An Exposition of Hebrews
by A. W. Pink
Christ Superior to Angels
The title of this article is based upon the fact that the opening verses of Hebrews 2 contains an exhortation based upon what has been said in chapter 1. Thus, our present portion continues the second section of the Epistle. Inasmuch as it opens with the word "Therefore" we are called upon to review that which has already been before us.
The first section of the Epistle, contained in its first three verses, may be looked at in two ways: both as forming an Introduction to the Epistle as a whole, and as a distinct division of it, in which is set forth the superiority of Christ over the prophets. In what follows, to the end of the chapter, we are shown the superiority of Christ over angels. This is affirmed in verse 4, and the proofs thereof are found in verses 5-14. These proofs are all drawn from the Old Testament Scriptures, and the completeness and perfection of the demonstration thus afforded is evidenced by their being seven in number. Thus, centuries before He appeared on earth, the Word of Truth bore witness to the surpassing excellency of Christ and His exaltation above all creatures.
As an analysis and summary of what these seven passages teach concerning the superiority of Christ over the angels, we may express it thus: 1. He has obtained a more excellent name than they verses 4, 5. 2. He will be worshipped by them as the Firstborn, verse 6. 3. He made them, verse 7. 4. He is the Divine throne-sitter, verses 8, 9. 5. He is anointed above them, verse 9. 6. He is the Creator of the universe, immutable and eternal verses 10-12. 7. He has a higher place of honor verses 13, 14.
It is striking to note that these same seven quotations from the Old Testament also furnish proof of the sevenfold glory of the Mediator affirmed in verses 2, 3. There He is spoken of, first as the "Son:" proof of this is supplied in verse 5, by a quotation from the 2nd Psalm. Second, He is denominated the "Heir:" proof of this is given in verse 6, where He is owned as the "Firstborn." Third, it is said in verse 2 that He "made the worlds:" proof of this is given in verse 10 by a quotation from the 104th Psalm. Fourth, He is called "the Brightness of God’s glory:" in verse 9 an Old Testament Scripture is quoted to show that He has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." Fifth, He is the "express Image" of God’s person: in verse 8, Scripture is quoted to show that the Father owned Him as "God." Sixth, in verse 3 it is said that He has "purged our sins": in verse 14 we have mention of "the heirs of salvation." Seventh, in verse 3 it is affirmed that He has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"; in verse 13 the 110th Psalm is quoted in proof of this. What an example is this of "proving all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and that, by the Word of God itself!
Having set forth the excellency of Christ’s Divine nature and royal function, the apostle now, in chapter 2, proceeds to show the reality and uniqueness of His humanity. In passing from one to the other the Holy Spirit moves him to make a practical application to his hearers of what he had already brought before them, for the two things which ever concern and the two ends at which the true servant of God ever aims, are, the glory of the Lord and the spiritual good of those to whom he ministers. God’s truth is not only addressed to our understanding, but to our conscience. It is designed not only to instruct, but to move us and mould our lives.
In one sense the first four verses of chapter 2 form a parenthesis, inasmuch as they interrupt the apostle’s discussion of Christ’s relation to angels, which is resumed in verse 5 and amplified in verse 9. But this digression, so far from being a literary blemish, is very beautiful. When is it that a well-trained mind ceases to think logically? or an instructed preacher to speak in orderly sequence? Is it not when his heart is moved? when his emotions are deeply stirred? So was it here with the apostle Paul. His great heart yearned for the salvation of his brethren according to the flesh; therefore, did his mind turn for a moment from the theme he was pursuing, to address himself to their consciences. He who said to the saints at Rome, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Heb. 10:1), could not calmly write to the Hebrews without breaking off and making an impassioned appeal to them. This, we shall, D.V., find he does again and again.
That which is central in our present parenthesis is an exhortation to give good heed to the Gospel. This admonition is first propounded in verse 1, and then enforced in verses 2-4. Two points are noted for the enforcing of this duty; one is the danger; the other, the vengeance, which is certain to follow on the neglect of the Gospel. The danger is intimated in the word, "Lest we should let them slip." The vengeance is hinted in the question. "How shall we escape"? This is emphasized by a solemn warning, namely, despisers of God were summarily dealt with under the law; therefore, those who shut their ears to the Gospel, which is so much more excellent, are, without doubt, treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:4, 5). We are now ready to attend to the details of our present portion.
"Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (verse 1). In this verse, and in those which immediately follow, the apostle specifies a duty to be performed in regard of that most excellent Teacher which God sent to reveal His Gospel unto them. This duty is to give more than ordinary heed unto that Gospel. Such is the force of the opening, "Therefore," which signifies, for this cause: because God has vouchsafed so excellent a Teacher, He must be the more carefully attended unto. The "therefore" looks back to all the varied glories which set forth Christ’s excellency named in the previous chapter. Because He is God’s "Son," therefore give heed. Because He is "the Heir of all things," therefore give heed. Because He "made the worlds," therefore give heed; and so on. These are so many grounds on which our present exhortation is based.
"Therefore is equivalent to, ‘Since Jesus Christ is as much better than the angels, as He hath received by inheritance a more excellent name than they—since He is both essentially and officially inconceivably superior to these heavenly messengers, His message has paramount claims on our attention, belief, and obedience’," (Dr. J. Brown).
The eminency of an author’s dignity and authority, and the excellency of his knowledge and wisdom, do much commend that which is spoken or written by him. If a king, prudent and learned, takes upon himself to instruct others, due attention and diligent heed should be given thereunto. "The Queen of the South came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon" (Matt. 12:42), and counted those of his servants who stood continually before him and heard his wisdom, to be happy (1 Kings 10:8). But a greater than Solomon is here referred to by the apostle: therefore, we ought "to give the more earnest heed." It was usual with the prophets to preface their utterances with a "Thus saith the Lord," and thereby arrest the attention and awe the hearts of their hearers. Here the apostle refers to the person of the Lord Himself as the argument for hearing what He said.
"Therefore we ought." "It is striking to see how the apostle takes the place of such as simply had the message, like other Jews, from those who personally heard Him; so completely was he writing, not as the apostle magnifying his office, but as one of Israel, who were addressed by those who companied with Messiah on earth. It was confirmed ‘unto us,’ says he, again putting himself along with his nation, instead of conveying his heavenly revelations as one taken out from the people and the Gentiles to which he was sent. He looks at what was their proper testimony, not at that to which he had been separated extraordinarily. He is dealing with them as much as possible on their own ground, though, of course, without compromise of his own" (William Kelly).
"We ought to give the more earnest heed." Here the apostle addresses himself to the responsibility of his readers. Here is an exhortation to the performing of a specific duty. The Greek verb is very strong and emphatic; several times it is translated "must." Thus, in 1 Timothy 3:2, "A bishop must be blameless"; that is, it is his duty so to be. That to which the apostle here pointed was a necessity lying upon his readers. It is not an arbitrary matter, left to our own caprice to do or not to do. "Give the more earnest heed," is something more than a piece of good advice; it is a Divine precept, and God has commanded us "to keep His precepts diligently" (Ps. 119:4). Thus, in view of His sovereignty, and His power and rights over us, we "ought to give the more earnest heed" to what He has bidden us do. Descending to a lower level, it is the part of wisdom so to do, and that for our own good; we "ought to earnestly heed the things which we hear" in order to our own happiness.
"To ‘give heed’ is to apply the mind to a particular subject, to attend to it, to consider it. It is here opposed to ‘neglecting the great salvation.’ No person can read the Scriptures without observing the stress that is laid on consideration, and the criminality and hazards which are represented as connected with inconsideration. Nor is this at all wonderful when we reflect that the Gospel is a moral remedy for a moral disease. It is by being believed it becomes efficacious. It cannot be believed unless it is understood: it cannot be understood unless it is attended to. Truth must be kept before the mind in order to its producing an appropriate effect; and how can it be kept before the mind, but by our giving heed to it" (Dr. J. Brown).
"The duty here intended is a serious, firm, and fixed settling of the mind upon that which we hear; a bowing and bending of the will to yield unto it; an applying of the heart to it, a placing of the affections upon it, and bringing the whole man into conformity thereunto. Thus it comprises knowledge of the Word, faith therein, obedience thereto, and all other due respects that may any way concern it" (Dr. Gouge).
"To the things which we have heard." To "hear" is not sufficient, there must be prayerful meditation, personal appropriation. No doubt the wider reference was to the Gospel, which these Hebrews had heard; though the more direct appeal was concerning that which the apostle had brought before them, in the previous chapter concerning the person and work of God’s Son. To us, today, it would include all that God has said in His Word.
"Lest at any time we should let slip." There is a difficulty here in making quite sure of the Spirit’s precise meaning. The expression "we should let slip" is one word in the Greek, and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The absence of the pronoun seems to be designed for the allowing of a double thought: lest we "let slip" the things we have heard, and, or, lest we ourselves slip away—apostatize.
"Lest at any time we let them slip." The danger is real. The effects of sin are stamped on our members; it is easy to recall the things of no value, but the things of God slip out of our mind. The fault is our own, through failing to give "the more earnest heed." Unless we "keep in memory" (1 Cor. 15:2), and unless we are duly informed by them, they slip away like water out of a leaky utensil.
"Lest haply we drift away." Understood thus, these words sound the first warning-note of this Epistle against apostasy, and this verse is parallel with 3:14; 4:1; 12:25. Perseverance in the faith, continuance in the Word, is a prime pre-requisite of discipleship, see John 8:31; Colossians 1:23, etc. Many who heard, and once seemed really interested in spiritual things, "concerning the faith have made shipwreck" (1 Tim. 1:19).
Thus, in the light of the whole context four reasons may be mentioned why we should give the more earnest heed to the things which God has spoken unto us: First, because of the glory and majesty of the One by whom He has communicated His mind and will, the Son. Second, because the message of Christianity is final. Third, because of the infinite preciousness of the Gospel. Fourth, because of the hopeless perdition and terrible tortures awaiting those who reject or let slip the testimony of God’s wondrous grace.
"For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward" (verse 2). The apostle here advances another reason why the Hebrews ought to attend diligently to the Gospel. Having shown that such attention should be given because of the excellency of its Author and Publisher, and because of the benefits which would be lost through negligence, he now announces the certain vengeance of Heaven on its neglecters, a vengeance sorer than even that which was wont to be executed under the Law.
The opening "for" indicates that what follows gives a reason for persuading the Hebrews. The "if" has the force of "since," as in John 8:46; 14:3; Colossians 3:1, etc. The "word spoken by angels" seems to refer to the Mosaic law, compare Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19. "The only difficulty seems to arise out of the express declaration made by the sacred historian, that Jehovah spake all the words of the law. But the difficulty is more apparent than real. What lies at the foundation of the apostle’s whole argument is God spake both the Law and the Gospel. Both the one and the other are of Divine origin. It is not the origin, but the medium of the two revelations which he contrasts. ‘He made known His will by the ministry of angels in the giving of the law; He made known His will by the Son in the revelation of mercy.’ It seems probable from these words that the audible voice in which the revelation from Mount Sinai was made, was produced by angelic ministry" (Dr. J. Brown).
Because the word spoken, ministerially, by angels was the Word of the Lord, it was "steadfast"—firm, inviolable, not to be gainsaid. Proof of this is furnished in the "and every transgression," etc. The distinction between "transgression" and "disobedience" is not easy to define. The one refers more to the outward act of violating God’s law; the other, perhaps, to the state of heart which produced it. The words "receive a just recompense of reward" signify that every violation of God’s law was punished according to its demerits. The term "reward" conveys the thought of "that which is due." Punishment for the breaking of God’s law is not always administered in this life, but is none the less sure: see Romans 2:3-9.
This verse sets out a most important principle in connection with the governmental dealings of God: that principle is that the Judge of all the earth will be absolutely just in His dealings with the wicked. Though the direct reference be to His administration of the Law’s penalty in the past, yet, inasmuch as He changes not, it is strictly applicable to the great assize in the Day to come. There will be degrees of punishment, and those degrees, the sentence meted out to each rebel against God, will be on this basis, that every transgression and disobedience shall receive "a just recompense of reward." In brief, we may say that punishment will be graded according to light and opportunity (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 12:47, 48), according to the nature of the sins committed (John 19:11; Mark 12:38-40; Heb. 10:29), according to the number of the sins committed (Rom. 2:6, etc.).
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" (verse 3). This verse evokes a number of questions to which, perhaps, no conclusive and final answers may be furnished. Who are referred to by the "we"? How shall we escape—what? Exactly what is in view in the "so great salvation?" In pondering these questions several considerations need to be steadily kept before us. First, the people to whom this Epistle was directly addressed and the circumstances in which they were then placed. Second, the central purpose of the Epistle and the character of its distinctive theme. Third, the bearing of the context on this verse and its several expressions. Fourth, light which other passages in this Epistle may shed upon it.
The relation between this verse and the preceding ones is evident. The apostle had just been pressing upon his brethren the need of their more earnestly giving heed unto the things which they had heard, which is more or less defined in the second half of verse 3: "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord"—the reference being to His preaching of the Gospel. By a metonymy, the Gospel, that reveals and proclaims God’s salvation, is here meant. In Ephesians 1:13 it is styled "The gospel of your salvation," in Acts 13:26 the "word of this salvation," in Romans 1:16 it is called "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," and in Titus 2:11, "the grace of God which bringeth salvation." The Gospel dispensation is denominated "the Day of Salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). Ministers of the Gospel are they "which show unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17).
That under this word "salvation" the Gospel be meant, is also evident from the contrastive expression in verse 2—"the word spoken by angels." That word was spoken before the time of the Gospel’s publication (note that the term "Gospel" is never once found in the Old Testament), and obviously signified the Law. Fitly may the Gospel be styled "salvation:" first, because in opposition to the Law (which was a "ministration of condemnation" 2 Cor. 3:9), it is a ministration of salvation. Second, because the Author of the Gospel is "salvation" itself: see Luke 2:30, John 4:22, etc., where "salvation" is synonymous with "the Savior." Third, because whatever is needful to a knowledge of salvation is contained in the Gospel. Fourth, because the Gospel is God’s appointed means of salvation: see 1 Corinthians 1:21. True, in Old Testament times God’s elect had and knew the Gospel—Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 4:2—yet it was not publicly proclaimed and fully expounded. They had it under types and shadows, and in promises and prophecies.
The excellency of this salvation is denoted by the words "so great." The absence of any co-relative implies it to be so wondrous that its greatness cannot be expressed. Upon this Dr. J. Brown has well said: "The ‘salvation’ here, then, is the deliverance of men through the mediation of Jesus Christ. This salvation is spoken of by the Apostle as unspeakably great: not merely a great salvation, nor even the great salvation but ‘so great salvation’—an expression peculiarly fitted to express his high estimate of its importance. And who that knows anything about that deliverance can wonder at the Apostle using such language?
"What are the evils from which it saves us? The displeasure of God, with all its fearful consequences in time and eternity; and ‘who knows the power of His anger?’ We must measure the extent of infinite power, we must fathom the depths of infinite wisdom, before we can resolve the fearful question. We can only say, ‘According to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath.’ The most frightful conception comes infinitely short of the more dreadful reality. A depravity of nature ever increasing, and miseries varied according to our varied capacities of suffering—limited in intensity only by our powers of endurance, which an almighty enemy can enlarge indefinitely, and protracted throughout the whole eternity of our being—these are the evils from which this salvation delivers.
"And what are the blessings to which it raises? A full, free, and everlasting remission of our sins—the enjoyment of the paternal favor of the infinitely powerful, and wise, and benignant Jehovah—the transformation of our moral nature—a tranquil conscience—a good hope down here; and in due time, perfect purity and perfect happiness for ever in the eternal enjoyment of God.
"And how were these evils averted from us?—how were these blessings obtained for us? By the incarnation, obedience, suffering, and death of the Only-begotten of God, as a sin-offering in our room! And how are we individually interested in this salvation? Through the operations of the Holy Spirit, in which He manifests a power not inferior to that by which the Savior was raised from the dead, or the world was created. Surely such a deliverance well merits the appellation, a ‘so great salvation!’"
But this great salvation, which is made known in the Gospel, may be "neglected." While it is true that salvation is not only announced, but is also secured to and effectuated in God’s elect by the Holy Spirit, yet it must not be forgotten that the Gospel addresses the moral responsibility of those to whom it comes. There is not only an effectual call, but a general one, which is made unto "the sons of men" (Pro. 8:4). The Gospel is for the sinner’s acceptance, see 1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Corinthians 11:41. The Gospel is more than a publication of good news, more than an invitation for burdened souls to come to Christ for relief and peace. In its first address to those who hear, it is a Divine mandate, an authoritative command, which is disregarded at the sinner’s imminent peril. That it does issue a "command" is clear from Acts 17:30; Romans 16:25, 26. That disobedience to this "command" will be punished, is clear from John 3:18, 1 Peter 4:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
The Greek word here rendered "neglect" is translated "made light of" in Matthew 22:5. In this latter passage the reference is to the King making a marriage for His Son, and then sending forth his servants to call them which were bidden to the wedding. But they "made light of" the King’s gracious overtures and "went their ways, one to his family, another to his merchandise." The parable sets forth the very sin against which the apostle was here warning the Hebrews, namely, failure to give earnest heed to the things which were spoken by the Lord, and neglecting His great salvation. To "neglect" the Gospel, is to remain inattentive and unbelieving. How, then, asks the apostle, shall such "escape?" "Escape" what? Why, the "damnation of Hell" (Matt. 23:33)! Such, we take it, is the first meaning and wider scope of the searching question asked in verse 3. Should it be objected, This cannot be, for in the "we" the apostle Paul manifestly included himself. The answer is, so also does he in the "we" of Hebrews 10:26! That the "we" includes more than those who had really believed the Gospel will be clear from verse 4.
Coming now to the narrower application of these words and their more direct bearing upon the regenerated Hebrews whom the Holy Spirit was specifically addressing, we must consider them in the light of the chief design of this Epistle, and the circumstances in which the Hebrews were then placed; namely, under sore temptation to forsake their espousal of Christianity and to return to Judaism. Looked at thus, the "so great salvation" is only another name for Christianity itself, the "better thing" (Heb. 11:40) which had been brought in by Christ. Judaism was about to fall under the unsparing judgment of God. If, therefore, they turned from their allegiance to Christ and went back to that which was on the eve of being destroyed, how could they "escape" was the question which they must face?
Hebrews 2:3 must be interpreted in harmony with its whole context. In the opening verse of chapter 2 the apostle is making a practical and searching application of all he had said in chapter 1, where he had shown the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, by proving the exaltation of Christ—the Center and Substance of Christianity—over prophets and angels. In Hebrews 1:14, He had spoken of the "heirs of salvation" which, among other things, pointed to their salvation as being yet future. In one sense they had been saved (from the penalty of sin), in another sense they were still being saved (from the power of sin), in still another sense they were yet to be saved (from the presence of sin). But God ever deals with His people as accountable creatures. As moral beings, in contrast from stock and stones, He addresses their responsibility. Hence, God’s saints are called upon to give diligence to make their "calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10)—sure unto themselves, and unto their brethren. This, among other things, is done, by using the Divinely-appointed means of grace, and by perseverance and continuance in the faith: see John 8:31; Acts 11:23; 13:43; 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:14, etc.
The Christian life is likened unto a "race" set before us: 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1. A "race" calls for self-discipline, personal exertion, perseverance. The Inheritance is set before us in promise, but it is written, "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36). The "promise" is secured by faith and patience, by actually "running" the race set before us. In the light of this, "neglect" would signify failure to "give diligence" to make our calling and election sure, failure to "press forward" and "run the race." If then we "neglect," how shall we "escape?" Escape what? Ah, note how abstractly the apostle worded it. He did not specify the "what." It all depends upon the state of the individual. If he be only a lifeless professor and continues neglecting the Gospel, Hell will be his certain portion. But if he be a regenerated believer, though a careless and worldly one, then lack of assurance and joy, profitless and fruitlessness, will be his portion; and then, how shall he "escape" the chastening rod of the holy Father? Thus, the question asked in our verse addresses itself to all who read the Epistle.
"Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard" (verse 3). This need not detain us long. Its central design is to emphasize the importance and need of heeding that which had been spoken by Christ: with it should be carefully compared Deuteronomy 18:18, 19: Luke 9:35. Incidentally, the words "at the first began" intimates that Christ was the first Gospel-Preacher! The reference is to that which was preached first by Christ Himself, recorded in the Gospels; then, to that which was proclaimed by His apostles, reported in the book of Acts. The title here given to the Savior, "Lord," emphasizes both His dignity and authority, and intimates that the responsibility of the Hebrews was being addressed. Till Christ came and preached, "the people sat in darkness and in the shadow and region of death;" and when He began to preach, they "saw great light" (Matt. 4:16). With the "confirmed unto us" compare Luke 1:1, 2. The apostle was calling the Hebrews’ attention to the sureness of the ground on which their faith rested.
"God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will" (verse 4). The reference here is to the miracles wrought by God through the apostles in the early days of the Christian era. The book of Acts records many examples and illustrations of what is here said: see 5:9, 10; 13:11; 3:7; 9:40; 19:12, etc. The Gospel was first preached by the Lord Himself, then it was confirmed by the apostles, and then again by God Himself in such works as could not be performed by a Divine power. "Bearing witness with" is a single word in the Greek, but a double compound. The simple verb signifies to witness to a thing as in John 1:7; the compound, to add testimony to testimony, or to add a testimony to some other confirmation; the double compound, to give a joint-testimony or to give-witness-together with one another. A similar compound is used in Romans 8:16.
The means employed by God in thus confirming the witness of His servant are described by four terms: signs, wonders, miracles, gifts. The first three refer to the same things, though under different aspects. "Signs" denote the making more simple and evident that which otherwise could hardly be discerned; compare the use of the terms in Matthew 12:38; 16:1, and note the "see" and "show." "Wonders" points both to the striking nature of the "signs" and to the effects produced in those who beheld them: compare Acts 2:19; 7:36. "Miracles" refers to the supernatural power which produced the "signs" and "wonders." The Greek word is rendered "mighty deeds" in 2 Corinthians 12:12. Thus, "miracles" are visible and wondrous works done by the all-mighty power of God, above or against the course of nature. Our text speaks of "divers miracles": many sorts of supernatural interpositions of God are recorded in the Acts.
An additional means employed by God in confirming the Gospel was "gifts of the Holy Spirit." The Greek word here rendered "gifts" means "divisions" or "distributions"; in the singular number it occurs in Hebrews 4:12, where it is translated "dividing asunder." In its verbal form it is found in 1 Corinthians 7:17, "God hath distributed to every man." Because these distributions of the Holy Spirit originated not in those by whom they were exercised and through whom they were displayed, they are not unfitly translated "gifts"; the reference being to the gifts extraordinary, manifested through and by the apostles. These "gifts" may also be seen in the book of Acts—the day of Pentecost, e.g., also in 1 Corinthians 12:4 and what there follows. We may add that these "divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit" were given by God before the New Testament was written. Now that the Scriptures are complete they are no longer needed, nor given.
"According to His own will." The fore-mentioned divers miracles and distributions of gifts were ordered and disposed according to the sovereign pleasure of Deity. The act of distributing is attributed to God the Father in 1 Corinthians 7:17, to the Son in Ephesians 4:7, to the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:11. The Greek signifies, "according to His own will." The will of God is the one rule by which all things are ordered that He Himself doeth, and whereby all things ought to be ordered that His creatures do. Scripture distinguishes between the secret and revealed will of God, see Deuteronomy 29:29, where both are referred to. The secret will of God is called His "counsel" (Isa. 46:10), the "counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11), His "purpose" (Rom. 8:28), His "good pleasure" (Eph. 1:9). The revealed will of God is made known in His Word, and is so called because, just as the ordinary means by which men make known their minds is by the word of their mouth, so the revelation of God’s will is called "His Word." This revealed will of God is described in Romans 12:2, and is primarily intended in the second clause of the Lord’s prayer. Here in our text it is the secret will of God which is meant.
In these days of creature-pride and haughtiness, we need reminding that God is sovereign, conferring with none, consulting none; doing as He pleases. God’s will is His only rule. As He creates, governs, and disposes all things, so He distributes the gifts of His Spirit "according to His own will." Should any murmur, His challenge is "Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with Mine own?" (Matt. 20:15). It is important to note that these gifts of the Spirit were distributed not "according to the faith" of those who received them—just as in the parable of the talents the supreme Sovereign distributed them unequally, according to His own good pleasure. May Divine grace bring both writer and reader into complete subjection to the secret will of God and obedience to His revealed will.
What has been before us in verses 2, 3 tells us how firm and sure is the foundation on which our faith rests. In giving earnest heed to the Gospel, notwithstanding its unique and amazing contents, we are not following cunningly devised fables, but that which comes to us certified by unimpeachable witnesses. First, it began to be spoken by the Lord Himself. Though this was sufficient to make the Gospel "worthy of all acceptation," God mercifully, because of our weakness, caused it to be "confirmed" by those who had heard the Lord for themselves. The witness of these men was, in turn, authenticated by Divine displays of power through them such as was never seen before or since. Finally, additional attestation was furnished in supernatural outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God has graciously added witness to witness and testimony to testimony. How thankful we should be for these many infallible proofs! May this consideration of them result in the strengthening of our faith to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.