|« Prev||Hebrews 1:3||Next »|
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 1 - Verse 3
Verse 3. Who being the brightness of his glory. This verse is designed to state the dignity and exalted rank of the Son of God, and is exceedingly important with reference to a correct view of the Redeemer. Every word which is employed is of great importance, and should be clearly understood in order to a correct apprehension of the passage. First, In what manner does it refer to the Redeemer? To his Divine nature? To the mode of his existence before he was incarnate? Or to him as he appeared on earth? Most of the ancient commentators supposed that it referred to his Divine dignity before he became incarnate; and proceed to argue, on that supposition, on the mode of the Divine existence. The true solution seems to me to be, that it refers to him as incarnate, but still has reference to him as the incarnate Son of God. It refers to him as Mediator, but not simply or mainly as a man. It is rather to him as Divine—thus, in his incarnation, being the brightness of the Divine glory, and the express image of God. That this is the correct view is apparent, I think, from the whole scope of the passage. The drift of the argument is, to show his dignity as he has spoken to us, (Heb 1:1,) and not in the period antecedent to his incarnation. It is to show his claims to our reverence as sent from Gods the last and greatest of the messengers which God has sent to man. But, then, it is a description of him as he actually is —-the incarnate Son of God; the equal of the Father in human flesh: and this leads the writer to dwell on his Divine character, and to argue from that, Heb 1:8,10-12.
I have no doubt, therefore, that this description refers to his Divine nature, but it is the Divine nature as it appears in human flesh. An examination of the words used will prepare us for a more clear comprehension of the sense. The word glory—doxa— properly, a seeming, an appearance; and then
(1.) praise, applause, honour;
(2.) dignity, splendour, glory;
(3.) brightness, dazzling light; and
(4.) excellence, perfection, such as belongs to God, and such as there is in heaven. It is probably used here, as the word—
is often among the Hebrews, to denote splendour, brightness, and refers to the Divine perfections as resembling a bright light, or the sun. The word is applied to the sun and stars, 1 Co 15:40,41; to the light which Paul saw on the way to Damascus, Ac 22:11; to the shining of Moses' face, 2 Co 3:7; to the celestial light, which surrounds the angels, Re 18:1; and glorified saints, Lu 9:31,32; and to the dazzling splendour or majesty in which God is enthroned. 2 Th 1:9; 2 Pe 1:17; Re 15:8; 21:11,23.
Here there is a comparison of God with the sun; he is encompassed with splendour and majesty; he is a being of light and of infinite perfection. It refers to all in God that is bright, splendid, glorious; and the idea is, that the Son of God is the brightness of it all. The word rendered brightness apaugasma —occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, reflected splendour, or the light which emanates from a luminous body. The rays or beams of the sun are its "brightness," or that by which the sun is seen and known. The sun itself we do not see; the beams which flow from it we do see. The meaning here is, that if God be represented under the image of a luminous body, as he is in the Scriptures, (see Ps 84:11; Mal 4:2,) then Christ is the radiance of that light, the brightness of that luminary. Stuart. He is that by which we perceive God, or by which God is made known to us in his real perfections. Comp. Joh 1:18; Joh 14:9. It is by him only that the true character and glory of God is known to men. This is true in regard to the great system of revelation; but it is especially true in regard to the views which men have of God. Mt 11:27: "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." The human soul is dark respecting the Divine character, until it is enlightened by Christ. It sees no beauty, no glory in his nature—nothing that excites wonder, or that wins the affections, until it is disclosed by the Redeemer. Somehow it happens—account for it as men may—that there are no elevating, practical views of God in the world; no views that engage and hold the affections of the soul; no views that are transforming and purifying, but those which are derived from the Lord Jesus. A man becomes a Christian, and at once he has elevated practical views of God. He is, to him, the most glorious of all beings. He finds supreme delight in contemplating his perfections. But he may be a philosopher or an infidel, and though he may profess to believe in the existence of God, yet the belief excites no practical influence on him; he sees nothing to admire—nothing which leads him to worship him. Comp. Ro 1:21.
And the express image. The word here used carakthr likewise occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is that from which our word character is derived. It properly means, a graying, tool; and then something engraved or stamped—a character —as, a letter, mark, sign. The image stamped on coins, seals, wax, expresses the idea; and the sense here is, that if God be represented under the idea of a substance, or being, then Christ is the exact resemblance of that, as an image is of the stamp or die. The resemblance between a stamp and the figure which is impressed is exact; and so is the resemblance between the Redeemer and God. See Col 1:15: "Who is the image of the invisible God."
Of his person. The word person, with us, denotes an individual being, and is applied to human beings, consisting of body and soul. We do not apply it to anything dead—not using it with reference to the body when the spirit is gone. It is applied to man— with individual and separate consciousness and will; with body and soul; with an existence separate from others. It is evident that it cannot be used in this sense when applied to God, and that this word does not express the true idea of the passage here. Tindal renders it, more accurately, substance. The word in the original upostasiv —whence our word hypostasis means, literally, a foundation, or substructure. Then it means, a well-founded trust, firm expectation, oonttdence, firmness, boldness; and then reality, substance, essential nature. In the New Testament, it is rendered confident, or confidence, (2 Co 9:4; 11:17; Heb 3:14; ) substance, (Heb 11:1;) and person in the passage before us. It is not elsewhere used. Here it properly refers to the essential nature of God—that which distinguishes him from all other beings and which, if I may so say, constitutes him God; and the idea is, that, the Redeemer is the exact resemblance of that. This resemblance consists, probably, in the following things—though perhaps the enumeration does not include all— but in these he certainly resembles God, or is his exact image.
(1.) In his original mode of being, or before the incarnation. Of this we know little. But he had a "glory with the Father before the world was," Joh 17:5. He was "in the beginning with God, and was God," Joh 1:1. He was in intimate union with the Father, and was one with him, in certain respects; though in certain other respects, there was a distinction. I do not see any evidence in the Scriptures of the doctrine of "eternal generation," and it is certain that that doctrine militates against the proper eternity of the Son of God. The natural and fair meaning of that doctrine would be, that there was a time when he had not an existence, and when he began to be, or was begotten. But the Scripture doctrine is, that he had a strict and proper eternity. I see no evidence that he was, in any sense, a derived being—deriving his existence and his divinity from the rather. The Fathers of the Christian church, it is believed, held that the Son of God, as to his Divine, as well as his human nature, was derived from the Father. Hence the Nicene creed speaks of him as begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light very God of very God, begotten, not made" —language implying derivation in his Divine nature. They held, with one voice, that he was God; but it was in this manner. See Stuart, Excursus III on the Epistle to the Hebrews. But this is incredible, and impossible. A derived being cannot, in any proper sense, be God; and if there is any attribute which the Scriptures have ascribed to the Saviour with peculiar clearness, it is that of proper eternity, Re 1:11,18; Joh 1:1.
It may have been, that it was by him that the perfections of God were made known, before the incarnation, to the angelic world, but on that point the Scriptures are silent.
(2.) On earth he was the brightness of the Divine glory, and the express image of his person.
(a.) It was by him, eminently, that God was made known to men—as it is by the beams of the sun that that is made known.
(b.) He bore an exact resemblance to God. He was just such a being as we should suppose God to be, were he to become incarnate, and to act as a man. He was the embodied representation of the Deity. He was pure—like God. He was benevolent—like God. He spake to the winds and storms—like God. He healed diseases—like God. He raised the dead—like God. He wielded the power which God only can wield, and he manifested a character in all respects like that which we should suppose God would evince, if he appeared in human flesh, and dwelt among men. And this is saying much. It is, in fact, saying that the account in the Gospels is real, and that the Christian religion is true. Uninspired men could never have drawn such a character as that of Jesus Christ, unless that character had actually existed. The attempt has often been made to describe God, or to show how he would speak and act if he came down to earth. Thus the Hindoos speak of the incarnations of Vishnu; and thus Homer, and Virgil, and most of the ancient poets, speak of the appearance of the gods, and describe them as they were supposed to appear. But how different from the character of the Lord Jesus! They are full of passion, and lust, and anger, and contention, and strife; they come to mingle in battles, and to take part with contending armies, and they evince the same spirit as men, and are merely men of great power, and more gigantic passions; but Christ is God IN HUMAN NATURE. The form is that of man; the Spirit is that of God. He walks, and eats, and sleeps as a man; he thinks, and speaks, and acts like God. He was born as a man—but the angels adored him as God. As a man he ate; yet, by a word, he created food for thousands, as if he were God. Like a man he slept on a pillow, while the vessel was tossed by the waves; like God he rose, and rebuked the winds, and they were still. As a man he went, with affectionate interest, to the house of Martha and Mary. As a man he sympathized with them in their affliction, and wept at the grave of their brother; like God he spoke, and the dead came forth to the land of the living. As a man he travelled through the land of Judea. lie was without a home; yet everywhere the sick were laid at his feet, and health came from his touch, and strength from the words of his lips—as if he were God. As a man he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane; he bore his cross to Calvary; he was nailed to the tree; yet then the heavens grew dark, and the earth shook, and the dead arose—as if he were God. As a man he slept in the cold tomb; like God he rose, and brought life and immortality to light. He lived on earth as a man—he ascended to heaven like God. And in all the life of the Redeemer, in all the variety of trying situations in which he was placed, there was not a word or action which was inconsistent with the supposition that he was the incarnate God. There was no failure of any effort to heal the sick or to raise the dead; no look, no word, no deed, that is not perfectly consistent with this supposition; but, on the contrary, his life is full of events which can be explained on no other supposition than that he was the appropriate shining forth of the Divine glory, and the exact resemblance of the essence of God. There are not two Gods, as there are not two suns when the sun shines. It is the one God, in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner, shining into the world in the face of Jesus Christ. See Barnes "2 Co 4:6".
As the wax bears the perfect image of the seal—perfect not only in the outline, but in the filling up—in all the lines, and features, and letters, so is it with the Redeemer. There is not one of the Divine perfections which has not the counterpart in him; and if the glory of the Divine character is seen at all by men, it will be Been in and through him.
And upholding all things by the word of his power. That is, by his powerful word, or command. The phrase "word of his power' is a Hebraism, and means his efficient command. There could not be a more distinct ascription of divinity to the Son of God than this. He upholds or sustains all things—i. e. the universe. It is not merely the earth; not only its rocks, mountains, seas, animals, and men, but it is the universe—all distant worlds. How can he do this who is not God? He does it by his word— his command. What a conception! That a simple command should do all this: So the world was made when God "spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast," Ps 33:9. So the Lord Jesus commanded the waves and the winds, and they were still, (Mt 8:26,27;) so he spoke to diseases, and they departed—and to the dead, and they arose. Comp. Ge 1:3. I know not how men can explain away this ascription of infinite power to the Redeemer. There can be no higher idea of omnipotence than to say, that he upholds all things by his word; and assuredly he who can hold up this wast universe, so that it does not sink into anarchy or into nothing, must be God. The same power Jesus claimed for himself. See Mt 28:18.
When he had by himself purged our sins. "By himself"—not by the blood of bulls and lambs, but by his own blood. This is designed to bring in the grand feature of the Christian scheme, that the purification made for sin was by his blood, instead of the blood which was shed in the temple-service. The word here rendered "purged" means purified, or "expiated". See Barnes "Joh 15:2".
The literal rendering is, "having made purification for our sins." The purification or cleansing, which he effected, was by his blood. See 1 Jo 1:7: "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." This the apostle here states to have been the great object for which he came, and having done this, he sat down on the right hand of God. See Heb 7:27; 9:12-14. It was not merely to teach that he came; it was to purify the hearts of men, to remove their sins, and to put an end of sacrifice by the sacrifice of himself.
|« Prev||Hebrews 1:3||Next »|