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Hebrews Chapter 10:36-39

36. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

36. Patientiae enim opus habetis, ut quum voluntatem Dei feceritis obtineatis promissionem.

37. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

37. Adhuc enim pusillum temporis, quando qui venturus est veniet et non tardabit.

38. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

38. Justus autem ex fide vivet, et si subductus fuerit non oblectabitur anima mea in eo.

39. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

39. Nos autem non sumus subductionis in perditionem, sed fidei in acquisitionem animae.

 

36. For ye have need of patience, etc. He says that patience is necessary, not only because we have to endure to the end, but as Satan has innumerable arts by which he harasses us; and hence except we possess extraordinary patience, we shall a thousand times be broken down before we come to the half of our course. The inheritance of eternal life is indeed certain to us, but as life is like a race, we ought to go on towards the goal. But in our way there are many hindrances and difficulties, which not only delay us, but which would also stop our course altogether, except we had great firmness of mind to pass through them. Satan craftily suggests every kind of trouble in order to discourage us. In short, Christians will never advance two paces without fainting, except they are sustained by patience. 196196     Or, “patient waiting,” as rendered by Erasmus and Stuart, and not “perseverance,” as rendered by Macknight. They were to suffer patiently their trials, looking forward to their termination; and in order to encourage them patiently to endure, he reminds them in the next verse that it will only be for a very short time. — Ed. This then is the only way or means by which we can firmly and constantly advance; we shall not otherwise obey God, nor even enjoy the promised inheritance, which is here by metonymy called the “promise”.

37. For yet a little while, or, for yet a very little time, etc. That it may not be grievous to us to endure, he reminds us that the time will not be long. There is indeed nothing that avails more to sustain our minds, should they at any time become faint, than the hope of a speedy and near termination. As a general holds forth to his soldiers the prospect that the war will soon end, provided they hold out a little longer; so the Apostle reminds us that the Lord will shortly come to deliver us from all evils, provided our minds faint not through want of firmness.

And in order that this consolation might have more assurance and authority, he adduces the testimony of the Prophet Habakkuk. (Habakkuk 2:4.) But as he follows the Greek version, he departs somewhat from the words of the Prophet. I will first briefly explain what the Prophet says, and then we shall compare it with what the Apostle relates here.

When the Prophet had spoken of the dreadful overthrow of his own nation, being terrified by his prophecy, he had nothing to do but to quit as it were the world, and to betake himself to his watchtower; and his watchtower was the Word of God, by which he was raised as it were into heaven. Being thus placed in this station, he was bidden to write a new prophecy, which brought to the godly the hope of salvation. Yet as men are naturally unreasonable, and are so hasty in their wishes that they always think God tardy, whatever haste he may make, he told them that the promise would come without delay; at the same time he added, “If it tarries, wait for it.” By which he meant, that what God promises will never come so soon, but that it seems to us to tarry, according to an old proverb, “Even speed is delay to desire.” Then follow these words, “Behold, his soul that is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” By these words he intimates that the ungodly, however they may be fortified by defenses, should not be able to stand, for there is no life of security but by faith. Let the unbelieving then fortify themselves as they please, they can find nothing in the whole world but what is fading, so that they must ever be subject to trembling; but their faith will never disappoint the godly, because it rests on God. This is the meaning of the Prophet.

Now the Apostle applies to God what Habakkuk said of the promise; but as God by fulfilling his promises in a manner shows what he is, as to the subject itself there is not much difference; nay, the Lord comes whenever he puts forth his hand to help us. The Apostle follows the Prophet in saying, That it would be shortly; because God defers not his help longer than it is expedient; for he does not by delaying time deceive us as men are wont to do; but he knows his own time which he suffers not to pass by without coming to our aid at the moment required. Now he says, He that cometh will come, and will not tarry. Here are two clauses: by the first we are taught that God will come to our aid, for he has promised; and by the second, that he will do so in due time, not later than he ought. 197197     It is evident from the manner in which the quotation is made, that the Apostle meant only to adapt to his own purpose the passage in Habakkuk; he does not quote it in the order in which it is found there, nor literally from the Hebrew, nor wholly so from the Sept. What is said in Habakkuk of the vision, he applies here to the Lord. Surely, such a use of a passage is legitimate.
   The coming of Christ mentioned here, according to Mede, was his coming to destroy Jerusalem, and to put an end to the Jewish polity. If “the approaching day,” in verse 25, be considered to be that event then the same event is most probably referred to here. Besides, he speaks here of the enmity of the unbelieving Jews; and as our Savior represented the destruction of Jerusalem as a blessing to his people, it becomes still more probable that Christ’s coming to destroy that nation is intended. — Ed.

38. Now the just, etc. He means that patience is born of faith; and this is true, for we shall never be able to carry on our contests unless we are sustained by faith, even as, on the other hand, John truly declares, that our victory over the world is by faith. (1 John 5:4.) It is by faith that we ascend on high; that we leap over all the perils of this present life, and all its miseries and troubles; that we possess a quiet standing in the midst of storms and tempests. Then the Apostle announced this truth, that all who are counted just before God do not live otherwise than by faith. And the future tense of the verb live, betokens the perpetuity of this life. Let readers consult on this subject Romans 1:17, 198198     The Book has Ro 1:7, — an obvious typesetting error.-fj. and Galatians 3:11, where this passage is quoted.

But if any man draw back, etc. This is the rendering of עפלה elation, as used by the Prophet, for the words are, “Where there shall be elation or munition, the soul of that man shall not continue right in him.” The Apostle gives here the Greek version, which partly agrees with the words of the Prophet, and partly differs from them. For this drawing back differs but little, if anything, from that elation or pride with which the ungodly are inflated, since their refractory opposition to God proceeds from that false confidence with which they are inebriated; for hence it is that they renounce his authority and promise themselves a quiet state, free from all evil. They may be said, then, to draw back, when they set up defenses of this kind, by which they drive away every fear of God and reverence for his name. And thus by this expression is intimated the power of faith no less than the character of impiety; for pride is impiety, because it renders not to God the honor due to him, by rendering man obedient to him. From self­security, insolence, and contempt, it comes that as long as it is well with the wicked, they dare, as one has said, to insult the clouds. But since nothing is more contrary to faith than this drawing back, for the true character of faith is, that it draws a man unto submission to God when drawn back by his own sinful nature.

The other clause, “He will not please my soul,” or as I have rendered it more fully, “My soul shall not delight in him,” is to be taken as the expression of the Apostle’s feeling; for it was not his purpose to quote exactly the words of the Prophet, but only to refer to the passage to invite readers to a closer examination of it. 199199     This verse, with the exception of the two clauses being inverted, and of my being not added to “faith,” is literally the same with the Sept. But the last clause here and the first in Habakkuk, differs in words materially from the Hebrew, according to the received text. There are two MSS. which give עלפה instead of עפלה, a transposition of two letters. If not exactly in words. The Hebrew, then, would be as follows —
   Behold the fainting! Not right is his soul within him;
But the righteousness by his faith shall he live.

   The fainting i.e., as to faith and he who “draws back,” or withdraws through fear, as the verb means, are descriptive of the same character. To persevere in expecting the fulfillment of a promise, is the subject in Habakkuk and also in this passage. And then, that the soul of the fainting is not right, is the same as to say that such a soul is not what God approves.

   A theological dispute has arisen, though unnecessarily, from the construction of the last clause in this verse. The introduction of “any one,” or any man, has been objected to, and that it ought to be “but if he,” i.e., “the righteousness” draw back, etc. The probability is, that as “anyone” should not be ascribed to Beza, for Pagininus and others had done so before him. However, the doctrine of perseverance is in no way imperiled by leaving out “any one.” The Bible is full of this mode of addressing Christians, and yet the Bible assures us that the sheep of Christ shall never perish. Warnings and admonitions are the very means which God employs to secure the final salvation of his people; and to conclude from such warnings that they may finally fall away, is by no means a legitimate argument. — Ed.

39. But we are not of them which draw back, etc. The Apostle made a free use of the Greek version, which was most suitable to the doctrine which he was discussing; and he now wisely applies it. He had before warned them, lest by forsaking the Church they should alienate themselves from the faith and the grace of Christ; he now teaches them that they had been called for this end, that they might not draw back. And he again sets faith and drawing back in opposition the one to the other, and also the preservation of the soul to its perdition.

Now let it be noticed that this truth belongs also to us, for we, whom God has favored with the light of the Gospel, ought to acknowledge that we have been called in order that we may advance more and more in our obedience to God, and strive constantly to draw nearer to him. This is the real preservation of the soul, for by so doing we shall escape eternal perdition.


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