1. Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let [them] slip.
1. Quamobrem opertet nos magis attendere iis quae audimus, ne quando diffluamus.
2. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;
2. Si enim quo per angelos enunciatus erat, sermo, firmus fuit, et omnis transgressio et inobedientia justam acceptit repensionem mercedis;
3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];
3. Quomodo nos effugiemus tanta neglecta salute? quae quum initio coepisset enarrari per Dominum, ab iis qui audierant, erga nos confirmata fuit;
4. God also bearing [them] witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
4. Simul attestante Deo signis et prodigiis, et virtutibus variis, et distributionibus Spiritus Sancti secundum ejus voluntatem.
But should it seem strange to any one, that as the doctrine both of the Law and of the Gospel is from God, one should be preferred to the other; inasmuch as by having the Law lowered the majesty of God would be degraded; the evident answer would be this, -- that he ought indeed always to be heard with equal attention whenever he may speak, and yet that the fuller he reveals himself to us, it is but right that our reverence and attention to obedience should increase in proportion to the extent of his revelations; not that God is in himself less at one time than at another; but his greatness is not at all times equally made known to us.
Here also another question arises. Was not the Law also given by Christ? If so, the argument of the Apostle seems not to be well grounded. To this I reply, that in this comparison regard is had to a veiled revelation on one side, and to that which is manifest on the other. Now, as Christ in bringing the Law showed himself but obscurely or darkly, and as it were under coverings, it is nothing strange that the Law should be said to have been brought by angels without any mention being made of his name; for in that transaction he never appeared openly; but in the promulgation of the Gospel his glory was so conspicuous, that he may justly be deemed its author.
And observe that the word salvation is transferred here metonymically to the doctrine of salvation; for as the Lord would not have men otherwise saved than by the Gospel, so when that is neglected the whole salvation of God is rejected; for it is God's power unto salvation to those who believe. (Romans 1:16.) Hence he who seeks salvation in any other way, seeks to attain it by another power than that of God; which is an evidence of extreme madness. But this encomium is not only a commendation of the Gospel, but is also a wonderful support to our faith; for it is a testimony that the word is by no means unprofitable, but that a sure salvation is conveyed by it.3
Moreover, this passage indicates that this epistle was not written by Paul; for he did not usually speak so humbly of himself, as to confess that he was one of the Apostles' disciples, nor did he thus speak from ambition, but because wicked men under a pretense of this kind attempted to detract from the authority of his doctrine. It then appears evident that it was not Paul who wrote that he had the Gospel by hearing and not by revelation.4
He designates miracles, for the sake of amplifying their importance, by three names. They are called
As to the word,
3 So great, observes Dr. Owen is this salvation, that is a deliverance from Satan, from sin, and from eternal sin, and from eternal death. The means also by which it has been procured, and is now effected, and its endless results, prove in a wonderful manner its greatness. -- Ed.
4 The same objection has been advanced by Grotius and others, but it has no weight in it; for the Apostle here distinctly refers to the facts in connection with the twelve Apostles, as this alone was necessary for his purpose here; and the same reason for concealing his name accounts for no reference being made here to his own ministry. And "we" and "us" as employed by the Apostle, often refer to things which belong to all in common as Christians. See chapter 4:1, 11; 11:40, etc. And he uses them sometimes when he himself personally is not included. See 1 Corinthians 15:51. -- Ed.
5 These three words occur twice together in other places, Acts 2:22, and 2 Thessalonians 2:9; only they are found in Acts in a different order -- miracles wonders and signs. Signs and wonders are often found together both in the Old Testament, and in this order except in three places, Acts 2:19, 43; and 7:36. The same things, as Calvin says, are no doubt meant by three words under different views. They are called "signs" or as tokens as evidence of a divine interposition; "wonders" or prodigies, as being not natural, but supernatural, and as having the effect of filling men with terror, Acts 2:43; and "miracles" or powers, as being the effects of a divine power. So that "signs" betoken their intention; "wonders" their characters; and "miracles" their origin, or the power which produces them. -- Ed.
6 By referring to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, we shall be able to see the meaning of "distributions of the Spirit," which seems to have been different from signs and wonders, for in that passage there are several gifts mentioned distinct from signs and wonders, such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of prophecy, and the discerning of spirits. These were the distributions, or the portions, which the Spirit divined to every one "according to his will;" for the "will" here, as in 1 Corinthians 12:11, is the will of the Spirit. The most suitable rendering of the last clause would be "and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." There is an evident metonymy in the word "distributions;" it is used abstractly for things distributed or divided. -- Ed.