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Commentary On Hebrews by Jean Calvin

Hebrews 3:14-19

14. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;

14. Participes enim facti sumus Christi, siquidem initium fiduciae (vel, subsistentiae) ad finem usque firmum tenuerimus;

15. While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

15. In hoc quod dicitur, Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, ne obduretis corda vestra sicut in exacerbatione.

16. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

16. Quidam enim quum audissent, exacerbarunt; at non omnes qui egressi fuerant ex AEgypto per Mosen.

17. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

17. Quibus autem infensus fuit quadraginta annis? an non iis qui peccaverant, quorum membra ceciderunt in deserto?

18. And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

18. Quibus autem juravit, non ingressuros in requiem suam nisi incredulis (aut, inobedientibus)?

19. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

19. Et videmus non potuisse ingredi propter infidelitatem.

14. For we are made partakers, etc. He commends them for having begun well; but lest, under the pretext of the grace which they had obtained, they should indulge themselves in carnal security, he says that there was need of perseverance; for many having only tasted the Gospel, do not think of any progress as though they had reached the summit. Thus it is that they not only stop in the middle of their race, yea, nigh the startingposts, but turn another way. Plausible indeed is this objection, |What can we wish more after having found Christ?| But if he is possessed by faith, we must persevere in it, so that he may be our perpetual possession. Christ then has given himself to be enjoyed by us on this condition, that by the same faith by which we have been admitted into a participation of him, we are to preserve so great a blessing even to death.

Hence he says beginning, intimating that their faith was only begun. As hypostasis sometimes means confidence, it may be so taken here; yet the term substance, as some have rendered it, I do not dislike, though I explain it in a way somewhat different. They think that faith is thus called, because the whole of what man may have without it is nothing but vanity; but I so regard it, because we recumb on it alone, as there is no other support on which we can rely. And suitable to this view is the word steadfast or firm; for we shall be firmly fixed and beyond the danger of vacillating, provided faith be our foundation. The sum of the whole then is, that faith whose beginnings only appear in us, is to make constant and steady progress to the end.

15. While it is said, etc. He intimates that the reason for making progress never ceases as long as we live, because God calls us daily. For since faith responds to the preaching of the Gospel, as preaching continues through the whole course of our life, so we ought to continue growing in faith. The phrase, then, while it is said, is the same as though he had said, |Since God never makes an end of speaking, it is not enough for us readily to receive his doctrine, except we exhibit the same teachableness and obedience tomorrow and every following day.|

16 For some, when they had heard, etc. David spoke of the fathers as though that whole generation were unbelieving; but it appears that some who truly feared God mingled with the wicked. The apostle mentions this to modify what had been more severely said by David, in order that we may know that the word is preached to all for this end, that all may obey it with one consent, and that the whole people were justly condemned for unbelief, when the body was torn and mutilated by the defection of the greatest part.

But by saying that some provoked, while yet they were by far the greatest part, this object was not only to avoid giving offense, but also to encourage the Jews to imitate those who believed; as though he had said, |As God forbids you to follow the unbelief of the fathers, so he sets before you other fathers whose faith is to be your example|. Thus is mitigated what otherwise might have appeared too hard; that is, had they been commanded wholly to dissent from their fathers. To come out by Moses, means by the hand of Moses, for he was the minister of their deliverance. But there is an implied comparison between the benefit which God had bestowed on them by Moses, and the participation of Christ previously mentioned.

17. But with whom was he grieved, or angry, etc. He means that God had never been angry with his people except for just causes, as Paul also reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:5, 6. Therefore as many chastisements of God as we read were inflicted on the ancient people, so many grievous sins shall we find which provoked God's vengeance. At the same time we must come to this conclusion, that unbelief was the chief of all their evils; for though he mentions this the last, he yet means that it was the primary cause of their curse; and no doubt from the time they once became unbelievers, they never ceased to add one sin to another, and thus they brought on themselves new scourges continually. Hence those very persons who through unbelief rejected the possession of the land offered to them, pursued their own obstinacy, now lusting, then murmuring, now committing adultery, then polluting themselves with heathen superstitions, so that their depravity became more fully manifested.

The unbelief, then, which they showed from the beginning, prevented them from enjoying the kindness of God; for the contempt of his word ever led them to sin. And as at first they deserved through their unbelief that God should deprive them of the promised rest, so whatever sin they committed afterwards flowed from the same fountain.

It may be further asked, whether Moses, and Aaron, and those like them, were included in this number? To this I answer, that the Apostle speaks of the whole community rather than of individuals. It is certain that there were many godly men who were either not entangled in the general impiety or soon repented. Moses' faith was once shaken and only once, and that for a moment. The Apostle's words, therefore, contain a statement of the whole instead of a part, a mode of speaking frequently employed when a multitude or body of people are spoken of.

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