Who through the eternal Spirit - This expression is understood two ways:
But we cannot well consider one of these distinct from the other; and hence probably arose the various readings in the MSS. and versions on this article. Instead of δια Πνευματος αιωνιου, by the Eternal Spirit, δια Πνευματος Ἁγιου, by the Holy Spirit, is the reading of D*, and more than twenty others of good note, besides the Coptic, Slavonic, Vulgate, two copies of the Itala, Cyril, Athanasius sometimes, Damascenus, Chrysostom, and some others. But the common reading is supported by ABD**, and others, besides the Syriac, all the Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Athanasius generally, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Ambrosius. This, therefore, is the reading that should he preferred, as it is probable that the Holy Ghost, not the Logos, is what the apostle had more immediately in view. But still we must say, that the Holy Spirit, with the eternal Logos, and the almighty Father, equally concurred in offering up the sacrifice of the human nature of Christ, in order to make atonement for the sin of the world.
Purge your conscience - Καθαριει την συνειδησιν· Purify your conscience. The term purify should be everywhere, both in the translation of the Scriptures, and in preaching the Gospel, preferred to the word purge, which, at present, is scarcely ever used in the sense in which our translators have employed it.
Dead works - Sin in general, or acts to which the penalty of death is annexed by the law. See the phrase explained, Hebrews 6:1; (note).
How much more shall the blood of Christ - As being infinitely more precious than the blood of an animal could possibly be. If the blood of an animal had any efficacy at all, even in removing ceremonial pollutions, how much more is it reasonable to suppose may be effected by the blood of the Son of God!
Who through the eternal Spirit - This expression is very difficult, and has given rise to a great variety of interpretation. - Some mss. instead of “eternal” here, read “holy,” making it refer directly to the Holy Spirit; see “Wetstein.” These various readings, however, are not regarded as of sufficient authority to lead to a change in the text, and are of importance only as showing that it was an early opinion that the Holy Spirit is here referred to. The principal opinions which have been entertained of the meaning of this phrase, are the following.
(1) that which regards it as referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. This was the opinion of Owen, Doddridge, and archbishop Tillotson.
(2) that which refers it to the “divine nature” of Christ. Among those who have maintained this opinion, are Beza, Ernesti, Wolf, Vitringa, Storr, and the late Dr. John P. Wilson. mss. Notes.
(3) others, as Grotius, Rosenmuller, Koppe, understand it as meaning “endless” or “immortal life,” in contradistinction from the Jewish sacrifices which were of a perishable nature, and which needed so often to be repeated.
(4) others regard it as referring to the glorified person of the Saviour, meaning that in his exalted, or spiritual station in heaven, he presents the efficacy of his blood.
(5) others suppose that it means “divine influence,” and that the idea is, that Christ was actuated and filled with a divine influence when he offered up himself as a sacrifice; an influence which was not of a temporal and fleeting nature, but which was eternal in its efficacy. This is the interpretation preferred by Prof. Stuart.
For an examination of these various opinions, see his “Excursus, xviii.” on this Epistle. It is difficult, if not impossible, to decide what is the true meaning of the passage amidst this diversity of opinion; but there are some reasons which seem to me to make it probable that the Holy Spirit is intended, and that the idea is, that Christ made his great sacrifice under “the extraordinary influences of that Eternal Spirit.” The reasons which lead me to this opinion, are the following:
(1)It is what would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament. It is presumed that the great body of sober, plain, and intelligent readers of the Bible, on perusing the passage, suppose that it refers to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. There are few better and safer rules for the interpretation of a volume designed like the Bible for the mass of mankind, than to abide by the sense in which they understand it.
(2)this interpretation is one which is most naturally conveyed by the language of the original. The phrase “the spirit” - τὸ πνέυμα to pneuma- has so far a technical and established meaning in the New Testament as to denote the Holy Spirit, unless there is something in the connection which renders such an application improper. In this case there is nothing certainly which “necessarily” forbids such an application. The high names and Classical authority of those who have held this opinion, are a sufficient guarantee of this.
(3)this interpretation accords with the fact that the Lord Jesus is represented as having been eminently endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit; compare notes on John 3:34. Though he was divine, yet he was also a man, and as such was under influences similar to those of other pious people. The Holy Spirit is the source and sustainer of all piety in the soul, and it is not improper to suppose that the man Christ Jesus was in a remarkable manner influenced by the Holy Spirit in his readiness to obey God and to suffer according to his will.
(4)if there was ever any occasion on which we may suppose he was influenced by the Holy Spirit, that of his sufferings and death here referred to may be supposed eminently to have been such an one. It was expressive of the highest state of piety - of the purest love to God and man - which has ever existed in the human bosom; it was the most trying time of his own life; it was the period when there would be the most strong temptation to abandon his work; and as the redemption of the whole world was dependent on that act, it is reasonable to suppose that the richest heavenly grace would be there imparted to him, and that he would then be eminently under the influence of that Spirit which was granted not “by measure unto him.” notes, John 3:34.
(5)this representation is not inconsistent with the belief that the sufferings and death of the Redeemer were “voluntary,” and had all the merit which belongs to a voluntary transaction. Piety in the heart of a Christian now is not less voluntary because it is produced and cherished by the Holy Spirit, nor is there less excellence in it because the Holy Spirit imparts strong faith in the time of temptation and trial. It seems to me, therefore, that the meaning of this expression is, that the Lord Jesus was led by the strong influences of the Spirit of God to devote himself as a sacrifice for sin. It was not by any temporary influence; not by mere excitement; it was by the influence of the “Eternal” Spirit of God, and the sacrifice thus offered could, therefore, accomplish effects which would be eternal in their character. It was not like the offering made by the Jewish high priest which was necessarily renewed every year, but it was under the influence of one who was “eternal,” and the effects of whose influence might be everlasting. It may be added, that if this is a correct exposition, it follows that the Holy Spirit is eternal, and must, therefore, be divine.
Offered himself - That is, as a sacrifice. He did not offer a bullock or a goat, but he offered “himself.” The sacrifice of oneself is the highest offering which he can make; in this case it was the highest which the universe had to make.
Without spot - Margin, “Or fault.” The animal that was offered in the Jewish sacrifices was to be without blemish; see Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 22:17-22. It was not to be lame, or blind, or diseased. The word which is used here and rendered “without spot” ἄμωμος amōmos- refers to this fact - that there was no defect or blemish. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, the great sacrifice, was “perfect;” see Hebrews 7:26.
Purge your conscience - That is, cleanse, purify, or sanctify your conscience. The idea is, that this offering would take away whatever rendered the conscience defiled or sinful. The offerings of the Jews related in the main to external purification, and were not adapted to give peace to a troubled conscience. They could render the worshipper externally pure so that he might draw near to God and not be excluded by any ceremonial pollution or defilement; but the mind, the heart, the conscience, they could not make pure. They could not remove what troubles a man when he recollects that he has violated a holy law and has offended God, and when he looks forward to an awful judgment-bar. The word “conscience” here is not to be understood as a distinct and independent faculty of the soul, but as the soul or mind itself reflecting and pronouncing on its own acts. The whole expression refers to a mind alarmed by the recollection of guilt - for it is guilt only that disturbs a man‘s conscience.
Guilt originates in the soul remorse and despair; guilt makes a man troubled when he thinks of death and the judgment; it is guilt only which alarms a man when he thinks of a holy God; and it is nothing but guilt that makes the entrance into another world terrible and awful. If a man had no guilt he would never dread his Maker, nor would the presence of his God be ever painful to him (compare Genesis 3:6-10); if a man had no guilt he would not fear to die - for what have the innocent to fear anywhere? The universe is under the government of a God of goodness and truth, and, under such a government, how can those who have done no wrong have anything to dread? The fear of death, the apprehension of the judgment to come, and “the dread of God,” are strong and irrefragable proofs that every man is a sinner. The only thing, therefore, which ever disturbs the conscience, and makes death dreadful, and God an object of aversion, and eternity awful, is guilt. If that is removed, man is calm and peaceful; if not, he is the victim of wretchedness and despair.
From dead works - From works that are deadly in their nature, or that lead to death. Or it may mean from works that have no spirituality and no life. By “works” here the apostle does not refer to their outward religious acts particularly, but to the conduct of the life, to what people do; and the idea is, that their acts are not spiritual and saving but such as lead to death; see note, Hebrews 6:1.
To serve the living God - Not in outward form, but in sincerity and in truth; to be his true friends and worshippers. The phrase “the living God” is commonly used in the Scriptures to describe the true God as distinguished from idols, which are represented as “dead,” or without life; Psalm 115:4-7. The idea in this verse is, that it is only the sacrifice made by Christ which can remove the stain of guilt from the soul. It could not be done by the blood of bulls and of goats - for that did not furnish relief to a guilty conscience, but it could be done by the blood of Christ. The sacrifice which he made for sin was so pure and of such value, that God can consistently pardon the offender and restore him to his favor. That blood too can give peace - for Christ poured it out in behalf of the guilty. It is not that he took part with the sinner against God; it is not that he endeavors to convince him who has a troubled conscience that he is needlessly alarmed, or that sin is not as bad as it is represented to be, or that it does not expose the soul to danger. Christ never took the part of the sinner against God; he never taught that sin was a small matter, or that it did not expose to danger. He admitted all that is said of its evil. But he provides for giving peace to the guilty conscience by shedding his blood that it may be forgiven, and by revealing a God of mercy who is willing to receive the offender into favor, and to treat him as though he had never sinned. Thus, the troubled conscience may find peace; and thus, though guilty, man may be delivered from the dread of the wrath to come.
The Importance of Simple, Implicit Faith—We must bear a living testimony to the people, presenting before them the simplicity of faith. We must take God at His word, and believe that He will do just as He has said. If He chastises us, it is that we may be partakers of His divine nature. It runs through all His designs and plans to carry on a daily sanctification in us. Shall we not see our work? Shall we not present to others their duty, the privilege they have of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? 3SM 201.1
“This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). We have not pressed forward to the mark of the prize of our high calling. Self has found too much room. Oh, let the work be done under the special direction of the Holy Spirit. The Lord demands all the powers of the mind and being. It is His will that we should be conformed to Him in will, in temper, in spirit, in our meditations. The work of righteousness cannot be carried forward unless we exercise implicit faith. 3SM 201.2
Move every day under God's mighty working power. The fruit of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever. If we had exercised more faith in God and had trusted less to our own ideas and wisdom, God would have manifested His power in a marked manner on human hearts. By a union with Him, by living faith, we are privileged to enjoy the virtue and efficacy of His mediation. Hence we are crucified with Christ, dead with Christ, risen with Christ, to walk in newness of life with Him.—Letter 105, 1898. 3SM 201.3Read in context »
By constantly looking to and patterning after Christ as our personal Saviour, we shall grow up into Him in all things. Our faith will grow, our conscience will be sanctified. We will more and more become like Christ in all our works and words. Thank God, we shall believe His Word. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”—Letter 106, 1908. 3SM 204.4Read in context »
(Romans 3:31.) Christ, Not the Law, Crucified—The law of the ten commandments lives and will live through the eternal ages. The need for the service of sacrifices and offerings ceased when type met antitype in the death of Christ. In Him the shadow reached the substance. The Lamb of God was the complete and perfect offering. 6BC 1116.1
The law of God will maintain its exalted character as long as the throne of Jehovah endures. This law is the expression of God's character.... Types and shadows, offerings and sacrifices had no virtue after Christ's death on the cross; but God's law was not crucified with Christ. Had it been, Satan would have gained all that he attempted to gain in heaven. For this attempt he was expelled from the heavenly courts. He fell, taking with him the angels he had deceived. And today he is deceiving human beings in regard to the law of God (Manuscript 167, 1898). 6BC 1116.2
(1 John 3:4.) An Infamous Lie of Satan—God did not make the infinite sacrifice of giving His only-begotten Son to our world, to secure for man the privilege of breaking the commandments of God in this life and in the future eternal life. This is an infamous lie originated by Satan, which must be made to appear in its false, deceitful character. This law that Satan so much desires to have regarded null and void, is the great moral standard of righteousness. Any violation of it is an act of transgression against God, and will be visited with the penalty of the divine law. To all the inhabitants of the world who make void the law of Jehovah, and continue to live in transgression, death must surely come (Manuscript 72, 1901). 6BC 1116.3Read in context »
These words were presented to me for you: “In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17), through the atonement. The repenting sinner is to believe in Christ as his personal Saviour. This is his only hope. He may lay hold on the merits of the blood of Christ, presenting to God the crucified and risen Saviour as his worthiness. Thus through Christ's offering of Himself, the innocent for the guilty, every obstruction is removed, and the pardoning love of God flows forth in rich streams of mercy to fallen man.... TDG 38.4Read in context »