Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Therefore--Wherefore: seeing that ye ought not now to be
leaving--getting further forward than the elementary
"principles." "As in building a house one must never leave the
foundation: yet to be always laboring in 'laying the foundation' would
be ridiculous" [CALVIN].
the principles of the doctrine--Greek, "the word
of the beginning," that is, the discussion of the "first
principles of Christianity
let us go on--Greek, "let us be borne forward," or "bear
ourselves forward"; implying active exertion: press on. Paul, in
teaching, here classifies himself with the Hebrew readers, or (as they
ought to be) learners, and says, Let us together press forward.
perfection--the matured knowledge of those who are "of full age"
in Christian attainments.
foundation of--that is, consisting in "repentance."
repentance from dead works--namely, not springing from the
vital principle of faith and love toward God, and so counted,
like their doer, dead before God. This repentance from dead
works is therefore paired with "faith toward God." The three pairs
of truths enumerated are designedly such as JEWISH
believers might in some degree have known from the Old Testament, but
had been taught more clearly when they became Christians. This accounts
for the omission of distinct specification of some essential
first principle of Christian truth. Hence, too, he mentions "faith
toward God," and not explicitly faith toward
Christ (though of course included). Repentance and faith were
the first principles taught under the Gospel.
2. the doctrine of baptisms--paired with "laying on of hands,"
as the latter followed on Christian baptism, and answers to the rite of
confirmation in Episcopal churches. Jewish believers passed, by
an easy transition, from Jewish baptismal purifications
"washings"), baptism of proselytes, and John's baptism, and legal
imposition of hands, to their Christian analogues, baptism, and
the subsequent laying on of hands, accompanied by the gift of
the Holy Ghost (compare
Greek, "baptismoi," plural, including Jewish and
Christian baptisms, are to be distinguished from
baptisma, singular, restricted to Christian baptism. The
six particulars here specified had been, as it were, the Christian
Catechism of the Old Testament; and such Jews who had begun to
recognize Jesus as the Christ immediately on the new light being shed
on these fundamental particulars, were accounted as having the
elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ [BENGEL]. The first and most obvious elementary
instruction of Jews would be the teaching them the typical
significance of their own ceremonial law in its Christian fulfilment
resurrection, &c.--held already by the Jews from the Old
Testament: confirmed with clearer light in Christian teaching or
eternal judgment--judgment fraught with eternal consequences
either of joy or of woe.
3. will we do--So some of the oldest manuscripts read; but
others, "Let us do." "This," that is, "Go on unto perfection."
if God permit--For even in the case of good resolutions, we
cannot carry them into effect, save through God "working in us both to
will and to do of His good pleasure"
The "for" in
refers to this: I say, if God permit, for there are cases where
God does not permit, for example, "it is impossible," &c. Without God's
blessing, the cultivation of the ground does not succeed
4. We must "go on toward perfection"; for if we fall
away, after having received enlightenment, it will be impossible
to renew us again to repentance.
for those--"in the case of those."
once enlightened--once for all illuminated by the word of God
taught in connection with "baptism" (to which, in
as once for all done," once enlightened" here answers); compare
This passage probably originated the application of the term
"illumination" to baptism in subsequent times. Illumination,
however, was not supposed to be the inseparable accompaniment of
baptism: thus CHRYSOSTOM says, "Heretics
have baptism, not illumination: they are baptized in
body, but not enlightened in soul: as Simon Magus was baptized, but not
illuminated." That "enlightened" here means knowledge of the word of
truth, appears from comparing the same Greek word
with Heb 10:26,
where "knowledge of the truth" answers to it.
tasted of the heavenly gift--tasted for themselves. As
"enlightened" refers to the sense of sight: so here taste
follows. "The heavenly gift"; Christ given by the Father and
revealed by the enlightening word preached and written: as conferring
peace in the remission of sins; and as the Bestower of the gift of the
(Ac 8:19, 20),
made partakers of the Holy Ghost--specified as distinct from,
though so inseparably connected with, "enlightened," and "tasted of the
heavenly gift," Christ, as answering to "laying on of hands" after
baptism, which was then generally accompanied with the impartation of
the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts.
5. tasted the good word of God--distinct from "tasted
OF (genitive) the heavenly gift"; we do not yet
enjoy all the fulness of Christ, but only have a taste
OF Him, the heavenly gift now; but believers may
taste the whole word (accusative case) of God already, namely,
God's "good word of promise." The Old Testament promise of
Canaan to Israel typified "the good word of God's" promise of the
Therefore, there immediately follows the clause, "the powers of the
world to come." As "enlightening" and "tasting of the heavenly gift,"
Christ, the Bread of Life, answers to FAITH: so
"made partakers of the Holy Ghost," to CHARITY,
which is the first-fruit of the Spirit: and "tasted the good word of
God, and the powers of the world to come," to HOPE. Thus the triad of privileges answers to the
Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, in their respective works toward
us. "The world to come," is the Christian dispensation, viewed
especially in its future glories, though already begun in grace
here. The world to come thus stands in contrast to course of
this world, altogether disorganized because God is not its spring
of action and end. By faith, Christians make the world to come a
present reality, though but a foretaste of the perfect future. The
powers of this new spiritual world, partly exhibited in outward
miracles at that time, and then, as now, especially consisting in the
Spirit's inward quickening influences are the earnest of the coming
inheritance above, and lead the believer who gives himself up to the
Spirit to seek to live as the angels, to sit with Christ in heavenly
places, to set the affections on things above, and not on things on
earth, and to look for Christ's coming and the full manifestation of
the world to come. This "world to come," in its future aspect, thus
corresponds to "resurrection of the dead and eternal life"
the first Christian principles which the Hebrew believers had
been taught, by the Christian light being thrown back on their Old
Testament for their instruction (see on
"The world to come," which, as to its "powers," exists already in the
redeemed, will pass into a fully realized fact at Christ's coming
6. If--Greek, "And (yet) have fallen away";
compare a less extreme falling or declension,
"Ye are fallen from grace." Here an entire and wilful apostasy is
meant; the Hebrews had not yet so fallen away; but he warns them that
such would be the final result of retrogression, if, instead of "going
on to perfection," they should need to learn again the first principles
to renew them again--They have been "once"
already renewed, or made anew, and now they need to be
"renewed" over "again."
crucify to themselves the Son of God--"are crucifiying to
themselves" Christ, instead of, like Paul,
crucifying the world unto them by the cross of Christ
"trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the
covenant, wherewith . . . sanctified, an unholy thing." "The
Son of God," marking His dignity, shows the greatness of their offense.
put him to an open shame--literally, "make a public example of"
Him, as if He were a malefactor suspended on a tree. What the carnal
Israel did outwardly, those who fall away from light do inwardly, they
virtually crucify again the Son of God; "they tear him out of the
recesses of their hearts where He had fixed His abode and exhibit Him
to the open scoffs of the world as something powerless and common"
[BLEEK in ALFORD]. The
Montanists and Novatians used this passage to justify the lasting
exclusion from the Church of those who had once lapsed. The Catholic
Church always opposed this view, and readmitted the lapsed on their
repentance, but did not rebaptize them. This passage implies that
persons may be in some sense "renewed," and yet fall away finally; for
the words, "renew again," imply that they have been, in
some sense, not the full sense, ONCE
RENEWED by the Holy Ghost; but certainly not that they are "the
elect," for these can never fall away, being chosen unto everlasting
The elect abide in Christ, hear and continuously obey His voice, and do
not fall away. He who abides not in Christ, is cast forth as a withered
branch; but he who abides in Him becomes more and more free from sin;
the wicked one cannot touch him; and he by faith overcomes the world. A
temporary faith is possible, without one thereby being
constituted one of the elect
(Mr 4:16, 17).
At the same time it does not limit God's grace, as if it were
"impossible" for God to reclaim even such a hardened rebel so as
yet to look on Him whom he has pierced. The impossibility rests in
their having known in themselves once the power of Christ's sacrifice,
and yet now rejecting it; there cannot possibly be any new means
devised for their renewal afresh, and the means provided by God's love
they now, after experience of them, deliberately and continuously
reject; their conscience being served, and they "twice dead"
are now past hope, except by a miracle of God's grace. "It is the curse
of evil eternally to propagate evil" [THOLUCK].
"He who is led into the whole (?) compass of Christian experiences, may
yet cease to abide in them; he who abides not in them, was, at the very
time when he had those objective experiences, not subjectively
true to them; otherwise there would have been fulfilled in him,
"Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more
so that he would have abided in them and not have fallen away"
[THOLUCK]. Such a one was never truly a Spirit-led
disciple of Christ
The sin against the Holy Ghost, though somewhat similar, is not
identical with this sin; for that sin may be committed by those
outside the Church (as in
Mt 12:24, 31, 32);
this, only by those inside.
7. the earth--rather as Greek (no article), "land."
which drinketh in--Greek, "which has drunk in";
not merely receiving it on the surface. Answering to those who have
enjoyed the privilege of Christian experiences, being in some sense
renewed by the Holy Ghost; true alike of those who persevere and those
who "fall away."
the rain that cometh oft upon it--not merely failing over
it, or towards it, but falling and resting upon it so as
to cover it (the Greek genitive, not the accusative). The
"oft" implies, on God's part, the riches of His abounding grace
("coming" spontaneously, and often); and, on the apostate's part, the
wilful perversity whereby he has done continual despite to the
oft-repeated motions of the Spirit. Compare "How often,"
The rain of heaven falls both on the elect and the apostates.
bringeth forth--as the natural result of "having drunk
in the rain." See above.
meet--fit. Such as the master of the soil wishes. The opposite
by whom--rather as Greek, "for (that is, on account of)
whom," namely, the lords of the soil; not the laborers, as English
Version, namely, God and His Christ
The heart of man is the earth; man is the dresser; herbs are brought
forth meet, not for the dresser, by whom, but for God, the owner of the
soil, for whom it is dressed. The plural is general, the owners
whoever they may be; here God.
blessing--fruitfulness. Contrast God's curse causing
(Ge 3:17, 18);
from God--Man's use of means is vain unless God bless
(1Co 3:6, 7).
8. that which--rather as Greek (no article), "But if
it (the 'land,'
bear"; not so favorable a word as "bringeth forth,"
said of the good soil.
rejected--after having been tested; so the Greek
implies. Reprobate . . . rejected by the Lord.
nigh unto cursing--on the verge of being given up to its own
barrenness by the just curse of God. This "nigh" softens the severity
of the previous "It is impossible," &c.
(Heb 6:4, 6).
The ground is not yet actually cursed.
whose--"of which (land) the end is unto burning," namely,
with the consuming fire of the last judgment; as the land of Sodom was
given to "brimstone, salt, and burning"
so as to the ungodly
(Mt 3:10, 12; 7:19; 13:30;
Jerusalem, which had so resisted the grace of Christ, was then nigh
unto cursing, and in a few years was burned. Compare
"burned up their city" an earnest of a like fate to all wilful
abusers of God's grace
(Heb 10:26, 27).
9. beloved--appositely here introduced;
LOVE to you prompts me in the strong warnings I
have just given, not that I entertain unfavorable thoughts of you; nay,
I anticipate better things of you; Greek "the
things which are better"; that ye are not thorn-bearing, or
nigh unto cursing, and doomed unto burning, but heirs of
salvation in accordance with God's faithfulness
we are persuaded--on good grounds; the result of proof. Compare
"I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye are full of
goodness." A confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this
things that accompany--Greek, "things that hold by," that
is, are close unto "salvation." Things that are linked unto salvation
In opposition to "nigh unto cursing."
though--Greek, "if even we thus speak." "For it is better
to make you afraid with words, that ye may not suffer in fact."
10. not unrighteous--not unfaithful to His own gracious
promise. Not that we have any inherent right to claim reward;
for (1) a servant has no merit, as he only does that which is
his bounden duty; (2) our best performances bear no proportion to what
we leave undone; (3) all strength comes from God; but God has
promised of His own grace to reward the good works of His people
(already accepted through faith in Christ); it is His promise,
not our merits, which would make it unrighteous were He not to
reward His people's works. God will be no man's debtor.
your work--your whole Christian life of active obedience.
labour of love--The oldest manuscripts omit "labor of," which
probably crept in from
As "love" occurs here, so "hope,"
the Pauline triad. By their love he sharpens their
hope and faith.
ye have showed--(Compare
toward his name--Your acts of love to the saints were
done for His name's sake. The distressed condition of the Palestinian
Christians appears from the collection for them. Though receiving
bounty from other churches, and therefore not able to minister much by
pecuniary help, yet those somewhat better off could minister to
the greatest sufferers in their Church in various other ways (compare
Paul, as elsewhere, gives them the utmost credit for their graces,
while delicately hinting the need of perseverance, a lack of which had
probably somewhat begun to show itself.
11. And--Greek, "But."
desire--Greek, "earnestly desire." The language of
fatherly affection, rather than command.
every one of you--implying that all in the Palestinian
churches had not shown the same diligence as some of those whom he
"He cares alike for great and small, and overlooks none." "Every one of
them," even those diligent in acts of LOVE
needed to be stimulated to persevere in the same diligence with
a view to the full assurance of HOPE unto the end. They needed, besides
love, patient perseverance, resting on hope and faith
(Heb 10:36; 13:7).
Compare "the full assurance of faith,"
unto the end--the coming of Christ.
12. be not--Greek, "become not." In
he said, "Ye have become dull (Greek, 'slothful') of
hearing"; here he warns them not to become "slothful
absolutely," namely, also in mind and deed. He will not become
slothful who keeps always the end in view; hope is the
means of ensuring this.
followers--Greek, "imitators"; so in
patience--Greek, "long-suffering endurance." There
is the long-suffering patience, or endurance of
and that of faith,
them who . . . inherit the promises--Greek,
"who are inheriting," &c.; to whom the promises are their
inheritance. Not that they have actually entered on the
perfect inheritance, which
Heb 11:13, 39, 40
explicitly denies; though doubtless the dead in Christ have, in the
disembodied soul, a foretaste of it; but "them (enumerated in
who in every age have been, are, or shall be, inheritors of the
promises"; of whom Abraham is an illustrious example
13. For--confirming the reasonableness of resting on "the
promises" as infallibly sure, resting as they do on God's oath, by the
instance of Abraham. "He now gives consolation, by the oath of God's
grace, to those whom, in the second, third, and fourth chapters, he
had warned by the oath of God's 'wrath.' The oath of wrath did
not primarily extend its force beyond the wilderness; but the oath of
grace is in force for ever" [BENGEL].
14. multiplying . . . multiply--Hebraism for
thee--The increase of Abraham's seed is virtually an increase of
himself. The argument here refers to Abraham himself as
an example; therefore Paul quotes
"thee," instead of "thy seed."
15. so--thus relying on the promise.
16. for confirmation--not to be joined, as English
Version, to "an oath"; but to "an end"
[ALFORD]. I prefer, "The oath is to them, in
respect to confirmation (of one's solemn promise or covenant; as here,
God's), an end of all contradiction (so the Greek
or "gainsaying." This passage shows: (1) an oath is sanctioned even in
the Christian dispensation as lawful; (2) that the limits to its use
are, that it only be employed where it can put an end to
contradiction in disputes, and for confirmation of a solemn
17. Wherein--that is, Which being the case among men,
God, in accommodation to their manner of confirming covenants,
superadded to His sure word His oath: the "TWO immutable things"
willing . . . counsel--Greek, "willing
. . . will"; words akin. Expressing the utmost
more abundantly--than had He not sworn. His word would have been
amply enough; but, to make assurance doubly sure, He "interposed with
an oath" (so the Greek). Literally, He acted as Mediator,
coming between Himself and us; as if He were less, while He swears,
than Himself by whom He swears (for the less among men usually swear by
the greater). Dost thou not yet believe, thou that hearest the promise?
heirs of promise--not only Abraham's literal, but also his
18. immutable--Translate, as in
impossible . . . to lie--"ever to lie"; this is
the force of the Greek aorist [ALFORD].
His not being able to deny Himself is a proof, not of weakness, but of
consolation--under doubts and fears, and so "encouragement,"
fled for refuge--as if from a shipwreck; or, as one fleeing to
one of the six cities of refuge. Kadesh, that is, holy, implies
the holiness of Jesus, our Refuge. Shechem, that is, shoulder,
the government is upon his shoulder
Hebron, that is, fellowship, believers are called into the
fellowship of Christ. Bezer, that is, a fortress, Christ is so
to all who trust in Him. Ramoth, that is, high, for Him hath God
exalted with His right hand
Golan, that is, joy, for in Him all the saints are justified and
lay hold upon the hope--that is, the object of our hope, as upon
a preservative from sinking.
set before us--as a prize for which we strive; a new image,
namely, the race course
(Heb 12:1, 2).
19. Hope is found represented on coins by an
sure and steadfast--sure in respect to us:
steadfast, or "firm" [ALFORD], in
itself. Not such an anchor as will not keep the vessel
from tossing, or an anchor unsound or too light [THEOPHYLACT].
which entereth into that--that is the place
within the veil--two images beautifully combined: (1) The
soul is the ship: the world the sea: the
bliss beyond the world, the distant coast; the
hope resting on faith, the anchor which prevents the
vessel being tossed to and fro; the encouraging consolation
through the promise and oath of God, the cable connecting
the ship and anchor. (2) The world is the fore-court: heaven, the Holy
of Holies; Christ, the High Priest going before us, so as to enable us,
after Him, and through Him, to enter within the veil.
ESTIUS explains, As the anchor does not stay in
the waters, but enters the ground hidden beneath the waters, and
fastens itself in it, so hope, our anchor of the soul, is not satisfied
with merely coming to the vestibule, that is, is not content with
merely earthly and visible goods, but penetrates even to those which
are within the veil, namely, to the Holy of Holies, where it lays hold
on God Himself, and heavenly goods, and fastens on them. "Hope,
entering within heaven, hath made us already to be in the things
promised to us, even while we are still below, and have not yet
received them; such strength hope has, as to make those that are
earthly to become heavenly." "The soul clings, as one in fear of
shipwreck to an anchor, and sees not whither the cable of the anchor
runs--where it is fastened: but she knows that it is fastened behind
the veil which hides the future glory."
veil--Greek, "catapetasma": the second veil
which shut in the Holiest Place. The outer veil was called by a
distinct Greek term, calumma: "the second (that is, the
20. The absence of the Greek article requires
ALFORD'S translation, "Where. As forerunner for us
(that is, in our behalf), entered Jesus" [and is now: this last
clause is implied in the 'where' of the Greek, which implies
being IN a place: 'whither' is understood to
'entered,' taken out of 'where'; whither Jesus entered, and
where He is now]. The "for us" implies that it was not for
Himself, as God, He needed to enter there, but as our High Priest,
representing and introducing us, His followers, opening the way to us,
by His intercession with the Father, as the Aaronic high priest entered
the Holiest Place once a year to make propitiation for the people. The
first-fruits of our nature are ascended, and so the rest is sanctified.
Christ's ascension is our promotion: and whither the glory of the Head
has preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called. We ought to
keep festal day, since Christ has taken up and set in the heavens the
first-fruit of our lump, that is, the human flesh [CHRYSOSTOM]. As John Baptist was Christ's forerunner on
earth, so Christ is ours in heaven.