Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9

A Summary of Hebrews 4:14-16

In these verses the Apostle introduces his third principal argument to prove the superiority of the New Dispensation to the Old, namely, the High-priesthood of Christ, which he had already mentioned in Heb 2:17 and Heb 3:1, but which will now occupy the rest of the dogmatic part of the Epistle (Heb 4:14—10:8). He has proved so far that Christ, the Mediator of the New Dispensation, is superior to the angels (Heb 1:4—2:18) and to Moses (Heb 3:1—4:13), who were the intermediaries in the giving of the Old Law. Now he will show that the priesthood of Christ is far more excellent than the priesthood of the Old Law (Heb 4:14—10:18).

In the remaining verses of the present Chapter the Apostle says that, since we now have a High Priest who has passed into the very presence of the Father and who has sympathy for us, having experienced all our sorrows save sin, we must approach the throne of grace with all confidence, so as to receive mercy and the grace we need.

Heb 4:14. Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Having therefore, etc., i.e., In view of what has been said above (Heb 2:17, 3:1), it is clear that we have a High Priest, and indeed a great High Priest, who is far superior to the angels and Moses of the Old Law. And in contrast with the High Priest of the Old Dispensation, who was accustomed once a year on the Day of Atonement to pass behind the veil of the Temple into the Holy of Holies, into the presence of the Ark which was a symbol of the divine presence, this High Priest of the New Dispensation, who is Jesus the Son of God, “hath passed through the heavens,” i.e., behind the curtain which separates this world from the unveiled presence of God, and into the very presence of the Father Himself. Let us, therefore, hold fast to the faith we profess. The readers of the Epistle were in danger of losing their faith.

Heb 4:15. For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities, but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.

And not only has our High Priest entered into the very presence of the Godhead, thereby estabhshing for us direct communication -with, the Father, but He also retains close relationship with us and feels for us, because He has lived our life, experienced our sorrows and labors, and has allowed Himself to be tried in all things like ourselves, apart from sin.

Unlike ourselves, who suffer from the effects of original sin, our Lord’s temptations were all from without and not at all from within, because there was with Him always perfect harmony between His body and His soul, between His flesh and His spirit. Since our Lord was tempted, He knows how to sympathize with us in our temptations; and since He was sinless, He is able powerfully to plead for us.

Heb 4:16. Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid.

As our High Priest is seated in the presence of the Father, enthroned above the heavens, and yet is able to sympathize with us and knows all our needs, we can go with confidence to His throne of grace, seeking mercy for our infirmities and the help we need at all times.

Throne of grace is likely an allusion to the mercy-seat above the Ark, between the wings of the cherubim (Ex 25:21), where God manifested Himself in a special manner.

A Summary of Hebrews 5:1-10

Every High Priest must, first of all, have the same nature as those for whom he is to act as priest; secondly, he must be able  to understand and have sympathy with human frailty; and thirdly, he must have received a divine call (ver. 1-4). Now all these qualifications were found in Jesus Christ: He was made a priest by the Eternal Father at the time of the Incarnation, when He became the divine mediator between God and man, and in the days of His flesh He showed His love and sympathy for mankind and was perfected as man by suffering, thus, through His sacrifice of obedience, becoming the source of eternal salvation for all who follow Him (ver. 5-10).

7. Who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence.

The reference in this verse is to the whole sacrifice of Christ, which began with the agony in the garden and terminated with His sufferings and death on the cross. Compare this and the following verse with Phil 2:5 ff.

Who refers to our Lord; and the phrase, “in the days of his flesh,” means His human, mortal Ufe, when He shared our common experience of grief, suffering, and death.

Offering up prayers, etc. Perhaps there is no great distinction to be made between “prayers” and “supphcations” here, though the former term may be more definite and the latter more general in character. “Supplications” also carries with it here the thought of greater fervor and intensity.

Offering up, as a priest; the word is the same as that used in verse 1 for “offering gifts and sacrifices.”

To him that was able, etc., i.e., to God the Father.

From death. Better, “out of death.” Our Lord was not saved from dying, which He did not pray for, but from the effects of death, from the corruption and dominion of death; and this latter was the object of His prayer. Others say, however, that the object of our Lord’s petition was perfect resignation and submission to the divine will. In either case He “was heard”; for He calmly resigned Himself to the divine will and plan, meeting death without fear, and on the third day He arose to a glorious and immortal life, thus triumphing over death and its powers.

For his reverence. Better, “because of his reverential fear,” i.e., because of the fear, combined with reverence, with which He submitted to the divine will.

8. And whereas indeed he was Son, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered:

Though our Lord was the Son of God and the Creator of the world, He submitted Himself as man entirely to the Father’s will in all things, and learned obedience in an experimental way by the trials and tests of suffering which He endured. It was only experimentally that our Lord could be said to learn anything, for in Him were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge from the very beginning of His incarnation (see on Col 3:3); and hence it was only as His obedience was put to test and trial by actual suffering that He is here described as learning “obedience by the things which he suffered.”

9. And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation,

Our Lord’s sacrifice of obedience as man had a twofold effect; for Himself it brought to completion and perfection His experimental training as a High Priest, which terminated in His resurrection and glorification (Phil 2:8 ff.); and for man it became the cause and principle of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him, by following His law and practising His precepts. Being consummated. Better, “being made perfect,” as a High Priest; the allusion is to our Lord’s glorification after the resurrection.

This entry was posted in Catholic, Notes on Hebrews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Father Callan’s Commentary on Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord | stjoeofoblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s