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Thus the Lord is set before us as the Apostle and High Priest of believers
from among the Jews, the true people. I say,"from among the Jews," not that
He is not our Priest, but that here the sacred writer places himself among
the believing Jews, saying "our;" and, instead of speaking of himself as
and apostle, he points out Jesus as the Apostle; which He was in Person
among the Jews. In principle, it is true of all believers. That which He
has said is the Lord's word, and He is able to succour us when we are
tempted. We are His house.
For we have here a third character of Christ. He is a "Son over his
house." Moses was faithful in all the house of God as a servant, in
testimony to the things that were afterwards to be proclaimed. But Christ
is over God's house; but it is not as a servant but as a Son. He has built
the house, He is God.
Moses identified himself with the house, faithful therein in all things.
But Christ is more excellent; even as he who builds the house is more
excellent than the house. He who builds all things is God. And this is what
Christ did.For in fact the house (that is, the tabernacle in the
wilderness) was a figure of the universe; and Christ passed through the
heavens, as the high priest passed into the sanctuary. All was cleansed
with blood, even as God will reconcile all thins by Christ in the heavens
and on the earth. In a certain sense this universe is the house of God. He
deigns to inhabit it. Christ created it all. But there is a house which is
more properly His own. We are His house, taking it for granted that we
persevere to the end.
The Hebrew Christians were in danger-being attracted by their former
habits, and by a law and ceremonies which God Himself had established-of
forsaking a Christianity, in which Christ was not visible, for things that
were visible and palpable. The Christ of Christians, far from being a crown
of glory to the people, was only an object of faith, so that, if faith
failed, He was deprived of all importance to them. A religion that made
itself seen (the "old wine") naturally attracted those that had been
accustomed to it.
But in fact Christ was much more excellent than Moses, as he who has built
the house had more honour than the house, Now this house was the figure of
all things, and He who had built them was God. The passage gives us this
view of Christ and of the house, and also says, that we are this house. And
Christ is not the servant here; He is the Son over God's house.
We must always remember that which has been already remarked, namely, that
in this epistle we have no the assembly as the body of Christ in union with
Himself; nor even the Father either, except as a comparison in chapter 12.
It is God, a heavenly Christ (who is the Son of God), and a people, the
Messiah being a heavenly Mediator between the people and God. Therefore the
proper privileges of the assembly are not found in this epistle-they flow
from our union with Christ; and here Christ is a Person apart who is
between us and God, on high while we are here.
There are still a few remarks which we may add here in order to throw light
on this point, and to assist the reader in understanding the first two
chapters, as well as the principle of the instructions throughout the
In chapter 1, Christ accomplishes by Himself as a part of His divine glory
the purification of sins, and seats Himself at the right hand of God. This
work, observe, is done by Himself. We have nothing to do with it, save to
believe in and enjoy it. It is a divine work which this divine Person has
accomplished by Himself; so that it has all the absolute perfection, all
the force, of a work done by Him, without any mixture of our weakness, of
our efforts, or of our experiences. He performed it by Himself, and it is
accomplished. Thereupon He takes His seat. he is not placed there-He seats
Himself upon the throne on high.
In chapter 2 we see another point which characterises the epistle-the
present state of the glorified Man. He is crowned with glory and honour;
but it is with a view to an order of things which is not yet accomplished.
It is the Person of the Man Christ which is presented, not the assembly in
union with Him, even when He is beheld as glorified in the heavens, This
glory is viewed as a partial accomplishment of that which belongs to Him,
according to the counsels of God, as the Son of man. hereafter this glory
will be complete in all its parts by the subjugation of all things.
The present glory therefore of Christ makes us look forward to an order of
things yet future, which will be full rest, full blessing. In a word,
bedsides the perfection of His work, the epistle sets before us the sequel
of that which belongs to Christ in Person, the Son of man, not the
perfection of the assembly in Him. And this embraces the present time, the
character of which, to the believer, depends on Christ's being now
glorified in heaven while waiting for a future state, in which all things
will be subjected to Him.
In this chapter 2 we see also that He is crowned. He is not seen sitting
there as in His original right, though He had that glory before the world
was, but, having been made a little less than the angels, God crowns Him.
We also plainly see that although the believing Hebrews are especially in
view, and even all Christians are classed under the title of Abraham's seed
on the earth, yet that Christ is viewed nevertheless as the Son of man, and
not as the Son of David; and the question is put, "What is man?" The answer
(the precious answer for us) is, Christ glorified, once dead on account of
man's condition. In Him we see the mind of God with regard to man.
The fact that Christians themselves are viewed as the seed of Abraham
plainly shews the way in which they are considered as forming part of the
chain of the heirs of promise on earth (as in Rom 11), and not as the
assembly united to Christ as His body in heaven.
The work is perfect; it is the work of God. He has by Himself made
purification of sins. The full result of the counsels of God with regard to
the Son of man is not yet come. Thus the earthly part can be brought in, as
a thing foreseen , as well as the heavenly part, although the persons to
whom the epistle is addressed had part in the heavenly glory-participated
in the heavenly calling-in connection with the present position of the Son
The remnant of the Jews, as we have said, are considered as continuing the
chain of the people blessed on earth, whatever heavenly privileges they may
also possess or whatever their especial state may be in connection with the
Messiah's exaltation to heaven. We have been grafted into the good
olive-tree, so that we share all the advantages here spoken of. Our highest
position, and the privileges belonging to it, are not here in view.
Accordingly, as writing to Hebrews and as one among them, he addresses
them, that is to say, Christians and believing Israelites. This is the
force of the word "us" in the epistle; we must bear it in mind, and that
the Hebrew believers always form the word "us" of which the writer is also
No one ought to harden his heart; but this word is especially addressed to
Israel, and that until the day when Christ shall appear. In speaking of it,
the author returns to the word that had formerly been addressed to Israel;
not now in order to warn them of the danger they would incur by neglecting
it. but of the consequences of departing from that which they had
acknowledged to be true. Israel, when delivered out of Egypt, had provoked
God in the wilderness (it was indeed the case also of Christians in this
world), because they were not at once, and without difficulty, in
Canaan.Those to whom he wrote were in danger of forsaking the living God in
the same way; that is, the danger was there before their eyes. They should
rather exhort each other, while it was still called to-day, in order that
they might not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.This word "to-day"
is the expression of the patient activity of God's grace towards Israel
even unto the end. The people were unbelieving; they have hardened their
hearts; they have done so, and will alas! do so to the end, until judgment
come in the Person of the Messiah-Jehovah, whom they have despise. But
until then God loves to reiterate, "Today, if ye will hear my voice." It
may be that only a few will hearken; it may be that the nation is
judicially hardened, in order to admit the Gentiles; but the word "today"
still resounds for every one among them who has ears to hear, until the
Lord shall appear in judgment. It is addressed to the people according to
the long-suffering of God. For the remnant who had believed it was an
especial warning not to walk in the ways of the hardened people who had
refused to hearken-not to turn back to them, forsaking their own confidence
in the word which had called them, as Israel did in the wilderness.
As long as the "today" of the call of grace should continue, they were to
exhort one another, lest unbelief should glide into their hearts through
the subtlety of sin. It is thus that the living God is forsaken. We speak
thus practically, not with reference to the faithfulness of God, who
certainly will not allow any of His own to perish, but with regard to
practical danger, and to that which would draw us away-as to our
responsibility-from God, and for ever, if God did not intervene, acting in
the life which He has given us, and which never perishes.
Sin separates us from God in our thoughts; we have no longer the same sense
either of His love, His power, or His interest in us. Confidence is lost,
Hope, and the value of unseen things, diminish; while the value of things
that are seen proportionately increases. The conscience is bad; one is not
at ease with God. The path is hard and difficult; the will strengthens
itself against Him. We no longer live by faith; visible things come in
between us and God and take possession of the heart. Where there is life,
God warns by His Spirit (as in this epistle), He chastises and restores.
Where it was only an outward influence, a faith devoid of life, and the
conscience not reached, it is abandoned.
It is the warning against so doing that arrests the living. The dead-they
whose consciences are not engaged, who do not say, "To whom shall we go?
thou has the words of eternal life"-despise the warning and perish. This
was the case with Israel in the wilderness, and God sware unto them that
they should not enter into His rest. (Num 14:21-23) And why? They had given
up their confidence in Him. Their unbelief-when the beauty and excellence
of the land had been reported to them-deprived them of the promised rest.
The position of the believers to whom this epistle is addressed was the
same as this, although in connection with better promises. The beauty and
excellence of the heavenly Canaan had been proclaimed to them. The had, by
the Spirit, seen and tasted its fruits; they were in the wilderness; they
had to persevere to maintain their confidence unto the end.
Observe her-for Satan and our own conscience when it has not been set free,
often make use of this epistle-that doubting Christians are not here
contemplated, or persons who have not yet gained entire confidence in God:
to those who are in this condition its exhortations and warnings have no
application. These exhortations are to preserve the Christian in a
confidence which he has, and to preserve, not to tranquillise fears and
doubts. This use of the epistle to sanction such doubts is but a device of
the enemy. Only I would add here that, although the full knowledge of grace
(which in such a case the soul has assuredly not yet attained) is the only
thing that can deliver and set it free from its fears, yet it is very
important in this case practically to maintain a good conscience, in order
not to furnish the enemy with a special means of attack.