Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 5

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

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Verses 7-9


Hebrews 5:7-9. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.

THE priestly office, as marked out by God, belonged exclusively to the tribe of Levi. Yet our Lord, though he was not of that tribe to which the priesthood appertained, was truly and properly a High-priest. He was constituted a priest of a different order from that of Aaron, and executed the duties of the priesthood in a far different manner than it was possible for any other person to perform them. He offered not the blood of bulls and of goats, but his own body, for the sins of the world. The Apostle describing the manner in which he ministered, sets before us,


His conduct under his sufferings—

Never were the sufferings of any creature comparable with those of Christ—
[His bodily sufferings perhaps were less than many of his followers have been called to endure [Note: It is possible indeed that the perfect temperature of his body might give a more exquisite sensibility to the organs; but this is no where affirmed in Scripture.]; but those of his soul were infinitely beyond our conceptions [Note: Psalms 22:14-15. with Matthew 26:38.]: the assaults of Satan, and the wrath of God, combined to produce that bloody sweat in the garden of Gethsemane [Note: Luke 22:44.].]

Under them he poured out his heart in prayer unto his heavenly Father—
[He never lost sight of God as his Father, but addressed him with the greater earnestness under that endearing title [Note: Mark 14:36.]: he knew that his Father was “able to save him from death:” he therefore repeatedly besought him to remove the bitter cup, and urged his petitions “with strong cries and floods of tears;” not that he repented of the work he had undertaken; but only desired such a mitigation of his sufferings as might consist with his Father’s glory, and the salvation of men [Note: John 12:27-28. As a man, he could not but feel, and as a good man, he could not but deprecate, the wrath of God: but he desired nothing that was inconsistent with the Divine will, Matthew 26:39.].]

Nor did he desist from prayer till he had obtained his request—
[Him the Father always heard, nor was an answer now denied him: he was delivered from that which he chiefly deprecated [Note: The learned differ about the sense of ἀπὸ τῆςεὐλαβείας; some translate it pro reverentiβ, others ex metu. See Beza on Hebrews 5:7.]. Though the cup was not removed, he was not suffered to faint in drinking it: he was strengthened by an angel in answer to his prayer [Note: Luke 22:43.], and clearly shewed what an answer he had received, by the dignified composure with which he immediately resigned himself into the hands of his enemies [Note: John 18:4-8; John 18:11.].]

His sufferings indeed could not be dispensed with; but they were amply recompensed by,


The benefit he derived from them—

The benefits accruing to our Lord from his own sufferings were,



[It was necessary for him as our High-priest to experience every thing which his people are called to endure in their conflicts with sin and Satan [Note: Hebrews 2:17.]. Now the difficulty of abiding faithful to God in arduous circumstances is exceeding great: this is a trial which all his people are called to sustain, and under it they more particularly need his almighty succour; this therefore he submitted to learn. Though as the Son of God he knew all things in a speculative manner, yet he could not know this experimentally, but by being reduced to a suffering condition; this therefore was one benefit which he derived from his sufferings. He learned by them more tenderly to sympathize with his afflicted people, and more speedily to succour them when imploring his help with strong crying and tears [Note: Hebrews 2:18.].]



[As the priests were consecrated to their office by the blood of their sacrifices, so was Jesus by his own blood [Note: Τελειωθεὶς sometimes means “consecrated:” see Hebrews 7:28.]. From that time he had a right to impart salvation: from that time also he exercised that right. The persons indeed to whom alone he is “the author of eternal salvation,” are, “those who obey him.” Not that they possess this qualification before he vouchsafes his mercy to them; but he invariably transforms his people into his own image, and makes them, like himself, obedient unto death [Note: Philippians 2:8.].]

We may learn from hence,

What we should do under sufferings, or a dread of God’s displeasure—

[We should not hastily conclude that we are not his children [Note: Hebrews 12:6.]: we should rather go with humble boldness to God as our Father [Note: Luke 15:17-18.]; we should plead his gracious promises [Note: Psalms 50:15.]; nor can we possibly be too earnest, provided we be content that his will should be done. (Alas! that there should be so little resemblance between our prayers and those of Christ!) We should however consider that as the best answer to prayer, which most enables us to glorify God.]


Whither to go for salvation—

[The Father was “able to save his Son from death,” and doubtless he can save us also; but he has exalted his Son to be a Prince and a Saviour [Note: Acts 5:31.]. To Christ therefore we are to go, and to the Father through Christ [Note: Ephesians 2:18.]. In this way we shall find him to be the author of eternal salvation to us [Note: Hebrews 7:25.].]


What is to be our conduct when he has saved us—

[Jesus died “to purchase to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” We must therefore obey him, and that too as willingly in seasons of severe trial as in times of peace: we must be content to be conformed to the likeness of our Lord and Master. Let us be faithful unto death, and he will give us a crown of life [Note: Revelation 2:10.].]

Verses 11-14


Hebrews 5:11-14. We have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

THERE is in the Holy Scriptures a great diversity of truths suited to the various states and capacities of men. There are some so plain and simple, that “he who runs may read” and understand them: there are others so deep and mysterious, that persons of the strongest intellect and most extensive erudition are utterly lost in the contemplation of them. In human sciences, men of genius and penetration have a great advantage over those of a less cultivated and comprehensive mind; because the strength of their faculties enables them to prosecute their researches to a far greater extent than the others can: but in divine knowledge, it is not the most learned, but the most humble and heavenly-minded, person, that will make the greatest progress. Ignorance in divine things (especially among those who enjoy a faithful ministration of the Gospel) springs from wilful remissness, rather than from any want of capacity; and involves the offender in very deep guilt. It is on this ground that the Apostle reproves the Hebrews for their inability to receive what he had to say respecting Melchizedec and Christ. He represents their infantile state as the consequence of their own sloth, and as an occasion of considerable embarrassment to himself, since he knew not how to open to them the sublimer truths of Christianity, because they were yet so ill-instructed in its very first principles.
In explaining the drift of his address we shall,


Inquire whence it is that men’s progress in divine knowledge is so disproportioned to the advantages they enjoy—

That many who hear the Gospel are but little profited by it, is a melancholy and undeniable fact—
[That persons should continue ignorant when little else than heathen morality is set before them, cannot be wondered at. But many, who for a course of years have had “Christ crucified set before them,” and have from time to time been addressed with the greatest plainness and fidelity, yet are surprisingly dark in their views of the Gospel. They think they understand the plan of salvation; and yet they confound things the most distinct [Note: They mix faith and works, either uniting them as joint grounds of our salvation, or making their works a warrant to believe.], and disjoin things the most inseparable [Note: They cannot conceive how the exercises of their own free-will must, as far as they are good, be ascribed to the agency of the Holy Spirit, while, as far as they are evil, they are not to be considered as the emanations of their own wicked hearts in concurrence with the agency of Satan.]. But, when their notions are ever so clear and accurate, they still remain without any experimental acquaintance with the truths of God. They are “unskilful [Note: ἄπειρος.] in the word of righteousness.” Whatever they profess to believe respecting the depravity of the heart, and “a life of faith upon the Son of God,” they have not an experience of it in their own souls; so that they still need as much as ever to have “the first principles of the oracles of God” inculcated and enforced. “Considering the time” that they have been learning, “they ought to have been long since qualified to teach others;” and yet “have they need to be taught the very same things again” and again. They still need as much as ever to have “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.”]

The reason for this must be sought for in their own negligence—
[If this want of proficiency had existed only since the days of the Apostles, we might have ascribed it to the weakness and insufficiency of the teachers: nor are we disposed entirely to exclude that as a concurrent cause of the slow progress that is made amongst us. But the same complaints which we make, were uttered by the Apostles; and the want of proficiency in their hearers is imputed to their “dulness in bearing [Note: νωθροὶ.],” and slothfulness in improving what they heard. You are ready enough to hear; and perhaps, like Ezekiel’s hearers, are pleased with the sound of the Gospel, as you would be with some delightful music [Note: Ezekiel 33:32.]: but are you careful to apply to yourselves what you hear? Do you examine yourselves by it? Do you labour to treasure it up in your hearts? Do you pray over it? Do you make it the subject of your conversation with your families, and of your meditations in the hours of retirement? Do you not, on the contrary, find, that, through your neglecting to harrow in the seed, “the birds of the air come and take it away;” or that, “through the cares and pleasures of this world, it is so choked that it never grows up to perfection? Yes; this is the reason of that slow progress which people make in divine knowledge: this is the reason that persons, who would account themselves idiots if they received so little benefit from instructions in any other branch of knowledge, continue mere “babes” throughout their whole lives.]

Having found the reason of men’s unprofitableness under the ministry of the Gospel, we proceed to,


Shew the sad consequences arising from it—

The misimprovement of this talent is greatly overlooked among the sins we commit, or the evils we deplore. But,


It incapacitates men for receiving instructions—

[“Babes” must have food suited to their age: if “strong meat” were administered to them, they could not receive it: instead of being profited by the deeper mysteries of the Gospel, or by a full exhibition of the divine life as it exists and operates in the hearts of more advanced Christians, they would very probably be injured: the display of light would be too bright for their organs; or, to use the metaphor in the text, the meat would be too strong for their digestive faculties. What a loss then is this to the persons themselves! What a loss too to many who would be greatly benefited by the stronger food, but who must have only milk presented to them, lest others, unable to partake of their repast, should be deprived of what is absolutely necessary for their subsistence!

Let this be duly considered; and it will surely prove an effectual incentive to diligence!]


It imposes a restraint on their instructors—

[“We have many things to say, and hard to be uttered:” not that the difficulty lies in expressing them: but in reducing them to the comprehension of persons who are so “dull of hearing.” When we speak to “those who are of full age,” we can enter largely into every part of the Gospel; because “they, having their spiritual senses exercised by use and habit, can discern both good and evil.” They have a clear perception of the things we say, just as a man has of things bitter or sweet. We need not be labouring always to prove that such or such things are bitter or sweet; because they see in an instant the true and proper quality of the things that are set before them: they understand the analogy of faith; and are prepared to follow us as far as God enables us to lead them. But, however delightful such deep researches might be, we dare not, except in a very sparing manner, prosecute them. We are forced to use the same caution as Christ did towards his hearers [Note: John 16:12.]; and as St. Paul did in addressing the Church at Corinth: “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual; but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it; neither yet now are ye able [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:1-2.].”

And is not this a sad effect of men’s “dulness?” Is it not an injury to us, as well as unto them? Would not our own ability in ministering be increased, if we were more at liberty to search into “the deep things of God” for their instruction? And would not the growth of all be more speedily advanced?
Let this then be an additional motive for diligence. When you see how extensive and lamentable are the consequences of supineness, learn, in pity to yourselves and to the whole Church of God, to press forward with increasing earnestness and zeal.]


Let us improve to the uttermost the advantages we enjoy—

[God notices how long, and how often, we have the means of grace afforded us; and he will call us to an account for them as talents committed to our charge. And if the Gospel we hear be not “a savour of life unto life, it will be a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].” The opportunities of improvement which the Jews had under the ministry of our Lord, rendered their guilt and punishment more aggravated than that of Sodom and Gomorrha [Note: Matthew 11:20-24. with 12:41, 42.]. The Lord grant that such may never be the effects of our ministry on you!]


Let us not be satisfied with low attainments—

[It is doubless a mercy to be “babes in Christ,” if we be really such. But what parent in the universe, however pleased with the birth of a child, would take pleasure in it, if, instead of growing towards manhood, it always retained its infantine weakness and stature? Can God then behold with complacency such a monster in his family? Does he not expect that, from “children we become young men, and from young men we advance to be fathers in his Church [Note: John 2:12-14.]?” Let us then have our “spiritual senses exercised:” let us endeavour to have them matured “by use and habit;” let us get a nice “discernment of good and evil.” Let us “desire the sincere milk of the word,” not merely that we may be satisfied with it, but that we may grow thereby [Note: 1 Peter 2:2.], and be qualified for the reception of stronger food. “In malice,” or any other kind of evil, “be children; but in understanding be men [Note: 1 Corinthians 14:20.].”]


Let us make a good use of the attainments we already possess—

[They who themselves “need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God,” have no pretensions to set up themselves as teachers of others: and it is much to be lamented that such teachers should ever be admitted into the Church of God; or, when admitted, be suffered to retain their office. But all who are taught of God, “ought” to exert themselves in teaching others. We say not, that all are to become preachers of the word: but we say, that all should endeavour to instruct their friends, and their neighbours, and more especially their children and dependents [Note: Romans 15:14. Heb 3:13]. In labouring thus to do good, they would get good; and “in watering others, they would themselves be watered” with the dews of heaven [Note: Proverbs 11:25.].]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.