Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 44: Hebrews, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
1. Quamobrem opertet nos magis attendere iis quae audimus, ne quando diffluamus.
2. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;
2. Si enim quo per angelos enunciatus erat, sermo, firmus fuit, et omnis transgressio et inobedientia justam acceptit repensionem mercedis;
3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
3. Quomodo nos effugiemus tanta neglecta salute? quae quum initio coepisset enarrari per Dominum, ab iis qui audierant, erga nos confirmata fuit;
4. God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
4. Simul attestante Deo signis et prodigiis, et virtutibus variis, et distributionibus Spiritus Sancti secundum ejus voluntatem.
1. Therefore we ought, etc. He now declares what he had before in view, by comparing Christ with angels, even to secure the highest authority to his doctrine. For if the Law given through angels could not have been received with contempt, and if its transgression was visited with severe punishment, what is to happen, he asks, to the despisers of that gospel, which has the Son of God as its author, and was confirmed by so many miracles? The import of the whole is this, that the higher the dignity of Christ is than that of angels, the more reverence is due to the Gospel than to the Law. Thus he commends the doctrine by mentioning its author.
But should it seem strange to any one, that as the doctrine both of the Law and of the Gospel is from God, one should be preferred to the other; inasmuch as by having the Law lowered the majesty of God would be degraded; the evident answer would be this, — that he ought indeed always to be heard with equal attention whenever he may speak, and yet that the fuller he reveals himself to us, it is but right that our reverence and attention to obedience should increase in proportion to the extent of his revelations; not that God is in himself less at one time than at another; but his greatness is not at all times equally made known to us.
Here also another question arises. Was not the Law also given by Christ? If so, the argument of the Apostle seems not to be well grounded. To this I reply, that in this comparison regard is had to a veiled revelation on one side, and to that which is manifest on the other. Now, as Christ in bringing the Law showed himself but obscurely or darkly, and as it were under coverings, it is nothing strange that the Law should be said to have been brought by angels without any mention being made of his name; for in that transaction he never appeared openly; but in the promulgation of the Gospel his glory was so conspicuous, that he may justly be deemed its author.
Lest at any time we should let them slip, or, “lest we should at any time flow abroad,” or, if you prefer, “let dip,” though in reality there is not much difference. The true sense is to be gathered from the contrast; for to give heed, or to attend and to let slip, are opposites; the first means to hold a thing, and the other to let off like a sieve, or a perforated vessel, whatever may be poured into it. I do not indeed approve of the opinion of those who take it in the sense of dying, according to what we find in 2Sa 15:14, “We all die and slide away like water.” On the contrary, we ought, as I have said, to regard the contrast between attention and flowing out; an attentive mind is like a vessel capable of holding water; but that which is roving and indolent is like a vessel with holes. 29
2. Steadfast, or “firm,” or sure, etc.; that is, it was the word of authority, for God required it to be believed; and that it was authoritative, was made more evident by its sanctions; for no one despised the law with impunity. Then firmness means authority; and what is added respecting punishment ought to be understood as explanatory; for it is evident the doctrine of which God shows himself to be the avenger, is by no means unprofitable or unimportant.
3. If we neglect so great a salvation, etc. Not only the rejection of the Gospel, but also its neglect, deserves the heaviest punishment, and that on account of the greatness of the grace which it offers; hence he says, so great a salvation. God would indeed leave his gifts valued by us according to their worth. Then the more precious they are, the baser is our ingratitude when we do not value them. In a word, in proportion to the greatness of Christ will be the severity of God’s vengeance on all the despisers of his Gospel. 30
And observe that the word salvation is transferred here metonymically to the doctrine of salvation; for as the Lord would not have men otherwise saved than by the Gospel, so when that is neglected the whole salvation of God is rejected; for it is God’s power unto salvation to those who believe. (Ro 1:16.) Hence he who seeks salvation in any other way, seeks to attain it by another power than that of God; which is an evidence of extreme madness. But this encomium is not only a commendation of the Gospel, but is also a wonderful support to our faith; for it is a testimony that the word is by no means unprofitable, but that a sure salvation is conveyed by it. 31
Which at first began, etc. Here he sets the Son of God, the first herald of the Gospel, in opposition to angels, and also anticipates what was necessary to remove a doubt which might have crept into the minds of many; for they had not been taught by the mouth of Christ himself, whom the greatest part had never seen. If then they regarded only the man by whose ministry they had been led to the faith, they might have made less of what they had learnt from him; hence the Apostle reminded them, that the doctrine which had been delivered them by others, yet proceeded from Christ; for he says that those who had faithfully declared what had been committed to them by Christ, had been his disciples. He therefore uses the word, was confirmed, as though he had said, that it was not a random report, without any author, or from witnesses of doubtful credit, but a report which was confirmed by men of weight and authority.
Moreover, this passage indicates that this epistle was not written by Paul; for he did not usually speak so humbly of himself, as to confess that he was one of the Apostles’ disciples, nor did he thus speak from ambition, but because wicked men under a pretense of this kind attempted to detract from the authority of his doctrine. It then appears evident that it was not Paul who wrote that he had the Gospel by hearing and not by revelation. 32
4. God also bearing them witness, etc. In addition to the fact, that the Apostles had what they preached from the Son of God, the Lord also proved his approbation of their preaching by miracles, as by a solemn subscription. Then they who do not reverently receive the Gospel recommended by such testimonies, disregard not only the word of God, but also his works.
He designates miracles, for the sake of amplifying their importance, by three names. They are called signs because they rouse men’s minds, that they may think of something higher that what appears; and wonders, because they present what is rare and unusual; and miracles, because the Lord shows in them a singular and an extraordinary evidence of his power. 33
As to the word, bearing witness, or attesting, it points out the right use of miracles, even that they serve to establish the Gospel. For almost all the miracles done in all ages were performed as we find for this end, that they might be the seals of Gods word. The more strange then is the superstition of the Papists, who employ their own fictitious miracles for the purpose of overthrowing the truth of God.
The conjunction συν, together with, has this meaning, that we are confirmed in the faith of the Gospel by the joint testimony of God and men; for God’s miracles were testimonies concurring with the voice of men.
He adds, by the gifts or distributions of the Holy Spirit, by which also the doctrine of the Gospel was adorned, of which they were the appendages. 34 For why did God distribute the gifts of his Spirit, except in part that they might be helps in promulgating it, and in part that their might move through admiration the minds of men to obey it? Hence Paul says, that tongues were a sign to unbelievers. The words, according to his will, remind us, that the miracles mentioned could not be ascribed to any except to God alone, and that they were not wrought undesignedly, but, for the distinct purpose of sealing the truth of the Gospel.
5. For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
5. Non enim angelis subjecit orbem futurum de quo loquimur:
6. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
6. Testatus est autem quidam alicubi, dicens, Quid est homo quod memor es ejus? aut filius hominis quod visitas eum?
7. Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
7. Minuisti eum paululum ab angelis; gloria et onore coronasti eum, et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum:
8. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
8. Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus ejus: subjiciendo certe illi omnia, nihil reliquit non subjectum: atqui nonc nondum videmus illi omnia subjecta:
9. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
9. Iesum autem qui paululum imminuatus fuit ab angelis intuimur propter passionem mortis gloria et honore coronatum; ut gratia Dei pro omnibus gustaret mortem.
5. For unto the angels, etc. He again proves by another argument that Christ ought to be obeyed; for the Father has conferred on him the sovereignty of the whole world, while the angels are wholly destitute of such an honor. It hence follows that none of the angels should stand in the way of his preeminence who alone possesses supremacy.
But first, the Psalm which he quotes must be examined, for it seems to be unfitly applied to Christ. David there mentions the benefits which God bestows on mankind; for after having contemplated God’s power as manifested in heaven and the stars, he comes to man, among whom the wonderful goodness of God appears in a peculiar manner. He does not, then, speak of any particular person, but of all mankind. To this I answer, that all this affords no reason why the words should not be applied to the person of Christ. I indeed allow that man was at first put in possession of the world, that he might rule over all the works of God; but by his own defection he deserved the loss of his dominion, for it was a just punishment for ingratitude as to one thus favored, that the Lord, whom he refused to acknowledge and faithfully to worship, should have deprived him of a right previously granted to him. As soon, then, as Adam alienated himself from God through sin, he was justly deprived of the good things which he had received; not that he was denied the use of them, but that he would have had no right to them after he had forsaken God. And in the very use of them God intended that there should be some tokens of this loss of right, such as these, — the wild beasts ferociously attack us, those who ought to be awed by our presence are dreaded by us, some never obey us, others can hardly be trained to submit, and they do us harm in various ways; the earth answers not our expectations in cultivating it; the sky, the air, the sea, and other things are often adverse to us. But were all creatures to continue in subjection, yet whatever the sons of Adam possessed would be deemed a robbery; for what can they call their own when they themselves are not God’s?
This foundation being laid, it is evident that God’s bounty belongs not to us until the right lost in Adam be restored by Christ. For this reason Paul teaches us that food is sanctified to us by faith, (1Ti 4:5;) and in another place he declares that to the unbelieving nothing is clean, for they have a polluted conscience. (Titus 1:16.)
We found at the beginning of this epistle that Christ has been appointed by the Father the heir of all things. Doubtless, as he ascribes the whole inheritance to one, he excludes all others as aliens, and justly too, for we are all become exiles from God’s kingdom. What food, then, God has destined for his own family, we leave no right to take. But Christ, by whom we are admitted into this family, at the same time admits us into a participation of this right, so that we may enjoy the whole world, together with the favor of God. Hence Paul teaches us that Abraham was by faith made an heir of the world, that is, because he was united to the body of Christ. (Ro 4:13) If men, then, are precluded from all God’s bounty until they receive a right to it through Christ, it follows that the dominion mentioned in the Psalm was lost to us in Adam, and that on this account it must again be restored as a donation. Now, the restoration begins with Christ as the head. There is, then, no doubt but that we are to look to him whenever the dominion of man over all creatures is spoken of.
To this the reference is made when the Apostle mentions the world to come, or the future world, for he understands by it the renovated world. To make the thing clearer, let us suppose two worlds, — the first the old, corrupted by Adam’s sin; the other, later in time, as renewed by Christ. The state of the first creation has become wholly decayed, and with man has fallen as far as man himself is concerned. Until, then, a new restitution be made by Christ, this Psalm will not be fulfilled. It hence now appears that here the world to come is not that which we hope for after the resurrection, but that which began at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom; but it will no doubt have its full accomplishment in our final redemption.
But why he suppressed the name of David does not appear to me. Doubtless he says one, or some one, not in contempt, but for honor’s sake, designating him as one of the prophets or a renowned writer.
7. Thou madest him, etc. A new difficulty now arises as to the explanation of the words. I have already shown that the passage is fitly applicable to the Son of God; but the Apostle seems now to turn the words from that meaning in which David understood them; for a little, βραχύ τι seems to refer to time, as it means a little while, and designates the abasement of Christ’s humiliation; and he confines the glory to the day of resurrection, while David extends it generally to the whole life of man.
To this I answer, that it was not the Apostle’s design to give an exact explanation of the words. For there is nothing improperly done, when verbal allusions are made to embellish a subject in hand, as Paul does in quoting a passage in Ro 10:6, from Moses, “Who shall ascend into heaven,” etc., he does not join the words “heaven and hell” for the purpose of explanation, but as ornaments. The meaning of David is this, — “O Lord, thou hast raised man to such a dignity, that it differs but little from divine or angelic honor; for he is set a ruler over the whole world.” This meaning the Apostle did not intend to overthrow, nor to turn to something else; but he only bids us to consider the abasement of Christ, which appeared for a short time, and then the glory with which he is perpetually crowned; and this he does more by alluding to expressions than by explaining what David understood. 35
To be mindful and to visit mean the same thing, except that the second is somewhat fuller, for it sets forth the presence of God by the effect.
8. For in that he put all in subjection under him; or, doubtless in subjecting all things to him, etc. One might think the argument to be this, — “To the man whom David speaks all things are subjected, but to mankind all things are not made subject; then he does not speak of any individual man.” But this reasoning cannot stand, for the minor proposition is true also of Christ; for all things are not as yet made subject to him, as Paul shows in 1Co 15:28. There is therefore another sentence; for after having laid down this truth, that Christ has universal dominion over all creatures, he adds, as an objection, “But all things do not as yet obey the authority of Christ.” To meet this objection he teaches us that yet now is seen completed in Christ what he immediately adds respecting glory and honor, as if he had said, “Though universal subjection does not as yet appear to us, let us be satisfied that he has passed through death, and has been exalted to the highest state of honor; for that which is as yet wanting, will in its time be completed.”
But first, this offends some, that the Apostle concludes with too much refinement, that there is nothing not made subject to Christ, as David includes all things generally; for the various kinds of things which he enumerates afterwards prove no such thing, such as beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, and birds of the air. To this I reply, that a general declaration ought not to be confined to these species, for David meant no other thing than to give some instances of his power over things the most conspicuous, or indeed to extend it to things even the lowest, that we may know that nothing is ours except through the bounty of God and our union with Christ. We may, therefore, explain the passage thus, — “Thou hast made subject to him all things, not only things needful for eternal blessedness, but also such inferior things as serve to supply the wants of the body.” However this may be, the inferior dominion over animals depends on the higher.
It is again asked, “Why does he say that we see not all things made subject to Christ?” The solution of this question you will find in that passage already quoted from Paul; and in the first chapter of this Epistle we said a few things on the subject. As Christ carries on war continually with various enemies, it is doubtless evident that he has no quiet possession of his kingdom. He is not, however, under the necessity of waging war; but it happens through his will that his enemies are not to be subdued till the last day, in order that we may be tried and proved by fresh exercises.
9. But we see Jesus, etc. As the meaning of the words, βραχύ τι “a little” is ambiguous, 36 he looks to the thing itself, as exhibited in the person of Christ, rather then to the exact meaning of the words, as I have already said; and he presents to our meditation the glory after the resurrection, which David extends to all the gifts by which man is adorned by God’s bounty; but in this embellishment, which leaves the literal sense entire, there is nothing unsuitable or improper.
For the suffering of death, etc. It is the same as though it was said that Christ, having passed through death, was exalted into the glory which he has obtained, according to what Paul teaches us in Php 2:8-10; not that Christ obtained anything for himself individually, as sophists say, who have devised the notion that he first earned eternal life for himself and then for us; for the way or means, so to speak, of obtaining glory, is only indicated here. Besides, Christ is crowned with glory for this end, that every knee should bow to him. (Php 2:10.) We may therefore reason from the final cause that all things are delivered into his hand.
That he by the grace of God, 37 etc. He refers to the cause and the fruit of Christ’s death, lest he should be thought to detract anything from his dignity. For when we hear that so much good has been obtained for us, there is no place left for contempt, for admiration of the divine goodness fills the whole mind. By saying for every man, he means not only that he might be ample to others, as Chrysostom says, who brings the example of a physician tasting first a bitter draught, that the patient might not refuse to drink it; but he means that Christ died for us, and that by taking upon him what was due to us, he redeemed us from the curse of death. And it is added, that this was done through the grace of God, for the cause of redemption was the infinite love of God towards us, through which it was that he spared not even his own Son. What Chrysostom says of tasting of death, as though he touched it with his lips, because Christ emerged from death a conqueror, I will not refute nor condemn, though I know not whether the Apostle meant to speak in a manner so refined. 38
10. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
10. Decebat enim eum propter quem omnia, et per quem omnia, quum multos filios in gloriam adduceret, ducem salutis eorum per passiones consecrare.
11. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
11. Nam qui sanctificat et qui sanctificantur, ex uno omnes; propter quam causam non erubescit fratres ipsos vocare;
12. Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
12. Dicens, Nuntiabo nomen tuum fratribus meis; in medio Ecclesiae canam te;
13. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
13. Et rursum, Ego ero fidens in ipso; et rursum, Ecce ego et pueri quos mihi dedit Deus.
10. For it became him, etc. His object is, to make Christ’s humiliation to appear glorious to the godly; for when he is said to have been clothed with our flesh, he seems to be classed with the common order of men; and the cross brought him lower than all men. We must therefore take heed, lest Christ should be less esteemed, because he willingly humbled himself for us; and this is what is here spoken of. For the Apostle shows that this very thing ought to be deemed honorable to the Son of God, that he was by these means consecrated the Captain of our salvation.
He first assumes it as granted, that we ought to be satisfied with God’s decree; for as all things are sustained by his power, so all things ought to serve to his glory. No betters cause, then, can be found out than the good pleasure of God. Such is the purport of the circumlocution which he employs, for whom, and by whom, are all things. He might by one word have named God; but his purpose was to remind us, that what is to be deemed best is that which he appoints, whose will and glory is the right end of all things. 39
It does not, however, appear as yet what he intends by saying, that it became Christ to be thus consecrated. But this depends on the ordinary way which God adopts in dealing with his own people; for his will is to exercise them with various trials, so that they may spend their whole life under the cross. It was hence necessary that Christ, as the firstbegotten, should by the cross be inaugurated into his supremacy, since that is the common lot and condition of all. This is the conforming of the head with the members, of which Paul speaks in Ro 8:29.
It is indeed a singular consolation, calculated to mitigate the bitterness of the cross, when the faithful hear, that by sorrows and tribulations they are sanctified for glory as Christ himself was; and hence they see a sufficient reason why they should lovingly kiss the cross rather than dread it. And when this is the case, then doubtless the reproach of the cross of Christ immediately disappears, and its glory shines forth; for who can despise what is sacred, nay, what God sanctifies? Who can deem that ignominious, by which we are prepared for glory? And yet both these things are said here of the death of Christ.
By whom are all things, etc. When creation is spoken of, it is ascribed to the Son as his own world, for by him were all things created; but here the Apostle means no other thing than that all creatures continue or are preserved by the power of God. What we have rendered consecrated, others have rendered made perfect. But as the word, τελειῶσαι which he uses, is of a doubtful meaning, I think it clear that the word I leave adopted is more suitable to the context. 40 For what is meant is the settled and regular way or method by which the sons of God are initiated, so that they may obtain their own honor, and be thus separated from the rest of the world; and then immediately sanctification is mentioned.
11. For both he that sanctifieth, etc. He proves that it was necessary that what he had said should be fulfilled in the person of Christ on account of his connection with his members; and he also teaches that it was a remarkable evidence of the divine goodness that he put on our flesh. hence he says, that they are all of one, that is, that the author of holiness and we are made partakers of it, are all of one nature, as I understated the expression. It is commonly understood of one Adam; and some refer it to God, and not without reasons; but I rather think that one nature is meant, and one I consider to be in the neuter gender, as though he had said, that they are made out of the same mass. 41
It avails not, indeed, a little to increase our confidence, that we are united to the Son of God by a bond so close, that we can find in our nature that holiness of which we are in want; for he not only as God sanctifies us, but there is also the power of sanctifying in his human nature, not that it has it from itself, but that God had poured upon it a perfect fullness of holiness, so that from it we may all draw. And to this point this sentence refers, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.” (Joh 17:19.) If, then we are sinful and unclean, we have not to go far to seek a remedy; for it is offered to us in our own flesh. If any one prefers to regard as intended here that spiritual unity which the godly have with the Son of God, and which differs much from that which men commonly have among themselves, I offer no objection, though I am disposed to follow what is more commonly received, as it is not inconsistent with reason.
He is not ashamed to call them brethren. This passage is taken from Ps 22:22. That Christ is the speaker there, or David in his name, the evangelists do especially testify, for they quote from it many verses, such as the following, — “They parted my garments,” — “They gave gall for my meat,” — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And further, the other parts of the chapter prove the same; for we may see in the history of the passion a delineation of what is there related. The end of the Psalm, which speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, can be applied to none but to Christ alone, “Turn to the Lord shall all the ends of the world; adore before him shall all the families of the nations,” — “The Lord’s is the kingdom, and he will reign over the nations.” These things are found accomplished only in Christ, who enlarged the kingdom of God not over a small space, as David did, but extended it over the whole world; it was before confined as it were within narrow limits. There is, then, no doubt but that his voice is what is referred to in this passage; and appropriately and suitably does he say that he is not ashamed; for how great is the distance between us and him? Much, then, does he let down himself, when he dignifies us with the name of brethren; for we are unworthy that he should deem us his servants. And this so great an honor conferred on us is amplified by this circumstance — Christ does not speak here as a mortal man while in the form of a servant, but when elevated after the resurrection into immortal glory. Hence this title is the same, as though he had raised us into heaven with himself. And let us remember, whenever we hear that we are called brethren by Christ, that he has clothed us, so to speak, with this honor, that together with this fraternal name we may lay hold on eternal life and every celestial blessing. 42
We must further notice the office which Christ assumes, which is that of proclaiming the name of God; and this began to be done when the gospel was first promulgated and is now done daily by the ministry of pastors. We hence learn, that the gospel has been presented to us for this end, that we may be brought to the knowledge of God, in order that his goodness may be celebrated by us, and that Christ is the author of the gospel in whatever manner it may be offered to us. And this is what Paul says, for he declares that he and others were ambassadors for Christ; and he exhorted men as it were in the name of Christ. (2Co 5:20.) And this ought to add no small reverence to the gospel, since we ought not so much to consider men as speaking to us, as Christ by his own mouth; for at the time when he promised to publish God’s name to men, he had ceased to be in the world; it was not however to no purpose that he claimed this office as his own; for he really performs it by his disciples.
12. In the midst of the Church. 43 It hence appears plainly, that the proclamation of God’s praises is always promoted by the teaching of the gospel; for as soon as God becomes known to us, his boundless praises sound in our hearts and in our ears; and at the same time Christ encourages us by his own example publicly to celebrate them, so that they may be heard by as many as possible. For it would not be sufficient for each one of us to thank God himself for benefits received, except we testify openly our gratitude, and thus mutually stimulate one another. And it is a truth, which may serve as a most powerful stimulant, and may lead us most fervently to praise God, when we hear that Christ leads our songs, and is the chief composer of our hymns.
13. I will put my trust in him, or, I will confide in him. As this sentence is found in Ps 18:2, it was probably taken from that place; 44 and Paul, in Ro 15:9, applies another verse to Christ respecting the calling of the Gentiles. In addition to this, it may be said that the general contents of that Psalm show clearly that David spoke in the person of another. There indeed appeared in David but a faint shadow of the greatness which is there set forth in terms so magnificent. He boasts that he was made the head of the heathens, and that even aliens and people unknown willingly surrendered themselves to him at the report of his name. David subdued a few neighboring and wellknown nations by the force of arms, and made them tributaries. But what was this to the extensive dominions of many other kings? And further, where was voluntary submission? Where were the people that were so remote that he knew them not? In short, where was the solemn proclamation of God’s glory among the nations mentioned at the end of the Psalm? Christ then is he who is made head over many nations, to whom strangers from the utmost borders of the earth submit, and roused by hearing of him only; for they are not forced by arms to undertake his yoke, but being subdued by his doctrine, they spontaneously obey him.
There is also seen in the Church that feigned and false profession of religion, which is there referred to; for many daily profess the name of Christ, but not from the heart.
There is then no doubt but that the Psalm is rightly applied to Christ. But what has this to do with the present subject? For it seems not to follow that we and Christ are of one, in order that he might especially put his trust in God. To this I answer, that the argument is valid, because he would have no need of such trust, had he not been a man exposed to human necessities and wants. As then he depended on God’s aid, his lot is the same with ours. It is surely not in vain or for nothing that we trust in God; for were we destitute of his grace, we should be miserable and lost. The trust then which we put in God, is an evidence of our helplessness. At the same time we differ from Christ in this — the weakness which necessarily and naturally belongs to us he willingly undertook. But it ought not a little to encourage us to trust in God, that we have Christ as our leader and instructor; for who would fear to go astray while following in his steps? Nay, there is no danger that our trust should be useless when we have it in common with Christ; who, we know, cannot be mistaken.
Behold, I and the children, etc. It is indeed certain that Isaiah was speaking of himself; for when he gave hope of deliverance to the people, and the promise met with no credit, lest being broken down by the perverse unbelief of the people he should despond, the Lord bade him to seal the doctrine he had announced among a few of the faithful; as though he had said, that though it was rejected by the multitude, there would yet be a few who would receive it. Relying on this answer, Isaiah took courage, and declared that he and the disciples given to him would be ever ready to follow God. (Isa 8:18.)
Let us now see why the Apostle applied this sentence to Christ. First, what is found in the same place, that the Lord would become a rock of stumbling and a stone of offense to the kingdom of Israel and of Judas, will not be denied by any one of a sound mind, to have been fulfilled in Christ. And doubtless as the restoration from the Babylonian exile was a sort of prelude to the great redemption obtained by Christ for us and the fathers; so also the fact that so few among the Jews availed themselves of that kindness of God, that a small remnant only were saved, was a presage of their future blindness, through which it happened that they rejected Christ, and that they in turn were rejected by God, and perished. For we must observe that the promises extant in the Prophets respecting the restoration of the Church from the time the Jews returned from exile, extend to the kingdom of Christ, as the Lord had this end in view in restoring the people, that his Church might continue to the coming of his Son, by whom it was at length to be really established.
Since it was so, God not only addressed Isaiah, when he bade him to seal the law and the testimony, but also in his person all his ministers, who would have to contend with the unbelief of the people, and hence Christ above all, whom the Jews resisted with greater contumacy than all the former Prophets. And we see now that they who have been substituted for Israel, not only repudiate his Gospel, but also furiously assail him. But how much soever the doctrine of the Gospel may be a stone of stumbling to the household of the Church, it is not yet God’s will that it should wholly fail; on the contrary, he bids it to be sealed among his disciples: and Christ, in the name of all his teachers as the head of them, yea, as the only true Teacher, who rules us by their ministry, declares that amidst this deplorable ingratitude of the world, there shall still be some always who shall be obedient to God. 45
See then how this passage may be fitly applied to Christ: the Apostle concludes, that we are one with him, because he unites us to himself, when he presents himself and us together to God the Father: for they form but one body who obey God under the same rule of faith. What could have been said more suitably to commend faith, than that we are by it the companions of the Son of God, who by his example encourages us and shows us the way? If then we follow the Word of God, we know of a certainty that we have Christ as our leader; but they belong not at all to Christ, who turn aside from his word. What, I pray, can be more desired than to agree with the Son of God? But this agreement or consent is in faith. Then by unbelief we disagree with him, than which nothing is a greater evil. The word “children”, which in many places is taken for servants, means here disciples.
Which God hath given me. Here is pointed out the primary cause of obedience, even that God has adopted us. Christ brings none to the Father, but those given him by the Father; and this donation, we know, depends on eternal election; for those whom the Father has destined to life, he delivers to the keeping of his Son, that he may defend them. This is what he says by John, “All that the Father has given me, will come to me.” (Joh 6:37.) That we then submit to God by the obedience of faith, let us learn to ascribe this altogether to his mercy; for otherwise we shall never be led to him by the hand of Christ. Besides, this doctrine supplies us with strong ground of confidence; for who can tremble under the guidance and protection of Christ? Who, while relying on such a keeper and guardian, would not boldly disregard all dangers? And doubtless, while Christ says, “Behold, I and the children,” he really fulfills what he elsewhere promises, that he will not suffer any of those to perish whom he has received from the Father. (Joh 10:28.) 46
We must observe lastly, that though the world with mad stubbornness reject the Gospel, yet the sheep ever recognize the voice of their shepherd. Let not therefore the impiety of almost all ranks, ages, and nations, disturb us, provided Christ gathers together his own, who have been committed to his protection. If the reprobate rush headlong to death by their impiety, in this way the plants which God has not planted are rooted up. (Mt 15:13.) Let us at the same time know that his own are known to him, and that the salvation of them all is sealed by him, so that not one of them shall be lost. (2Ti 2:19.) Let us be satisfied with this seal.
14. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
14. Quando igitur pueri carni et sanguini communicant, ipse quoque similiter eorundem fuit particeps, ut per mortem aboleret eum qui habebat mortis imperium, hoc est, diabolum;
15. And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
15. Et redimeret quicunque metu mortis per totam vitam obnoxii erant servituti.
14. Forasmuch then as the children, etc., or, since then the children, etc. This is an inference from the foregoing; and at the same time a fuller reason is given than what has been hitherto stated, why it behooved the Son of God to put on our flesh, even that he might partake of the same nature with us, and that by undergoing death he might redeem us from it.
The passage deserves especial notice, for it not only confirms the reality of the human nature of Christ, but also shows the benefit which thence flows to us. “The Son of God,” he says, “became man, that he might partake of the same condition and nature with us.” What could be said more fitted to confirm our faith? Here his infinite love towards us appears; but its overflowing appears in this — that he put on our nature that he might thus make himself capable of dying, for as God he could not undergo death. And though he refers but briefly to the benefits of his death, yet there is in this brevity of words a singularly striking and powerful representation, and that is, that he has so delivered us from the tyranny of the devil, that we are rendered safe, and that he has so redeemed us from death, that it is no longer to be dreaded.
But as all the words are important, they must be examined a little more carefully. First, the destruction of the devil, of which he speaks, imports this — that he cannot prevail against us. For though the devil still lives, and constantly attempts our ruin, yet all his power to hurt us is destroyed or restrained. It is a great consolation to know that we have to do with an enemy who cannot prevail against us. That what is here said has been said with regard to us, we may gather from the next clause, that he might destroy him that had the power of death; for the apostle intimates that the devil was so far destroyed as he has power to reign to our ruin; for “the power of death” is ascribed to him from the effect, because it is destructive and brings death. He then teaches us not only that the tyranny of Satan was abolished by Christ’s death, but also that he himself was so laid prostrate, that no more account is to be made of him than as though he were not. He speaks of the devil according to the usual practice of Scripture, in the singular number, not because there is but one, but because they all form one community which cannot be supposed to be without a head. 47
15. And deliver them who, etc. This passage expresses in a striking manner how miserable is the life of those who fear death, as they must feel it to be dreadful, because they look on it apart from Christ; for then nothing but a curse appears in it: for whence is death but from God’s wrath against sin? Hence is that bondage throughout life, even perpetual anxiety, by which unhappy souls are tormented; for through a consciousness of sin the judgment of God is ever presented to the view. From this fear Christ has delivered us, who by undergoing our curse has taken away what is dreadful in death. For though we are not now freed from death, yet in life and in death we have peace and safety, when we have Christ going before us. 48
But it any one cannot pacify his mind by disregarding death, let him know that he has made as yet but very little proficiency in the faith of Christ; for as extreme fear is owing to ignorance as to the grace of Christ, so it is a certain evidence of unbelief.
Death here does not only mean the separation of the soul from the body, but also the punishment which is inflicted on us by an angry God, so that it includes eternal ruin; for where there is guilt before God, there immediately hell shows itself.
Hebrews Chapter 2:16-18
16. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
16. Nusquam enim angelos assumit; sed semen Abrahae assumit.
17. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
17. Unde fratribus debuit per omnia esse similis, ut misericors esset et fidelis pontifex in iis quae sunt erga Deum, ut peccata expiet populi.
18. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
18. Ex quo enim ipsi contigit tentari, potest et iis qui tentantur, succurrere.
16. For verily, or, For nowhere, etc. By this comparison he enhances the benefit and the honor with which Christ has favored us, by putting on our flesh; for he never did so much for angels. As then it was necessary that there should be a remarkable remedy for man’s dreadful ruin, it was the design of the Son of God that there should be some incomparable pledge of his love towards us which angels had not in common with us. That he preferred us to angels was not owing to our excellency, but to our misery. There is therefore no reason for us to glory as though we were superior to angels, except that our heavenly Father has manifested toward us that ampler mercy which we needed, so that the angels themselves might from on high behold so great a bounty poured on the earth. The present tense of the verb is to be understood with reference to the testimonies of Scripture, as though he set before us what had been before testified by the Prophets.
But this one passage is abundantly sufficient to lay prostrate such men as Marcion and Manicheus, and fanatical men of similar character, who denied Christ to have been a real man, begotten of human seed. For if he bore only the appearance of man, as he had before appeared in the form of an angel, there could have been no difference; but as it could not have been said that Christ became really an angel, clothed with angelic nature, it is hence said that he took upon him man’s nature and not that of angels.
And the Apostle speaks of nature, and intimates that Christ, clothed with flesh, was real man, so that there was unity of person in two natures. For this passage does not favor Nestorius, who imagined a twofold Christ, as though the Son of God was not a real man but only dwelt in man’s flesh. But we see that the Apostle’s meaning was very different, for his object was to teach us that we find in the Son of God a brother, being a partaker of our common nature. Being not therefore satisfied with calling him man, he says that he was begotten of human seed; and he names expressly the seed of Abraham, in order that what he said might have more credit, as being taken from Scripture. 49
17. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, or, to be like his brethren, etc. In Christ’s human nature there are two things to be considered, the real flesh and the affections or feelings. The Apostle then teaches us, that he had not only put on the real flesh of man, but also all those feelings which belong to man, and he also shows the benefit that hence proceeds; and it is the true teaching of faith when we in our case find the reason why the Son of God undertook our infirmities; for all knowledge without feeling the need of this benefit is cold and lifeless. But he teaches us that Christ was made subject to human affections, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest; which words I thus explain, “that he might be a merciful, and therefore a faithful high priest.” 50
For in a priest, whose office it is to appease God’s wrath, to help the miserable, to raise up the fallen, to relieve the oppressed, mercy is especially required, and it is what experience produces in us; for it is a rare thing, for those who are always happy to sympathize with the sorrows of others. The following saying of Virgil was no doubt derived from daily examples found among men:
“Not ignorant of evil, I learn to aid the miserable.” 51
The Son of God had no need of experience that he might know the emotions of mercy; but we could not be persuaded that he is merciful and ready to help us, had he not become acquainted by experience with our miseries; but this, as other things, has been as a favor given to us. Therefore whenever any evils pass over us, let it ever occur to us, that nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt but that he is at present with us as though he suffered with us. 52
Faithful means one true and upright, for it is one opposite to a dissembler; and to him who fulfils not his engagements. An acquaintance with our sorrows and miseries so inclines Christ to compassion, that he is constant in imploring God’s aid for us. What besides? Having purposed to make atonement for sins, he put on our nature that we might have in our own flesh the price of our redemption; in a word, that by the right of a common nature he might introduce us, together with himself, into the sanctuary of God. By the words, in things pertaining to God, he means such things as are necessary to reconcile men to God; and as the first access to God is by faith, there is need of a Mediator to remove all doubting.
18. For in that he himself has suffered, etc. Having been tried by our evils, he is ready, he says, to bring us help. The word temptation here means no other thing than experience or probation; and to be able, is to be fit, or inclined, or suitable.
See Appendix F.
To “neglect,” is literally, not to care for; not to care for our salvation is to neglect it. It is rendered, to “make light of,” in Mt 22:5; and “not to regard,” in Heb 8:9. — Ed.
So great, observes Dr. Owen is this salvation, that is a deliverance from Satan, from sin, and from eternal sin, and from eternal death. The means also by which it has been procured, and is now effected, and its endless results, prove in a wonderful manner its greatness. — Ed.
The same objection has been advanced by Grotius and others, but it has no weight in it; for the Apostle here distinctly refers to the facts in connection with the twelve Apostles, as this alone was necessary for his purpose here; and the same reason for concealing his name accounts for no reference being made here to his own ministry. And “we” and “us” as employed by the Apostle, often refer to things which belong to all in common as Christians. See Heb. 4:1, 11, Heb. 11:40, etc. And he uses them sometimes when he himself personally is not included. See 1Co 15:51. — Ed.
These three words occur twice together in other places, Ac 2:22, and 2Th 2:9; only they are found in Acts in a different order — miracles wonders and signs. Signs and wonders are often found together both in the Old Testament, and in this order except in three places, Acts 2:19, 43, Acts 7:36. The same things, as Calvin says, are no doubt meant by three words under different views. They are called “signs” or as tokens as evidence of a divine interposition; “wonders” or prodigies, as being not natural, but supernatural, and as having the effect of filling men with terror, Ac 2:43; and “miracles” or powers, as being the effects of a divine power. So that “signs” betoken their intention; “wonders” their characters; and “miracles” their origin, or the power which produces them. — Ed.
By referring to 1Co 12:4-11, we shall be able to see the meaning of “distributions of the Spirit,” which seems to have been different from signs and wonders, for in that passage there are several gifts mentioned distinct from signs and wonders, such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of prophecy, and the discerning of spirits. These were the distributions, or the portions, which the Spirit divined to every one “according to his will;” for the “will” here, as in 1Co 12:11, is the will of the Spirit. The most suitable rendering of the last clause would be “and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” There is an evident metonymy in the word “distributions;” it is used abstractly for things distributed or divided. — Ed.
See Appendix G.
There is no doubt but that the expression is capable of being understood as “little” in degree, or as “little” in time; but in the Psalm the former is evidently the meaning, and there is no reason for a different meaning here: Christ, in becoming man, assumed a nature inferior to that of angels. Many of the fathers, indeed, and some moderns, have thought that time is what is intended “for a little while;” but this is not true, for Christ continues in the nature which has assumed, though it be now refined and perfected. The inferiority of nature is admitted, but that inferiority is as it were compensated by a superiority of honor and glory. Our version is the Vulgate, which Doddridge has also adopted, and also Stuart and Bloomfield. — Ed.
See Appendix H.
There is no doubt but that is a fanciful refinement. To taste food, according to the language of Scripture, is to eat it. See Acts 10:11, Acts 20:11, Acts 23:14. To taste death is to die, to undergo death, and nothing else. See Mt 16:28; Lu 9:27. Stuart observes that the word for taste in Hebrew is taken in the same sense, and also in classic Greek authors. “For every man,” ὑπὲρ πάντος, that is “man,” mentioned in verse 6; and the “man” there means all the faithful, to whom God in Noah restored the dominion lost in Adam; but this dominion was not renewed to man as a fallen being, but as made righteous by faith. — Ed.
Having vindicated Christ’s superiority over angels, he being “crowned with glory and honor,” notwithstanding his assumption of human nature, and for his sufferings, the Apostle now, as it were, goes back, and proves the necessity of what has been done; showing how needful it was for him to become man, and to suffer as he did; and we find he states two especial reasons — that he might reconcile us to God and be able to sympathize with his people. — Ed.
Our version seems more intelligible — “to make perfect.” As it appears afterwards his perfection consisted in his having made an atonement for sin, and in being capable of sympathy with his people. God made him perfectly qualified to be the Captain or leader in our salvation, that is, in the work of saving us, even through sufferings, as thereby he procured our salvation and became experimentally acquainted with the temptations and trials of humanity.
The sense given by Stuart and some others, borrowed from the use of the word in the classics, which is that of crowning or rewarding the victor at the games is not suitable here; for what follows clearly shows that its meaning is what has been stated.
Both Scott and Stuart connect “the bringing many sons unto glory” with “the captain of their salvation.” One thing is indeed thus gained, the cases seem to suit better; but then the sense is violated. When the sentence is thus rendered, there is no antecedent to “their” connected with “salvation;” and the faithful are not called the “sons” of Christ, but his brethren. As to the case of the participle for “bringing,” an accusative for a dative, it is an anomaly, says Bloomfield, that sometimes occurs in Paul’s writings and also in the classics. — Ed.
Though many, ancient and modern, such as Chrysostom, Beza, Grotius and Bloomfield, regard “God” as meant here by “one”, yet the context is in favor of the view taken by Calvin, which is also adopted by Dr. Owen and Stuart. The Heb 2:14 verse seems to decide the question.
The word to sanctify ἁγιάζω, means — 1. To consecrate, to set apart to a holy use or to an office, Mt 23:19; Joh 17:19; — 2. To purify from pollution, either ceremonially, Heb 9:13, or morally and spiritually, 1Th 5:23; — 3. To purify from the guilt of sin by a free remission, Heb 10:10, compared with Heb. 10:14, 18. Now, which of these meanings are we to take here? Calvin takes the second, that is to purify from pollution, or to make spiritually holy; others, such as Stuart and Bloomfield, take the last meaning, and the latter gives the rendering, “the expiator and the expiated,” This is more consistent with the general tenor of the passage. The subject is not sanctification properly so called, but expiation or atonement. See Heb. 2:9, 17. — Ed.
“If Christ was merely a man and nothing more, where (we may ask with Abresch) would be either the great condescension, or particular kindness manifested in calling men his brethren? If however, he possessed a higher nature, if ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, Php 2:7, if ἐκένωσε ἑαυτὸν μορφὴν δούλου λαβὼν, Php 2:8; then was it an act of particular kindness and condescension in him to call men his brethren?” — Stuart
This quotation is made from Ps 22:22, and from the Sept., except that the Apostle changes διηγήσομαι into ἀπαγγελῶ. The words are often used synonymously, only the latter includes the idea of a message, as it literally means to declare something from another. — Ed.
The words are found literally, according to the Sept., in 2Sa 22:3; which chapter is materially the same with Psalm 18, and also in Isa 8:17. The words are somewhat different in Ps 18:2, though the Hebrew is the same as in 2Sa 22:3, אחסה בו, “I will trust in him.” The words in Hebrew are wholly different in Isa 8:17, rendered literally, from Isaiah, because they see nothing in the 18th Psalm respecting the Messiah; but the whole Psalm is respecting him who was eminently a type of the Messiah; and in that sense no doubt the Messiah is found there. As God was to David his trust in all trials, so he was to the Son of David. See Heb 5:7. — Ed.
Stuart suggests that these texts are applicable to Christ as the antitype of those to whom they most immediately refer. “As the type,” he says, “put his confidence in God, so did the antitype: as the type had children who were pledges for the deliverance of Judah, so has the antitype ‘many sons and daughters,’ the pledges of his powerful grace, and sureties that his promises in regard to future blessings will be accomplished.”
Christ was promised as the Son of David in his office as king: he was therefore to be like David: and the trials and support of David as a king were typical of his trials and support. Hence the Apostle applies to him the language of David. Christ was also promised as a Prophet; and is applied to the antitype. This must have been admitted as a valid reasoning by the Jews who regarded the Messiah both as king and as a prophet. — Ed.
Be it observed that throughout the whole of this passage, from 5 to 14 inclusive, the representation is, that God had a people prior to the coming of Christ, first called “man,” afterwards “sons” and “children,” and Christ’s “brethren,” — that those were promised “dominion,” glory and honor,” — and that the Son of God assumed their nature became lower than the angels, in order to obtain for them this dominion, glory and honor.
This statement bears a similarity to what the Apostle says in Ro 4:1-25, and in Ga 3:1-4:31: only he seems to go back here to Noah, to whom was restored the dominion and the glory lost in Adam, while in the chapters referred to, he begins with Abraham: and there seems to have been a reason for this; for the posterity of Noah soon departed from the faith; and Abraham became alone the father of the faithful, and through faith “the heir of the world,” and had the land of Canaan as a special pledge of a “better country.” And the Apostle here also comes to Abraham, verse 16. — Ed.
See Appendix I
The same seem to be meant here as before, — “the sons, the children.” Before Christ came, though heirs, yet they were in a state of bondage; so the Apostle represents them in Ga 4:1-3. See Ro 8:15. — Ed.
See Appendix K
Here is, as I conceive, an instance of an arrangement similar to what is often found in the prophets, and to what occurs in verse 9; this would be seen were a part of this verse and the following verse put in lines, —
That compassionate he might be
And a faithful high priest in the things of God
To make an atonement for the sins of the people;
For as he suffered, being himself tempted, he can help the tempted.
The first and last line correspond, and the second and the third. He is compassionate, because he can sympathize with the tempted, having been himself tempted; and he is a true and faithful high priest, because he really expiated the sins of the people: and that he might be all this, he became like his brethren that is, by taking their nature. — Ed.
Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco.
This paragraph, which begins at verse 5, commences with what belongs to the kingly office — dominion, and what accompanies it, glory and honor; but it ends with the priestly office; and it is shown that it was necessary for the Savior to be a priest in order that he might be a king, and might make his people kings as well as priests to God. The dominion and glory promised to the faithful from the beginning intimated even in the first promise made to fallen man, and more fully developed afterwards, was what they had no power to attain of themselves: Hence it became necessary for the Son of God to become the son of man, that he might obtain for his people the dominion and glory. This seems to be the view presented to us in this passage. The children of God, before Christ came into the world, were like heirs under age, though lords of all. He came, took their flesh and effected whatever was necessary to put them in full possession of the privileges promised them. See Ga 4:1-6. — Ed.