Epistle to the Hebrews Chapter 9:11-15 Antique Commentary Quotes

Cambridge Bible

Hebrews 9:11

11–14. Assurance of Conscience, the condition of access to God, was secured through Christ alone

11. being come] “Being come among us.”

a high priest of good things to come] Another and perhaps better reading is “of the good things that have come” (γενομένων B, D, not μελλόντων). The writer here transfers himself from the Jewish to the Christian standpoint. The “good things” of which the Law was only “the shadow” (Heb_10:1) were still future to the Jew, but to the Christian they had already come.

by a greater and more perfect tabernacle] The preposition dia rendered “by” may mean either “through”—in which case “the greater and better tabernacle” means the outer heavens through which Christ (anthropomorphically speaking) passed (see Heb_9:24 and Heb_4:14); or “by means of”—in which case “the better tabernacle” is left undefined, and may here mean either the human nature in which for the time “He tabernacled” (Heb_10:20; Joh_1:14; Joh_2:19; Col_2:9; 2Co_5:1), or as in Heb_8:2, the Ideal Church of the firstborn in heaven (comp. Eph_1:3).

not made with hands] Because whatever tabernacle is specifically meant it is one which “the Lord pitched, not man.”

not of this building] The word ktisis may mean either” building “or “creation.” If the latter, then the meaning is that the better tabernacle, through which Christ entered, does not belong to the material world. But since ktizo means “to build,” ktisis may mean “building,” and then the word “this” by a rare idiom means “vulgar,” “ordinary’ (Field, Otium Norvicense, iii. 142); otherwise the clause would be a mere tautology.

Albert Barnes

Hebrews 9:11

But Christ being come – Now that the Messiah has come, a more perfect system is introduced by which the conscience may be made free from guilt.

An high priest of good things to come – see Heb_10:1. The apostle having described the tabernacle, and shown wherein it was defective in regard to the real wants of sinners, proceeds now to describe the Christian system, and to show how that met the real condition of man, and especially how it was adapted to remove sin from the soul. The phrase “high priest of good things to come,” seems to refer to those “good things” which belonged to the dispensation that was to come; that is, the dispensation under the Messiah. The Jews anticipated great blessings in that time. They looked forward to better things than they enjoyed under the old dispensation. They expected more signal proofs of the divine favor; a clearer knowledge of the way of pardon; and more eminent spiritual enjoyments. Of these, the apostle says that Christ, who had come, was now the high priest. It was he by whom they were procured; and the time had actually arrived when they might enjoy the long-anticipated good things under the Messiah.

By a greater and more perfect tabernacle – The meaning is, that Christ officiated as high priest in a much more magnificent and perfect temple than either the tabernacle or the temple under the old dispensation. He performed the great functions of his priestly office – the sprinkling of the blood of the atonement – in heaven itself, of which the most holy place in the tabernacle was but the emblem. The Jewish high priest entered the sanctuary made with hands to minister before God; Christ entered into heaven itself. The word “by” here – διὰ dia – means probably through, and the idea is, that Christ passed through a more perfect tabernacle on his way to the mercy-seat in heaven than the Jewish high priest did when he passed through the outer tabernacle Heb_9:2 and through the veil into the most holy place. Probably the idea in the mind of the writer was that of the Saviour passing through the “visible heavens” above us, to which the veil, dividing the holy from the most holy place in the temple, bore some resemblance. Many, however, have understood the word “tabernacle” here as denoting the “body of Christ” (see Grotius and Bloomfield in loc.); and according to this the idea is, that Christ, by means of his own body and blood offered as a sacrifice, entered into the most holy place in heaven. But it seems to me that the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand it of the more perfect temple in heaven where Christ performs his ministry, and of which the tabernacle of the Hebrews was but the emblem. Christ did not belong to the tribe of Levi; he was not an high priest of the order of Aaron; he did not enter the holy place on earth, but he entered the heavens, and perfects the work of his ministry there.

Not made with hands – A phrase that properly describes heaven as being prepared by God himself; see notes on 2Co_5:1.

Not of this building – Greek “of this “creation” – κτίσεως ktiseōs. The meaning is, that the place where he officiates is not made by human power and art, but is the work of God. The object is to show that his ministry is altogether more perfect than what could be rendered by a Jewish priest, and performed in a temple which could not have been reared by human skill and power.

Cambridge Bible

Hebrews 9:12

neither] “Nor yet.”

by the blood of goats and calves] “by means of the blood of goats and calves,” (this is the order of the words in the best mss.). It is not meant that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were useless, but only that when they were regarded as meritorious in themselves—apart from the faith, and the grace of God, by which they could be blessed to sincere and humble worshippers—they could neither purge the conscience, nor give access to God. When the Prophets speak of sacrifices with such stern disparagement they are only denouncing the superstition which regarded the mere opus operatum as sufficient apart from repentance and holiness (Hos_6:6; Isa_1:10-17, &c.).

by his own blood] His own blood was the offering by which He was admitted as our High Priest and Eternal Redeemer into the Holy of Holies of God’s immediate presence (Heb_13:20; Rev_5:6).

once] “once for all.”

into the holy place] i.e. into the Holiest, as in Lev_16:3; Lev_16:9.

eternal redemption] i.e. “the forgiveness of sins” (Eph_1:7), and ransom from sinful lives (1Pe_1:18-19) to the service of God (Rev_5:9). It should always be borne in mind that the Scriptural metaphors of Ransom and Propitiation describe the Atonement by its blessed effects as regards man. All speculation as to its bearing on the counsels of God, all attempts to frame a scholastic scheme out of metaphors only intended to indicate a transcendent mystery, by its results for us have led to heresy and error. To whom was the ransom paid? The question is idle, because “ransom” is only a metaphor of our deliverance from slavery. For nearly a thousand years the Church was content with the most erroneous, and almost blasphemous notion that the ransom was paid by God to the devil, which led to still more grievous aberrations. Anselm who exploded this error substituted for it another—the hard forensic notion of indispensable satisfaction. Such terms, like those of “substitution,” “vicarious punishment,” “reconciliation of God to us” (for “of us to God”), have no sanction in Scripture, which only reveals what is necessary for man, and what man can understand, viz. that the love of God in Christ has provided for him a way of escape from ruin, and the forgiveness of sins.

having obtained … for us] The “for us” is rightly supplied; but the middle voice of the verb shews that Christ in His love to us also regarded the redemption as dear to Himself.

Pulpit Commentary

Heb_9:11, Heb_9:12

But Christ having come (παραγενόμενος, cf. Mat_3:1; Luk_12:51) a High Priest (or, as High Priest) of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation (κτίσεως), nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all (ἐφάπαξ) into the holy place, having obtained (εὑράμενος, not necessarily antecedent to εἰσῆλθεν) eternal redemption. On the futurity expressed (here and Heb_10:1) by “the good things to come” (the reading μελλόντων being preferred to γενομένων), see under Heb_1:1 (ἐπ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερω ͂ν τούτων) and Heb_2:5 (τὴν οἰκουμένεν τὴς μέλλουσαν). Here, certainly, the period of the earthly tabernacle having been the temporal standpoint in all the preceding verses, futurity with regard to it may, without difficulty, be understood; and hence “the good things” may still be regarded as such as have already come in Christ. On the other hand, there is no difficulty in regarding them as still future. For the full and final result of even Christ’s perfected high priesthood is not yet come. But what is “the greater and more perfect tabernacle,” through which he entered the heavenly holy of holies? It seems evidently, in the first place, to be connected with εἰσῆλθεν, being regarded as the antitype of that “first tabernacle” through which the high priests on earth had passed in order to enter within the veil; διὰ having here a local, not an instrumental, sense. The instrumental sense of the same preposition in the next clause (διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος) is not against this view. In English, “through his own blood he entered through the tabernacle” presents no difficulty, though “through” is used in two different senses. But what is exactly meant by the tabernacle through which Christ has passed? Bearing in mind what was said under Heb_8:2 of the prophetic visions of a heavenly temple—corresponding to the earthly one—and that the epithet ἀχειροποιητος is applied also (verse 24) by implication to the counterpart of the holy of holies, and also the expression (Heb_4:14), “having passed through the heavens (διεληλυθόντα τοὺς οὑρανοὺς),” we may regard it as denoting the heavenly region beyond this visible sphere of things (οὐ ταύτης τῆσ ̓τίσεως), intervening between the latter and the immediate presence, or “face,” of God. Thus “through the greater and more perfect tabernacle” of this verse answers to “having passed through the heavens” of Heb_4:14; and “entered once for all into the holy place” of Heb_4:12 to “entered into heaven itself” (the very heaven) of verse 24. Thus also the symbolical acts of the Day of Atonement are successively, and in due order, fulfilled. As the high priest first sacrificed the sin offering outside the tabernacle, and then passed through the holy to the holy of holies, so Christ first offered himself in this mundane sphere of things, and then passed through the heavens to the heaven of heavens. Delitzsch, taking this view, offers a still more definite explanation; thus: “The former (τὰ ἅγια) is that eternal heaven of God himself (αὐτὸς ὁ ουρανος) which is his own self-manifested eternal glory (Joh_17:5), and existed before all worlds; the latter (ἡ σκηνή) is the heaven of the blessed, in which he shines upon his creatures in ‘the light of love’—’the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven’ of Rev_15:5, which the apocalyptic seer beheld filled with incense-smoke from ‘the glory of God, and from his power.'” There are other views of what is meant by “the greater and more perfect tabernacle.” The most notable, as being that of Chrysostom and the Fathers generally, is that it means Christ’s human nature, which he assumed before passing to the throne of the Majesty on high. This view is suggested by his having himself spoken of the temple of his body (Joh_2:21), and calling it, if the “false witnesses” at his trial reported him truly, ἀχειροποι ́ ητον (Mar_14:58); by the expression (Joh_1:14), “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled (ἐσκη ́νωσεν) among us;” by St. Paul’s speaking of the human body as a tabernacle (2Co_5:1, 2Co_5:4); and by Heb_10:19, Heb_10:20, where the “veil” through which we have “a new and living way into the holy place through the blood of Jesus” is said to be his flesh. There is thus abundant ground for thinking of Christ’s body as signified by a tabernacle; and the expression in Heb_10:19, Heb_10:20 goes some way to countenance such an interpretation here. The objection to it is that it seems neither suggested by the context nor conformable to the type of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. For, if the human body of Christ assumed at his birth is meant, he entered into that before, not after, his atoning sacrifice; and if, with Hofmann, we think rather of his glorified body, in what sense in accordance with the type can it be said that he entered through it? We should rather say that he ascended with it to the right hand of God. The further points of contrast between Christ’s entrance and that of the earthly high priests are:

(1) The instrumental medium was not the blood of goats and calves (specified here as having been the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement), but his own blood; he was both Priest and Victim.

(2) He entered, not yearly, but once for all; there was no need of continual repetition. And the conclusion is drawn flint the redemption he thus wrought is consequently complete and eternal. The first of these contrasts is enlarged on from Heb_10:13 to Heb_10:24; the second (denoted by ἐφ άπαξ) is taken up at Heb_10:25. On the word “redemption” (λύτρωσις: in some other passages ἀπολύ τρωσις) it is to be observed that it means, according to its etymology, release obtained by payment of a ransom (λύτρον), and thus in itself involves the doctrine of atonement according to the orthodox view. It is true that in many Scripture passages it is used (as also λυτρούσθαι and λυτρωτής) in a more general sense to express deliverance only, but never where the redemption of mankind by Christ is spoken of. In such eases the λύτρον is often distinctly specified, as in Mat_20:28 and Mar_10:45, “his life;” in 1Ti_2:6 and Tit_2:14, “himself;” in Eph_1:7; Col_1:14; 1Pe_1:19, “his blood;” cf. also infra, 1Pe_1:14. As to how the availing power of the atonement is to be understood, more will be said under the verses that follow.

Albert Barnes

Hebrews 9:12

Neither by the blood of goats and calves – The Jewish sacrifice consisted of the shedding of the blood of animals. On the great day of the atonement the high priest took with him into the most holy place:

(1) The blood of a young bullock Lev_16:3, Lev_16:11, which is here called the blood of a “calf,” which he offered for his own sin; and,

(2) The blood of a goat, as a sin-offering for others; Lev_16:9, Lev_16:15. It was “by,” or “by means of” – διὰ dia – blood thus sprinkled on the mercyseat, that the high priest sought the forgiveness of his own sins and the sins of the people.

But by his own blood – That is, by his own blood shed for the remission of sins. The meaning is, that it was in virtue of his own blood, or “by means” of that, that he sought the pardon of his people. That blood was not shed for himself – for he had no sin – and consequently there was a material difference between his offering and that of the Jewish high priest. The difference related to such points as these.

(1) The offering which Christ made was wholly for others; that of the Jewish priest for himself as well as for them.

(2) The blood offered by the Jewish priest was that of animals; that offered by the Saviour was his own.

(3) That offered by the Jewish priest was only an emblem or type – for it could not take away sin; that offered by Christ had a real efficacy, and removes transgression from the soul.

He entered into the holy place – Heaven. The meaning is, that as the Jewish high priest bore the blood of the animal into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled it there as the means of expiation, so the offering which Christ has to make in heaven, or the consideration on which he pleads for the pardon of his people, is the blood which he shed on Calvary. Having made the atonement, he now pleads the merit of it as a “reason” why sinners should be saved. It is not of course meant that he literally bore his own blood into heaven – as the high priest did the blood of the bullock and the goat into the sanctuary; or that he literally “sprinkled” it on the mercy-seat there, but that that blood, having been shed for sin, is now the ground of his pleading and intercession for the pardon of sin – as the sprinkled blood of the Jewish sacrifice was the ground of the pleading of the Jewish high priest for the pardon of himself and the people.

Having obtained eternal redemption for us – That is, by the shedding of his blood. On the meaning of the word “redemption,” see notes on Gal_3:13. The redemption which the Lord Jesus effected for his people is eternal. It will continue forever. It is not a temporary deliverance leaving the redeemed in danger of falling into sin and ruin, but it makes salvation secure, and in its effects extends through eternity. Who can estimate the extent of that love which purchased for us “such” a redemption? Who can be sufficiently grateful that he is thus redeemed? The doctrine in this verse is, that the blood of Christ is the means of redemption, or atones for sin. In the following verses the apostle shows that it not only makes atonement for sin, but that it is the means of sanctifying or purifying the soul.

Pulpit Commentary

Heb_9:13

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling those that have been defiled (κεκοινωμένους, cf. Mat_15:11, etc; Act_21:28), sancfifieth to the purifying (literally, unto the purity, καθαρότητα) of the flesh. In addition to the sin offerings of the Day of Atonement, mention is here made of the red heifer, whose ashes were to be mixed with water for the purification of such as had been ceremonially defiled by contact with dead bodies (for account of which see Num_19:1-22). They are classed together because both were general sin offerings for the whole congregation, representing the idea of continual and unavoidable defilements notwithstanding all the daily sacrifices; the difference between them being that the ashes were reserved for use in known cases of constantly recurring defilement, the sin offerings on the Day of Atonement were for general sin and defilement, known or unknown. But neither, in themselves, could from their very nature avail for more than outward ceremonial cleansing—” the purity of the flesh.” This, however, they did avail for; and, if so, what -must the cleansing power of Christ’s offering be? Its deeper efficacy shall appear from consideration of what it was.

Albert Barnes

Hebrews 9:13

For if the blood of bulls and of goats – Referring still to the great day of atonement, when the offering made was the sacrifice of a bullock and a goat.

And the ashes of an heifer – For an account of this, see Num_19:2-10. In ver. 9, it is said that the ashes of the heifer, after it was burnt, should be kept “for a water of separation; it is a purification for sin.” That is, the ashes were to be carefully preserved, and being mixed with water were sprinkled on those who were from any cause ceremonially impure. The “reason” for this appears to have been that the heifer was considered as a sacrifice whose blood has been offered, and the application of the ashes to which she had been burnt was regarded as an evidence of participation in that sacrifice. It was needful, where the laws were so numerous respecting external pollutions, or where the members of the Jewish community were regarded as so frequently “unclean” by contact with dead bodies, and in various other ways, that there should be some method in which they could be declared to be cleansed from their “uncleanness.” The nature of these institutions also required that this should be in connection with “sacrifice,” and in order to this, it was arranged that there should be this “permanent sacrifice” – the ashes of the heifer that had been sacrificed – of which they could avail themselves at any time, without the expense and delay of making a bloody offering specifically for the occasion. It was, therefore, a provision of convenience, and at the same time was designed to keep up the idea, that all purification was somehow connected with the shedding of blood.

Sprinkling the unclean – Mingled with water, and sprinkled on the unclean. The word “unclean” here refers to such as had been defiled by contact with dead bodies, or when one had died in the family, etc.; see Num_19:11-22.

Sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh – Makes holy so far as the flesh or body is concerned. The uncleanness here referred to related to the body only, and of course the means of cleansing extended only to that. It was not designed to give peace to the conscience, or to expiate moral offences. The offering thus made removed the obstructions to the worship of God so far as to allow him who had been defiled to approach him in a regular manner. Thus, much the apostle allows was accomplished by the Jewish rites. They had an efficacy in removing ceremonial uncleanness, and in rendering it proper that he who had been polluted should be permitted again to approach and worship God. The apostle goes on to argue that if they had such an efficacy, it was fair to presume that the blood of Christ would have far greater efficacy, and would reach to the conscience itself, and make that pure.

Cambridge Bible

Hebrews 9:14

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 Joh_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, Joh_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 Lev_1:10; Lev_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 Heb_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 Gen_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, Heb_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; Psa_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.

Albert Barnes

Hebrews 9:14

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 Joh_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, Joh_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 Lev_1:10; Lev_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 Heb_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 Gen_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, Heb_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; Psa_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.

Cambridge Bible

Hebrews 9:15

15. for this cause] i.e. on account of the grandeur of His offering.

the mediator of the new testament] Rather, “a mediator of a New Covenant.” Moses had been called by Philo “the Mediator” of the Old Covenant, i.e. he who came between God and Israel as the messenger of it. But Christ’s intervention—His coming as One who revealed God to man—was accompanied with a sacrifice so infinitely more efficacious that it involved a New Covenant altogether.

by means of death] This version renders the passage entirely unintelligible. The true rendering and explanation seem to be as follows: “And on this account He is a Mediator of a New Covenant, that—since death” [namely the death of sacrificial victims] “occurred for the redemption of the transgressions which took place under the first covenant—those who have been called [whether Christians, or faithful believers under the Old Dispensation] may [by virtue of Christ’s death, which the death of those victims typified] receive [i.e. actually enjoy the fruition of, Heb_6:12; Heb_6:17, Heb_10:36, Heb_11:13] the promise of the Eternal Inheritance.” Volumes of various explanations have been written on this verse, but the explanation given above is very simple. The verse is a sort of reason why Christ’s death was necessary. The ultimate, a priori, reason he does not attempt to explain, because it transcends all understanding; but he merely says that since under the Old Covenant death was necessary, and victims had to be slain in order that by their blood men might be purified, and the High Priest might enter the Holiest Place, so, under the New Covenant, a better and more efficacious death was necessary, both to give to those old sacrifices the only real validity which they possessed, and to secure for all of God’s elect an eternal heritage.

Albert Barnes

Hebrews 9:15

And for this cause – With this view; that is, to make an effectual atonement for sin, and to provide a way by which the troubled conscience may have peace.

He is the Mediator – see notes on Gal_3:19-20. He is the Mediator between God and man in respect to that new covenant which he has made, or that new dispensation by which people are to be saved. He stands between God and man – the parties at variance – and undertakes the work of mediation and reconciliation.

Of the New Testament – Not “testament” – for a “testament,” or “will,” needs no mediator; but of the “new covenant,” or the new “arrangement” or “disposition” of things under which he proposes to pardon and save the guilty; see notes on Heb_9:16-17.

That by means of death – His own death as a sacrifice for sin. The “old” covenant or arrangement also contemplated “death” – but it was the death of an “animal.” The purposes of this were to be effected by the death of the Mediator himself; or this covenant was to be ratified in his blood.

For the redemption of the transgression that were “under the first testament – The covenant or arrangement under Moses. The general idea here is, that these were offences for which no expiation could be made by the sacrifices under that dispensation, or from which the blood then shed could not redeem. This general idea may include two particulars.

(1) That they who had committed transgressions under that covenant, and who could not be fully pardoned by the imperfect sacrifices then made, would receive a full forgiveness of all their sins in the great day of account through the blood of Christ. Though the blood of bulls and goats could not expiate, yet they offered that blood in faith; they relied on the promised mercy of God; they looked forward to a perfect sacrifice – and now the blood of the great atonement offered as a “full” expiation for all their sins, would be the ground of their acquittal in the last day.

(2) That the blood of Christ would now avail for the remission of all those sins which could not be expiated by the sacrifices offered under the Law. It not only contemplated the remission of all the offences committed by the truly pious under that Law, but would now avail to put away sin entirely. No sacrifice which people could offer would avail, but the blood of Christ would remove all that guilt.

That they which are called – Alike under the old covenant and the new.

Might receive the promise of eternal inheritance – That is, the fulfillment of the promise; or that they might be made partakers of eternal blessings. That blood is effectual alike to save those under the ancient covenant and the new – so that they will be saved in the same manner, and unite in the same song of redeeming love.

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