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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 4 - Verse 2

Verse 2. For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them. This translation by no means conveys the sense of the original. According to this, it would seem that the Gospel, as we understand it, or the whole plan of salvation, was communicated to them, as well as to us. But this is by no means the idea. The discussion has reference only to the promise of rest; and the assertion of the apostle is, that this good news of a promise of rest is made to us, as really as it was made to them. "Rest" was promised to them in the land of Canaan—an emblem of the eternal rest of the people of God. That was unquestioned, and Paul took it for granted. His object now is, to show that a promise of "rest" is as really made to us as it was to them, and that there is the same danger of failing to secure it as there was then. It was important for him to show that there was such a promise made to the people of God in his time; and as he was discoursing of those who were Hebrews, he of course made his appeal to the Old Testament. The literal translation would be, "For we are evangelizedesmen euhggelismenoi— as well as they." The word evangelize means, to communicate good news, or glad tidings; and the idea here is, that the good news or glad tidings of "rest" is announced to us as really as it was to them. This the apostle proves in the following verses.

But the word preached. Marg. Of hearing. The word preach we also use now, in a technical sense, as denoting a formal proclamation of the gospel by the ministers of religion. But this is not the idea here. It means, simply, the word which they heard; and refers particularly to the promise of "rest" which was made to them. That message was communicated to them by Moses.

Did not profit them. They derived no advantage from it. They rejected and despised it, and were, therefore, excluded from the promised land. It exerted no influence over their hearts and lives, and they lived and died as though no such promise had been made. Thus many persons live and die now. The offer of salvation is made to them. They are invited to come, and be saved. They are assured that God is willing to save them, and that the Redeemer stands with open arms to welcome them to heaven. They are trained up under the gospel; are led early in life to the sanctuary; are in the habit of attending on the preaching of the gospel all their days; but still what they hear exerts no saving influence on their hearts. At the close of life, all that could be truly said of them is, that they have not been profited; it has been no real advantage to them, in regard to their final destiny, that they have enjoyed so many privileges.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Marg. "Or, because they were not united by faith to" There are some various readings on this text, and one of these has given occasion to the version in the margin. Many Mss., instead of the common reading—sugkekramenov which the word mixed would be united to o logov "the word," have another reading— sugkekramenouv according to which the word mixed would refer to "them," and would mean that they who heard the word and rejected it were not mixed, or united, with those who believed it. The former reading makes the best sense, and is the best sustained; and the idea is, that the message which was preached was not received into the heart by faith. They were destitute of faith, and the message did not profit them. The word mixed is supposed by many of the best critics to refer to the process of which food is made nutritive, by being properly mixed with the saliva and the gastric juice, and thus converted into chyme and chyle, and then changed into blood. If suitably mired in this manner, it contributes to the life and health of the bodily frame; if not, it is the means of disease and death. So it is supposed the apostle meant to say of the message which God sends to man. If properly received—if mixed or united with faith—it becomes the means of spiritual support and life; if not, it furnishes no alhnent to the soul, and will be of no advantage. As food, when properly digested, incorporates itself with the body, and gives it support, so those critics suppose it to be of the word of God, that it incorporates itself with the internal and spiritual man, and gives it support and life: It may be doubted, however, whether the apostle had any such allusion as this, and whether it is not rather a refinement of the critics than of Paul. The word used here properly denotes a mixing or mingling together, like water and wine, 2 Mac. 15:39; a uniting together in proper proportions and order, as of the body, 1 Co 12:24; and it may refer here merely to a proper union of faith with the word, in order that it might be profitable. The idea is, that merely to hear the message of life with the outward ear will be of no advantage. It must be believed, or it will be of no benefit. The message is sent to mankind at large. God declares his readiness to save all. But this message is of no advantage to multitudes—for such reasons as these:—

(1.) Many do not attend to it at all. They do not even listen respectfully to it. Multitudes go not near the place where the gospel is proclaimed; and many, when there, and when they seem to attend, have their minds and hearts on other things.

(2.) Many do not believe it. They have doubts about the whole subject of religion, or about the particular doctrines of the gospel; and while they do not believe it, how can they be benefited by it? How can a man be profited by the records of history if he does not believe them? How can one be benefited by the truths of science if he does not believe them? And if a man was assured that by going to a certain place he might close a bargain that would be a great advantage to him, of what use would this information be to him if he did not believe a word of it? So of the knowledge of salvation; the facts of the history recorded in the Bible; the offset of eternal life.

(3.) Men do not allow the message of life to influence their conduct, and of course it is of no advantage to them. Of what use can it be, if they steadily resist all the influence which it would have, and ought to have, on their lives? They live as though it were ascertained that there is no truth in the Bible; no reason for being influenced by the offered hope of eternal life, or alarmed by the threatened danger of eternal death. Resolved to pursue a course of life that is at variance with the commands of God, they cannot be profited by the message of salvation. Having no faith which influences and controls the heart, they are not in the least benefited by the offer of heaven. When they die, their condition is in no wise made better by the fact, that they were trained up in a pious family; that they were instructed in the Sabbath-school; that they had the Bible in their dwellings, and that they sat regularly under a preached gospel. For any advantage to be derived from all this in the future world, they might as well have never heard the message of life. Nay it would have been better for them. The only effect of these privileges is to harden them in guilt, and to sink them deeper in hell. See Barnes "2 Co 2:16".

 

{1} "did" "of hearing" {2} "not being mixed" "or, because they were not united by faith to"

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