The Hope Set before Us. An Anchor of the Soul.
By PHILIP MAURO
Although grave risk and responsibility are incurred by those Christians who become enlightened as to the things of the age to come, in which the Son of God shall appear in, the character of Priest-King, the Apostle does not hesitate to, encourage the saints to press on. He says, " But we are persuaded better things of you, beloved, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak" (Heb. 6: 9). Although he puts before them plainly and forcibly the grave consequences of departing from the living God after becoming, enlightened as to His eternal purpose, he is persuaded better things of them. Of those saints he expects, not things that are connected with drawing back to destruction and loss, but things connected with pressing on to SALVATION. The recurrence of the word "salvation" at this point connects the passage with what precedes, namely, the “so great salvation” of chapter 2., and the "eternal* salvation," whereof Christ became the Author to all that obey Him, spoken of in verse 10.
[* The Greek word, ‘Aionios’ translated “eternal,” in this context should be translated ‘age-lasting’]
With this passage we may profitably compare what is said in chap. 10: 26-29: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth (i.e., have become enlightened), there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a. certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (as the thorns and briers will be consumed by the flames). But though the Apostle thus speaks in the plainest terms of the consequences of wilfully turning back, he says, "But we are not of those drawing back unto destruction, but of them who are OF FAITH TO THE SAVING OF THE SOUL” (verse 39). The word "perdition" in the A.V., should read "destruction!' There is no perdition for the saint; but there may be "destruction" (which signifies great and irreparable loss), as the Scriptures already cited abundantly and clearly testify.
The words "of faith to saving the soul" in 10: 39, are of similar meaning to the words of 6: 9, "things connected with salvation." It is not justifying faith that is here spoken of, i.e., believing unto righteousness, but believing unto saving the soul, which is a very different thing.*
[* See "The Salvation of The Soul."]
The reason why the apostle took so hopeful a view of the prospects of those saints, and was persuaded better things of them, was that God would not be unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love which they had shown to His Name, in having served the saints, and in continuing so to do. This passage (6: 9, 10) shows clearly that the warnings of this chapter are addressed to [regenerate] believers. It is simply inconceivable that it could be said of unconverted sinners that they showed a labour of love to the Lord's Name in ministering to His saints. Moreover, the passage speaks of a righteous reward of God for their work. The works of sinners are dead works for which there is no reward. The first of the foundation principles mentioned at the beginning of the chapter is "repentance from dead works." It requires the Blood of Christ to purge the conscience from dead-works to serve the living God (9: 14).
Therefore, serving the saints is an acceptable ministry, since it testifies love to the Name of the Lord. But the Apostle desires something more, namely, that each one of them should show the same diligence to the full assurance of the hope unto the end. The "same diligence" seems to mean the same they had already shown in ministering to the saints in order to insure fully the hope, the same diligence must be maintained to the end.
Another desire of the [Holy] Spirit, speaking by the Apostle, is that the saints be not slothful, or sluggish, but be "imitators" of those who, by FAITH and LONG PATIENCE, inherit the promises. The word rendered "patience" in this verse and in verse 15, is not that occurring elsewhere in the Epistle, as in 12: 1, "run with patience," and which latter word means really "endurance." The word occurring in verses 12 and 15 of chapter 6. signifies long waiting for a postponed promise as Jacob waited for God's Salvation, and as Abraham waited for the promised heir. In verse 15 the rendering of the same word is "after he had patiently endured." Literally, it reads, “and so, having had long patience, he received the promise.”
The incident here called to mind is the strong encouragement God gave to Abraham in confirming His previously given word of promise by an oath. This oath of the Lord was given to Abraham after the testing of his faith in the matter of offering Isaac, of whom God had said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Then it was the Lord sware, saying, "By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee. and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed ; because thou hast OBEYED MY VOICE" (Gen. 22: 16- 18).
word, confirmed by an oath, had not to
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Let it be noted, then, that the faith of Abraham, exhibited in the incident recorded in Gen. 22., was the obedience of faith, as the Lord said, "Because thou hast obeyed My Voice!' That is what gives it pertinence to the lesson enforced in Heb. 6. This word and the oath of the Lord are the two immutable things whereby God has been pleased to show to the heirs of promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, to the end that we, who have fled to Him for refuge, according as it is written, "The God of Jacob is our Refuge" (Psa. 46: 7), might have a strong consolation (encouragement) to lay hold upon the hope set before us.
Laying hold of the hope set before us is in contrast with turning back to the things of this age. The period of the fulfilment of all the promises that have been made to the heirs of promise, is the coming age. Christ made no unconditional promise to His disciples for the present [evil] age except that of tribulation. "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16: 33). Of course, the saints have many blessings and promises available at the present time, but none connected with, or proceeding from, the world. From that quarter they can count upon nothing with certainty but tribulation. We should not, however, faint in tribulation, but rather "glory" therein, because "tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, HOPE" (Rom. 5: 3, 4). Therefore, in order that we may be stimulated to lay hold upon the hope set before us, we have the Word of God confirmed by an oath.
In seeking a more definite idea concerning the nature of this hope, help may be derived from the connection in which the same words, "set before," are used in chapter 12. There we read of "Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith, Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross." The joy set before Him, which He will have in those whom He is not ashamed to call His "brethren," is closely connected with the hope that is set before them.
This hope is likened unto an anchoria, a massive stone embedded firmly in the ground near the water's edge of a harbour, to which a line from a vessel might be fastened, so that the vessel might thereby be drawn to the shore when it could not beat its way in against wind or tide. Our hope enters into that within the veil, whither as Forerunner is for us, entered Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. The hope we have is, therefore, connected directly with the Son of God in the character of High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. This brings before us once more the lesson that the knowledge of the Son of God in this character is that which distinguishes adult sons of God from babes, showing the great importance of laying hold of this knowledge.
There is an instructive parallel between the word and oath of God to Abraham, and the word and oath of God to the Son, in Psalm 110. The "word" is found in verse 1, "the Lord SAID unto my Lord "; and the oath in verse 4. "The. Lord SWARE, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." That the parallel is intentional is evident from the fact that the oath to Abraham is mentioned in direct connection with that to the Son (comp. Heb. 6: 13 and 7: 21); and in the same connection the meeting of Melchisedec with Abraham is described. Surely, that incident foreshadowed the coming meeting of the great Antitype of Melchisedec with the seed of Abraham who are overcomers by faith, teaching that the word of promise to Abraham, which God confirmed by an oath, will have its fulfilment in that One Whom God, by "the word of the oath' (Heb. 7: 28), made a Priest for evermore.
It must be remembered that, while Abraham did not have in his lifetime the fulfilment of the promise recorded in Gen. 22, which is the most extensive of all the promises, he did obtain the promised son, Isaac, through whom it, and all his other promises, were to have their fulfilment. The promises were all attached to Isaac. So with Abraham's spiritual seed, the heirs of [a future] salvation. They have not yet received the fulfilment of the promise; but God has imparted to them the knowledge of the One in Whom all God's purposes are to be fulfilled. Every promise attaches to Christ, Who is now entered within the veil as the "Forerunner" for us. Therefore, our hope, which attaches to Him, enters into that within the veil, it attaches to that which is "sure and stedfast." That attachment cannot fail or become loose. Hence, we have simply to, hold fast to the end.
Furthermore, in another aspect of the matter, Christ being Himself the Seed of Abraham, as it is written, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy Seed, Which is Christ" (Gal. 3: 16), we who are begotten again in Christ, are established in Him as the spiritual seed of Abraham, and therefore are heirs of the promises.
The doctrine of the Melchisedec Priesthood of the Son of God, which occupies the seventh chapter of Hebrews, has been so often and so fully commented upon that we shall not dwell long upon it here. The main thing for us to notice is that the establishment of another Priest after a different order from that of Aaron, the Priest of the new order being established with an oath, and being the Antitype of the Priest-king of Salem, who was much greater than Abraham, marks a profound charge in the dealings of God with His people. We are specially admonished at this point to "consider how great this man was unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils"; and it is also pointed out that Levi, the father of the Aaronic priests, in effect paid tithes to Melchisedec.
It follows from these considerations that the entire system connected with the Levitical priesthood, - the covenant, the law, the sacrifices, the ordinances, and the services, - was of necessity set aside and abolished when the Risen Son of God was saluted of God the High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, Who was made High Priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. The Excellency of this High Priest is so incomparably greater than that of the Levitical order, that the system, whereof He is the Centre, leaves no room whatever for any part of the old order. "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change of the law also" (verse 18), "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof; for the law brought nothing to full-growth " (18, 19).
The covenant also was displaced, because Jesus became the Surety of a BETTER COVENANT; the new Covenant being as much better than the old as the Priest made with the oath was better than those made without an oath (20-22).
The sacrifices also ceased, because such an High Priest as became us, Who was made higher than the heavens, needs not daily, as those high priests of the old order, to offer up sacrifice; for this He did once for all when He offered Himself (26, 27).
Our hope, therefore, being attached firmly to the High Priest of the new and eternal order, entitles us to all the benefits of the new system. On the other hand, the relatively smaller benefits of the old system no longer exist; since that entire system has been abolished by Him Who established it. Its purpose was temporary, and has been attained. It was composed of "shadows," whereof the Substance, Christ, has now come. Jews may continue to observe the remnants of the old ordinances, and Christian denominations may devise forms of "worship" (so-called) in imitation thereof; but the system itself was, and "of necessity," utterly brought to an end by the Death and Resurrection of Christ.
Now, the great point involved in this part of the Epistle, and the point which is of chief importance for our purposes, is the effect which the new system has in the perfecting, or maturing of the sons of God. This is the practical end in view, as is evident from the fact that the entire section begins with the exhortation, "Let us go on to perfection" (6: 1); and the teaching of the section proves that, in order to go on to perfection (full-growth), it is necessary to attain to knowledge of the Son of God as High Priest of the New Order. In pursuance of this practical point, the Apostle asks, "If, therefore, PERFECTION were (attainable) by the Levitical priesthood, what further need were there that another (lit., a different) Priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec?" (7: 11). It appears by this question that the PERFECTING OF THE SONS OF GOD was the practical object in view in consecrating the Son of God as the High Priest of a new and unchangeable order. This links the subject of the Melchisedec Priesthood of Christ with the purpose of the Father, stated in chap. 2., namely, "bringing many sons unto glory."
Again, it is distinctly stated that there has been "a disannulling of the commandment going before," that is the fleshly commandment, according to which the Levitical priesthood had been established, which disannulment was decreed on account of "the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” and the weakness and unprofitableness of that law consisted in this, that it "made nothing perfect." On this account, and on no other, so far as stated in the text, the old system of the Levitical Priesthood was abolished. God must have, for the accomplishment of His great purpose, a Priest able to save to the uttermost. Therefore, the old priesthood, and everything connected with it, had to be displaced, and superseded by a different order, and an order capable of bringing the sons of God to full-growth.
The conclusion, then, of the whole matter is that the inauguration of the new system, i.e., the new priesthood, the new covenant, and the new manner of worship in the true Sanctuary, had for its grand object, the perfecting of the many sons whom God is bringing unto glory. Surely, the knowledge of this truth will animate us with a fixed determination to "go on to perfection."
How, then, is this purpose furthered by the great change here described? Two things that contribute to this end are mentioned, first, the bringing in of a BETTER HOPE (7: 19), and, second, the INTERCESSION of the High Priest (verse 25).
As to the "better hope," we have nothing to add at this point, having fully set forth our understanding on that subject. We would, however, for the sake of clearness, give the reader a literal rendering of verses 18 and 19, the meaning whereof is obscured by the A.V. rendering.
"For there is a disannulling of the commandment going before, because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law brought nothing to maturity); and (there is also) the introduction of a better hope by which we draw near unto God." In other words, two things are said to have taken place; first, the disannulling of the old commandment, and, second, the introduction of a better hope.
The intercession of the great High Priest, Who ever liveth, is a mighty factor in the perfecting of the many sons. He is "able." All the necessary power is lodged in Him; and He never ceases putting it forth for the accomplishment of the Father's purpose. He is "merciful," He is "faithful," He is "able." What more do we require in order to confirm our confidence in Him, and to encourage us to maintain it "unto the end"? “He is able to save them completely - that is, to bring them into the right state for participating in the salvation whereof this Epistle treats – “who approach to God by Him.” The old priesthood availed nothing to that end. By means - thereof the purpose of the Father could not be carried out. Therefore the Son of God came into the world to do the Will of His Father. On earth He accomplished that Will by suffering and dying, in the Body prepared for Him, as a Sacrifice for sin; and now He ever lives to complete the purpose of the Father by interceding for those who are the called according to His purpose. "For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens" (7: 26).