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3how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, 4while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.


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3. If we neglect so great a salvation, etc. Not only the rejection of the Gospel, but also its neglect, deserves the heaviest punishment, and that on account of the greatness of the grace which it offers; hence he says, so great a salvation. God would indeed leave his gifts valued by us according to their worth. Then the more precious they are, the baser is our ingratitude when we do not value them. In a word, in proportion to the greatness of Christ will be the severity of God’s vengeance on all the despisers of his Gospel. 3030     To “neglect,” is literally, not to care for; not to care for our salvation is to neglect it. It is rendered, to “make light of,” in Matthew 22:5; and “not to regard,” in chapter 8:9. — Ed.

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. 3131     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.

Which at first began, etc. Here he sets the Son of God, the first herald of the Gospel, in opposition to angels, and also anticipates what was necessary to remove a doubt which might have crept into the minds of many; for they had not been taught by the mouth of Christ himself, whom the greatest part had never seen. If then they regarded only the man by whose ministry they had been led to the faith, they might have made less of what they had learnt from him; hence the Apostle reminded them, that the doctrine which had been delivered them by others, yet proceeded from Christ; for he says that those who had faithfully declared what had been committed to them by Christ, had been his disciples. He therefore uses the word, was confirmed, as though he had said, that it was not a random report, without any author, or from witnesses of doubtful credit, but a report which was confirmed by men of weight and authority.

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. 3232     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.

4. God also bearing them witness, etc. In addition to the fact, that the Apostles had what they preached from the Son of God, the Lord also proved his approbation of their preaching by miracles, as by a solemn subscription. Then they who do not reverently receive the Gospel recommended by such testimonies, disregard not only the word of God, but also his works.

He designates miracles, for the sake of amplifying their importance, by three names. They are called signs because they rouse men’s minds, that they may think of something higher that what appears; and wonders, because they present what is rare and unusual; and miracles, because the Lord shows in them a singular and an extraordinary evidence of his power. 3333     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.

As to the word, bearing witness, or attesting, it points out the right use of miracles, even that they serve to establish the Gospel. For almost all the miracles done in all ages were performed as we find for this end, that they might be the seals of Gods word. The more strange then is the superstition of the Papists, who employ their own fictitious miracles for the purpose of overthrowing the truth of God.

The conjunction συν, together with, has this meaning, that we are confirmed in the faith of the Gospel by the joint testimony of God and men; for God’s miracles were testimonies concurring with the voice of men.

He adds, by the gifts or distributions of the Holy Spirit, by which also the doctrine of the Gospel was adorned, of which they were the appendages. 3434     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. For why did God distribute the gifts of his Spirit, except in part that they might be helps in promulgating it, and in part that their might move through admiration the minds of men to obey it? Hence Paul says, that tongues were a sign to unbelievers. The words, according to his will, remind us, that the miracles mentioned could not be ascribed to any except to God alone, and that they were not wrought undesignedly, but, for the distinct purpose of sealing the truth of the Gospel.




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