James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,Hebrews 10:19-12:29
TRIUMPHS OF FAITH
This lesson covers one of the many digressions alluded to and is first, an exhortation (Hebrews 10:19-25); secondly, a warning (Hebrews 10:26-31), and thirdly, an expression of comfort (Hebrews 10:32-39). This last touches on the principle of faith and gives occasion for an exhibition of its triumph in the lives of the Old Testament saints that makes the 11th chapter rank with the most notable in the Bible.
The exhortation (Hebrews 10:19-25) keeps in mind that these Hebrew Christians were sorely tried by persecution and seriously tempted not merely to backslide, but to apostatize, i.e., give up Christianity altogether and return to Judaism again. The inspired writer is seeking to restrain them from so doing by the argument that Christianity is superior to Judaism as seen in its Founder, Christ. All that was symbolized in Aaronic priesthood is realized in Christ’s priesthood. The Aaronic priest passed through the veil of the temple into the Holy Place, while Christ through His suffering passed for believers into glory. The Aaronic priests were purified from ceremonial defilement by being sprinkled with blood (Exodus 29:21, Leviticus 8:30), and washed in the laver of pure water, but the Christian believer’s sins are so surely put away that as priests unto God they may draw near in fullness of assurance. Therefore they should hold fast the confession of their faith and provoke, urge, one another to love and to good works, the means of doing which was best found in the sacred assemblies which they were not to forsake.
The warning (Hebrews 10:26-31) does not call particularly for explanation.
The comfort (Hebrews 10:32-39) is notable for its reference to the reward to be realized by the believer at the second coming of Christ. Hebrews 10:37 might be rendered “for yet but a very very little while,” showing that the Christians of that generation were expecting him in their own day, which should be true of every generation. Speaking of “faith” in Hebrews 10:38, it is introduced with the writer’s usual skill to prepare for the next great section of the epistle.
WHAT FAITH DOES
Entering on that section the same author remarks that it would have been fatal to the peace of mind of Jewish converts, such as here addressed, to feel that there was a chasm between their Christian faith and the faith of their past life. Hence the inspired writer shows that there is no discontinuity of that kind. Their faith was identical with, though transcendantly more blessed than that which had sustained the patriarchs, prophets and martyrs of their nation. Verse 1 of chapter 11 defines faith rather in its effects than its essence; i.e., it tells what it does, bringing the assurance of things hoped and the proof of things not seen. In Hebrews 11:2-40 we have the fruit of faith, or its effect, in detail. In Hebrews 12:1-4 we have the testimony of faith, in Hebrews 12:5-11 its comfort, in Hebrews 12:12-17, its duty, in Hebrews 12:18-24 its encouragement, and in Hebrews 12:25-29 its warning.
It is noticeable that passing from particular to general illustrations of faith, we have in Hebrews 11:32-34 those of active, and in Hebrews 11:35-38, those of passive faith, most of which are gathered from the books of Joshua, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, though doubtless the time of the Maccabees is also in mind. Hebrews 11:39-40 may be paraphrased thus: these all had good witness borne to them through their faith, but still they did not see the fulfillment of the one great promise, which awaited the dispensation to follow.
The witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 are not spectators of us on earth, but testifiers to us of what faith can do. In other words they are those of the preceding chapter from whose lives we are to learn. The rest of the verse is athletic in its figures of speech. The athlete lays aside every heavy or dragging article of dress, and so we should throw off “the clinging robe of familiar sin,” “looking unto Jesus” not only as a higher example of faith than any previously named, but as “the author and finisher of our faith.” From Him our faith comes, and by Him it is sustained to the end.
The reference to Esau Hebrews 12:16-17 is ambiguous, and may mean that so far as his father Isaac was concerned, there was “no place of repentance,” in the sense that Isaac had no power to change his mind and alter his promise. Or it may mean that Esau could not avert the earthly consequences of his folly, or regain what he had once flung away. And another says, “the text gives no ground for pronouncing on Esau’s future fate, to which the inspired writer makes no allusion whatever.”
Notice six particulars (some try to discover seven) in which Matthew Sinai and Matthew Zion are contrasted in Hebrews 12:18-24.
1. Divide the chapters of this lesson into four main parts.
2. Give in your own words the substance of the exhortation.
3. How does 11:1 define faith?
4. Give an outline analysis of chapters 11-12.
5. What books of the Bible furnish most of these examples of faith?
6. How would you explain 12:1?
7. How would you explain the reference to Esau?
8. Do you find six or seven particulars of comparison in Hebrews 12:18-24?