Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
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(14) Through the eternal Spirit.—Better, through an eternal Spirit; for in a passage of so much difficulty it is important to preserve the exact rendering of the Greek, and the arguments usually adduced seem insufficient to justify the ordinary translation. By most readers of the Authorised version, probably, these words are understood as referring to the Holy Spirit, whose influence continually rested on “the Anointed One of God” (Acts 10:38). For this opinion there seems to be no foundation in the usage of the New Testament, and it is not indicated by anything in the context. The explanation of the words must rather be sought in the nature of our Lord, or in some attribute of that nature. There are a few passages, mainly in the Epistles of St. Paul, in which language somewhat similar is employed in regard to the spirit (pneuma) of our Lord. The most remarkable of these are Romans 1:4, where “spirit of holiness” is placed in contrast with “flesh;” and 1Timothy 3:16, “in spirit.” On the latter Bishop Ellicott writes: “in spirit, in the higher sphere of His divine life: the pneuma of Christ is not here the Holy Spirit, but the higher principle of spiritual life, which was not the Divinity (this would be an Apollinarian assertion), but especially and intimately united with it.” (Another passage of great interest is 1Peter 3:18.) The attribute “eternal” is explained by Hebrews 7:18-19, “according to power of indissoluble life (He hath become priest), for of Him it is testified, Thou art a priest for ever.” Through this spirit, a spirit of holiness, a spirit of indissoluble life, He offered Himself to God. This made such a self-offering possible; this gave to the offering infinite worth. In the words which stand in contrast with these (Hebrews 9:13) we read of the death of animals which had no power over their own transient life: He who was typified in every high priest and in every victim, “through an eternal spirit,” of Himself laid down His life (John 10:18), offering Himself to God in the moment and article of death,—offered Himself in His constant presence in the Holiest Place (Hebrews 9:24).

Without spot.—The word here used is frequently applied in the LXX. to the victims “without blemish” that were offered in sacrifice. The sinlessness of Jesus is expressed under the same metaphor in 1Peter 1:19.

Purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.—Better, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve a Living God. The word “cleanse” is akin to “cleanness” in Hebrews 9:13. Authorities are divided between “our” and “your”; but the former is probably the better reading. Once before, in Hebrews 6:1, the writer has spoken of “dead works.” (See the Note.) It is here, however, that the significance most fully appears; for we cannot doubt that there exists a reference to the purification made necessary by all contact with death. (See Hebrews 9:13.) Since the works are dead because they had no share in true life, which is the life of God, the last words bring before us the thought of a Living God (Hebrews 3:12). This thought also stands connected with “eternal Spirit,” for those who are cleansed through the offering of Christ shall share His relation to the Living God. The contrast is in every respect complete. From the whole number of Jewish rites had been selected (Hebrews 9:13) the two which most fully represented the purification from sin and from pollution through death, in order that this completeness of antithesis might be attained. It is not necessary to trace the details of the contrast. In each and in all we read the “How much more!”

9:11-14 All good things past, present, and to come, were and are founded upon the priestly office of Christ, and come to us from thence. Our High Priest entered into heaven once for all, and has obtained eternal redemption. The Holy Ghost further signified and showed that the Old Testament sacrifices only freed the outward man from ceremonial uncleanness, and fitted him for some outward privileges. What gave such power to the blood of Christ? It was Christ's offering himself without any sinful stain in his nature or life. This cleanses the most guilty conscience from dead, or deadly, works to serve the living God; from sinful works, such as pollute the soul, as dead bodies did the persons of the Jews who touched them; while the grace that seals pardon, new-creates the polluted soul. Nothing more destroys the faith of the gospel, than by any means to weaken the direct power of the blood of Christ. The depth of the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ, we cannot dive into, the height we cannot comprehend. We cannot search out the greatness of it, or the wisdom, the love, the grace that is in it. But in considering the sacrifice of Christ, faith finds life, food, and refreshment.How much more shall the blood of Christ - As being infinitely more precious than the blood of an animal could possibly be. If the blood of an animal had any efficacy at all, even in removing ceremonial pollutions, how much more is it reasonable to suppose may be effected by the blood of the Son of God!

Who through the eternal Spirit - This expression is very difficult, and has given rise to a great variety of interpretation. - Some mss. instead of "eternal" here, read "holy," making it refer directly to the Holy Spirit; see "Wetstein." These various readings, however, are not regarded as of sufficient authority to lead to a change in the text, and are of importance only as showing that it was an early opinion that the Holy Spirit is here referred to. The principal opinions which have been entertained of the meaning of this phrase, are the following.

(1) that which regards it as referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This was the opinion of Owen, Doddridge, and archbishop Tillotson.

(2) that which refers it to the "divine nature" of Christ. Among those who have maintained this opinion, are Beza, Ernesti, Wolf, Vitringa, Storr, and the late Dr. John P. Wilson. mss. Notes.

(3) others, as Grotius, Rosenmuller, Koppe, understand it as meaning "endless" or "immortal life," in contradistinction from the Jewish sacrifices which were of a perishable nature, and which needed so often to be repeated.

(4) others regard it as referring to the glorified person of the Saviour, meaning that in his exalted, or spiritual station in heaven, he presents the efficacy of his blood.

(5) others suppose that it means "divine influence," and that the idea is, that Christ was actuated and filled with a divine influence when he offered up himself as a sacrifice; an influence which was not of a temporal and fleeting nature, but which was eternal in its efficacy. This is the interpretation preferred by Prof. Stuart.

For an examination of these various opinions, see his "Excursus, xviii." on this Epistle. It is difficult, if not impossible, to decide what is the true meaning of the passage amidst this diversity of opinion; but there are some reasons which seem to me to make it probable that the Holy Spirit is intended, and that the idea is, that Christ made his great sacrifice under "the extraordinary influences of that Eternal Spirit." The reasons which lead me to this opinion, are the following:

(1) It is what would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament. It is presumed that the great body of sober, plain, and intelligent readers of the Bible, on perusing the passage, suppose that it refers to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. There are few better and safer rules for the interpretation of a volume designed like the Bible for the mass of mankind, than to abide by the sense in which they understand it.

(2) this interpretation is one which is most naturally conveyed by the language of the original. The phrase "the spirit" - τὸ πνέυμα to pneuma - has so far a technical and established meaning in the New Testament as to denote the Holy Spirit, unless there is something in the connection which renders such an application improper. In this case there is nothing certainly which "necessarily" forbids such an application. The high names and Classical authority of those who have held this opinion, are a sufficient guarantee of this.

(3) this interpretation accords with the fact that the Lord Jesus is represented as having been eminently endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit; compare notes on John 3:34. Though he was divine, yet he was also a man, and as such was under influences similar to those of other pious people. The Holy Spirit is the source and sustainer of all piety in the soul, and it is not improper to suppose that the man Christ Jesus was in a remarkable manner influenced by the Holy Spirit in his readiness to obey God and to suffer according to his will.

(4) if there was ever any occasion on which we may suppose he was influenced by the Holy Spirit, that of his sufferings and death here referred to may be supposed eminently to have been such an one. It was expressive of the highest state of piety - of the purest love to God and man - which has ever existed in the human bosom; it was the most trying time of his own life; it was the period when there would be the most strong temptation to abandon his work; and as the redemption of the whole world was dependent on that act, it is reasonable to suppose that the richest heavenly grace would be there imparted to him, and that he would then be eminently under the influence of that Spirit which was granted not "by measure unto him." notes, John 3:34.

(5) this representation is not inconsistent with the belief that the sufferings and death of the Redeemer were "voluntary," and had all the merit which belongs to a voluntary transaction. Piety in the heart of a Christian now is not less voluntary because it is produced and cherished by the Holy Spirit, nor is there less excellence in it because the Holy Spirit imparts strong faith in the time of temptation and trial. It seems to me, therefore, that the meaning of this expression is, that the Lord Jesus was led by the strong influences of the Spirit of God to devote himself as a sacrifice for sin. It was not by any temporary influence; not by mere excitement; it was by the influence of the "Eternal" Spirit of God, and the sacrifice thus offered could, therefore, accomplish effects which would be eternal in their character. It was not like the offering made by the Jewish high priest which was necessarily renewed every year, but it was under the influence of one who was "eternal," and the effects of whose influence might be everlasting. It may be added, that if this is a correct exposition, it follows that the Holy Spirit is eternal, and must, therefore, be divine.

Offered himself - That is, as a sacrifice. He did not offer a bullock or a goat, but he offered "himself." The sacrifice of oneself is the highest offering which he can make; in this case it was the highest which the universe had to make.


14. offered himself—The voluntary nature of the offering gives it especial efficacy. He "through the eternal Spirit," that is, His divine Spirit (Ro 1:4, in contrast to His "flesh," Heb 9:3; His Godhead, 1Ti 3:16; 1Pe 3:18), "His inner personality" [Alford], which gave a free consent to the act, offered Himself. The animals offered had no spirit or will to consent in the act of sacrifice; they were offered according to the law; they had a life neither enduring, nor of any intrinsic efficacy. But He from eternity, with His divine and everlasting Spirit, concurred with the Father's will of redemption by Him. His offering began on the altar of the cross, and was completed in His entering the holiest place with His blood. The eternity and infinitude of His divine Spirit (compare Heb 7:16) gives eternal ("eternal redemption," Heb 9:12, also compare Heb 9:15) and infinite merit to His offering, so that not even the infinite justice of God has any exception to take against it. It was "through His most burning love, flowing from His eternal Spirit," that He offered Himself [Oecolampadius].

without spot—The animal victims had to be without outward blemish; Christ on the cross was a victim inwardly and essentially stainless (1Pe 1:19).

purge—purify from fear, guilt, alienation from Him, and selfishness, the source of dead works (Heb 9:22, 23).

your—The oldest manuscripts read "our." The Vulgate, however, supports English Version reading.

conscience—moral religious consciousness.

dead works—All works done in the natural state, which is a state of sin, are dead; for they come not from living faith in, and love to, "the living God" (Heb 11:6). As contact with a dead body defiled ceremonially (compare the allusion, "ashes of an heifer," Heb 9:13), so dead works defile the inner consciousness spiritually.

to serve—so as to serve. The ceremonially unclean could not serve God in the outward communion of His people; so the unrenewed cannot serve God in spiritual communion. Man's works before justification, however lifelike they look, are dead, and cannot therefore be accepted before the living God. To have offered a dead animal to God would have been an insult (compare Mal 1:8); much more for a man not justified by Christ's blood to offer dead works. But those purified by Christ's blood in living faith do serve (Ro 12:1), and shall more fully serve God (Re 22:3).

living God—therefore requiring living spiritual service (Joh 4:24).

How much more shall the blood of Christ? The question supposeth an unexpressible difference between Christ’s purifying and the legal sacrifices. The blood with which he pierced within the veil to the throne in the highest heavens, on which sat the just God, the proper, precious, powerful blood of God the Son incarnate.

Who through the eternal Spirit; who in his immortal soul obeying all God’s will in suffering, did, through his own eternal God-head, to which both body and soul were united, and which sanctified the body offered, as the altar the sacrifice, Matthew 23:19, which is called the spirit of holiness, Romans 1:4, and gave value and virtue to the sacrifice, offered up his body a sacrifice for sin, when he died on the cross. Not sheep, bulls, goats, turtles, pigeons, &c., not man, nor the life of angels, were his sacrifice; but himself, pure, holy, and unpolluted, an innocent, harmless person, 2 Corinthians 5:21. How much beyond his types for innocency and purity! Leviticus 22:20,21 Num 19:2.

Offered himself without spot to God: the offended, injured Creator and Judge of sinners, who constituted him to this whole work; and was by this most perfect sacrifice propitiated; his justice was satisfied, his law obeyed, and himself set fully free to pardon and forgive sinners without injustice; and to be just, as well as gracious and merciful, in doing of it, Romans 3:25,26; and they might be put in possession of his favour, presence, and person again, as their own God, 1 Peter 3:18.

Purge your conscience; though the sacrifice be over, the virtue and excellent causality of it doth abide, purging now as ever, not only justifying and absolving of a penitent believing sinner, but purifying and sanctifying the soul, procuring the Holy Spirit to renew it, and take away inherent corruption and infuse holiness into it, Ephesians 4:24, and making willing in the beauties of it, Psalm 110:3 1 Corinthians 6:11 Titus 3:5,6; making body, soul, and spirit one frame of holiness to God, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. So as the most quick, lively, and sensible part of the immortal soul, conscious of sin, is freed from the guilt, filth, and fears of sin that did cleave to it; this thus purged, no consciousness of guilt remains, nor fear of punishment, but it is filled, from the interest it hath in this blood, and the work on it of this Spirit, full of joy and peace and righteousness by believing, Romans 5:1,2,5,11.

From dead works; all operations of sin, which come from spiritually dead souls, and work eternal death, Ephesians 2:1, of which they are as insensible as dead men; all sorts of sin which do taint, pollute, and defile the soul, much more contagious, pestilent, and polluting the soul, than any of those things forbidden to be touched by Moses’s law could the flesh, Numbers 19:18: they are as offensive to God, and more, than carcasses are to us, and pestilential things, though themselves keeping souls from any communion with him.

To serve the living God; as under the law there was no coming to the congregation of the tabernacle without legal purifying, Numbers 19:13,20; so by this purifying correspondent to the type, souls are quickened, have boldness and confidence God-ward in point of duty, present themselves living sacrifices, Romans 12:1, aim at him through their whole life; that he delights to keep up communion with them proportioned to himself, till he fit them for their complete serving and enjoying of him in the holy of holiest in heaven.

How much more shall the blood of Christ,.... Which is not the blood of a mere man, but the blood of the Son of God; and the argument is from the lesser to the greater; that if the ashes of the burnt heifer, which was a type of Christ in his sufferings, mixed with water, typically sanctified to the purifying of men externally, in a ceremonial way, then much more virtue must there be in the blood of Christ, to cleanse the soul inwardly:

who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God; Christ is a priest, and the sacrifice he has offend up is "himself"; not his divine nature, but his human nature, soul and body, as in union with his divine person; which gives his sacrifice the preference to all others; and is the reason of its virtue and efficacy, and is expressive of his great love to man: and this sacrifice was offered up "to God", against whom his people had sinned, and whose justice must be satisfied, and which is of a sweet smelling savour to him; besides, he called him to this work, and engaged him in it, and is well pleased with this offering, as he must needs be, since it is offered up "without spot"; which expresses the purity of Christ's nature and sacrifice, and the perfection of it, which is such, that no fault can be found in it by the justice of God; and hence, the saints, for whom it is offered, are unblamable and irreprovable, There is an allusion in the clause, both to the priests and to their sacrifices, which were neither of them to have any spot or blemish on them; and this unblemished sacrifice was offered unto God by Christ,

through the eternal Spirit; not the human soul of Christ; for though that is a spirit, yet not eternal, and besides, was a part of the sacrifice; but rather the divine nature of Christ, which is a spirit, and may be so called in distinction from the flesh, or human nature, as it sometimes is, and this is eternal; it was from everlasting, as well as is to everlasting; and this supported him under all his sufferings, and carried him through them, and put virtue unto them; and Christ was a priest, in the divine, as well as human nature: though by it may be better understood "the Holy Ghost"; and so the Vulgate Latin version reads, and also several copies; since the divine nature rather acts by the human nature, than the human nature by the divine; and Christ is often said to do such and such things by the Holy Spirit; and as the Holy Ghost formed and filled the human nature of Christ, so he assisted and supported it under sufferings. This whole clause is inserted by way of parenthesis, showing the efficacy of Christ's blood, and from whence it is:

to purge your conscience from dead works; that is, "from the works of sin", as the Ethiopic version renders it; which are performed by dead men, separate and alienated from the life of God, are the cause of the death of the soul, and expose to eternal death, and are like dead carcasses, nauseous and infectious; and even duties themselves, performed without faith and love, are dead works; nor can they procure life, and being depended on, issue in death; and even the works of believers themselves are sometimes performed in a very lifeless manner, and are attended with sin and pollution, and need purging: the allusion is to the pollution by the touch of dead bodies; and there may be some respect to the sacrifices of slain beasts, after the sacrifice and death of Christ, by believing Jews, who were sticklers for the ceremonies of the law, and thereby contracted guilt; but immoralities are chiefly designed, and with these the conscience of man is defiled; and nothing short of the blood of Christ can remove the pollution of sin; as that being shed procures atonement, and so purges away the guilt of sin, or makes reconciliation for it, so being sprinkled on the conscience by the Spirit of God, it speaks peace and pardon, and pacifies and purges it, and removes every incumbrance from it: the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions, read, "our conscience". The end and use of such purgation is, "to serve the living God"; so called to distinguish him from the idols of the Gentiles, and in opposition to dead works; and because he has life in himself, essentially and independently, and is the author and giver of life to others; and it is but the reasonable service of his people, to present their souls and bodies as a living sacrifice to him; and who ought to serve him in a lively manner, in faith, and with fervency, and not with a slavish, but a godly filial fear; and one that has his conscience purged by the blood of Christ, and is sensibly impressed with a discovery of pardoning grace, is in the best capacity for such service. The Alexandrian copy reads, "the living and true God".

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from {l} dead works to serve the living God?

(l) From sins which proceed from death, and bring forth nothing but death.

Hebrews 9:14.[91] Incomparably more efficacious must the sacrifice of Christ be. For—(1) Christ offered Himself, i.e. He gave up His own body to the death of a sacrifice, while the Levitical high priest derives his material of sacrifice from a domain foreign to himself personally; then: He offered Himself from a free resolve of will, while the Levitical high priest is placed under the necessity of sacrificing, by the command of an external ordinance, and the sacrificial victim whose blood he offers is an irrational animal, which consequently knows nothing of the end to which it is applied. The Levitical act of sacrifice is then an external one wrought in accordance with ordinance, a sensuous one; Christ’s act of sacrifice, on the other hand, one arising out of the disposition of the heart, thus a moral one. From this it is already evident how it could be said (2) that Christ offered Himself διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου. The ethical belongs to the province of the spirit. Christ accordingly offered Himself by virtue of spirit, because His act of sacrifice was, in relation to God, an act of the highest spiritual obedience (Php 2:8), in relation to the human brethren an act of the highest spiritual love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). ΔΙᾺ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς ΑἸΩΝΊΟΥ, however, by virtue of eternal spirit did Christ offer Himself, inasmuch as the notion of the eternal belongs inseparably and essentially to the notion of spirit, in opposition to σάρξ, which has the notion of the transitory as its essential presupposition. The adjective ΑἸΩΝΊΟΥ is added in natural correspondence with ΑἸΩΝΊΑΝ ΛΎΤΡΩΣΙΝ, Hebrews 9:12. For only by virtue of eternal spirit could a redemption which is to be eternal, or of ever-enduring validity, be accomplished.

The majority have interpreted ΔΙᾺ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς ΑἸΩΝΊΟΥ of the Holy Spirit; then thinking either, as Clarius, Estius, Whitby, and others, of the third person in the divine trias, or as Bleek, de Wette, and others, of the Spirit of God which dwelt in Christ in all its fulness, and was the principle which animated Him at every moment. But this application is too special. For, in accordance with the force of the words and the connection of the thoughts, there can stand as a tacit antithesis to the expression: διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου, only the general formula: ΔΙᾺ ΣΑΡΚῸς ΠΡΟΣΚΑΊΡΟΥ, whereby the mode of accomplishing the Levitical acts of sacrifice would be characterized. Moreover, if the Holy Spirit had been intended, the choice of the adjective ΑἸΩΝΊΟΥ instead of ἉΓΊΟΥ must have appeared strange, because indistinct and liable to being misunderstood; finally, the absence of the article also is best explained on the supposition that the formula is to be understood generically. Too special, likewise, is the explanation of the words adopted by Aretius, Beza, Jac. Cappellus, Gomarus, Calov, Wolf, Peirce, M‘Lean, Bisping, and many others, in part coinciding with the second form of the first main interpretation, according to which, by πνεῦμα αἰώνιον, the divine nature of Christ, or “the principle of the eternal Sonship of God indwelling in Christ” (Kurtz), is designated. This view already finds its refutation in the fact that πνεῦμα has its opposite in ΣΆΡΞ, and ΠΝΕῦΜΑ and ΣΆΡΞ are contrasted as spirit and body, not as divine and human. To be rejected farther is the procedure of Faustus Socinus, Schlichting, Grotius, Limborch, Carpzov, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 525 ff.), Reuss,[92] Kurtz, Woerner, and others, in making the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ ΑἸΏΝΙΟΝ, as regards the thing intended, equivalent to the ΔΎΝΑΜΙς ΖΩῆς ἈΚΑΤΑΛΎΤΟΥ, Hebrews 7:16, whereby the essentially ethical import of the expression in our passage is lost sight of; entirely false and arbitrary, however, is the interpretation of Döderlein, Storr, and Stuart, who refer πνεῦμα αἰώνιον to Christ’s state of glorification after His exaltation; of Nösselt (Opusc. ad interpret. sacr. scripturr. fascic. I. ed. 2, p. 334),—as also van der Boon Mesch, l.c. p. 100,—who espouse the opinion: “πνεῦμα esse victimam, quam Christus se immolando Deo obtulit, eamque ΑἸΩΝΊΑΝ dici propterea, quod istius victimae vis ad homines salvandos perpetua atque perennis futura sit;” of Michaelis, ad Peirc., who finds the sense, that Christ presented Himself not according to the letter of the Mosaic law, but yet certainly according to its spirit; and of Planck (Commentatt. a Rosenm. etc., edd. I. 1, p. 189), who even maintains that the spirit of prophecy in the prophets of the Old Covenant is thought of. Strangely also Oecumenius, Theophylact, Clarius, and others (comp. already Chrysostom): διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου stands in opposition to the fire, by which the Levitical sacrifices were offered to God. Similarly Hofmann (Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 420, 2 Aufl.), who is followed by Delitzsch and Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 527, Obs.): “the spirit by which Christ offered Himself is called an eternal spirit, in opposition to the fleeting spirit of the animals which the O. T. high priest presented.” Of a “spirit” of the animals the author (cf. Hebrews 4:12) can hardly have thought, inasmuch as, though in the O. T. a πνεῦμα is often ascribed to animals, this is understood only in the lower sense of the ΨΥΧΉ. Needlessly, in the last place, does Reiske conjecture ἉΓΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς instead of ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΟς.

] denotes not the mere impulse or impelling motive (Vatablus, Ribera, Estius, al.), nor yet the condition or sphere (Stengel, Tholuck, al.), but the higher power, by virtue of which the offering was accomplished and made effective.

ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν] is understood by Bleek, with whom Kurtz concurs, after the precedent of Faustus Socinus, Schlichting, Grotius, Limborch, and others, in the sense that Christ offered to God, in the heavenly Holy of Holies, His blood which was shed upon earth; which, however, is violent on account of διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου, since these words appertain to the whole relative clause, and are not to be referred, with Bleek, as a nearer definition merely to ἌΜΩΜΟΝ. The undergoing upon earth of the death of the cross is that which is meant.

ἌΜΩΜΟΝ] as a spotless sacrifice, yielding full satisfaction to God. The Levitical victim must be ἄμωμος (תָּמִים), physically free from blemish. Here ἌΜΩΜΟς is used of the higher, ethical spotlessness, and has reference to the sinlessness of character manifested by Christ during His earthly life. Erroneously Bleek: the expression has respect to “the condition of Christ after death and the resurrection, in which, raised above even the infirmities to which as very man He was subject upon earth, He could in particular no more fall a victim to death.”

Τῷ ΘΕῷ] is to be taken along with the whole relative clause, not merely with ἌΜΩΜΟΝ.

] forth from dead (legal) works, so that we free ourselves from them as from something that is unfruitful and useless, rise above them. The notion of the ΝΕΚΡᾺ ἜΡΓΑ here the same as at Hebrews 6:1.

[91] A. L. van der Boon Mesch, Specimen Hermeneuticum in locum ad Hebr. ix. 14, Lugd. Bat. 1819, 8vo.

[92] “L’auteur a voulu dire ici, par une tournure nouvelle, justement ce qu’il a déjà dit deux fois en d’autres termes (Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 7:25). La nature de Christ lui assure une vie éternelle, non sujette à la mort et par cela même seule capable de nous assurer un bienfait durable et éternel aussi.”

Hebrews 9:14. πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ.… The Levitical sacrifices had their congruous effect, the sacrifice of Christ must also have its appropriate result. The blood offered was not of bulls and goats but of “the Christ;” it was not with another’s blood (vicarious, Hebrews 9:25) but with His own He entered God’s presence. His was not a bodily sacrifice but διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου. ὃς δς διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίουΘεῷ. This clause is inserted to justify the efficacy of the blood of Christ in cleansing the conscience. It had virtue to cleanse the conscience because it was the blood of one “who through eternal spirit offered Himself blameless to God”. How are we to understand διὰ πν. αἰωνίου? Riehm considers it a parellel expression to that of Hebrews 7:16, κατὰ δύναμιν ζωῆς ἀκαταλύτου, and that it is here used to bring out the idea that Christ having an eternal spirit was thereby able to perform the whole work of atonement, not merely dying on the cross but passing through that death to present Himself before God. So too Davidson, Weiss and others. This involves that προσήνεγκεν refers not to the cross but to the appearance before God, subsequently to the death. And it does not account for the absence of the article. It seems more relevant to the passage and more consistent with the purpose of the clause (to show the ground of the efficacy of the blood of Christ) to understand the words as expressing the spiritual nature of the sacrifice which gave it eternal validity. It had superior efficacy to the blood of bulls and goats because it was not of the flesh merely, but was expressive of the spirit. It is the spirit prompting the sacrifice and giving it efficacy, which the writer seeks to indicate. Over against the “ordinances of the flesh” which made the slaughter of animals compulsory and a mere matter of letting material blood, he sets this wholly different sacrifice which was prompted and inspired by spirit and belonged wholly to the sphere of spiritual and eternal things. [Spiritus opponitur conditioni animantum ratione carentium (Hebrews 9:13, Bengel); “bezeichnet das Lebensprinzip, in dessen Kraft, von dem beseelt und angetrieben Christus sich opferte” (Kübel)]. It was the spirit underlying and expressed in the sacrifice which gave it all its potency. Spirit is eternal and can alone be efficacious in eternal things. ἑαυτὸν. The Levitical High Priest, as stated in Hebrews 9:25, entered the holy place ἐν ἅματι ἀλλοτρίῳ, but Christ διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος. Also goats and calves were of no great value, but what Christ offered was of infinite value. Two points are brought out by ἑαυτόν. (1) He offered not a vicarious victim; but, as Priest, offered the only true sacrifice, Himself. Therefore His blood had cleansing efficacy. (2) He offered not a cheap animal, but the most precious of sacrifices. προσήνεγκεν, i.e., on the cross; for the clause is an explanation of the value of the blood. Cf. Hebrews 9:28. ἄμωμον without blemish, perfect, as required in the Levitical sacrifices, but now with an ethical significance, and therefore possessing an ethical validity. This explains how the blood of Christ should not merely furnish ceremonial cleanness but καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν ὑμῶν ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων, a characterisation of sins suggested by the context. Works that defile; as the touching of a dead body defiled the worshipper. Works from which a man must be cleansed before he can enter God’s presence. A pause might be made before ἔργων, from dead—(not bodies but) works. [καθαρίζω, Hellenistic; see Anz. Subsidia, 374. In class. καθαίρω is used, as in Herod. i, 44, τὸν αὐτὸς φόνου ἐκάθῃρε, and Æsch. Choeph. 72.] This cleansing is preparatory to the worship of the living God εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι. The living God, who is all life, can suffer no taint of death in His worshippers. Death moral and physical cannot exist in His presence. λατρεύειν, “ad serviendum, in perpetuum, modo beatissimo et vere sacerdotali” (Bengel).

14. how much more] Again we have the characteristic word—the key-note as it were—of the Epistle.

the blood of Christ] which is typified by “the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1).

who through the eternal Spirit] If this be the right rendering the reference must be to the fact that Christ was “quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18); that “God gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (John 3:34); that “the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him” (Luke 4:18); that He “by the Spirit of God” cast out devils (Matthew 12:28). For this view of the meaning see Pearson on the Creed, Art. iii., and it is represented by the reading “Holy” for Eternal in some cursive mss. and some versions. It may however be rendered “by an Eternal Spirit,” namely by His own Spirit—by that burning love which proceeded from His own Spirit—and not by a mere “ordinance of the flesh” (Hebrews 9:10). In the Levitic sacrifices involuntary victims bled; but Christ’s sacrifice was offered by the will of His own Eternal Spirit.

without spot] Christ had that sinless perfection which was dimly foreshadowed by the unblemished victims which could alone be offered under the Levitic law (1 Peter 1:19).

from dead works] See Hebrews 6:1. If sinful works are meant, they are represented as affixing a stain to the conscience; they pollute as the touching of a dead thing polluted ceremonially under the Old Law (Numbers 19:11-16). But all works are “dead” which are done without love. It is to be observed that the writer—true to the Alexandrian training which instilled an awful reverence respecting Divine things—attempts even less than St Paul to explain the modus operandi. He tells us that the Blood of Christ redeems and purifies us as the old sacrifices could not do. Sacrifices removed ceremonial defilement—they thus “purified the flesh:” but the Blood of Christ perfects and purifies the conscience (Hebrews 10:22) and so admits us into the Presence of God. The “how can this be?” belongs to the secret things which God has not revealed; we only know and believe that so it is.

to serve the living God] Not to serve “dead works” or a mere material tabernacle, or fleshly ordinances, but to serve the Living God who can only be truly served by those who are “alive from the dead” (Romans 6:13).

Hebrews 9:14. Τὸ αἷμα) The blood, and death: see the following verses.—διὰ Πνεύματος αἰωνίου, by the eternal Spirit) See Luke 4:18 : and comp. Romans 1:4; Romans 15:16. The Spirit is opposed to the condition of irrational animals, Hebrews 9:13. The epithet eternal is understood from Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:15, ch. Hebrews 7:16, and is opposed to the heifer reduced to ashes [ashes of a heifer].—ἄμωμον, without spot) Superior as contrasted with every Levitical victim.—καθαριεῖ, shall purge) It corresponds to καθαρότητα, purifying, Hebrews 9:13. So Hebrews 9:22-23, ch. Hebrews 10:23, Hebrews 1:3. It is put in the future as an antithesis to the present, ἁγιάζει, sanctifies, Levitically, Hebrews 9:13.—ἀπὸ) ἀπὸ, εἰς, from, to, denote things contrary.—νεκρῶν ἔργων, from dead works) Things dead most of all defile. The antithesis is ζῶντι, living. The power of sin and death was abolished by the blood of Christ.—εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν, to serve) for ever, in a manner most blessed and truly sacerdotal, [Hebrews 9:12; Revelation 22:3.—V. g.]

Verse 14. - How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purify your (al. our) conscience from dead works to serve the living God? As in vers. 11, 12 Christ's entrance was contrasted with that of the high priest, so here is the sacrifice itself, in virtue of which he entered, similarly contrasted. The points of contrast to which attention is drawn are these:

(1) It was the blood, not of beasts that perish, but of Christ himself - the Christ, the Hope of Israel, whose Divine prerogatives have been set forth in the preceding chapters.

(2) He offered himself. His offering was a voluntary self-oblation, not the blood-shedding of passive victims.

(3) His offering was realty "spotless" (ἄμωμος) in the sense of sinless - the only sense that can satisfy Divine justice - symbolized only by the absence of material blemish in the ancient sacrifices.

(4) And this he did "through the eternal Spirit." This expression, which comes first in order, has an important bearing on the meaning of the whole passage, and calls for especial consideration. Be it observed, first, that the words are "the eternal Spirit," not "the Holy Spirit." It is not the usual designation of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. (The reading ἅγιου for αἰωνίου has not much authority in its favor, and is, besides, much more likely to have been substituted than the other.) What, then, is meant by "the eternal Spirit," through which Christ offered himself spotless? There are three notable texts in which the Spirit in Christ is opposed to the flesh: Romans 1:3, Τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ Πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν 1 Timothy 3:16, Ἐφανερώθη ἐκ σαρκὶ ἐδεκαιώωθη ἐν πνεύματι: 1 Peter 3:18, Θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ τῷ πνεύματι. In all these passages the Spirit is that Divine element of life in Christ, distinct from the human nature which he assumed of the seed of David, in virtue of which he rose from the dead. In us men, too, according to St. Paul, there is the πνεύμα, as well as σάρξ and ψυχή (sometimes πνεύμα and σάρξ alone are spoken of) - the higher principle of life within us, in virtue of which we can have communion with God and be influenced by his Holy Spirit. Any act of acceptable sell oblation that we might be capable of would be done through the spirit that is in us, to which the flesh is subdued. Corresponding to this in Christ was "the eternal Spirit" - a truly Divine spiritual Personality, conjoined with his assumed humanity. Through this he overcame death, it being impossible that he should be holden of it; through this, too he offered himself a willing sacrifice, submitting to the full penalty of human sin in obedience to the Father's will. Thus is prominently brought to view the spiritual aspect of the atonement. Its especial virtue is said to lie, not in the mere suffering or the mere physical blood-shedding and death upon the cross, but in its being a voluntary act of perfect obedience on the part of him who was the Representative of man, and in whom "the eternal Spirit" triumphed over the weakness of humanity. The agony in the garden (see under ver. 7, etc.) is illustrative of this view of the virtue of the atonement. There we perceive "the eternal Spirit" in the Savior completely victorious over natural human shrinking. The same view appears in the reference to Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10, where "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" expresses the essential principle of the availing sacrifice (see below on Hebrews 10:5, etc.). Hence follows what is said next of the effect of such a sacrifice as this was - to purify, not the flesh, but the conscience (συνειδησιν), meaning "man's inner consciousness" with regard to God and our relations to him. It belonged essentially to the spiritual sphere of things, and in that sphere (as was not the case with the old sacrifices) must be, and is felt to be, its availing power. It was, in fact, just such a sacrifice as man's conscience, if enlightened, feels to be due to God. Man, as he is now, cannot make it; but in the "Son of man" he sees it made, and thus finds at last the idea of a true atonement fulfilled. In the expression, "dead works," there may be an intended allusion to the dead bodies from the pollution of which especially the "ashes of an heifer" purified; and in "to serve" (εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν) there is an evident reference to the legal type. As the legal sin offering purified the flesh from the contamination of contact with the dead, so that the Israelites, thus cleansed, might offer acceptable worship, so Christ's offering of himself fulfils what was thus typified; it purifies the "conscience" from the contamination of "dead works," so that we may offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our λογικὴ λατρεία (Romans 12:1). On νεκρῶν ἔργων, see under Hebrews 6:1. Here, the idea of general pollution pervading the whole congregation having been prominent in what precedes, we may, perhaps, take the expression as denoting all human works whatever "done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit," all being regarded as tainted with sin, and so dead for the purpose of justification. The purification from them which is spoken of involves (be it further observed) both justification through atonement and sanctification through grace: the first, since, otherwise, the very meaning of the old sin offerings would not be fulfilled; the second, as denoted by the concluding clause, "to serve," etc. The second is the necessary sequence of the first. Believers are not only "cleansed from their former sins," but also put into a position for offering an acceptable service. In the life of Christ in whom they live, and who ever liveth to make intercession for them, they can henceforth "serve the living God." There is involved, in fact (to return to the account of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31.), both oblivion of past sins and a writing of the Law upon the heart. Hebrews 9:14Through the eternal spirit (διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου)

For the rend. an. Διὰ through equals by virtue of. Not the Holy Spirit, who is never so designated, but Christ's own human spirit: the higher element of Christ's being in his human life, which was charged with the eternal principle of the divine life. Comp. Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 7:16. This is the key to the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice. The significance and value of his atonement lie in the personal quality and motive of Christ himself which are back of the sacrificial act. The offering was the offering of Christ's deepest self - his inmost personality. Therein consists the attraction of the cross, not to the shedding of blood, but to Christ himself. This is Christ's own declaration, John 12:32. "I will draw all men unto me." Therein consists its potency for men: not in Christ's satisfaction of justice by suffering a legal penalty, but in that the cross is the supreme expression of a divine spirit of love, truth, mercy, brotherhood, faith, ministry, unselfishness, holiness, - a spirit which goes out to men with divine intensity of purpose and yearning to draw them into its own sphere, and to make them partakers of its own eternal quality. This was a fact before the foundation of the world, is a fact today, and will be a fact so long as any life remains unreconciled to God. Atonement is eternal in virtue of the eternal spirit of Christ through which he offered himself to God.

Offered himself without spot (ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν ἄμωμον)

The two other elements which give superior validity to Christ's sacrifice. It was voluntary, a self-offering, unlike that of brute beasts who had no volition and no sense of the reason why they were offered. It was spotless. He was a perfectly righteous, sinless being, perfectly and voluntarily obedient to the Father's will, even unto the suffering of death. The legal victims were only physically unblemished according to ceremonial standards. Ἄμωμος in lxx, technically, of victims, Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10, etc.

Purge your conscience (καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν ἡμῶν)

For your rend. our. The superior nature of Christ's sacrifice appears in its deeper effect. While the Levitical sacrifice accomplished only formal, ritual expiation, leaving the inner man unaffected, while it wrought externally and dealt with specific sins the effect of Christ's sacrifice goes to the center of the moral and spiritual life, and cleanses the very fountainhead of being, thus doing its work where only an eternal spirit can do it. Καθαρίζειν to purge is not a classical word. In Class. καθαιρεῖν (also in lxx): but καθαρίζειν appears in inscriptions in a ritual sense, and with ἀπὸ from, as here, thus showing that the word was not confined to biblical and ecclesiastical Greek.

From dead works (ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων)

The effect of Christ's sacrifice upon the conscience transmits itself to the works, and fills them with the living energy of the eternal spirit. It changes the character of works by purging them of the element of death. This element belongs not only to works which are acknowledged as sinful and are committed by sinful men, but to works which go under the name of religious, yet are performed in a merely legal spirit. None the less, because it is preeminently the religion of faith, does Christianity apply the severest and most radical of tests to works. Professor Bruce truthfully says that "the severest test of Christ's power to redeem is his ability to loose the bonds springing out of a legal religion, by which many are bound who have escaped the dominion of gross, sinful habits."

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