely human high priests; it belongs to the
predicate, expressing what is true of every high priest. The phrase
expresses both the necessary humanity of the high priest, and also his being
set apart for his peculiar office —λαμβανόμενος ἐξ (taken from). The order, and
consequent force, of the words in the Greek is retained in the translation
given above. (For the expression, τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν – ta pros ton Theon –
pertaining to God – compare ch. 2:17; Romans 15:17.) The purpose for which
the high priest is constituted in this relation is “that he may offer both gifts and
sacrifices for sins” — a comprehensive designation of sacerdotal functions, the
essential idea, expressed by ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν – huper hamartion – for the sake of
sins - being atonement (compare ch.2:17 - εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ
λαοῦ· - eis to hilaskesthai tas hamartias tou laou - to make reconciliation for
the sins of the people). The difference between the words δῶρά - dora – gifts;
oblations - and θυσίας – thusias – sacrifices - is that the former, denoting properly
any offering regarded as a gift, is especially applied in the Septuagint to the
minchah (“meat offering”); the latter (from θὐω – thuo - denotes properly a
bloody sacrifice), and is generally so applied. The distinction, however, is
not invariably observed, δῶρον – doron – gift - being used in this Epistle (11:4)
for Abel’s sacrifice and (ch. 8:4) for all kinds of offerings, while θυσία (sacrifice)
in the Septuagint denotes (Genesis 4:3) Cain’s unbloody offering and (Leviticus
2:1) the minchah. But here, as also in ch.8:3 and 9:9, where both are
named (δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας – dora te kai thusias – gifts besides and sacrifices),
we may conclude a distinctive reference to be intended to the unbloody and
bloody offerings of the Law (compare Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offering
Thusia kai hae spondae – the sacrifice and the oblation; offering - and also
Jeremiah 17:26. To both ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν (for sins) depending, not on θυσία
(sacrifice) , but on προσφὲρη – prospherae – he may offer) applies, For,
though blood-shedding (ch. 9:22) was essential for atonement, the unbloody
minchah formed part of the ceremony of expiation, and this notably on the
Day of Atonement, so specially referred to afterwards in the Epistle (see
2 “Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are
out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.”
It is not easy to find a satisfactory English equivalent for μετριοπαθεῖν –
metriopathein – to be having compassion , translated as above in
the Authorized Version; by Alford, “be compassionate towards;” in the
margin of the Authorized Version, “reasonably bear with;” by the recent
Revisers, “bear gently with;” by Bengel, “moderate affici.” The compound
had its origin, doubtless, in the peripatetic school, denoting the right mean
between passionateness and Stoic apathy. In this sense Philo uses μετριοπαθἡς –
to express Abraham’s sober grief after the death of Sarah (2:37) and
Jacob’s patience under his afflictions (2:45). The verb, followed, as here,
by a dative of persons, may be taken, therefore, to denote moderation of
feeling towards the persons indicated, such moderation being especially
opposed in the case before us, where the persons are the ignorant and
erring, to excess of severe or indignant feeling. Josephus speaks of the
emperors Vespasian and Titus as μετριοπαθἡσάντων (treat with mildness;
or moderation – my attempt to interpret – CY – 2014) in their attitude
towards the Jews after long hostility (‘
the meaning of μετριοπαθεὶα it is obvious how the capacity of it is
essential to the idea of a high priest as being one who is resorted to as a
mediator by a people laden with infirmities, to represent them and to plead
for them. It is not of necessity implied that every high priest was personally
μετριοπαθἡς: it is the ideal of his office that is spoken of. And, in the case
of human high priests, this ideal was fulfilled by their being themselves human,
encompassed themselves with the infirmity of those for whom they mediated.
Christ also, so far, evidently fulfils the condition. For, though He is afterwards
distinguished (ch.7:28) from priests having themselves infirmity, yet He had,
in His human nature, experienced what it was: “He was crucified - ἐξ ἀσθενείας
– ex astheneias – through weakness” (II Corinthians 13:4); “Himself took our
infirmities (ἀσθενείας – astheneias - infirmities), and bare our sicknesses”
(Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4); the agony in the garden (whatever its mysterious
import, of which more below) expressed personal experience of human ἀσθενεία –
astheneia – infirmity. Alford denies that ἀσθενεία, in the sense supposed by
him to be here intended, can be attributed to Christ, and hence that περίκειται
ἀσθένειαν – perikeitai astheneian – is compassed with infirmity - can apply to
Him (but see above on ch.4:15, and below on vs. 3, 7).
3 “And by reason hereof he ought (ὀφείλει – opheilei – he ought; he is
owing; or, is bound), as for the people, so also for Himself, to offer for sins.”
This obligation is evident in the case of the high priests of the Law. Consequently,
their sin offering for themselves, in the first place, was a prominent part of the
ceremonial of the Day of Atonement, which the writer may be supposed to
have especially in view (Leviticus 16.). But can we suppose any
corresponding necessity in the case of Christ? The argument does not
absolutely require that we should, since the obligation of the Levitical high
priest may be adduced only in proof of his own experience of ἀσθενεία
(infirmity). Christ, though under no such obligation, might still fulfill the
requisites of a high priest, expressed in the case of sinful high priests by the
obligation to offer for themselves; and we may leave it to the writer to
show how He does fulfill them. Whether, however, there was in Christ’s
own experience anything corresponding to the high priest’s offering for
Himself will be considered under vs. 7-8.
4 “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of
God, (the ὁ - ho – he - of Textus Receptus before καλούμενος – kaloumenos –
that is called - as in Authorized Version — has very slight authority), as was
Aaron.” This verse expresses the second essential of a high priest, DIVINE
APPOINTMENT for assurance of the efficacy of his mediation. Of course
Aaron’s successors derived their Divine commission from his original one
5 “So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but
He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
6 As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the
order of Melchisedec.” So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High
Priest. Here begins the proof that Christ fulfils the two requirements, that
mentioned second in the previous statement being taken first in the proof
— chiastically (Chiastic structure, or chiastic pattern, is a literary technique in
narrative motifs and other textual passages. An example chiastic structure would
be two ideas, A and B, together with variants A' and B', being presented as
A,B,B',A'. Alternative names include ring structure, because the opening
and closing 'A' can be viewed as completing a circle, or symmetric structure.
Wikipedia) as is usual in this Epistle. The expression, ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν -
heauton edoxasen – Himself glorifies - may have reference to the glory
wherewith Christ is crowned in His exalted position as Priest-King (compare
ch. 2:9). But He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, this
day have I begotten thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a
Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. These two texts
(Psalm 2:7; 110:4) must be taken together for the proof required. The
first (commented on under (ch.1:5) shows the Lord’s appointment of Christ
to His kingly office as Son; the second shows that this kingly office carries
with it, also by Divine appointment, an eternal priesthood. Christ’s entry into
this kingly priesthood is best conceived as inaugurated by His resurrection, after
accomplishment of human obedience, whereby He fitted Himself for priesthood.
Before this He was the destined High Priest, but not the “perfected” High Priest,
“ever living to make intercession for us.” (ch. 7:25) It is not during His life on
earth, but after His exaltation, that He is spoken of as the High Priest of mankind.
In His sufferings and death He was consecrated to His eternal office. This appears
from vs. 9-10, and also from Psalm 110., quoted in this verse, where the
priesthood after the order of Melchizedek and the exaltation to the right
hand of God are regarded together. See also what was said under ch.1:5,
of the application to Christ of the other text quoted, “This day have I begotten
thee.” The Messianic reference and general drift of Psalm 110. has been considered
under ch. 1:13. It was there seen to be more than a typical prophecy, David having
in it a distinct view of One far greater than himself — of the Son to come, whom
he calls his LORD. But even had it, like other Messianic psalms, a primary reference
to some theocratic king, the remarkable import of v. 4 would in itself point
beyond one. For, though David organized and controlled the priesthood
and the services of the sanctuary, though both he and Solomon took a
prominent part in solemn acts of worship, yet neither they nor any other
king assumed the priestly office, which, in its essential functions, was
scrupulously confined to the sons of Aaron. The judgment on Uzziah
(II Chronicles 26:16-22) is a notable evidence of the importance attached to
this principle. Yet the verse before us assigns a true priesthood to the
future King. For Melchizedek, as he appears in Genesis, is evidently a true
priest, though prior to the Aaronic priesthood, uniting in himself, according
to the system of the patriarchal age, the royalty and the priesthood of his
race: as a true priest, he blessed Abraham, and received tithes from him.
But of him, historically and symbolically regarded, the consideration must
be reserved for ch.7, where the subject is taken up. Enough here to
observe that in Psalm 110. a true and everlasting priesthood is assigned to
the SON in union with his exalted royalty at the LORD’S right hand, and
this by Divine appointment, by the “voice” or “oracle” of the Lord (Ibid. v.1),
confirmed by the LORD’S oath (Ibid. v. 4).
Christ’s Divine Appointment to the High Priesthood the Fulfillment
One Essential Qualification for that Position. (vs. 1-6)
· CONSIDER THE FACT OF MEDIATION BETWEEN GOD AND
MAN. The high priest was “appointed for men in things pertaining to God,
that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” “Gifts” equivalent to,
those of God to men — reconciliation and benediction. “Sacrifices for sins”
equivalent to, those of men to God; that is, he was charged to manage the
concerns of his brethren with the Most High, holding an intermediate
position. What was the necessity for such an intermediary?
Ø It was a witness to the sinfulness of man. Historically, one tribe,
Levi, was set apart for the service of the tabernacle. Only one family
of this might enter the sacred building, Aaron and his four sons;
five persons in all out of the thousands of
permitted to undertake their duties after solemn rules of consecration.
But of this family, only one might pass into the most holy place, and
he but once in a year, and then only in a manner which must have
impressed him deeply with THE SANCTITY OF THE PLACE.
Nothing could more clearly show THE DISTANCE AT WHICH
SIN HAD PLACED MAN FROM GOD!
Ø The fact of mediation is a declaration that the broken communion
between God and man can be renewed. In Eden God communed
with man, but sin broke this relationship. Sinful man could only say
with Cain, “From thy face shall I be hid, and I shall be a fugitive
and a vagabond.” (Genesis 4:14) But when the doctrine of mediation
was taught — and that must have been very early, for it underlies the
idea of sacrifice — how great a door of hope was suddenly opened
before them! The intervention of another might yet be, like Jacob’s
ladder, the means of communication between heaven and earth.
(Genesis 28:12; John 1:51)
Ø The fact of mediation is a testimony to THE PRINCIPLE OF
SUBSTITUTION. This principle which underlies the New Testament
system no less underlies the Old; it runs through the entire Word of God
as the principle which keeps it together. Mediation is representation.
The high priest represented the people before God. God treated with
him on their behalf. What they could not do for themselves, he did.
· THE NECESSITY THAT THE MEDIATOR SHOULD BE
DIVINELY APPOINTED. The stress of the passage is on the word
Ø This is necessary to ensure the Divine acceptance of the Mediator.
Man has no rights, no power, he is helpless and undone, entirely
dependent on the mercy of the offended God.
Ø This Divine appointment shows the good will of God to
those for whom mediation is made. One Person of the Divine
Trinity has been set apart for this mediation.
Ø The Divine dignity of Christ adds yet greater worth to this
appointment. “Thou art my Son.” The Divine Son has free
access to the Father, and to His ear and heart. And to think,
He is at the right hand of the Father and “ever liveth to make
intercession for us.” (ch. 7:25)
7 “Who in the days of His flesh, when he had offered up (rather, when He
offered up) prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him
that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared;
8 Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He
suffered;” Here (according to the view taken above of the chiastic structure
of the passage) we have the account of how Christ fulfilled the human
requirements of a High Priest, referred to in vs. 2-3. This main intention
of vs. 7-8 must be kept in mind for a proper understanding of them.
Christ is in them regarded, not as executing His priestly office, but as being
prepared and consecrated for it. His eternal priesthood is conceived as
entered on after the human experience which is the subject of these verses
(compare καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο – kai teleiotheis egeneto – and being
perfected He became - (v. 9), and what was said under v. 5). With regard to
the participial aorists, προσενέγκας, εἰσακουσθεὶς,- prosenegkas, eisakoustheis,-
offering, being heard - it is a misapprehension of their proper force to regard
them as denoting a time previous to that of ἔｵαθεν – emathen – He learned –
v. 8; as if the meaning were — having in
“been heard,” He afterwards “learned obedience” on the cross. All they
express is that in offering, etc., and being heard, He learned obedience. The idea
of subsequent time does not come in till v. 9; “and being perfected,” after thus
learning obedience, “He became,” etc. Thus the only question with regard to time
in vs. 7-8 is whether they have reference to the agony in the garden only, or both
to the agony and the cress. That they refer mainly, if not exclusively, to the agony
is evident from the expressions used, corresponding so closely with the
Gospel history. The view presented is, as in the Gospels, of some intense
inward struggle, outwardly manifested, and expressing itself in repeated
prayers (observe the plural, δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας – deaeseis te kai hiketaerias –
petitions besides supplications) aloud for deliverance. It is true that the Gospels,
as we have them now, do not mention tears; but these too are quite in keeping
with the bloody sweat specified by Luke, and Epiphanius states that the original
copies of Luke 22:43-44 contained the verb ἔκλαυσε. Some interpreters would
identify the κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς - kraugaes ischuras – strong crying - of v. 7 with
the (φωνῇ µεγάλῃ - phonae megalae – loud voice)” from the cross (Matthew 27:46;
Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46). But there is nothing to suggest this; the “strong crying
and tears”evidently denote the manner of the “prayers and supplications;” and the
thrice-repeated prayer in the garden recorded by the evangelists may be
well conceived to have been thus loudly uttered, so as to be heard by the
three disciples, a stone’s cast distant, before sleep overcame them. What, then,
as seen in the light of these verses, was the meaning of the “prayer and supplications”
θανάτου – ton dunamenon sozein auton ek thanatou - unto Him that was able to
save Him from death - corresponding with πάντα δυνατά σοι· - panta dunata soi –
all things are possible unto thee - of Mark 14:36, confirms the view that the “cup”
which He prayed might pass from Him, was the death before Him, and that the
purport of His prayer was, not to be raised from death after undergoing it, but to
be saved from undergoing it. Such is the ordinary meaning of σῴζειν ἐκ
θανάτου – save from death - to one still alive (compare Psalm 33:19; James 5:20).
It does not indeed positively follow that, because He prayed to One who was able
in this sense to save Him, His prayer was that He might be in this sense saved. It is,
however, the natural inference. But, if so, two difficulties present themselves.
(1) How was such a prayer consistent with His distinct knowledge that
death must be undergone, and His late strong rebuke to Peter for venturing
to dissuade Him from it?
(2) How can He be said to have been heard (εἰσακουσθεὶς), since He was
not saved from death in the sense intended? To the first of these questions
the answer is that the prayer expressed, not the deliberate desire of His
Divine will, but only the inevitable shrinking of the human will from such
an ordeal as was before Him. As man, He experienced this shrinking to the
full, and as man He craved deliverance, though with entire submission to
the will of the Father. His human will did not oppose itself to the Divine
will: it conformed itself in the end entirely to it; but this according to the
necessary conditions of humanity, through the power of prayer. Had it not
been so with Him, His participation in human nature would have been
incomplete; He would not have been such as to be “touched with a feeling
of our infirmities, being in all things tempted like as we are;” (ch. 4:15)
nor would He have stood forth for ever as the great Example to mankind.
John, who so deeply enters into and interprets the mind of Christ, records
an utterance before the agony which anticipates its meaning (John 12):
“The hour is come” (v. 23); and then (v. 27), “Now is my soul troubled; and
what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour [compare σῴζειν ἐκ
θανάτου]; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy Name.”
The “hour” was that of the drinking of the cup (compare Mark 14:35, “And
prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him”). “Father,
save me from this hour” was the human craving of the agony; but still,
“Father, glorify thy Name” was the essence of the prayer; and perfect
submission to the Divine will was the outcome of it, after this troubling
of His human soul. The mystery surrounding the whole subject of the Divine
and human in Christ remains still. What was said with regard to it about the
temptation in the wilderness (ch. 4:15) is applicable also here. If it be further
asked how it was that Christ, in His humanity, so shrank from the “cup”
before Him, seeing that mere men have been found to face death calmly in
its most appalling forms, the answer may be found in the consideration of
what this cup implied. It was more than physical death, more than physical
pain, more than any sorrow that falls to the lot of man. Such expressions as
ἤρξατο λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδηµονεῖν….. Περίλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή µου ἕως θανάτου· -
haexato lupeisthai kai adaemonein…..Perilupos estin ae puchae mou hoes
thanatou – He began to be sorrowful and very heavy (depressed) (Matthew 26:37-38);
ἤρξατο ἐκθαµβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδηµονεῖν – haerxato ekthambeisthai kai adaemonein –
He began to be sore amazed and very heavy (over-awed and depressed) ,
(Mark 14:33); Γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο – Genomenos en
agonia ektenesteron prosaeucheto – being in an agony He prayed the more
earnestly - Luke 22:44); the bloody sweat, and the cry of “My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) — convey in themselves the
impression of a mysterious ordeal, beyond what we can fathom, undergone
by the atoning Savior in that “hour” of the “power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53)
Of the second difficulty mentioned above, as to how Christ was “heard,” not
having been saved “from death” in the apparent sense of His prayer, the
solution may be that the prayer, conditioned as it was by εἰ δυνατόν – ei
dunaton – if possible – (Matthew 26:39), was most truly answered by the angel
sent to strengthen him, and the power thenceforth given Him to “endure the
cross, despising the shame.” (ch. 12:2) The example to us thus
becomes the more apparent. For we, too, praying legitimately for release
from excessive trial, may have our prayer best answered by grace given to
endure the trial, and by “a happy issue” out of it; as was the case with
Christ. For His bitter passion was made the path to eternal glory; and thus
in the Resurrection too His prayer was answered. The exact meaning of
εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας – eisakoustheis apo taes eulabeias – was
heard in that He feared - is not easy to determine. It is taken
by a large proportion of commentators to mean “deliverance from His
fear;” εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ being supposed to be a constructio praegnans
in the sense of “heard so as to be delivered,” and εὐλαβεία to denote the
dread experienced in
not the fear felt, but the thing feared. The objections to this view are
(1) the doubtfulness of the constructio praegnans (a form of brachylogy in
which two clauses or two expressions are condensed into one), the instances
platusmon - answered me with freedom - Psalm 118:5; , ῥεραντισμένοι …
ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς, - rherantismenoi……apo suneidaeseos
ponaeras – having been sprinkled ……from an evil conscience -here, ch. 10:22 —
are not parallel); and
(2) the sense assigned to εὐλαβεία – eulabeia - feared; piety , since εὐλαβεῖθσαι –
eulabeithsai – holy fear; godly fear reverence - and its derivatives, when used to
express fear, denote usually, not a shrinking, but a wary or cautious fear, and
commonly carry with them (in this Epistle and Luke especially) the idea of piety.
Thus in ch.11:7, of Noah, εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασεν κιβωτὸν – eulabaetheis
kateskeuasen kiboton – moved with fear prepared an ark; being pious constructs
ark - ch. 12:28, µετ’ εὐλαβείας καὶ δέους – met’ eulabeias kai deous –
with reverence and godly fear; with piety and awe - and in Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5;
8:2; 22:12, εὐλαβής – eulabaes – devout - is synonymous with εὐσεβής –
eusebaes – pious; godly. The rendering hence preferred by many,
having the authority of Chrysostom, and among moderns of Lunemann,
Bleek, Delitzsch, Alford, and others, is that of the Vulgate, “exauditus pro
sua reverentia.” So Vigilius, “propter timorem;” the Authorized Version,” heard
in that he feared,” or, as in the margin, “heard for his piety;” and in the recent
revision, “for his godly fear;” which is the Authorized Version’s rendering
of εὐλαβεία in ch.12:28. The objection to the use of ἀπὸ to express the
cause of His being heard is met by reference to the frequent usage of Luke,
whose language most resembles that of our Epistle. Thus: ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου –
apo tou ochlou – for the press; from the throng - (Luke 19:3); ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς –
apo taes charas – for joy; from the joy (Ibid. ch. 24:41 and Acts 12:14);
ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου – apo tou hupnou – with sleep; from the sleep (Ibid. ch.20:9);
ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης – apo taes doxaes – for the glory; from the glory(Ibid. ch. 22:11).
The phrase, thus understood, brings out the more markedly the thoroughly
human conditions to which Christ was subjected. It was not in right of His
sonship that He was heard. He won His hearing by His human piety; though
He was SON, and as such knew that His Father heard Him always (John 11:42),
He learned humanly His lesson of obedience. In the expression, καίπερ ὢν υἱὸς –
kaiper on huios – Though He was a Son; Even being a Son - , Son is surely meant
in the peculiar sense in which it has all along been applied to Christ, expressing
more than that His relation to God was that of any son to a father, and thus we
perceive the full force of καίπερ. It is true that it was not till after the Resurrection
that He attained His exalted position as SON (see under ch. 1:5 and 5:5); but still
He was all along the Son, in virtue of His origin as well as of His destiny. Compare
ἐλάλησεν ἡµῖν ἐν υἱῷ - elalaesen haemin en huio – speaks to us in [the] Son (ch. 1:2) -
ὢν υἱὸς (being a Son) does not indeed, in itself, express that he was the Second Person
of the Trinity (this application of the word υἱὸς being nowhere found in the Epistle);
but it implies that, even in his state of humiliation, he was more than man; for
there would be nothing very extraordinary, so as to justify καίπερ, in the case of
an ordinary son learning obedience to his father through suffering. Recurring
now to the question raised under v. 3, whether the high priest’s
obligation to offer in the first place for himself had any counterpart in the
case of Christ, we may perceive such a counterpart in the agony, as above
regarded. For, although for Himself Christ needed no atonement, yet the
“prayers and supplications” were offered in His own behalf, being due to His
own entire participation in the conditions of humanity; the whole “agony
and bloody sweat” were part of His own preparation and consecration for
executing the office of a High Priest for others, and, like the Aaronic
priest’s offering for himself, they were the sign and evidence of His being
one µετριοπαθεῖν δυνάµενος – metriopathein dunamenos - being able to
have compassion. Thus (χωρὶς ἁµαρτίας.– choris haemartias – without sin –
being all along understood) they answered truly to the preparatory part of
Aaron’s original consecration (Leviticus 8:14 - 9:15), or to the high priest’s own
offering, before his offering for the people and entering behind the veil, on
the Day of Atonement (Ibid. ch. 16:6). It may be (though not necessarily so)
that the word προσενέγκας (offering) in v. 7, corresponding with
προσφέρειν (to offer; to be offering) in v. 3, is intended to suggest this analogy.
The Suffering Savior (vs. 7-8)
“Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered,” etc. Our text suggests
the following observations:
· IN THE DAYS OF HIS FLESH OUR LORD ENDURED SEVEREST
SUFFERINGS. “The things which He suffered” induced the agonizing
prayer, the “strong crying and tears.” He bore the common sufferings of
our humanity; e.g. hunger, thirst, weariness, etc. He suffered from the cruel
ingratitude of men, from the base slanders of His enemies, and from the
subtle and sinful solicitations of Satan. His sensitive and holy soul suffered
keenly from His contact with so much of sin and sorrow and pain in this
world. But the particular reference in the text is to His anguish in
occasion! “He began to be greatly amazed and sore troubled: and he saith,
My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” (Mark 14:33)
· IN HIS SUFFERINGS OUR LORD SOUGHT RELIEF IN PRAYER.
“He offered up prayers and supplications,” etc. (v. 7). Notice:
Ø The Being to whom He addressed His prayer. “Unto Him that was
able to save Him from death,” i.e. to the great Sovereign of both life
and death; “the God in whose hand our breath is” (Daniel 23), who
“giveth to all life and breath and all things,… in whom we live and
move and have our being.” (Acts 17:25,28) Our Savior directed
his prayer to His Father, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible,
let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26:39)
Ø The object which He sought in His prayer. This is not mentioned here;
but it is in the narrative of the conflict in
if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me.” From what did the
Savior recoil so shudderingly? Certainly neither from mere death, nor
from “the dread of something after death.” The pains of dissolution
could not have affrighted him, and beyond death there was nothing to
dismay or repel Him. But death, with all the dread significance and
terrible circumstances such as awaited Him, He shrank from in intense
spiritual pain. It was something far deadlier than death. It was the burden
and the mystery of the world’s sin which lay heavy on his heart;
it was the tasting, in the Divine humanity of a sinless life, the bitter cup
which sin had poisoned; it was the bowing of Godhead to endure a
stroke to which man’s apostasy had lent such frightful possibilities. It
was the sense, too, of how virulent, how frightful, must have been the
force of evil in the universe of God which could render necessary SO
INFINITE A SACRIFICE! It was the endurance, by the perfectly
guiltless, of the worst malice which human hatred could devise; it was
to experience, in the bosom of perfect innocence and perfect love, all
that was detestable in human ingratitude, all that was pestilent in human
hypocrisy, all that was cruel in human rage. It was to brave the last
triumph of Satanic spite and fury, uniting against His lonely head all the
flaming arrows of Jewish falsity and heathen corruption — the concentrated
wrath of the rich and respectable, the yelling fury of the blind and brutal
mob. It was to feel that his own, to whom He came, loved darkness rather
than light — that the race of the chosen people could be wholly absorbed
in one insane repulsion against infinite goodness and purity and love.
Through all this He passed in that hour which, with a recoil of sinless
horror beyond our capacity to conceive, foretasted a worse bitterness
than the worst bitterness of death. This was the cup which He
prayed might pass away from Him.
Ø The intensity with which He urged His prayer. This is indicated:
o by the fact that two words, which are nearly synonymous, are used
to express His prayer. He “offered up prayers and supplications.”
The conjunction of synonymous words is “a mode of expressing
intensity, which is very frequent in the sacred writings.”
o By His “strong crying.” The loud cries were the expression of
agonized feeling and of earnest entreaty.
o By His “tears.” Great natures weep, but not for trifles. Their tears
indicate deep emotion. Our Lord’s tears in
from a “soul exceeding sorrowful,” and were significant of a
painful fervency of supplication. “Being in an agony He prayed
more earnestly,” etc. (Luke 22:44).
· IN ANSWER TO HIS PRAYER OUR LORD OBTAINED
SUPPORT IN HIS SUFFERINGS.
Ø The nature of the answer to His prayer. Not exemption from the cup,
but victory over the dread of it, and support in drinking it. He was
fortified for His future sufferings and trials, and sustained in them.
“There appeared unto Him an angel from heaven, strengthening
Him.” (Ibid. v. 43) His personal wishes were now lost in the perfect
will of His Father. His dread anxieties are gone, and He is divinely
calm. His trembling fears have departed, and He is sublimely
courageous. Henceforth, even unto the bitter end, He is serene in
sternest sufferings, patient under the most irritating provocations,
a meek yet majestic Conqueror. Such was the Father’s answer to
His prayer. And every true prayer which is offered to God is
answered by Him, though not always by granting the specific
requests (compare II Corinthians 12:7-10).
Ø The reason of the answer to His prayer. “And was heard in that He
feared;” margin, “for His piety;” Revised Version, “Having been
heard for His godly fear;” He was heard by reason of His reverent
submission.” His pious resignation to the holy will of His Father was
the ground upon which His prayer was answered, and the victory
was given unto Him. “Nevertheless,” said He, “not as I will, but
as Thou wilt.... O my Father, if this cannot pass away, except I
drink it, thy will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) When we can thus say,
“Thy will be done,” we have already an installment of the answer
to our prayers, and the fullness of the blessing will not tarry.
· BY HIS SUFFERINGS HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE HOLY WILL
OF HIS FATHER WAS PERFECTED. “Though He was a Son, yet
learned He obedience by,” etc. His obedience as a Son was always perfect.
His obedience here spoken of is obedience in suffering. As His obedience
became more difficult, involving more and more of self-renunciation, and
pain ever increasing in severity, He still obeyed, He willed to endure the
sharpest, sternest sufferings rather than fail even in the slightest degree in
His practical loyalty to the perfect will of His Father. “He became obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8) This obedience
He learned, as He proceeded step by step along His painful path, until the
lesson was finished and the obedience was consummated on the cross.
All Christ’s disciples need the discipline of suffering to perfect them in
the practice of the Father’s will (compare Matthew 16:24).
9 “And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation
unto all them that obey Him; 8 Called of God an high priest after the order
of Melchisedec.” And being made perfect, he became unto all them that
obey him the Author of eternal salvation; called (or rather so
addressed) of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Here
τελειωθεὶς - teleiotheis - being made perfect) refers to the time of His
resurrection, when the sufferings were over and the atonement
complete (compare Luke 13:32, τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦµαι – tae tritae teleioumai –
the third [day] I shall be perfected). The word may be used in its general sense of
perfected, i.e. “being made perfectly that which He was intended to become.”
In such sense Paul uses the word of himself, ὅτι ἤδη ….τετελείωµαι – hoti adae
…..teteleiomai – that already…..have been perfected - (Philippians 3:12). Or the
specific sense of priestly consecration may be here, as well as in ch.2:10 and 7:28,
intended. In (Ibid) the Authorized Version renders εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωµένον –
- eis ton aiona teteleiomenon - by consecrated for evermore. And this view is
supported by passages in the Septuagint, where the word τελειωςὶς – teleiosis –
fulfillment; completion; perfection - is used with special reference to the consecration
of the high priest. Compare:
consecration (Exodus 29:22);
ho estin Aaron – Aaron’s ram of consecration (vs. 26-27, 31);
consecrated in their hands - (vs. 29, 33, 35);
sacrifice of the consecration (v. 34)
the second ram of consecration (Leviticus 8:22, 29);
out of the basket of unleavened bread [consecration] -(Ibid.v. 26);
conscecrated burnt offering (v. 28);
haemera teleioseos humon – until the days of your consecration are
fulfilled (v. 33);
ho iereus ho megas apo ton adelphon autou – he who is high priest among his
kephalaen tou elaiou tou christou kai teteleiomenou endusasthai ta himatia –
upon whose head the anointing oil is poured and that is consecrated to put on
the garments. See also Gesenius on the Hebrew word μyaLum. Hence, and in
view of the drift of the passage before us, Jackson very decidedly regards
τελειωθεὶς (being made perfect) in v. 9 as a verbum solenne, denoting specifically
Christ’s consecration to His eternal office of High Priest. Being thus perfected,
or consecrated, He became, for ever afterwards, the Author, not of mere ceremonial
cleansing or temporary remission of guilt, BUT OF ETERNAL SALVATION;
potentially to all mankind (compare ὑπὲρ παντὸς – huper pantos – for the sake of
everyone - ch. 2:9), and effectively to “all them that obey Him;” being addressed,
in this his consummated position (the reference being to Psalm 110.) as
“High Priest for ever,” etc. Here again we perceive that it is not till after the
Resurrection that the prophetic ideal of the SON at God’s right hand, and of
the eternal High Priest, are regarded as fully realized. If it be objected that His
high priesthood must have begun before the Resurrection for His death upon
the cross to be a true atonement, it may be replied that His one oblation of Himself
upon the cross at once consummated His consecration and effected the atonement.
Doubtless, as a true High Priest on earth, He thus “offered one sacrifice for sins
for ever” (ch.10:12); all that is meant above is that it was not till after the
Resurrection that He entered on His eternal office of mediation in virtue of
that one accomplished sacrifice.
The High Priesthood of Christ (vs. 1-10)
In these verses the author proceeds with his discussion of the priestly
character and work of the Lord Jesus, as typified by the Aaronical
· WHAT A HIGH PRIEST IS. The office is a most honorable one; it is
referred to in v. 4 as “the honor.” This will appear from a consideration
of the high priest’s functions and qualifications.
Ø His functions. The most important of these are indicated in v. 1.
o He acts for other men in things respecting their relations to
God. The root-idea of the office is that, while access to God
is denied to sinners on the ground of nature, He has been
pleased to grant it in connection with special arrangements
o He offers sacrifices, both free-will offerings and sin offerings.
As men are guilty, this is indispensable; and thus in common
speech the terms “priest” and “sacrifice” are correlatives.
There can be no priest without a sacrifice.
Ø His qualifications.
o He must be human (v. 1) — a partaker of the nature that
is to be redeemed.
o He must be humane (v. 2) — capable of considerate sympathy
with the people for whom he mediates. How sadly opposite in
character to this have the world’s priests almost always been!
How dark are the thoughts suggested by the word “priestcraft”!
Priests have been arrogant, cruel, tyrants over conscience, enemies
of progress, patrons of ignorance and error. But the typical priest
is a man of culture and refinement, who has abjured the motto,
“Odi profanum vulgus et arceo,” (I hate the common people and
try to steer clear of them) and who, realizing his own frailty,
“can bear gently with the ignorant and erring.”
o He must have a sacrifice (v. 3) — “somewhat to offer.”
Without a sin offering priestly mediation would be impotent,
and the holy and just God would remain inaccessible.
o He must be appointed by God. (v. 4.) It is for God to decide
whether He will allow Himself to be approached at all on
behalf of the guilty, and it belongs to Him also to select the
person whose mediation will be acceptable to Him.
· THE REALITY OF CHRIST’S HIGH PRIESTHOOD. The apostle
goes on to show — but arranging his thoughts for the most part in the
reverse order — that the Lord Jesus possesses all the needful qualifications
for the high priesthood, and that he actually discharges its duties (vs. 5-10).
Ø He has the qualifications of a high priest.
o He was appointed by God. (vs. 5-6.) The reference to Psalm 2
suggests His perfect fitness for the office, and the quotation
from Psalm 110 is a proof of His ordination by the irrevocable
oath of God.
o He is a man. (vs. 7-8.) Although God said to Him, “My Son,”
He had taken “the form of a servant,” and “in the days of His
flesh” had “learned obedience.”
o He is able to sympathize. (vs. 7-8.) He passed through a course of
the deepest affliction and the most dreadful temptation, that He
might acquire the necessary experience for His work. He
“suffered,” not only
the whole period of His public ministry, but especially by
means of the unparalleled agonies of Gethsemane and
o He offered himself as a sacrifice. (vs. 7-8.) By His “obedience”
Jesus effected complete reconciliation for sin. His trembling
agony in the garden and the woe which He bore upon the tree
are inexplicable on the principle that He was only a martyr, or
on any other principle than that in some mysterious way He
was thus bearing the wrath of God against sin.
Ø He discharges the duties of a high priest. (v. 9.) The Savior’s
acquisition of all the qualifications “made Him perfect,” i.e. officially
all accomplished as the Priest of mankind.
o He has procured for us everlasting salvation.
o He bestows it upon all who obey Him by faith.
o He has expiated sin.
o He has rendered God propitious.
o He gives His people access.
o He prays to God for them.
In short, He performs all the duties of a high priest, and His priesthood
has superseded every other.
· THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD AND
Ø Being personally holy, Jesus needed not to offer any sacrifice for
Himself (v. 3).
Ø He is both Priest and Victim (vs. 7-8).
Ø His priesthood really procures salvation (v. 9), and not merely
Ø It is of a higher order than Aaron’s, and was more fully represented
by that of Melchizedek (v. 10); for it is
o intransferable and everlasting;
o a royal priesthood, CHRIST BEING KING, AS WELL
Ø We, being guilty and sinful, can have communion with God
only through Christ as our Priest.
Ø Christian ministers are not “called of God” to be priests (v. 4),
and must beware of importing sacerdotal conceptions into the
idea which they entertain of their office; yet every pastor should,
like the model high priest of ancient times, “bear gently with the
ignorant and erring.” (v. 2)
Here we have
treachery of Judas, the apathy, ignorance, and drowsiness of the disciples.
The one thing of supreme importance is set before us, even the struggle
and suffering in the heart of Jesus Himself. Note:
· THE ELEMENTS OF THE SUFFERING.
Ø The possession of a suffering nature. This struggle happened in
the days of His flesh. It was nothing wonderful that He should
shrink from physical pain, especially when He knew it was to be
such pain as of the scourging and the cross.
Ø The possession of a sinless nature. To find a sinless human being
shrinking with peculiar horror from death, accords with the great
theological dictum that death is the result of sin. The right of Jesus
couldnot be less than to pass from this world as Enoch did (Genesis
5:24), by translation into glory. Death is the thing from which He
shrinks. And full of life as Jesus was, life of the whole being, spiritual
life most of all, how should He not shrink from death?
· INTENSITY OF THE SUFFERING. This is shown by the urgency of
the supplications. Jesus had had His times of intercession, His times for
sweet remembrance of His disciples, and of a sinning, sorrowing world;
but now here is a prayer out of keen personal agony — agony with an
overpowering effect on the very thoughts and intents of the heart. Here in
raised others from the dead, it was not for Him to submit to death without
clear proof that such was the will of His Father. We have to submit. We
look on death as a constant possibility; in us there are no resources for
warding it off or recovering us from its captivity, as there were in Jesus.
Hence the considerations which would press on Him, “Can it be right that I
should die? Shall I let myself sink into the hands of this approaching band,
and finally into the grasp of Pilate, to become passive and yielding in
everything save spiritual integrity?” What wonder was it that in such a
struggle of the heart he should sweat as it were great drops of blood!
· SUCCESSFUL ENDURANCE OF THE SUFFERING. Jesus goes
into this struggle of
viz. that His Father’s will was the supreme determining guide of His course.
To adopt a subsequent metaphor of the Epistle, this was the anchor within
the veil. That will, His guide
hitherto, had led Him to
Him into the very midst of plots and treacheries, into a thick circle of the
wicked, each with his own special interest, and yet all wonderfully
combined in bringing Jesus to the cross. This great truth, that He was in the
midst of these things by God’s will, kept Jesus as on the rock in the great
hour of His temptation. There was more to be done for God’s glory and the
world’s good through death, than through mere continuance of life. A
dying Jesus is INFINITELY MORE than a translated Enoch.
· RESULT OF THE SUFFERING. His obedience becomes the measure
of obedience to others; and also their inspiration — the thing that prompts
ever to ask inquiringly, earnestly, with singleness of heart, as to what the
will of God is. To the right-hearted. God ever gives an infallible intimation;
and before such ever stands also THE FIGURE OF THEIR PERFECTED
LEADER! By the will of God He went to the cross, yielded to death; and
then came the resurrection, the ascension, the passing within the veil, the
entrance on the functions of the true High Priest. And so HE BECAME
THE CAUSE OF ETERNAL SALVATION as distinguished from temporal.
To Lazarus He had once been the cause of temporal salvation; but Lazarus
would die again, and needed, through faith and obedience, ETERNAL
SALVATION! That is the salvation which transcends death. Death may
get mixed up with the process, may for a time even conceal, or at least dim,
the reality; but in due course death is left behind, and eternal salvation
shines forth in all its DIVINE GLORY!
Salvation: Its Author and Its Recipients (v. 9)
“And being made perfect, he became the Author of eternal salvation.” The subject
of the writer in this part of his Epistle is the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. In
treating this subject he dwells upon the sufferings of Christ in His priestly
office, and a certain perfection which resulted from His sufferings. He was
God’s only and well-beloved Son, yet He was not exempt from suffering.
“He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” We must not
suppose that He was not perfectly acquainted with the nature of obedience,
or that He did not fully recognize the duty of it, or that He was in any way
indisposed to render it, before He suffered. The meaning is that though He
was so highly exalted in His relationship to the Father, yet He was subjected
to learn experimentally what it is to obey in the midst of suffering. He learned
the lesson perfectly. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the
cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Our text leads us to consider three things.
· THE PERFECTION WHICH CHRIST ATTAINED THROUGH
SUFFERING. “And having been made perfect.” Having assumed human
nature, Christ was capable of suffering; and in that nature He did indeed
suffer. His entire life upon earth was one of humiliation and sacrifice. Being
sympathetic, the sufferings of men were a constant grief to Him. Being
holy, the sins of men constantly stung His soul with pain. At the last His
sufferings deepened into awful intensity. In
conflict almost brought down His human nature unto death. And on the
cross His pain and woe were unutterable, and to us inconceivably severe.
Of all sufferers CHRIST IS THE SUFFERER! In all these sufferings He
was obedient. He endured them voluntarily. Through His obedience in
suffering He became perfect. The author of our salvation was made “perfect
through sufferings” (ch.2:10). This acquired perfection was not personal
As God He is eternally perfect; as man He was perfect without suffering.
The perfection of our text is relative. By suffering He became perfect in
His relation to us as:
Ø our Savior,
Ø our Intercessor, and
Ø our great High Priest.
Ø He made a perfect atonement for sin.
Ø He became perfectly qualified to sympathize with and to succor
His suffering people. (compare ch.4:14-16)
Ø He became a perfect example for His people in their sufferings.
Ø He entered upon His perfect triumph and glory. (compare ch.2:9;
12:2; Philippians 2:5-11.)
· THE GREAT END BOTH OF CHRIST’S SUFFERING AND OF
HIS PERFECTION ACQUIRED THROUGH HIS SUFFERING.
This end was that He might Be the Author, or the great procuring cause,
of a perfect salvation for men. “Being made perfect, He became the
Author of eternal salvation.” Here are three points.
Ø The salvation.
o Forgiveness of sin,
o freedom from condemnation,
o deliverance from the sovereignty of sin,
o the awakening of a new ruling principle and power in man,
o conversion into a condition of holiness, peace and joy,
o entrance into heaven, and
o blessed union with God.
Ø The perpetuity of salvation. “Eternal salvation.” No partial,
incomplete, temporary blessing; but “eternal salvation” —
“the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
(II Timothy 2:10) Does not this, at least, suggest that there
is no falling back from the hand of Christ into the power of
Satan? Doubtless man always can do so, inasmuch as he is
morally free; but this “eternal salvation” establishes man’s
freedom, yet binds it to holiness, and leads him to cry,
“I delight to do thy will, O my God.” (Psalm 40:8) This
Blessing shall continue when bonds and banks, estates and
fortunes, coronets and crowns, shall have perished. Blessed
be the Lord for His “ETERNAL SALVATION!”
Ø The Author of salvation. Our salvation is owing to Jesus Christ. The
ministry of providence, of religious ordinances, and of good men, may
assist us in availing ourselves of this salvation; but they cannot save us;
they are not “the cause of salvation.” Our salvation originated in THE
INFINITE LOVE OF GOD! “God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall
not perish, but have everlasting life!,” (John 3:16) Our salvation was
effected by His Son, our Savior. He became man, taught, labored,
suffered, lived, died, and ever lives to save us. HE IS OUR ONLY
SAVIOR! The great end of His sufferings was our “ETERNAL
· THE RECIPIENTS OF THIS SALVATION. “Unto all them that
obey Him.” This, of course, does not mean that we merit salvation by
obeying the Savior. But those who have merely some doctrinal knowledge
of Christ and His salvation, those who have only a dead faith in Him, a
mere intellectual assent to the great facts of His history and teaching, are
not partakers of His salvation. As He attained His mediatorial perfection
and glory by complete and hearty obedience to His Father, so must man
obey Him if we would attain unto “eternal salvation.” Salvation is found
in obedience to Him, because:
Ø True and saving faith inspires the life and shapes the conduct.
(compare Acts 15:9; Romans 16:26; Galatians 5:6; James 2:17-26.)
Ø Christ saves men from their sins. He is a Prince to rule us, as well
as a Savior to deliver us.
Ø All who are being saved by Christ love Him, and the loving heart
delights to obey the loved One.
Ø The disobedient cannot enter heaven. Heaven is a realm of perfect
obedience to the supreme will, of loyal and loving devotion to God’s
service. Unless the spirit of hearty obedience be ours, we are out of
sympathy with heaven.
Christ’s Human Experience the Second Qualification
High Priestly Work (vs. 7-10)
The second proof that Christ holds the high priestly position. In vs. 1-2
the double qualification for this is shown: a qualification
o Godward and
He must be appointed by God, and able to sympathize with man.
Both these are shown to be true of Christ, and that He is, therefore,
officially “perfect” (vs. 9-10).
· THE NECESSITY THAT THE HIGH PRIEST SHOULD HAVE
PERSONAL ACQUAINTANCE WITH HUMAN EXPERIENCE. He
“must be taken from among men.”
Ø Apart from this He could be no true representative of mankind.
Human obedience to the Divine Law was required of men. Christ
undertook, as their Representative, to meet all requirements; that
made the Incarnation a necessity. (He “was in all points tempted
like as we are, yet without sin!” – ch. 4:15) Christ must keep the
Law on the same footing on which Adam stood when he came from
God’s hand. So, likewise, bearing man’s penalty, He must assume a
nature which could die. That is, He must become man.
Ø This way He could secure the confidence of the people. Christ
need not pass through human experience in order to understand it;
He understands it by His omniscience. But the infirmity of human
faith can better confide in the sympathy of one who, it knows, has
personally endured its trials.
· THE FULFILMENT OF THIS QUALIFICATION IN THE LORD
JESUS CHRIST. “Who in the days of His flesh, …..offered up prayers
and supplications with strong crying and tears,” etc. (v. 7) The
reference is, evidently, to
death would be to him what it could be to none other — THE BEARING
OF THE WORLD’S
our Lord’s suffering? The writer leads us to look at Jesus when He has
reached THE DEEPEST DEPTH OF SUFFERING POSSIBLE!
However deep his people’s darkness, JESUS HAS GONE DEEPER
STILL. HE BORE THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD! My
sins, your sins, everyone’s sins!
Ø An illustration of the pain involved in submitting our will to God.
“He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Obedience is submission of the will to God. That was the burden
of the prayer in
Father’s feet. He came to do God’s will; that was His meat and
drink. He did always (from the first) those things which please
the Father. (John 8:29) He learned obedience — came to know
what it means for the flesh to submit ever to the will of Heaven;
what it is to obey God amidst human frailties, pains, temptations.
Ø An illustration of Christ’s dependence for fidelity on heavenly helps.
He prayed to be saved (not “from”) “out of death;” not that death
might be averted — for His prayer “was heard” — but that He might
be delivered out of it. Divine support was given, and a glorious
resurrection. Christ, as man, had no inherent power by reason of His
Deity for what, as man, He had to do and bear. He stood on man’s
footing. Perhaps nothing brings Him closer to us than that for all He
needed He had to cling to God in trustful supplication as we have,
and receive delivering and sustaining grace because thereof as we do.
· THE WORTH TO HIS PEOPLE OF CHRIST’S FULFILMENT OF
THIS QUALIFICATION. He was thus “made perfect” — perfect as to
His fullness for high priestly work. Then:
Ø The perfection of Christ’s priesthood makes every other priesthood
needless. He is “a high priest after the order of Melchizedek;” not
in the Aaronic order, not thus for
those who obey Him,” i.e. submit to Him. Christ, High Priest for
every sinner who yields himself to Him; and for this He is perfect.
Then what room for any other mediator? (“For there is one God,
and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
(I Timothy 2:5)
Ø The power of sympathy in a God who has Himself suffered.
When we see that there is not a trial we experience whose
counterpart we cannot find in Christ’s earthly life, we can rest
in the Lord.
Christ passed through the whole circle of teaching, working, enduring contradiction,
until He could say, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work thou
gavest me to do.” (John 17:4) Christ passed through His Divine consecration, and
received the approving voice of His Father, who raised Him from the dead. From
Him NOWFLOWS ETERNAL SALVATION which begins here in:
Ø redemption from guilt,
Ø the restraint of sin,
Ø the indwelling of the Spirit,
Ø freedom from the penal stroke of death, and
Ø the blessedness of eternal life.
All this is connected with obedience on the part of believers, who, while they trust
in His sacrifice, yield their life to His authority as the King of Zion. He was
“called of God.” The appointment is VALID and UNCHANGEABLE, and
foreshadowed by the ministry and office of Melchizedek.
From v. 11- ch. 7:1, is a long admonitory digression (see under v. 1) felt by the
writer to be necessary before his exposition of κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ -
kata taen taxin Melchisedek – according to the order of Melchisedek (v. 10).
He is entering on a new theme, higher and less level to the comprehension of
his readers than any that has gone before. Even so far, we have seen how their
Jewish prejudices had evoked admonitions, frequently interposed in the course
of the argument. Much more so now, when it is to be shown how the priesthood
of Christ not only fulfils the idea of, but also supersedes, that of the sons of Aaron,
being of a different order from theirs. The region of thought to be entered now,
being that of “the mystery of Christ,” transcends more than any that has been so
far entered the ordinary conceptions of traditional Judaism. Hence the
writer’s shrinking from entering all at once on the subject for fear of not
being even understood; hence his earnest warnings to his readers as to the
necessity of advancing to the state of full-grown Christians who can
discern spiritual things.
INTERPOSED EXHORTATION (v.11- ch. 6:20)
11 “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing
ye are dull of hearing.” Of whom (the most obvious antecedent being
Melchizedek, but with regard to his typical significance, as referred to in Psalm 110.)
we have many things to say (the subject itself admits a lengthy exposition)
and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become (not, as in Authorized Version,
“ye are”) dull of hearing, Their dullness is the reason of the λόγος – logos –
say; word – being δυσερμήνευτος – dusermaeneutos – hard to be uttered;
ill translated. It was not that the subject was in itself inexplicable, or
that the writer was incompetent to explain it; his difficulty was in adapting
the interpretation to the capacity of his readers. It seems from γεγόνατε –
gegonate - ye are become), in this and the following verse, that the Hebrew
Christians had even retrograded in spiritual perception. This is easily
conceivable. As, through the teaching of Paul especially, the tie between
Christianity and Judaism became more and more broken, there was likely
to be a certain reaction among the Hebrew Christians, who, having gone to
a certain extent with the tide of thought, became conscious how far it was
carrying them. They would be inclined to cling the more fondly to their old
associations from the fear of losing them altogether. Such retrogressions
have been observable in other times of upheaval of old ideas.
12 “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that
one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of
God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong
meat.” For when, by reason of the time (i.e. the time that has
elapsed since your conversion), ye ought to be teachers, ye have need
that some one teach you (or, that one teach you which be) the first
principles (literally, the elements of the beginning) of the oracles of God;
and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. τῆς ἀρχῆς –
taes archaes – original; of the beginning - in this verse seems best taken in
union with τὰ στοιχεῖα – ta stoicheia – the elements – rather than with
τῶν λογίων – ton logion – of the oracles; the phrase, τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς
meaning “the initiatory elements” — the A, B, C’s of Christian teaching.
The word λογία – logia - oracles, is used elsewhere for the revelations of the
Old Testament, as Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2. Here its meaning can hardly be
taken as confined to them, since the first principles of the gospel are being
spoken of. Still, a word that includes them in its meaning may be purposely
used by way of intimating that the elements intended are those of Judaism as
well as Christianity, or of the latter only in its first emergence out of Judaism.
And accordingly, ch.6:1-2 , where they are enumerated, are (as will be seen)
so worded as to imply no more than this; nor are the first principles there
mentioned beyond what an enlightened Jew might be expected to understand
readily. Be it observed that the
actually lost sight of these first principles, so as to require a new indoctrination
into them. There may be a vein of delicate irony in what is said, after the manner
of Paul. All that is of necessity implied is that there had been such a failure in
seeing what these principles led to as to suggest the necessity of their being learned
anew. The writer does not, in fact, as he goes on, require them to be learned anew;
for he bids his readers leave them behind, as though already known, and
proceed from them to perfection, though still with some misgiving as to
their capability for doing so. The figure of milk for babes and solid food for
full-grown men, to illustrate the teaching suitable for neophytes and for
advanced Christians, is found also in I Corinthians 3:1-2; and that of
ηπιάζετε – aepiazete – be ye children - in Ibid. ch.14:20; Galatians 4:19;
Ephesians 4:14. This correspondence, though no proof of the Pauline
authorship, is among the evidences of the Pauline character of the Epistle.
13 “For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of
righteousness: for he is a babe.” Reason for saying that they are
such as have need of milk; for milk is the nourishment of infants, and he
that is an infant in respect of spiritual growth is ἄπειρος λόγου
δικαιοσύνης – apeiros logou dikaiosunaes – unskillful in the word of
righteousness - not of necessity unacquainted with it altogether, but still
not versed in it; he is but a novice. “Word of righteousness” may be taken as
a general term to denote what we might call religious lore; referring here
especially to the gospel, which is eminently the revelation of the
“righteousness of God” (Romans 1:17; compare II Corinthians 3:9,
ἡ διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης – hae diakonia taes dikaiosunaes – ministration
of righteousness: and 11:15, διάκονοι δικαιοσύνης – diakonoi dikaiosunaes –
ministers of righteousness); but not excluding a more general conception.
There is no need to suppose an exclusive reference to the more perfect doctrine
in opposition to the elements, since, of the whole subject of religious knowledge,
the νήπιος – naepios – childish - may be said to be ἄπειρος (unskillful) in the sense
of being without the matured skill that experience gives. Hence, too, we are certainly
not justified in finding in the phrase a specific allusion to the Pauline doctrine of
justification by faith only, which is not suggested by the context or by what
follows. Still less may we so ignore the notable significance of δικαιοσύνης
(righteousness) as to reduce the expression to a synonym for “rightly framed,
that is sound and orthodox discourse.”
14 “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those
who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both
good and evil.” But solid food is for them that are of full age (τελείων –
teleion – of mature ones; of full age - , equivalent to “perfect;” but in the
sense of maturity of age or growth, in contrast with νήπιος (children);
as in I Corinthians 14:20; compare Ibid ch. 2:6; Ephesians 4:13;
Philippians 3:15), those who by reason of use have their senses exercised
to discern good and evil. Here the comparison is carried out with peculiar
aptness. τὰ αἰσθητήρια – ta aisthaetaeria – faculties; the senses - in the
illustration are the organs of sense. In the infant the digestive organs, in the
first place, exercised in the beginning on milk, acquire through that exercise
the power of assimilating more solid and more complex food, while at the
same time its sensitive organs generally, also through exercise, become
consciously discriminative of “good and evil” (compare Isaiah 7:15-16,
where “to know to refuse the evil and choose the good” denotes, as if
proverbially, the age after early childhood). So, in the spiritual sphere, the
mental faculties, exercised at first on simple truths, should acquire by
practice the power of apprehending and distinguishing between higher and
more recondite ones. It was because the Hebrew Christians had failed thus
to bring out their faculties that they were open to the charge of being still
in a state of infancy. However, the perfect and full-grown men who use
their senses and spiritual powers aright are privileged to “eat of fat things
full of marrow, and drink wine on the lees well refined.” (Isaiah 25:6)
A Sharp Reproof for Ignorance (vs. 11-14)
The apostle, having used the expression, “after the order of Melchizedek,”
remembers that his readers will not be likely to understand it without
careful explanation. So he pauses in his argument to chide them for their
backwardness in religious knowledge.
· THE TRUTHS OF REVELATION ARE PROFOUND AND FAR-
REACHING. The story of God’s love in redemption may, no doubt, be
called with propriety “the simple gospel;” but, while it is so, it exhibits at
the same time “the manifold wisdom of God.” (Ephesians 3:10) The Bible
is not merely a book; it is a literature. It does not simply contain a message
of mercy; it is the record of a long and gradually developing process of
redeeming grace. It may be studied profoundly from many different
standpoints, as e.g. those of history, of dogmatic theology, of morals, of
ecclesiology, etc. The Bible deals, too, with all the deepest and most
wonderful of themes, such as:
Ø the human soul,
Ø the problem of sin,
Ø eternity, and
So there is spiritual food in Holy Scripture, at once for the shallowest and
the profoundest minds. Revelation supplies not only “milk” for “babes in
Christ,” i.e. the alphabet and rudiments of religious knowledge, but “solid
food” for “full-grown men,” i.e. materials for the more recondite study of
Christianity as A GREAT AND HARMONIOUS SYSTEM OF DIVINE
· CHRISTIANS DIFFER IN THE DEGREE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL
KNOWLEDGE. They differ because:
Ø Some are “babes.” Believers who are young in years, and those of
maturer age who have newly come to the knowledge of the truth,
require to be fed with the “milk” or simplest elements of religious
Ø Some are “full-grown men,” who can relish and digest the “solid
food” of the Word. An advanced Christian who is a diligent student
of Scripture will acquire so firm a grasp of truth as to become
qualified to act the part of a “teacher” in the Church (v. 12). His
proficiency in knowledge will sharpen his spiritual perceptions,
so that he will learn readily to distinguish between “good and evil”
in doctrine (v. 14).
Ø Some are invalids. The apostle chides his Hebrew readers for having
become such, as the result of their disregard of the laws of spiritual
health. It was now many years since they had first believed, and by
this time they should have been adults in Christian knowledge —
quick of apprehension in relation to the higher reaches of truth. So far,
however, from being able to assimilate the “solid food” of the Word,
they had degenerated into spiritual weaklings and invalids. They heard
the gospel indolently (v. 11). The “solid food” which they had once
enjoyed now occasioned them the miseries of dyspepsia. They could
digest nothing but gospel “milk.” In our own time, too, there are many
such invalids. What multitudes attend church through the years, and
yet never get beyond the attainments of the Sunday School! How many
otherwise intelligent men are quite ignorant of the organic structure of
the Bible! How many betray an utter want of living interest in the
doctrines and truths of the New Testament!
· REASONS WHY THE RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE OF MANY
CHRISTIANS IS SO DEFECTIVE. The Hebrews were “dull of hearing”
because they had got divided in heart between Christianity and Judaism,
and because they were beset with temptations to apostatize from a faith
which had involved them in much trial. Now, our temptations are
substantially similar. Our hearts are prone to try to serve both God and
mammon (Jesus teaches that we can’t do that! Luke 16:13); and we are
tempted to avoid very intimate acquaintance with a religion faithfulness
to which demands from us very serious sacrifices. In addition to these
fundamental reasons others may be indicated, as follows:
Ø The lack of earnest Bible study. The hurry of the age acts on the side
of spiritual ignorance. Other studies and pursuits are clamorous in their
claims; those e.g. of business, politics, literature, philosophy, science, art.
Thus many Christians do not read the Bible systematically, or with
sufficient intellectual effort. The larger part of the Old Testament is, to
their minds, a kind of
only in isolated texts, apart from the scope of the passage in which these
Ø Neglect of parental instruction. Every parent is bound to sow the seeds
of Divine truth in the minds and hearts of his children. Where this duty
becomes generally neglected the rising generation can only continue one
of spiritual infants.
Ø Irregularity in attendance upon God’s house. (ch.10:25.)
Church-going is not religion, but as it is a divinely appointed ordinance,
a man need not expect to grow in grace and in Christian knowledge
Ø Unedifying preaching. The consecutive exposition of Scripture from
the pulpit, when wisely and skillfully done, trains a people into
“experience of the Word of righteousness.” The congregation
which receives no instruction of this kind may be expected to
become “dull of hearing.”
Ø Misconception of what adequate religious knowledge is. (“In whom
the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe
not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of
God, should shine in their hearts.” - II Corinthians 4:4 – CY – 2014)
Many good people judge that, having apprehended and embraced
“the simple gospel,” they have finished their spiritual education.
They love a few pet texts which express “the rudiments of the first
principles” (v. 12), and are content to leave the rest of the Bible alone.
They count it a virtue to relish only “evangelistic preaching,” and seem
even proud of occupying always only the first form in the school of
Christ. But the fruit of their neglect of the truth in its higher and deeper
and broader aspects becomes apparent in the imperfection of their
Christian character, and in their lack of progress towards perfection.
· THE IMPORTANCE OF AN INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF
Ø Reverence to God requires it. He has not given any portion of His
Word in vain. (Isaiah 55:11) Intelligent Christians dishonor Him
when they do not “press on unto perfection” as students of the
Bible in every department of its glorious design and drift and
Ø Duty to our own souls requires it. If we would not become spiritual
dwarfs, but “full-grown men,” we must “search the Scriptures.”
(John 5:39) If we would be truly happy and. prosperous, we must
“meditate on God’s law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
Ø Usefulness to others requires it. Believers who have become
established in knowledge and grace are expected to serve the
Lord Jesus as “teachers” (v. 12). A Christian, too, should be
“ready always to give answer to every man that asketh him
a reason concerning the hope that is in him.” (I Peter 3:15)
Spiritual Dullness (vs. 11-14).
· SPIRITUAL DULLNESS IS SOMETIMES VERY GREAT. It was
so in the case of the persons here addressed, as may be seen by contrasting
what they might and ought to have been and what they were. They should
have been men in spiritual intelligence, they were only babes. “And are
become such as have need of milk,” etc. It is pitiful and painful to
reflect upon the prevalence of spiritual dullness in our own age. How
many Christians are perfectly content and self-satisfied having only the
barest rudiments of Scripture truth!. We fear that the Bible is far more
widely circulated than read, and far more extensively read than studied
· SPIRITUAL DULLNESS IS SOMETIMES SINFUL. We say
“sometimes;” for when this dullness of perception or difficulty of
apprehension arises from original deficiency of faculty, or from the scarcity
of opportunities for progress in acquaintance with Christian truth, no moral
blame attaches to it. It is deplorable, but not censurable. To whom only
little is given, of him only little will be required. But in the case before us
the writer says, “For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers,”
etc. Let us look at the argument expressed or implied here.
Ø Time and opportunities for progress had been given to them. “By
reason of the time” since they became Christians they should have
made sufficient advancement to have been able to have instructed
others. Therefore the time must have been considerable.
Considering how much the diffusion of the gospel at that time
(and now) depended upon the living voice, their inability to teach
was a loss to themselves and many others!
Ø The existence of spiritual dullness notwithstanding opportunities of
progress is morally wrong. Such spiritual dullness is not a misfortune,
but a sin. It is an evidence of:
o opportunities of progress neglected, (and to think that all
these advantages are crowned with the willingness and love
of the Divine Spirit to encourage and bless any who will
promulgate His Word.)
o responsibilities unacknowledged or unfulfilled, and,
o sins indulged in.
Purity of heart and the power of perceiving spiritual truth are
closely related. Slowness of spiritual apprehension often arises
from the corruption of the heart. The pure heart is quick and
true in its perceptions. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they
shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Worldliness of spirit also dims and
diminishes the perceptive powers of the soul. If a man’s eyes are
ever fixed upon the earth, how can he see the brilliance and beauty
of the starry heavens? If a man’s affections are fixed upon the
material and perishable things of this present world, he will
gradually lose his power for perceiving the ethereal and perennial
beauty of religious truth, or even for perceiving such truth AT ALL!
· SPIRITUAL DULLNESS INVOLVES SERIOUS LOSS.
Ø Loss to the community. Parents should be able to instruct their
children, the elementary truths of Christianity.; the Christian should
be able to help his friend who is seeking for life and truth!
Ø Loss to the individual. The man of dull spiritual apprehension loses the
fuller and higher teaching. The full beauty of the landscape is not for the
man of diseased or impaired physical vision. In like manner the beauty
and sublimity of Divine truth and the serene splendors of holiness are
invisible to those who are spiritually obtuse. Or, changing the figure,
the food of moral manhood is not for them; they are unable to
assimilate it, and must needs be limited to the dietary of
babyhood. Several practical and profitable reflections arise
from our subject.
o The need of adaptation in Christian teaching. The sacred
writings contain “milk for babes,” “solid food for full-
grown men,” and food suited for all the intermediate stages
of the Christian life. The wise teacher will endeavor to
distribute to each the food suited to his condition.
o The obligation of progress in Christian discipleship. Infancy
has its charms, but not as a permanent state. Infancy must
pass on by orderly development into manhood. CONTINUOUS
SPIRITUAL INFANCY is unnatural and sinful. A permanent
milk diet in the spiritual life indicates stagnancy in life which is
unhealthy and culpable (compare Ephesians 4:11-15).
o In the mature stage of Christian life there is the qualification
for the exercise of discrimination in spiritual things. “Full-
grown men by reason of use have their senses exercised to
discern good and evil.” Their spiritual faculties are trained
and disciplined, and so they are able to distinguish
between the true and false, the superior and the inferior,
in Christian teaching. Alas, that the people who are least
mature are often the most forward in exercising this
o We see why the ministry of the gospel is sometimes
comparatively ineffectual. In some instances the smallness
of its success is owing to the want of adaptation in the
ministry itself; in others, to the sinful and almost
insuperable spiritual dullness of the hearers thereof.
The Powers of the Full-Grown Christian (vs. 12-14)
There is a close analogy between the natural life and the spiritual.
· THE PROGRESS OF THE NATURAL LIFE. At birth the babe finds
food provided for it, without effort, without thought — food exactly suited
to its infantile state, and which it makes use of by a kind of instinct.
Nothing is expected from it save that which it is certain to do by a law of
its nature. But this season, when nothing is expected from it, is only a
season of preparing for the day when much will be expected. Nature will
not always provide food in this easy, simple fashion. Milk has to make the
way for solid food, and, what is even more important, food to be chosen by
us. Whenever we are fit to choose, God leaves us to choose, not between
the pleasant and the unpleasant, not between that which appeals most
powerfully to the taste, and that which is plainer, simpler fare; but, as the
writer here emphatically puts it, between the good and the bad. That is the
great matter to decide in the choice of food — Is it good or bad? Will it
minister to growth, health, energy of function, fullness of life, length of
days? (First Ladies in the White House have nothing better to do than
to get involved with school children’s nutrition, while the foundations
of society are being destroyed by much more serious issues! – CY – 2014)
God leaves us to settle this. He gives us, without our choice, a
suitable food up to the time when our perceptions are sufficiently trained
to choose for ourselves. Then He leaves us to freedom and responsibility.
· THE SIMILAR PROGRESS OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE. There is the
new creature in Christ Jesus, born again, beginning in feebleness, alive to
new and heavenly things, and yet hardly knowing for a while what that life
is. Needing to be treated with great long-suffering and consideration
because of infirmity (I Corinthians 3:2). But, as in the natural man,
there should be growth, development of spiritual perception and grasp, so
that the spiritual man may come to discern the difference between:
Ø the true and the false,
Ø the fleshly and the spiritual,
Ø the abiding and the temporary, and
Ø the earthly and the heavenly.
Jesus Christ is the Bread of life. Recollect His own words, all important in
the present connection: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and
drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and
drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (John 6:53-55)
How many, spiritually considered, are monstrosities (deformed) to what they
ought to be! The natural man, nourished by proper food, full of life,
growing and connecting itself with a thousand things around, while the
new creature in Christ Jesus within is but A STARVED AND PINING
BABE! There may, perhaps, be much talk of living a life of faith on
the Son of GoD, BUT NO REALITY!
We are reminded of the words of Jesus, “He that hath ears… let him hear.”
(Mark 4:9) Progress in the apprehension of Christian truth, true progress in
theology, depends on our own disposition. Great attainments in human sciences
are not for all, or even for many. They demand a certain degree of intellectual
power, a certain amount of leisure, and perhaps other facilities; so that it is
quite certain all men cannot be learned any more than all can be rich. But God
has made progress in Christian truth to depend on THE STATE OF THE
HEART! He has ordered things so that those who are babes in this world’s
knowledge may be as giants in THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN
CHRIST JESUS! Spiritual things are spiritually discerned; and if God
has given His Holy Spirit that we may be led into all the truth, and if
nevertheless we stumble among misapprehensions, then assuredly we are to
blame, and especially will blame fall upon us when the element of time is
brought into consideration. Here were people who had had gospel truth a
long time before them, and yet knew little more than the alphabet. (Think
of the status of education in the
in a time that if God was ever to be known, He could be known by us!
CY – 2014) Still learners when they ought to be teachers? What worse
reproach could there be — seeing how much spiritual ignorance there is in
the world, and how much error, AND HOW MANY THERE ARE WHO
ARE BUSY MISLEADING MEN! Nor must we omit to notice how
this gentle yet searching rebuke of the writer here shows his own advanced
attainments. He is writing of things which he well understands, and knows
what he means. His topics are not mere trifles. They are very practical, and
point forward into the developments and occupations of the future
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at: