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Volume 8 - Page 72 of 141 Index | Zoom | |
#2. A Key to the Epistle. "Perfection."
pp. 120 - 122
Before dealing with the epistle to the Hebrews in the order of its writing, we draw
attention to a key word, Perfection.
1. THE LAW MADE NOTHING PERFECT (7: 19). With the law is contrasted "a
better hope". This did make perfect. The law includes the Levitical priesthood, and
7: 11 says:--
"If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people
received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the
order of Melchisedec?"
If neither the law itself nor the priests ordained under it could bring perfection, it is not
surprising to read in connection with the tabernacle, that it "could not make him that did
the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience" (9: 9). In the tabernacle "were
offered both gifts and sacrifices", and chapter 9: 1 says:--
"For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the
things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year, make the comers
thereunto perfect for ever."
2. UNDER THE NEW COVENANT PERFECTION IS POSSIBLE. While it is
demonstrably impossible to be "perfected" under the law, the apostle shows that the New
Covenant includes provision for this wonderful blessing, and it is so established on a
better sacrifice and has in view such a better hope, that under it the believer may be urged
to "go on unto perfection". One of the characteristics of the "perfect" is given in 5: 14:--
"Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (margin, perfect) even those who
by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
The strong meat is contrasted with milk, which are figures, the one for the advanced
teaching connected with the aionian salvation of 5: 9 (called the word of righteousness),
the other for the elements or "the beginning of the oracles (logion) of God" (5: 12). It is
to this distinction that the apostle refers when he says, "Therefore leaving the word
(logos) of the beginning of Christ, let us go on unto perfection" (6: 1).
There is one passage which will demand very serious attention when we reach so far,
and that is chapter 12: 23, the particular clause being, "and to spirits of perfected
righteous ones". We give it its place here in order that the various phases of the theme
may be represented, but must defer any explanation until the context is under review.
One other passage which demands more attention than we can give in this article is
11: 40, "God having foreseen concerning us a better thing, in order that not apart from us
they might be perfected". The link between this "better thing", the "spirits of perfected
righteous ones", and Paul's "far better", and "not as though I were already perfected" is
possibly already visible to some of our readers.