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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 9 - Verse 14
Verse 14. How much more shall the blood of Christ. As being infinitely more precious than the blood of an animal could possibly be. If the blood of an animal had any efficacy at all, even in removing ceremonial pollutions, how much more is it reasonable to suppose may be effected by the blood of the Son of God!
Who through the eternal Spirit. This expression is very difficult, and has given rise to a great variety of interpretation.—Some Mss., instead of eternal here, read holy, making it refer directly to the Holy Spirit. See Wetstein. These various readings, however, are not regarded as of sufficient authority to lead to a change in the text, and are of importance only as showing that it was an early opinion that the Holy Spirit is here referred to. The principal opinions which have been entertained respecting this phrase are the following.
(1.) That which regards it as referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This was the opinion of Owen, Doddridge, and Archbishop Tillotson.
(2.) That which refers it to the divine:nature of Christ. Among those who have maintained this opinion are Beza, Ernesti, Wolf, Vitriuga, Storr, and the late Dr. J.P. Wilson, MSS. Notes.
(3.) Others, as Grotius, Rosenmuller, Koppe, understand it as meaning endless or immortal life, in contradistinction from the Jewish sacrifices which were of a perishable nature, and which needed so often to be repeated.
(4.) Others regard it as referring to the glorified person of the Saviour, meaning that, in his exited or spiritual station in heaven, he presents the efficacy of blood,
(5.) Others suppose that it means Divine influence; and that the idea is, that Christ was actuated and filled with a Divine influence when he offered up himself as a sacrifice—an influence which was not of a temporal and fleeting nature, but which was eternal in its efficacy. This is the interpretation preferred by Prof. Stuart. For an examination of these various opinions, see his "Excursus xviii." on this epistle. It is difficult, if not impossible, to decide what is the true meaning of the passage amidst this diversity of opinion; but there are some reasons which seem to me to make it probable that the Holy Spirit is intended, and that the idea is, that Christ made his great sacrifice under the extraordinary influences of that Eternal Spirit. The reasons which lead me to this opinion are the following.
(1.) It is that which would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament. It is presumed that the great body of sober, plain, and intelligent readers of the Bible, on perusing the passage, suppose that it refers to the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Trinity. There are few better and safer rules for the interpretation of a volume designed like the Bible for the mass of mankind, than to abide by the sense in which they understand it.
(2.) This interpretation is one which is most naturally conveyed by the language of the original. The phrase, the spirit to pneuma has so far a technical and established meaning in the New Testament as to denote the Holy Ghost, unless there is something in the connexion which renders such an application improper. In this case there is nothing certainly which necessarily forbids such an application. The high names and classical authority of those who have held this opinion are a sufficient guarantee of this.
Though he was Divine, yet he was also a man, and as such was under influences similar to those, of other pious men. The Holy Spirit is the source and sustainer of all piety in the soul; and it is not improper to suppose that the man Christ Jesus was, in a remarkable manner, influenced by the Holy Ghost in his readiness to obey God, and to suffer according to his will.
(4.) If there was ever an occasion on which we may suppose he was influenced by the Holy Ghost, that of his sufferings and death here referred to may be supposed eminently to have been such an one. It was expressive of the highest state of piety—of the purest love to God and man—which has ever existed in the human bosom; it was the most trying time of his own life; it was the period when there would be the most strong temptation to abandon his work; and, as the redemption of the whole world was dependent on that act, it is reasonable to suppose that the richest heavenly grace would be there imparted to him, and that he would then be eminently under the influence of that Spirit which was granted not "by measure unto him." See Barnes "Joh 3:34".
(5.) This representation is not inconsistent with the belief that the sufferings and death of the Redeemer were voluntary, and had all the merit which belongs to a voluntary transaction. Piety in the heart of a Christian now is not less voluntary because it is produced and cherished by the Holy Ghost, nor is there less excellence in it because the Holy Ghost imparts strong faith in the time of temptation and trial. It seems to me, therefore, that the meaning of this expression is, that the Lord Jesus was led by the strong influences of the Spirit of God to devote himself as a sacrifice for sin. It was not by any temporary influence—not by mere excitement; it was by the influence of the Eternal Spirit of God; and the sacrifice thus offered could, therefore, accomplish effects which would be eternal in their character. It was not like the offering made by the Jewish high priest, which was necessarily renewed every year, but it was under the influence of one who was eternal, and the effects of whose influence might be everlasting. It may be added, that if this is a correct exposition it follows that the Holy Ghost is eternal, and must therefore be Divine.
Offered himself. That is, as a sacrifice. He did not offer a bullock or a goat, but he offered himself. The sacrifice of one's self is the highest offering which he can make: in this case it was the highest which the universe had to make.
Without spot. Marg. "Or, fault." The animal that was offered in the Jewish sacrifices was to be without blemish. See Le 1:10; 22:19-22. It was not to be lame, or blind, or diseased. The word which is here used and rendered "without spot" amwmov—refers to this fact, that there was no defect or blemish. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, the great Sacrifice, was perfect. See Heb 7:26.
Purge your conscience. That is, cleanse, purify, or sanctify your conscience. The idea is, that this offering would take away whatever rendered the conscience defiled or sinful. The offerings of the Jews related in the main to external purification, and were not adapted to give peace to a troubled conscience. They could render the worshipper externally pure, so that he might draw near to God, and not be excluded by any ceremonial pollution or defile. merit; but the mind, the heart, the conscience, they could not make pure. They could not remove that which troubles a man when he recollects that he has violated a holy law and has offended God, and when he looks forward to an awful judgment-bar. The word conscience here is not to be understood as a distinct and independent faculty of the soul, but as the soul or mind itself reflecting and pronouncing on its own acts. The whole expression refers to a mind alarmed by the recollection of guilt—for it is guilt only that disturbs a man s conscience. Guilt originates in the soul remorse and despair; guilt makes a man troubled when he thinks of death and the judgment; it is guilt only which alarms a man when he thinks of a holy God; and it is nothing but guilt that makes the entrance into another world terrible and awful. If man had no guilt he would never dread his Maker, nor would the presence of his God be ever painful to him, Ge 3:6-10; if a man had no guilt he would not fear to die—for what have the innocent to fear anywhere? The universe is under the government of a God of goodness and truth, and, under such a government, how can those who have done no wrong have anything to dread? The fear of death, the apprehension of the judgment to come, and the dread of God, are strong and irrefragable proofs that every man is a sinner. The only thing, therefore, which ever disturbs the conscience, and makes death dreadful, and God an object of aversion, and eternity awful, is GUILT. If that is removed, man is calm and peaceful; if not, he is the victim of wretchedness and despair.
From dead works. From works that are deadly in their nature, or that lead to death. Or it may mean from works that have no spirituality, and no life. By "works" here the apostle does not refer to their outward religious acts particularly, but to the conduct of the life—-to what men do; and the idea is, that their acts are not spiritual and saving, but such as lead to death. See See Barnes "Heb 6:1".
To serve the living God. Not in outward form, but in sincerity and in truth; to be his true friends and worshippers. The phrase, "the living God," is commonly used in tile Scriptures to describe the true God as distinguished from idols, which are represented as dead, or without life, Ps 115:4-7. The idea in this verse is, that it is only the sacrifice made by Christ which can remove the stain of guilt from the soul. It could not be done by the blood of bulls and of goats—for that did not furnish relief to a guilty conscience—but it could be done by the blood of Christ. The sacrifice which he made for sin was so pure and of such values that God can consistently pardon the offender, and restore him to his favour. That blood, too, can give peace—for Christ poured it out in behalf of the guilty. It is not that he took part with the sinner against God; it is not that he endeavours to convince him who has a troubled conscience that he is needlessly alarmed, or that sin is not as bad as it is represented to be, or that it does not expose the soul to danger. Christ never took the part of the sinner against God; he never taught that sin was a small matter, or that it did not expose to danger. He admitted all that is said of its evil. But he provides for giving peace to the guilty conscience by shedding his blood that it may be forgiven, and by revealing a God of mercy who is willing to receive the offender into favour, and to treat him as though he had never sinned. Thus the troubled conscience may find peace; and thus, though guilty, man may be delivered from the dread of the wrath to come.
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