Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.Hebrews 10:4
To a modern these words have an antiquated sound. The world of ideas which they suggest has passed so entirely away that we look back upon the stage they represent as a stage far below us, so far, indeed, that it is barely conceivable. But they were originally the apex of a long ascent The quiet decisiveness and even scorn with which the writer sets down this conviction breathe a feeling of relief, after the long centuries of persistent and unavailing sacrifices. Humanity is drawing breath after a prolonged nightmare. The primitive ritual of purification was based on the belief that the blood of animals could wipe away sin, 'because the animal that has been consecrated by contact with the altar becomes charged with a Divine potency, and its sacred blood, poured over the impure man, absorbs and disperses his impurity'. Thus, as Dr. Farnell continues (The Evolution of Religion, pp. 120 f.), the cognate idea of the pure heart was 'not necessarily wholly ethical,' as yet, but often 'co-existent with the ideas of sin that do not clearly recognize moral responsibility or the essential difference between deliberate wrongdoing and the ritualistic or accidental or involuntary sin.' 'The final point is reached when it is realized that the blood of bulls and of goats cannot wash away sin, that nothing external can defile the heart or soul, but only evil thought and evil will. This purged and idealised concept will then in the progressive religions revolt against its own parentage, and will prompt the eternal antagonism of the prophet against the ritual priest, of the Christ against the Pharisee.'
References.—X. 5.—J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p. 183. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 42; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 62; ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 62. X. 5-7.—R. M. Benson, Redemption, p. 1. G. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 220. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2202. X. 7.—R. J. Campbell, New Theology Sermons, p. 133. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, pt. i. p. 66.
The Man, Christ Jesus, was of all created beings—as far as we know their history—the only one who chose his own destiny, who foreknew and accepted its full conditions; who saw a great need and responded to it: 'Lo! I come? My leave,' said the acute Frenchwoman, 'was not asked before I came into the world'—a saying in which all that the human heart can urge against God and His appointments lies hid. Why should I be called upon to endure, to forego so much? Had the choice been permitted me, I might possibly have declined it. Our Saviour's leave was asked. His fulfilment of His Father's will was voluntary; He saw the end from the beginning.
—Dora Greenwell, The Patience of Hope, pp. 12, 13.
References.—X. 9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2698. X. 9, 10.—H. Drummoud, The Ideal Life, p. 279.
When man finds that if he would do God's will, however imperfectly, he must offer up this continual sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own will, his thoughts are irresistibly carried to rest upon that One offering up of a higher than any human will, by which Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The more deeply we feel the existing contradiction between God's will and that of His creature, the deeper becomes our sense of the need of somewhat to take it away, so that the heart draws near to a truth unapproachable by the intellect—the necessary death of Christ.
—Dora Greenwell, The Patience of Hope, pp. 29, 30.
References.—X. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1527. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i. p. 235. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 32. X. 11, 12.—C. Bosanquet, Tender Grass for the Lambs, p. 73. X. 11, 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1034. X. 12.—C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 245. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 263. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Hebrews, p. 76.
The One Offering
Look at these two verses, and see three things:—
I. The Work which our Lord has Accomplished.
—His death was the great purpose of His Incarnation. He came from heaven to die because there was no one else who could possibly have died a sacrifice for sin. There was only one Being Whom we know of Who could have possibly made that sacrifice for sin; it was the Incarnate Son of God, the Creator of the world Himself. If He was willing to become responsible for the sins of the world which He had created, then Justice, we conceive, might be satisfied with Him as the sacrifice for sin. That the Christ of God willed to do. He who was Very God of Very God—He willed to become the sacrifice for sin. Then mark:—
II. The Position which He is Occupying.—Having accomplished that work, the text tells us He 'sat down on the right hand of God'. Is it not strange to think that Jesus Christ 'sat down'? We look about us today, and is it not too much to say that more than one-half of the human race has never heard of that sacrifice which Jesus Christ made upon the cross. Do you not wonder then, that, He has 'sat down'? Jesus Christ made that atonement, that sacrifice for sin, because, as we have seen, there was none other who could make it But God never does what we can do. We could not make the sacrifice, therefore Christ came, and made it; but we can proclaim the message, and therefore He now rests.
Here, then, is the awful responsibility which rests upon us—that God has ordained that the work of the Saviour Himself shall be left so far incomplete, because it is the will of your Heavenly Father that you and I shall complete it. No generation ever had such splendid opportunities of doing this work as have we ourselves. The Christian nations, so called, of the world today are not only the most civilised, but they are also the most powerful. We, to whom God has given all this, are to go and evangelise the uncivilised and the weak nations of the world. Mark you, we have nothing to do with the conversion of the world—that is not our work, it is the work of God the Holy Ghost—but the evangelisation of the world is our work. 'This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come' (St. Matthew 24:14).
III. Mark, then, the Hope that He is Cherishing.—He Who is now seated on the right hand of God and waiting, He is expecting, He is 'expecting until His enemies be made His footstool'. And He is expecting that His Church will be so filled with gratitude because of the sacrifice He made, so filled with compassion because they have caught something of His Spirit—He is expecting that His Church will be so longing for His Coming, that they will hasten to perform His wish, and tell every creature that He has died.
—E. A. Stuart, Assurance of Life.
I would ask you to look at these two verses, and see these three things. First, the work which He has accomplished; secondly, the position which He is occupying; and thirdly, the hope which He is cherishing.
I. First of all, then, the work which He has accomplished. Eighteen hundred years ago our Lord died upon the cross for all mankind. He came down from heaven, He took upon Himself our nature, He lived a life of sorrow and of suffering, and at last He died upon the cross. That death was the great purpose of His Incarnation. He came from heaven to die, because there was no one else who could possibly have died as a sacrifice for sin. He willed to become the sacrifice for sin.
II. And having accomplished that work, the text tells us He 'sat down'. That is the position which He is now occupying, He 'sat down on the right hand of God'. What does the Apostle mean? He means that, having accomplished that work, He now rests! He had finished the work which it was given to Him to do. God never does what we can do. We could not make the sacrifice, therefore Christ came and did it; but we can proclaim the message, and therefore Christ sits down. Now think what this means. It means this; that there is no miracle that God was unwilling to do to procure the salvation of man, for what miracle can be compared to the Incarnation of Christ? there is no sacrifice which God is unwilling to make to procure the salvation of the world, for what sacrifice can be compared to the cross of Calvary? But when it comes to the proclamation of that Gospel, God is willing to sit down and wait; willing to sit down all these centuries, because God is not willing to do your work and my work. Here is the awful responsibility which rests upon us.
III. And, Jesus Christ is expecting! He is expecting that His Church will be so filled with gratitude because of the sacrifice He made, He is expecting that His Church will be so filled with compassion because they have caught something of His spirit, He is expecting that His Church will be so longing for His coming that they will hasten to perform His wish and tell every creature that He has died!— E. A. Stuart, His Dear Son and other Sermons, vol. v. p. 25.
References.—X. 12, 13.—J. Fletcher, The Prophetic Vision of the Exalted Christ, No. vii. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 91. X. 14.—E. A. Stuart, The New Commandment and other Sermons, vol. vii. p. 89. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 78. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 232. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Hebrews, p. 84. X. 15-18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 714. X. 17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1685.
In the account of Wesley's Last Hours, written by one who was present, it is recorded that, one day towards the end, 'he slept most of the day, spoke but little, yet that little testified how much his whole heart was taken up in the case of the churches, the glory of God, and the things pertaining to that kingdom to which he was hastening. Ever in a low, but very distinct manner, he said, "There is no way into the holiest but by the blood of Jesus". Had he had strength at the time, it seemed as if he would have said more.'
References.—X. 19, 20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2015. X. 19-22.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1606, p. 247. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 141. X. 19-25.—J. G. Greenhough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 337. X. 19-31.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 131. X. 20.—A. B. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 148.
Let Us Draw Near
Taken in its very simplest sense, the exhortation is very beautiful. It reminds us that we were once far off from God; that our sins had separated between us and God; and that the worst of it was that we were getting farther and farther away from God. We did not want to be brought near to God! But now the exhortation comes to us, 'Let us draw near to God'. It is almost as if we heard our Father speaking, 'Come near to Me, My children'. Now, I want you to notice the four things which the Apostle tells us we have, to enable us to draw near to God; and then the four things which we require so that we may draw nearer to Him.
I. The four things that we have. (1) The very Holiest is open to us. 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest.' The Apostle tells us that we have access into the very Holiest by faith in Christ. Here you may taste your Father's love, here you may see something of your Father's holiness, here—in the holiest of all—you detest sin, you despise the world. And further, here you have perfect peace—you can worship, you can adore. (2) The Apostle tells us that not only is the way to the Holiest open, but he tells us that we have this boldness through the blood.' Mark you, not the boldness of irreverence, but the boldness of perfect confidence. (3) He goes on to tell you the third thing that you have, Jesus Christ has shown you how—'There is a new and a living way which He hath consecrated for you through the veil, that is to say, His flesh'. Christ has shown us by His death, by His daily death, He has shown us how we are to get into the very Holiest. It is by self-sacrifice, it is by rending the flesh, it is by crucifying the flesh. (4) You have, high above all, a great High Priest.
II. And what is required? Well, just these four things. (1) You must have a perfect heart. (2) You must draw near in the fulness of faith—in the full assurance of faith. (3) You must have a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience. (4) And then, lastly, you must draw near with your body washed with pure water. Not only has the heart to be cleansed within, but the life has to be cleansed without. It is no use to say the heart is clean, if the life is impure. Look to your eating, to your drinking, your sleeping, labour, recreation; for these outward things have a very great deal to do with your spiritual life
—E. A. Stuart, The New Creation and other Sermons, vol. III. p. 9.
In a note to 'The Church Porch,' in his edition of George Herbert's Poems, Dr. A. B. Grosart points out that 'in pie-Reformation times, a stoup or bowl of holy water (socalled) was placed at the entrance of churches to remind the worshipper to have his heart "sprinkled from an evil conscience," in order "to serve the living God.'"
Heare but a discourse of philosophy read, the invention, the eloquence and the pertinencie, doth presently tickle your spirit and moove you. There is nothing tickleth or pricketh your conscience; it is not to her men speake. Is it not true? Ariston said that Neither Bath nor Lecture are of any worth, except the one wash cleane and the other cleanse all filth away.
—Montaigne (Florio) vol. III. p. 9.
'We need a more forward moving Christianity,' said Dr. John Duncan, 'with more of the πληροφορία πίστεως in it; which is not "in full assurance of faith," but "in the full sail of faith"—bearing right on with the wind; all canvas up.'
References.—X. 22.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 24. X. 23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1897.
Again, in the preface to A Priest to the Temple, Herbert remarks that 'it is a good strife to go as far as we can in pleasing Him who hath done so much for us'.
'Do you ask,' says Schleiermacher, 'how we can stir up one another to love? In no other way than this, that we ourselves show love towards him in whom we wish to excite it. If we consider one another with hearty, brotherly love, and try to understand one another without yielding to any unfavourable prejudice, so that we cast no look on our brother save that of a love which seeks to serve him, it cannot but be that he will become aware of that love, of its considerate efforts to do something suitable for him; and when he does so, our love will not return to us empty, but will produce some fruit in his heart. Perhaps hitherto we have rather tried to move men to stronger expressions of love by severe words and harsh judgments, by representing the advantage they would desire from so doing, or the harm they would avoid. If so, let this be past and gone, with other errors. For nothing creates love save love itself.'
References.—X. 25.—Bishop Creighton, University and other Sermons, p. 90. F. C. Spurr, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 92. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 194. X. 27.—F. E. Clark, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 230.
The neglect of public worship, at which the writer hints, is due not so much to worldly indifference or to a fear of the risks involved in a church connection, as to the fascination of some other cult. The danger was that these Christians should regard Christianity as a semi-philosophic or religious sect or phase which could be exhausted and then left behind for something higher. The writer insists that it is not one of the contemporary schools or cults. It is final. Beyond its revelation, nothing higher can be looked for, and the Christian must resist any specious attempt to detach him from a close and permanent relationship to the church. Compare Harnack's remark (History of Dogma, vol. i. p. 151, note 1): 'If we remember how the Greeks and Romans were wont to get themselves initiated into a mystery cult, and took part for a long time in the religious exercises, and then, when they thought they had got the good of it, for the most part or wholly to give up attending it, we shall not wonder that the demand to become a permanent member of a Christian community was opposed by many'. This is elaborated in the same writer's Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums (1st ed. pp. 312 f, Eng. tr. II. pp. 50 f.), and Hatch has some apposite remarks upon it in his Organisation of the Early Christian Churches (pp. 29, 30). The historical point of the saying is unmistakable. But modern civilisation offers instances of the same tendency to regard the worship and revelation of Jesus as a phase which requires to be supplemented. There are people today who, from the same motives of vainglory and untrained curiosity, imagine that they have exhausted Christianity, or that they can secure and appropriate for higher ends its spiritual content. The words of this verse reiterate, as the rest of the Epistle does, the finality of Jesus Christ for men, and the truth that no advance of humanity can afford to dispense with Him.
For God has other words for other worlds,
But for this world the Word of God is Christ...
Who is there that can say, My part is done
In this: now I am ready for a law
More wide, more perfect for the rest of life?'
Forsake not, do not abandon, your tie with other Christians, the writer pleads. It is a strain, in view of the centrifugal tendencies of the world, to maintain Christian fellowship, but it is a healthy strain, for this effort keeps you in touch with all that is central and satisfying in religion. A movement whose motto is 'A greater than Christ' may be imposing and seductive, but it has no future in this world of God and of his Christ.
References.—X. 29.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 174. X. 30.—Ibid. vol. ix. p. 421; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 388. X. 31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 682. T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 253. C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, p. 171.
Here also are ejaculations caught up at intervals, undated, in those final days: 'Lord, Thou knowest, if I do desire to live, it is to show forth Thy praise, and declare Thy works'. Once he was heard saying, 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!' This was spoken three times, says Harvey; 'his repetitions usually being very weighty, and with great vehemency of spirit'. Thrice over he said this; looking into the Eternal Kingdoms: 'a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!'
—Carlyle's Cromwell, vol. III. last chapter.
It is a fearful thing, said the Hebrew, to fall into the hands of the living God; and it is a fearful thing for a malefactor to fall into the hands of an ever-living poet. The injured Caesars of Rome—Tiberius, for example, and Domitian—have not even yet been delivered by the most conscientious efforts of German and Anglo-German Caesarists out of the prison whose keys are kept by Juvenal.
—Swmburne, in A Study of V. Hugo, p. 141.
References.—X. 32.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 447; ibid. vol. xi. p. 433.
Writing on the great Ejection of 1662, Dr. Stoughton says: 'It required much effort in the minds of Puritan clergymen to brace themselves up to meet what was at hand. One prepared for the crisis by preaching to his congregation four successive Sundays from words to the Hebrews: "Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance". Another, who had a wife and ten children—"eleven strong arguments," as he said, for conformity—remarked that his family must live on the sixth of Matthew: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on". A third, when asked what he would do with his family, replied: "Should I have as many children as that hen has chickens," pointing to one with a numerous brood, "I should not question but God would provide for them all".'
References.—X. 34.—Newman Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 97. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 49. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Hebrews, p. 92. X. 35.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1263.
There is a proverb that it is the first step which is the most difficult in the achievement of any object, and the proverb has been altered by ascribing the main part of the difficulty to the last step. Neither the first nor the last has been the difficult step with me, but rather what lies between. The first is usually helped by the excitement and the promise of new beginnings, and the last by the prospect of triumph; but the intermediate path is unassisted by enthusiasm, and it is here we are so likely to faint
—Mark Rutherford, The Deliverance (ch. v.).
What duty is made of a single difficult resolve? The difficulty lies in the daily unflinching support of consequences that mar the blessed return of morning with the prospect of irritation to be suppressed or shame to be endured.
—George Eliot, in Daniel Deronda.
References.—X. 36.—C. Parsons Reichel, Sermons, p. 220. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 168. X. 37.—J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 394. X. 38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 891, and vol. xlviii. No. 2809. H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 281. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 120. X. 39.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Hebrews, p. 98.
I. What is Faith?—Clearly the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not look upon faith as opposed to reason. Faith is with him the basis of all intelligent knowledge of things, the key to the rational system of the universe. The world which we see is temporary, changing, unreal; but behind the unreality of the phenomenal world is the reality of law. What enables us to learn this? Reason, intelligence. What enables us to believe it? Faith. What enables us to act on this belief? Faith. On the one side are the world of the senses and the life of the senses; on the other the world of the reason and the life of the reason; and faith is the ally of reason against sense. Faith is that quality in men which more than anything else lifts them above the attractions of what is sensuous, pleasant, easy, attractive, to what is lofty and noble, which makes them trust the highest discoveries of reason and intellect, and yield to the principles of an austere morality.
II. But what is it that Creates Faith?—I would answer religion, especially for us Christianity. Faith is a strong moral and personal force, which is called into being above all by devotion to a person, and that is what Christianity gives.
—A. C. Headlam, Church Family Newspaper, vol. XIII. p. 906.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
And having an high priest over the house of God;
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.