By so much - This solemn, unchangeable oath of God, was Jesus made a surety, εγγυος, a mediator, one who brings the two parties together, witnesses the contract, and offers the covenant sacrifice on the occasion. See at the end of the chapter.
A better testament - Κρειττονος διατηκης· A better covenant; called, in the title to the sacred books which contain the whole Christian code, Ἡ Καινη Διαθηκη, The New Covenant, thus contradistinguished from the Mosaic, which was the old covenant; and this is called the new and better covenant, because God has in it promised other blessings, to other people, on other conditions, than the old covenant did. The new covenant is better than the old in the following particulars:
2. The Jewish priests, fallible, dying men, were mediators of the old covenant, by means of their sacrifices, which could not take away sin, nor render the comers thereunto perfect. But Jesus Christ, who liveth for ever, who is infinite in wisdom and power, by the sacrifice of himself has established this new covenant, and by the shedding of his blood has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
By so much - Inasmuch as an oath is more solemn than a mere appointment. The meaning is, that there is all the additional security in the suretyship of Jesus which arises from the solemnity of an oath. It is not implied that God would not be true to his mere promise, but the argument here is derived from the custom of speaking among people. An oath is regarded as much more sacred and binding than a mere promise, and the fact that God has sworn in a given case furnishes the highest security that what he has promised will be performed.
Was Jesus made a surety - The word “surety” - ἐγγυος enguos- occurs nowhere else in the New Testament nor is it found in the Septuagint. It properly means, a bondsman; one who pledges his name, property, or influence, that a certain thing shall be done. When a contract is made, debt contracted, or a note given, a friend often becomes the “security” in the case, and is himself responsible if the terms of the contract are not complied with. In the case of the new covenant between God and man, Jesus is the “security” or the bondsman. But of what, and to whom, is he the surety? It cannot be that he is a bondsman for God that he will maintain the covenant, and be true to the promise which he makes, as Crellius supposes, for we need no such “security” of the divine faithfulness and veracity. It cannot be that he becomes responsible for the divine conduct in any way - for no such responsibility is needed or possible.
But it must mean that he is the security or bondsman on the part of man. He is the pledge that we shall be saved. He becomes responsible, so to speak, to law and justice, that no injury shall be done by our salvation, though we are sinners. He is not a security that we shall be saved at any rate, without holiness, repentance, faith, or true religion - for he never could enter into a suretyship of that kind: but his suretyship extends to this point, that the law shall be honored; that all its demands shall be met; that we may be saved though we have violated it, and that its terrific penalty shall not fall upon us. The case is this. A sinner becomes a true penitent and enters heaven. It might be said that he does this over a broken law; that God treats the good and bad alike, and that no respect has been paid to the law or the penalty in his salvation. Here the Great Surety comes in, and says that it is not so.
He has become responsible for this; he the surety, the pledge, that all proper honor shall be paid to justice, and that the same good effects shall ensue as if the penalty of the law had been fully borne. He himself has died to honor the law, and to open a way by which its penalty may be fully remitted consistently with justice, and he becomes “the everlasting pledge or security” to law, to justice, to the universe, that no injury shall result from the pardon and salvation of the sinner. According to this view, no man can rely on the suretyship of Jesus but he who expects salvation on the terms of the gospel. The suretyship is not at all that he shall be saved in his sins, or that he shall enter heaven no matter what life he leads; it is only that if he believes, repents, and is saved, no injury shall be done to the universe; no dishonor to the law. For this the Lord Jesus is responsible.
Of a better testament - Rather, “of a better covenant.” The former covenant was what God made with his people under the Mosaic dispensation; the new covenant is that made by means of Christ. This is “better” because:
(1)the terms are more simple and easy;
(2)the observances and rites are much less onerous and hard;
(3)it relates to all people, not being confined to the Jewish people;
(4)it is now sure. The former was administered through the instrumentality of the Levitical priesthood, this by the Son of God; that was transitory and changing, this is permanent and eternal.
(The word rendered “Surety,” is εγγυος enguosIt occurs indeed here only in the New Testament, nor is it found in the Septuagint, i, e. the very word is not. Yet its derivatives occur there, and bear the sense that is ordinarily, and everywhere expressed by suretyship, Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 22:26, and other places. The word itself, too, is found in the Apocrypha Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24. But because Christ is called, in these places, the μεσιτης mesitēsor mediator of the covenant, it does not follow that εγγυος enguoshere has “precisely” the same sense. Or, if so, how shall we account for the introduction of this singular word at all? Why was not μεσιτης mesitēsemployed here, as, in other places, in the Epistle? This has, indeed been accounted for by observing, that as the apostle, in the Hebrews 7:19, had used the word εγγιζομεν engizomenwe draw near, he employed εγγυος enguosin the Hebrews 7:22, for the sake of the “paronomasia,” to which figure he is alleged to have been much attached. But in whatever way the apostle may have been led to the use of the word (and the above account is probable enough), he never would have used it, in a sense altogether different from what ordinarily is attached to it, out of fondness for any figure whatever. “A surety has to pay what they owe, for whom he is engaged; to do, what is to be done by them, which they cannot perform. ‹And if this be not the notion of a surety in this place, the apostle makes use of a word, nowhere else used in the whole scripture, to teach us what it doth never signify among people, which is improbable and absurd.‘ For the sole reason why he did make use of it was, that from the nature and notion of it among people, in other cases, we may understand the signification of it, and what, under that name, he ascribes unto the Lord Jesus” - Owen.
Having thus proved that εγγυος enguosis properly translated “surety,” and that Christ is so styled, in a sense not widely different from what is usually attached to the word - let us next inquire, how Christ discharges this suretyship, or what he does in his capacity of surety? Is he surety to us for God? This last question, by orthodox writers, is for the most part, answered in the negative on the ground that there can be no need of security for God, his promise and his oath being sufficient guarantee that he will fulfil his engagement; on the ground also, that a surety must be some one greater than the party for whom he engages, which, in the case of God, renders the thing impossible, since there is none greater than Heb. Thus, Dr. Owen has argued at great length, and is followed by Guyse, Boston, and many others. Yet there are not wanting writers of great reputation for learning and orthodoxy, who scruple not to say that Christ is surety “for God;” (see Mr. Scott on this place).
He undertook, on the part of the Father. that all the promises should be made good to the seed. He acts in the behalf of God toward us, and assures us of the divine favor. “If it be asked, what need was there of a Mediator to assure us of the fulfillment of the promises made by the God of truth, who cannot lie or deceive us, I answer, the same objection might be made against God‘s adding his oath to his promise, whereby he intended to give us the greater security of accomplishment? - Pierce. The exclusion of this idea from the suretyship of Christ, on the part of so many divines, doubtless arose from the improper use made of it by Socinians, who unwilling to admit that Christ had become bound for our debt of suffering and obedience, and, in this sense, was surety “for us,” resolved the suretyship into a mere engagement “in behalf of God.” They could not allow more, without allowing the atonement.
While, however, we see no necessity for discarding this idea, because it has been used for bad purposes, we maintain, that this is neither all, nor even the principal part, of the suretyship of Christ. Revert to the original notion of a surety. He is one who engages, in behalf of another, to pay a debt or discharge a duty, which that other may fail to pay or discharge. Christ engaged to stand in that relation toward us, and therefore he is the “surety for us God,” that our debt shall be discharged. God the Father, on his part, engages, that Christ shall see his seed, that they shall be saved; and the Son of God, on his part, becomes bound for the debt of penalty and obedience. This is the covenant of redemption, “the counsel of peace” between the Father and the Son, before all worlds; Zechariah 6:13; Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 53:12. It is unnecessary further to observe, that Christ, in his capacity of surety, has nobly redeemed his pledge, endured the penalty, and honored the precept of the broken law, and thereby secured for his people the blessings of the covenant.
Before concluding this note, we may remark that some difference of opinion exists among those who hold the suretyship of Christ, in reference to another question. Namely, Whether he became surety for the faith, repentance, and evangelical obedience of his people? “I answer,” says Thomas Boston. “though the elect‘s believing, repenting, and sincere obedience are infallibly secured in the covenant, yet I judge, that Christ did not become surety in the covenant, in way of caution to his Father, that the elect should perform these deeds, or any other. These belong rather to the promissory part of the covenant. “They are benefits promised in the covenant” by God unto Christ, the surety, as a reward of his fulfilling the condition of the covenant. And so they are, by the unchangeable truth of God, and his exact justice, ensured beyond all possibility of failure; Psalm 22:27, Psalm 22:30-31; Psalm 110:3; Isaiah 53:10, with Hebrews 7:1; Ezekiel 34:26-27, Ezekiel 34:31; Hebrews 8:10-11.” - Boston on the Covenant of Grace; see also Dr. Dick‘s admirable lectures on the same subject.
It will be seen from this review of the suretyship of Christ, that the sentiments of our author on the subject are not materially different from those of evangelical divines in Scotland. He may not use the same phraseology, but “security to the law, to justice, to the universe, that no injury shall result from the pardon of the sinner,” is much the same with “surety to God for us, that our debt shall be discharged, that is, that none of these interests shall suffer.)
Describe, if human language can, the humiliation of the Son of God, and think not that you have reached the climax when you see Him exchanging the throne of light and glory which He had with the Father for humanity. He came forth from heaven to earth, and while on earth, He bore the curse of God as surety for the fallen race. He was not obliged to do this. He chose to bear the wrath of God, which man had incurred.... He chose to endure the cruel mockings, the deridings, the scourging, and the crucifixion.... “He ... became obedient unto death,” but the manner of His death was an astonishment to the universe, for it was even the death of the cross. TMK 339.3Read in context »
The work of overcoming is in our hands, but we are not to overcome in our own name or strength, for of ourselves we cannot keep the commandments of God. The Spirit of God must help our infirmities. Christ has become our sacrifice and surety. He has become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Through faith in His name He imputes unto us His righteousness, and it becomes a living principle in our life.... Christ imputes to us His sinless character and presents us to the Father in His own purity.28 TMK 302.3Read in context »
Then what is it to buy the eternal treasure? It is simply to give back to Jesus His own, to receive Him into the heart by faith. It is cooperation with God; it is bearing the yoke with Christ; it is lifting His burdens.... The Lord Jesus laid aside His royal crown, He left His high command, He clothed His divinity with humanity, in order that through humanity He might uplift the human race. He so appreciated the possibility of the human race that He became man's substitute and surety. He places upon man His own merit, and thus elevates him in the scale of moral value with God. TMK 83.3Read in context »
What an experience may be attained at the footstool of mercy, which is the only place of sure refuge! You may discern the fact that God is back of His promises, and not dread the issue of your prayers or doubt that Jesus is standing as your surety and substitute. As you confess your sins, as you repent of your iniquity, Christ takes your guilt upon Himself and imputes to you His own righteousness and power. To those who are contrite in spirit He gives the golden oil of love and the rich treasures of His grace. It is then that you may see that the sacrifice of self to God through the merits of Christ makes you of infinite value, for clothed in the robe of Christ's righteousness you become the sons and daughters of God. Those who ... ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus will receive their request. At the very first expression of penitence Christ presents the humble suppliant's petition before the throne as His own desire in the sinner's behalf. He says, “I will pray the Father for you.” TMK 77.3Read in context »