Hebrews - An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Epistle to the Hebrews
Concerning this epistle we must enquire, I. Into the divine authority of it; for this has been questioned by some, whose distempered eyes could not bear the light of it, or whose errors have been confuted by it; such as the Arians, who deny the Godhead and self-existence of Christ; and the Socinians, who deny his satisfaction; but, after all the attempts of such men to disparage this epistle, the divine original of it shines forth with such strong and unclouded rays that he who runs may read it is an eminent part of the canon of scripture. The divinity of the matter, the sublimity of the style, the excellency of the design, the harmony of this with other parts of scripture, and its general reception in the church of God in all ages - these are the evidences of its divine authority. II. As to the divine amanuensis or penman of this epistle, we are not so certain; it does not bear the name of any in the front of it, as the rest of the epistles do, and there has been some dispute among the learned to whom they should ascribe it. Some have assigned it to Clemens of Rome; other to Luke; and many to Barnabas, thinking that the style and manner of expression is very agreeable to the zealous, authoritative, affectionate temper that Barnabas appears to be of, in the account we have of him in the acts of the Apostles; and one ancient father quotes an expression out of this epistle as the words of Barnabas. But it is generally assigned to the apostle Paul; and some later copies and translations have put Paul's name in the title. In the primitive times it was generally ascribed to him, and the style and scope of it very well agree with his spirit, who was a person of a clear head and a warm heart, whose main end and endeavour it was to exalt Christ. Some think that the apostle Peter refers to this epistle, and proves Paul to be the penman of it, by telling the Hebrews, to whom he wrote, of Paul's having written to them, 2Pe. 3:15. We read of no other epistle that he ever wrote to them but this. And though it has been objected that, since Paul put his name to all his other epistles, he would not have omitted it here; yet others have well answered that he, being the apostle of the Gentiles, who were odious to the Jews, might think fit to conceal his name, lest their prejudices against him might hinder them from reading and weighing it as they ought to do. III. As to the scope and design of this epistle, it is very evident that it was clearly to inform the minds, and strongly to confirm the judgment, of the Hebrews in the transcendent excellency of the gospel above the law, and so to take them off from the ceremonies of the law, to which they were so wedded, of which they were so fond, that they even doted on them, and those of them who were Christians retained too much of the old leaven, and needed to be purged from it. The design of this epistle was to persuade and press the believing Hebrews to a constant adherence to the Christian faith, and perseverance in it, notwithstanding all the sufferings they might meet with in so doing. In order to this, the apostle speaks much of the excellency of the author of the gospel, the glorious Jesus, whose honour he advances, and whom he justly prefers before all others, showing him to be all in all, and this in lofty strains of holy rhetoric. It must be acknowledged that there are many things in this epistle hard to be understood, but the sweetness we shall find therein will make us abundant amends for all the pains we take to understand it. And indeed, if we compare all the epistles of the New Testament, we shall not find any of them more replenished with divine, heavenly matter than this to the Hebrews. — Henry
Hebrews - Book Introduction - Hebrews
Writer: The authorship of Hebrews has been in controversy from the earliest times. The book is anonymous, but the reference in 2Pe. 3:15 seems conclusive that Paul was the Writer. See also Heb. 13:23. All agree that, whether by Paul or another, the point of view is Pauline. We undoubtedly have here the method of Paul's synagogue addresses. No book of Scripture more fully authenticates itself as inspired.
Date: From internal evidence it is clear that Hebrews was written before the destruction of the Temple, A.D. 70 (cf Heb. 10:11).
Theme: The doctrinal passages reveal the purpose of the book. It was written with a twofold intent:
1. To confirm Jewish Christians by showing that Judaism had come to an end through the fulfilment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law; and
2. The hortatory passages show that the Writer had in view the danger ever present to Jewish professed believers of either lapsing back into Judaism, or of pausing short of true faith in Jesus Christ. It is clear from the Acts that even the strongest of the believers in Palestine were held to a strange mingling of Judaism and Christianity (e.g. Acts 21:18-24 and that snare would be especially apt to entangle professed Christians amongst the Jews of the dispersion.
The key-word is "better." Hebrews is a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. Christ is "better" than angels, than Moses, than Joshua, than Aaron; and the New Covenant than the Mosaic Covenant. Church truth does not appear, the ground of gathering only being stated (Heb. 13:13). The whole sphere of Christian profession is before the Writer; hence exhortations necessary to warn and alarm a mere professor.
Hebrews is in six divisions, but these include five parenthetic passages of exhortation.
1. The great salvation (Hebrews 1:1 - 2:18 (Hebrews 2:1-4, parenthetic)).
2. The rest of God (Hebrews 3:1 - 4:16 (all parenthetic)).
3. Our great High Priest (Hebrews 5:1 - 8:6 (Hebrews 5:11 - 6:12, parenthetic)).
4. The new covenant and the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:7 - 10:39 (Hebrews 10:26-39, parenthetic).
5. The superiority of the faith way (Hebrews 11:1-40).
6. The worship and walk of the believer-priest (Hebrews 12:1 - 13:25 (Hebrews 12:3-17, parenthetic). — Scofield
Canonicity and Authorship. — Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century (a.d.), copiously uses it, adopting its words just as he does those of the other books of the New Testament; not indeed giving to either the term “Scripture,” which he reserves for the Old Testament (the canon of the New Testament not yet having been formally established), but certainly not ranking it below the other New Testament acknowledged Epistles. As our Epistle claims authority on the part of the writer, Clement’s adoption of extracts from it is virtually sanctioning its authority, and this in the apostolic age. Justin Martyr quotes it as divinely authoritative, to establish the titles “apostle,” as well as “angel,” as applied to the Son of God. Clement of Alexandria refers it expressly to Paul, on the authority of Pantaenus, chief of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, in the middle of the second century, saying, that as Jesus is termed in it the “apostle” sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through humility, does not in it call himself apostle of the Hebrews, being apostle to the Gentiles. Clement also says that Paul, as the Hebrews were prejudiced against him, prudently omitted to put forward his name in the beginning; also, that it was originally written in Hebrew for the Hebrews, and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Greeks, whence the style is similar to that of Acts. He, however, quotes frequently the words of the existing Greek Epistle as Paul’s words. Origen similarly quotes it as Paul’s Epistle. However, in his Homilies, he regards the style as distinct from that of Paul, and as “more Grecian,” but the thoughts as the apostle’s; adding that the “ancients who have handed down the tradition of its Pauline authorship, must have had good reason for doing so, though God alone knows the certainty who was the actual writer” (that is, probably “transcriber” of the apostle’s thoughts). In the African Church, in the beginning of the third century, Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, is mentioned in Eusebius, as quoting from this Epistle, though without expressly referring it to Paul. About the same period, Caius, the presbyter, in the Church of Rome, mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, whereas, if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included, there would be fourteen. So the canon fragment of the end of the second century, or beginning of the third, published by Muratori, apparently omits mentioning it. And so the Latin Church did not recognize it as Paul’s till a considerable time after the beginning of the third century. Thus, also, Novatian of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, and Victorinus, also of the Latin Church. But in the fourth century, Hilary of Poitiers (a.d. 368), Lucifer of Cagliari (a.d. 371), Ambrose of Milan (a.d. 397) and other Latins, quote it as Paul’s; and the fifth Council of Carthage (a.d. 419) formally reckons it among his fourteen Epistles.
As to the similarity of its style to that of Luke’s writings, this is due to his having been so long the companion of Paul. Chrysostom, comparing Luke and Mark, says, “Each imitated his teacher: Luke imitated Paul flowing along with more than river fullness; but Mark imitated Peter, who studied brevity of style.” Besides, there is a greater predominance of Jewish feeling and familiarity with the peculiarities of the Jewish schools apparent in this Epistle than in Luke’s writings. There is no clear evidence for attributing the authorship to him, or to Apollos, whom Alford upholds as the author. The grounds alleged for the latter view are its supposed Alexandrian phraseology and modes of thought. But these are such as any Palestinian Jew might have used; and Paul, from his Hebraeo-Hellenistic education at Jerusalem and Tarsus, would be familiar with Philo’s modes of thought, which are not, as some think, necessarily all derived from his Alexandrian, but also from his Jewish, education. It would be unlikely that the Alexandrian Church should have so undoubtingly asserted the Pauline authorship, if Apollos, their own countryman, had really been the author. The eloquence of its style and rhetoric, a characteristic of Apollos’ at Corinth, whereas Paul there spoke in words unadorned by man’s wisdom, are doubtless designedly adapted to the minds of those whom Paul in this Epistle addresses. To the Greek Corinthians, who were in danger of idolizing human eloquence and wisdom, he writes in an unadorned style, in order to fix their attention more wholly on the Gospel itself. But the Hebrews were in no such danger. And his Hebraeo-Grecian education would enable him to write in a style attractive to the Hebrews at Alexandria, where Greek philosophy had been blended with Judaism. The Septuagint translation framed at Alexandria had formed a connecting link between the latter and the former; and it is remarkable that all the quotations from the Old Testament, excepting two (Heb. 10:30; Heb. 13:5), are taken from the Septuagint. The fact that the peculiarities of the Septuagint are interwoven into the argument proves that the Greek Epistle is an original, not a translation; had the original been Hebrew, the quotations would have been from the Hebrew Old Testament. The same conclusion follows from the plays on similarly sounding words in the Greek, and alliterations, and rhythmically constructed periods. Calvin observes, If the Epistle had been written in Hebrew, Heb. 9:15-17 would lose all its point, which consists in the play upon the double meaning of the Greek “diathece,” a “covenant,” or a “testament,” whereas the Hebrew “berith” means only “covenant.”
Internal evidence favors the Pauline authorship. Thus the topic so fully handled in this Epistle, that Christianity is superior to Judaism, inasmuch as the reality exceeds the type which gives place to it, is a favorite one with Paul (compare 2Co. 3:6-18; Gal. 3:23-25; Gal. 4:1-9, Gal. 4:21-31, wherein the allegorical mode of interpretation appears in its divinely sanctioned application - a mode pushed to an unwarrantable excess in the Alexandrian school). So the Divine Son appears in Heb. 1:3, etc., as in other Epistles of Paul (Phi. 2:6; Col. 1:15-20), as the Image, or manifestation of the Deity. His lowering of Himself for man’s sake similarly, compare Heb. 2:9, with 2Co. 8:9; Phi. 2:7, Phi. 2:8. Also His final exaltation, compare Heb. 2:8; Heb. 10:13; Heb. 12:2, with 1Co. 15:25, 1Co. 15:27. The word “Mediator” is peculiar to Paul alone, compare Heb. 8:6, with Gal. 3:19, Gal. 3:20. Christ’s death is represented as the sacrifice for sin prefigured by the Jewish sacrifices, compare Rom. 3:22-26; 1Co. 5:7, with Hebrews 7:1-10:39. The phrase, “God of Peace,” is peculiar to Paul, compare Heb. 13:20; Rom. 15:33; 1Th. 5:23. Also, compare Heb. 2:4, Margin, 1Co. 12:4. Justification, or “righteousness by faith.” appears in Heb. 11:7; Heb. 10:38, as in Rom. 1:17; Rom. 4:22; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:11; Phi. 3:9. The word of God is the “sword of the Spirit,” compare Heb. 4:12, with Eph. 6:17. Inexperienced Christians are children needing milk, that is, instruction in the elements, whereas riper Christians, as full-grown men, require strong meat, compare Heb. 5:12, Heb. 5:13; Heb. 6:1, with 1Co. 3:1, 1Co. 3:2; 1Co. 14:20; Gal. 4:9; Col. 3:14. Salvation is represented as a boldness of access to God by Christ, compare Heb. 10:19, with Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; Eph. 3:12. Afflictions are a fight, Heb. 10:32; compare Phi. 1:30; Col. 2:1. The Christian life is a race, Heb. 12:1; compare 1Co. 9:24; Phi. 3:12-14. The Jewish ritual is a service, Rom. 9:4; compare Heb. 9:1, Heb. 9:6. Compare “subject to bondage,” Heb. 2:15, with Gal. 5:1. Other characteristics of Paul’s style appear in this Epistle; namely, a propensity “to go off at a word” and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, and a disposition to repeat some favorite word. Frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by “and again,” compare Heb. 1:5; Heb. 2:12, Heb. 2:13, with Rom. 15:9-12. Also quotations in a peculiar application, compare Heb. 2:8, with 1Co. 15:27; Eph. 1:22. Also the same passage quoted in a form not agreeing with the Septuagint, and with the addition “saith the Lord,” not found in the Hebrew, in Heb. 10:30; Rom. 12:19.
The supposed Alexandrian (which are rather Philon-like) characteristics of the Epistle are probably due to the fact that the Hebrews were generally then imbued with the Alexandrian modes of thought of Philo, etc., and Paul, without coloring or altering Gospel truth “to the Jews, became (in style) as a Jew, that he might win the Jews” (1Co. 9:20). This will account for its being recognized as Paul’s Epistle in the Alexandrian and Jerusalem churches unanimously, to the Hebrews of whom probably it was addressed. Not one Greek father ascribes the Epistle to any but Paul, whereas in the Western and Latin churches, which it did not reach for some time, it was for long doubted, owing to its anonymous form, and generally less distinctively Pauline style. Their reason for not accepting it as Paul’s, or indeed as canonical, for the first three centuries, was negative, insufficient evidence for it, not positive evidence against it. The positive evidence is generally for its Pauline origin. In the Latin churches, owing to their distance from the churches to whom belonged the Hebrews addressed, there was no generally received tradition on the subject. The Epistle was in fact but little known at all, whence we find it is not mentioned at all in the Canon of Muratori. When at last, in the fourth century, the Latins found that it was received as Pauline and canonical on good grounds in the Greek churches, they universally acknowledged it as such.
The personal notices all favor its Pauline authorship, namely, his intention to visit those addressed, shortly, along with Timothy, styled “our brother,” Heb. 13:23; his being then in prison, Heb. 13:19; his formerly having been imprisoned in Palestine, according to English Version reading, Heb. 10:34; the salutations transmitted to them from believers of Italy, Heb. 13:24. A reason for not prefixing the name may be the rhetorical character of the Epistle which led the author to waive the usual form of epistolary address.
Design. — His aim is to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, in that it was introduced by one far higher than the angels or Moses, through whom the Jews received the law, and in that its priesthood and sacrifices are far less perfecting as to salvation than those of Christ; that He is the substance of which the former are but the shadow, and that the type necessarily gives place to the antitype; and that now we no longer are kept at a comparative distance as under the law, but have freedom of access through the opened veil, that is, Christ’s flesh; hence he warns them of the danger of apostasy, to which Jewish converts were tempted, when they saw Christians persecuted, while Judaism was tolerated by the Roman authorities. He infers the obligations to a life of faith, of which, even in the less perfect Old Testament dispensation, the Jewish history contained bright examples. He concludes in the usual Pauline mode, with practical exhortations and pious prayers for them.
His Mode of Address is in it hortatory rather than commanding, just as we might have expected from Paul addressing the Jews. He does not write to the rulers of the Jewish Christians, for in fact there was no exclusively Jewish Church; and his Epistle, though primarily addressed to the Palestinian Jews, was intended to include the Hebrews of all adjoining churches. He inculcates obedience and respect in relation to their rulers (Heb. 13:7, Heb. 13:17, Heb. 13:24); a tacit obviating of the objection that he was by writing this Epistle interfering with the prerogative of Peter the apostle of the circumcision, and James the bishop of Jerusalem. Hence arises his gentle and delicate mode of dealing with them (Heb. 13:22). So far from being surprised at discrepancy of style between an Epistle to Hebrews and Epistles to Gentile Christians, it is just what we should expect. The Holy Spirit guided him to choose means best suited to the nature of the ends aimed at. Wordsworth notices a peculiar Pauline Greek construction, Rom. 12:9, literally, “Let your love be without dissimulation, ye abhorring ... evil, cleaving to ... good,” which is found nowhere else save Heb. 13:5, literally, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, ye being content with,” etc. (a noun singular feminine nominative absolute, suddenly passing into a participle masculine nominative plural absolute). So in quoting Old Testament Scripture, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it as a Jew writing to Jews would, “God spoke to our fathers,” not, “it is written.” So Heb. 13:18, “We trust we have a good conscience” is an altogether Pauline sentiment (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; 2Co. 1:12; 2Co. 4:2; 2Ti. 1:3). Though he has not prefixed his name, he has given at the close his universal token to identify him, namely, his apostolic salutation, “Grace be with you all”; this “salutation with his own hand” he declared (2Th. 3:17, 2Th. 3:18) to be “his token in every Epistle”: so 1Co. 16:21, 1Co. 16:23; Col. 4:18. The same prayer of greeting closes every one of his Epistles, and is not found in any one of the Epistles of the other apostles written in Paul’s lifetime; but it is found in the last book of the New Testament Revelation, and subsequently in the Epistle of Clement of Rome. This proves that, by whomsoever the body of the Epistle was committed to writing (whether a mere amanuensis writing by dictation, or a companion of Paul by the Spirit’s gift of interpreting tongues, 1Co. 12:10, transfusing Paul’s Spirit-taught sentiments into his own Spirit-guided diction), Paul at the close sets his seal to the whole as really his, and sanctioned by him as such. The churches of the East, and Jerusalem, their center, to which quarter it was first sent, received it as Paul’s from the earliest times according to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (a.d. 349). Jerome, though bringing with him from Rome the prejudices of the Latins against the Epistle to the Hebrews, aggravated, doubtless, by its seeming sanction of the Novatian heresy (Heb. 6:4-6), was constrained by the force of facts to receive it as Paul’s, on the almost unanimous testimony of all Greek Christians from the earliest times; and was probably the main instrument in correcting the past error of Rome in rejecting it. The testimony of the Alexandrian Church is peculiarly valuable, for it was founded by Mark, who was with Paul at Rome in his first confinement, when this Epistle seems to have been written (Col. 4:10), and who possibly was the bearer of this Epistle, at the same time visiting Colosse on the way to Jerusalem (where Mark’s mother lived), and thence to Alexandria. Moreover, 2Pe. 3:15, 2Pe. 3:16, written shortly before Peter’s death, and like his first Epistle written by him, “the apostle of the circumcision,” to the “Hebrew” Christians dispersed in the East, says, “As our beloved brother Paul hath written unto you” (2Pe. 3:15), that is, to the Hebrews; also the words added, “As also in all his Epistles” (2Pe. 3:16), distinguish the Epistle to the Hebrews from the rest; then he further speaks of it as on a level with “other Scriptures,” thus asserting at once its Pauline authorship and divine inspiration. An interesting illustration of the power of Christian faith and love; Peter, who had been openly rebuked by Paul (Gal. 2:7-14), fully adopted what Paul wrote; there was no difference in the Gospel of the apostle of the circumcision and that of the apostle of the uncircumcision. It strikingly shows God’s sovereignty that He chose as the instrument to confirm the Hebrews, Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13); and on the other hand, Peter to open the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1, etc.), though being the apostle of the Jews; thus perfect unity reigns amidst the diversity of agencies.
Rome, in the person of Clement of Rome, originally received this Epistle. Then followed a period in which it ceased to be received by the Roman churches. Then, in the fourth century, Rome retracted her error. A plain proof she is not unchangeable or infallible. As far as Rome is concerned, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not only lost for three centuries, but never would have been recovered at all but for the Eastern churches; it is therefore a happy thing for Christendom that Rome is not the Catholic Church.
It plainly was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been mentioned in the Epistle had that event gone before, compare Heb. 13:10; and probably to churches in which the Jewish members were the more numerous, as those in Judea, and perhaps Alexandria. In the latter city were the greatest number of resident Jews next to Jerusalem. In Leontopolis, in Egypt, was another temple, with the arrangements of which, Wieseler thinks the notices in this Epistle more nearly corresponded than with those in Jerusalem. It was from Alexandria that the Epistle appears first to have come to the knowledge of Christendom. Moreover, “the Epistle to the Alexandrians,” mentioned in the Canon of Muratori, may possibly be this Epistle to the Hebrews. He addresses the Jews as peculiarly “the people of God” (Heb. 2:17; Heb. 4:9; Heb. 13:12), “the seed of Abraham,” that is, as the primary stock on which Gentile believers are grafted, to which Rom. 11:16-24 corresponds; but he urges them to come out of the carnal earthly Jerusalem and to realize their spiritual union to “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:18-23; Heb. 13:13).
The use of Greek rather than Hebrew is doubtless due to the Epistle being intended, not merely for the Hebrew, but for the Hellenistic Jew converts, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere; a view confirmed by the use of the Septuagint. Bengel thinks, probably (compare 2Pe. 3:15, 2Pe. 3:16, explained above), the Jews primarily, though not exclusively, addressed, were those who had left Jerusalem on account of the war and were settled in Asia Minor.
The notion of its having been originally in Hebrew arose probably from its Hebrew tone, method, and topics. It is reckoned among the Epistles, not at first generally acknowledged, along with James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation. A beautiful link exists between these Epistles and the universally acknowledged Epistles. Hebrews unites the ordinances of Leviticus with their antitypical Gospel fulfillment. James is the link between the highest doctrines of Christianity and the universal law of moral duty - a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount - harmonizing the decalogue law of Moses, and the revelation to Job and Elias, with the Christian law of liberty. Second Peter links the teaching of Peter with that of Paul. Jude links the earliest unwritten to the latest written Revelation. The two shorter Epistles to John, like Philemon, apply Christianity to the minute details of the Christian life, showing that Christianity can sanctify all earthly relations. — JFB
This and Romans, are the two major doctrinal works on soteriology. My own fallible opinion as to the writer of this epistle is that it is “a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures..." (Acts 18:24) This letter is the most “eloquent” of all the epistles, and exhibits a steady systematic exhortation without the personal touch and passion that often comes out in Paul's writing. TOC
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Matt 15:15; 21:38; Gen 1:3; Ps 33:6; John 1:3; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16; 3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Is. 6:1-10; Jn. 12:39-45; 2Cor 4:4; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb. 12:2; 1Pt. 3:18,22;
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Phil 2:9; 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? Ps 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb 5:5; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chr 22:10; 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. Ps 97:7; 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. Jdg. 13:20; Ps 104:4; 8 But unto the Son [he saith], Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom. Ps 45:6; 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, [even] thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: Ps 102:25; 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; Isa 51:6; 2Pet 3:7; 2Pet 3:10; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Ps 110:1; Acts 2:34; 1Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20; Heb 10:12; 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Ps 103:20,21; TOC
Hebrews 1 - Analysis Of The Chapter
The main object of the Epistle is to commend the Christian religion to those who were addressed in it in such a way as to prevent defection from it. This is done, principally, by showing its superiority to the Mosaic system. The great danger of Christians in Palestine was of relapsing into the Jewish system. The imposing nature or its rites; the public sentiment in its favor; the fact of its antiquity, and its undisputed divine origin, would all tend to that. To counteract this, the writer of this Epistle shows that the gospel bad higher claims on their attention, and that if that was rejected ruin was inevitable. In doing this, he begins, in this chapter, by showing the superiority of the Author of Christianity to prophets and to the angels; that is, that he had a rank that entitled him to the profoundest regard. The drift of this chapter, therefore, is to show the dignity and exalted nature of the Author of the Christian system - the Son of God. The chapter comprises the following points:
I. The announcement of the fact that God, who had formerly spoken by the prophets, had in this last dispensation spoken by his Son; Heb. 1:1-2.
II. The statement respecting his rank and dignity. He was:
(1) the Heir of all things;
(2) the Creator of the worlds;
(3) the Brightness of the divine glory and the proper expression of his nature;
(4) he upheld all things; Heb. 1:2-3.
III. The work and exaltation of the Author of the Christian system:
(1) He, by his own unassisted agency, purified us from our sins.
(2) he is seated at the right hand of God.
(3) he has a more exalted and valuable inheritance than the angels, in proportion as his name is more exalted than theirs; Heb. 1:3-4.
IV. Proofs that what is here ascribed to him belongs to him, particularly that he is declared to be superior to the angels; Heb. 1:5-14.
(1) the angels have never been addressed with the title of Son: Heb. 1:5.
(2) he is declared to be the object of worship by the angels, while they are employed merely as the messengers of God; Heb. 1:6-7.
(3) he is addressed as God, and his throne is said to be forever and ever; Heb. 1:8-9.
(4) he is addressed as immutable. He is declared to have laid the foundations of heaven and earth; and though they would perish, yet he would remain the same; Heb. 1:10-12.
(5) none of the angels had been addressed in this manner, but they were employed in the subordinate work of ministering to the heirs of salvation; Heb. 1:13-14.
From this train of reasoning, the inference is drawn in Heb. 2:1-4, that we ought to give diligent heed to what had been spoken. The Great Author of the Christian scheme had special claims to be heard, and there was special danger in disregarding his message. The object of this chapter is to impress those to whom the Epistle was addressed with the high claims of the Founder of Christianity, and to show that it was superior in this respect to any other system. — Barnes
Hebrews 1 - In this chapter we have a twofold comparison stated: I. Between the evangelical and legal dispensation; and the excellency of the gospel above that of the law is asserted and proved (Heb. 1:1-3). II. Between the glory of Christ and that of the highest creatures, the angels; where the pre-eminence is justly given to the Lord Jesus Christ, and clearly demonstrated to belong to him (Heb. 1:4 to the end). — Henry
God spake to his ancient people at sundry times, through successive generations, and in divers manners, as he thought proper; sometimes by personal directions, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by Divine influences on the minds of the prophets. The gospel revelation is excellent above the former; in that it is a revelation which God has made by his Son. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Father, Jn. 14:7; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, or in a figure, but really, in him. When, on the fall of man, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, sustained it by his almighty power and goodness. From the glory of the person and office of Christ, we proceed to the glory of his grace. The glory of His person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a full satisfaction to the honour of God, who suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men. We never can be thankful enough that God has in so many ways, and with such increasing clearness, spoken to us fallen sinners concerning salvation. That he should by himself cleanse us from our sins is a wonder of love beyond our utmost powers of admiration, gratitude, and praise.
Many Jews had a superstitious or idolatrous respect for angels, because they had received the law and other tidings of the Divine will by their ministry. They looked upon them as mediators between God and men, and some went so far as to pay them a kind of religious homage or worship. Thus it was necessary that the apostle should insist, not only on Christ's being the Creator of all things, and therefore of angels themselves, but as being the risen and exalted Messiah in human nature, to whom angels, authorities, and powers are made subject. To prove this, several passages are brought from the Old Testament. On comparing what God there says of the angels, with what he says to Christ, the inferiority of the angels to Christ plainly appears. Here is the office of the angels; they are God's ministers or servants, to do his pleasure. But, how much greater things are said of Christ by the Father! And let us own and honour him as God; for if he had not been God, he had never done the Mediator's work, and had never worn the Mediator's crown. It is declared how Christ was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was confirmed in it: he has the name Messiah from his being anointed. Only as Man he has his fellows, and as anointed with the Holy Spirit; but he is above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were employed in the service of God on earth. Another passage of Scripture, Psa. 102:25-27, is recited, in which the Almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared, both in creating the world and in changing it. Christ will fold up this world as a garment, not to be abused any longer, not to be used as it has been. As a sovereign, when his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when he has laid aside the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be still the same. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Let the thoughts of this make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world. The Saviour has done much to make all men his friends, yet he has enemies. But they shall be made his footstool, by humble submission, or by utter destruction. Christ shall go on conquering and to conquer. The most exalted angels are but ministering spirits, mere servants of Christ, to execute his commands. The saints, at present, are heirs, not yet come into possession. The angels minister to them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, instructing and comforting their souls, under Christ and the Holy Ghost. Angels shall gather all the saints together at the last day, when all whose hearts and hopes are set upon perishing treasures and fading glories, will be driven from Christ's presence into everlasting misery. — MHCC
Here the apostle begins with a general declaration of the excellency of the gospel dispensation above that of the law, which he demonstrates from the different way and manner of God's communicating himself and his mind and will to men in the one and in the other: both these dispensations were of God, and both of them very good, but there is a great difference in the way of their coming from God. Observe,
I. The way wherein God communicated himself and his will to men under the Old Testament. We have here an account, 1. Of the persons by whom God delivered his mind under the Old Testament; they were the prophets, that is, persons chosen of God, and qualified by him, for that office of revealing the will of God to men. No man takes this honour to himself, unless called; and whoever are called of God are qualified by him. 2. The persons to whom God spoke by the prophets: To the fathers, to all the Old Testament saints who were under that dispensation. God favoured and honoured them with much clearer light than that of nature, under which the rest of the world were left. 3. The order in which God spoke to men in those times that went before the gospel, those past times: he spoke to his ancient people at sundry times and in divers manners. (1.) At sundry times, or by several parts, as the word signifies, which may refer either to the several ages of the Old Testament dispensation - the patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the prophetic; or to the several gradual openings of his mind concerning the Redeemer: to Adam, that the Messiah should come of the seed of the woman, - to Abraham, that he should spring from his loins, - to Jacob, that he should be of the tribe of Judah, - to David, that he should be of his house, - to Micah, that he should be born at Bethlehem, - to Isaiah, that he should be born of a virgin. (2.) In divers manners, according to the different ways in which God though fit to communicate his mind to his prophets; sometimes by the illapses of his Spirit, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by an audible voice, sometimes by legible characters under his own hand, as when he wrote the ten commandments on tables of stone. Of some of these different ways God himself gave an account in Num. 12:6-8, If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses: with him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches.
II. God's method of communicating his mind and will under the New Testament dispensation, these last days as they are called, that is, either towards the end of the world, or the end of the Jewish state. The times of the gospel are the last times, the gospel revelation is the last we are to expect from God. There was first the natural revelation; then the patriarchal, by dreams, visions, and voices; then the Mosaic, in the law given forth and written down; then the prophetic, in explaining the law, and giving clearer discoveries of Christ: but now we must expect no new revelation, but only more of the Spirit of Christ to help us better to understand what is already revealed. Now the excellency of the gospel revelation above the former consists in two things: -
1. It is the final, the finishing revelation, given forth in the last days of divine revelation, to which nothing is to be added, but the canon of scripture is to be settled and sealed: so that now the minds of men are no longer kept in suspense by the expectation of new discoveries, but they rejoice in a complete revelation of the will of God, both preceptive and providential, so far as is necessary for them to know in order to their direction and comfort. For the gospel includes a discovery of the great events that shall befall the church of God to the end of the world.
2. It is a revelation which God has made by his Son, the most excellent messenger that was ever sent into the world, far superior to all the ancient patriarchs and prophets, by whom God communicated his will to his people in former times. And here we have an excellent account of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1.) The glory of his office, and that in three respects: - [1.] God hath appointed him to be heir of all things. As God, he was equal to the Father; but, as God - man and Mediator, he was appointed by the Father to be the heir of all things, the sovereign Lord of all, the absolute disposer, director, and governor of all persons and of all things, Psa. 2:6, Psa. 2:7. All power in heaven and earth is given to him; all judgment is committed to him, Mat. 28:18; Jn. 5:22. [2.] By him God made the worlds, both visible and invisible, the heavens and the earth; not as an instrumental cause, but as his essential word and wisdom. By him he made the old creation, by him he makes the new creature, and by him he rules and governs both. [3.] He upholds all things by the word of his power: he keeps the world from dissolving. By him all things consist. The weight of the whole creation is laid upon Christ: he supports the whole and all the parts. When, upon the apostasy, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, bound it up again, and established it by his almighty power and goodness. None of the ancient prophets sustained such an office as this, none was sufficient for it.
(2.) Hence the apostle passes to the glory of the person of Christ, who was able to execute such an office: He was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. This is a high and lofty description of the glorious Redeemer, this is an account of his personal excellency. [1.] He is, in person, the Son of God, the only-begotten Son of God, and as such he must have the same nature. This personal distinction always supposes one and the same nature. Every son of man is man; were not the nature the same, the generation would be monstrous. [2.] The person of the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendour. As the beams are effulgent emanations of the sun, the father and fountain of light, Jesus Christ in his person is God manifest in the flesh, he is light of light, the true Shechinah. [3.] The person of the Son is the true image and character of the person of the Father; being of the same nature, he must bear the same image and likeness. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Father; for he hath the nature and perfections of God in him. He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father; that is, he hath seen the same Being. He that hath known the Son hath known the Father, Jn. 14:7-9. For the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; the personal distinction is no other than will consist with essential union. This is the glory of the person of Christ; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, but really, in him.
(3.) From the glory of the person of Christ he proceeds to mention the glory of his grace; his condescension itself was truly glorious. The sufferings of Christ had this great honour in them, to be a full satisfaction for the sins of his people: By himself he purged away our sins, that is, by the proper innate merit of his death and bloodshed, by their infinite intrinsic value; as they were the sufferings of himself, he has made atonement for sin. Himself, the glory of his person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a sufficient reparation of honour to God, who had suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men.
(4.) From the glory of his sufferings we are at length led to consider the glory of his exaltation: When by himself he had purged away our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, at his Father's right hand. As Mediator and Redeemer, he is invested with the highest honour, authority, and activity, for the good of his people; the Father now does all things by him, and receives all the services of his people from him. Having assumed our nature, and suffered in it on earth, he has taken it up with him to heaven, and there it has the high honour to be next to God, and this was the reward of his humiliation.
Now it was by no less a person than this that God in these last days spoke to men; and, since the dignity of the messenger gives authority and excellency to the message, the dispensations of the gospel must therefore exceed, very far exceed, the dispensation of the law.
The apostle, having proved the pre-eminence of the gospel above the law from the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ above the prophets, now proceeds to show that he is much superior not only to the prophets, but to the angels themselves. In this he obviates an objection that the Jewish zealots would be ready to make, that the law was not only delivered by men, but ordained by angels (Gal. 3:19), who attended at the giving forth of the law, the hosts of heaven being drawn forth to attend the Lord Jehovah on that awful occasion. Now the angels are very glorious beings, far more glorious and excellent than men; the scripture always represents them as the most excellent of all creatures, and we know of no being but God himself that is higher than the angels; and therefore that law that was ordained by angels ought to be held in great esteem. To take off the force of this argument, the penman of this epistle proceeds to state the comparison between Jesus Christ and the holy angels, both in nature and office, and to prove that Christ is vastly superior to the angels themselves: Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Here observe,
I. The superior nature of Christ is proved from his superior name. The scripture does not give high and glorious titles without a real foundation and reason in nature; nor would such great things have been said of our Lord Jesus Christ if he had not been as great and excellent as those words import. When it is said that Christ was made so much better than the angels, we are not to imagine that he was a mere creature, as the angels are; the word genomenos, when joined with an adjective, is nowhere to be rendered created, and here may very well be read, being more excellent, as the Syriac version hath it. We read ginesthē ho Theos alēthēs - let God be true, not made so, but acknowledged to be so.
II. The superiority of the name and nature of Christ above the angels is declared in the holy scriptures, and to be deduced thence. We should have known little or nothing either of Christ or of the angels, without the scriptures; and we must therefore be determined by them in our conceptions of the one and the other. Now here are several passages of scripture cited, in which those things are said of Christ that were never said of the angels.
1. It was said of Christ, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Psa. 2:7), which may refer to his eternal generation, or to his resurrection, or to his solemn inauguration into his glorious kingdom at his ascension and session at the right hand of the Father. Now this was never said concerning the angels, and therefore by inheritance he has a more excellent nature and name than they.
2. It was said concerning Christ, but never concerning the angels, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son; taken from 2Sa. 7:14. Not only, “I am his Father, and he is my Son, by nature and eternal promanation;” but, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, by wonderful conception, and this his son-ship shall be the fountain and foundation of every gracious relation between me and fallen man.”
3. It is said of Christ, When God bringeth his First-begotten into the world, let all the angels of God worship him; that is, when he is brought into this lower world, at his nativity, let the angels attend and honour him; or when he is brought into the world above, at his ascension, to enter upon his mediatorial kingdom, or when he shall bring him again into the world, to judge the world, then let the highest creatures worship him. God will not suffer an angel to continue in heaven who will not be in subjection to Christ, and pay adoration to him; and he will at last make the fallen angels and wicked men to confess his divine power and authority and to fall before him. Those who would not have him to reign must then be brought forth and slain before him. The proof of this is taken out of Psa. 97:7, Worship him, all you gods, that is, “All you that are superior to men, own yourselves to be inferior to Christ in nature and power.”
4. God has said concerning Christ, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, etc., Heb. 1:8-12. But of the angels he has only said that he hath made them spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire, Heb. 1:7. Now, upon comparing what he here says of the angels with what he says to Christ, the vast inferiority of the angels to Christ will plainly appear.
(1.) What does God say here of the angels? He maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. This we have in Psa. 104:4, where it seems to be more immediately spoken of the winds and lightning, but is here applied to the angels, whose agency the divine Providences makes use of in the winds, and in thunder and lightnings. Observe, [1.] The office of the angels: they are God's ministers, or servants, to do his pleasure. It is the glory of God that he has such servants; it is yet more so that he does not need them. [2.] How the angels are qualified for this service; he makes them spirits and a flame of fire, that is, he endows them with light and zeal, with activity and ability, readiness and resolution to do his pleasure: they are no more than what God has made them to be, and they are servants to the Son as well as to the Father. But observe,
(2.) How much greater things are said of Christ by the Father. Here two passages of scripture are quoted.
[1.] One of these is out of Psa. 45:6, Psa. 45:7, where God declares of Christ, First, His true and real divinity, and that with much pleasure and affection, not grudging him that glory: Thy throne, O God. Here one person calls another person God, O God. And, if God the Father declares him to be so, he must be really and truly so; for God calls persons and things as they are. And now let who will deny him to be essentially God at their peril, but let us own and honour him as God; for, if he had not been God, he had never been fit to have done the Mediator's work nor to have worn the Mediator's crown. Secondly, God declares his dignity and dominion, as having a throne, a kingdom, and a sceptre of that kingdom. He has all right, rule, authority, and power, both as the God of nature, grace, and glory, and as Mediator; and so he is fully adequate to all the intents and purposes of his mediatorial kingdom. Thirdly, God declares the eternal duration of the dominion and dignity of Christ, founded upon the divinity of his person: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, from everlasting to everlasting, through all the ages of time, maugre all the attempts of earth and hell to undermine and overthrow it, and through all the endless ages of eternity, when time shall be no more. This distinguishes Christ's throne from all earthly thrones, which are tottering, and will at length tumble down; but the throne of Christ shall be as the days of heaven. Fourthly, God declares of Christ the perfect equity of his administration, and of the execution of his power, through all the parts of his government: A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom, Heb. 1:8. He came righteously to the sceptre, and he uses it in perfect righteousness; the righteousness of his government proceeds from the righteousness of his person, from an essential eternal love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity, not merely from considerations of prudence or interest, but from an inward and immovable principle: Thou lovest righteousness and hatest iniquity, Heb. 1:9. Christ came to fulfil all righteousness, to bring in an everlasting righteousness; and he was righteous in all his ways and holy in all his works. He has recommended righteousness to men, and restored it among them, as a most excellent and amiable thing. He came to finish transgression, and to make an end of sin as a hateful as well as hurtful thing. Fifthly, God declares of Christ how he was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was installed and confirmed in it (Heb. 1:9): Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 1. Christ has the name Messiah from his being anointed. God's anointing of Christ signifies both his qualifying him for the office of the Mediator with the Holy Spirit and all his graces, and likewise his inauguration of him into the office, as prophets, priests, and kings, were by anointing. God, even thy God, imports the confirmation of Christ in the office of Mediator by the covenant of redemption and peace, that was between the Father and the Son. God is the God of Christ, as Christ is man and Mediator. 2. This anointing of Christ was with the oil of gladness, which signifies both the gladness and cheerfulness with which Christ undertook and went through the office of Mediator (finding himself so absolutely sufficient for it), and also that joy which was set before him as the reward of his service and sufferings, that crown of glory and gladness which he should wear for ever after the suffering of death. 3. This anointing of Christ was above the anointing of his fellows: God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Who are Christ's fellows? Has he any equals? Not as God, except the Father and Spirit, but these are not here meant. As man, however, he has his fellows, and as an anointed person; but his unction is beyond all theirs. (1.) Above the angels, who may be said to be his fellows, as they are the sons of God by creation, and God's messengers, whom he employs in his service. (2.) Above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were anointed with oil, to be employed in the service of God on earth. (3.) Above all the saints, who are his brethren, children of the same father, as he was a partaker with them of flesh and blood. (4.) Above all those who were related to him as man, above all the house of David, all the tribe of Judah, all his brethren and kinsmen in the flesh. All God's other anointed ones had only the Spirit in a certain measure; Christ had the Spirit above measure, without any limitation. None therefore goes through his work as Christ did, none takes so much pleasure in it as Christ does; for he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.
[2.] The other passage of scripture in which is the superior excellence of Christ to the angels is taken out of Psa. 102:25-27, and is recited in Heb. 1:10-12, where the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared as it appears both in creating the world and in changing it.
First, In creating the world (Heb. 1:10): And thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. The Lord Christ had the original right to govern the world, because he made the world in the beginning. His right, as Mediator, was by commission from the Father. His right, as God with the Father, was absolute, resulting from his creating power. This power he had before the beginning of the world, and he exerted it in giving a beginning and being to the world. He must therefore be no part of the world himself, for then he must give himself a beginning. He was pro pantōn - before all things, and by him all things consist, Col. 1:17. He was not only above all things in condition, but before all things in existence; and therefore must be God, and self-existent. He laid the foundations of the earth, did not only introduce new forms into pre-existent matter, but made out of nothing the foundations of the earth, the primordia rerum - the first principles of things; he not only founded the earth, but the heavens too are the work of his hands, both the habitation and the inhabitants, the hosts of heaven, the angels themselves; and therefore he must needs be infinitely superior to them.
Secondly, In changing the world that he has made; and here the mutability of this world is brought in to illustrate the immutability of Christ. Observe, 1. This world is mutable, all created nature is so; this world has passed through many changes, and shall pass through more; all these changes are by the permission and under the direction of Christ, who made the world (Heb. 1:11, Heb. 1:12): They shall perish, they shall all wax old as doth a garment; as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. This our visible world (both the earth and visible heavens) is growing old. Not only men and beasts and trees grow old, but this world itself grows old, and is hastening to its dissolution; it changes like a garment, has lost much of its beauty and strength; it grew old betimes on the first apostasy, and it has been waxing older and growing weaker ever since; it bears the symptoms of a dying world. But then its dissolution will not be its utter destruction, but its change. Christ will fold up this world as a garment not to be abused any longer, not to be any longer so used as it has been. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Let the consideration of this wean us from the present world, and make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world, and let us wait on Christ to change us into a meetness for that new world that is approaching; we cannot enter into it till we be new creatures. 2. Christ is immutable. Thus the Father testifies of him, Thou remainest, thy years shall not fail. Christ is the same in himself, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever, and the same to his people in all the changes of time. This may well support all who have an interest in Christ under all the changes they meet with in the world, and under all they feel in themselves. Christ is immutable and immortal: his years shall not fail. This may comfort us under all decays of nature that we may observe in ourselves or in our friends, though our flesh and heart fail and our days are hastening to an end. Christ lives to take care of us while we live, and of ours when we are gone, and this should quicken us all to make our interest in him clear and sure, that our spiritual and eternal life may be hid with Christ in God.
III. The superiority of Christ to the angels appears in this that God never said to the angels what he has said to Christ, Heb. 1:13, Heb. 1:14.
1. What has God said to Christ? He has said, “Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thy enemies thy footstool, Psa. 110:1. Receive thou glory, dominion, and rest; and remain in the administration of thy mediatorial kingdom until all thy enemies shall either be made thy friends by conversion or thy footstool.” Note, (1.) Christ Jesus has his enemies (would one think it?), enemies even among men - enemies to his sovereignty, to his cause, to his people; such as will not have him to reign over them. Let us not think it strange then if we have our enemies. Christ never did any thing to make men his enemies; he has done a great deal to make them all his friends and his Father's friends, and yet he has his enemies. (2.) All the enemies of Christ shall be made his footstool, either by humble submission and entire subjection to his will casting themselves down at his feet, or by utter destruction; he shall trample upon those who continue obstinate, and shall trample over them. (3.) God the Father has undertaken for this, and he will see it done, yea, he will himself do it; and, though it be not done presently, it shall certainly be done, and Christ waits for it,; and so must Christians wait till God has wrought all their works in them, for them, and by them. (4.) Christ shall go on to rule and reign till this be done; he shall not leave any of his great designs unfinished, he shall go on conquering and to conquer. And it becomes his people to go on in their duty, being what he would have them to be, doing what he would have them to do, avoiding what he would have them to avoid, bearing what he would have them to bear, till he make them conquerors and more than conquerors over all their spiritual enemies.
2. What has God said to the angels? He never said to them, as he said to Christ, Sit you at my right hand; but he has said of them here that they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. Note, (1.) What the angels are as to their nature: they are spirits, without bodies or inclination to bodies, and yet they can assume bodies, and appear in them, when God pleases. They are spirits, incorporeal, intelligent, active, substances; they excel in wisdom and strength. (2.) What the angels are as to their office: they are ministering spirits. Christ, as Mediator, is the great minister of God in the great work of redemption. The Holy Spirit is the great minister of God and Christ in the application of this redemption. Angels are ministering spirits under the blessed Trinity, to execute the divine will and pleasure; they are the ministers of divine Providence. (3.) The angels are sent forth for this end - to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation. Here observe, [1.] The description given of the saints - they are heirs of salvation; at present they are under age, heirs, not inheritors. They are heirs because they are children of God; if children, then heirs. Let us make sure that we are children by adoption and regeneration, having made a covenant-resignation of ourselves to God, and walking before him in a gospel-conversation, and then we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. [2.] The dignity and privilege of the saints - the angels are sent forth to minister for them. Thus they have done in attending and acting at the giving forth of the law, in fighting the battles of the saints, in destroying their enemies. They still minister for them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, pitching their tents about theirs, instructing, quickening, and comforting their souls under Christ and the Holy Ghost; and thus they shall do in gathering all the saints together at the last day. Bless God for the ministration of angels, keep in God's way, and take the comfort of this promise, that he will give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your feet against a stone, Psa. 91:11, Psa. 91:12. — Henry