Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Verses 1, 2. - Wherefore (since it is so incumbent on us to advance out of the state of milk-fed infants), leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us press on unto perfection (τελειότητα, continuing the image of maturity). The proper translation of τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Ξριστοῦ λόγον is doubtful, the question being whether τῆς αρχῆς is to be connected with λόγον as an adjective genitive (so taken, as above, in the A.V.; cf. Hebrews 5:12, στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς), or with τοῦ Ξριστοῦ, the word of the beginning of Christ, meaning discourse concerning the first principles of Christianity. "Initium Christi, soil. Apud discentes Christum, saepe quippe Christus dicitur Paulo per metonymiam conereti pro Christianismo" (Bengel). A further question is whether the writer merely expresses his own intention of proceeding at once in this Epistle to the more advanced doctrine, or whether he is exhorting his readers to make spiritual progress, using the first person plural, φερώμεθα (as in Hebrews 2:1 and Hebrews 4:1, φοβήθωμεν) out of sympathetic courtesy. The correspondence of this delicate form of exhortation with that of the earlier passages, the very words φερώμεθα, "let us be borne on," "press forward" (implying more than mere passing to a new line of thought), and τελειότητα (which expresses personal maturity, not advanced subject of discourse), as well as the earnest warnings that follow against falling back, seem to necessitate the second of the above views of the meaning of this verse. The writer has, indeed, in his mind his intention of proceeding at once to the perfect doctrine; for he hopes that what he thus exhorts them to do they will do, so as to be able to follow him; but exhortation, rather than his own intention, is surely what the verse expresses. Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. What was meant by τὰ στοιχεῖα, etc., and τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς, etc., is here specified under the new image of a foundation on which a superstructure should be raised (cf. for the same figure, 1 Corinthians 3:11, a further instance of Pauline modes of thought). Of course no disparagement of the importance of this foundation is implied: it is necessary for the superstructure: it has in itself the elements of the superstructure, which rises from it in the way of growth. What is meant is, "With us this foundation has been already laid; I will not suppose any need for laying it anew: let us, then, go on to contemplate and understand the building that rests on and rises from it." The fundamentals enumerated are six - two essential principles of the religious life, and four heads of doctrine; for the word διδαχῆς rules βαπτισμῶν and the three succeeding genitives, but not μετανοίας and πίστεως which precede. These are the fundamentals, or first principles, of Christianity; but (as has been intimated) so defined as to express no more, by the language used, than what even enlightened Jews might accept and understand. Fully understood, they carry the Christian superstructure; but they are such as a "babe" in Christ might rest content with; without seeing their ultimate bearing. The principles first mentioned are repentance and faith, the requisite qualifications for baptism, the essence of John the Baptist's teaching, and announced by Christ at the commencement of his ministry as the first steps into his kingdom: "The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15; cf. also Acts 20:21). By the dead works, from which repentance is to be, the Fathers generally understand simply sinful works, which may be so called because of sin being a state of spiritual death, and having death for its wages (cf. "dead in trespasses and sins," Ephesians 2:1), or as being in themselves barren and fruitless (cf. τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀραρρποις τοῦ σκότους Ephesians 5:11). In an enumeration of elementary principles like this, the allusion, supposed by some commentators, to the deadness of "the works of the Law," as set forth by St. Paul, is not likely to have been intended. The faith spoken of is not faith in Christ, but simply "faith towards God," which is, of course, the foundation and necessary preliminary of Christian faith. The reason for the expression is to be found in the writer's intention to specify only the first principles of the gospel, in which the Christian was still on common ground with the Jew (cf. John 14:1, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me"). The four fundamental doctrines follow.
(1) Of baptisms. Observe, the word is not βάπτισμα, invariably used elsewhere for Christian baptism, but βαπτισμὸς, and that in the plural, βαπτισμῶν. In other passages βαπτισμοὶ denotes the various lustrations practised by the Jews - "washings of pots and cups" (Mark 7:8); "divers washings (Hebrews 9:10). Hence we may suppose these to be included in the general idea, and also the Jewish baptism of proselytes. On the other hand, the elementary doctrines of the gospel being here spoken of, there can be no doubt that the doctrine of Christian baptism is in the writer's view, but only with regard to the first simple conception of its recanting, which it had in common with other symbolical washings, the significance of which was understood by enlightened Jews (cf. John 3:10, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?").
(2) The doctrine of laying on of hands. This also was a Jewish rite, understood as signifying the bestowal of blessing and of power from above (cf. Genesis 48:14; Deuteronomy 34:9; Mark 10:13), and was, as well as baptism, adopted into the Christian Church, acquiring there a new potency. The apostles practiced it for conferring the gifts of the Spirit after baptism (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6), for ordination (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), and also for reconciling penitents (1 Timothy 5:22), and for healing' (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8). Mentioned here immediately after "the doctrine of baptisms," and in an enumeration of elements in which all Christians were concerned, we can hardly fail to understand special refer-once to the imposition of hands after baptism, i.e. to confirmation. The two remaining doctrines of
(3) the resurrection of the dead, and
(4) eternal judgment, were also understood and generally accepted by enlightened Jews, and at the same time are necessary to be mentioned for a complete account of the foundations of the Christian faith. These foundations are, as has been seen - repentance and faith (qualifying for admission into the Church), and then the doctrine of remission of sins (expressed and conveyed by baptism), of enabling grace (expressed and conveyed by confirmation), of the life hereafter, and of final judgment. Of these an elementary conception was level to even babes in Christ, fresh from Jewish training; fully understood, they form the basis of the whole structure of the highest Christian doctrine. It is obvious from the purport of the passage why neither the historical articles of the creed in which Christians were instructed (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 1 Timothy 3:16), nor the doctrine of the Eucharist (which belonged to the more advanced teaching), are included in this enumeration of the στοιχεῖα.
Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
And this will we do, if God permit.
Verse 3. - And this will we do (cf. let us do; ποιήσωμεν, A, C, D, La) if God permit; i.e. press on to perfection, as aforesaid, if only (as we firmly hope and trust, see ver. 6, etc.) you are still in a state in which God will permit advance; for (as is set forth in the following verses) there may be a retrogression from which recovery is impossible.
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Verses 4-6. - For it is impossible for those who have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, and have fallen away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. It is not, of course, implied that the Hebrew Christians had fallen into the condition thus described, or were near it; only that such a condition might be, and that, if they went back instead of advancing, they might arrive at it. The process intimated is that of complete apostasy from the faith after real conscious enjoyment of the gifts of grace. In such a case the hopelessness of the fall is in proportion to the privileges once enjoyed. This is the drift of the passage, though other views have been taken of its meaning, which will be noticed below. "Once enlightened" denotes the first apprehension of the light, which could be but once; when those that saw not began to see (John 5:39); when the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ shone once for all upon believers (2 Corinthians 4:4); when (according to the cognate passage, Hebrews 10:26; cf. Hebrews 10:32) they received the knowledge of the truth. The verb φωτίζω means in the LXX." to enlighten by instruction," and was in common use in the early Church to express the enlightenment that accompanied baptism; whence baptism itself was called φωτισμός. Thus Justin Martyr ('Apol.' 1:62) says, Καλεῖται δὲ τοῦτο τὸ λοῦτρον φωτισμός ὡς φωτιζομένων τὴν διάνοιαν τῶν ταῦτα μανθανόντων Cf. the title of Chrysostom's 'Hem.' 49, Πρός τοὺς μέλλοντας φωτίζεσθαι, Since the expression was thus commonly used as early as Justin Martyr, there may probably be in the text a special reference to baptism as the occasion of the enlightenment. But, if so, more is meant by the phrase than "those who have been once baptized:" an inward spiritual illumination is plainly pointed to; and it would not have been said of Simon Magus that he had been "once enlightened" in the sense intended. And this is indeed the real meaning of φωτισμός as applied to baptism by Justin Martyr, as his explanation, above quoted, shows. So also Chrysostom ('Hem.' 116.), "The heretics have baptism, but not enlightenment (φωτισμα); they are baptized indeed as to the body, but in the soul they are not enlightened; as also Simon was baptized, but was not enlightened." This consideration is important in view of one misapplication of the passage before us, which will be noticed below. But, further, those whom it is impossible to renew unto repentance are supposed not only to have been enlightened, but also to have "tasted of the heavenly gift," the emphatic word here being apparently γενσαμένους: they have had experience as well as knowledge (cf. Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;" and 1 Peter 2:3, "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious"). The word "gift" (δωρεά) is elsewhere used both for that of redemption generally (Romans 5:15-17), and especially, and most frequently, for the gift of the Holy Ghost (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift"). They have become also partakers of the Holy Ghost, not merely been within the range of his influence, but actually shared it; and tasted (the same word as before, and with the same meaning, though here followed by an accusative) what is further spoken cf. The expression ῤήματα occurs, Joshua 21:45; Joshua 23:15; Zechariah 1:13, for gracious Divine utterances. The idea of the Word of God being what is "tasted" may be suggested by Deuteronomy 8:3, quoted by our Lord in Matthew 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proeeedeth out of the month of God." By the powers (δυνάμεις) are to be especially understood (as in Hebrews 2:4 and elsewhere in the New Testament) the extraordinary ones in which the gift of the Holy Ghost was manifested, the χαρίσματα of the apostolic Church. But why said here to be μέλλοντος αἰῶνος? For the meaning of this expression, see under ἐνσχάτεν τῶν ἠμερῶν τούτων (Hebrews 1:1), and οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν (Hebrews 2:5). It denotes the predicted age of the Messiah's triumph. And if (as has appeared most probable, and as μέλλοντος here seems evidently to imply) that age was regarded as still future, not properly beginning till the second advent, still the "powers" spoken of are of it, being earnests and foretastes of a new order of things (cf. Ephesians 1:14, where the "Holy Spirit of promise" is called "the earnest of our inheritance;" also 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5). There are other passages in which Christians are regarded as already in the dawn of the future daybreak, and irradiated by the coming glory. The falling away (παραεσόντας) after such enlightenment and such experience means (as aforesaid) total apostasy from the faith. This appears from the expressions that follow, and still more from those in the cognate passage, Hebrews 10:26-31. "Non relapses mode dicit in pristina, sed nova pernicie praeterlapsos a toto statu illo lautissimo, simulque a fide, spe, et amore" (Bengel). Such an utter apostasy was possible to Hebrews oscillating between Church and synagogue: they might be so drawn at last into the atmosphere of the latter as, with the unbelieving Jews, to reject with contumely, and so to themselves recrucify, the Son of God. The force of "to themselves" is illustrated by Galatians 6:14, where St. Paul says that he so glories in the cross of Christ that through Christ the world is crucified to him, and he to the world; i.e. all fellowship between him and the world is broken off. So here the ἑαυτοῖς implies the breaking off of all fellowship with what a man is said to crucify. "They crucify again the Son of God, repeating what their fathers had done formerly when they gave him over to the death of the cross; and this, be it observed, still more culpably., since it is after personal experience proving him to be "the Son of God." And they not only make him as one dead to themselves: they also expose him (παραδειγματίζοντας: cf. Numbers 25:4, LXX.) to the reproach and mockery of the world. "Ostentantes, scil aliis" (Bengel). The above explanation is adopted from Delitzsch. Be it observed next what is said of those who do this - not that no repentance can henceforth avail them, but that even unto repentance it is impossible to renew them. Such falling away after such experience precludes the possibility of repentance. On such persons the powers of grace have been exhausted. It is not in the nature of things that they should return to Christ, or see the things that belong unto their peace any more. The correspondence between the state here described and the consequence of the "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:10) suggests itself at once; our Lord's words, in speaking of that unpardonable sin, being rightly supposed to point to obduracy in spite of experience of the Holy Spirit's power. Especially obvious is the correspondence with St. Luke's account of the Savior's warning - one of the not infrequent instances of resemblance between our Epistle and the writings of that evangelist. For St. Luke records the saying as spoken, not to the Jews on the occasion of their attributing Christ's works to Beelzebub, but to the disciples themselves, after a warning to them against "the leaven of the Pharisees," and against being moved by the fear of men, and immediately after the words, "He that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." Compare also the "sin unto death" spoken of by St. John (1 John 5:16). Misconceptions of the drift of this passage, once prevalent, or possible, remain to be noticed.
(1) It has been from early times a main support of the strict Church discipline according to which deadly sin committed after baptism precludes re-admission to Church communion. It was so cited by Tertullian as early as the second century ('De Pudicitia,' cf. 20), and in the third used to justify the Novatians in their refusal of communion, even after penance, to the lapsi. The passage, as above explained, was really irrelevant, since it refers, not to the treatment by the Church of penitents, but to the impossibility of some persons being brought to penitence at all.
(2) The Catholic Fathers, rightly rejecting the Novatian position, generally understood the text as forbidding the iteration of baptism; thus turning it against the Novatians, who rebaptized those who joined their communion. So Ambrose, Theodoret, and others. But, though their position on this subject was in itself sound, the passage, as above explained, is as irrelevant to it as to that of the Novatians.
(3) This, and the other texts referred to in connection with it, have led some Christians to despair of salvation, however anxious for it, under the idea that they had themselves committed the unpardonable sin. This desperate view goes beyond that of the Novatians, who only precluded from Church communion, not of necessity from the mercies of God (Socrates, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 4:21). But the very state of mind of those who entertain such fears is a sign that they are not of those to whom this text applies. They cannot have entirely fallen from grace, if they have the grace to repent and long for pardon.
(4) Calvin's predestinarian views compelled him and his followers to do violence to the plain meaning of the passage. Holding the doctrine of the indefectibility of grace, which involved
(a) that one really regenerate cannot fall away, and
(b) that consequently one who falls away cannot have been really regenerate, he had to explain away the clauses descriptive of the grace enjoyed, as meaning only a superficial experience of it. With this view he laid stress on the word γευσαμένους as meaning "summis labris gustare." Only dogmatic prejudice could have suggested such a sense of the word as intended in this place, any more than in Hebrews 2:9, where it is plainly inadmissible. Nor can an impartial reader fail to see in the whole accumulation of pregnant clauses an intention of expressing the very reverse of a mere apparent and delusive experience of saving grace. The depth of the experience is, in fact, a measure of the hopelessness of the fall. Art. XVI. of the English Church is a protest against all the erroneous conclusions above specified. Vers, 7, 8 - For land which hath drunk in the oft-coming rain upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whom (not, as in A.V., "by whom") it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God; but if it beareth thorns and thistles (not, as in A.V., "that which beareth"), it is rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (literally, for burning; cf. Isaiah 44:15, ἵνα ῇ ἀνθρώποις εἰς καῦσιν). The illustration is apt and close. Observe that the "land which hath drunk," etc., is the subject in ver. 8, as well as of ver. 7, as is shown by the absence of an article before ἐκφέρουσα. Hence the unproductive as well as the fruitful soil is supposed to have received, and not only received but imbibed also, abundant supplies of rain. Its failure is its own fault, and it is regarded as responsible for it, and deserving of its final fate. This exactly illustrates the case of those who "fall away" after not only receiving abundantly, but also taking in so as to be filled with the "gracious rain" of the Holy Spirit. The only difference is that in their case, free-will being a constituent of their productive power, the responsibility figuratively attributed to the land is real (cf. ἐκουσίως ἁμαρτανόντων, Hebrews 10:26). For similar illustrations drawn from unproductiveness in nature in spite of culture, cf. Isaiah 5:4 and Luke 20:23. The "blessing from God" refers to the view, pervading the Old Testament, of fruitfulness being the result and sign of the Divine blessing on the land (cf. Genesis 27:27, "The smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed"). And it is further implied that incipient fruitfulness is rewarded by more abundant blessing, according to our Lord's words, Matthew 13:12, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given," and John 15:2, "Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." The "thorns and thistles," connected with a curse on the ground, seem suggested by Genesis 3:17, 18, Απικατάρατος ἡ γῆ ἐν τοῖς ἕργοις σου ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους ἀνατελεῖ σοι. LXX. (cf. "Cursed shall be the fruit of thy land," Deuteronomy 28:18). It is to be observed, further, that the land, though bearing thorns instead of fruit, is not spoken of as yet under the final curse, but only nigh unto it, so as to avoid even a remote suggestion that the Hebrew Christians had actually reached the hopeless state. But, unless fruitfulness should ensue, they are warned of the inevitable end by the fate of thorns and thistles, which is, not to be garnered, but to be burnt (cf. 2 Samuel 23:6, "The sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away.... and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place;" cf. also Deuteronomy 29:23, "The whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth thereon" - a state of final hopeless barrenness).
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Verse 9. - But, beloved, we are persuaded, etc. Here, as in Hebrews 4:14, warning is succeeded by words of encouragement and hope. The reason for not only a hope, but even a persuasion, that God will keep them from apostasy, is given in the following verse.
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Verse 10. - For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love (τοῦ κόπου in the Textus Receptus is ill supported, having, perhaps, been interpolated kern 1 Thessalonians 1:3) which ye showed towards his Name, in that ye ministered to the saints, and do minister. It appears that the Hebrew Christians had formerly (some especial occasion being probably referred to) been active in their charity towards fellow-Christians in distress, and that such charity had not ceased. On this is grounded the persuasion that they will be kept steadfast in the faith. Those who had so shown their faith by their works would surely not be allowed to lose it. The very idea of the Divine justice implies that the use of grace, thus evidenced, will be rewarded by continuance of grace. Cf. Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it (ἐπιτελέσει) until the day of Jesus Christ; "where also there is reference to deeds of charity, shown in the case of the Philippians by their sympathy with the apostle in his bonds, which charity he prays may "abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment." No difficulty need be felt in this reference to God's justice, as though it involved the doctrine of human merit, de congruo or de condigno, claiming reward as of debt. The simple and obvious view, that God, in virtue of his justice, will be most gracious to those who have used his grace, by no means contravenes the doctrine of all grace being the free gift of his bounty (cf. 1 John 1:9; Romans 2:6, etc.). Observe, too, as bearing on the idea of this passage, how the will to do the will of God is said by our Lord to be followed by knowledge of the doctrine (John 7:17), and how works of charity are the very tests of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31, etc.).
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Verse 11. - But (however hopeful may be your charity, still more is needed) we desire (ἐπιθυμοῦμεν - expressing earnest desire - οὐκ ἔιπε θέλω ἀλλ ὅ πατρικῆς ἤν φιλοστοργίᾳς καὶ πλέον τοῦ θέλειν ἐπιθυμοῦμεν, Chrysostom) that every one of you (all of you without exception) do show the same diligence unto the full assurance (or simply fullness; for the meaning of πληροφορία, cf. Hebrews 10:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Colossians 2:2) of hope even to the end (i.e. evince the same diligence in this regard as you have already shown in your works of charity: "eandem in spe et fide quam in amore," Bengel).
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Verse 12. - That ye become not slothful (νωθροὶ, the same word as was used in Hebrews 5:11, νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς. There, with regard to intelligence, they were accused of having already become so; here, n here a hopeful view is taken of their prospects, the writer delicately avoids implying that they were so yet in regard to their desire of making progress), but followers (i.e. following the example - surely a better English word than imitators) of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. The present participle κληρονομούντων does not confine the sense of the expression to those who are now so inheriting. Abraham being presently adduced as an example, it refits to all who at any time so inherit, equivalent to, "the inheritors of." The drift is - Faith and patience are ever required in order that the Divine promises, however assured, may be inherited: these qualifications (in opposition to your being νωθροὶ) are what you want for securing your own inheritance.
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
Verses 13-15. - For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Abraham - the ancestor of the Hebrews, the first recipient of the promises, the father of the faithful - is now appropriately adduced as an example. He (Genesis 22:16), as is the case with you (Psalm 110.), was assured of his inheritance by the Divine oath; and so he obtained it, but only through "faith and patience." You have the like assurance, but attended with the like conditions. And then this Divine oath, the significance of which is set forth in vers. 16-18, is made a link of connection between the hortatory section (Hebrews 5:11-6:20) and the coming argument about Melchizedek. This is one instance of the artistic way in which, throughout the Epistle, the interposed hortatory passages are so turned as to connect the divided sections of the argument. But what is said about Abraham (vers. 13, 14, 15) has been variously understood. It is connected with ver. 12 thus: "Be ye followers of them who inherit the promises through faith and patience: for God, in his promise to Abraham, swore by himself in confirmation of it; and so (καὶ ὀὔτω) through patience he obtained the promise. Be it here observed that μακροθυμήσας in ver. 15 ("having patiently endured," A.V.) corresponds with διὰ μακροθυμίας in ver. 12, and expresses essentially the same idea. The aorist participle μακροθυμήσας does not in itself imply that the patience was previous to the obtaining; it expresses only that by patiently enduring he obtained. Observe also that καὶ οὔτω (cf. Acts 7:8; Acts 27:44; Acts 28:14) denotes the consequence from what has been previously stated; i.e. that μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχε followed from the Divine oath ensuring the fulfillment of the promise. Both his eventually obtaining and his patience in awaiting fulfillment were in consequence of the assuring oath. But then how and when did Abraham himself obtain the promise? Not even the temporal fulfillment in the multiplication of his seed and the inheritance of the Promised Land, much less the spiritual fulfillment in Christ, was during his own life. Both he could but see "afar off." In respect to the latter it is expressly said (Hebrews 11:13, 39) that the patriarchs did not receive the promises - μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπογγελίας: οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν. What, then, is meant by μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχε? Bleek understands the time of the oath (Genesis 22.), when the promise was irrevocably assured, to have been the time of obtaining. But more than this is suggested by the phrase, ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας (cf. Hebrews 11:33), as well as by καὶ οὔτω, viz. the actual attainment of the blessing assured to him by oath. There are two other ways of explaining:
(1) to identify Abraham with his seed, in whom, though not in his own person, he may be conceived to have obtained, - of which view it may be significant that πληθυνῶ τὸ σπέρμα σου of the LXX. (Genesis 22:17) is changed in the Epistle to πληθννῶ σε:
(2) to regard Abraham, still alive in the unseen world, as himself enjoying the fulfillment of the ancient promise. So Delitzsch, who, dwelling on the thought that nothing less than the blessing of Abraham extended to the whole world (cf. κληρονόμος τοῦ κόσμου, Romans 4:13) can be regarded as complete fulfill-merit, says, "God's oath-sealed word of promise is now fulfilled in Christ, and Abraham, while living on in the unseen world, is conscious of and enjoys that fulfillment, and so may be said to have "obtained the promise." This view derives some support from Hebrews 11:13-16, where the longings of the pilgrim patriarchs is so beautifully represented as reaching to a heavenly fulfillment. On the other hand, the aorist ἐπέτυχε is against it, and hence view
(1) may be accepted as a sufficient explanation of the expression (see below, or Hebrews 11:39). With regard to the general drift, it is obvious how μακροθυμία, as well as πίστις, in respect to the promise first made to him "in Charran," is strikingly displayed in Abraham's recorded life.
Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
Verses 16-20. - For men swear by the greater: and of every dispute of theirs (literally, to them), the oath is final (literally, an end) for confirmation (εἰς βεβαίωσιν being connected with πέρας, not, as in the A.V., with ὅρκος). Here begins the explanation of the meaning and purpose of the Divine oath, already cursorily touched on in ver. 13. God thus, for full assurance, condescends to the form of confirmation most binding among men when they promise to each other. They appeal to one greater than themselves to intervene between them. He, having no one greater than himself to appeal to, appeals (so to speak) to his own immutability, and thus may be said to intervene with an oath (ἐμεσίτευσεν ὄρκῳ ever. 17), the verb being neuter, with the sense of "mediate" or "intervene," not, as in A.V., "confirmed it". The reason is not that the Divine promise is not in itself enough, but that God, willing to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, is pleased to grant them this additional confirmation; that by two immutable things (first the promise, in itself sufficient; and secondly the oath, for more abundant assurance), in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong consolation (παράκληησιν, bearing elsewhere this sense, and also that of exhortation, as in Hebrews 12:5; Hebrews 13:22; which latter sense is understood here by most commentators as uniting best the drift of the passage with the general notion of encouragement) who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. The course of thought has now passed again from Abraham to Christians, the transition having been prepared for by the general expression, τοῖς κληρονόμοις τῆς ἐπαγγελίας in ver. 17. Indeed, the oath to him was an assurance to us also, we being the final inheritors of the promised blessing. Then finally, in the two concluding verses, the subject to be treated in Hebrews 7. is again beautifully led up to by a natural sequence of thought: Which (so. hope) we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a Forerunner Jesus entered for us, become a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. Our hope (ἐλπίς), regarded in ver. 18 objectively, assumes here a subjective sense: it is our anchor east upwards beyond the heavens through which our Forerunner has passed (cf. Hebrews 4:14, διελελυθότα τοὺς οὐρανοὺς), and, in virtue of the promise and the oath, fixed there secure and firm. "That which is within the veil" (καταπετάσματος, the word invariably denoting the veil in the temple, is the heavenly holy of holies, of which the earthly was symbolical, as is fully set forth in Hebrews 8. This first mention of the veil is an instance of the manner in which, throughout this Epistle, ideas to be afterwards expanded are often intimated by way of preparation beforehand. Instructive in this chapter is the view presented of Divine purpose in relation to human will. The Divine purpose may have been evinced by supplies of grace so abundant as to remove all doubt of the possibility of success; yet through the human will there may be failure: the very Divine oath may have ensured fulfillment of the promise; yet, as to Abraham, so to individual Christians, faith and patience are the conditions of fulfillment. It is evident that the Divine purpose and the Divine promise are all along referred to, not to dishearten any for fear that they may not be included in them, not to encourage remissness in any on the ground of certainty of attainment, not so as to suggest any idea of arbitrary selection irrespective of desert, but simply to incite to perseverance on the ground of assurance of success, if the human conditions are fulfilled. And this is the practical application of the doctrine of predestination found also elsewhere in St. Paul's Epistles (cf. Romans 8:28-39). Predestination and free-will may be to human reason theoretically irreconcilable, though reason, as well as theology, may compel us to acknowledge both. The problem may properly be left unsolved, as among the many deep things of God. But it is of importance to observe how the doctrine of-predestination is practically applied in Scripture as bearing upon human conduct.
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.