HOUSE FELLOWSHIP AND BIBLE STUDY

THE BOOK OF ROMANS: A STUDY OF CHAPTER 8                           CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE AND ESCHATOLOGICAL VICTORY     

OUTLINE

Introduction

Assurance of Eternal Life in the Spirit

  1. The Spirit of Life: Freedom from death through the Spirit 8:1-13
  2. The Spirit of Adoption: Freedom from death that we may have life 8:14-17
  3. The Spirit of Glory: The sufferings of this present time and the glory of the age that is to come 8:18-30
  4. Christian assurance of the Victory we have in Christ 8:31-39

Conclusion. God’s love in Christ.

Introduction

This chapter has been extolled as, “The inner sanctuary within the cathedral of Christian faith; the tree of life in the midst of the Garden of Eden; the highest peak in a range of mountains.” (Moo, p. 467). This chapter is considered “the greatest passage within . . . the greatest book” in the Bible.

Assurance of Eternal Life in the Spirit

The work of the Holy Spirit is prominent in this chapter. The focus of this chapter is on what the Sprit does for the believers.  The Spirit is best known in His ministry on behalf of Christians. It is those blessings and privileges conferred on believers by the Spirit that are the theme of the Book of Romans Chapter 8. From “no condemnation” at the beginning to “no separation” at the end, Paul reviews those gifts and graces that together assure the Christian that his relationship with God is secured and settled. God’s work in Christ, mediated by the Spirit, is what overcomes the inability of the law, weakened as it is by the flesh, and liberates the believer from “the law of sin and death” (v. 2).

The Spirit of Life: Freedom from death through the Spirit 8:1-13: In vv. 1-13 the key word is life. “The Spirit of life” (v.2) confers life both in the present – through liberating the believer from both the penalty (justification) and power (sanctification) of sin – and in the future—by raising the “mortal body” from the dead (glorification).  Yet this life is not attained by the believer’s active participation in the Spirit’s progressive work of “mortification” (vv. 12-13). In 8:1-13 Paul assures the believer of the reality and finality of life in Christ, and shows how this life is the product of righteousness.

In the first section of the chapter Paul reasserts that for those who are “in Christ” eternal life replaces the condemnation and death that were the lot of everybody in Adam. The “powers” against which the Spirit is ranged in these verses are those “authorities” of the old age that have been portrayed in the two previous chapters. The Spirit battles against and conquers the hostility and power of the flesh, rescues the believer from captivity to sin and death, both spiritual and physical, and, accomplishing what the law itself could not do, enables the law, for the first time to be fulfilled. The “no condemnation” is grounded in the reality of the believer’s transfer from death to life. In vv. 2-4, this transfer emanates from “the Spirit of life,” who applies to the believer the benefits won by Christ on the cross, thereby enabling the fulfillment of the law’s just demand.  Verses 5-9 teach that the flesh is in opposition to God, turning every person into a rebel against God and His law and reaping death as a result. This explains why it is only by “being in the Spirit” (v. 9) and “walking according to the Spirit” (v. 4b) that life and peace can be had.  And the life that the Spirit gives does not end in the grave, for the presence of the Spirit guarantees that the bodies of believers will be raised from physical death (vv. 10-11).

V. 1. The “therefore, now” indicates that what follows is a significant conclusion. The “now” alludes to the new era of salvation history inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection. “For those who are in Christ Jesus,” this era is marked by the wonderful announcement that “there is no condemnation.”  It is important that we do not separate the destruction of sin’s power from the removal of its penalty. But the judicial flavor of the word “condemnation” strongly suggests that Paul is here thinking only of the believer’s deliverance from the penalty that sin exacts. Like “death,” a parallel term, “condemnation” designates the state of “lostness,” of estrangement from God that, apart from Christ, every person will experience for eternity. Those “in Christ Jesus” are removed from this state—and removed forever from it, as the emphatic “no” indicates.  No more will condemnation of any kind be a threat. “He was for us in the place of condemnation; we are in Him where all condemnation has spent its force” (M. L. Loane, The Hope of Glory, 1968, p. 15)

V. 2.  The ground of the “no condemnation in Christ” is based on the rescue from the law accomplished by Christ (7:25a) despite the continuing struggle of the life of faith (7:25b). A liberation has taken place through the law of the Spirit of life, and this liberation is the basis on which the person “in Christ” is forever saved from condemnation. “The law of the Spirit and the law of sin and death could mean two principles of reality or two ways of understanding the Law of Moses—in terms of its intention (to give life and the Spirit) and in terms of its result (to cause death).  The law is a power that overpowers human beings and entices them against their wills into sin. . . . The law is also weak. Its weakness is its inability to do what God intended it to do—give life and faith. This weakness was caused by the flesh—human being in its fallenness—which is also a power” (Mercer’s Commentary on the Bible, 1149-1150).

 NOTE: “In chap. 7 we heard both about the law’s power and its impotence. It has the power to kill, but not to give life. Its power is the power to destroy, consisting in the fact it can call forth sin, increase its intensity and make sin exceedingly sinful” (Nygren, 313).

The word “law” in the verse should mean “controlling power” or “binding authority”.

Paul is teaching that the Spirit puts the law of God in its proper perspective and thereby enables the sinner to be free from the curse of law.

The law of the Spirit of life cannot refer to the Mosaic law. “Paul pictures the Mosaic law as ranged on the opposite of the Spirit, righteousness, and life.  God’s righteousness has come apart from the law (3:21; cf. Gal. 2:15—3:14); the promise can be obtained only through faith and not through the law (4:12-15; cf. Gal. 3:15-18); the believer must be ‘released from’ the law through union with Christ in order to produce fruit pleasing to God (7:4-6; cf. Gal. 2:19—20).  V. 3 is clear: the impotence of the law has been met not with a new empowering of the law but with God’s gracious activity in Jesus Christ. The law of the Spirit cannot be substituted for the Mosaic law. It may allude to the “law written on the heart” (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). The Mosaic law is not the liberating power for the new age in Christ. It is God’s Spirit, coming to the believer with the power and authority, who brings liberation from the powers of the old age and from the condemnation that is the lot of all who are imprisoned by those powers.

We might paraphrase the second phrase “the binding authority of sin that leads to death.” The real contrast in the verse is then between the Spirit on the one hand and sin and death on the other. As sin and death are those powers that rule the old age (cf. chaps. 6-7), so the Spirit and the eschatological life conferred by the Spirit are those powers that rule the new age. Paul described the total situation of the sinner in chaps. 6 and 7 as “helpless under sin’s power, doomed to death and condemnation. No condemnation is the banner triumphantly flying over all those who are “in Christ” (v.1) only because “in Christ” we have been set free by the Spirit from that realm, ruled by sin, in which condemnation (= death) is our inescapable fate. Verse 2 is speaking directly about neither justification nor sanctification but about that realm transfer.

V. 3.   The Spirit’s liberating work takes place only within the situation created by Christ. Verse 3 spells this out, showing that the Spirit can liberate the believer from sin and death only because in Christ and His cross God has already “condemned” sin. Believers are no longer “condemned” (v.1) because in Christ sin has been “condemned”: “For what the Law could not do, in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did: by sending His own Son in the form of sinful flesh and concerning sin He condemned sin in the flesh.”  The word “law” (nomos) in this verse is now clearly the Mosaic law, which has proved incapable of rescuing people from the domain of sin and death. The law has failed because it was weakened by our sinful nature (“flesh”).   “Flesh” means “this-worldly” orientation that all people share. It is this power that the law cannot break; in fact the law serves to strengthen the power of sin.  The law could not break sin’s power or secure eschatological life.

It is God Himself who has done what the law could not do, and He has done it through the sending of “his own Son.” There is a particular focus in the manner God sent His Son. This focus is on the redemptive death of the Son (cf. Gal. 4:4).  “In the form of sinful flesh” emphasizes the full participation of the Son in the human condition. Like the phrases “born from a woman, born under the law” in Gal. 4:4, it shows that the Son possesses the necessary requirement to act as our substitute. The Greek word, homoioma, translated in many versions as “likeness” has the nuance of “form” rather than “likeness” or “copy.” The word does not suggest superficial or outward similarity, but inward and real participation or “expression”. There is no questioning of Jesus’ real humanity. No docetic thought in the mind of Paul. The use of the word homoioma implies some kind of reservation about identifying Christ with “sinful flesh.” Paul is guarding against the idea that Christ has committed sin (a notion he rejects (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Paul implies something about the nature of the incarnation itself: that Christ, although taking on real, human flesh, did not take on “sinful,” or “fallen,” human flesh or nature. For had He done so, Christ would have been subject to the penalties of original sin and thus disqualified from vicariously taking upon Himself the penalty due our sin.

Homoioma rights the balances that the addition of “sinful” to “flesh” might have tipped it a bit too far in one direction. When Jesus came into the world He actually stood under the same conditions as we, and under the same destroying powers that had us in bondage. God sent His own Son, in the form of sinful flesh, to be a sin offering (cf. Exod. 29:14, 36; Lev. 4). God, in sending His son, “condemned sin in the flesh.”  “In the flesh” naturally implies the humanity of Christ, but it also alludes to that sphere of human weakness into which Christ entered to accomplish His work.

Katakrino (“condemn”) is a judicial term. It denotes the act of “passing sentence” (e.g. Mark 14:64: “they all condemned him to be worthy of death”) but sometimes, particularly when God is the subject, includes both the “passing of sentence” and the actual execution of that sentence (1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Pet. 2:6). Putting together the natural meaning of the term with the context, we can conclude that what Paul meant is a judicial action that was accomplished through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and that had as its object that “the just requirement of the law be fulfilled” in Christians. We see the condemnation of sin to consist in God’s executing his judgment on sin in the atoning death of His Son. As our substitute, Christ “was made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21) and suffered the wrath of God, the judgment of God upon that sin. In executing the full sentence of condemnation against sin, God effectively removed sin’s ability to hold those who are in Christ in its clutches and brings condemnation to them. The condemnation that our sins deserve has been poured out on Christ, our sin-bearer: that is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

V. 4.  This verse states the purpose for which God has condemned sin in the flesh: “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” The Greek term, dikaioma, refers to establishing right and therefore is used in secular Greek to mean legal claim or document, judicial sentence or punishment, and statute or ordinance. The word could mean (1) “just decree,” “ordinance that decrees punishment”; (2.) “righteousness”; (3.) “requirement”. The first would fit the context very nicely; the sentence of judgment executed on sin in Christ (v.3) “fulfills” that “decree of the law” which demands death for sin.

Through God’s breaking of the power of sin (v.3), the “right requirement” of the law is accomplished by those who “walk according to the Spirit.” To quote Augustine’s famous formulation, “Law was given that Grace might be sought, Grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.”

The Greek passive verb, plerothe, translated “might be fulfilled” points not to something that we are to do but to something that is done in and for us. If the inability of the law to procure righteousness and life is to be overcome without arbitrary cancellation of “the law of sin and death”, it can happen only through a perfect obedience of the law’s demands. This, of course, is exactly what Jesus Christ has done. As our substitute, He satisfied the requirement of the law, living a life of perfect submission to God. In laying upon Him the condemnation due all of us, God also made it possible for the righteous obedience that Christ had earned to be transferred to us. This work of Christ has been called interchange.  Christ becomes what we are so that we might become what Christ is. “Him who knew no sin, God made to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The law’s just demand is fulfilled in Christians not through their own acts of obedience but through their incorporation into Christ. He fulfilled the law; and, in Him, believers also fulfill the law—perfectly, so that they may be pronounced “righteous,” free from “condemnation.” It is only through faith in Christ that the law can really be accomplished.

God enables the fulfillment of His “law,” His just demand on His creatures, by acting Himself in His Spirit to provide for that fulfillment. “Writing the law on the heart” means that God’s demand will no longer be imposed on His people from without, but that it will, under the New Covenant, be put within God’s people, through the Spirit’s work of transformation and renewal.

The reference to Christian behavior in this phrase, “those who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,” shows that Paul does not separate the “fulfillment” of the law from the lifestyle of Christians. But this does not mean that Christian behavior is how the law is fulfilled.  Rather, Christian behavior is the necessary mark of those in whom this fulfillment takes place. God not only provides in Christ the full completion of the law’s demands for the believer, but He also sends the Spirit into the hearts of believers to empower a new obedience to His demands. Christians now are directed by the Spirit and not by the flesh.  “To walk according to the flesh,” then, is to have one’s life determined and directed by the values of “this world,” of the world in rebellion against God. To “walk according to the Spirit,” on the other hand, is to live under the control, and according to the values, of the “new age,” created and dominated by God’s Spirit as His eschatological gift. Many Christians talk the talk but do not walk the walk.

V. 5-6. To become a Christian means to be transferred from the realm dominated by the flesh to the realm dominated by the Spirit. Those who have the mind-set of the flesh, who, we might say, have a strictly “this worldly” attitude, experience death. Likewise, “life” and “peace” denote that state of freedom from the “law of sin and death” that begins for the believer in this life. The words “life” and “peace” denote the objective reality of the salvation into which the believer, who has “the mind of the Spirit,” has entered.

V. 7-8. These verses explain why the mind-set of the flesh lead to death. “Flesh” and the mind-set characteristic of it are necessarily hostile to God and all His purposes. No neutrality is possible; without the Spirit’s mind-set, found only through union with Christ, people can only order their lives in a way that is hostile to God and that will incur His wrath. The mind-set produced by the flesh does not, and cannot, submit to God’s law. The “law of God” might refer to the Mosaic law. On the other hand, this may be one of those verses in which Paul uses nomos to depict the demand of God generally rather than any particular expression of that demand.

1. The “law of God” remains a standard by which the conduct of unbelievers can be measured and condemned. 

2. Paul’s assessment of persons apart from Christ may be summed in the theological categories of “total depravity” and “total inability.”  “Total depravity” does not mean that all people are as evil as they possibly could be—that all people commit every possible sin—nor does it deny that there is knowledge of the good within each person. Total depravity means that every person apart from Christ is thoroughly in the grip of the power of sin, and that this power extends to all the person’s faculties.  All people, by nature derived from Adam, are incurably “bent” toward their own good rather than the good of others or of God.  The various sins to which we are attracted—desire for riches, or station in life, or power, or sexual pleasure—are but different symptoms of this same sickness, this idolatrous bent toward self-gratification.

To be “in the flesh,” or “carnal,” or “fleshly,” includes, in the sense Paul is using flesh here, all sins.  The person who is preoccupied with his or her own success in business, at the expense of others and of God, is just as much dominated by the flesh as the person who commits adultery. Both persons are manifesting, in different ways, that destructive, self-centered rebellion against God and His law which can be overcome only by the power of God’s Spirit in Christ. V.8 plainly shows that no person can rescue himself from this condition. As long as that person is “in the flesh” he or she is “totally unable” to please God. Only the Spirit can rescue us from this envelopment in the flesh.

V. 9. Those “in the flesh” can never please God, “But you, Christians in Rome, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. . .” No Christian can be “in the flesh.” All Christians are, by definition, “in the Spirit.” (1.) To be a Christian is to be indwelt by God’s Spirit; and (2.) to be indwelt by God’s Spirit means to be “in the Spirit” and not “in the flesh.” Paul’s language is “positional”: he is depicting the believer’s status in Christ, secured for him or her at conversion. Paul uses the Greek verb oikeo “dwell,” which implies a settled residence. Subject to physical decay and death, prone to sin, tempted to let the flesh take control of us again we may be—but we must insist that the believer is freed from “the law of sin and death.”

Paul believes that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Possession of the Spirit goes hand-in-hand with being a Christian. However much we may need to grow in our relationship to the Spirit; however much we may be graciously given fresh and invigorating experiences of God’s Spirit, from the moment of conversion on, the Holy Spirit is a settled resident within.

V. 10. Paul now speaks of “Christ” being in the Roman Christians, whereas in v.9 it was the “Spirit of God” who was said to be dwelling in believers. What this means is not that Christ and the Spirit are equated or interchangeable, but that Christ and the Spirit are so closely related in communicating to believers the benefits of salvation that Paul can move from one to the other almost unconsciously.  The indwelling Spirit and the indwelling Christ are distinguishable but inseparable.  The union of the believer with Christ, our representative head (cf. 5:12-21), can be conveyed both by the language of the believer being “in” Christ and of Christ being “in” the believer.

“But if Christ is in (each one of) you, though the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life (alive) because of righteousness.” It is better to think of the body’s “deadness” here as a negative condition, the state of condemnation—a condition that has come about “because of sin.” The “body” is the physical body, its deadness consisting in the penalty that must be experienced by the believer. The “Spirit,” pneuma, is referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma consistently refers to the Holy Spirit in this chapter. Paul is teaching that the believer, although still bound to an earthly, mortal body, has residing within him or her the Spirit, the power of new spiritual life, which conveys both that “life,” in the sense of deliverance from condemnation enjoyed now and the future resurrection life that will bring transformation to the body itself. All this takes place “because of righteousness,” this “righteousness” being that “imputed righteousness” which leads to life (5:21).

V. 11. The Spirit is now designated as “the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead.” The reference is to God the Father but the focus is on the Spirit. Since reference to resurrection is so plain, “will give life” must refer to future bodily transformation through resurrection for dead believers. It is the Spirit who is the instrument by whom God raises the body of the Christian. As in v. 9, the indwelling of the Spirit suggests that the Spirit has “made His home” in the believer; and since the Spirit is “life” (v. 10b, cf. 2: “the Spirit of life”), His presence cannot but result in life for that body which He inhabits. The Spirit’s life-giving power is not curtailed (circumscribed) by the mortality of the body but overcomes and transforms that mortality into the immortality of eternal life in a resurrected body.

V. 12.  Christians have no more “obligation” to the flesh. “Flesh” sums up what we often call “the world”: all that is characteristic of this life in its rebellion against God. It is to this “power” of the old age that we are no longer “obliged” to render obedience. Still “embodied,” we have in this life a continuing relationship to that old realm of sin and death—but we no longer “belong” to it. Like freed slaves who might, out of habit, obey their old masters even after being released—“legally” and “positionally”—from them, so we Christians can still listen to and heed the voice of that old master of ours, the flesh.

V. 13. Paul tells all Christians that if they continue to live by the dictates of the flesh they will certainly die.  This is death is not physical death. All of us, sinners and saints, will die a physical death. What is meant is death in its fullest theological sense: the eternal separation from God as the penalty for sin. We must not eviscerate this warning: Paul clearly affirms that his readers will be damned if they continue to follow the dictates of the flesh. As Murray puts it, “The believer’s once-for-all death to the law of sin does not free him from the necessity of mortifying sin in his members; it makes it necessary and possible for him to do so.” Paul insists that what God has done for us in Christ is the sole and final grounds for our eternal life at the same time as he insists on the indispensability of holy living as the precondition of attaining that life. The same Spirit that “set us free from the law of sin and death” has taken up residence within us, providing in us that “mind-set” which tends toward the doing of God’s will and resists the way of the flesh. Holiness of life can never be achieved by our own unaided effort. Human activity in the process of sanctification is clearly necessary; but that activity is never apart from, nor finally distinct from, the activity of God’s Spirit.

The Spirit of Adoption: Freedom from death the we may have life (8: 14-17)

“Sons of God”: The plural “sons of God” often recalls the OT application of the term to God’s covenant people who are to reflect His holiness. Israelites are “sons of God.” Those who accept Christ, Jew or Gentile, receive the Holy Spirit and become both “sons” and “heirs” of God.

Putting to death the misdeeds of the body through the power of the Spirit will bring eschatological life. To be “led by the Spirit” probably means not to be guided by the Holy Spirit but, as in Gal. 5:18, to have the direction of one’s life as a whole determined by the Spirit; “being led by the Spirit” is a “distinguishing sign” of being a son of God.  The sonship attested to by God’s Spirit brings life because “life” is inherent in belonging to God’s people, the people of promise. But we must not overlook the source for this “sonship” idea which is the unique sonship of Christ. God’s ultimate purpose is that believers be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

V. 15.   What are these “spirits”? The “Spirit of adoption” must refer to the Holy Spirit. In light of Gal. 4:1-7 it is unlikely that the “spirit of slavery” refers directly to the Holy Spirit. The phrase, the “spirit of slavery,” refers to the human spirit, enslaved to sin. Paul used the first pneuma in an exaggerated manner to contrast the “Spirit of adoption.” The Spirit that we have received is not a “spirit of bondage” but a “Spirit of adoption.” The Spirit that believers have received does not bring about “again” that anxiety and fear of judgment which we suffered in our pre-Christian state. Contrasted with this inner sense of great fear before God, the Righteous Judge, is the sense of peace and security before God, our Heavenly Father, that is produced by God’s Spirit in the heart of Christians.

The word, adoption (huiothesia), denoted the Greek and Roman legal institution whereby one can “adopt” a child and confer on that child all the legal rights and privileges that would ordinarily accrue to a natural child. “Adoption” is one of the privileges of Israel, and Israel is regularly characterized as God’s “son” or “sons” in the OT and Judaism. Once again, Paul has taken a term that depicts Israel’s unique status as God’s people and “transferred” it to Christians. The Spirit confirms our adoption and puts the stress on the present enjoyment of our status as God’s children. The Spirit is the agent through whom the believer’s sonship is both bestowed and confirmed. The Spirit of adoption that we have received causes to well up within us a comforting conviction that we are God’s own children.

In adopting us, God has taken no half measures; we have been made full members of the family and partakers of all the privileges belonging to members of that family. Already truly adopted into God’s family, with all its benefits and privileges, but NOT YET recipients of the inheritance, by which we will be conformed to the glorious image of God’s own Son.

“For Paul, adoption as a son of God is a relationship of grace, unlike the Sonship of Christ, who was Son by nature (cf. Jn. 1:14). It involves a change of status, planned from eternity and mediated by Jesus Christ, from slavery to sonship. . . . Once adopted, the son of God possesses all family rights, including access to the Father and sharing with Christ in the divine inheritance.” (The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, p.15).

 In whom we cry Abba, Father: Receiving the Spirit of adoption enables us to cry out, Abba, Father. “The word which Jesus used in speaking to God, and which He taught His disciples to use, is the Aramaic word ‘Abba’.  In Aramaic the place of the possessive adjectives ‘my,’ ‘thy,’ etc., is taken by suffixes attached to the noun.  So ‘father’ is abba; but ‘my father’ is abi, ‘our father’ is abinu, and so on. Kittel maintains that the Jewish usage is that in speaking of an earthly father the suffixes are used of anybody’s father except one’s own.  That is, one says ‘your father’ or ‘their father,’ but not ‘my father.’  For ‘my father’ one says ‘father’ simply, i.e. abba.  But this way of speaking of one’s earthly father does not hold when speaking of the FATHER IN HEAVEN.  Jewish piety felt it unfitting to speak of God or to God in the same familiar and  intimate way in which one spoke of  or to one’s earthly father.  Therefore when ‘my Father’ means God the form with the suffix, abi, takes the place of the simple abba.  Jesus abolished this distinction. He used abba of God and taught His followers to do the same.  This is an indication of the depth and intensity of His realisation of the Fatherhood of God, a realisation in which He would have His disciples share.

Abba as a direct address to God in an Aramaic prayer is distinctive. It is used by children and adult sons and daughters; formal Jewish prayers do not use it.

“Addressing God as “Abba, Father”, we look up to Him in love and faith, as to the One who is near to us in perfect love and grace. By the words “which art in heaven” we give expression to our holy reverence for Him who is the Almighty Ruler over heaven and earth.” The New Bible Dictionary (1962).

V. 16.  The Holy Spirit is not only instrumental in making us God’s children; He also makes us aware that we are God’s children. Paul refers to the human spirit here because he wants to stress that the witness of the “Spirit Himself” about our adoption as sons affects the deepest and innermost part of our beings. Taking the verb Paul uses here to mean “bear witness with,” Paul involves our own spirit in the very process of testifying to us that we are “children of God.” God’ Spirit joins in bearing “joint” witness with our spirit.

V. 17. “Heir” is a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter’s death. Paul uses the concept “inheritance” to introduce his qualification of our adoption in terms of its future aspects and also to emphasize the necessarily incomplete nature of those privileges inherent in the believer’s adoption into God’s family.  There is a deeper, theological, purpose behind Paul’s use of the “inheritance” idea. In the OT, the “inheritance” is particularly the land promised to Abraham and his “seed.” In later Judaism, the “inheritance” did not always distinctively refer to “the promised land” and came to be used to describe eschatological life. Paul follows in this line by awarding the “inheritance” promised to Abraham to all who have faith (Rom. 4:13-15). As he puts in Galatians, it is Christ who is “the seed of Abraham” and heir to all that has been promised to Abraham; thus, it is those who are “in Christ” who also become the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise (3: 16-18, 29).

Christians are “heirs of God”, meaning not that Christians inherit God Himself but that they inherit “what God has promised.” We are “fellow heirs with Christ,” meaning that Christians inherit the blessings of God’s kingdom only through, and in, Christ. We are heirs of God only by the virtue of our union with the One who is the heir of all God’s promises. But Paul adds that this glorious inheritance is attained only through suffering. The suffering Paul speaks of here refers to the daily anxieties, tensions, and persecutions that are the lot of those who follow the One who was “reckoned with the transgressors” (Luke 22:37). Paul makes clear that this suffering is the condition for the inheritance; we will be “glorified with” Christ only if we “suffer with Him.”  Participation in Christ’s glory can come only through participation in Hid suffering. For the glory of the kingdom of God is attained only through participation in Christ, and belonging to Christ cannot but bring our participation in the sufferings of Christ. Just as, then, Christ has suffered and entered into His glory (1 Pet. 1:11), so Christians, “fellow heirs with Christ,” suffer during this present time in order to join Christ in glory.

 

The Spirit of Glory (8:18-30): Although “glory” is mentioned only three times in these verses, it is the overarching theme of this passage. Paul assumes the fact of suffering as the dark backdrop against which the glorious future promised to the Christian shines with bright intensity. In a sense, what Paul is saying in vv. 18-30 is that the Christian must go the way of his Lord.

V. 18.  Viewing from a perspective that holds this world to be a “closed system,” suffering is a harsh and final reality that can never be explained nor transcended. But a Christian should view the suffering of this life in a larger, world-transcending context that suffering is not the final word.  Thus, Paul can “consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed to us.”  We must, Paul suggests, weigh suffering in the balance with the glory that is the final state of every believer. “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

These “sufferings of the present time” are not only those “trials” that are endured directly because of the confession of Christ, e.g. persecution, but encompass the whole gamut of suffering, including things such as illness, bereavement, hunger, financial reverses, and death itself.

“Glory” can be conceived as a state that is “reserved for us,” a state that Christ, our forerunner, has already entered. Paul’s choice of words suggests that the glory reaches out and includes us in its scope. Perhaps the NEB captures it best: “which is in store for us.” The word, qpokalupto, refers not to intellectual perception but to an activity, a manifestation, or coming to pass in this world of God’s purpose.

V. 19.  Verses 19-25 focus on the longing anticipation of future transformation shared by both the creation and Christians. In these verses Paul supports and develops “to be revealed” in v. 18 by showing that both creation and Christians (1) suffer at present from a senses of incompleteness and even frustration; and (2) eagerly yearn for a culminating transformation.

Paul begins with the yearning of creation: “For the eager expectation of the creation is awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.” KJV puts it this way: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waited for the manifestation (apokalupsin) of the sons of God.” The word “eager expectation” (apokapadokia = anxious watching) suggests the picture of a person craning his or her neck to see what is coming. “Creation” in this verse denotes both animate and inanimate things but exclusive of human beings. The creation is on tiptoe.  Like the psalmists and prophets who pictured hills, meadows and valleys “shouting and singing together for joy” (Ps. 65:12-13) and the earth “mourning” (Isa. 24:4; Jer. 4:28; 12:4), Paul personifies the subhuman creation in order to convey to his readers a sense of the cosmic significance of both humanity’s fall into sin and believers’ restoration to glory. The present corruption of the world is linked to the sin of human beings.

The “revelation (or manifestation) of the sons of God” that creation keenly anticipates is the “unveiling” of the true nature of Christians. Paul has already made clear that Christians are already “sons of God” (vv. 14-17). But, experiencing suffering (v. 18) and weakness (v. 26) like all other people, Christians do not in this life “appear” much like sons of God. The last day will publicly manifest our real status.

V. 20. Greek: “For the creation was subjected to vanity . . .” Why must the creation be eagerly anticipating the revelation of the sons of God? The reason is that the subhuman creation itself is not what it should be, or what God intended it to be. It has been subjected to “frustration.”  The word translated “frustration” or “futility” metaioteti (= vanity) probably denotes the frustration or futility occasioned by creation’s being unable to attain the ends for which it was made. Some interpreters think that metaioteti may connote the “vanity” that the author of Ecclesiastes deplores or the “emptiness” or “absurdity” of things in general.  Humanity’s fall into sin marred the “goodness” of God’s creation, and creation has ever since been in a state of “frustration,” “futility,” and “vanity.”

God, who decreed the curse as a judgment on sin (Gen. 3:17) subjected it.  God alone had the right and the power to condemn all of creation to frustration because of human sin. But this decree of God was not without its positive side, for it was issued “in hope.” The creation, then, though subjected to frustration as a result of human sin, has never been without hope; for the very decree of subjection was given in the context of hope.

V. 21. “[the hope that] the creation itself would be set free from the bondage to decay into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Creation, helplessly enslaved to the decay (“corruption”) that rules this world after the Fall, exists in the hope that it will be set free to participate in the eschatological glory to be enjoyed by God’s children. We might also note that the idea of creation “being set free” strongly suggests that the ultimate destiny of creation is not annihilation but transformation.

V. 22. “For we know that all creation groans together and travails together until now” (Greek) When Paul writes “we know” it may be that he sees the violence and disasters in nature as evidence of the “yearning” or “groaning” he speaks of in this verse. The verb “groan” depicts the “groans of eschatological anticipation,” the decisive moment when God’s purposes are fulfilled. The word translated “travail” depicts the times of distress preceding the end.

V. 23. The transition from creation to Christian is made via the idea of “groaning”; not only is the creation “groaning together,” but “we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, groan in ourselves, awaiting adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”  By saying that Christians “groan in themselves,” Paul suggests that these groans are not verbal utterances but inward, nonverbal “sighs.” This attitude does not involve anxiety about whether we will finally experience the deliverance God has promised but frustration at the remaining moral and physical infirmities that are inevitably a part of this period between justification and glorification and longing for the end of this state of “weakness.”

NOTE: The Greek words stenazo, stenagmos, sustenazo, are used characteristically of the “groaning” occasioned by oppression, and often of entreaty to God for deliverance from oppression. Stenazo refers to the same frustrated longing for deliverance in 2 Cor. 5:2 as in this verse. The noun stenagmos refers to the groaning occasioned by pain (e.g., childbearing) but more often, the groaning under oppression (Lam. 1:22; Ezek. 24:17).  But even more characteristics are texts in which “groans” are cries to God of the righteous person who is being oppressed, cries that suggest both expression of pain and a plea for deliverance. Ps 38:9; Exod. 2:24; 6:5; Pss. 6:6; 12:5; 31:10; 79:11; 102:20. Paul, therefore, has chosen a word that very aptly conveys both the sense of frustrated longing occasioned by the continuing pressures of “this age” and the sense of entreaty to God for deliverance from that situation.

The word “first fruits” signifies a ministry of the Spirit—“the first fruits which is the Spirit.” The Spirit is both the “first installment” of salvation and the “down payment” or “pledge” that guarantees the remaining stages of that salvation. It is because we possess the Spirit as the first installment and pledge of our salvation that we groan, yearning for the fulfillment of that salvation to take place. The Spirit, then, functions to join inseparably together the two sides of the “already-not yet” eschatological tension in which we are caught. “Already,” through the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit, we have been transferred into the new age of blessing and salvation; but the very fact that the Spirit is only the “first fruits” makes us sadly conscious that we have “not yet” severed all ties to the old age of sin and death. A healthy balance is necessary in the Christian life, in which our joy at the many blessings we already possess should be set beside our frustration at our failures and our intense yearning for that day when we will fail no more—when “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

Christians, at the moment of justification, are adopted into God’s family; but this adoption is incomplete and partial until we are finally made like the Son of God Himself (v. 29).  This final element in our adoption is “the redemption of our bodies.”  “Redemption” shares with “adoption,” for the redemption can be pictured both as past and as future.  As Paul has hinted in v. 10, it is not until the body has been transformed that redemption can be said to be complete; in this life, our bodies share in that “frustration” which characterizes this world as a whole.

V. 24. In hope we were saved/in this hope we were saved/we were saved with hope: Paul is not suggesting that hope is a means of salvation. The best rendering should be: “we were saved, with hope as the ever present companion of this salvation” (Moo). The Christian is already saved; he who is “in Christ” has already received the gift of salvation. But we have that gift only “in this hope”— only in this faith that we have in Christ Jesus.

The Christian hope sees its realization in the future only because the full manifestation is still to come. There is an incompleteness in the Christian life. 2 Cor. 5:7 says: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Paul here uses “hope” in place of “faith.” Faith is directed to that which is not seen (Heb. 11:1), and the same is true of hope. “Who hopes for what he sees?” The faith and hope of the Christian reach forward toward that which lies beyond the veil, toward that which does not yet appear. The “glory to be revealed,” which is the focus of our hope, is not visible; and the frustrations and difficulties in this life can sometimes tend to erase the image of that glory from us. The Christian’s true home is in the life that is to come, which is not yet revealed.

V. 25. Hoping for what one does not see means that we must wait for it with patience.  As Paul puts it in 2 Cor. 4:18b, “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” We Christians can wait expectantly and with fortitude for the “hope” to manifest itself precisely because that for which we hope is “unseen” and thereby part of eternal and sure purposes of God. The attitude of “patient endurance” or “fortitude” or “perseverance” is one that frequently required of Christians undergoing trials and as they await the climax of God’s salvation for them. The Greek word translated as “patience” connotes “bearing up under intense pressure.” This is the virtue required by Christians as we eagerly await “the hope of the glory of God.”  [Fortitude = mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.]

V. 26. In vv. 24-25 Paul has exposited that the nature and solidity of our Christian hope enable us to wait for its culmination (climax, highest point) with fortitude.  Paul now says: “Likewise/similarly/in the same way [as this hope sustains us], the Spirit also comes to our aid/helps our infirmities/weakness (Gk.“takes share in our weakness”). The word translated “helps” or “comes to our aid” (sunantilambanomai) connotes “joining with to help,” “bearing a burden along with,” “bear the burden with.” The Spirit joins with us in bearing the burdens imposed by our “weakness.” This condition of weakness means that we believers do not know “what we should pray for as we ought,”  “what we are to pray as it is necessary.” The wording of the clause indicates that it is not the manner, or style, of prayer that Paul has in view but the content, or object, of prayer—what we are to pray for. 

What Paul apparently has in mind is that inability to discern clearly God’s will in the many things for which we pray; note that the “as it is necessary” of this verse is paralleled by “according to the will of God” of v. 27. All our praying is conditioned by our continuing “weakness” and means that—except perhaps on rare occasions—our petition must be qualified by “if it is according to your will.” This does not mean that we should not strive to understand the will of God for the circumstances we face, or that we are in the wrong to make definite requests to God; but it does mean that we cannot presume to identify our petitions with the will of God.

This inability to know what to pray for cannot be overcome in this life, for it is part of “our weakness”. Paul points us to the Spirit of God, who overcomes this weakness by His own intercession. Even as creation groans, as the Christian groans, so the Spirit Himself groans, “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” These “groans” here are means of intercession that come to the aid of all believers. We must understand these “groanings” as the Spirit’s own “language of prayer,” a ministry of intercession that takes place in our hearts in a manner imperceptible to us.

Paul is saying that our failure to know God’s will and inability to petition God specifically and assuredly is met by God’s Spirit, who Himself expresses to God those intercessory petitions that perfectly match the will of God. When we do not know what to pray for—yes, even when we pray for things that are not best for us – we need not despair, for we can depend on the Spirit’s ministry of perfect intercession “on our behalf.”

V. 27. God, who sees into the inner being of people, where the indwelling Spirit’s ministry of intercession takes place, “knows,” “acknowledges,” and responds to those “intentions” of the Spirit that are expressed in His prayers on our behalf. God knows what the Spirit intends, and there is perfect harmony between the two, because it is in accordance with God’s will that the Spirit intercedes for the saints.

V. 28. “All things work together for good” (KJV); “God causes all things to work together for good”. It is the sovereign guidance of God that is presumed as the undergirding and directing force behind all events of life.

The scope of “all things.” Anything that is a part of this life – even our sins – can, by God’s grace, contribute toward “good.” All things work for good on behalf of believers.

The meaning of the “good.” We should include in the word those “good” things in this life that contribute to that final salvation and sustains us on the path to that salvation. For many things that we suffer will contribute to our “good” only by refining our faith and strengthening our hope. We must be careful to define “good” in God’s terms, not ours. The idea that this verse promises the believer material wealth or physical well-being is a perversion of “good”, giving it an exclusively material interpretation.  God may well use trials in these areas to produce what He considers a much higher “good”: a stronger faith, a more certain hope.  The promise to us is that there is nothing in this world that is not intended by God to assist us on our earthly pilgrimage and to bring us safely and certainly to the glorious destination of that pilgrimage.

All things work for good to those who love God. Biblical scholars assert that Paul, in his writings, rarely uses the Greek noun “agape” to mean Christians “loving” God. “Love” (agape) is for Paul the love which God showed to us in giving His Son for us (5: 5-8). “Loving God” is a qualification for the enjoyment of the promise of this verse, but it is a qualification met by all who belong to Christ.

 Why must “all things work for good” for Christians? The reason is not found in us, but in God’s eternal purpose. Moo’s paraphrase: “we know that all things are working for good for those of us who love God; and we know this is so because we who love God are also those who have been summoned by God to enter into relationship with Him, a summons that is in accordance with God’s purpose to mold us into the image of Christ and to glorify us.”

“Those who are called” designates all people, “called” to a relationship with Christ through the preaching of the gospel and through God’s inward work of grace. Thus, “those who are called” describes Christians as the objects of God’s effectual summoning of them to become the recipients of His grace. This “calling” of God has its basis in God’s eternal purpose.  Paul adds “according to His purpose” to “those who are called” to indicate that God’s summons of believers was issued with a particular purpose, or plan, in mind – that the believers should become like Christ and share in His glory. And it is because this is God’s plan for us who are called and who, thereby, love God, that we can be certain that all things will contribute toward “good.” In the OT, “good” or “good things” is sometimes used to denote blessings of the coming age (e.g., Isa. 32:42; 52:7 [quoted in Rom.10:15]; Jer. 8:15).

V. 29. In verses 29-30 Paul spells out the “purpose” or “plan” of God.  The realization of God’s purpose in individual believers is the bedrock of “the hope of glory.”  In these verses Paul creates what biblical scholars and theologians called a “golden chain.”

1. The meaning of “foreknew” in this verse is not “know before now,” or “know ahead of time” but, in the biblical sense, it means “enter into relationship with before” or “choose, or determine, before.” Paul does not say that God knew anything about us but that He knew us. God “chose us . . . before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). With this first verb, proegno (foreknew), Paul highlights the divine initiative in the outworking of God’s purpose. This does not minimize the importance of human response to faith that has received so much attention in chaps. 1-4. But this “foreknew” does make it difficult to conceive faith as the ground of this “choosing.”

2. “Foreknowing” leads to the second verb, “foreordaining,” or “predestining” (proorizo, to determine or decree beforehand). This second verb focuses its attention on the purpose of God’s electing grace. The “destination” toward which believers have been set in motion is that we might “be conformed to the image of God’s Son.”  It is God’s purpose to imprint on all those who belong to Christ the “image” of the “second Adam.”  “Predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” is God’s predestining us to future glory, that glory which Christ already enjoys. The last clause of the verse tends to confirm this interpretation: “so that He (Christ) might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  For the idea of Christ as “firstborn” reminds us of Christ’s place as the “first fruits” of those who are raised.  When Christians have their bodies resurrected and transformed, they join Christ in His glory. Therefore, God’s purpose, to make Christ the “firstborn” of many to follow, is accomplished.

V. 30. “Those whom He predestined He also called.”   “He called” denotes God’s effectual summoning into relationship with him.  “When man is reached by God’s call through the gospel, that is not by chance.  It means rather that God’s eternal purpose for him begins to take concrete form. He is brought into relationship with Christ, is incorporated into Him, becomes a member of “the body of Christ”; and thereby the “righteousness of God,” which was revealed through Christ, becomes a reality in his life” (Nygren, p. 341). Paul goes on, “and those whom He called He also justified.” It is God who “justifies”; but it is the person who believes who is so justified. The Christian is justified. Henceforth he stands as one who is righteous through Christ. Before the foundation of the world God has foreknown and chosen us who now believe in Christ. He has predestined (foreordained) us to be conformed to the image of His Son; He has called us and justified us. Paul now turns to speak of our glorification; “and those whom He justified He also glorified.” Paul is so certain that the glorification will take place that he writes as if it already had.

Paul is looking at the believer’s glorification from the standpoint of God, who has already decreed that it should take place. While not yet experienced, the divine decision to glorify those who have been justified has already being made; the issue has been settled. Here Paul touches on the ultimate source of the assurance that Christians enjoy, and with it he brings to a triumphant climax his celebration of the “no condemnation” that applies to every person in Christ.

God’s intention, Paul emphasizes, is to bring to glory every person who has been justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Our assurance of ultimate victory rests on this promise of God to us. Paul also encourages us by reminding us that God sends His Spirit into the heart of everyone He justifies.  The Spirit brings power and comfort to the believer in the midst of suffering; and the Spirit brings assurance in the midst of doubt. Christians who are unduly anxious about their relationship to the LORD are failing to let the Spirit exercise that ministry. It is by committing ourselves anew to the life of devotion – prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship – that we enable the Spirit to have this ministry of assurance in our hearts.

 

Christian Assurance of the Victory we have in Christ 8: 31- 39

V. 31. “These things” embrace all the blessings ascribed to Christians in chaps. 5-8. “If God is for us” means that God is “on our side,” that He is working for us. If this be so, “who is against us?” What Paul is suggesting by this rhetorical question is that nobody – and no “thing” – can ultimately harm, or stand in the way of, the one whom God is “for.” God being “for us” means that the verdict He has already rendered in justification stands as a perfect guarantee of vindication in the judgment. God is for us in what He does. All the evil powers that stand against us cannot and will not prevail. They will all work together for our good.

V. 32.  God being “for us” has it deepest demonstration in His giving His own Son for us, a demonstration that should leave us in no doubt about His commitment to be “for us” right up to, and including, the end.  God has acted for our benefit in giving His Son for us. With Christ all has been given to us. If God has, indeed, given His Son for us, how can anyone doubt that He will not also freely give us all things along with Him?”  “All things” could be alluding to our share in Christ’ sovereignty over creation.  Certainly Paul’s focus is on those things necessary for our salvation; but as with “the good” in v. 28, we should not restrict the meaning to salvation as such but include all those blessings – spiritual and material – that we require on the path toward that final salvation.

V. 33. To bring a charge against God’s elect is an exercise in futility. He who does so fights against God Himself. Any accusation against us is doomed because “God is the One who justifies.”

V. 34. “Who is the one who condemns?” There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. All that Christ has done had the purpose of freeing us from condemnation. Not only has Jesus died to secure our justification – more than that, He has been raised and has also ascended to the right hand of God, so that He may intercede for us, ensuring that the justifying verdict for which He died is applied to us in the judgment. Because Christ lives and has ascended, He is able to “intercede” for us, acting as our High Priest in the very presence of God.

V. 35. It is in the “giving of His Son” “for us” that God’s love is pre-eminently shown. The “who” in this question embraces any conceivable opponent, whether personal or impersonal. Paul is talking with experience with the list of difficulties that follows.  All these difficulties Paul himself has encountered, and he has been able to prove for himself that they are quite incapable of disrupting his relationship with the love of Christ. And the last – the “sword,”  death by execution – Paul was to find overcome for him in the love of Christ at the end of his life. Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome on Nero’s orders in A.D. 89.

V. 36. In this verse Paul is concerned to show that the sufferings experienced by Christians should occasion no surprise. Here Paul cites Ps. 44:22 to show, as Calvin puts it, that “it is no new thing for the Lord to permit His saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly.”

V. 37. The “but” connects this verse with v. 35. Not only are such things as enumerated in v. 35 unable to separate us from the Christ’s, “but” we will utterly defeat them because we are “more than conquerors.”  Paul wants to emphasize that believers not only “conquer” such adversities; under the providential hand of God, they even work toward our “good” (v. 28). But the victory is not ours, for it is only “through the one who loved us” that it happens.

V. 38. Paul stands completely convinced (“persuaded”) that nothing at all will be able to separate believers from the love of God in Christ.  “Death” probably comes first in the list because it picks up the reference to “being put to death” in the quotation (v. 36). Paul is thinking of physical death in any form.  “Life” can be taken to mean the distractions and cares of this life or the sufferings of this life, but it is preferable to regard Paul as using the term as a contrast to “death.” Paul can use “rulers” to denote secular authorities or powers or authorities of the spirit world.  These “things present” and “things to come” are present or future circumstances and events that may call into question the believer’s relationship to God in Christ. Paul’s point is that the believer need have no fear of them. Nothing can threaten our security as believers.

V. 39. “Nor height, nor depth”: Paul may be referring to celestial powers or spiritual beings. These terms are intended to embrace the entire universe: either those things above the heavens and beneath the earth. “Nor any created thing”: Godet takes Paul to mean that not even another “universe,” should it exist, would be able to separate the Christian from God’s love. It is impossible that the believer can be separated from the divine love. This love of God for us is in Christ Jesus our Lord. For it is in giving “His own Son” that God’s love is above all made known to us, and only in relation to Christ do we experience the love of God for us. Paul reiterates the supreme significance of Christ for all that he is teaching. No powers or dominion can prevail in this world or in the world to come, and no creature whatever can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD.

 

                                           REFERENCES

Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (1996)

Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1949)

Edd Rowell (ed.), Commentary on the Bilble (1995)

J. D. Douglas (ed.), The New Bible Dictionary (1962)

Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (1992)

 

 

NOTES ON THE MODEL PRAYER

MATTHEW 6:9b-13

Our Father who art in heaven

Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors,

And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.

{For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen}

v. 9b “Father of us the one in the heavens” pater hmwn o en toiz ouranoiz.

The word “heavens” is plural though not shown by the translators. Gen. 1:1 “God created the heavens and the earth.”

The Fatherhood of God: For “Our Father which art in heaven” Lk has simply “Father”. Mt.’s phrase is an adaptation of the original ‘Father’ to conform to Jewish liturgical usage. The word which Jesus used in speaking to God, and which He taught His disciples to use, is the Aramaic word ‘Abba’.  In Aramaic the place of the possessive adjectives ‘my,’ ‘thy,’ etc., is taken by suffixes attached to the noun.  So ‘father’ is abba; but ‘my father’ is abi, ‘our father’ is abinu, and  so on. Kittel maintains that the Jewish usage is that in speaking of  an earthly father the suffixes are used of anybody’s father except one’s own.  That is, one says ‘your father’ or ‘their father,’ but not ‘my father.’  For ‘my father’ one says ‘father’ simply, i.e. abba.  But this way of speaking of one’s earthly father does not hold when speaking of the FATHER IN HEAVEN.  Jewish piety felt it unfitting to speak of God or to God in the same familiar and  intimate way in which one spoke of  or to one’s earthly father.  Therefore when ‘my Father’ means  God the form with the suffix, abi, takes the place of the simple  abba.  Jesus abolished this distinction. He used abba of God and taught His followers to do the same.  This is an indication of the depth and intensity of His realisation of the Fatherhood of God, a realisation in which He would have His disciples share.

‘Abba’  as  a direct address to God in an Aramaic prayer is distinctive. It is used by children and adult sons and daughters; formal Jewish prayers do not use it.

“Addressing God as “Our Father”, we look up to Him in love and faith, as to the One who is near to us in perfect love and grace. By the words “which art in heaven” we give expression to our holy reverence for Him who is the Almighty Ruler over heaven and earth. “ The New Bible Dictionary (1962).

The first 3 petitions concern the glory and divine purpose of our heavenly Father.

1 “Hallowed be thy name.”  To know God’s name is in a real sense to know God.  When God acts ‘for His name’s sake’ it is practically equivalent to saying that He acts for His own sake.  To hallow (make holy) the name of God is to regard Him as God, to give Him the worship and obedience that are due to Him.  When God hallows His name it is by acting so that men are led to acknowledge Him as God and reverence him accordingly.  In this petition ‘may Thy name be hallowed ‘ seems to mean both that God should hallow His name by His mighty acts and that men should hallow it by their acknowledgement of Him as the true God, and by living in accordance with His will.  So when the disciples live in such a way the men see their good works and glorify God (Mt. 5:16), they hallow the name of God.

“Hallowed be Thy Name” (hagiastheto)” is a prayer asking God to enable us and all men and women to recognize and honour God—to work inwardly upon us and upon all humanity so that we and everyone shall worship and serve him as the holy, almighty, heavenly Father. His name, i.e. Himself in His self-revelation, is to be acknowledged as Holy; and He is to receive all the honour and glory due to Him who has revealed himself both as the One who perfectly loves us and as the holy and omnipotent Creator.”  New Bible Dictionary.

The Kaddish—a first-century prayer from the Jewish synagogue liturgy- goes like this:

Exalted and hallowed be his great name

In the world which he has created according to his will

May he let his kingdom rule in your lifetime and in your days

And in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon.

2.v.10 Thy Kingdom come. i.e. the reign of God, the rule of God. Our LORD is emphasizing here that before we begin to think of our own needs and desires, we should have this burning desire in us for the coming of His Kingdom, that the name of God may be glorified and magnified over all.

“This petition asks God to let His divine rule and sovereignty (basileia) continually and ever more gloriously attain its rightfully place; so that instead of living in sin and rebellion against God, we should all, through the might of His Spirit, be brought more and more to accept His sovereign rule and thus be free from the power of darkness.  It is a supplication that the divine dominion of God will be extended here and now (in this present age) in the heart of individuals as well as in the world as a whole.  In the last instance, however, this petition has an eschatological connotation also.  It is ultimately a supplication that the kingly rule of God, which has come with power into the life of individuals and of mankind through the first coming of Jesus, and which is continually coming, shall come in full glory and divine perfection through the second coming of Christ as the LORD of lords.” New Bible Dictionary.

3. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is a sense in which the kingdom comes whenever and wherever God’s will is acknowledged and obeyed on earth. And the prayer, if it is to be sincerely prayed, must have a reference to him who prays it. Thy will be done—and done by me.                    Cf. Mk. 14:36, which is the best commentary on the petition.

The third petition, which is absent in Luke 11:2, is practically and elaboration of the second petition.  In heaven, where the rule of God is gladly and unconditionally accepted by all, the will of God is spontaneously and joyfully obeyed by all and at all times.  Believers should thus pray that God’s will shall in the same way be obeyed by all on earth.  The petition is primarily meant for this present age, but it opens up vistas to the time after the consummation of all things, when every knee shall bow before Him who is the King of kings and the powers of darkness will be finally and totally destroyed. God will then be all in all and His will will reign supreme in heaven and in the new earth. [ 1 Corinthians 15:25-28]. The New Bible Dictionary.

The first 3 petitions having centred upon the glorification of God, the next 3 petitions are concerned with the physical and spiritual well-being of believers. Because, as a result of sin and rebellion against God, the dominion of God is not universally recognized and His will is not completely obeyed in the present age on earth, there are always material and spiritual needs experienced in the life of individual believers and unbelievers alike.

            Believers should thus pray expressly for the aid and blessing of God regarding all aspects in this world.  The fourth petition:

v. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, asks God as our heavenly Father to grant us the physical necessities of life. The word bread here symbolizes all that we really need for our earthly existence. In view of the foregoing petitions, this is a supplication asking God continually to supply us with material necessities of life in such a way that we shall in the highest degree be able to sanctify His Name, to labour for the coming of His Kingdom, and to do His will, as in heaven so on earth. Our prayer for daily sustenance is thus not meant to be a selfish prayer, or a prayer for material luxury, but a prayer in which we confess our utter dependence on God, and look to Him in faith and love to supply us with all things which we really need to enable us to live according to His will. [The New Bible Dictionary]

“daily”; “[begin to] give” (Gk. Epiousios in “daily bread” is difficult to determine. It could mean “future,” “what is necessary to subsist,” or “tomorrow’s,”  or “for the coming day,” or “that is needful or sufficient”.  It appears that our Greek word may be the equivalent of the Latin diaria, the daily rations issued to slaves, soldiers, and workmen, etc. The bread issued today is for consumption tomorrow, so that everyone has his food in his house overnight. Lk. 12:42. The disciples are God’s servants, and what they ask is a sufficient provision from day to day to enable them to perform the tasks which God appoints them to do: enough today to face tomorrow’s duties.  The phrase would be “give us tomorrow’s bread today”.  According to the context, what is meant is the constant provision of what is really needed and adequate for us day by day in the realm of our physical, material existence.

The fifth petition is both a prayer and a confession.

v.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. He who prays for forgiveness at the same time admits that he has sinned. In Luke 9:4 this petition reads: “And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” The Greek word hamartias , here rendered “sins”, has the primary meaning of “missing the mark” and thus “acting wrongly” and “breaking the law of God”. The petition does not imply that our forgiving other people means God’s forgiveness of us. Rather, forgiving others prove the genuineness of repentance of our own sins. Read Matthew 18:21-35.

Greek words: opheilemata/tois opheiletais. Latin words: Debita/debitoribus.

In Matthew 6:12 opheilemata (debts) is used, and designates our sins as those things which make us guilty and load us with debts before God—the true, filial relation to God has been broken and we have  incurred a moral and spiritual debt to our Father and our Creator, who has full authority over our lives.  In this petition we therefore humbly ask our heavenly Father for a remission of our debts, seeing that we ourselves can never earn our forgiveness. Because Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for our sins, He could teach believers to pray thus.

The words, “in the same way also as we have forgiven our debtors” and “for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us” do not mean that we are to ask forgiveness on the ground that we have forgiven and are forgiving those who sin against us.  We can receive forgiveness through grace alone. But in order to pray to God for forgiveness in sincerity and without hypocrisy, we must be free from every spirit of hatred and revenge.  Only when God has given us the grace truly to forgive our debtors can we utter a true prayer for forgiveness. This demand, that we should be free of insincerity and hypocrisy, when we pray to our heavenly Father for forgiveness,  was looked upon by our Lord as of such importance the He reiterated it in Matthew 6:14-15.

Debts/debtors.  Greek opheilemata  and Aramaic haba clearly means “debts” of money, but the Aramaic also can have the meaning “sins.”  Was the original emphasis  on debts, sins, or both, perhaps in some ambiguous sense? Jewish morning and evening prayer puts several meanings together:

Bring me not into the power of sin,

Bring me not into the power of debt,

Bring me not into the power of temptation,

Bring me not into the power of what is shamefull.

Does “as we have forgiven our debtors” imply that God’s forgiveness depends on human forgiveness? While the Gospel of Matthew seems to think so, Aramaic  specialists say that the Aramaic sense is that God requires humans to be willing to forgive.

The final petition in Luke 11:4 reads: “And bring us not into temptation.” In Matthew 6:13, the words “but deliver us from the evil one” follow.  But as these additional words are only an elaboration of the foregoing, the petition is essentially the same in Luke and Matthew. They who sincerely pray for forgiveness of sins long to be enabled not to sin again. The Greek peirasmos, rendered ‘temptation’, cannot in the context of Matthew 6:13 mean ‘trial’ or ‘affliction’, but only ‘temptation’. The meaning of this petition is, ‘And do not allow us to be brought into situation where we shall be exposed to evil temptation’. God never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13), but He controls the circumstances of our lives.  In this petition we humbly confess that we are prone to sin and thus plead with God not to allow us to be brought into situations or conditions which involve grave temptation to sin.  As a further elaboration of this there follows ‘but deliver us from the evil one’, i.e. shield, protect, guard (rhyestha’), rescue (rusai) us against the onslaughts (fiery darts) of the devil (tou ponerou).

This final petition, although applicable to every day in our lives, points very strongly to the consummation when our LORD at His second coming shall bring a decisive end to all that is evil, and establish His eternal kingdom on the new earth where righteousness and holiness will reign forever. 

The Doxology: v. 13b. There is a similar doxology in 1 Chronicles 29: 11-13. Verse 11 reads: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.”

The model prayer does not occur in Mark because a disciple, an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, heard what Jesus had said, remembered it, and recorded it.

 

PRAYER IS THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS GOD’S DOOR OF BLESSINGS.



THE BOOK OF HEBREWS: A STUDY OF CHAPTER 9

The New Sanctuary and the Perfect Sacrifice                                                                           

OUTLINE                    

Introduction

Old and New Sacrifices Contrasted 9:1-14

                The inadequacy of the earthly cult 9:1-10                        

                     The layout and contents of the shrine 9:1-5

                      The regulations for worship on the Day of Atonement 9:6-10

                                The superiority of Christ as priest and victim 9:11-14

The Meaning of Christ’s Death 9:15-22

                The death of Jesus ratifies a new covenant 9:15

                A testator must first die before a will can take effect 9:16-17

                A death was also necessary to ratify the Mosaic covenant 9:18-22

Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary 9:23-28

Introduction

Familiarity with the functions of Aaronic priesthood as described in the latter half of Exodus and in Leviticus greatly aids in understanding this chapter.  The service of the priest in the Tabernacle is described in summary fashion in relation to the various pieces of furniture and their functions.  As in the 8th chapter, the purpose is again to make plain the contrast between the superior service of Christ as high priest in the heavenly sanctuary and Aaron as high priest on earth.

The whole purpose of expiatory sacrifices in the Jewish cultic system was to remove the barrier of sin which separated the profane from the holy. The sacrifices were the divinely appointed means whereby the worshipper could approach God. Above all this was exemplified in the Day of Atonement offering. Hebrews compares the death of Christ to that offering, and His ascension to heaven with the entry of the high priest into the Holy of Holies. Thus the goal of all sacrifice has been achieved, making the whole Jewish sacrificial system itself redundant.

                                                                                                                            

Old and New Sacrifices Contrasted 9:1-14

The old may be obsolete, but it still has continuity with the new, and as copy or shadow it offers itself for edifying comparisons, which are drawn in meticulous detail.

V. 1.  Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. Our author had in mind the wilderness tabernacle (described in Exodus 25-31; 35-40.) The first covenant was the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 2:24) which also the one initially made to Abraham (Genesis 15:18, 17:6-8).   But we cannot exclude the promise to Abraham that in him and in his seed all the peoples of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3).

Covenant is “a sovereign dispensing of grace on God’s part, and the security arises from the action of God” (The New Bible Dictionary., 264).

The Mosaic covenant was made with Israel as a people who had been sovereignly chosen in love into redemption and adoption.  It is stated categorically in Exodus 2:23-24 that God remembered His covenant with their fathers (the patriarchs).  That He did is demonstrated by His call of Moses to be the covenant mediator who was to serve in the Israelites’ deliverance and gaining of freedom.  God identified Himself as the covenant LORD of the patriarchs (3:6), as the ever faithful One (3:14), who would be with Moses (3:12) as he served in the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham to bring his descendants from a strange land (3:8).  Moses was commanded to perform wonders before the doubting Israelites so that they would believe that their covenantal LORD had called Moses to be the “Old Testament redeemer” (4:1-7).

Covenantal regulations for worship: The Ten Commandments. The first four concerned the character of King Yahweh, how and when He was to be honoured and worshipped. Instructions was given on how to worship (Exodus 20:22-26), keep Sabbath laws, and when, and why, and how to celebrate the three major feasts (23:10-19). To not honour and keep the Sabbath was to break the entire covenant (Exodus 31:13, 16; see also Neh. 9:14; 10:31, 33; 13:15-22; Isa. 56:2-6; Jer. 17:19-29).  Keeping the Sabbath was a definite requirement for faithful covenantal life and worship.

An earthly sanctuary: The process of God’s renewing and confirming of the covenant He had made previously with Adam, Noah and the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) was the actual ratification ceremony (Exodus 24: 4b-18).  The ceremony consisted of the building of an altar to serve as the intimate meeting place of Yahweh and the people. Sacrifices were then offered. Blood had been collected and half of it was sprinkled on the altar. Then Moses read all the covenant material he had written, to which Israel made a third spontaneous response, saying “We will do, we will obey.”  The climactic point of the ceremony followed: the people were sprinkled by the blood of the covenant.  Thus, by the blood, in which is life, but which also speaks of the death of what is sacrificed, the people as a whole were signified and sealed as Yahweh God’s precious possession.  The holy marriage had taken place.  Yahweh, the Husband, had taken the Israelites as His bride.  The whole ceremony ended with Yahweh displaying Himself in His majesty, splendour, grandeur, and awesomeness as a consuming fire (Exod. 24:17).  But the Israelites did not remain faithful to their covenantal vow for long.  While Moses was receiving instructions concerning worship (building of the tabernacle, its furnishings, ordaining Aaron and sons as priests) the Israelites made an idol and worshipped it (Exod. 32:1-6).

V. 2. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.

 The first references to the tabernacle appear in Exodus 25, where Moses begins to receive instructions for making this structure. The literary structure of the tabernacle as laid down in Exodus 25-40 shows that the ultimate need of the people was not for deliverance from physical oppression or from theological darkness, but from alienation from God.  Deliverance from bondage and from spiritual darkness are not the ends, but means to the end of fellowship with God.  This is the significance of the title “tabernacle (or “tent”) of meeting.”   Not only does the tabernacle structure symbolize the presence of God with His people; it also shows how it is that sinful people can come into, and live in, the presence of a holy God. [When human needs are met in God’s way the results far surpass anything we could conceive on our own.]

Tabernacle: Structure and Visual Symbolism:  All religious furniture was portable. Tabernacle was a tent and was easily dismantled. Yahweh God was not a God of place; wherever His people are God is there. Tabernacle was a point of meeting and not a place to locate God.

Beyond a tangible representation of the presence of God, the tabernacle also is intended to teach by visual means the theological principles whereby that presence is possible. (The term tabernacle, in its stricter sense, refers to the ten linen curtains with figures of cherubim woven into the blue, purple, and scarlet tapestry work (The New Bible Dictionary, p. 1231).

The colour white, which was especially prominent in the linen curtains of the court, calls attention to the purity of God and the necessary purity of those who would live in His presence.  Blue speaks of God's transcendence; purple, of his royalty; and red, of the blood that must be shed if a holy God is ever to live with a sinful human.  The prominence (or accents) of gold and silver that occurred throughout the structure speak of the riches of the divine kingdom and its blessings.  Possibly the multiple coverings over the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (or the Most Holy Place) speak of the security that attends those who live with God.

The court itself speaks of the separation between God and the sinner. This gulf is further reinforced by the veil at the door of the Holy Place, and by the one that closed off the Holy of Holies (or the Most Holy Place).  It is impossible that good intentions and honest effort can ever bring us to God.  We must come to Him in the way He has dictated.

The Tabernacle shows the way to come into God’s Presence.

The first object encountered in the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) is the altar: Here is the representation of the truth that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).  There is no other way to the Most Holy Place than past the altar. Jesus Christ is our altar and the sacrifice thereupon. He said no one can come to God except though Him.

Behind the altar is the laver. (The laver is a large basin upon a foot or pedestal in the court of the tabernacle, containing water for the ablutions of the priests and for the washing of the sacrifices in the temple service.)  Here we are reminded that God is clean.   “Clean” describes the essential character of God, who is faithful, upright, merciful, and true.  As we say: ‘Cleanness is next to godliness’.  To be unclean is to fail to share that character; and that which does not share God’s character cannot exist in His white-hot presence (Isa. 6:5).  Thus, it is necessary for those who would come into His presence to be washed and made clean (Ps. 51:7), and the laver represents both that necessity and that possibility.

Inside the Holy Place three objects demand attention.  On the right is a table with twelve loaves of bread on it. This was called the Table of Shewbread.  In Israel’s Tabernacle this is where God was understood to feed His people (Ps. 23:5).  God had no need of food (Ps. 50:12-13). On the left was the lampstand (Menorah) where the light was never permitted to go out.  This represents the light that God was to His people in the darkened world of sin (Ps. 27:1).  Directly in front of the worshippers at the far end of the space was altar of incense.  Here incense burned day and night, symbolising both the sacred presence and the prayer of worshippers that can rise to God like sweet perfume at any moment of the day (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:3-4).  Thus, the objects in the Holy Place were the evidence of the blessings that are for those who live in the presence of God: light, sustenance, and communion.

V. 3-5.  Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

In the innermost space, the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, was a box or chest. The term “ark” is an archaic word for “box”. This “ark” was a rectangular box made of acacia wood. The whole box was covered with gold and was carried on poles inserted in rings at the four lower corners. The lid or cover, which was called the “mercy-seat”, was a gold plate with two cherubs in opposite directions facing each other with outspread wings.

The ark represents the true basis of divine-human relationship.

The ark (or chest) served (i.) as receptacle for the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and also for the pot of manna and Aaron’s rod; and (ii) as the meeting-place in the inner sanctuary where the Lord revealed His will to His servants. Thus it serves as the symbol of the divine presence guiding His people. Aaron’s staff represents the delivering grace of God, both in the exodus events and in God’s selection of the priests as mediators; the manna represents God’s sustaining grace; and the tablets of the Ten Commandments summarize the terms of the relationship. The ark tells us that we cannot manipulate the essence of God; we can only remember what He has done for us and relate to Him and one another accordingly.

The “cover” or “mercy-seat”.  The Hebrew word for the nullification of the effects of sin is kapar, “to cover.”  It is surely not a coincidence that the lid of the box is called “the cover.”  For this lid not only covers what it is in the box; it is also the place where covering for sin, particularly unconscious sin, is made once a year through sprinkling the blood of a sacrificial animal upon that cover (Lev. 16:11-17).

v. 6.  When everything has been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.

The approach to God is now presented. The priests are busy with their prescribed duties each day in the Holy Place. Ceremonial cleansing was obtained for the people as the priests ministered daily at the altar of incense in the Holy Place.

 

v. 7. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

 

The high priest offers blood, which for Hebrew thought is the seat of life. For us it may suggest that in sacrifice the guilt of the worshipper is transferred to an animal which is put to death in his place. But biblical thought sees sacrifice rather as the offering of one’s own life, symbolized by the identification of the worshipper and the sacrifice in the laying on of hands.  When the prophets rail against the abuse of sacrifice it is the misunderstanding that they attack, the notion that man can barter with God or buy Him off.  Understood in the context of prophetic religion, sacrifice is a profound expression of man’s basic relationship to God, his recognition of God’s ultimate claim on him, and his way of offering his life to God.

 

The high priest offers sacrifice for himself as well as the people.  He does not stand aside from the people but in their midst, and his priestly character is enhanced by his awareness that he shares the frailty of his fellows.  This aspect has been stressed previously (5:1-10) in outlining the credentials of Jesus as the high priest.

 

The high priest offers sacrifice for the sins committed unintentionally. This is a reminder that in the old covenant there was no way to expiate deliberate sins, e.g. apostasy. Sacrifice provides a way of atonement for the sins of weakness but not for sins done “with a high hand” (i.e. boldly and defiantly).  Sacrifice is efficacious for those who live within the covenant. It is only for those who stand before God as His people. It is not an automatic or magic device to provide cleansing for the impious or careless. Even in the old covenant man’s relationship to God was personal and responsible.

 

The high priest made two sacrifices and two entries into the Most Holy Place.  First he offered a bull for the sins of himself and his household (Lev. 16:6, 11). Then he sacrificed a goat to purify the people and the Most Holy Place. The sins of the people were laid upon the head of a second goat (the “scapegoat”) by the high priest.  Since nothing that is sinful can be offered to God, this goat was not sacrificed, but driven out live into the wilderness (Lev. 16:20-22).   Nowhere in the NT is Jesus described as the scapegoat. The emphasis rather (v.14) is upon Jesus as the spotless victim.

 

V. 8-9. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.

This evaluation of old covenant sacrifice stresses 2 things: (i.) the symbolism of the Most Holy Place as witness to the remoteness and inaccessibility of God and (ii.) the importance of sacrifice as the way of expiation of sins.  The religion of Israel insisted that God can be known only as He makes Himself known, and approached only in the way He has provided.  Israel was a testimony to the grace of God, for it showed how God revealed Himself and opened up an avenue by which man can enter His presence. The old covenant is the offer of life. Compared to the new covenant the old covenant is a reminder of God’s remoteness and the tragic difficulty of the human problem.  The Mosaic ritual sacrifice (“the first tabernacle”) was a parable (“an illustration”) of the fact that it provided no definitive, lasting access to God.  Even during the period of its dispensation (“functioning”) it could only deal with external rather than internal purification.  It could not clear the conscience of the worshiper.  It only emphasized the contrast between the free access to God guaranteed through Christ and the limited access allowed by the structure and the ritual of earthly sanctuary.

 

V. 10. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

 

The various offerings, food laws and ritual ablutions prescribed in the Levitical law were external and material and temporary in intentions. Thus, there was a specific time limit as to how long the Levitical priesthood and the earthly tabernacle were to serve.

                                                       

The Superiority of Christ as Priest and Victim:  vv. 11-14.

 

The priesthood of Christ is now contrasted to the priesthood of the old covenant.  The language used is a combination of time language and space language. The space language contrasts the place of Christ’s function with that of Levitical priesthood.  They functioned in the earthly tent which is a copy and shadow of the real. He functions in the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands.)  This language, which courses through the entire book, contrasts the perfection, permanence, and fullness of the heavenly priesthood to the imperfection, temporary character, and incompleteness of the earthly priesthood.  The ministry of Jesus Christ represents the intersection of the heavenly with the earthly, the perfect with the imperfect, the eternal with the temporal.  It is not a bolt of lightning from beyond, but was prepared in the royal priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-18).  It comes thus as the fulfilment of a process within history, and it is in this way that time and space vocabularies come together in the book (The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary, p. 909).

 

V. 11. But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not part of this creation.

 

The aspect of fulfilment is stressed by the use of the word appeared (paragenomenos), which might well be rendered “has come,” and by the mention of the good things that have come.  Jesus Christ is the bringer of the new age foretold by the prophets.  In Him the new day breaks in on man, the new age of God’s gracious work in His creation. This line of thought relates to the interpretation of miracles in the Synoptic gospels, to the understanding of demon exorcism (cf. Mark 3:23-27), and to the emphasis on the new age in Paul’s letters.  What has been true of God from all eternity, what the prophets pointed to as the purpose of the covenant God, this has now broken into the world in the life and ministry of Jesus.

 

V. 12. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

 

The Levitical priesthood approached God through the services of the tabernacle.  The great high priest approaches God by entering once for all into the Most Holy Place.  The death of Christ is an event within earthly history, taking place, as the creeds identify it, “under Pontius Pilate.”  But it is also an event in eternity, the once-for-all entry of the Son, the great high priest, into the presence of God.  His death is the true fulfilment of the sacrificial system, for he offered, not the blood of an animal, but his own.  His death is the climax of a life offered freely in obedience to the will of God and is thus a working out in human experience of the inner meaning of tabernacle worship, the offering of one’s own life to God.  And inasmuch as He is not only a man, the son of Mary, but also the Son, His life is at once the offering of  God Himself to men in His Son and also the act of true human obedience which at once fulfils and demonstrates the meaning of human existence.

By His own blood:  Christ’s approach to God is by His self-offering as sacrifice, an act in which eternity intersects time (through the cross of calvary).  In the Cross God provided the sacrifice and showed what sacrifice really means—not man’s attempt to placate a threatening deity but God’s provision of a means by which rebellious and runaway sons and daughters may be restored to the Father’s house.  The result of Christ’s sacrifice is an eternal redemption from eternal damnation.

 

V. 13-14. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.

 

Verse 13 alludes to another of Israel’s expiatory rites—the ceremony of the red heifer (Num. 19:2-20) in which the animal was burned with cedar wood, along with hyssop and scarlet “stuff”.  The resultant ashes were then mixed with water and sprinkled upon the people (see Note and Definitions).

 

It is the contrast between the exterior and the interior that is drawn at this point in the sermon (or homily/admonition).  Judaism’s expiatory rites could only cleanse what is outside (the flesh), whereas Jesus’ sacrifice dealt with the interior sense of guilt (conscience), that inner accuser that condemns a way of life that leads to death.

 

Thus the old sacrifices were effectual: they provided a way of purification of the flesh.  But the sacrifice of Christ is more effectual; it not only cleanses the body but grants release to conscience so that it may be dedicated to the service of God.  The paradoxical character of the self-offering of Christ is asserted in the words “through the eternal Spirit offered himself.”  His life is God’s entry into human affairs.  It is also Jesus’ offering of Himself without blemish to God—a human achievement, the outcome of a disciplined and dedicated human career. We find it difficult to hold the two elements together; either all is of God or man’s work is everything.  Here the two are in closest relationship.  The self-offering of Christ is a magnificent human achievement; it is accomplished “through the eternal Spirit.”  The result of His work is a new era in human life.  Those who live in Christ are already taking part in the messianic age; they experience the power of the age to come; they live in the Spirit.  United with Christ in His self-offering the Christian shares in true worship, which is the dedication of himself to God’s service in union with Jesus Christ. (The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary, p. 910).

 

The Meaning of Christ’s Death 9:15-22  This resumes the theme of 8:7-13.  (Try reading 8:7-13 and jump straight to 9:15).

 

Now the death of Christ is likened, not to the Day of Atonement offering, but to the sacrifice that accompanied the ratification of the Mosaic covenant (Exod. 24:1-8).  Because of His self-offering Christ has become the mediator of a new covenant.  Moses served as mediator of the old covenant, which was ratified by animal sacrifices and the sprinkling of the blood on the people, the book of the covenant, the tent, and all the paraphernalia of worship.  Indeed, the author summarizes, under the old covenant almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

 

V. 15. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

 

Ransom: Christ “gave” His life as a “ransom” for many.  Thus, Christ’s death is portrayed as the payment price for the deliverance of those held captive by the evil one.  The ransom metaphor must be understood in the light of Jesus’ offering of Himself in obedience to the Father.  As the means of redemption, the death of Jesus provides a deliverance that involves not only forgiveness of sins but also newness of life.

 

Jesus Christ is the mediator of a new covenant: not merely as an intermediary between two contracting parties, but as God’s representative in bestowing this ‘settlement’ on men, and as the one who validates it by His own death.  He is testator and executor in one. He is, to be sure, the covenant-victim, even as the old covenant was ratified by a covenant-victim’s blood (quoting Exod. 24:6-8 in vss. 18-20); but the covenant-victim by whose sacrifice the new covenant is ratified is also the mediator and guarantor of the covenant (Peake’s Commentary).

 

Through the offering of blood, i.e. the life, the old covenant prefigures the self-giving of Jesus Christ. His death, as the fulfilment of sacrifice, redeems men and women from transgressions.  There is a shift here from the language of sacrifice to that of the commercial world.  Redemption is the recovery of an article given in pledge or the purchase of a slave in the slave market.  The ideas are closely related in the OT and used in equally close connection in NT.  As God purchased Israel out of slavery in Egypt so in Christ He buys His people from their bondage to sin and death.

 

V. 16-17.  In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

 

  Commercial language is accompanied by that of the lawyer, the language of wills and inheritances. The death of Christ procures for those called by God the promised eternal inheritance.  It is not something that they have earned or accumulated for themselves; it comes to them from the bounty of a generous benefactor. This new covenant may be viewed as a will or testament sealed by the death of the testator.  In OT times the blood of animal sacrifice sealed a covenant to its makers.  The death of Christ seals the new covenant. Verse 17 is an added argument to strengthen the fact under consideration.  The emphasis is upon will (testament, covenant, diatheke in Gk.) sealed by death and shedding blood.  This is the only way in which a covenant can be in force.  And this is a better covenant. All along the point made is that death is necessary.

 

{To follow the argument we must remember that Greek diatheke, generally rendered “covenant”, has the wider sense of ‘settlement’ and sometimes means ‘bequest’ or ‘settlement’ or ‘will’.  It is in the last sense that is used in these verses, for this is the only kind of settlement that is invalid during the lifetime of the person who makes it.  Wescott insists on the meaning of ‘covenant’ throughout, and appeals to the practice of sacrificing a covenant-victim (Gen. 15:9ff; Exod. 24:5ff) to confirm the irrevocability of a covenant. This idea is not excluded here, but the covenant-victim is not normally the person who makes the diatheke, and it is that person’s death that is required in v.17.  Our author uses diatheke in the sense of “will” because he has in mind the death of Christ as the event by which His new covenant becomes effective (Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, p. 1015)}.

 

V. 18-22. A death was also necessary to ratify the Mosaic covenant. (Cf. Exod. 24:3-8.)  Whereas in Exodus the covenant offering was concerned with consecration, here it is interpreted as expiatory.  This is probably because the Day of Atonement, rather than the inauguration of the covenant, dominates the thinking of the writer of Hebrews. The Day of Atonement rite is interpreted in terms of the covenant inauguration ceremony. Thus, unlike the Exodus account, not only the people, but the book (v. 19) together with the contents of the tabernacle (v. 21) are sprinkled with the blood of the covenant victim. Verse 19 also contains elements drawn, not from the covenant, but from the ceremony of the red heifer (see the note.)

 

The blood of animal sacrifices was inseparably linked to the earthly or first tabernacle.  After God gave the promises and instructions to Moses, then Moses took the blood of sacrifices and sprinkled everything symbolically involved in the first covenant.  Hence this is called the blood of the covenant.  By this action these earthly things were cleansed and then maintained as clean and identified with God and His covenant with Israel. This was necessary because there is no remission apart from the blood of the sacrifice (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary).

 

The self- offering of Christ is the entry of God’s will for human salvation into the course of human history.  As such it establishes the new covenant.

 

 

Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary 9:23-28

 

This section looks back to 9:11-14 and forward to 10:1-10, which focused upon the internal as opposed to the external.

 

Material sacrifices might suffice for the ceremonial cleansing of an earthly sanctuary, but if sinful men and women are to approach God in a heavenly sanctuary, a sacrifice different in kind as well as better in degree is called for.  Such a sacrifice has been provided in the voluntary self-offering of Christ, which has entitled Him to enter the true sanctuary above and represent His people before God.  By His death He has consecrated the new covenant together with the heavenly sanctuary itself and everything associated with it (cf. 10:19ff).  No repetition of His sacrifice or of His entry into God’s presence is necessary; He has effected the removal of His people’s sin from the sight of God.  

 

V. 26. At the culmination of the ages: i.e. in time of fulfilment (cf. 1:2. 1 Cor. 10:11; Gal. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:20). Christ’s appearing marks the end of the old age and heralds the age to come.

 

V. 28. To bear the sins: an echo of Isa. 53:12, ( . . . For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors), the verse, not only identifying Jesus with the Servant, but showing that the distinctiveness of His sacrifice lay in His willing acceptance of suffering and death as an expiation for the sins of others.  Will appear a second time: as the Israelites on the Day of Atonement eagerly waited for the reappearance of their high priest after he had entered the Most Holy Place, so the people of Christ wait for His Parousia, knowing that He will not have to repeat the work of sacrifice (as the Aaronic high priest had to do) but that He will now make good to His people the final and eternal benefits of His one sacrifice.

 

 [Sacrificial rites in the old covenant were effective in cleansing the tabernacle and the furniture of worship.  If this is true of the copy it is also true of the heavenly pattern.  But whereas the blood of calves and goats were sufficient to cleanse the earthly tabernacle, the heavenly tabernacle requires better sacrifices.  And this is the significance of Christ’s self-offering.  He does not minister in the earthly sanctuary (cf. 8:4), a copy of the true one, but has entered heaven itself and there appears in the presence of God on our behalf.  Moreover He does not perform this sacrifice repeatedly, as the high priest did annually in Israel, but has accomplished it once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin.

            The contrast between the earthly and heavenly tabernacles, between the temporary and eternal is joined with the biblical sense of God’s purpose moving toward a goal.  The goal, or end, appears in the middle of history in Jesus Christ.  Thus the author can speak of Christ’s coming at the end of the age.  But Christ still has His people on earth and therefore there is still movement toward the goal in the life of the church.  Thus the author can speak of Christ’s appearing a second time, this time not to do with sin – His sacrifice – but to accomplish salvation for those who are waiting for him.

            Throughout the NT we encounter a perplexing duality of language.  The kingdom of God has come in Jesus Christ and yet it is still future.  The old age has come to an end with the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and the new age has come into being.  Yet the old age remains alongside the new, and the Christian experiences the tension between the ages, between the realm of the Spirit and the realm of the flesh.  The Christian lives in the age to come, possesses the earnest money (i.e. the power) of the Spirit, yet he awaits the fullness of the inheritance.  The Christian exists in the tension between the now and the not yet, between the present reality of the work of God and its future fullness.  Attempts are frequently being made by theologians to resolve the tensions by stressing only present realization or the future completion, but the NT writers hold the two together.

V. 27-28.  These verses offer another analogy.  Men die once and then come before God’s judgment.  Christ also has been offered once—note the stress on His death as the act of God—and also appears a second time, not, however, to be judged but to be Saviour of His people.  It is often noted that this is the only explicit reference in the NT to a Second Coming of Christ.  Elsewhere the NT writers speak of His Parousia—His “coming” or “presence,” i.e. manifestation.  But it would be a misplaced emphasis to stress a second time in this text.  The words appear in the completion of the analogy and the accent falls, not on the “second,” but on the fact that both the death and the reappearance of Christ are distinctively different from those of others.  Christ died, but not as a hapless victim. Christ offered up His life in freedom, and His death has a sacrificial and redemptive character.  When He appears again at the judgment He does not join the long line awaiting assessment but is Lord of the judgment and Saviour and Deliverer of those who wait for Him.  Jesus Christ voluntarily shared our human experience and the outcome of His life and death is the transformation of the human situation.  Death once meant only judgment.  Those who are Christ’s now can look beyond death to the Deliverer. (The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary, p.910-911.)]

 

                                                Conclusion

 

JESUS CHRIST was the perfect sacrifice. Jesus Christ was the one to whom the sacrificial system and the tabernacle pointed. That system and that structure had no magical efficacy in themselves.  They were only efficacious in removing sin in so far as they pointed to the One who could indeed die for all. If God the Son could die and then return to life, that death could indeed be in the place of all who would ever live and sin.

This is the vision that captured the writer of the Book of Hebrews and is dealt with in this chapter we chose to study. The author realized that the tabernacle and the sacrificial system were simply symbolic of an eternal reality.  The language used in this chapter 9 of the Book of Hebrews might suggest that the author thought the earthly tabernacle was a copy of an eternal heavenly one.  But to take that position is to miss the point of the passage. The author is saying that the earthly tabernacle and the sacrifices offered there are representative of eternal, spiritual truth: the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ for all eternity. The tabernacle represents truth.  That the writer of Hebrews knows this is evident in 9:25-26, where he shows that Christ is not being continually sacrificed in some heavenly reality, and so here fulfilled what the tabernacle was all about.

 

The author emphasized in this chapter that the worship of the old covenant is a copy of the heavenly pattern, a shadow of the eternal reality; and that the worship of the new covenant is an entry into the eternal reality.

 

The primary theme is the superiority of Christ as eternal high priest.  He is declared ultimately superior to the most cherished institutions of the ancient Hebrew faith.  He is superior to the word of God spoken through the prophets since He Himself is God’s ultimate redemptive Word. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled (pitched His tent) with us.”  He is superior to all angelic hosts because no angel can boast of being the Son of God, fully divine and fully human. He is as superior to Moses the great lawgiver of Israel as Creator is to the created. The eternal spiritual priesthood assumed by Jesus through offering up Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins is infinitely superior to temporal earthly ministry exercised by Aaron and his descendants.  Jesus Christ is both priest and victim,  offerer and offering.

                                                                                                                   

WORD STUDY ON GREEK diatheke

 

In classical Greek the word always meant the disposition which a person makes of his property in prospect of death.  Dr. Spiros  Zodhiates , in his  book, “The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament” (1992), pp. 424-428, discussed this Greek word at length. He writes that diatheke translates as:

  1. A solemn disposition, institution, or apportionment of God to man (Heb. 9:16-18) to which our word “dispensation” answers adequately, e.g. for the religious dispensation or institution which God appointed to Abraham and the patriarchs. . . . .
  2. A covenant, but not in the sense that God came to an agreement or compromise with fallen man as if signing a contract.  Rather, it involves the declaration of God’s unconditional promise to make Abraham and his seed the recipients of certain blessings (Gen. 13:14-17; 15:18; 17:7-8, 19-21; 21:12, 14; 22:2, 12).  The Sinaitic diatheke to Moses, however, was a conditional dispensation or series of promises which God made for the Jews only if they obeyed.
  3. A divine promise conditioned on obedience, a solemn disposition or appointment of man and God’s covenants with men.
  4. Will. The corresponding Hebrew word, berith, is always rendered “covenant.” The Hebrew word, berith, is a divine order or agreement which is established without any human cooperation and springing from God Himself whose will and determination account for both its origin and its character.  The word “covenant,” in its English meaning gives to the word a possible misunderstanding. In the English language we do not possess a word which exactly conveys the meaning of the divine berith.  

Hebrews 9:16-18.  The word diatheke occurs once each in verses 16 and 17, and it is implied in verse 18.  The one who makes the will does not ask the recipient of the will whether it is acceptable or not.  It is a unilateral demonstration of the will of the testator. The effort of the writer of Hebrews here is to prove that we do not have a bilateral agreement through the word diatheke, but the expression of the disposition of God toward humanity.  V. 18 must also imply the same word with the same meaning as a will made by God for the benefit of man. It is unfortunate that the NIV reverts to the word “covenant” which could be misunderstood as a bilateral agreement between God and man in v. 18. The NIV should have retained the same translation or no translation at all since the word does not even occur in the Greek text.

 

The question now arises as to why the Testator, Jesus Christ, is called the Mediator of the new will or diatheke.  We must it make clear that the word is the same in Heb. 9:15.  It should be understood as having the same meaning as in verses 16-18, namely a will or that document which one prepares unilaterally and which becomes effective at the death of the one who makes it, what we today understood as a last will and testament.  If the word here is translated “covenant,” it may give the misunderstanding that it is a bilateral agreement, while it is in fact a unilateral expression of God’s desire and disposition for man. The KJV translates Heb. 9:15 as follows: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament [better than the NIV which states a new covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament [the word is the same here, diatheke], they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

 

The question is, how can the testator be also the mediator?  Does a will require a mediator?  The word mesites, mediator, does not always mean the one that stands between two parties and is accepted by both parties, but as in Heb. 7:22 Jesus is called the “surety” or a guarantee.  God expressed His will toward man by making known His disposition and plan of redemption for man.  In order that this promise of God might be guaranteed, He offered Jesus Christ as that guarantee.

 

 

 

NOTES AND DEFINITIONS

Typology is defined as “the establishment of historical connections between certain events, persons, or things in the OT and similar events, persons or things in the NT.” (Class Note, 1995)

Jerusalem was first destroyed in 586 BC (the 9th of month of Ab in the Jewish calendar). The Ark was presumably lost during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

Covenant is treaty, an alliance, an agreement. You cut a covenant when you make a treaty with another. There would be an animal sacrifice to seal the covenant. An oath is taken to show that if anyone breaches the covenant whatever happens to the animal used in the sacrifice will happen to that person. Animals are involved in covenant-makings. Animal sacrifice is a sign of covenant. The animal is cut in half, laid over one another. The contracting parties walked over the pieces of the animal. Gen. 15. (Class Note, 1995)

A Covenant of Suzerainty is a treaty of non-equals in which the stronger party imposes traditions (laws, stipulations, or instructions) on the lesser party. The suzerain (i.e. the overlord) sets out the stipulations of the covenant. The Ten Commandments could be regarded as stipulations. (Class Note, 1995)

Parity treaty or Covenant is between equals e.g. David and Jonathan  

The Hebrew word, berith, is translated as “covenant” in the OT but could be and sometimes is rendered in English as “promise, pledge, obligation, agreement, contract, pact, or treaty”. The term “covenant” (berith) could be used to refer to a variety of solemn, binding obligations or agreements involving two or more parties in a relationship.

Transcendence is derived from the Latin words meaning literally “to surpass” or “go beyond.” It has been used to designate any ideal or thing or being that “stands over against” the knowing subject.  It designates God’s unique mode of relationship to the world because God the Creator stands far above all finite being. God is Infinite, hence the ground and source of all being. God is transcendent in the sense that He is greater than the creation and He is independent of it.

Red Heifer: A “red heifer” has a central place in a ritual conducted to obtain the “water of impurity” deemed essential for purifying those persons considered unclean through contact with a corpse. Numbers 19:1-22 describes the ritual in which an unblemished and unworked reddish cow, along with its blood and dung, was to be burned completely outside the camp.  The priest added cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet thread to the fire.  The resultant ashes were then mixed with spring water to make the “water of impurity” that was sprinkled over the unclean person(s) and/or dwelling(s) on the third and seventh days of their period of contamination.  Although not burned on the altar, the red heifer was considered a sin offering because of its role in removing uncleanness (viewed by priests as sin).  The author of Hebrews compares the ashes of the heifer (damalis) to the blood of Christ that cleanses the conscience from “dead works” (Heb. 9:13).  Source: Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (1991), p. 368.

Comparison and the use of the “more or less” type of argument: in order to show the superiority of a person or object, that person or object may be compared with an outstanding specimen of the same kind. Hebrews shows the infinite worth of Jesus Christ by comparing Him with outstanding institutions and figures (angels, Moses, Melchizedek, Tabernacle, etc.).

The Day of Atonement (from Yom Ha Kippurrim or Yom Kippur, i.e. “day of coverings” or “propitiations”):  The Day of Atonement was Israel’s most solemn holiday since it was exclusively concerned with atoning for the sin of the people.  It is described in detail in Leviticus 16, and the solemnity of the day is underscored by the notation that the LORD spoke to Moses “after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD” (Lev. 16:1).  Aspects of the symbolism of the ceremony are fairly transparent in meaning.  By bathing before entering the tent of meeting, the high priest avoided bringing any form of contamination into it.  By bathing at the end of the ceremony, he removed the holiness from himself before returning to the community.   In wearing linen garments rather than his regular priestly insignia, he showed himself to be a penitent sinner who had stripped himself of all dignity and presumption of rank.  As mentioned already, the very beginning of Leviticus 16 alludes to the episode of Leviticus 10 in which Nadab and Abihu put “strange fire” to God in their censers and offered it before God, but were consumed by fire from God’s presence.  The stated lesson behind this episode is that God is “Most Holy” and that those who approach Him must do so in fear of Him and His wrath.  To speak of propitiating the wrath of God is entirely consistent with this outlook.

  The Book of Hebrews draws on the ritual of the Day of Atonement to demonstrate the supremacy of Christ’s priesthood.  In Hebrews 9:7-10 the author points out that the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place only once a year and needed to make sacrifice for himself with the blood of animals, but that Christ entered once for all and offered His own blood as a sacrifice for His people.  The ritual of the Day of Atonement was a shadow of things to come; now that Christ has come, it is obsolete.  The Gospels, similarly, teach that the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place split open at the moment of Christ death in proof that the final and perfect atonement for sin had been made (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Source: Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (1996), p. 252-254.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


                                      ON MELCHIZEDEK

Bible references: Gen. 14:1-22; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:1-6; 6:20; 7:1-17.

BACKGROUND

King Chedorlaomer and four other kings waged war against King Bera of Sodom and King Barsha of Gomorah and three other kings. The kings of Sodom and Gomorah, having served King Chedorlaomer for 12 years, decided to put an end to their servitude.

 King Cherdolaomer gathered three other kings together and went into war with Sodom and Gomorah. The kings of Sodom and Gomorah were defeated and they carried their people into captivity, including Lot, Abram's nephew. When Abram heard the news of this war he gathered his 318 servants and, with the help of three commanders, Aner, Eschol and Mamre, his friendly neighbours, he went to war with Chedorlaomer and his army. To the glory of God, Abram and his men defeated Chedorlaomer and his routing army and brought back the people and their possessions that had been carted away. 

As Abram and the men and those that were taken into captivity were returning they were met in the Valley of Shaveh by King Bera of Sodom and King Melchizedek of Salem. (Shaveh was probably near Salem.) The Bible did not tell us that Salem, the city in which Melchizedek was a ruler and also a priest, was in servitude to Chedorlaomer.  But as a king who also doubles as the priest of the God Most High Melchizedek must have been offering prayers  and sacrifices in the Temple of the God Most High in Salem for the defeat of marauding armies of the four kings so that they would not come near his territory to wage war against him and his people.  The defeat of this army by Abram must be an answer to Melchizedek's prayer. Thus he joyfully brought wine and bread to celebrate with Abram and his men. He blessed Abram and said: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand."

 Abram recognised Melchizedek's 'El Elyon as YAHWEH (LORD), the God he himself served and gave Melchizedek, after felicitation and refreshment, "a one tenth of everything" he brought back from the war with Chedorlaomer. However, Abram refused to accept anything from the King of Sodom because he went to war not to enrich himself but for the purpose of rescuing Lot. He persuaded the king to remunerate the people who went to war with him.

It is possible to argue that Abram never paid any tithe because the giving of this one tenth was not from the wealth of his labour and it was never repeated. Moreover, if Melchizedek contributed one way or the other to the defeat of the four invading kings then he had a rightful claim to a share in the spoils of the war and Abraham did the right thing.   "One wonders how Abraham can give a tenth of the spoil to Melchizedek and still claim not to be taking anything belonging to the King of Sodom." [John H. Marks, "The Book of Genesis" in The Interpreter's One-Volume  Commentary on the Bible (1971), p.14].

 The act of giving a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek should not be seen as a pious act or a religious obligation but as a recognition that the priest-king of Salem is greater than Abram. Some scholars opined that Abram did not give any tithe to Melchizedek. "Doubt is sometimes cast on whether the progenitor paid tithes, and it is maintained that Yahweh Himself gave tithes to Abraham" [O. Michel, in “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament”, Vol. IV, p. 569].

 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MELCHIZEDEK

The meaning of Melchizedek is either "king of righteousness" or "my king is righteous".  SALEM is considered to be an ancient name for Jerusalem (Ps. 76:1-2).  The first occurrence of “priest” in the Old Testament is the reference to this pre-Israelite Melchizedek, priest of God Most High.   “Melchizedek was the priest-king of Salem, which is a shortened form of Urusalim, ‘city of pace’, identified with Jerusalem. The Tell el Amana tablets identify Salem with Jerusalem as early as 1400 BC. Shalom is the Hebrew word for ‘peace’, and Shalem probably was the Canaanite god of peace.” [The Wyclife Bible Commentary (1962), p.20-21].

“Melchizedek’s name may be compared with that of a later king of Jerusalem, Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1ff).  In Psalm 110:4 a Davidic king is acclaimed by divine oath as ‘a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The background of this acclamation is provided by David’s conquest of Jerusalem c. 1000 BC by virtue of which David and his house became heirs to Melchizedek’s dynasty of priest-kings.  The King so acclaimed was identified by Jesus and His contemporaries as the Davidic Messiah. [ Mark 12:35-36: “And Jesus began to say. . . . How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET.”]  If Jesus is the Davidic Messiah He must be the ‘priest for ever after the order of  Melchizedek.’ This inevitable conclusion is drawn by the writer of the Hebrews, who develops his theme of our Lord’s heavenly priesthood on the basis of Psalm 110:4, expounded in the light of Genesis 14:18ff, where Melchizedek appears and disappears suddenly, with nothing said about his birth or death, ancestry or descent, in a manner which declares his superiority to Abram and, by implication, to the Aaronic priesthood descended from Abram.  The superiority of Christ and His new order to the levitical order of OT times is thus established.” [ F. F. Bruce, “Melchizedek”, The New Bible Dictionary (1962), p. 806].

In Psalm 110:1-4, the “Messianic King is commanded to occupy the position of highest honour and share the divine rule until his enemies are completely vanquished (cf. Joshua 10:24. 1 Kings 5:3).  The term footstool is used by David (1 Chronicles 28:2).  The king rules from Zion, and all foes are submissive to him.  The oracle is addressed to my Lord, (‘Adonai) a title of respect for a king or superior.  This king is to be honoured and protected by divine blessing.  His rule is to be universal.  His subjects are to be willing volunteers.  All of this is made certain by the use of a prophetic oath declaring the king’s priesthood by divine appointment.  The Messianic ruler serves a priestly as well as a royal office.  In this he is likened to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, whose ministry typified that of Jesus” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary 1962 p. 536).

JESUS AS THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

Psalm 110:4 reads: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” Two significant points are made about the one who is to sit at God’s right hand.  First, the order of Melchizedek is declared to be an eternal order. Second, this announcement is sealed with God’s oath. The Book of Hebrews presents Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The author draws directly from Psalm 110:4 several crucial points to explain that the high priesthood of Christ superseded and is superior to the priesthood of Aaron. First, the priesthood of Melchizedek is an order.  In contrast, the priesthood of Aaron had a history of disruptions and termination. Second, the references to being ‘without father or mother’ and to being an ‘order forever’ are to be understood as referring to the kind of priestly order rather to the longevity of a particular priest of Abram’s time.  Jesus even carries the longevity of his priesthood back to the Godhead (cf. 1 Peter 1:20-21). Third, the divine guarantee for the priesthood of Melchizedek rests on God’s oath (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 520.)

Although the high priesthood of Jesus is often described solely in terms of his status according to the order of Melchizedek, Hebrews chapters 2 to 4 devotes a great deal of attention to the matter of the high priesthood of  Jesus before introducing Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:6.  In Hebrews 2:17 the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who has come to our aid as our high priest by making “atonement for the sins of people.”  The emphasis is on the fact that, because Jesus Christ Himself suffered the same sorts of temptations that we face, He is a “merciful and faithful” high priest (2:17-18) and, as such, He is “the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (3:1). No Christian has ever confessed Melchizedek as Lord and Saviour in the history of Christianity.

  After a lengthy digression about the faithfulness of Jesus and the importance of a corresponding faithful commitment to Him on our part (3:7-4:13), the author of Hebrews returns to the same issue and exhorts us to “hold firmly” to our sympathetic high priest (4:14-16) because it is in Him that “we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16). Not in Melchizedek.

This argument regarding  gentle and sympathetic nature of our priestly mediator continues into 5:1-10. Old Testament high priests could sympathise with the people for whom they mediated because they had to offer sacrifice for their own sins before they could offer for the people (Lev. 16:11-19).  Jesus as our New Testament high priest is sympathetic because, even though he was the Son of God, He suffered agony in the face  of death (Heb. 5:7-8). This is where Melchizedek comes into the picture. 

As aforementioned, the first occurrence of the term “priest” in the Old Testament is in reference to Melchizedek.  Melchizedek reappears in Psalm 110:4, referring to the royal Davidic “priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”.  This, in turn, became the pattern for the thematic development of the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus Christ in Hebrews 5-7 since, not being a descendant of Aaron, He could not be a priest according to the order of Aaron (Heb. 7:1-14).  Nevertheless, just as Aaron was divinely appointed to this office so was Jesus, but the high priesthood of Jesus was “in the order of Melchizedek.  This makes the high priesthood of Jesus distinct and superior from that of Aaron and his successors on several points.”

First, Jesus has become a high priest forever.  Aaronic priests died and therefore had only a temporary priesthood.  But Jesus abides forever as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek and therefore has a permanent priesthood through which he can save us completely and eternally (7:24-25).  Second, since the Old Testament levitical priests paid a tithe to Melchizedek while they were still in the loins of Abraham, their order of priesthood is inferior to the order of Melchizedek.  Third, if the Aaronic priesthood had brought perfection there would have been no need of another priest to arise according to another order (Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, per.636-637).

Melchizedek was “the prototype of the only real high priest, Jesus Christ, who can claim superiority even to Abraham. . . Melchizedek can be such a type for Jesus Christ because he is ‘without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life . . .’ From this typology, three interpretive observations may be made: (a.) It is futile to seek a connection between Melchizedek and Jesus in any historical way (Heb. 7:16).  (b.)  The text does not claim that Jesus is derived or descended from Melchizedek but rather is ‘like’ him or belongs ‘to the order of Melchizedek’.  The linkage concerns a similarity of functions rather than any identity of person.  Any attempt to penetrate behind the typology into history is illegitimate. The writer of Hebrews seeks to ground the authority of the gospel in something beyond history.  The inscrutable appearance of Melchizedek provides a way for such a trans-historical claim.  (c.) The text of Hebrews is not interested in Melchidezek except as a metaphor and a way of speaking.  The real issue is the superiority of Jesus to other mediators. That superiority is finally not based on associations with Melchizedek but on the resurrection, a very different ground” (Walter Brueggemann, “Genesis Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching”, 1982, p. 139)

CONCLUSION

The writer of Hebrews finds in “The Lord has sworn and will not repent, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” evidence that the resurrected Jesus is not only a kingly messiah but a priestly one as well. In Hebrews 7:3 it is not Christ but Melchizedek   who is directly in view. Melchizedek is said ‘to be made like’ the Son of God. “The historical Melchizedek ante-dates the historical Jesus by many centuries; yet Christ is the pattern for Melchizedek, not vice versa” (Donald Macleod, “The Person of Christ”, 1998, p. 53).

Melchizedek is only a shadow and reflection of the Son of God. He has no independent significance to salvation.