The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Hebrews 4:12-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 12, 2013

To help provide context this post begins with the Bishop’s summary analysis of  Hebrews 4. I’ve also included his paraphrasing (in purple) of the text he is commenting on. The notes follow.

ANALYSIS~The Apostle having, in the preceding chapter (Heb 3:7-19), referred to the exclusion of the incredulous Israelites from the rest of God; in this, warns the Hebrews against the like incredulity, lest they too be excluded from God’s eternal rest ( Heb 4:1). And he points out the reason why the punishment of the Jews of old should inspire them with fear—viz., because the same announcement was made to both (Heb 4:2). There remains a rest to be entered by the faithful; and this rest is no other than that, on which God entered, after he finished the works of creation (Heb 4:3). The second part of this proposition, viz., that this rest is the same as that on which God entered after perfecting the works of creation, he proves (Heb 4:4-5); the first part, viz., that a rest yet remains to be enjoyed by the faithful, is shown (Heb 4:6-10).

He deters them from apostasy, by describing the qualities of him who is to avenge their infidelities (Heb 4:12-13), and he consoles them for their past sins, by pointing out his great mercy and spirit of compassion (Heb 4:14-16).

Heb 4:12  For the word of God is living and effectual and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow: and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

For our infidelities will meet with the same punishment as theirs, since the eternal Word of God is living, active, and efficient to inflict punishment, no less destructive in execution than a two-edged sword; able to penetrate and see into our hidden and private actions-to perceive their various shades of difference in point of merit or demerit; nay, he discerns, and keenly distinguishes the very motives of our most private, hidden thoughts and actions.

In this verse is assigned a reason why they should dread the just punishment due to their infidelity; for, the “Word of God,” i.e., the Eternal Son of God, the judge of all, is “living,” the source of all life and knowledge, and cannot be deceived. And “effectual;” powerful and omnipotent. “More piercing than a two-edged sword;” as destructive in execution as a two-edged sword, and as penetrating into the interior. “Reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit;” i.e., able to see into our most hidden actions—these actions which proceed from the soul, either as the seat of sensation (anima), or reason (spiritus). “Of the joints also and the marrow;” the minutest shades of difference in the degrees of merit or demerit in these hidden actions.  “And is a discerner of the thoughts;” what is most private of all, the very motives and intentions, &c.

Heb 4:13  Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is.

Nothing, whether in heaven or on earth, is invisible in his sight, or concealed from him; but all things are palpably open to him, and undisguisedly exposed to view. To whom we are to render an account; or, concerning whom we are treating in this Epistle.

“Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight.” There is nothing which is not manifest to him. “But all things are naked and open to his eyes.” The Apostle shows the omniscient knowledge of the word of God, by proving, first, in a negative form, that nothing is concealed; and again, in an affirmative universal proposition, that “all things are naked, and open to his eyes.” “Open,” implies more than “naked;” the latter conveys that every covering or veil is removed from the exterior of an object; whereas, “open,” conveys that the very interior is exposed to view. Some Commentators understand by the “word of God,” the created revealed word, conveying the divine menaces. The opinion of those who refer it to the Eternal Word, seems the more probable; for, it is only the Eternal Son of God, it is only a Divine Person, that could be well distinguished by the properties here referred to; it is only of such a one could be predicated the personal actions, ascribed in these two verses by the Apostle to the “word of God.” From the all-seeing knowledge and vigilant penetration of Christ, St. Paul wishes the Hebrews to infer, that their own private sins of infidelity will not escape his notice and future judgment.

Heb 4:14  Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession.

Having, then, a great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, who entered not merely the Holy of Holies, like the Jewish High Priest, bu heaven itself, the true Holy of Holies; let us firmly persevere in our Christian profession.

He here passes to another subject, viz., the Priesthood of Christ; and having in the foregoing chapters compared Christ with Moses, he now institutes a tacit comparison between him as High Priest, and Aaron, giving Christ the preference; this comparison is more fully and expressly instituted in the seventh chapter. His direct and express object in referring to his Priesthood here, is, after having inspired the Hebrews with the dread of him, as judge, to encourage and console them by the consideration of the confidence which his character as Priest is calculated to inspire.

Heb 4:15  For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.

We should not despond on account of our past infirmities; for, we have not a High Priest, who is insensible to, and incapable of, compassionating our infirmities; but one who, having experienced all our infirmities, except sin, and having been tried like us, is most suited to have compassion on us.

Lest the majesty of so great a High Priest should awe them, the Apostle says, he is capable of sympathizing in our infinnities, having been himself tried in all things like us, and having suffered all the miseries common to our nature, except sin. He endured hunger, thirst, lassitude, fear, sorrow—nay, even death; in a word, all the miseries common to our nature (sin excepted). He suffered these evils which are purely penal, and temptations from the world and from the devil, but not from the flesh.

Heb 4:16  Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid.

Let us, therefore, approach with confidence the throne of grace, that we may obtain forgiveness of our sins, and find the abundance of divine grace, by which we may be aided in the time of necessity, i.e., during our entire lives.

Having, therefore, a most powerful High Priest, who is after penetrating the true Holy of Holies, heaven, and a most merciful High Priest, who has experienced our common infirmities, let us with confidence approach the throne of grace, relying on such an intercessor, that we may obtain the merciful forgiveness of sin, and find the abundance of grace to aid us in the time of necessity, that is to say, while we are in this world; for, we want the aid of grace during the entire course of our lives. “Seasonable aid.” The Greek word for aid, βοηθειαν, denotes assistance obtained, as the result of crying aloud for it.


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