And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:…
I. THE BOND UNITING US WITH PAST GENERATIONS.
1. The question then agitating men's minds was, Is not this new faith in Christ Jesus the destruction of Judaism? And the writer of this Epistle answers the question by the broad assertion that Christianity is the real Judaism, and that the true line of succession runs through the Church, and not through the synagogue. Fancy a stiff Pharisee's face, at hearing a Christian teacher claim Abraham, Jacob and, most audaciously of all, Moses for his side! But why did he do so? Because the foundation of their lives was faith. The writer will not allow any difference, except that of development, between the call of prophet and psalmist, "Trust ye in the Lord for ever," and the preaching of apostles, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." There has never been but one way to heaven, and faith has always been one, however different in completeness its creed.
2. It is but applying the same principle in a slightly different direction to say that all in Christian ages who have the same spirit of faith are one. All who lay hold of the same Christ with the same confidence are knit together. But it must be the same Christ, the Divine-human Christ, the world's Redeemer; and the faith must be so far the same that it leans the whole weight of man's weakness on that Incarnate Strength, and hangs all its hopes on that one Lord.
II. THE BETTER THINGS FORESEEN FOR US. There is no such advance within the limits of Christianity as separated it from the earlier revelation. The further "light''' which each age has a right to expect is to "break forth from the Word" already given. "The Christ that is to be" is the Christ that was, and is " the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." He is " for ever," as being complete. As for truth, all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him, and may be drawn from the deepening understanding of the principles embodied in His life, death, resurrection and reign. All theology, morality, sociology, lie in Him as gold in ore, or diamonds in a matrix. As for powers, all that can be needed or done for the regeneration of the world and of single souls has been done and supplied in the work of Christ. What remains is but the application of the power which has been lodged in humanity. But while objective revelation is complete, and God's treasures contain no "better thing" than the unspeakable gift once bestowed and ever possessed, there is meant to be an advancement in understanding of the truth, and in appropriation of the power. Jesus is inexhaustible. No one man can absorb Him all; no one age can. A thousand mirrors set round that central light will each receive its beam at its own angle, and flash it back in its own fashion. So true progress will consist in a fuller understanding and firmer grasp of Him as Son of God and Redeemer of the world, and in a more complete reception of His Spirit, manifested in more Christlike characters and more Christ-pleasing services.
III. THE YET BETTER THINGS IN RESERVE FOR OUR SUCCESSORS. Naturally the progress is not to stop with us, but will go on as long as there is a Church on earth. We too have but partial light, and have partially appropriated the gifts, and discharged the duties given and enjoined in the partly understood gospel. The Church of the future will have broken down all sects. Religion will one day be harmonised with " science." Christian principles will be applied to social and national life with revolutionary effects. There will be a fuller baptism of the Spirit on the happier Church that is to be, resulting in more consecrated lives, in more missionary and evangelistic effort, and in a finer harmony of nature, and a more systematical and majestic development of capacities in the individual and the community.
IV. THE FINAL PERFECTING IN WHICH ALL ARE UNITED. The saints of the old and the believers of the new covenant are not to be perfected apart.
1. There is to be a perfect union of all in the common joy of possession of the common gift. On the march the pilgrims were widely separated, but in the camp their tents will be near each other. Just as Dante saw Paradise under the symbol of a great rose, whose many petals were yet one flower, and just as astronomers tell us that the giant nebulae, consisting of infinite numbers of suns, are yet each one whole, though we cannot imagine what forces bind together across such bewildering spaces, so all who, in solitude here, and amid misconceptions and diversities have yet loved the one Lord and followed the one Shepherd, shall couch round Him above, and in some mysterious, but most blessed manner, know that they "live together," and "all together with Him," as the bond of their unity, and perhaps the medium Of their intercourse. There will be a united perfecting in the common possession of the whole Christ.
2. There will be united perfection in enjoying the consults of the long unfolding through the ages of the fulness of Christ. Here one generation originates and another completes. But the time comes when all the workers shall share in the gladness of the finished work; when all who, separated by long ages and thick walls of mutual misconception, and divergence in practice and opinions, have yet been unknowingly toiling towards the same end, shall clasp inseparable hands in the great result which contains all their work.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: