(Calvin, Paul to the Hebrews. part 19)

to the end, and had rendered a faithful testimony to sound doctrine
through their whole life as well as in death. But it was a matter of no
small importance, that he set before them their teachers for imitation;
for they who have begotten us in Christ ought to be to us in the place as
it were of fathers. Since then they had seen then continuing firm and
unmoved in the midst of much persecutions and of various other convicts,
they ought in all reason to have been deeply moved and affected.
=====> 13:8. "Jesus Christ the same", &c. The only way by which we can
persevere in the right faith is to hold to the foundation, and not in the
smallest degree to depart from it; for he who holds not to Christ knows
nothing but mere vanity, though he may comprehend heaven and earth; for
in Christ are included all the treasures of celestial wisdom. This then
is a remarkable passage, from which we learn that there is no other way
of being true, wise than by fixing all our thoughts on Christ alone.
    Now as he is dealing with the Jews, he teaches them that Christ had
ever possessed the same sovereignty which he holds at this day; "The
same", he says, "yesterday, and today, and forever". By which words he
intimates that Christ, who was then made known in the world, had reigned
from the beginning of the world, and that it is not possible to advance
farther when we come to him. "Yesterday" then comprehends the whole time
of the Old Testament; and that no one might expect a sudden change after
a short time, as the promulgation of the Gospel was then but recent, he
declares that Christ had been lately revealed for this very end, that the
knowledge of him might continue the same for ever.
    It hence appears that the Apostle is not speaking of the eternal
existence of Christ, but of that knowledge of him which was possessed by
the godly in all ages, and was the perpetual foundation of the Church. It
is indeed certain that Christ existed before he manifested his power; but
the question is, what is the subject of the Apostle. Then I say he refers
to quality, so to speak, and not to essence; for it is not the question,
whether he was from eternity with the Father, but what was the knowledge
which men had of him. But the manifestation of Christ as to its external
form and appearance, was indeed different under the Law from what it is
now; yet there is no reason why the Apostle could not say truly and
properly that Christ, as regarded by the faithful, is always the same.
=====> 13:9. "Diverse doctrines", &c. He concludes that we ought not to
fluctuate, since the truth of Christ, in which we ought to stand firm,
remains fixed and unchangeable. And doubtless, variety of opinions, every
kind of superstition, all monstrous errors, in a word, all corruptions in
religion, arise from this, that men abide not in Christ alone; for it is
not in vain that Paul teaches us, that Christ is given to us by God to be
our wisdom.
    The import then of this passage is that in order that the truth of
God may remain firm in us, we must acquiesce in Christ alone. We hence
conclude that all who are ignorant of Christ are exposed to all the
delusions of Satan; for apart from him there is no stability of faith,
but innumerable tossings here and there. Wonderful then is the acuteness
of the Papists, who have contrived quite a contrary remedy for driving
away errors every errors, even by extinguishing or burying the knowledge
of Christ! But let this warning of the Holy Spirit be fixed in our
hearts, that we shall never be beyond the reach of danger except we
cleave to Christ.
    Now the doctrines which lead us away from Christ, he says, are
"divers" or various, because there is no other simple and unmixed truth
but the knowledge of Christ; and he calls them also "strange" or foreign,
because whatever is apart from Christ is not regarded by God as his own;
and we are hereby also reminded how we are to proceed, if we would make a
due proficiency in the Scripture, for he who takes not a straight course
to Christ, goes after strange doctrines. The Apostle farther intimates
that the Church of God will always have to contend with strange doctrines
and that there is no other means of guarding against them but by being
fortified with the pure knowledge of Christ.
    "For it is a good thing", &c. He now comes from a general principle
to a particular case. The Jews, for instance, as it is well known, were
superstitious as to distinctions in meats; and hence arose many disputes
and discords; and this was one of the strange doctrines which proceeded
from their ignorance of Christ. Having then previously grounded our faith
on Christ, he now says that the observance of meats does not conduce to
our salvation and true holiness. As he sets grace in opposition to meats,
I doubt not but that by grace he means the spiritual worship of God and
regeneration. In saying "that the heart may be established", he alludes
to the word, "carried about", as though he had said, "It is the spiritual
grace of God, and not the observance of meats, that will really establish
    "Which have not profited them that have been occupied therein". It is
uncertain to whom he here refers; for the fathers who lived under the Law
had no doubt a useful training, and a part of it was the distinction as
to meats. It seems then that this is to be understood rather of the
superstitious, who, after the Gospel had been revealed, still perversely
adhered to the old ceremonies. At the same time were we judiciously to
explain the words as applied to the fathers, there would be no
inconsistency; it was indeed profitable for them to undergo the yoke laid
on them by the Lord, and to continue obediently under the common
discipline of the godly and of the whole Church; but the Apostle means
that abstinence from meats was in itself of no ail. And no doubt it is to
be regarded as nothing, except as an elementary instruction at the time
when God's people were like children as to their external discipline. To
be "occupied in meets" is to be taken as having a regard to them, so as
to make a distinction between clean and unclean. But what he says of
meats may be extended to the other rites of the Law.

=====> 13:10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which
serve the tabernacle.
13:11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the
sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his
own blood, suffered without the gate.
13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his
13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name.

=====> 13:10. "We have an altar", &c. This is a beautiful adaptation of
an old rite under the Law, to the present state of the Church. There was
a kind of sacrifice appointed, mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of
Leviticus, no part of which returned to the priests and Levites. This, as
he now shows by a suitable allusing, was accomplished in Christ; for he
was sacrificed on this condition, that they who serve the tabernacle
should not feed on him. But by the "ministers of the tabernacle" he means
all those who performed the ceremonies. Then that we may partake of
Christ, he intimates that we must renounce the tabernacle; for as the
word ”ltar" includes sacrificing and the victim; so "tabernacle", all the
external types connected with it.
    Then the meaning is, "No wonder if the rites of the Law have now
ceased, for this is what was typified by the sacrifice which the Levites
brought without the camp to be there burnt; for as the ministers of the
tabernacle did eat nothing of it, so if we serve the tabernacle, that is,
retain its ceremonies, we shall not be partakers of that sacrifice which
Christ once offered, nor of the expiation which he once made by his own
blood; for his own blood he brought into the heavenly sanctuary that he
might atone for the sin of the world."
=====> 13:13. "Let us go forth, therefore", &c. That the preceding
allegory or mystical similitude might not be frigid and lifeless, he
connects with it an important duty required of all Christians. And this
mode of teaching is what Paul also usually adopts, that he might show to
the faithful what things God would have them to be engaged in, while he
was endeavouring to draw them away from vain ceremonies; as though he had
said, "This is what God demands from you, but not that work in which you
in vain weary yourselves." So now our Apostle speaks; for while he
invites us to leave the tabernacle and to follow Christ, he reminds us
that a far different thing is required of us from the work of serving God
in the shade under the magnificent splendour of the temple; for we must
go after him through exiles, flights, reproaches, and all kinds of
afflictions. This warfare, in which we must strive even unto blood, he
sets in opposition to those shadowy practices of which alone the teachers
of ceremonies boasted.
=====> 13:14. "For here we have no continuing city", &c. He extends still
further the going forth which he had mentioned, even that as strangers
and wanderers in this world we should consider that we have no fixed
residence but in heaven. Whenever, therefore, we are driven from place to
place, or whenever any change happens to us, let us think of what the
Apostle teaches us here, that we have no certain shade on earth, for
heaven is our inheritance; and when more and more tried, let us ever
prepare ourselves for our last end; for they who enjoy a very quiet life
commonly imagine that they have a rest in this world: it is hence
profitable for us, who are prone to this kind of sloth, to be often
tossed here and there, that we who are too much inclined to look on
things below, may learn to turn our eyes up to heaven.
=====> 13:15. "By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to
God", &c. He returns to that particular doctrine to which he had
referred, respecting the abrogation of the ancient ceremonies; and he
anticipates an objection that might have been made; for as the sacrifices
were attached as appendages to the tabernacle, when this was abolished,
it follows that the sacrifices also must have ceased. But the Apostle had
taught us that as Christ had suffered without the gate, we are also
called thither, and that hence the tabernacle must be forsaken by those
who would follow him.
    Here a question arises, whether any sacrifices remained for
Christians; for this would have been inconsistent, as they had been
instituted for the purpose of celebrating God' worship. The Apostle,
therefore, in due time meets this objection, and says that another kind
of sacrifice remains for us, which no less pleases God, even the offering
of the calves of our lips, as the Prophet Hoses says. (Hos. 14: 2.) Now
that the sacrifice of praise is not only equally pleasing to God, but of
more account than all those external sacrifices under the Law, appears
evident from the fiftieth Psalm; for God there repudiates all these as
things of nought, and bids the sacrifice of praise to be offered to him.
We hence see that it is the highest worship of God, justly preferred to
all other exercises, when we acknowledge God's goodness by thanksgiving;
yea, this is the ceremony of sacrificing which God commends to us now.
There is yet no doubt but that under this one part is included the whole
of prayer; for we cannot give him thanks except when we are heard by him;
and no one obtains anything except he who prays. He in a word means that
without brute animals we have what is required to be offered to God, and
that he is thus rightly and really worshipped by us.
    But as it was the Apostle's design to teach us what is the legitimate
way of worshipping God under the New Testament, so by the way he reminds
us that God cannot be really invoked by us and his name glorified, except
through Christ the mediator; for it is he alone who sanctifies our lips,
which otherwise are unclean, to sing the praises of God; and it is he who
opens a way for our prayers, who in short performis the office of a
priest, presenting himself before God in our name.

=====> 13:16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such
sacrifices God is well pleased.
13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for
they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may
do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.
13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things
willing to live honestly.
13:19 But I beseech [you] the rather to do this, that I may be restored
to you the sooner.

=====> 13:16. "But to do good", &c. Here he points out even another way
of offering a due and regular sacrifice, for all the acts and duties of
love are so many sacrifices; and he thereby intimates that they were
foolish and absurd in their wishes who thought that something was wanting
except they offered beasts to God according to the Law, since God gave
them many and abundant opportunities for sacrificing. For though he can
derive no benefit from us, yet he regards prayer a sacrifice, and so much
as the chief sacrifice, that it alone can supply the place of all the
rest; and then, whatever benefits we confer on men he considers as done
to himself, and honours them with the name of sacrifices. So it appears
that the elements of the Law are now not only superfluous, but do harm,
as they draw us away from the right way of sacrificing.
    The meaning is, that if we wish to sacrifice to God, we must call on
him and acknowledge his goodness by thanksgiving, and further, that we
must do good to our brethren; these are the true sacrifices which
Christians ought to offer; and as to other sacrifices, there is neither
time nor place for them.
    "For with such sacrifices God is well pleased". There is to be
understood here an implied contrast, - that he no longer requires those
ancient sacrifices which he had enjoined until the abrogation of the Law.
    But with this doctrine is connected an exhortation which ought
powerfully to stimulate us to exercise kindness towards our neighbours;
for it is not a common honour that God should regard the benefits we
confer on men as sacrifices offered to himself, and that he so adorns our
works, which are nothing worth, as to pronounce them holy and sacred
things, acceptable to him. When, therefore, love does not prevail among
us, we not only rob men of their right, but God himself, who has by a
solemn sentence dedicated to himself what he has commanded to be done to
    The word "communicate" has a wider meaning than "to do good", for it
embraces all the duties by which men can mutually assist one another; and
it is a true mark or proof of love, when they who are united together by
the Spirit of God communicate to one another.
=====> 13:17. "Obey them", &c. I doubt not but that he speaks of pastors
and other rulers of the Church, for there were then no Christian
magistrates; and what follows, "for they watch for your souls", properly
belongs to spiritual government. He commands first obedience and then
honour to be rendered to them. These two things are necessarily required,
so that the people might have confidence in their pastors, and also
reverence for them. But it ought at the same time to be noticed that the
Apostle speaks only of those who faithfully performed their office; for
they who have nothing but the title, nay, who use the title of pastors
for the purpose of destroying the Church, deserve but little reverence
and still less confidence. And this also is what the Apostle plainly sets
forth when he says, that they "watched" for their souls, - a duty which
is not performed but by those who are faithful rulers, and are really
what they are called.
    Doubly foolish, then, are the Papists, who from these words confirm
the tyranny of their own idol: "The Spirit bids us obediently to receive
the doctrine of godly and faithful bishops, and to obey their wholesome
counsels; he bids us also to honour them." But how does this favour mere
apes of bishops? And yet not only such are all those who are bishops
under the Papacy, but they are cruel murderers of souls and rapacious
wolves. But to pass by a description of them, this only will I say at
present, that when we are bidden to obey our pastors, we ought carefully
and wisely to find out those who are true and faithful rulers; for if we
render this honour to all indiscriminately, first, a wrong will be done
to the good; and secondly, the reason here added, to honour them because
they watch for souls, will be rendered nugatory. In order, therefore,
that the Pope and those who belong to him may derive support from this
passage, they must all of necessity first prove that they are of the
number of those who watch for our salvation. If this be made evident,
there will then be no question but that they ought to be reverently
treated by all the godly.
    "For they watch", &c. His meaning is, that the heavier the burden
they bear, the more honour they deserve; for the more labour anyone
undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for
us, the greater are our obligations to him. And such is the office of
bishops, that it involves the greatest labour and the greatest danger;
if, then, we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which
is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it
would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them.
    He further reminds us in what great a concern their labour may avail
us, for, if the salvation of our souls be precious to us, they ought by
no means to be deemed of no account who watch for it. He also bids us to
be teachable and ready to obey, that what pastors do in consequence of
what their office demands, they may also willingly and "joyfully" do;
for, if they have their minds restrained by grief or weariness, though
they may be sincere and faithful, they will yet become disheartened and
careless, for vigour in acting will fail at the same time with their
cheerfulness. Hence the Apostle declares, that it would be "unprofitable"
to the people to cause sorrow and mourning to their pastors by their
ingratitude; and he did this, that he might intimate to us that we cannot
be troublesome or disobedient to our pastors without hazarding our own
    As hardly one in ten considers this, it is hence evident how great
generally is the neglect of salvation; nor is it a wonder how few at this
day are found who strenuously watch over the Church of God. For besides,
there are very few who are like Paul, who have their mouth open when the
people's ears are closed, and who enlarge their own heart when the heart
of the people is straitened. The Lord also punishes the ingratitude which
everywhere prevails. Let us then remember that we are suffering the
punishment of our own perverseness, whenever the pastors grow cold in
their duty, or are less diligent than they ought to be.
=====> 13:18. "For we trust", &c. After having commended himself to their
prayers, in order to excite them to pray, he declares that he had a "good
conscience". Though indeed our prayers ought to embrace the whole world,
as love does, from which they flow; it is yet right and meet that we
should be peculiarly solicitous for godly and holy men, whose probity and
other marks of excellency have become known to us. For this end, then, he
mentions the integrity of his own conscience, that is, that he might move
them more effectually to feel an interest for himself. By saying, I am
persuaded, or I "trust", he thus partly shows his modesty and partly his
confidence. "In all", may be applied to things as well as to men; and so
I leave it undecided.
=====> 13:19. "But I beseech you", &c. He now adds another argument, -
that the prayers they would make for him, would be profitable to them all
as well as to himself individually, as though he had said, "I do not so
much consult my own benefit as the benefit of you all; for to be restored
to you would be the common good of all."
    A probable conjecture may hence perhaps be gathered, that the author
of this Epistle was either beset with troubles or detained by the fear of
persecution, so as not to be able to appear among those to whom he was
writing. It might however be, that he thus spoke, though he was free and
at liberty, for he regarded man's steps as being in God's hand; and this
appears probable from the end of the Epistle.

=====> 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our
Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the
everlasting covenant,
13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you
that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom
[be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.
13:22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I
have written a letter unto you in few words.
13:23 Know ye that [our] brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if
he come shortly, I will see you.
13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.
They of Italy salute you.
13:25 Grace [be] with you all. Amen. 
        [Written to the Hebrews from Italy, by Timothy.]

=====> 13:20. "Now the God of peace", &c. To render mutual what he
desired them to do, he ends his Epistle with prayer; and he asks of God
to "confirm", or to fit, or to perfect them in "every good work"; for
such is the meaning of |katartistai|. We hence conclude, that we are by
no means fit to do good until we are made or formed for the purpose by
God, and that we shall not continue long in doing good unless he
strengthens us; for perseverance is his peculiar gift. Nor is there a
doubt but that as no common gifts of the Spirit had already, as it seems,
appeared in them, the first impression with which they began, is not what
is prayed for, but the polishing, which they were to be made perfect.
    "That brought again from the dead", &c. This clause was added for the
sake of confirmation; for he intimates that God is then only prayed to
aright by us, to lead us on to perfection, when we acknowledge his power
in the resurrection of Christ, and acknowledge Christ himself as our
pastor. He, in short, would have us to look to Christ, in order that we
may rightly trust in God for help; for Christ was raised from death for
this end, that we might be renewed unto eternal life, by the same power
of God; and he is the great pastor of all, in order that we may protect
the sheep committed to him by the Father.
    "Through the blood", &c. I have rendered it, "In the blood;" for as
|beth|, "in," is often taken in the sense of with, so I prefer to regard
it here. For it seems to me, that the Apostle means, that Christ so arose
from the dead, that his death was not yet abolished, but that it retains
its efficacy forever, as though he had said, "God raised up his own son,
but in such a way that the blood he shed once for all in his death is
efficacious after his resurrection for the ratification of the
everlasting covenant, and brings forth fruit the same as though it were
flowing always."
=====> 13:21. "To do his will", &c. He now gives a definition of good
works by laying down God's will as the rule; for he thus intimates, that
no works are to be deemed good, but such as are agreeable to the will of
God, as Paul also teaches us in Rom. 12: 2, and in many other places. Let
us then remember, that it is the perfection of a good and holy life, when
we live in obedience to his will. The clause which next follows is
explanatory, "working" (or doing) "in you what is well pleasing in his
sight". He had spoken of that will which is made known in the Law; he now
shows, that in vain is obtruded on God what he has not commanded; for he
values the decrees of his own will far more than all the inventions of
the world.
    "Through Jesus Christ", &c. This may be explained in two ways, -
"Working through Jesus Christ", or, "Well-pleasing through Jesus Christ."
Both senses are suitable. For we know that the spirit of regeneration and
also all graces are bestowed on us through Christ; and then it is
certain, that as nothing can proceed from us absolutely perfect, nothing
can be acceptable to God without that pardon which we obtain through
Christ. Thus it comes, that our works, performed by the odour of Christ's
grace, emit a sweet fragrance in God's presence, while otherwise they
would have a foetid smell. I am disposed to include both meanings.
    "To whom be glory", &c. This I refer to Christ. And as he here
ascribes to Christ what peculiarly belongs to God alone, he thus bears a
clear testimony to his divinity; but still if anyone prefers to explain
this of the Father, I do not object; though I embrace the other sense, as
being the most obvious.
=====> 13:22. "And I beseech you", &c. Some understand this as though he
was soliciting them to hear him; but I take another view; for he
mentions, as I think, that he had written in a "few words", or briefly,
in order that he might not appear as though he wished to lessen in any
degree the ordinary practice of teaching. Let us hence learn that the
Scripture has not been committed to us in order to silence the voice of
pastors, and that we are not to be fastidious when the same exhortations
often sound in our ears; for the holy Spirit has so regulated the
writings which he has dictated to the Prophets and the Apostles, that he
detracts nothing from the order instituted by himself; and the order is,
that constant exhortations should be heard in the Church from the mouth
of pastors. And probably he recommends the "word of exhortation" for this
reason, that though men are by nature anxious to learn, they yet prefer
to hear something new rather than to be reminded of things known and
often heard before. Besides, as they indulge themselves in sloth, they
can ill bear to be stimulated and reproved.
=====> 13:23. "Know ye that our brother", &c. Since the termination of
the Greek verb |ginooskete|, will admit of either renderings, we may
read, "Ye know," or, "Know ye;" but I prefer the latter reading, though I
do not reject the other. The probability is, that he was informing the
Jews on the other side of the sea of what they did not know. Now, if this
"Timothy" was the renowned companion of Paul, which I am inclined to
think, it is very probable that either Luke or Clement was the author of
this Epistle. Paul, indeed, more usually calls him his son; and then what
immediately follows does not apply to Paul; for it appears that the
writer was at liberty and at his own disposal; and besides, that he was
then anywhere rather than at Rome; nay, it is very probable, that he was
going round through various cities, and was then preparing to pass over
the sea. Now all these particulars might have been suitable to the
circumstances either of Luke or of Clement after the death of Paul.
=====> 13:24. "Salute", &c. As he writes his Epistle generally to the
Hebrews, it is strange that he bids some, separate from the rest, to be
saluted; but he sends this salutation, as I think, more particularly to
the rulers, as a mark of honour, that he might conciliate them, and
gently lead them to assent to his doctrine. And he adds, -
    "And all the saints". He either means the faithful from among the
Gentiles, and refers to them that both Jews and Gentiles might learn to
cultivate unity among themselves; or his object was to intimate, that
they who first received the Epistle, were to communicate it to others.

           End of the Commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews

(...end, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-3/epl-01: calhb-19.txt