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13. Concluding Exhortations

1Let love of the brethren continue. 2Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them that are illtreated, as being yourselves also in the body. 4Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. 6So that with good courage we say,

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear:

What shall man do unto me?

7Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever. 9Be not carried away by divers and strange teachings: for it is good that the heart be established by grace; not by meats, wherein they that occupied themselves were not profited. 10We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat that serve the tabernacle. 11For the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned without the camp. 12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13Let us therefore go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come. 15Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name. 16But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 17Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you. 18Pray for us: for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, desiring to live honorably in all things. 19And I exhort you the more exceedingly to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, 21make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22But I exhort you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written unto you in few words. 23Know ye that our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 25Grace be with you all. Amen.

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15. By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God, etc. He returns to that particular doctrine to which he had referred, respecting the abrogation of the ancient ceremonies; and he anticipates an objection that might have been made; for as the sacrifices were attached as appendages to the tabernacle, when this was abolished, it follows that the sacrifices also must have ceased. But the Apostle had taught us that as Christ had suffered without the gate, we are also called thither, and that hence the tabernacle must be forsaken by those who would follow him.

Here a question arises, whether any sacrifices remained for Christians; for this would have been inconsistent, as they had been instituted for the purpose of celebrating God’ worship. The Apostle, therefore, in due time meets this objection, and says that another kind of sacrifice remains for us, which no less pleases God, even the offering of the calves of our lips, as the Prophet Hoses says. 285285     The words in Hosea are not regimen, but in apposition. “So will we render calves, our lips.” Such is the meaning given by the Targum, though the Vulg. puts the words in construction, “the calves of our lips.” Instead of the calves offered in sacrifices, the promise made was to offer their lips, that is, words which they were required to take, “Take with you words”. The Sept., Syr., and Arab. Render the phrase as here given, “the fruit of our lips,” only the Apostle leaves out “our”. There is the same meaning, though not exactly the same words. — Ed. (Hosea 14:2.) Now that the sacrifice of praise is not only equally pleasing to God, but of more account than all those external sacrifices under the Law, appears evident from the fiftieth Psalm; for God there repudiates all these as things of nought, and bids the sacrifice of praise to be offered to him. We hence see that it is the highest worship of God, justly preferred to all other exercises, when we acknowledge God’s goodness by thanksgiving; yea, this is the ceremony of sacrificing which God commends to us now. There is yet no doubt but that under this one part is included the whole of prayer; for we cannot give him thanks except when we are heard by him; and no one obtains anything except he who prays. He in a word means that without brute animals we have what is required to be offered to God, and that he is thus rightly and really worshipped by us.

But as it was the Apostle’s design to teach us what is the legitimate way of worshipping God under the New Testament, so by the way he reminds us that God cannot be really invoked by us and his name glorified, except through Christ the mediator; for it is he alone who sanctifies our lips, which otherwise are unclean, to sing the praises of God; and it is he who opens a way for our prayers, who in short performs the office of a priest, presenting himself before God in our name.

16. But to do good, etc. Here he points out even another way of offering a due and regular sacrifice, for all the acts and duties of love are so many sacrifices; and he thereby intimates that they were foolish and absurd in their wishes who thought that something was wanting except they offered beasts to God according to the Law, since God gave them many and abundant opportunities for sacrificing. For though he can derive no benefit from us, yet he regards prayer a sacrifice, and so much as the chief sacrifice, that it alone can supply the place of all the rest; and then, whatever benefits we confer on men he considers as done to himself, and honors them with the name of sacrifices. So it appears that the elements of the Law are now not only superfluous, but do harm, as they draw us away from the right way of sacrificing.

The meaning is, that if we wish to sacrifice to God, we must call on him and acknowledge his goodness by thanksgiving, and further, that we must do good to our brethren; these are the true sacrifices which Christians ought to offer; and as to other sacrifices, there is neither time nor place for them.

For with such sacrifices God is well pleased. There is to be understood here an implied contrast, — that he no longer requires those ancient sacrifices which he had enjoined until the abrogation of the Law.

But with this doctrine is connected an exhortation which ought powerfully to stimulate us to exercise kindness towards our neighbors; for it is not a common honor that God should regard the benefits we confer on men as sacrifices offered to himself, and that he so adorns our works, which are nothing worth, as to pronounce them holy and sacred things, acceptable to him. When, therefore, love does not prevail among us, we not only rob men of their right, but God himself, who has by a solemn sentence dedicated to himself what he has commanded to be done to men.

The word communicate has a wider meaning than to do good, for it embraces all the duties by which men can mutually assist one another; and it is a true mark or proof of love, when they who are united together by the Spirit of God communicate to one another. 286286     The words may be thus rendered, “And forget not benevolence (or, literally, well-doing) and liberality.” The δὲ here should be rendered “and,” for this is enjoined in addition to what is stated in the previous verse. The word εὐποιΐα means kindness, benevolence, beneficence, the doing of good generally; but κοινωνία refers to the distribution of what is needful for the poor. See Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 9:13. So that Calvin in this instance has reserved their specific meaning. Stuart’s version is “Forget not kindness also and liberality;” and he explains the clause thus, “Beneficence or kindness toward the suffering and liberality toward the needy.” — Ed

17. Obey them, etc. I doubt not but that he speaks of pastors and other rulers of the Church, for there were then no Christian magistrates; and what follows, for they watch for your souls, properly belongs to spiritual government. He commands first obedience and then honor to be rendered to them. 287287     Grotius renders the second verb, ὑπείκετε, “concede” to them, that is, the honor due to their office; Beza, “be compliant,” (obsecundate;) and the directions of your guides and submit to their admonitions.” Doddridge gives the sentiment of Calvin, “Submit yourselves to them with becoming respect.”
   The words may be rendered, “Obey your rulers and be submissive;” that is cultivate an obedient, compliant and submissive spirit. He speaks first of what they were to do — to render obedience and then of the spirit with which that obedience was to be rendered; it was not merely to be an outward act, but proceeding from a submissive mind. Schleusner’s explanation is similar, “Obey your rulers and promptly (or willingly) obey them.” — Ed.
These two things are necessarily required, so that the people might have confidence in their pastors, and also reverence for them. But it ought at the same time to be noticed that the Apostle speaks only of those who faithfully performed their office; for they who have nothing but the title, nay, who use the title of pastors for the purpose of destroying the Church, deserve but little reverence and still less confidence. And this also is what the Apostle plainly sets forth when he says, that they watched for their souls, — a duty which is not performed but by those who are faithful rulers, and are really what they are called.

Doubly foolish, then, are the Papists, who from these words confirm the tyranny of their own idol: “The Spirit bids us obediently to receive the doctrine of godly and faithful bishops, and to obey their wholesome counsels; he bids us also to honor them.” But how does this favor mere apes of bishops? And yet not only such are all those who are bishops under the Papacy, but they are cruel murderers of souls and rapacious wolves. But to pass by a description of them, this only will I say at present, that when we are bidden to obey our pastors, we ought carefully and wisely to find out those who are true and faithful rulers; for if we render this honor to all indiscriminately, first, a wrong will be done to the good; and secondly, the reason here added, to honor them because they watch for souls, will be rendered nugatory. In order, therefore, that the Pope and those who belong to him may derive support from this passage, they must all of necessity first prove that they are of the number of those who watch for our salvation. If this be made evident, there will then be no question but that they ought to be reverently treated by all the godly. 288288     “The Greek interpreters,” says Estius, “teach that obedience is due to a bishop, though he be immoral in his conduct; but not if he perverts the doctrine of faith in his public preaching, for in that case he deprives himself of power, as he declares himself to be an enemy to the church.” Poole, who quotes this passage, adds, “Let the Papisticals note this, who vociferously claim blind obedience in behalf of their pastors.” — Ed.

For they watch, etc. His meaning is, that the heavier the burden they bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor anyone undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him. And such is the office of bishops, that it involves the greatest labor and the greatest danger; if, then, we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them. 289289     See Appendix G 3.

He further reminds us in what great a concern their labor may avail us, for, if the salvation of our souls be precious to us, they ought by no means to be deemed of no account who watch for it. He also bids us to be teachable and ready to obey, that what pastors do in consequence of what their office demands, they may also willingly and joyfully do; for, if they have their minds restrained by grief or weariness, though they may be sincere and faithful, they will yet become disheartened and careless, for vigor in acting will fail at the same time with their cheerfulness. Hence the Apostle declares, that it would be unprofitable to the people to cause sorrow and mourning to their pastors by their ingratitude; and he did this, that he might intimate to us that we cannot be troublesome or disobedient to our pastors without hazarding our own salvation.

As hardly one in ten considers this, it is hence evident how great generally is the neglect of salvation; nor is it a wonder how few at this day are found who strenuously watch over the Church of God. For besides, there are very few who are like Paul, who have their mouth open when the people’s ears are closed, and who enlarge their own heart when the heart of the people is straitened. The Lord also punishes the ingratitude which everywhere prevails. Let us then remember that we are suffering the punishment of our own perverseness, whenever the pastors grow cold in their duty, or are less diligent than they ought to be.

18. For we trust, etc. After having commended himself to their prayers, in order to excite them to pray, he declares that he had a good conscience. Though indeed our prayers ought to embrace the whole world, as love does, from which they flow; it is yet right and meet that we should be peculiarly solicitous for godly and holy men, whose probity and other marks of excellency have become known to us. For this end, then, he mentions the integrity of his own conscience, that is, that he might move them more effectually to feel an interest for himself. By saying, I am persuaded, or I trust, he thus partly shows his modesty and partly his confidence. In all, may be applied to things as well as to men; and so I leave it undecided. 290290     The Greek fathers connect it with the preceding clause, “For we trust we have a good conscience towards all,” that is towards Jews and Gentiles; but the Vulg. connects it with the following, “willing in all things to live well;” that is honorably. “Willing in all things to behave well” Macknight; “determined in all things to behave honorable” Doddridge; “being desirous in all things to conduct ourselves uprightly,” Stuart. To keep the alliteration in the text, the words may be rendered thus — “We trust that we have a good conscience, being desirous to maintain a good conduct." A good conscience is a pure conscience, free from guilt and sinister motives: and to behave or live goodly, as the words are literally, is not to behave honorably or honestly, but to behave or live uprightly according to the rule of God’s word; so that the best version is, “Willing in all things to live uprightly.” “We trust,” is rendered by Doddridge and Macknight, “we are confident;” but our version is preferable. — Ed.

19. But I beseech you, etc. He now adds another argument, — that the prayers they would make for him, would be profitable to them all as well as to himself individually, as though he had said, “I do not so much consult my own benefit as the benefit of you all; for to be restored to you would be the common good of all.”

A probable conjecture may hence perhaps be gathered, that the author of this Epistle was either beset with troubles or detained by the fear of persecution, so as not to be able to appear among those to whom he was writing. It might however be, that he thus spoke, though he was free and at liberty, for he regarded man’s steps as being in God’s hand; and this appears probable from the end of the Epistle.

20. Now the God of peace, etc. To render mutual what he desired them to do, he ends his Epistle with prayer; and he asks of God to confirm, or to fit, or to perfect them in every good work; for such is the meaning of καταρτίσαι. We hence conclude, that we are by no means fit to do good until we are made or formed for the purpose by God, and that we shall not continue long in doing good unless he strengthens us; for perseverance is his peculiar gift. Nor is there a doubt but that as no common gifts of the Spirit had already, as it seems, appeared in them, the first impression with which they began, is not what is prayed for, but the polishing, which they were to be made perfect.

That brought again from the dead, etc. This clause was added for the sake of confirmation; for he intimates that God is then only prayed to aright by us, to lead us on to perfection, when we acknowledge his power in the resurrection of Christ, and acknowledge Christ himself as our pastor. He, in short, would have us to look to Christ, in order that we may rightly trust in God for help; for Christ was raised from death for this end, that we might be renewed unto eternal life, by the same power of God; and he is the great pastor of all, in order that we may protect the sheep committed to him by the Father.

Through the blood, etc. I have rendered it, “In the blood;” for as ב “in,” is often taken in the sense of with, so I prefer to regard it here. For it seems to me, that the Apostle means, that Christ so arose from the dead, that his death was not yet abolished, but that it retains its efficacy forever, as though he had said, “God raised up his own son, but in such a way that the blood he shed once for all in his death is efficacious after his resurrection for the ratification of the everlasting covenant, and brings forth fruit the same as though it were flowing always.” 292292     See Appendix H 3.

21. To do his will, etc. He now gives a definition of good works by laying down God’s will as the rule; for he thus intimates, that no works are to be deemed good, but such as are agreeable to the will of God, as Paul also teaches us in Romans 12:2, and in many other places. Let us then remember, that it is the perfection of a good and holy life, when we live in obedience to his will. The clause which next follows is explanatory, working (or doing) in you what is well pleasing in his sight. He had spoken of that will which is made known in the Law; he now shows, that in vain is obtruded on God what he has not commanded; for he values the decrees of his own will far more than all the inventions of the world.

Through Jesus Christ, etc. This may be explained in two ways, — “Working through Jesus Christ”, or, “Well­pleasing through Jesus Christ.” Both senses are suitable. For we know that the spirit of regeneration and also all graces are bestowed on us through Christ; and then it is certain, that as nothing can proceed from us absolutely perfect, nothing can be acceptable to God without that pardon which we obtain through Christ. Thus it comes, that our works, performed by the odor of Christ’s grace, emit a sweet fragrance in God’s presence, while otherwise they would have a fetid smell. I am disposed to include both meanings.

To whom be glory, etc. This I refer to Christ. And as he here ascribes to Christ what peculiarly belongs to God alone, he thus bears a clear testimony to his divinity; but still if anyone prefers to explain this of the Father, I do not object; though I embrace the other sense, as being the most obvious.

22. And I beseech you, etc. Some understand this as though he was soliciting them to hear him; but I take another view; for he mentions, as I think, that he had written in a few words, or briefly, in order that he might not appear as though he wished to lessen in any degree the ordinary practice of teaching. Let us hence learn that the Scripture has not been committed to us in order to silence the voice of pastors, and that we are not to be fastidious when the same exhortations often sound in our ears; for the holy Spirit has so regulated the writings which he has dictated to the Prophets and the Apostles, that he detracts nothing from the order instituted by himself; and the order is, that constant exhortations should be heard in the Church from the mouth of pastors. And probably he recommends the word of exhortation for this reason, that though men are by nature anxious to learn, they yet prefer to hear something new rather than to be reminded of things known and often heard before. Besides, as they indulge themselves in sloth, they can ill bear to be stimulated and reproved.

23. Know ye that our brother, etc. Since the termination of the Greek verb γινώσκετε, will admit of either renderings, we may read, “Ye know,” or, “Know ye;” but I prefer the latter reading, though I do not reject the other. 293293     The Vulgate Beza and almost all expounders, render it as an imperative, “Know ye.” — Ed. The probability is, that he was informing the Jews on the other side of the sea of what they did not know. Now, if this Timothy was the renowned companion of Paul, which I am inclined to think, it is very probable that either Luke or Clement was the author of this Epistle. Paul, indeed, more usually calls him his son; and then what immediately follows does not apply to Paul; for it appears that the writer was at liberty and at his own disposal; and besides, that he was then anywhere rather than at Rome; nay, it is very probable, that he was going round through various cities, and was then preparing to pass over the sea. Now all these particulars might have been suitable to the circumstances either of Luke or of Clement after the death of Paul. 294294     The words ἀπολελυμένον in this verse, has been rendered by Macknight and some others, “sent away.” It is no doubt used in the sense of dismissing, dissolving, or sending away an assembly or a multitude, but not of sending away a person on a message. The two things are wholly distinct. The verb means to set loose, to loosen to release and hence to dismiss, to set at liberty, to make free, and never in the sense of sending a person to a place on business, or with an errand or message. The objection that we do not read elsewhere of Timothy’s imprisonment is of no weight for the history we have of those times is very brief; and if we judge from the state of things at that period, there is nothing more probable than that Timothy shared the lot of Paul and of others. It is also probable that he was not imprisoned at Rome, where Paul was, but at some other place, for Paul says he expected him soon; and he does not say “If he returns quickly,” but “if he come quickly.” —Ed.
    

24. Salute, etc. As he writes his Epistle generally to the Hebrews, it is strange that he bids some, separate from the rest, to be saluted; but he sends this salutation, as I think, more particularly to the rulers, as a mark of honor, that he might conciliate them, and gently lead them to assent to his doctrine. And he adds, —

And all the saints. He either means the faithful from among the Gentiles, and refers to them that both Jews and Gentiles might learn to cultivate unity among themselves; or his object was to intimate, that they who first received the Epistle, were to communicate it to others.

END OF THE COMMENTARIES ON THE EPISTLE
TO THE HEBREWS




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