Hebrews 9:14 MEANING

Hebrews 9:14
(14) Through the eternal Spirit.--Better, through an eternal Spirit; for in a passage of so much difficulty it is important to preserve the exact rendering of the Greek, and the arguments usually adduced seem insufficient to justify the ordinary translation. By most readers of the Authorised version, probably, these words are understood as referring to the Holy Spirit, whose influence continually rested on "the Anointed One of God" (Acts 10:38). For this opinion there seems to be no foundation in the usage of the New Testament, and it is not indicated by anything in the context. The explanation of the words must rather be sought in the nature of our Lord, or in some attribute of that nature. There are a few passages, mainly in the Epistles of St. Paul, in which language somewhat similar is employed in regard to the spirit (pneuma) of our Lord. The most remarkable of these are Romans 1:4, where "spirit of holiness" is placed in contrast with "flesh;" and 1 Timothy 3:16, "in spirit." On the latter Bishop Ellicott writes: "in spirit, in the higher sphere of His divine life: the pneuma of Christ is not here the Holy Spirit, but the higher principle of spiritual life, which was not the Divinity (this would be an Apollinarian assertion), but especially and intimately united with it." (Another passage of great interest is 1 Peter 3:18.) The attribute "eternal" is explained by Hebrews 7:18-19, "according to power of indissoluble life (He hath become priest), for of Him it is testified, Thou art a priest for ever." Through this spirit, a spirit of holiness, a spirit of indissoluble life, He offered Himself to God. This made such a self-offering possible; this gave to the offering infinite worth. In the words which stand in contrast with these (Hebrews 9:13) we read of the death of animals which had no power over their own transient life: He who was typified in every high priest and in every victim, "through an eternal spirit," of Himself laid down His life (John 10:18), offering Himself to God in the moment and article of death,--offered Himself in His constant presence in the Holiest Place (Hebrews 9:24).

Without spot.--The word here used is frequently applied in the LXX. to the victims "without blemish" that were offered in sacrifice. The sinlessness of Jesus is expressed under the same metaphor in 1 Peter 1:19.

Purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.--Better, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve a Living God. The word "cleanse" is akin to "cleanness" in Hebrews 9:13. Authorities are divided between "our" and "your"; but the former is probably the better reading. Once before, in Hebrews 6:1, the writer has spoken of "dead works." (See the Note.) It is here, however, that the significance most fully appears; for we cannot doubt that there exists a reference to the purification made necessary by all contact with death. (See Hebrews 9:13.) Since the works are dead because they had no share in true life, which is the life of God, the last words bring before us the thought of a Living God (Hebrews 3:12). This thought also stands connected with "eternal Spirit," for those who are cleansed through the offering of Christ shall share His relation to the Living God. The contrast is in every respect complete. From the whole number of Jewish rites had been selected (Hebrews 9:13) the two which most fully represented the purification from sin and from pollution through death, in order that this completeness of antithesis might be attained. It is not necessary to trace the details of the contrast. In each and in all we read the "How much more!"

Verse 14. - How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purify your (al. our) conscience from dead works to serve the living God? As in vers. 11, 12 Christ's entrance was contrasted with that of the high priest, so here is the sacrifice itself, in virtue of which he entered, similarly contrasted. The points of contrast to which attention is drawn are these:

(1) It was the blood, not of beasts that perish, but of Christ himself - the Christ, the Hope of Israel, whose Divine prerogatives have been set forth in the preceding chapters.

(2) He offered himself. His offering was a voluntary self-oblation, not the blood-shedding of passive victims.

(3) His offering was realty "spotless" (ἄμωμος) in the sense of sinless - the only sense that can satisfy Divine justice - symbolized only by the absence of material blemish in the ancient sacrifices.

(4) And this he did "through the eternal Spirit." This expression, which comes first in order, has an important bearing on the meaning of the whole passage, and calls for especial consideration. Be it observed, first, that the words are "the eternal Spirit," not "the Holy Spirit." It is not the usual designation of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. (The reading ἅγιου for αἰωνίου has not much authority in its favor, and is, besides, much more likely to have been substituted than the other.) What, then, is meant by "the eternal Spirit," through which Christ offered himself spotless? There are three notable texts in which the Spirit in Christ is opposed to the flesh: Romans 1:3, Τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ Πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν 1 Timothy 3:16, Ἐφανερώθη ἐκ σαρκὶ ἐδεκαιώωθη ἐν πνεύματι: 1 Peter 3:18, Θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ τῷ πνεύματι. In all these passages the Spirit is that Divine element of life in Christ, distinct from the human nature which he assumed of the seed of David, in virtue of which he rose from the dead. In us men, too, according to St. Paul, there is the πνεύμα, as well as σάρξ and ψυχή (sometimes πνεύμα and σάρξ alone are spoken of) - the higher principle of life within us, in virtue of which we can have communion with God and be influenced by his Holy Spirit. Any act of acceptable sell oblation that we might be capable of would be done through the spirit that is in us, to which the flesh is subdued. Corresponding to this in Christ was "the eternal Spirit" - a truly Divine spiritual Personality, conjoined with his assumed humanity. Through this he overcame death, it being impossible that he should be holden of it; through this, too he offered himself a willing sacrifice, submitting to the full penalty of human sin in obedience to the Father's will. Thus is prominently brought to view the spiritual aspect of the atonement. Its especial virtue is said to lie, not in the mere suffering or the mere physical blood-shedding and death upon the cross, but in its being a voluntary act of perfect obedience on the part of him who was the Representative of man, and in whom "the eternal Spirit" triumphed over the weakness of humanity. The agony in the garden (see under ver. 7, etc.) is illustrative of this view of the virtue of the atonement. There we perceive "the eternal Spirit" in the Savior completely victorious over natural human shrinking. The same view appears in the reference to Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10, where "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" expresses the essential principle of the availing sacrifice (see below on Hebrews 10:5, etc.). Hence follows what is said next of the effect of such a sacrifice as this was - to purify, not the flesh, but the conscience (συνειδησιν), meaning "man's inner consciousness" with regard to God and our relations to him. It belonged essentially to the spiritual sphere of things, and in that sphere (as was not the case with the old sacrifices) must be, and is felt to be, its availing power. It was, in fact, just such a sacrifice as man's conscience, if enlightened, feels to be due to God. Man, as he is now, cannot make it; but in the "Son of man" he sees it made, and thus finds at last the idea of a true atonement fulfilled. In the expression, "dead works," there may be an intended allusion to the dead bodies from the pollution of which especially the "ashes of an heifer" purified; and in "to serve" (εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν) there is an evident reference to the legal type. As the legal sin offering purified the flesh from the contamination of contact with the dead, so that the Israelites, thus cleansed, might offer acceptable worship, so Christ's offering of himself fulfils what was thus typified; it purifies the "conscience" from the contamination of "dead works," so that we may offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our λογικὴ λατρεία (Romans 12:1). On νεκρῶν ἔργων, see under Hebrews 6:1. Here, the idea of general pollution pervading the whole congregation having been prominent in what precedes, we may, perhaps, take the expression as denoting all human works whatever "done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit," all being regarded as tainted with sin, and so dead for the purpose of justification. The purification from them which is spoken of involves (be it further observed) both justification through atonement and sanctification through grace: the first, since, otherwise, the very meaning of the old sin offerings would not be fulfilled; the second, as denoted by the concluding clause, "to serve," etc. The second is the necessary sequence of the first. Believers are not only "cleansed from their former sins," but also put into a position for offering an acceptable service. In the life of Christ in whom they live, and who ever liveth to make intercession for them, they can henceforth "serve the living God." There is involved, in fact (to return to the account of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31.), both oblivion of past sins and a writing of the Law upon the heart.

9:11-14 All good things past, present, and to come, were and are founded upon the priestly office of Christ, and come to us from thence. Our High Priest entered into heaven once for all, and has obtained eternal redemption. The Holy Ghost further signified and showed that the Old Testament sacrifices only freed the outward man from ceremonial uncleanness, and fitted him for some outward privileges. What gave such power to the blood of Christ? It was Christ's offering himself without any sinful stain in his nature or life. This cleanses the most guilty conscience from dead, or deadly, works to serve the living God; from sinful works, such as pollute the soul, as dead bodies did the persons of the Jews who touched them; while the grace that seals pardon, new-creates the polluted soul. Nothing more destroys the faith of the gospel, than by any means to weaken the direct power of the blood of Christ. The depth of the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ, we cannot dive into, the height we cannot comprehend. We cannot search out the greatness of it, or the wisdom, the love, the grace that is in it. But in considering the sacrifice of Christ, faith finds life, food, and refreshment.How much more shall the blood of Christ,.... Which is not the blood of a mere man, but the blood of the Son of God; and the argument is from the lesser to the greater; that if the ashes of the burnt heifer, which was a type of Christ in his sufferings, mixed with water, typically sanctified to the purifying of men externally, in a ceremonial way, then much more virtue must there be in the blood of Christ, to cleanse the soul inwardly:

who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God; Christ is a priest, and the sacrifice he has offend up is "himself"; not his divine nature, but his human nature, soul and body, as in union with his divine person; which gives his sacrifice the preference to all others; and is the reason of its virtue and efficacy, and is expressive of his great love to man: and this sacrifice was offered up "to God", against whom his people had sinned, and whose justice must be satisfied, and which is of a sweet smelling savour to him; besides, he called him to this work, and engaged him in it, and is well pleased with this offering, as he must needs be, since it is offered up "without spot"; which expresses the purity of Christ's nature and sacrifice, and the perfection of it, which is such, that no fault can be found in it by the justice of God; and hence, the saints, for whom it is offered, are unblamable and irreprovable, There is an allusion in the clause, both to the priests and to their sacrifices, which were neither of them to have any spot or blemish on them; and this unblemished sacrifice was offered unto God by Christ,

through the eternal Spirit; not the human soul of Christ; for though that is a spirit, yet not eternal, and besides, was a part of the sacrifice; but rather the divine nature of Christ, which is a spirit, and may be so called in distinction from the flesh, or human nature, as it sometimes is, and this is eternal; it was from everlasting, as well as is to everlasting; and this supported him under all his sufferings, and carried him through them, and put virtue unto them; and Christ was a priest, in the divine, as well as human nature: though by it may be better understood "the Holy Ghost"; and so the Vulgate Latin version reads, and also several copies; since the divine nature rather acts by the human nature, than the human nature by the divine; and Christ is often said to do such and such things by the Holy Spirit; and as the Holy Ghost formed and filled the human nature of Christ, so he assisted and supported it under sufferings. This whole clause is inserted by way of parenthesis, showing the efficacy of Christ's blood, and from whence it is:

to purge your conscience from dead works; that is, "from the works of sin", as the Ethiopic version renders it; which are performed by dead men, separate and alienated from the life of God, are the cause of the death of the soul, and expose to eternal death, and are like dead carcasses, nauseous and infectious; and even duties themselves, performed without faith and love, are dead works; nor can they procure life, and being depended on, issue in death; and even the works of believers themselves are sometimes performed in a very lifeless manner, and are attended with sin and pollution, and need purging: the allusion is to the pollution by the touch of dead bodies; and there may be some respect to the sacrifices of slain beasts, after the sacrifice and death of Christ, by believing Jews, who were sticklers for the ceremonies of the law, and thereby contracted guilt; but immoralities are chiefly designed, and with these the conscience of man is defiled; and nothing short of the blood of Christ can remove the pollution of sin; as that being shed procures atonement, and so purges away the guilt of sin, or makes reconciliation for it, so being sprinkled on the conscience by the Spirit of God, it speaks peace and pardon, and pacifies and purges it, and removes every incumbrance from it: the Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions, read, "our conscience". The end and use of such purgation is, "to serve the living God"; so called to distinguish him from the idols of the Gentiles, and in opposition to dead works; and because he has life in himself, essentially and independently, and is the author and giver of life to others; and it is but the reasonable service of his people, to present their souls and bodies as a living sacrifice to him; and who ought to serve him in a lively manner, in faith, and with fervency, and not with a slavish, but a godly filial fear; and one that has his conscience purged by the blood of Christ, and is sensibly impressed with a discovery of pardoning grace, is in the best capacity for such service. The Alexandrian copy reads, "the living and true God".

Courtesy of Open Bible