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1.Wherefore, holy brethren, etc. He concludes the preceding doctrine with a necessary exhortation, that the Jews should attentively consider what sort of being and how great Christ is. As he had before, by naming him a teacher and a priest, briefly compared him with Moses and Aaron, so he now includes both clauses; for he adorns him with two titles, as he sustains a twofold character in the Church of God. Moses was a prophet and a teacher, and Aaron was a priest; but the two offices belong to Christ. If then we seek rightly to know him, we must inquire what sort of being he is; yea, he must be clothed with his own power, lest we lay hold on an empty shadow and not on him. (53)
First, the word consider, is important, for it intimates that singular attention is required, as he cannot be disregarded with impunity, and that at the same time the true knowledge of Christ is sufficient to dissipate the darkness of all errors. And to encourage them the more to pursue this study, he reminds them of their calling; as though he had said, “God favored you with no common grace when He called you into his kingdom; (54) it now remains that you have your eyes fixed on Christ as your leader in the way.” (55) For the calling of the godly cannot be otherwise confirmed than by a thorough surrender of themselves to Christ. We ought not therefore to regard this as said only to the Jews, but that it is a general truth addressed to all who desire to come into the kingdom of God; they ought sedulously to attend to Christ, for he is the sole instructor of our faith, and has confirmed it by the sacrifice of himself; for confession, or profession, is to be taken here for faith, as thought he had said, that the faith we profess is vain and of no avail, unless Christ be its object. (56)
(53) He calls them “holy brethren.” Stuart takes holy as meaning “consecrated, devoted, i.e. to Christ, set apart as Christians.” The people of Israel were called holy in the same sense, not because they were spiritually holy, but because they were set apart and adopted as God’s people. The word saints, at the commencement of Paul’s Epistles, means the same thing. — Ed.
(54) The word heavenly, may also mean a call from heaven. See Hebrews 12:25. It is no doubt both, it is a call to the enjoyment of heavenly things, as well as a call that comes from heaven. — Ed.
(55) This is the only place in which Christ is called an Apostle, the design no doubt was to institute a comparison between him and Moses, who is often said to have been sent by God, as Christ is said to have been sent by the Father: they might both therefore be rightly called Apostles, i.e., messengers sent by God. And then he adds, high priest, that he might afterwards make a comparison between him and Aaron.
He had before exalted Christ as a teacher above all the prophets, including no doubt Moses among the rest; but here refers to Moses as the leader of the people, as one sent especially by God to conduct them from Egypt through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. But as our call is from heaven and to heaven, Christ is sent as a messenger to lead us to the heavenly country. We hence see that in this connection the “heavenly calling” is to be taken most suitably as a call to heaven. — Ed.
(56) The simpler meaning of this phrase is to view it as sort of Hebraism, when a noun is put for an adjective or a participle; and it is so rendered by Schleusner and Stuart, “professed by us,” or, “whom we profess.” See similar instances in chapter Hebrews 10:23, and in 2 Corinthians 9:13. — Ed.
2.Who was, or is faithful, etc. This is a commendation of the apostleship of Christ, in order that the faithful may securely acquiesce in him; and he commends it on two grounds, because the Father has set him to be over us as our teacher, and because Christ himself has faithfully performed the office committed to him. These two things are always necessary to secure authority to a doctrine; for God alone ought to be attended to, as the whole Scripture testifies; hence Christ declares, that the doctrine which he delivered was not his own, but the Father’s, (John 7:16;) and in another place he says, “He who received me, receiveth him who has sent me.” (Luke 9:48.) For we say of Christ, that as he is clothed with our flesh, he is the Father’s minister to execute his commands. To the calling of God is added the faithful and upright performance of duty on the part of Christ; and this is required in true ministers, in order that they may obtain credence in the Church. Since these two things are found in Christ, doubtless he cannot be disregarded without despising God in him.
As also Moses, etc. Omitting for a while the priesthood, he speaks here of his apostleship. For as there are two parts in God’s covenant, the promulgation of the truth, and so to speak, its real confirmation, the full perfection of the covenant would not appear in Christ, were not both parts found in him. Hence the writer of the epistle, after having mentioned both, roused attention by a brief exhortation. But he now enters on a longer discussion, and begins with the office of a teacher: he therefore now compares Christ only with Moses. The words, in all his house, may be applied to Moses; but I prefer to apply them to Christ, as he may be said to be faithful to his Father in ruling his whole house. It hence follows, that none belong to the Church of God except those who acknowledge Christ. (57)
(57) This testimony as to Moses is found in Numbers 12:7. God says there “in all mine house;” we ought therefore to consider “his” here as referring to God or to Christ, and not to Moses.
“For this man
3.For this man (or, he) was counted worthy, etc. Lest he might appear to make Moses equal to Christ, he reminds us of his superior excellency; and this he proves by two arguments, Moses so ruled the Church, that he was still a part and member of it; but Christ being the builder, is superior to the whole building, — Moses while ruling others, was ruled also himself, as he was a servant; but Christ being a Son possesses supreme power.
It is a frequent and wellknown metaphor used in Scripture to call the Church the house of God. (1 Timothy 3:15.) And as it is composed of the faithful, each of them is called a living stone. (1 Peter 2:5.) They are also sometimes called the vessels with which the house is furnished. (2 Timothy 2:20.) There is then no one so eminent that he is not a member, and included in the universal body. God being the builder, alone is to be set above his own work; but God dwells in Christ, so that whatever is said of God is applicable to him.
If any one objects and says that Christ is also a part of the building because he is the foundation, because he is our brother, because he has a union with us and then that he is not the masterbuilder because he himself was formed by God: in reply to these things we say that our faith is so founded on him that he still rules over us that he is in such a way our brother that he is yet our Lord, that he was so formed by God as man that he nevertheless by his Spirit revives and restores all things as the eternal God. The Scripture employs us various metaphors to set forth Christ s grace towards us; but there is no one which derogates from his honor mentioned here by the Apostle; for what is stated here is that all ought to be brought down to their own state because they ought to be in subjection to the head and that Christ alone is exempt from this submission, because he is the head.
If it be again objected and said that Moses was no less a masterbuilder than Paul who gloried in this title: to this I reply that this name is applied to prophets and teachers but not with strict correctness; for they are only the instruments and indeed dead instruments, except the Lord from heaven gives efficacy to what they do; and then they so labor in building the Church, that they themselves form a part of the structure; but the case is wholly different as to Christ, for he ever builds up the Church by the power of his own Spirit. Besides, he stands far above the rest, for he is in such a way the true temple of God, that he is at the same time the God who inhabits it.
4.He that built, etc. Though these words may be extended to the creation of the whole world, yet I confine them to the present subject. We are then to understand that nothing is done in the Church which ought not to he ascribed to Gods power; for he alone has founded it by his own hand, (Psalms 87:5;) and Paul says of Christ that he is the head, from whom the whole body, joined together and connected by every subservient juncture, makes an increase according to what is done proportionally by every member. (Ephesians 4:16.) Hence he often declares that the success of his ministry was God’s work. In a word, if we take a right view of things, it will appear that how much soever God may use the labors of men in building his Church, yet he himself performs everything — the instrument derogates nothing from the workman. (58)
(58) See Appendix L
5.And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, etc. The second difference is, that to Moses was committed a doctrine to which he, in common with others, was to submit; but Christ, though he put on the form of a servant, is yet Master and Lord, to whom all ought to be subject; for, as we found in Hebrews 1:2, he is constituted heir of all things.
For a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after, or which were afterwards to be said or declared. I explain this simply in this way, — that Moses, while a herald of that doctrine which was to be published for a time to the ancient people, did at the same time render a testimony to the Gospel, the publication of which was not as yet to be made; for it is doubtless evident, that the end and completion of the Law is that perfection of wisdom contained in the Gospel. This exposition seems to comport with the future tense of the participle. The meaning indeed is, that Moses faithfully delivered to the people what the Lord had committed to him, but that limits were prescribed to him which it was not lawful for him to pass. God formerly spoke at different times and in various ways by the prophets, but he deferred to the fullness of time the complete revelation of the Gospel.
6.Whose house are we, etc. As Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, after having prefaced that he was appointed to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, adds, for the sake of gaining credit among them, that they were of that number; so now the author of this epistle exhorts the Jews who had already made a profession of Christ to persevere in the faith, that they might be deemed as being in Gods household. He had said before that God’s house was subject to the authority of Christ. Suitably to this declaration is added the admonition that they would then have a place in God’s family when they obeyed Christ. But as they had already embraced the gospel, he mentions their condition if they persevered in the faith. For the word hope I take for faith; and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith. He mentions confidence and rejoicing, or glorying, in order to express more fully the power of faith. (59) And we hence conclude that those who assent to the Gospel doubtfully and like those who vacillate, do not truly and really believe; for faith cannot be without a settled peace of mind, from which proceeds the bold confidence of rejoicing. And so these two things, confidence and rejoicing, are ever the effects of faith, as we stated in explaining Romans the 5th chapter, and Ephesians the 3rd chapter
But to these things the whole teaching of the Papists is opposed; and this very fact, were there nothing else, sufficiently proves that they pull down the Church of God rather than build it. For the certainty by which alone we are made, as the Apostle teaches us, holy temples to God, they not only darken by their glosses, but also condemn as presumption. Besides, what firmness of confidence can there be when men know not what they ought to believe? And yet that monstrous thing, implicit faith, which they have invented, is nothing else than a license to entertain errors. This passage reminds us that we are always to make progress even unto death; for our whole life is as it were a race.
(59) It is better for “hope” here to be retained in its proper meaning; for in verse 12 the defect of it is traced to unbelief. Were the words “confidence” and “rejoicing” rendered adjectivally, the meaning would be more evident, — “If we hold firm our confident and joyful hope to the end.” So we may render a similar form of expression in verse 13, “through deceitful sin,” as “newness of life” in Romans 6:4, means “new life.” The most common practice is to render the genitive in such instances as an adjective, but this is not always the case.
Hope is “confident” or assured, while it rests on the word of God, and is “joyful” while it anticipates the glory and happiness of the heavenly kingdom.
But Beza and Doddridge take words apart, “freedom of profession and boasting of hope,” or according to Beza, “the hope of which we boast.” Macknight renders them “the boldness and the glorifying of the hope.” The secondary meaning of the word
He proceeds in his exhortation, that they were to obey Christ speaking to them; and that he might add more weight to it, he confirms it by the testimony of David; for since they were to be sharply goaded, it was better, for the sake of avoiding offense, to bring forward another person. Had he simply reproached them for the unbelief of the fathers, they would have less favorably attended to him; but when he brought forward David, it was less offensive. Now, the import of the whole is, — As God from the beginning would his voice obeyed, and could not endure perverseness without punishing it severely, so at this day he will not lightly punish our stubbornness, unless we become teachable. But the discourse is suspended until we come to the words, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be at any time in any of you,” etc. That the passage, then, may flow better, it would be proper to include the rest in a parenthesis. (60) Let us now consider the words in order.
7.As the Holy Ghost saith, etc. This availed much more to touch their hearts than if he had quoted David by name. And it is useful for us to familiarize ourselves with such expressions, so that we may remember that the words adduced from the books of the prophets are those of God and not of men.
But as this sentence, Today, if ye will hear his voice, is a part of a former verse, some have not unsuitably rendered it thus, “Would to God you would this day hear his voice.” It is indeed certain that when David called the Jews God’s people, he immediately drew this conclusion, that the voice of God ought to have been heard by them; for as to those whom he there invited to sing praises to God and to celebrate his goodness, he reminded them at the same time that obedience was the chief worship which he required, and that it was better than all sacrifices. The chief thing, then, was to obey the word of God.
(60) There is the same parenthesis in our version; but Beza, Doddridge, Macknight, and Stuart, do not use it, but connect “therefore” or wherefore with “harden not,” which seems more suitable. — Ed.
8.Then follows, Harden not your hearts By which words is intimated that our rebellion against God flows from no other fountain than willful wickedness, by which we obstruct the entrance of his grace, We have indeed by nature a heart of stone, and there is in all an innate hardness from the womb, which God alone can mollify and amend. That we, however, reject the voice of God, it happens through a spontaneous obstinacy, not through an external impulse, a fact of which every one is a witness to himself. Rightly, then, does the Spirit accuse all the unbelieving that they resist God, and that they are the teachers and authors of their own perverseness, so that they can throw the blame on none else. It is hence, however, absurdly concluded that we have, on the other hand, a free power to form the heart for God’s service; nay rather, it must ever be the case with men, that they harden their heart until another be given them from heaven; for as we are bent towards wickedness, we shall never cease to resist God until we shall be tamed and subdued by his hand.
As in the provocation, etc. It was for two reasons necessary for them to be reminded of the disobedience of their fathers; for as they were foolishly inflated on account of the glory of their race, they often imitated the vices of their fathers as though they were virtues, and defended themselves by their examples; and further, when they heard that their fathers were so disobedient to God, they were thus more fully taught that this admonition was not superfluous. As both these reasons existed even in the Apostle’s time, he readily accommodated to his own purpose what had been formerly said by David, in order that those whom he addressed might not imitate their fathers too much.
And hence may be learnt a general truth, that we are not to defer too much to the authority of the fathers lest it should draw us away from God; for if any fathers have ever been worthy of honor, no doubt the Jews possessed that preeminence; and yet David distinctly commanded their children to beware of being like them.
And I have no doubt but that he referred to the history recorded in Exodus 17:1: for David uses here the two names which Moses relates were given to a certain place,
9.Tempted, etc. This word is to be taken in a bad sense; it means to provoke in a proud and insulting manner, which we express in French by saying,
Forty years. These are connected by David with what follows. But we know that the Apostles in quoting passages attend more to the general meaning than to the words. And no doubt God complained that the people had been vexatious to him for forty years, because so many benefits had availed nothing for the purpose of teaching them; for though God did good continually to them who were wholly unworthy, they yet never ceased to rise up against him. Hence arose his continual indignation, as though he had said “Not once or for a short time have they provoked me, but by their incessant wickedness for forty years.” Generation means race, or men of one age.
(61) See Appendix M.
10.And I said, etc. This was God’s sentence, by which he declared that they were destitute of a sound mind, and he adds the reason, For they have not known my ways. In short, he regarded them as past hope, for they were without sense and reason. And here he assumed the character of man, who at length after long trials declares that he has discovered obstinate madness, for he says that they always went astray, and no hope of repentance appeared.
11.So I sware, etc. It was the punishment of their madness, that they were deprived of the rest promised them. Moreover, the Lord calls the land, where they might have had their dwelling, his rest. For they had been sojourners in Egypt and wanderers in the wilderness; but the land of Canaan was to be, according to the promise, their perpetual inheritance; and it was in reference to this promise that God called it his rest: for nowhere can we have a settled dwelling, except where we are fixed by his hand. But their right to a sure possession was founded on what God said to Abraham,
“To thy seed will I give this land.” (Genesis 12:7.)
By God swearing, If they shall enter, etc., the atrocity of their evil conduct is made more evident and is more forcibly set forth, for it is an evidence of wrath greatly inflamed. “If they shall enter,” is in the form of an oath, in which something is to be understood, as an imprecation, or some such thing, when men speak; but when God speaks, it is the same as though he said, “Let me not be deemed true,”, or, “Let me not be hereafter believed, if such a thing shall not be so.” However, this defective mode of speaking recommends fear and reverence to us, so that we may not rashly swear, as many do, who are often in the habit of pouring forth dreadful curses.
But as to the present passage, we ought not to think that they were then for the first time denied entrance into the land by God’s oath, when they tempted him in Rephidim; for they had long before been excluded, even from the time they had refused to march forward at the report of the spies. God then does not here ascribe their expulsion from the land to this instance of tempting him as to the first cause; but he intimates that by no chastisement could they have been restored to a sound mind, but that they continually added new offenses: and thus he shows that they fully deserved to be thus severely punished, for they never ceased to increase more and more his wrath by various sins, as though he had said, “This is the generation to which I denied the possession of the promised land, for during whole forty years afterwards it betrayed its obstinate madness by innumerable sins.”
12.Take heed, (or See,) brethren, lest there be at any time in any of you a wicked heart of unbelief, etc. I have preferred to retain literally what the Apostle states, rather than to give a paraphrase as to the wicked or depraved heart of unbelief, by which he intimates that unbelief would be connected with depravity or wickedness, if after having received the knowledge of Christ they departed from his faith. For he addressed them who had been imbued with the elements of Christianity; hence he immediately added, By departing; for the sin of defection is accompanied with perfidy. (62)
(62) The word connected with “heart” is
“The departing,” etc
13.He also pointed out the remedy, so that they might not fall into this wickedness, and that was, to exhort one another. For as by nature we are inclined to evil, we have need of various helps to retain us in the fear of God. Unless our faith be now and then raised up, it will lie prostrate; unless it be warmed, it will be frozen; unless it be roused, it will grow torpid. He would have us then to stimulate one another by mutual exhortations, so that Satan may not creep into our hearts, and by his fallacies draw us away from God. And this is a way of speaking that ought to be especially observed; for we fall not immediately by the first assault into this madness of striving against God; but Satan by degrees accosts us artfully by indirect means, until he holds us ensnared in his delusions. Then indeed being blinded, we break forth into open rebellion. (63)
We must then meet this danger in due time, and it is one that is nigh us all, for nothing is more possible than to be deceived; and from this deception comes at length hardness of heart. We hence see how necessary it is for us to be roused by the incessant goads of exhortations. Nor does the Apostle give only a general precept, that all should take heed to themselves, but he should have them also to be solicitous for the salvation of every member, so that they should not suffer any of those who had been once called to perish through their neglect, and he who feels it his duty so to watch over the salvation of the whole flock as to neglect no one sheep, performs in this case the office of a good shepherd.
While it is called today. He now applies what David said more particularly to his own subjects; for he reminds us that the word today, mentioned in the Psalm, ought not to be confined to the age of David, but that it comprehends every time in which God may address us. As often, then, and as long as he opened his sacred mouth to teach us, let this sentence come to our minds, “Today, if ye will hear his voice”. In the same way Paul teaches us that when the Gospel is preached to us, it is the accepted time in which God hears us, and the Day of salvation in which he helps us. (2 Corinthians 6:2.)
Now, of this opportunity we ought to avail ourselves; for if through our sloth we suffer it to pass by, we shall hereafter in vain deplore its loss. So Christ says,
“Walk while ye have the light; come shortly shall the night.” (John 12:35.)
The particle while, then, or as long as, intimates that, The seasonable time will not continue always, if we be too slothful to follow when the Lord calls us. God knocks at our door; unless we open to him he will no doubt in his turn close against us the gate of his kingdom. In a word, too late will be their groans who despise the grace offered to them today. As, then, we know not whether God will extend his calling to tomorrow, let us not delay. Today he calls us; let us immediately respond to him, for there is no faith except where there is such a readiness to obey.
(63) “Deceitfulness of sin” is rendered by Stuart “sinful delusion.” It ought rather to be “deceitful (or seductive) sin” as “deceitfulness of riches” in Matthew 13:22, means “deceitful riches.” The “sin” was evidently that of apostasy: and it was deceitful, because there was a present prospect of relief from troubles and persecutions. The power of any sin to deceive and seduce, consists in some present gratification or interest. See note on verse 6. — Ed.
14.For we are made partakers, etc. He commends them for having begun well; but lest, under the pretext of the grace which they had obtained, they should indulge themselves in carnal security, he says that there was need of perseverance; for many having only tasted the Gospel, do not think of any progress as though they had reached the summit. Thus it is that they not only stop in the middle of their race, yea, nigh the startingposts, but turn another way. Plausible indeed is this objection, “What can we wish more after having found Christ?” But if he is possessed by faith, we must persevere in it, so that he may be our perpetual possession. Christ then has given himself to be enjoyed by us on this condition, that by the same faith by which we have been admitted into a participation of him, we are to preserve so great a blessing even to death. (64)
Hence he says beginning, intimating that their faith was only begun. As hypostasis sometimes means confidence, it may be so taken here; yet the term substance, as some have rendered it, I do not dislike, though I explain it in a way somewhat different. They think that faith is thus called, because the whole of what man may have without it is nothing but vanity; but I so regard it, because we recumb on it alone, as there is no other support on which we can rely. And suitable to this view is the word steadfast or firm; for we shall be firmly fixed and beyond the danger of vacillating, provided faith be our foundation. The sum of the whole then is, that faith whose beginnings only appear in us, is to make constant and steady progress to the end. (65)
(64) What is implied here is that we may professedly be partakers of Christ: that is of his blessings as a Savior, and yet be not really so: the proof of the reality is perseverance. — Ed.
(65) Here is another instance of the genitive being the main subject, “the beginning of our confidence,” i.e., our first confidence, which the Apostle calls “first faith” in 1 Timothy 5:12. Macknight renders it “the begun confidence.” — Ed.
15.While it is said, etc. He intimates that the reason for making progress never ceases as long as we live, because God calls us daily. For since faith responds to the preaching of the Gospel, as preaching continues through the whole course of our life, so we ought to continue growing in faith. The phrase, then, while it is said, is the same as though he had said, “Since God never makes an end of speaking, it is not enough for us readily to receive his doctrine, except we exhibit the same teachableness and obedience tomorrow and every following day.” (66)
(66) Most connect this verse with the preceding, as in our version, and as Doddridge thus “forasmuch as it is said;” and Macknight thus “as ye may know by the saying.” So does Beza; and Calvin seems to do the same; but some connect it with the 13th and others with the 14th verse. Modern authors, such as Stuart and Blooomfield, regard it as the commencement of a paragraph, and connect it with what follows. Stuart’s version is —
15. With regard to the saying, “today while ye hear his voice, harden
16. Not your hearts as in the provocation;” who now were they that when they heard did provoke? Nay, did not all who came out of Egypt under Moses? Etc.
Bloomfield approves of this version, only he considers the quotation is confined to the words, “Today, while ye hear his voice,” and regards what follows, “harden not,” etc., as said by the writer: See Appendix N. — Ed.
16For some, when they had heard, etc. David spoke of the fathers as though that whole generation were unbelieving; but it appears that some who truly feared God mingled with the wicked. The apostle mentions this to modify what had been more severely said by David, in order that we may know that the word is preached to all for this end, that all may obey it with one consent, and that the whole people were justly condemned for unbelief, when the body was torn and mutilated by the defection of the greatest part.
But by saying that some provoked, while yet they were by far the greatest part, this object was not only to avoid giving offense, but also to encourage the Jews to imitate those who believed; as though he had said, “As God forbids you to follow the unbelief of the fathers, so he sets before you other fathers whose faith is to be your example”. Thus is mitigated what otherwise might have appeared too hard; that is, had they been commanded wholly to dissent from their fathers. To come out by Moses, means by the hand of Moses, for he was the minister of their deliverance. But there is an implied comparison between the benefit which God had bestowed on them by Moses, and the participation of Christ previously mentioned.
17.But with whom was he grieved, or angry, etc. He means that God had never been angry with his people except for just causes, as Paul also reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:5. Therefore as many chastisements of God as we read were inflicted on the ancient people, so many grievous sins shall we find which provoked God’s vengeance. At the same time we must come to this conclusion, that unbelief was the chief of all their evils; for though he mentions this the last, he yet means that it was the primary cause of their curse; and no doubt from the time they once became unbelievers, they never ceased to add one sin to another, and thus they brought on themselves new scourges continually. Hence those very persons who through unbelief rejected the possession of the land offered to them, pursued their own obstinacy, now lusting, then murmuring, now committing adultery, then polluting themselves with heathen superstitions, so that their depravity became more fully manifested.
The unbelief, then, which they showed from the beginning, prevented them from enjoying the kindness of God; for the contempt of his word ever led them to sin. And as at first they deserved through their unbelief that God should deprive them of the promised rest, so whatever sin they committed afterwards flowed from the same fountain.
It may be further asked, whether Moses, and Aaron, and those like them, were included in this number? To this I answer, that the Apostle speaks of the whole community rather than of individuals. It is certain that there were many godly men who were either not entangled in the general impiety or soon repented. Moses’ faith was once shaken and only once, and that for a moment. The Apostle’s words, therefore, contain a statement of the whole instead of a part, a mode of speaking frequently employed when a multitude or body of people are spoken of.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20