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Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,

today I have begotten you”;

6 as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.”

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Warning against Falling Away

11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

11. He therefore makes a preface by saying that he had many things to say, but that they were to prepare themselves lest these things should be said in vain. He reminds them that they were hard or difficult things; not indeed to repel them, but to stimulate them to greater attention. For as things that are easily understood render us slothful, so we become more keenly bent on hearing when anything obscure is set before us. He however states that the cause of the difficulty was not in the subject but in themselves. And indeed the Lord speaks to us so clearly and without any obscurity, that his word is rightly called our light; but its brightness become dim through our darkness. 9191     The literal rendering is “Of whom we have many a word to say, and hardly explainable,” or hard to be explained. This hardness of explanation was however owing to their dullness of comprehension, as Calvin justly observes. “Hard to be uttered” of our version is not correct; nor is “hard to be understood” of Doddridge right. Macknight gives the true meaning, “difficult to be explained.” Beza’s is the same. The reason is added “Since dull (or sluggish) ye are become in ears,” or in hearings. To be dull in ears is to be inattentive; but to be sluggish in ears seems to mean stupidity, slowness of comprehension. The latter is evidently meant here; that is, a tardiness or slowness in understanding. To hear with the ear is in the language of Scripture to understand. (Matthew 11:15; John 8:43; 1 Corinthians 14:2.) Hence to be sluggish in ears is to be slow or tardy in understanding the Word of God. Stuart therefore gives the sense, “Since ye are dull of apprehension.” — Ed. This happens partly through our dullness and partly through our sloth; for though we are very dull to understand the truth of God, yet there is to be added to this vice the depravity of our affections, for we apply our minds to vanity rather than to God’s truth. We are also continually impeded either by our perverseness, or by the cares of the world, or by the lusts of our flesh. Of whom does not refer to Christ, but to Melchisedec; yet he is not referred to as a private man, but as the type of Christ, and in a manner personating him.

12. For when for the time ye ought, etc. This reproof contains in it very sharp goads to rouse the Jews from their sloth. He says that it was unreasonable and disgraceful that they should still continue in the elements, in the first rudiments of knowledge, while they ought to have been teachers. “You ought,” he says, “to have been the instructors of others, but ye are not even disciples capable of comprehending an ordinary truth; for ye do not as yet understand the first rudiments of Christianity.” That he might, however, make them the more ashamed of themselves, he mentions the “first principles,” or the elements of the beginning of God’s words, as though he had said, You do not know the alphabet. We must, indeed, learn through life; for he alone is truly wise who owns that he is very far from perfect knowledge; but we ought still to profit so much by learning as not to continue always in the first principles. Nor are we to act in such a way, that what is said by Isaiah should be verified in us,

“There shall be to you a precept on precept, a precept on precept,” etc. (Isaiah 28:10;)

but we ought, on the contrary, so to exert ourselves, that our progress may correspond to the time allowed us.

Doubtless, not only years, but days also, must be accounted for; so that every one ought to strive to make progress; but few there are who summon themselves to an account as to past time, or who show any concern for the future. We are, therefore, justly punished for our sloth, for most of us remain in elements fitted for children. We are further reminded, that it is the duty of every one to impart the knowledge he has to his brethren; so that no one is to retain what he knows to himself, but to communicate it to the edification of others. 9292     Our version of this clause is very literal and compact, and sufficiently plain, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers.” Its elegance and conciseness are not retained either by Macknight or by Stuart. What is implied in the words, “for the time,” is sufficiently evident without being expressed. As to the following sentence, “Ye have need,” etc., some difficulty has been found in the construction. I render it as follows, “Ye have again need of this — that some one should teach you the first principles of the oracles of God.” I take τίνα to be accusative before “teach.” The word “oracles” is used by Peter in the same sense, as designating the doctrines of the Gospels, 1 Peter 4:11. — Ed

Such as have need of milk. Paul uses the same metaphor in 1 Corinthians 3:2; and he reproaches the Corinthians with the same fault with what is mentioned here, at least with one that is very similar; for he says, that they were carnal and could not bear solid food. Milk then means an elementary doctrine suitable to the ignorant. Peter takes the word in another sense, when he bids us to desire the milk that is without deceit, (1 Peter 2:2;) for there is a twofold childhood, that is, as to wickedness, and as to understanding; and so Paul tells us, “Be not children in understanding, but in wickedness.” (1 Corinthians 14:20.) They then who are so tender that they cannot receive the higher doctrine, are by way of reproach called children.

For the right application of doctrines is to join us together, so that we may grow to a perfect manhood, to the measure of full age, and that we should not be like children, tossed here and there, and carried about by every wind of doctrine. (Ephesians 4:14.) We must indeed show some indulgence to those who have not yet known much of Christ, if they are not capable as yet of receiving solid food, but he who has had time to grow, if he till continues a child, is not entitled to any excuse. We indeed see that Isaiah brands the reprobate with this mark, that they were like children newly weaned from the breasts. (Isaiah 28:9.) The doctrine of Christ does indeed minister milk to babes as well as strong meat to adults; but as the babe is nourished by the milk of its nurse, not that it may ever depend on the breast, but that it may by degrees grow and take stronger food; so also at first we must suck milk from Scripture, so that we may afterwards feed on its bread. The Apostle yet so distinguishes between milk and strong food, that he still understands sound doctrine by both, but the ignorant begin with the one, and they who are well­taught are strengthened by the other.

13. For every one who uses milk, or, who partakes of milk, etc. He means those who from tenderness or weakness as yet refuse solid doctrine; for otherwise he who is grown up is not averse to milk. But he reproves here an infancy in understanding, such as constrains God even to prattle with us. He then says, that babes are not fit to receive the word of righteousness, understanding by righteousness the perfection of which he will presently speak. 9393     This is the view of Grotius and others, but some regard “the word of righteousness” as a paraphrasis for the Gospel; and Stuart renders it, “the word of salvation.” Dr. Owen says that the Gospel is called “the word of righteousness,” because it reveals the righteousness of God, Romans 1:17. It may also be so called, because it reveals and contains the truth, the full truth, partly revealed previously. The word “righteousness” has this meaning both in the Old and New Testaments. See Psalm 3:4; Isaiah 45:19, 23; and Matthew 21:23, 2 Corinthians 11:15. “The ministers of righteousness” in the last text are opposed to false ministers. — Ed. For the Apostle does not here, as I think, refer to the question, how we are justified before God, but takes the word in a simpler sense, as denoting that completeness of knowledge which leads to perfection, which office Paul ascribes to the Gospel in his epistle to the Colossians, 1:28; as though he had said, that those who indulge themselves in their ignorance preclude themselves from a real knowledge of Christ, and that the doctrine of the Gospel is unfruitful in them, because they never reach the goal, nor come even near it.

14. Of full age, or perfect, etc. He calls those perfect who are adults; he mentions them in opposition to babes, as it is done in 1 Corinthians 2:6; 14:20; Ephesians 4:13. For the middle and manly age is the full age of human life; but he calls those by a figure men in Christ; who are spiritual. And such he would have all Christians to be, such as have attained by continual practice a habit to discern between good and evil. For he cannot have been otherwise taught aright in the truth, except we are fortified by his protection against all the falsehoods and delusions of Satan; for on this account it is called the sword of the Spirit. And Paul points out this benefit conferred by sound doctrine when he says, “That we may not be carried about by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14.) And truly what sort of faith is that which doubts, being suspended between truth and falsehood? Is it not in danger of coming to nothing every moment?

But not satisfied to mention in one word the mind, he mentions all the senses, in order to show that we are ever to strive until we be in every way furnished by God’s word, and be so armed for battle, that Satan may by no means steal upon us with his fallacies. 9494     The word for “senses” means literally the organs of the senses, such as the eyes, the ears, etc., but here as signifying the senses themselves, as seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling, by means of which those grown up are enabled by long experience to know what is good and wholesome for them, and also what is bad and injurious. By this comparison, which is here carried out fully, he intimates that the grown up in Christian truth attain by the habit of exercising all the senses or faculties of their minds, a capacity to distinguish between good and evil, between truth and error, in religion.
   The doctrine of reserve cannot be drawn from this passage; for though the Apostle says that they were not capable, owing to their sloth, or taking strong food, he yet lays it before them. — Ed.

It hence appears what sort of Christianity there is under the Papacy, where not only the grossest ignorance is commended under the name of simplicity, but where the people are also most rigidly prevented from seeking real knowledge; nay, it is easy to judge by what spirit they are influenced, who hardly allow that to be touched which the Apostle commands us to handle continually, who imagine that a laudable neglect which the Apostle here so severely reproves, who take away the word of God, the only rule of discerning rightly, which discerning he declares to be necessary for all Christians! But among those who are freed from this diabolical prohibition and enjoy the liberty of learning, there is yet often no less indifference both as to hearing and reading. When thus we exercise not our powers, we are stupidly ignorant and void of all discernment.

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