19. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
19. Habentes itaque, fratres, fiduciam ingrediendi in sancta per sanguinem Iesu,
20. By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
20. Via quam dedicavit nobis recentem ac vivam per velum, hoc est carnem suam,
21. And having an high priest over the house of God;
21. Et sacerdotem magnum super domum Dei,
22. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
22. Accedamus cum sincero corde in certitudine fidei, aspersi cordibus a conscientia mala, et abluti corpore aqua munda;
23. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
23. Teneamus confessionem spei inflexibilem, fidelis enim qui promisit.
19. Having therefore, brethren, etc. He states the conclusion or the sum of his previous doctrine, to which he then fitly subjoins a serious exhortation, and denounces a severe threatening on those who had renounced the grace of Christ. Now, the sum of what he had said is, that all the ceremonies by which an access under the Law was open to the sanctuary, have their real fulfillment in Christ, so that to him who has Christ, the use of them is superfluous and useless To set this forth more fully, he allegorically describes the access which Christ has opened to us; for he compares heaven to the old sanctuary, and sets forth the things which have been spiritually accomplished in Christ in typical expressions. Allegories do indeed sometimes obscure rather than illustrate a subject; but when the Apostle transfers to Christ the ancient figures of the Law, there is no small elegance in what he says, and no small light is attained; and he did this, that we may recognize as now really exhibited in him whatever the Law shadowed forth. But as there is great weight almost in every word, so we must remember that there is here to be understood a contrast, -- the truth or reality as seen in Christ, and the abolition of the ancient types.
He says first, that we have boldness to enter into the holiest. This privilege was never granted to the fathers under the Law, for the people were forbidden to enter the visible sanctuary, though the high priest bore the names of the tribes on his shoulders, and twelve stones as a memorial of them on his breast. But now the case is very different, for not only symbolically, but in reality an entrance into heaven is made open to us through the favor of Christ, for he has made us a royal priesthood.
He adds, by the blood of Jesus, because the door of the sanctuary was not opened for the periodical entrance of the high priest, except through the intervention of blood. But he afterwards marks the difference between this blood and that of beasts; for the blood of beasts, as it soon turns to corruption, could not long retain its efficacy; but the blood of Christ, which is subject to no corruption, but flows ever as a pure stream, is sufficient for us even to the end of the world. It is no wonder that beasts slain in sacrifice had no power to quicken, as they were dead; but Christ who arose from the dead to bestow life on us, communicates his own life to us. It is a perpetual consecration of the way, because the blood of Christ is always in a manner distilling before the presence of the Father, in order to irrigate heaven and earth.
20. Through the veil, etc. As the veil covered the recesses of the sanctuary and yet afforded entrance there, so the divinity, though hid in the flesh of Christ, yet leads us even into heaven; nor can any one find God except he to whom the man Christ becomes the door and the way. Thus we are reminded, that Christ's glory is not to be estimated according to the external appearance of his flesh; nor is his flesh to be despised, because it conceals as a veil the majesty of God, while it is also that which conducts us to the enjoyment of all the good things of God.
21. And having a high priest, etc. Whatever he has previously said of the abrogation of the ancient priesthood, it behaves us now to bear in mind, for Christ could not be a priest without having the former priests divested of their office, as it was another order. He then intimates that all those things which Christ had changed at his coming ought to be relinquished; and God has set him over his whole house for this end, -- that every one who seeks a place in the Church, may submit to Christ and choose him, and no other, as his leader and ruler.
22. Let us draw near with a true heart, etc. As he shows that in Christ and his sacrifice there is nothing but what is spiritual or heavenly, so he would have what we bring on our part to correspond. The Jews formerly cleansed themselves by various washings to prepare themselves for the service of God. It is no wonder that the rites for cleansing were carnal, since the worship of God itself, involved in shadows, as yet partook in a manner of what was carnal. For the priest, being a mortal, was chosen from among sinners to perform for a time sacred things; he was, indeed, adorned with precious vestments, but yet they were those of this world, that he might stand in the presence of God; he only came near the work of the covenant; and to sanctify his entrance, he borrowed for a sacrifice a brute animal either from herd or the flock. But in Christ all these things are far superior; He himself is not only pure and innocent, but is also the fountain of all holiness and righteousness, and was constituted a priest by a heavenly oracle, not for the short period of a mortal life, but perpetually. To sanction his appointment an oath was interposed. He came forth adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the highest perfection; he propitiated God by his own blood, and reconciled him to men; he ascended up above all the heavens to appear before God as our Mediator.
Now, on our part, nothing is to be brought but what corresponds with all this, as there ought to be a mutual agreement or concord between the priest and the people. Away then with all the external washings of the flesh, and cease let the whole apparatus of ceremonies; for the Apostle sets a true heart, and the certainty of faith, and a cleansing from all vices, in opposition to these external rites. And hence we learn what must be the frame of our minds in order that we may enjoy the benefits conferred by Christ; for there is no coming to him without an upright or a true heart, and a sure faith, and a pure conscience.
Now, a true or sincere heart is opposed to a heart that is hypocritical and deceitful. By the term full assurance, plerophoria the Apostle points out the nature of faith, and at the same time reminds us, that the grace of Christ cannot be received except by those who possess a fixed and unhesitating conviction. The sprinkling of the heart from an evil conscience takes place, either when we are, by obtaining pardon, deemed pure before God, or when the heart, cleansed from all corrupt affections, is not stimulated by the goads of the flesh. I am disposed to include both these things. What follows, our bodies washed with pure water, is generally understood of baptism; but it seems to me more probable that the Apostle alludes to the ancient ceremonies of the Law; and so by water he designates the Spirit of God, according to what is said by Ezekiel, |I will sprinkle clean water upon you.| (Ezekiel 36:25.) The meaning is, that we are made partakers of Christ, if we come to him, sanctified in body and soul; and yet that this sanctification is not what consists in a visible parade of ceremonies, but that it is from faith, pure conscience, and that cleanness of soul and body which flows from, and is effected by, the Spirit of God. So Paul exhorts the faithful to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, since they had been adopted by God as his children. (2 Corinthians 7:1.)
23. Let us hold fast, etc. As he exhorts here the Jews to persevere, he mentions hope rather than faith; for as hope is born of faith, so it is fed and sustained by it to the last. He requires also profession or confession, for it is not true faith except it shows itself before men. And he seems indirectly to touch the dissimulation of those who paid too much attention, in order to please their own nation, to the ceremonies of the Law. He therefore bids them not only to believe with the heart, but also to show and to profess how much they honored Christ.
But we ought carefully to notice the reason which he subjoins, for he is faithful that promised. For we hence first learn, that our faith rests on this foundation, that God is true, that is, true to his promise, which his word contains; for that we may believe, the voice or word of God must precede; but it is not every kind of word that is capable of producing faith; a promise alone is that on which faith recumbs. And so from this passage we may learn the mutual relation between the faith of men and the promise of God; for except God promises, no one can believe.