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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 5

 

 

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Verses 11-20

ARGUMENT 4

SPIRITUAL INFANCY AND ADULTAGE.

11. It is difficult so to expound Christian perfection to the unsanctified as to enable them intelligently to apprehend it. Here the Holy Ghost certifies that these Palestinian Christians were “dull of hearing.” The Greek means spiritual stupidity and indifference, soul paralysis setting down on them.

12. This verse certifies that they were not simply babies, but old babies. It is believed that this letter was short time he fore the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which took place forty years after the crucifixion of our Savior. Hence these Palestinian Christians had been converted ten to thirty years. Of course, some of them had been sanctified, but the multitude to whom He now appeals had not received this indispensable grace. This undue and unnatural prolongation of spiritual babyhood had culminated in miserable dwarfage. Babyhood is all right in its time, but if perpetuated it runs into dwarfhood and soon spiritual death supervenes. The Holy Ghost says they had need of milk instead of solid food, because old as they were they had never yet cut their teeth. This is the great trouble with the churches at the present day. They ‘re filled up with toothless babies and dwarfs, incompetent to mastcate the beefsteak, loaf-bread, apples, pears, peaches, pomegranates and melons of full salvation. If the preacher don’t reach out the suckling-bottle he will soon find himself bewildered and dumbfounded amid the crying babies and muttering, whining dwarfs. Now remember that every unsanctified soul is a babe or dwarf. You know babies have to be humored, petted, caressed and candied to keep them quiet. No wonder we have a squally time in the churches when so many pastors, presiding elders, doctors of divinity and official boards, as well as the rank and file of the membership, are babies and dwarfs. No wonder there is no harmony among them. They can’t even agree in their opposition to holiness, but they divide up into all sorts of silly heresies, creeds and dogmas, scarcely any two agreeing. Not so with spiritual men and women. In our holiness meetings all creeds, nationalities, sectarianisms, and sectionalisms are completely lost sight of.

13. For every one that taketh milk is unskillful, in the word of righteousness, because he is a babe.” No wonder our Savior positively forbade His own disciples to go and preach the Gospel till they received the sanctifying baptism of Pentecostal fire. They were still in spiritual babyhood. Hence their dissensions, ambition, cowardice, and doubt. All this was consumed by the Pentecostal fire, and never afterwards seen. Jesus knew that they were “unskillful in the word of righteousness” so long as they remained in babyhood, and consequently incompetent to expound the Scriptures. So long as the Church retained the sanctified experience pursuant to the commandment of her Lord, she was without a faction or schism. The six thousand schisms now lacerating the visible Church are all the fruits of her apostasy into spiritual babyhood and dwarfhood. An army of babies will never conquer the world. The holiness people this day have more missionaries in the heathen field, penniless and unsalaried, than all the rich sectarian churches with their millions of money. Bishop Taylor has twelve hundred, Hudson Taylor eight hundred. A. B. Simpson four hundred, and General Booth several thousand. The problem is forever settled. The sanctified people have to fulfill the commission, carry the Gospel to all nations, evangelize the world, and bring on the millennium.

14. “Solid food belongs to the perfect, who have their senses thoroughly disciplined by exercise unto the discernment both of the good and the evil.” You see from this Scripture that the great and glorious doctrines of Christian perfection are denominated solid food, in contradistinction to the rudimentary truths of the Gospel appertaining to the conviction of sinners and the regeneration of penitents, which are here denominated “milk.” Precisely as the human body has five physical senses — i.e., sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch — even so the human spirit has these same five senses. Though a dead man has eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and nerves, he neither sees hears, smells, tastes, nor touches. Even so the dead human spirit is incapable of sensation till quickened into life by the Holy Spirit. These spiritual senses receive vitality in regeneration, but complete recuperation from torpitude, paralysis and all sorts of spiritual ailments, disabilities and incapacities in entire sanctification. The blessed grace of full salvation matriculates you into the school of Christ, i.e., God’s gymnasium, where all your spiritual senses receive not only complete restitution, but grand, glorious and wonderful development, qualifying them for the most adroit and acute detection of every evil approach, thus effectually and triumphantly fortifying us against all the temptation superinduced b the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Greek word here means gymnasium. John Wesley had but three institutions, i.e., the class- meeting, for the conversion of penitents; the holiness band, for the sanctification of Christians; and the select societies for the, culture of the sanctified, He understood the Lord’s gymnasium. Oh, that his Gospel sons could only inherit his sanctifigumption! Babies are so deficient in sensical discrimination as to need constant attention to keep them from eating dirt and all sorts of filth. We see the churches full of poor spiritual babies, eating and drinking Satan’s poison so indiscriminately as to blot out the distinction between them and the devil’s people. Even preachers, in the stupidity of spiritual babyhood, use filthy, poisonous and expensive tobacco, ruining the youth by their example. We see church members decked with jewelry and arrayed in all the phantasmagoria of the world’s foolish and costly styles, fashions, jewelry, and all sorts of needless and injurious ornamentation, like babies fond of showy toys. There is but one possible remedy for this lamentable heathen disgrace and shame, which hangs like a nightmare of paralysis of the Church. It is Satan’s vampire sucking out her heart’s blood. The remedy is plain simple, unmistakable, and positively revealed in this Scripture. It is none other than Christian perfection.

1. “Therefore having left the word of the beginning of Christ, let us be carried unto perfection.” The Greek word pheroo, translated “go on” in this verse, has no such meaning in the dictionary. It is a great pity that King James’ translators ever rendered it “go on.” In the first place, because it does not mean “go on,” and they had no right so to render it. In the second place, because it has helped the devil to slow down the Church to a miserable standstill and freeze preachers and people into icebergs. You must remember that King James’ version was made by forty-seven Episcopalians in 1611. At that time the Church was wrapped in the fogs of Romanism and superstition, just emerging out of the dark ages. In as much brighter day, John Wesley preached ten years before his soul was converted. While none of the translators had the experience of sanctification, it is very doubtful if half of them were clear in their justification. The Bible is an experimental book. Scholarship alone qualifies no man to translate nor preach it, since we only see clearly what we experience in our hearts. These translators were experimentally ignorant of sanctification. Consequently, they lamentably emasculated that doctrine in their translation. Notwithstanding all this, entire sanctification is by far the strongest and most prominent doctrine in the English Bible. Yet it is one hundred per cent. stronger in the inspired original which the Holy Ghost revealed and which I have used extensively the last twenty-five years, and from which I give you all of these expositions. Unconverted preachers take all conversion out of the Bible. Unsanctified preachers take sanctification out of it. Men in all ages have labored to bring the Bible down to their experiences, instead of seeking the grace of God to lift their experiences up to the Bible. So these translators, like the unsanctified clergy at the present day, believed in reaching it at the end of life, after long and gradual approach. They were “going on.” So they exhorted all of us to “go on,” though the Bible flatly contradicts it. The word pheroometha here used by the Holy Ghost has no meaning but to carry or to bear. It is in the present tense and imperative mood, and reads, “Let us be carried to perfection,” i.e., the Omnipotent Savior is standing by our side ready and anxious for the job of our perfection. We have nothing to do but give up our own ways and fall into His arms, and let Him carry us into the glorious experience of Christian perfection.

“In the twinkling of an eye Jesus’ blood can Sanctify.”

From the time of your conversion the Omnipotent Jesus has been standing by you, longing for the delicious privilege of your perfection. Led astray by false guides, telling you that you have to “go on,” till you die, you have grieved the Holy Spirit all these years. Therefore I pray you wait not a moment, but glorify your Omnipotent Sanctifier this moment standing by you and saying, “Let us now be carried to perfection.” It is a lamentable fact that men have been preaching perfection by growth ever since the Constantinian apostasy fifteen hundred years ago. You know the Epistle to Hebrews is all on Christian perfection, and the word “growth” does not occur in it. Away with your nonsensical twaddle. The Bible is its own expositor. How is this perfection wrought?

“And the God of peace, who raised up from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ the great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

This is the key which unlocks the mystery and settles the question forever. So you see our author explains himself. This is a perfection wrought by the cleansing blood of Jesus, and not by growth nor good works, as Satan would have you believe, so you may forfeit the blessing and land in hell. The devil’s climateric hobby in all ages and with all souls has been procrastination. The Bible is a now book. It offers present salvation to all penitent sinners and present perfection to all consecrated Christians. Postponement and gradualism are the devil’s greased planks on which to slide people down to hell. There are only two spiritual attitudes mentioned by the Holy Ghost in this grand argument, and these are infancy and perfection. Hence we have a beautiful and glorious antithesis, homogenous and co-extensive. While the Spirit constantly uses natural analogies in the elucidation of His glorious. truth, pursuant to a familiar rule in rhetoric we must not press a metaphor too far. Is there not a gradualism in the natural birth? Whereas in the English Testament “begotten” and “born” both occur, corresponding with the kingdom of nature, in the inspired Greek we only have the one word gennaoo, translated “begotten” in some passages and “born” in others. This settles the fact that in the language of the Holy Ghost “begotten” and “born” are precisely synonymous. Hence the very moment the Holy Ghost begets a soul, that soul is born of God. You must not judge God like a man. The gradualism in the plan of salvation is all on the human side. When God works, a sentence is as good as a century. The effect of the gradualistic theologies preached from the pulpits is to take God out of the Church and run the people into infidelity. When you eliminate the instantaneous interventions, you eliminate God and leave the people nothing but a pitiful humanism which you falsely call “Gospel.” When you fail to preach to sinners the instantaneous salvation by the Holy Ghost and to Christians instantaneous and entire sanctification wrought by the Holy Ghost through the cleansing blood of Jesus, you had better evacuate the pulpit and go to hoeing potatoes. “Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works.”... This clause reveals the indisputable fact that the second work of grace is God’s key to hold the first. So if you do not let Jesus carry you into perfection, you will grieve the Holy Ghost, backslide and fall again into the snare of the devil, so you will have all your first works to do again, i.e., get reclaimed, or make your bed in a backslider’s hell.

3-8. This sentence, containing five verses, has served as an alarm bell to the backsliders of all ages. We here have conspicuously set forth the mournful alternative of Christian perfection, i.e., apostasy and damnation. Not only does the Holy Ghost positively so reveal, but He confirms it by a plain and forcible illustration deduced from the material world, just as the perfected Christian is symbolized by the fertile, well-watered field, adorned with perennial flowers and burdened with all the luxuriant fruits of human industry, while the burning waste of the tropical desert equally vividly symbolizes the appalling doom of the poor backslider, collapsed into hopeless condemnation, through his unfortunate neglect of perfection, having finally grieved away the Holy Sanctifier and made his bed in a burning hell.

9. The fire-baptized author of this wonderful epistle, so transcendently climateric on Christian perfection, winds up this smashing argument, deduced from infancy and adultage in the spiritual kingdom, by bringing in a beautiful suaviter in modo, softly and sweetly cadencing his alarming fortiter in re. “But, beloved, we are persuaded concerning you, better things even appertaining to salvation, if indeed we do thus speak.”

10. The encouraging phenomena among the Palestinian Christians are mentioned in this verse, especially their generous philanthropy and hospitality to the saints. You remember (Acts 2 :) how they even sold their possessions to support the converts of Pentecost from foreign lands and perpetuate that wonderful revival. This was doubtless somewhat facilitated by the confiscation which followed their profession of Christianity. The forfeiture of this beautiful and amiable grace of hospitality out of the Church at the present day, is among the saddest omens of the fatal apostasy into which she is everywhere plunging by the rejection of holiness.

11, 12. “But we desire each one of you to manifest the same zeal unto the full assurance of hope unto perfection, in order that you may not be stupid, but imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and long- suffering.” These verses explain themselves, i.e., that every one of us ought to press directly on after conversion, seeking perfection with the same diligence with which we sought justification, till we find it. The Methodist General Conference of 1832 substantially reiterated this wonderful Scripture in their encyclical to the entire membership, importunately pleading with them and admonishing them not to stop with justification, but press right on to sanctification, with the same zeal, energy and perseverance with which they had sought pardon. Oh, that the conferences of the present day would emulate the heroic orthodoxy of their predecessors.

13. God in His condescending mercy has certainly exhausted Omnipotence to disencumber us of doubt; since we ‘re bound to be saved by faith, if saved at all, to interfere with our free agency would dehumanize us. Therefore, God has not only given us His Word confirmatory of the momentous problem of holiness, but has swept all possible cavil from the field by the annexation of His oath.

“The oath which He sware to our father Abraham, to grant unto us being delivered out of the hand of our enemies to serve Him in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days.” (Luke 1:73; Luke 1:75)

The enemies spoken of in this Scripture are the spiritual foes, i.e., evil tempers, passions, appetites, and all the members of Adam the first, which constitute the body of inbred sin, and survive in the heart of the regenerate, till destroyed by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Romans 6:6. You see from this Scripture that the man who does not believe in the glorious possibility of entire sanctification in this life, not only accuses God of falsification but actually arraigns Him for perjury. God have mercy on him! He would certainly better never have been born.

14. This is God’s wonderful promise of blessings, paradoxically multiplied on the sanctified. The dogma of the popular pulpits that sanctification is the ultimatum of all progress is radically heretical. Instead of constituting the ultimatum. it is really the substratum of a grand and glorious Christian experience, destined to brighten, broaden. deepen and tower through this life, take new impetus when this mortal puts on immortality, accumulating fresh luster through the flight of eternal ages. Therefore, entire sanctification introduces you into a land of showers, sunshine, flowers never fading and fruits never failing, where you will grow in grace infinitely more rapidly than ever before.

15-18. The two immutable things here spoken of are, God’s Word and His oath. Well does the author say that it is impossible for God to lie. The slightest falsification would be irreconcilably incompatible with the Divine attributes. Now, in addition to His infallible Word, He has added the solemnities of His oath, culminating in the a fortiori argument, logically unanswerable.

19, 20. These two verses present a most beautiful and instructive metaphor, in which the ocean is the world; the ship, the human soul floating in it. While the ocean is racked with storms, plowed with tempests, swept by hurricanes and lashed with cyclones, a thousand perils threatening the ship. Fortunately, she has cast out her great iron anchor, whose herculean flukes have caught fast hold of the eternal strata of the massive mountain. Despite the rage of the storm, the anchor not only holds secure but draws the ship safe into her moorings. In a similar manner the soul of the Christian, floating in this wicked and perilous world, beleaguered on all sides with diabolical foes, has cast the anchor of Hope through the vail of mortality out on the heavenly shore, where it has caught fast hold of Jesus, the impregnable Rock of Ages, who will never let go the anchor, but certainly draw the soul through the vail and laud it safe amid shouts of saints and angels in the glory land.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/hebrews-5.html.

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