For by it the elders obtained a good report - By the elders are meant ancestors, forefathers, such as the patriarchs and prophets, several of whom he afterwards particularly names, and produces some fact from the history of their lives.
It is very remarkable that among the whole there is root one word concerning poor Adam and his wife, though both Abraham and Sarah are mentioned. There was no good report concerning them; not a word of their repentance, faith, or holiness. Alas! alas! did ever such bright suns set in so thick a cloud? Had there been any thing praiseworthy in their life after their fall, any act of faith by which they could have been distinguished, it had surely come out here; the mention of their second son Abel would have suggested it. But God has covered the whole of their spiritual and eternal state with a thick and impenetrable veil. Conjectures relative to their state would be very precarious; little else than hope can be exercised in their favor: but as to them the promise of Jesus was given, so we may believe they found redemption in that blood which was shed from the foundation of the world. Adam's rebellion against his Maker was too great and too glaring to permit his name to be ever after mentioned with honor or respect.
The word εμαρτυρηθησαν, which we translate obtained a good report, literally signifies, were witnessed of; and thus leads us naturally to God, who by his word, as the succeeding parts of the chapter show, bore testimony to the faith and holiness of his servants. The apostle does not mention one of whom an account is not given in the Old Testament. This, therefore, is God's witness or testimony concerning them.
For by it - That is, by that faith which gives reality to things hoped for, and a certain persuasion to the mind of the existence of those things which are not seen.
The elders - The ancients; the Hebrew patriarchs and fathers.
Obtained a good report - Literally, “were witnessed of;” that is, an honorable testimony was borne to them in consequence of their faith. The idea is, that their acting under the influence of faith, in the circumstances in which they were, was the ground of the honorable testimony which was borne to them in the Old Testament; see this use of the word in Hebrews 7:8, and in Hebrews 7:4 of this chapter. Also Luke 4:22; Acts 15:8. In the cases which the apostle proceeds to enumerate in the subsequent part of the chapter, he mentions those whose piety is particularly commended in the Old Testament, and who showed in trying circumstances that they had unwavering confidence in God.
There are so many who endure privation and pursue at considerable sacrifice a course which promises advantages in the future. They forego present comfort for a future inducement as an equivalent, but here Jesus presents eternal life as the reward of obedience, and if paltry things of earthly gain will be sacrificed for some future good, how much more should ease, pleasure, and present worldly advantages be sacrificed for the incomparable riches and glory of the future immortal life. Let not the sorcery of earthly enchantments steal the affections from God and harden the heart to eternal interest. Look at the things that are unseen. Enshrine Jesus in the heart. Love Him with your whole soul.—Letter 15a, November 15, 1871, to Edson and Emma White. Edson was 22 and Emma was 23. TDG 328.5Read in context »