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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 5: The High Priest of God
Thus far in his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul of Tarsus has cited many of the Messianic Psalms, attesting that they are prophecies of Yahshua Christ as the promised Son of Scripture, the Messiah or Anointed Son through whom Israel would ultimately attain salvation. Doing this he had also explained that the world was made through that same Son, which must indicate that the Son is one and the same with the Creator Himself, and that Son has also come to rule over His Own household, which are the children of Israel. In other words, the plan of God from the beginning was to become man. For that reason Paul also insists in this epistle that the Son is the first born, which is truly a status that He could only have if He is God. In Hebrews chapter 12 Paul refers to the Christian assembly as the “church of the firstborn”, as the King James Version has it, which is in reference to the assembly of Christ.
It must also be noted that where Paul had explained some of these things, the household of Christ and the household of Moses are still the same household under the New Covenant as they were under the Old Covenant. Furthermore, Paul had also cited the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, and held up Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon all as types for Christ. Then, making an allegory from the history of the Israelites under Joshua, Paul explained that they had failed to enter into the period of rest promised to them by the Word of God due to their own disobedience, but that such a promise of rest still remained for the children of Israel if they would finally turn to obedience in Christ. And while we saw that this period of rest has a spiritual dimension, it was primarily a promise of national rest: deliverance from the ancient enemies of their God to enjoy the works of their own hands in relative peace. That deliverance is also a promise in Christ, as it is professed in the Gospel in the opening chapter of Luke. [Therefore Christians will only throw off the shackles of the Jew through Christ.]
So the account of the Christ is really just another stage in the ongoing relationship between Yahweh God and the same children of Israel of the Old Testament [none of whom are Jews]. There is no break in the continuity of this relationship simply because their history has transformed them from the Old Covenant Kingdom to the New Covenant dispersion, or from the prophets whom their fathers heard to the Son who is heard through the Gospel. Yahweh is dealing with the children of Israel exclusively throughout both stages of this history, and these Hebrews are only a portion of the nations of Israel in the time of Paul, something which is evident in most of Paul’s other epistles. [Today there are no true Hebrews, as those who were not turned to Christ and assimilated into Christian nations ultimately became assimilated into the Canaanite-Edomite Jews and the other races, who are all the eternal enemies of God and Israel.]
Now Paul has already asserted that this Yahshua, or Jesus, Christ is also a high priest, in Hebrews chapter 2 where he wrote (quoting from the King James Version): “17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Then Paul made this assertion again in Hebrews chapter 3, where He referred to Christ as the “Apostle and High Priest of our profession,” and finally in Hebrews chapter 4 where he said “14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
But Paul has not yet explained how Christ is a high priest, and his insistence that Christ was a high priest must have at least bewildered, or even offended, many of the Hebrews of his time. However the last of the legitimate Levitical high priests, one of the Hasamoneans who was named named Antigonus, was seized by Herod the Edomite and executed as Herod, siding with the Romans during a revolt, was maneuvering to usurp power over Judaea for himself circa 40 BC. As a digression, Antigonus certainly deserved his fate, as he had given his own daughter to this same Edomite-jew Herod for a wife. Paul’s Hebrews must have known all of this, and must have been aware that those who were appointed as high priests in Jerusalem from that time, were not legitimate priests appointed by Yahweh. There were still Levitical priests performing routine functions, but aliens were appointed over them as high priests and other officials. So while later on in this epistle, in chapter 7, Paul does explain the theological reasons why the Levitical priesthood should indeed be brought to an end, yet he said nothing of the situation in Jerusalem. That is because Paul already accounted the temple and its priesthood as nothing for those who are coming to Christ.
Here is another digression. Paul accounted the temple and the priesthood as nothing, but assessing Paul’s actions, this also causes confusion. That is because Paul had gone to the feasts at Jerusalem, and even obeyed James when the elder advised him to undergo a purification ritual in the temple (Acts chapter 21). However, what is little understood is that Paul believed that when a man was born into something and practised it, that he should stay in it for as long as he lived. So while he himself continued in the Hebrew traditions, he taught that those coming to Christ who were not Hebrews, or those who were newly born into the world, should not be immersed into the Old Testament traditions. This belief is evident in his discourse on circumcision in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 where he had concluded by saying “24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” Likewise, Paul said in Galatians chapter 5 that a man getting himself circumcised is obligated to keep the entire law, in reference to all of the other rituals. [In the audio version of this presentation, this last sentence was only an offhand remark and I mistakenly attributed the passage to James. WRF] It is also evident in James’ criticism of Paul’s teaching, where he told Paul (in Acts chapter 21): “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”
With no further need for the rituals and ceremonies of the law, there is no further need for a Levitical priesthood. In Hebrews chapter 7 Paul explains the necessary change in the priesthood. Beginning his explanation here in chapters 5 and 6, Paul will use one other historical figure from Scripture as a type for Yahshua Christ, explaining how Christ is indeed made a high priest over Israel. This analogy is so important to Paul in his exposition to the Hebrews, that once it is introduced, the apostle writes at great length to prove his case from Scripture, and to explain the implications which it has for Christians, or for those still clinging to the Old Covenant. So he begins, in Hebrews chapter 5:
5 1 For every high priest, being taken from among men, on behalf of men is established in the things pertaining to Yahweh, that he would offer both gifts and sacrifices for errors, 2 being able to bear reasonably with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he also is enveloped with weakness, 3 and on account of it he is obliged, just as for the people even for himself too, to offer for errors [or sins].
Presenting earlier segments of this series, we have already discussed in other ways the confusion which many men are led into, because God is the Father in Heaven, and God is the Son on earth. This is the oneness of God, as it is called. If God cannot be both Father and Son, both on earth and in heaven, then He is not God at all. However Christ Himself had informed us that He is indeed one with the Father (John 10:30). That oneness is more than just a symbolic oneness of purpose, because Christ also informed us that He is one and the same with the Holy Spirit. In John chapter 14 where Christ promised His apostles a Comforter, He also said “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:15-18). That word which the King James Version translated as comfortless is actually ὀρφανός, which is literally fatherless. So Christ is the Father, and Christ is the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament profession anticipates Yahweh God to be the judge of men, as we read, for example, in the 7th Psalm where it says “8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.” We may also read of this in the closing verse of the 82nd Psalm where it says “8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations”, and that is a Messianic prophecy, as Christ is that very judge who has risen. While Paul refers to Yahweh as Judge and distinguishes Him from Yahshua Christ in chapters 10, 12 and 13 of this epistle, Paul had nevertheless described Christ as Judge in 2 Timothy chapter 4, in verses 1 and 8 where he wrote: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom...” and “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
Therefore here, writing to the Hebrews, Paul is merely focusing on the fleshly aspects of the Christ, and we should nevertheless be able to see God the Son act as high priest of the people and, as Paul shall also call Him here, as the mediator of the New Covenant, without being confused that perhaps He is not really God. Rather, because men have always failed in the flesh, the God who cannot fail has chosen for Himself to adorn the flesh, that He may be a fair judge of men. As Paul had already explained in Hebrews chapter 2, “but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”, or as we have it in the Christogenea New Testament, “He has taken upon Himself of the offspring of Abraham, from which He was obliged in all respects to become like the brethren, that He would be a compassionate and faithful high priest...”
Further on in this epistle, Paul will refer to Christ as the mediator of a new covenant. Paul had also referred to Christ as mediator in this manner in Galatians chapter 3 and in 1 Timothy chapter 2. His teaching was the same in Hebrews, and only the perspective was different. Nevertheless, comparing Paul’s identification of Christ as both mediator and Judge in his other epistles, we see that he is not in conflict with any of his other teachings here. Christ could be high priest, Mediator, Judge and God all at once. The account of Scripture is the account of God becoming man, and His reasons for doing so.
In the Old Kingdom, the Levitical high priest was also a mediator, in his offering of the sacrifices made on behalf of men. Here Paul explains that the high priest being a mere man in the flesh also had his own faults, and Paul has already referred to the fleshly aspect of Christ where he mentioned Him as high priest in Hebrews chapters 2 and 4. So Paul emphasizes that fleshly aspect once again where he says that “he also is enveloped with weakness”. Thusly Paul continues:
4 And not for himself does anyone take the dignity, but being called by Yahweh, even as Aaron.
The 3rd or 4th century papyrus P13 wants the phrase which is translated “even as Aaron”, but the inference would still be valid. The text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46, and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D), and the Ephraemi Syri (C) and the Majority Text which each which vary slightly.
While Christ certainly was Yahweh God incarnate, as a man the God of the Scriptures nevertheless called Him and appointed Him from among men to be this high priest, as Paul is about to explain from the Psalms:
5 Thus even Christ has not honored Himself to have been made a high priest, but He who said to Him: “You are my Son, today I have engendered You.” 6 Just as in another He says: “You are a priest for the ages in accordance with the order of Melchisedek.”
Translating these verses today, I would rather write: “5 Thus even Christ has not honored Himself to have been made a high priest, but He who said to Him: ‘You are my Son, today I have engendered You’ 6 likewise says in another: ‘You are a priest for the ages in accordance with the order of Melchisedek.’” This is an improvement of our translation which we will use in a future edition of the Christogenea New Testament. The Greek word beginning verse 6, καθώς, was used by Herodotus and later writers in place of καθά, which is according as or just as and therefore likewise.
Here Paul informs us that the same God who is portrayed by David in the 2nd Psalm as having honored the prophesied Christ by saying “You are my Son”, words which pertain to the Messiah to come, also said in that same regard in the 110th Psalm, “You are a priest for the ages in accordance with the order of Melchisedek.” The context of both Psalms is similar. Since they are both rather short, we shall include them both here:
Psalm 2: “1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
Psalm 110: “1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.”
Paul had quoted this verse of the 2nd Psalm, and also from a different verse in the 110th Psalm, in Hebrews chapter 1. Both Psalms are attributed to David, but the context of either Psalm cannot be limited to David. This is especially clear in the first verse of the 110th Psalm, where David wrote that “The Lord (Yahweh) said unto my Lord (adon)...” and since David ruled over all of Israel when he wrote those words, he answering only to God, he must have written those words as a Messianic prophecy of Christ. So Christ Himself professed in the Gospel where He also quoted that passage. David’s Lord being the subject of the 110th Psalm, therefore David speaks of his Messiah where he portrays Yahweh as having said to Him “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Note that in the 2nd Psalm the rule of God is given over to the Son as King, but in the 110th Psalm the Son as as Priest executes vengeance against His enemies after He ascends to the right hand of the Father, as he is described as being already there where it says “the Lord at thy right hand”. The Psalms agree with the Gospels and the Revelation in every way. In Hebrews chapter 7, Paul describes and discusses Melchizedek at length, and we will reserve our comments until we present that chapter. Now Paul commences by describing Christ in His ministry:
7 Who in the days of His flesh had offered both prayers and supplications with severe crying and tears to Him who is able to deliver Him from death, and He was heard because of that devotion.
There are descriptions in the Gospel of Christ weeping, such as in John chapter 11 where at the death of Lazarus He was evidently weeping as he was troubled by the downcast mood of the people who were there mourning him. Likewise, in Luke chapter 19 Christ is portrayed as weeping in respect of the travails which were about to come upon Jerusalem where we read “41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” There are also accounts of Christ being troubled, or upset, for one reason or another in John chapters 12 and 13. So undoubtedly, Christ was capable of displays of emotion, and usually it was displayed on behalf of His people.
However there is a place which matches this description by Paul much better than the descriptions of those other events, but which is not found in the Christogenea New Testament. That is in Luke chapter 22 where Christ is described as having prayed in the Garden on the night of His arrest by the Judaeans, and we may read in the King James Version “43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Out of all the manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, the verses in question are not found in the third century papyrus P75, the fourth century Codex Vaticanus (B), or in the fifth century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Washingtonensis (W), and Borgianus (T 029). But the verses are found in the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the early fourth century codex known only as 0171, as well as in fifth century Codex Bezae (D), and in the Majority Text. This reveals an early and distinct division of the manuscripts, since P75 or the Codices Vaticanus and Washingtonensis cannot really claim any greater antiquity than the Codices 0171 and Sinaiticus.
So while Paul seems to corroborate that questionable passage of Luke chapter 22 here, it is not necessarily so, as there are other passages which meet the description even if they are not as vividly depicted. For that reason, we omitted the questionable passages from Luke according to the evidence of the preponderance of early manuscripts. Furthermore, in Luke chapter 22, the immediate context of those questionable verses is where Christ is portrayed as praying for the Father to take the cup from Him, and He was not heard in that respect. So once again, Paul is not necessarily corroborating Luke 22:42-43 here, but seems to have nevertheless had the related events in mind.
It must also be mentioned, that there are doubters and scoffers who insist that Jesus, because He is found praying to God and weeping and asking to relieved of His trials, therefore cannot be God because God would not pray to God. However those scoffers fail to realize that Jesus took upon Himself the seed of Abraham to become like His brethren, that God was born among men to live as a man, and everything He did was for the benefit of men and served as an example to men. For that reason, during His earthly ministry He behaved just as a man should behave, and not as God. After His resurrection, he was recognized as God. Yahshua Christ did not become a god, but rather, He is God who became a man.
As David was a type for Christ, Paul seems to also be referring to the prophecies in the Psalms of David here as much as he is to the actual ministry of Christ, as the Messianic aspects of David’s Psalms may also fully apply to the Christ. Both men were continually surrounded by enemies who wanted to kill them, and both men nevertheless accomplished the tasks which they were given in the face of those enemies. David succeeded in becoming an earthly king, and Christ went on to become the Eternal King.
The first place in Paul’s ministry where it is recorded that he had quoted the 2nd Psalm in reference to Christ is in Acts chapter 13, long before he had written any of his surviving epistles, and in a defense of Christianity, among other things he said to the Judaeans at Antioch in Pisidia (not Antioch in Syria), we read in reference to the Old Testament Israelites that “33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.” So the “sure mercies of David”, which are also mentioned in Isaiah chapter 55, are a reference to the promises that David recorded in the Psalms where it says: “9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Paul continues to discuss the fleshly aspects of Christ:
8 Although being a Son, He learned obedience from those things which He suffered, 9 and attaining perfection He has become Author of eternal deliverance to all those who obey Him,
In Hebrews chapter 4 Paul had said that Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” According to the law, the Passover lamb could not have any blemish, and that in itself was a prophecy of the sinless nature of the Christ. So the apostle John wrote in chapter 3 of his first epistle: “5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” Likewise Peter in chapter 2 of his first epistle: “21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously...”
Another example of the sinless nature of Christ is found in Isaiah chapter 53, and the passage we shall cite here also proves that the Christ must also be the Father. Here are verses 6 through 12: “6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation [or birth]? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul [or life] an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days [or perhaps their days], and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” As the passage says, because of the sacrifice of Christ, He shall see His seed, but Christ had no physical children. Rather, He being the Creator and Father of the Adamic race, as Paul also said in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Yet His seeing His seed is not His reward for His sacrifice, but rather it is their reward for His sacrifice. So Paul again informs his readers what type of priest Christ is:
10 being addressed by Yahweh a high priest “in accordance with the order of Melchisedek.” 11 Concerning whom the account is lengthy for us and difficult in interpretation to speak, since you have been sluggish in hearing.
In addition to the textual evidence among the ancient manuscripts and the patterns of their variations, the language of the quotes from the Old Testament and their proximity to the Septuagint, the statement here and the one in chapter 7 at verse 2 fully demonstrate that even this epistle to the Hebrews was originally written in Greek. In that passage of chapter 7 Paul informs us that the title Melchizedek “being interpreted” is “king of righteousness”. While Paul did not take the time to interpret the significance of the priesthood of Melchizedek here, we will indeed endeavor to do so as our commentary progresses. One aspect of the Christ that we will rely on to do so is His patriarchy, as we have just seen in Isaiah, that due to His sacrifice “He shall see His seed”, which means that He must indeed be the Father of all as well as the Christ.
The word for order, referring to the phrase “order of Melchizedek” in Psalm 110:4 which Paul cites here, is the Hebrew word dibrah (Strong’s # 1700). It means cause, manner or reason, among other things. In the King James Version of Ecclesiastes 3:18 it is “concerning the estate” where it says “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men,” so it may have been rendered “after the manner of” or “in the manner of” the sons of men. Therefore Christ is a priest after the manner of Melchizedek. We will discuss this further while presenting Hebrews chapter 7.
In the meantime, Paul is admonishing the Hebrews here, for apparently they are slow to accept the message of the Gospel, and he continues in that manner:
12 For even you are obliged to be teachers, because of the time. Again you have need of one to teach you from the beginning the many elements of the oracles of Yahweh; and have come having need of milk, not of solid food.
Among all of the tribes of Israel throughout the Roman world of Paul’s time, the Hebrews should have been the teachers of the law, the teachers of the Scriptures in which they were raised, and the most likely to understand the Gospel of Christ, but it was not so. This is not a fantastic statement, since the prominent Greek writers of the period, men such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, respected Moses as one of the great law-givers and early organizers of society. Likewise, Greeks are found in the assembly halls of the Judaeans throughout Paul’s travels abroad. The Greeks were well acquainted with the Old Testament scriptures, as were the Persians and Assyrians and others before them.
But the Hebrews of Paul’s time were the most adamantly stiff-necked and slowest to understand the Gospel. This is, ostensibly, because they too were steeped in the traditions of men. During His earthly ministry, Christ had frequently admonished the Pharisees for “teaching for doctrines the traditions of men”. This very thing we can see in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Judaeans, in Book 18, where he was describing the sect of the Pharisees and he said “12 Now, for the Pharisees, they live lowly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason, and what that [meaning reason] prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason's dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to oppose them [the elders] in anything which they have introduced...” These things which the elders had introduced were from the traditions of men, made after the dictates of reason rather than the Word of God, and therefore in the New Testament narrative they are called the “traditions of the elders”, for example in Matthew chapter 15 and in Mark chapter 7. Since Judaea was a mixed-race province and many Edomites and others had been converted to Judaism over the century-and-a-half before the time of Christ, those elders were not necessarily Israelite elders. Paul continues to admonish the Hebrews:
13 For any who are partaking of milk are inexperienced of the word of righteousness: for he is [D has “he is still”] an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who through habit have the senses exercised for distinguishing both good and evil.
Throughout the Psalms both David and Asaph frequently describe their own meditation on the laws and the works of God. For instance in the very first Psalm we read “1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Then in the 77th Psalm we read “11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. 12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. 13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” For both David and Asaph, this type of meditation must have been their daily habit. Through study of the Word of God and continually pondering His Word and His works and the meaning which these things have for us and our people, is found the exercising of the senses for distinguishing both good and evil. Likewise, in Psalm 119 we read “12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.”
So the purpose of the Christ, the origin and nature of the Christ, the things which are promised concerning Him, such as the transformation of the concept of the priesthood, these things are elements of the milk of the Gospel. Once one is exercised in the law and the other Scriptures, once one meditates on the works as well as the word of God which are manifest in the prophets and in history, one is prepared for judging what is good and what is evil, and then one is ready to understand the meat of the Gospel. Paul had likewise warned the Corinthians, in chapter 3 of his first letter to them, that so long as they were burdened by carnal divisions and strife among them, neither were they ready for the meat of the Gospel.
With this Paul addresses a new topic in Hebrews chapter 6, while laying the foundation for a continued discussion of the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ:
1 Wherefore leaving the account of the origin of the Christ, we should carry on to the fulfillment;
The Greek word ἀρχή (746) is “a beginning, origin, first cause...”, according to Liddell & Scott, and therefore it is origin here, since it is set in opposition to τελειότης (5047) which is fulfillment in this passage. The word ἀρχή in a secondary sense can also mean “the first place or power, sovereignty, dominion, command...” (ibid.), this is also descriptive of Christ however the context demands the interpretation which we have here. Perhaps Paul had both aspects in mind.
The King James Version translated the word ἀρχή as principle, and λόγος, which is primarily only a word, as doctrine, something with which we cannot agree. Everywhere that the King James Version has the word doctrine in the New Testament, in 43 other verses, the word is from a form of the Greek terms διδαχή or διδασκαλία, both of which refer to a teaching. In the very next verse, in Hebrews 6:2, the word doctrine is from διδαχή, as the King James Version also has it. Only here in Hebrews 6:1 does the King James Version translate λόγος as doctrine, where it certainly should be only an account.
Of course, the way that we perceive the terms, the origin of Christ is with God. But it seems that, explaining the origin or first cause of the Christ, Paul is referring to the authority in Scripture for understanding that Yahshua is indeed the Christ, which is the Messiah, the anointed and promised Son and Saviour of the prophets and the psalms; that in the manner in which it was described by Scripture He had manifested Himself on earth, and now by referring to the fulfillment Paul is moving on to discuss the implications of that manifestation.
not again laying a foundation of repentance from dead rituals, and of faith before Yahweh, 2 of the doctrine of immersions, and of applying of hands; of both resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Here the word which we have translated as rituals is literally works, as the King James Version has it. In our own presentation of Galatians chapter 2, given here perhaps 15 months ago, we demonstrated that the rituals and ceremonies of the law were in both Greek and Hebrew referred to as the “works of the law”, which is evidenced in both the Septuagint and in the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew sect at Qumran, which was contemporary to the time of Christ. Here Paul refers to these same “works of the law” as dead, meaning that they were done away with in Christ. While Paul does not cite it in his epistles, one place in Scripture where this was stated explicitly is in Daniel chapter 9, in a prophecy of the Messiah where it says that he shall “make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” and then that “he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”. In Daniel we learn that the Messiah was to bring in everlasting righteousness, and therefore His sacrifice prevails over all. So Paul also said in Galatians chapter 2, that “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Rather, Christ lives, and it is the rituals which are dead.
Where Paul wrote here of faith before God, the doctrine of immersions, the applying of hands, the resurrection and the judgment, he is not dismissing these things. Rather, they are evidently among the basic elements, or the milk of Scripture, and he is only saying that he does not want to discuss them for the time being, as he says in verse 3 that “yet this we will do, if indeed Yahweh would allow”, so that he may here move on to other and weightier subjects.
Notice that Paul mentioned the doctrine of immersions, or as the King James Version has it, of baptisms, in the plural. Many Christians, even Identity Christians, still cling to the baptism of John. But the baptism of John, which was in water, is not the baptism of Christ, which as we read in the words of John himself in Matthew chapter 3 and in Luke chapter 3, is in the Holy Spirit and in fire. So, as it is described in Acts chapter 18, when Priscilla and Aquila encountered Apollos for the first time, who knew “only the baptism of John”, then “they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Paul did the same thing in Ephesus, where in Acts chapter 19 we read “1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth [after he received the baptism in Christ], Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. [Here we see that John’s baptism was not a vehicle for the receiving of the Holy Spirit.] 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
That same Paul had written to the Christians of Ephesus, in Ephesians chapter 4, that there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”, and then in Ephesians chapter 5 that the washing of Christ was in “the washing of water by the word,” where we see that the water is an allegory for the Word of God, as Christ also told His apostles that “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). That word comes by the Gospel, the announcement that Christ died for the sins of the children of Israel so that they may have eternal life. When Christians receive the Gospel, they cleanse themselves by keeping the commandments of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So Paul wrote to the Romans in regard to that very thing that “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” That baptism, or immersion, in the death of Christ upon receiving the Word of His Gospel is the “one baptism” which Paul wrote of in Ephesians chapter 4. This can be established by other Scriptures, as we have already done here many times, especially in our presentation of Acts Chapter 11 here just over three years ago, where we saw that Peter had realized that Christ spoke of the baptism of the Spirit, and that it came without any need for a baptism in water, which is just another dead ritual.
Paul leaves open the possibility of discussing all of these things with the Hebrews once more at a later time:
3 Yet this we will do, if indeed Yahweh would allow.
Here Paul writes that he will talk about these basic elements that he has mentioned if perhaps he gets a chance to do so in the future. We will never really know if he did, because no other surviving epistle to the Hebrews is known. He then moves on to the weightier matters which he felt a more pressing need to discuss:
4 For impossible it is, those once being enlightened both tasting of the heavenly gift and becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and tasting of the good word of Yahweh and powers of the coming age 6 yet falling away, to restore again in repentance, upholding the crucifixion among themselves and making an example of the Son of Yahweh.
Where we have written “upholding the crucifixion”, the King James Version has “crucify… afresh”, which stems from the way that the prefix formed from the word ἀνά, which is properly up, is interpreted in the verb ἀνασταυρόω (Strong’s # 388), a word which only appears here in the New Testament. While Liddell & Scott repeat the King James Version rendering, they wrote that the primary meaning of the verb is merely to crucify, for which σταυρόω, the verb without the prefix, was used frequently by Paul and throughout the Gospels.
Liddell & Scott say of ἀνά where it is used in composition, or as a prefix, that it indicates up to or upwards, up, as opposed to κατά, and that “hence flows the sense of increase or strengthening, as in ἀνακρίνω; though it cannot always be translated”. After that they write that it can designate either repetition or improvement. So we have written upholding in the sense of strengthening, or in this case, exacerbating the original act of the crucifixion of the Christ.
Yet Paul is only referring to those who were truly given a chance to understand the Gospel. So he is careful to describe as his intended subject, those who were once enlightened, and who experienced the heavenly gift and who had become partakers of the Holy Spirit, who were given the understanding of the promises of God in reference to the powers of the coming age. Saying these things, Paul refers to those who indeed understood the true racial covenant of the Bible and the very purpose of the creation of the Adamic race on earth. Today, most men reject Christ, but this verse is not for them. That is because most men were never given a chance to actually understand the Gospel. The government-approved churches, whether they be the churches of Imperial Rome, or the papal government churches of the Middle Ages, or the tax-exempt government churches of the modern world, have never taught the true Gospel of Christ.
When men who should be Christians, meaning men who are of “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” reject Christ, if indeed they have heard the true message of the Scriptures, then if they reject it they are ostensibly upholding the Crucifixion, whereby the enemies of Christ sought to kill Him. Christ Himself had said “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
However where Paul says that when such men fall away it is impossible to restore them to repentance, he is only referring to their conduct in this life. All of Israel shall be saved, yet some will evidently have much more difficulty than others. For instance, speaking of two of his own fellow-workers among those who had made a “shipwreck” of the faith, as he described it, Paul said in 1 Timothy chapter 1: “Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” Ostensibly, as Paul had said of the fornicator in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, disobedient or sinful men are delivered to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
So we have this example in Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were evidently once enlightened, and who must have experienced the heavenly gift and had become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and who were given the understanding of the promises of God in reference to the powers of the coming age. It is quite evident that they would suffer for rejecting it all, and would therefore be punished so that they would “learn not to blaspheme.” But there must be a point in their learning, since there is no point in learning anything if the Spirit is destroyed. Therefore, as Paul had explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, “13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Those with the spirit of God who have no works will still be preserved through the fire, and therefore they shall all learn from their experiences here, but many of them, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, they shall have learned too late. Paul continues with a poetic analogy in reference to those who reject Christ, which by itself explains why many of them would reject Him:
7 For the ground which drinks the rain coming often upon it, and produces fodder well fit for those by whom it is also tilled, takes a share of blessing from Yahweh, 8 but bringing forth thorns and thistles is rejected and akin to a curse, of which the result is for burning.
And these are the works of men, which are all tried and burned in the fire. Anything which endures the fire is worthy of reward, and anything which does not stand the trial goes up in smoke. But we also learn from the Gospel that there are men themselves who are tares. The same Christ who said that “he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” also said in that same manner, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 7, “16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” [For instance, the Canaanites, ancestors of the modern Jews, were described as thorns.] Likewise, John the Baptist is recorded as having proclaimed that “he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
So Paul also warned the Corinthians in this same manner where he said in his second epistle to them, in its final chapter, “5 Truly, do you not yourselves observe that Yahshua Christ is among you, unless somehow you are spurious?” The works of men can be spurious, but since the tares were planted among the wheat by the enemies of God at the beginning (Matthew 13), there are men who may also be spurious. And spurious men are also the works of men, while spurious men certainly are not the works of God, as God created nothing which is spurious. That is why a good tree cannot possibly bring forth bad fruit, but a bad tree cannot possibly bring forth good fruit.
Therefore Christians, true Christians who have tasted “of the good word of Yahweh and powers of the coming age” originally had an obligation to reject all those who reject the true message of the Gospel. As the apostle John had said in his second epistle: “9 Each who going forth and not abiding in the teaching of Christ has not Yahweh. He abiding in the teaching, he also has the Father and the Son. 10 If one comes to you and does not bear this teaching, do not receive him into the house and do not speak to welcome him! 11 For he speaking to welcome him takes a share in his evil works.” Rather than heed this advice, the government-sanctioned churches of today have instead accepted the anti-Christs and rejected the apostles. But Paul encourages his readers:
9 But we are persuaded concerning you, beloved [א has “brethren”] of the better things and those involving preservation, if even in this manner we speak.
Paul speaks once more not of eternal salvation, since he himself professed that all Israel shall be saved, but rather of preservation in this life. It is the same Greek word, the noun σωτηρία or the related verb σώζω, from which we get salvation or preservation, to be saved or to be preserved, and the manner in which we translate these words, we do our best to determine from the context. But of course, preservation of the spirit is eternal salvation, and to be preserved in this life is to be granted a temporal salvation.
Christianity is not only for eternal life. For example, in Acts chapter 5 we read the following account where Peter and John had been arrested for their preaching in Jerusalem: “19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” Likewise Christ made an example, where He discussed the rejection that His apostles would have, and He said, as it is recorded in Luke chapter 18: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” So Christians labor for this life, already having an assurance of everlasting life. The Christian desire is to see the kingdom of heaven on earth. For that reason, God came to earth as a man, that He would be high priest of His Own Kingdom.