And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
~ Hebrews 10:24-25
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
~ Acts 11:23
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
~ 1 Thessalonians 2:11
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
~ 2 Timothy 4:2
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
~ Hebrews 3:7
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
~ Proverbs 28:26
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
~ Isaiah 44:20
The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
~ Obadiah 1:3
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
~ Romans 7:11
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
~ James 1:14
A Commentary on Hebrews 3:13, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
Hebrews 3:13 “But exhort one another daily ( everyday ), whilst it is called To-day, lest any of you ( among you ) be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Here lies one means of preventing the evil mentioned in the verse foregoing. And we have in it, as was showed, the duty itself, and the persons concerned in it, the manner and season of its performance, with a limitation of that season, and an especial enforcement from the danger of its neglect, as we shall see in our opening of the words.
First, the duty intended is expressed in the first word, παρακαλεῖτε is “to exhort,” “entreat,” “beseech;” and also “to comfort,” “to refresh,” “to relieve:” and παρακαλέομαι is constantly “to receive comfort” or “consolation,” “to be comforted.” Παράκλησις is used in the same variety, sometimes for “comfort” or “consolation,” as Luke 2:25; Acts 9:31, Rom 15:5 ; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; sometimes for “exhortation,” Acts 13:15; Romans 12:8; 1Ti 4:13 ; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:17. Sometimes interpreters are in doubt whether to render it by “exhortation” or “consolation,” as Act 15:31 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:18. In this very epistle it is used in both these senses: for “consolation,” Hebrews 6:18; for “exhortation,” Hebrews 12:5; Hebrews 13:22. Hence the Holy Ghost, in the writings of John the apostle, is called ὁ παράκλητος in the Gospel, John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; and the Lord Christ himself, 1 John 2:1; and this, from the ambiguity of the application of the word, we render in the first place “a comforter,” in the latter “an advocate.”
The first and principal signification of παρακαλέω is “to exhort,” “to desire,” “to call in,” and so it is constantly used in Greek authors, and scarce otherwise; and it is secondarily only “to comfort.” But there is a near affinity between these things; for the way of administering consolation is by exhortation: 1 Thessalonians 4:18, “Comfort one another with these words, παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους . That is, ‘Exhorting and persuading with one another, by these words administer unto each other mutual consolation. And all exhortation ought to be only by consolatory words and ways, to render it acceptable, and so effectual. So it is observed of Barnabas, who was “a son of consolation,” that he had a great excellency in exhorting men also: Acts 11:23-24,
“When Barnabas came, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.”
The word intimates a very prevalent way of exhorting in Barnabas: and that because he was ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός , “a good man;” not in the ordinary sense, a holy, just man; but one that was benign, kind, condescending, apt to comfort and refresh them with whom he had to do. In this sense is ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός used, Romans 5:7. Παρακαλεῖν , therefore, “to exhort,” is to persuade with good, meek, and comfortable words, upon grounds of consolation, and unto that end that men may be comforted. This is incumbent on some by virtue of office, Romans 12:8, “He that exhorteth, on exhortation;” and on all believers as occasion doth require, as the next words manifest, declaring the persons concerned in this duty.
῾Εαυτοὺς , “vosmetipsos,” Vulg. Lat., and the Rhemists, “yourselves;” improperly, for the apostle doth not require of every one to exhort himself, nor will the word bear that sense. But ἑαυτούς “yourselves,” is put for ἀλλήλους , that is, “one another,” as also it is Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 4:32; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; “vos invicem,” “alii alios.” This is incumbent on all believers, mutually to exhort, and to bear the word of exhortation.
The season of the performance of this duty is adjoined, which includeth also the manner of it: Καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν . “Daily,” say we, or “every day.” A day is often taken for a season; so that to do a thing daily is to do it in its season. To do it sedulously, heedfully, in every proper season, is to do it daily; for although the expression denotes every day distinctly and separately, yet the sense is not that no natural day be omitted wherein we do not actually discharge this duty towards one another. But plainly two things are intended;
1. A constant readiness of mind, inclining, inducing, and preparing anyone for the discharge of this duty;
2. An actual discharge of it on all just occasions, which are to be watched for and willingly embraced. So we are commanded to “pray ἀδιαλείπτως ,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “indesinenter;” that is, without remitting the habitual inclination of the mind unto prayer, or omitting any meet occasion or opportunity for it. So also it is said that we ought πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι , Luke 18:1, “to pray always;” which is interpreted, Colossians 4:2, by τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε , “abide” (or “persevere”) “in prayer against all opposition.” In Hebrew, תָּמִיד כָּלאּהַיּוֹם , as Isaiah 51:13, “continually every day.” Καθ ᾿ ἐκάστην ἡμέραν , is “sedulously and constantly,” both as to the frame of our hearts and opportunities of actual performance of this duty. And this these Hebrews now stood in an especial need of, because of the manifold temptations and seductions wherewith they were exercised.
Hereunto is added a limitation of the season of this duty as to its continuance: ῎Αχρις οὗ τὸ σήμερον καλεῖται , “Whilst it is called Today; that is, ‘Be sedulous in the discharge of this duty whilst the season of it doth continue.’The occasion of this expression is taken from what was before discoursed of. There was a day proposed unto the people of old, a season that was called הַיּוֹם or σήμερον , “to-day.” And two things are included in it;
1. An opportunity as to advantage;
2. A limitation of that opportunity as to duration or continuance.
1. A day of opportunity is intended. The word in the psalm, היּוֹם , had, as was judged on good ground, respect unto some solemn feast wherein the people assembled themselves to celebrate the worship of God; it may be the feast of tabernacles, which was a great representation of the dwelling of the Lord Christ amongst us, John 1:14. This was a season which they were to improve whilst they did enjoy it. But it was typical only. The apostle now declares to these Hebrews that the great day, the great season, of old shadowed out unto their forefathers, was now really and actually come upon them. It was justly called “To-day” with them whilst they enjoyed the gospel.
2. There is a limitation of this day of opportunity included in the words, “Whilst it is called To-day; ‘whilst the time wherein you live is such a season as to be called a day, that is, a day of grace whilst that season was continued unto them which was prefigured in the day before mentioned. The apostle saw that the day or season of these Hebrews was almost ready to expire. It continued but a few years after the writing of this epistle. This he secretly minds them of, and withal exhorts them to improve their present advantages, and that especially in and unto the discharge of the great duty of mutual exhortation; that so they might prevent among them the great evil of departing from the living God, and that which tends thereunto, in the hardening of their hearts through the deceitfulness of sin. For herein lies the enforcement of the exhortation unto the duty insisted on, namely, from the pernicious consequent of its neglect; wherein first occurs,
The persons concerned: Τὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν , “Any of you,” “any among you;” ‘any one that is of your society, that is engaged in the same profession with you, and partaker of the same privileges;’‘any of you believing Hebrews.’ And herein the apostle extends his direction unto mutual watchfulness and exhortation unto all, even the meanest of the church.
Secondly, The spring or cause of the evil that is to be feared in the neglect intimated, and that is sin: ῾῾Αμαρτία , a general name for all or any sin. Our apostle constantly useth it to express original sin, the sin of our nature, the root on which all other sins do grow. And this is the sin here intended; the sin that by nature dwelleth in us, that is present with us when we would do good, to hinder us, and is continually working to put forth its venomous nature in actual sins or transgressions. This he calls elsewhere a “root of bitterness,” which springs up unto defilement, Hebrews 12:15.
Thirdly, There is the way or means whereby this sin worketh to produce the effect expressed, and that is by deceit: ᾿Απάτῃ τῆς ἀμαρτίας . Vulg. Lat., “fallacia peccati;” and the Rhemists thence, “the fallacy of sin,” somewhat improperly, considering the ordinary use of that word, being taken only for a caption or deceit in words. But yet there is a fallacy in every sin; it imposeth paralogisms or false arguings on the mind, to seduce it. ᾿Απάτη is “deceit,” and signifies both the faculty of deceiving, the artifice used in deceiving, and actual deceit, or deceiving itself. The derivation of the word gives some light unto the nature of the thing itself. ᾿Απατάω is from ἀ privative, and πάτος , as Eustathius and the Etymologist agree. Πάτος ; is “via trita,” “a beaten way,” “a path.” So that ἀπατάω is to “draw any one out of the right way,” the proper beaten path. And it is well rendered by “seduco,” that is, “seorsum duco,” “to lead aside,” “to seduce.” But it is of a larger sense, or “by any ways or means to deceive,” And ἀπάτη principally denotes an innate faculty of deceiving rather than deceit itself. ᾿Απάτη τοῦ πλούτου , Matthew 13:22, “the deceitfulness of riches;” and ἀπάτη τῆς ἀδικίας , 2 Thessalonians 2:10, “the deceitfulness of unrighteousness;” is that aptitude that is in riches and unrighteousness, considering the state and condition of men in this world, and their temptations, to deceive them with vain hopes, and to seduce them into crooked paths. Once it is put for sin itself: Ephesians 4:22, Κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης , “According to the lusts of deceit:” that is, of sin, which is deceitful; unless it may be rendered by the adjective, ἀπατηλοῦς , or ἀπατήτους , as it is done by ours, “deceiving” (or “deceitful”) “lusts.” See 2 Peter 2:13. Here, as it is joined with “sin,” as an adjunct of it, it denotes not its acting primarily, but that habitual deceit that is in indwelling sin, whereby it seduceth men and draweth them off from God.
Lastly, The evil itself particularly cautioned against is expressed in that word σκληρυνθῇ , “should be hardened;” of the sense and importance whereof we have spoken fully on the foregoing verses. The design, then, of this verse is to prescribe a duty unto the Hebrews, with the manner of its performance, and the season they had for it, which might prevent their departure from God through an evil heart of unbelief, by preserving it from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; our concernment wherein will be manifest in the ensuing deductions from it:
Obs. 1. Sedulous mutual exhortation is an eminent means to obviate and prevent the design of the deceitfulness of sin.
The apostle having declared the pernicious consequence of departing from God through the deceitfulness of sin, and the danger that professors are in of so doing, singles out this duty as a signal means of its prevention. And hereby, as great weight is laid upon it, so great honor is done unto it. We may, therefore, do well to consider both the nature of it and the manner of its performance; for its efficacy unto the end proposed depends merely on its institution. There are many practical duties that are neglected because they are not understood; and they are not understood because they are supposed to have no difficulty in them, but to be exposed to every lazy and careless inquiry. High notions, curious speculations, with knotty controversies, are thought to deserve men’s utmost diligence in their search and examination; but for these practical duties, it is generally supposed that they are known sufficiently at a word’s speaking, if they were but practiced accordingly. Yet it will be found that the great wisdom of faith consists in a spiritual acquaintance with the true nature of these duties; which indeed are therefore practically neglected because they are not doctrinally understood. I shall therefore offer somewhat here briefly towards the right understanding of the nature of this duty and the manner of its performance; and to this purpose some things we are to observe with respect unto the persons that are to perform it, and some thing with respect unto the duty itself:
First, For the persons concerned, this duty of exhortation is incumbent on some by virtue of especial office, and on others by virtue of especial love.
1. Some it is expected from upon the account of their office; so it is of all ministers of the gospel The duty of constant exhortation, that is, of persuading the souls of men unto constancy and growth in faith and obedience, unto watchfulness and diligence against the deceitfulness of sin, and that from the word of truth, in the name and authority of Christ, is the most important part of their ministerial office. This are they diligently to attend unto: ᾿Ο παρακαλῶν , ἐν τῇ παρακλήσει , Romans 12:8; “Let him that exhorteth” (his office taketh name from this part of his work) “attend unto” (or “abide in”) “exhortation.” This is it which is required of him, and will be expected from him. So our apostle distributes the whole ministerial work into three parts, enjoining their observance unto his son Timothy: 1 Timothy 4:13, “Diligently attend,” saith he, τῇ ἀναγνώσει , “to reading;” that is, studying and meditating on the holy Scriptures, for his own information and growth, which ministers ought to do all their days, and not to sit down lazily with a pretense of their attainments: and secondly, τῇ παρακλήσει , “to consolatory exhortation,” the duty before us; and lastly, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ , “to doctrinal instruction,” for the enlightening and informing of the minds of his disciples. These are the principal duties of an evangelical minister. So he again conjoins teaching and exhortation, as the two main parts of preaching, 1 Timothy 6:2. And these he would have a minister to be instant in, or insist upon, εὐκαίρως , ἀκαίρως , “in and out of season,” 2 Timothy 4:2, a proverbial expression denoting frequency and diligence. Where this is neglected by any of them, they deal treacherously with God and the souls of men. But this ministerial work is not that which is here intended. But,
2. There is that which is mutual among believers, founded in their common interest, and proceeding from especial love. And this especial love is that which distinguisheth it from another duty of the same nature in general with this, which we owe unto all mankind; for the eternal law of nature binds us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Now, we neither do nor can love any without endeavoring of their good, and effecting of it according to our power. And herein is comprised a persuading of men unto what is good for them, and a dehorting them from that which is morally evil and pernicious, as occasions and opportunities are offered. Titus dealt Lot with the Sodomites; whom the Holy Ghost therefore commends, though they reviled him as a pragmatical intruder into their concernments. So God and the world have very different measures and touchstones of moral duties. But there is somewhat special in the duty here intended; for it is confined unto them who are brethren in the same fellowship of professing the gospel, 2 Timothy 4:1, and proceeds from that mutual love which is wrought in them by the Spirit of Christ, and required of them by the law of Christ. And this differs from that philanthropy, or love to mankind in general, which ought to be in us; for they have different principles, different motives, different effects, and different ways of expression. The one is an inbred principle of the law of nature, the other an implanted grace of the Holy Ghost; the one required from a common interest in the same nature, the other from an especial interest in the same new nature. In brief, the one is a general duty of the law, the other an especial duty of the gospel. I say, this especial love is the spring of this mutual exhortation.
Secondly, And to the right performance of it the things ensuing do appertain:
1. That they who perform it find in themselves an especial concernment in the persons and things with whom and about which they treat in their exhortations. It will not admit of any pragmatical curiosity, leading men to interpose themselves in matters wherein they are no way concerned. “Knowing,” saith the apostle, τὸν φόβον τοῦ Κυρίου , ἀνθρώπους πείθομεν , 2 Corinthians 5:11; ‘The reason why we exhort men, orpersuade them to their duty, is because of our compassion towards them, inasmuch as we know the terror or dread of God, with whom in this matter they have to do, and that it is φοβερὸν , a very fearful thing to fall into his hands when he is provoked,’ Hebrews 10:31. If men find not themselves really concerned in the glory of God, and their hearts moved with compassion towards the souls of men, whether they are in office in the church or not, it will be their wisdom to abstain from this duty, as that which they are no way fitted to discharge.
2. An especial warranty for the particular exercise of this duty is required of us. Our duty it is in general to exhort one another, by virtue of this and the like commands; but as unto the especial instances of it, for them we must look for especial warranty. Those who shall engage into this or any other duty at adventures will but expose themselves and it to contempt. Now this especial warranty ariseth from a due coincidence of rule and circumstances. There are sundry particular eases wherein direct and express rule requires the discharge of this duty; as
(1.) In ease of sin; Leviticus 19:17,
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.”
For even rebukes belong to this general head of exhortation, nor are they ever to be without it.
(2.) Of ignorance in the truth: so dealt Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos when they instructed him in the way of God, Acts 18:24-26. And many the like cases are instanced in. Add unto such rules a due consideration of circumstances, relating unto times, seasons, persons, and occasions, and it will form the warranty intended.
3. Especial wisdom, understanding, and ability, are hereunto required. It is an easy thing to spoil the best duty in the manner of its performance: and as other things may spoil a duty, so a defect in spiritual skill for the performance of it can never suffer it to be right. If men, then, have not a sound judgment and understanding of the matter about which this mutual exhortation is to be exercised, and of the way whereby it is to be managed, they may do well to leave it unto them who are better furnished with “the tongue of the learned to know how to speak a word in season;” I mean as to the solemn discharge of it; otherwise occasional mutual encouragements unto faith and obedience are the common and constant duties of all believers. And the apostle speaks of the generality of Christians in those primitive times, that they were so “filled with all knowledge” as that they were “able to admonish one another,” Romans 15:14; wherein as he requires an ability for it, so he ascribes it unto them And unto them it belongs to see,
(1.) That it be done with words of truth. It is truth alone that in things of this nature is accompanied with authority, and attended with efficacy. If there be any failure in this foundation, the whole superstructure will sink of itself. Those, then, who undertake this duty must be sure to have a word of truth for their warrant, that those who are exhorted may hear Christ speaking in it; for whatever influence other words or reasonings may have on their affections, their consciences will be unconcerned in them. And this should not only be virtually included in what is spoken, but also formally expressed, that it may put forth its authority immediately and directly. As exhortations that fail in truth materially (as they may, for men may exhort and persuade one another to error and false worship) are pernicious, so those which are not formally spirited or enlivened by an express word of Scripture are languid, weak, and vain.
(2.) That it may be managed, unless especial circumstances require some variation, with words good and comfortable, words of consolation and encouragement. The word here used, as hath been shown, signifies to comfort as well as to exhort. Morose, severe expressions become not this duty, but such as wisdom will draw out from love, care, tenderness, compassion, and the like compliant affections. These open and soften the heart, and make the entrance of the things insisted on smooth and easy into it.
(3.) That it be accompanied with care and diligence for a suitable example in the practice and walking of the persons exhorting. An observation of the contrary will quickly frustrate the weightiest words that look another way. Exhortation is nothing but an encouragement given unto others to walk with us or after us in the ways of God and the gospel. “Be followers of me,” saith our apostle, “as I am of Christ.” And these are some of the heads on which we might discourse of this duty; which in that great degeneracy of Christianity whereinto the world is fallen, were not unnecessary to do, but I must not too much enlarge upon particulars:
Obs. 2. Gospel duties have an especial efficacy attending them in their especial seasons: “While it is called To-day.” Every thing hath its beauty, order, and efficacy from its proper season. Again,
Obs. 3. We have but an uncertain season for the due performance of most certain duties. How long it will be called “To-day,” we know not. The day of our lives is uncertain. So is the day of the gospel, as also of our opportunities therein. The present season alone is ours; and, for the most part, we need no other reason to prove any time to be a season for duty but because it is present.
Obs. 4. The deceit which is in sin, and which is inseparable from it, tends continually to the hardening of the heart. This is that which is principally taught us in these words; and it is a truth of great importance unto us, which might here be properly handled, but having at large discoursed of the whole of the deceitfulness of sin in another treatise, (7) I shall not here resume the discussion of it.
(7) On Indwelling Sin, volume 6 of the author’s works. ED.
Hebrews 3:14 . “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end.”
This is the last part of this fourth περιοχή , or section of this chapter. As to its coherence with the verses foregoing, it containeth an enforcement of the general exhortation unto perseverance, and the avoidance of backsliding or apostasy in all the causes and tendencies unto it, as also of the particular duties which the apostle had now proposed as effectual means unto those ends: for he lets them know that all their interest in Christ, and all the benefits they did expect or might be made partakers of by him, did depend upon their answering his exhortation unto constancy and perseverance in their profession; and, moreover, that whereas men are apt to wax weary and faint, or to grow slothful in the course of their profession, sometimes so soon almost as they are entered into it, unless they continue the same diligence and earnestness of endeavors as at the first, so as to abide steadfast unto the end, they would have no benefit either by Christ or the gospel, but rather fall assuredly under that indignation of God which he had newly warned them of. This in general is the design of the words.
In the particulars there are:
1. A state and condition expressed from whence the force of the argument is taken. “We are made partakers of Christ.”
2. An application of that condition unto ourselves, as to the way whereby it may be declared and evidenced: “If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” The causal connection, γάρ , “for,” shows the respect of these words unto those foregoing, according as we have declared it; and it manifests that the apostle induceth an enforcement of his preceding exhortation.
The state and condition intimated is expressed in these words, Μέτοχοι γεγόναμεν τοῦ χριστοῦ . Γεγόναμεν denotes some time past, “We have been made:” which excludes one application of the words, namely, unto a future participation of Christ in glory, which here should be promised, but suspended upon the condition of our holding steadfast the beginning of our confidence unto the end; as if it were said, ‘We are made partakers of Christ,’that is, we shall be so hereafter, ‘in case we continue constant and persevere;’which sense (if it be so) is embraced by those who are ready to lay hold on all appearing advantages of opposing the assurance and perseverance of believers. But a present state is here declared, and that which is already wrought and partaken of. And, indeed, the consideration of this word doth rightly state the relation of the several parts of the words mentioned: “We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence;” that is, we are so thereby, either causally and formally, or interpretatively and declaratively. If in the first sense, then our participation of Christ depends on our perseverance unto the end, nor can we come unto the one until we have attained the other. But this is contrary to the text, which supposeth us actually instated in that participation, as the words necessarily require. If it be in the latter sense, then our perseverance is enjoined as an evidence of our participation of Christ, that whereby it may be tried whether it be true and genuine, which if it be, it will be producing this effect; as James requires that we should try or evidence and manliest our faith by our works, of what sort it is.
We are made μέτοχοι τοῦ Χριστοῦ , “partakers of Christ.” This expression is nowhere used but only in this place. The word μέτοχος itself is but once used in the New Testament, but only by our apostle; and μετέχω , from whence it comes, not at all but by him. And he interprets it by “communion,” or “ participation:” for affirming that “the bread which we break is κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ , “the communion of the body of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10:16, he adds, Πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν , ,” 1 Corinthians 10:17, “We all partake of that one bread;” which is a sacramental expression of the same thing here intended. Most expositors suppose the name Christ to be here taken metonymically for the benefits of his mediation, in grace here, and right to future blessedness. Some suppose it to be only an expression of being a disciple of Christ, and so really to belong unto him. But the true and precise importance of the words may be learned from the apostle in his use of those of an alike signification with reference unto Christ himself, Hebrews 2:14: “Because the children are partakers of flesh and blood,” that is, because those whom he was to redeem were men, partakers of human nature, καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχε τῶν αὐτῶν , “He himself in like manner took part of the same.” He was partaker of us, partook of us. How? By taking flesh and blood, that is, entire human nature, synecdochically so expressed, to be his own, as he expresseth it, Hebrews 2:16, “He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on the seed of Abraham;” that is, the nature of man derived from the loins of Abraham, according to the promise made unto him. How, then, are we partakers of him, partakers of Christ? It is by our having an interest in his nature, by the communication of his Spirit, as he had in ours by the assumption of our flesh. It is, then, our union with Christ that is intended, whereby we are made “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” Ephesians 5:30. A participation of the benefits of the mediation of Christ is included in these words, but not firstly intended, only as a consequent of our intimate union with him. And this the Syriac translation seems to have understood, reading the words by אֶתְלַמַן נֵּיר עַם מְשִׁיחָא , “We are mingled” (or “mixed”) “with Christ;” that is, joined with him, united unto him. And this is that which the apostle puts to the trial, as the hinge on which their present privileges and future happiness did entirely depend. And this is the sense which Chrysostom and the Greeks that follow him do fix upon. Saith he,
Τί ἐστι μέτοχοι γεγόναμεν τοῦ Χριστοῦ ; μετέχομεν αὐτοῦ , φησιν· ἕν ἐγενὸμεθα ἡμεῖς καὶ αὐτὸς , εἴπερ αὐτὸς μὲν κεφαλὴ , φῶμα δὲ ἡμεῖς , συγκληρονὸμοι καὶ σύσσωμοι . ῞Εν σῶμά ἐσμεν , ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ , φησι , καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ “What is it to be ‘partakers of Christ?’He and we are made one he the head, we the body, co-heirs and incorporated with him. We are one body with him, as he speaks, of his flesh and bones.”
So he. The trial and evidence hereof is declared in the last words,
᾿Εάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχοι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν “If so be that we hold fast” (or “steadfast”) “the beginning of our confidence unto the end.”
So we. It is by all agreed, that, for the substance of it, the same matter is here intended as in Ephesians 5:6; and that that which is there called καύχημα τῆς ελπίδος , “the glorying of hope,” is here termed ἀρχὴ τῆς ὑποστάσεως , “the beginning of confidence;” because it is said of each of them that they are to be “kept steadfast unto the end.” But the expression here used is singular, and hath left an impression of its difficulty on most translations and expositions. Hence hath arisen that great variety that is amongst them in rendering and expounding of these words, “Initium substantiae ejus,” saith the Vulgar; and the Rhemists from thence, “The beginning of his substance,” adding “his” to the text. Arias Montan. and Erasmus, “Principium substantive;” “The beginning of substance.” Beza, “Principium illud quo sustentamur;” “That beginning” (or “principle”) “whereby we are sustained.” Castalio, “Hoc argumen-turn ab initio ad finem usque;” “This argument from the beginning to the end.”
Syriac, “From the beginning unto the end, if we abide in this substance,” or “foundation.” Ethiopic, “If we persevere to keep this new testament.” We, “The beginning of our confidence.” By which variety it appears that some know not how to express the words, as not well understanding of them, and that others were not satisfied with the conjectures of their predecessors. Neither are expositors more agreed about the meaning of the words. Some by ἀρχὴ τῆς ὑποστάσεως understand the gospel, some faith, some hope, some confidence, some Christ himself. Most fix on faith to be intended, which they say is termed ὑπόστασις , or “substance,” because it is that which supports us, causeth us to subsist in Christ, as the just do live by faith. But it may not be amiss to inquire a little more exactly into the proper emphasis and importance of this expression.
῾Υπόστασις properly signifies “substance.” It is applied unto somewhat distinct in the being of the Deity, Hebrews 1:3, where it is said that theSon is the “express image of the Father’s hypostasis;” and there it can signify nothing but an especial manner of existence or subsistence in the divine ture, that is, a person; whence the eastern church first, and after the western, agreed in three hypostases in the divine nature, that is, as we speak, three persons, or three different manners of the subsistence of the same individual being. In things human it denotes acts, and not substances. And as it is used only by our apostle, so it is used by him variously; as for confidence, 2 Corinthians 9:4, ᾿Εν τῇ ὑποστάσει ταύτῃ τῆς καυχήσεως , In this confidence of boasting; whence ours have translated it in this place “confidence.” And it may be the rather, because as it is there joined with καύχησις , so he maketh use of καύχγημα in the same subject with this, 2 Corinthians 9:6. But the ὑπόστασις of the apostle in that place was not a confidence of boldness, but that infallible certainty which he had of his apostleship wherein he gloried. That was it which he stood firmly on. 2 Corinthians 11:1 of this epistle, the apostle maketh use of it in the description he gives of faith; yet so as to denote an effect of it, and not its nature: ῎Εστι δὲ πίστις , ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις , “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for;” “Illud quo extant quae sperantur,” “That whereby the things that are hoped for do exist.” Things that are absolutely in themselves future, absent, unseen, are, as unto their efficacy, use, benefit, fruits, and effects, made by faith present unto the soul, and have a subsistence given them therein. It is not, then, faith itself, but an effect of it, that is there described by the apostle.
If, then, by “the beginning of our substance,” “subsistence,” or “confidence,” faith is intended, it is because it is that which gives us all these things by our interest in Christ and the benefits of his mediation. But I confess the expression is abstruse in this sense, and difficult to be understood.
It may therefore be understood of the gospel itself, which is called “the beginning of our confidence,” because it is the means of begetting faith in us, and producing that profession wherein we are to persevere; and this sense is embraced by some expositors.
There seems yet to me that there is another more genuine sense of the word, suited to the scope of the place and design of the apostle, without wresting it from its native signification. We have showed that our partaking of Christ is our being united unto him; and the ὑπόστασις , “hypostasis,” which on that union we are bound to preserve and maintain, is our subsistence in Christ, our abiding in him, as the branches in the vine. So the word signifies, and so it is here used. And although Chrysostom supposes that it is faith which is intended, yet it is on the account of this effect of our subsistence in those things that he so judgeth: Τί ἐστιν ἀρχὴ τῆς ὑποστάσεως ; τὴν πίστιν λέγει δ᾿ ἧς ὑπέστημεν , καὶ γεγενήμεθα καὶ συνουσιώθημεν , ὡς ἄν τις εἵποι· “He speaks of faith, by which we subsist” (in Christ), “and are begotten, and, as I may so say, consubstantiated with him;” that is, solidly, substantially united unto him. Now, our subsistence in Christ is twofold:
1. By profession only, which is the condition of the branches in the vine that bear no fruit, but are at length cut off and cast into the fire;
2. By real union. And the trial of which of these it is that we are partakers of, depends on our perseverance.
Τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως . Beza, “Principium illud quo sustentamur,” “That principle” (or “beginning”) “whereby we are sustained.” But this I do not understand; for it makes ἀρχή , “the beginning,” to denote the thing itself recommended unto us, and which we are to preserve, whereof the hypostasis mentioned is only an effect, or that whereby the work of the beginning is expressed. But ἀρχή is nowhere used in any such sense, nor doth it appear what should be intended by it. Besides, it is plainly here an adjunct of our subsistence in Christ; the beginning of it. And this may be considered two ways;
1. Absolutely, it is begun in profession or reality, and it is to be continued;
2. Emphatically, for the usual attendancies of our faith and profession at their beginning. The beginning of our engagement’unto Christ is for the most part accompanied with much love, and other choice affections, resolution, and courage; which without great care and watchfulness we are very ready to decay in and fall from. And in this sense it is here used.
The remainder of the words, μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν , “Hold steadfast unto the end,” have been opened on 2 Corinthians 11:6, and we need not again insist upon them.
I shall only add, that the apostle joining himself here with the Hebrews in this matter, “We are partakers, if we hold fast,” he shows that this is a general and perpetual rule for professors to attend unto, and the touchstone of their profession, by which it may be tried at the last day. And hence are the ensuing observations:
Obs. 1. Union with Christ is the principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments and expectations.
The apostle sums up all, both what we do enjoy by the gospel at present, and what right unto or expectation we have of future blessedness and happiness, in this one expression, “We are partakers of Christ.” That our union with him is thereby intended hath been declared in the exposition of the words. The nature of this union, and wherein it doth consist, I have elsewhere manifested and vindicated; (8) I shall therefore here only confirm the proposition laid down. It is the principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments. For as Christ is unto us “all, and in all,” Colossians 3:11, so “without him we can do nothing,” we are nothing, John 15:5; for whereas we live, “it is not we, but Christ liveth in us,” Galatians 2:20. And the truth hereof appears,
(8) See On Communion with God, volume 2 of this edition of the author’s works.
First, Because it is itself, in the order of nature, the first truly saving spiritual mercy, the first vital grace that we are made partakers of; and that which is the first of any kind is the measure and rule of all that ensues in that kind. As is the root, so are the branches and the fruit. They do not only follow the nature of it, but live upon its supplies. All our grace is but a participation of the root, and therein of the fatness of the olive tree; and we bear not the root, but the root bears us, Romans 11:17-18. Whatever precedes this is not true saving grace; and whatever follows it proceeds from it:
1. Whatever work of excision or cutting off there may be of a branch from the wild olive, it is its incision into the true olive which communicates unto it life and fruit-bearing; for after it is cut off from the wild olive and dressed, it may either be cast away or left to wither. Whatever work of conviction by the word of the law, or of illumination by the word of the gospel, or of humiliation from both by the efficacy of the Spirit in all, there may be wrought in the minds and souls of men, yet there is nothing truly saving, vital, and quickening in them, until they be implanted into Christ. Under any other preceding or preparatory work, however it be called, or whatever may be the effects of it, they may wither, die, and perish. Men may be so cut off from the old stock of nature as not to have sin grow or flourish in them, not to bear its blossoms, nor visible fruit, and yet have no principle of grace to bring forth fruit unto holiness. And
2. That whatever grace follows it proceeds from it, is evident from the nature of the thing itself. For our uniting unto Christ consisteth in or immediately ariseth from the communication of his Spirit unto us; for “he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 6:17. Our conjunction unto him consists in our participation of the same Spirit with him. And by this Spirit is Christ himself, or the nature of Christ, formed in us, 2 Peter 1:4. And if all the grace that we are or can be made partakers of in this world be but that nature, in the several parts and acts of it, that from whence it proceeds, whereby it is formed in us, must needs in order of nature be antecedent unto it. No grace we have, or can have, but what is wrought in us by the Spirit of Christ. Whence else should we have it? Doth it grow naturally in our own gardens? or can other men plant and water it, and give it life and increase? Nay, but all grace is the fruit and effect of the Spirit, as the Scripture everywhere declares. See Galatians 5:22-23. It implies, then, a contradiction, that any one should have any lively saving grace., and not antecedently in order of nature receive the Spirit of grace from Christ: for he is the cause, and grace is the effect; or, as he is savingly bestowed, according to the promise of the covenant, he is the spring and fountain, or efficient cause, of all grace whatever. Now, our union with Christ, our participation of him, consists in the inhabitation of the same Spirit in him and us; and the first work of this Spirit given unto us, bestowed upon us, is to form Christ in us, whereby our union is completed. But it will be asked, whether the Spirit of Christ doth come into a soul that hath no grace? if so, then he may be in a graceless person. I answer, that although this in order of nature is consequent unto the communication of the Spirit unto us, as the effect is and must be to the cause, as light and heat in the beam are unto the sun, yet it hath a simulty of time with it; as Austin speaks well of the original of the soul, “Creando infunditur, et infuudendo creatur.” God doth not first create a soul, giving it an existence of its own, without union with the body, but creates it in and by its infusion. So the Spirit doth not come unto us, and afterward quicken or sanctify us; but he doth this by his coming unto us, and possessing our hearts for and with Christ. This the apostle calls the forming of Christ in us, Galatians 4:19, ῞Αχρις οὗ μορφωθῇ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν , “Until Christ be formed” (or “fashioned’) “in you,” as a child is fashioned or formed in the womb; that is, ‘until the whole image and likeness of Christ be imparted unto and implanted upon your souls.’This is the new creature that is wrought in every one that is in Christ; that every one is who is in Christ: for the introduction of this new spiritual form gives denomination unto the person. He that is “in Christ Jesus is a new creature,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. And this is “Christ in us, the hope of glory,” Colossians 1:27.