John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 67 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 67 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


authority of another, and for his use, so that it is not his own house
when it is built. But when one builds a house by his own autho-
rity, for his own use, whereby it becomes his own house, and wholly
at his own disposal, then he is always more honourable than the
house itself And so is it in this matter. Solomon indeed built the
temple, but upon the command and authority of God ; he built it as a
servant ; it was never his in possession, or for his use, to dwell in or
dispose of. On all accounts it was another's. It was the house of
God, built by his command, for himself to dwell in. It is no wonder,
then, if it were more honourable than Solomon. But things are
quite otherwise in the building intended. Christ built his house by
his own authority, for his own use, for himself to dwell in. And in
such cases the proposition is universally true. And this appears so
clearly from the nature of the thing itself that it needs no further
confirmation.

Secondly, ' For the proof of the apostle's intention, it is supposed
iji the assumption that Moses was not the builder of the house of



VER 3-6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 641

God, but only a part of it; for without that supposition, the asser-
tion of Christ's being preferred above him as the builder is not con-
firmed. But the contrary hereunto seems to be true, namely, that
Moses was a principal builder of the house of God, at least of the
house under the old testament. Paul, upon the accoimt of ids
preaching the gospel, fears not to term himself "a wise master-
builder," 1 Cor. iii. 10; and shall not at least the same honour be
allowed unto Moses? for what was wanting to render him a builder?
There were two principal parts of that house of God wherein his
ministry was used ; — first, the place and seat of the worship of God,
or the tabernacle, with all its glorious utensils and appurtenances;
secondly, the ordinances ixxv(}i institutions of worship to be celebrated
therein. Of these two that house of God seemed to consist; and
they are often so called. And was not Moses the principal builder
of both? For the tabernacle and the furniture of it, he received its
pattern from God, and gave direction for its building unto the
utmost pins, like a wise master-builder. And, secondly, for the
ordinances and institutions of worship, they were wholly of his
ajjpointment. He received them, indeed, by revelation from God,
and so God spake in him, as he did afterwards in the Son, Htb.
i. 1 ; but he prescribed them unto the church, on which account they
are called "The law of Moses." So that he seems not to have been
B, part of the house, but plainly the builder of it.'

Ans. To remove this difficulty, we must consider both what house
it is tliat the apostle intends, and also what manner of building of
it, in the application of his metaphor.

First, For the house of God in this place, the apostle doth not
intend by it the house of this or that particular age, under this or
that form or administration of worship, but the house of God in all
ages and places, from the foundation of the world unto the end
thereof : for as this is evident from what he insists on in the next
verse in confirmation hereof, namely, that " he that built all things
is God, so it was not sufficient unto the purpose of the apostle to
declare that Christ was a builder, and Moses the part of a house,
unless he manifested he was so ; that is, a part of the house that
Christ built. Now, of this house Moses unquestionably was not the
builder, but only a part of it, and employed in the ministry of it in
one age or season alone.

Secondly, The building of the house, as to the manner of it, is
either ministerial or autocratorical. In the first way, every one
who labours by God's appointment, in the dispensation of the word
or otherwise, for the edification of the church, is a builder, a minis-
terial biulder; and those who are employed in that work in an
especial and eminent manner, as the apostles were, may be said to
be master-builders. And so was Moses in the house of God. But



542 AN EXPOSITION OP THE [CHAP. III.

it is a building in the other way and manner that is intended by the
apostle, a building with supreme power, and for the builder's own
use.

Havino- cleared and vindicated the argument of the apostle in this
third verse, our next work is to explain and confirm the severals of
his assertion, partly expressed, and partly included therein. And
they are these : — 1. That Christ built the church, or the house of
God. 2. That he was worthy of glory and honour on that account,
and had them accordingly. 3. That this his glory and honour was
incomparably greater than that of Moses.

1. Unto the building of the house of God, three things are re-
quired:— First, The giving out the design, platform, and pattern
of it, in its laws, ordinances, and institutions, that it may answer
the end v/hereunto it is designed. This is the ^''^^^, the riicrog or
i-ATXj'TuiiMa, the "effigiation" or "delineation" of the house. Secondly,
The preparing and fitting of the materials of it, and the compacting
of them together, that they may grow up unto a house, a holy
temple, a habitation for God; and this is properly H^?'!', or oim-
do/xTi, the "building of the house." Thirdly, The solemn entrance of
the presence of God into it, for its appropriation, dedication, and
sanctification unto God, '^?.?.D. These three things concurred in
both tlie old typical houses, the tabernacle of Moses and the temple
of Solomon.

The first thing was, that the pattern was prepared and showed
unto Moses in the mount: Exod. xxv. 8, 9, " Make me a sanctuary;
that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew tliee,
the pattern of the tabernacle, and the jjattern of all the instruments
thereof, even so shall ye make it." And verse 40, " Look that thou
make them after the pattern, which thou wast caused to see in the
mount." God had caused Moses to see ^''•'?^, " a similitude," a
"representation" of the house which he would have built, and also
the things that belonged thereunto. This our apostle calls ruToj,
Heb. viii. 5, " an express image" of it; which contained not only the
material fabric, but also the laws, ordinances, and institutions of
the worship of God belonging thereunto, for all these did God show
and declare unto Moses in the mount, as is expressed in the story.
Secondly, Upon this Moses prepared all the materials fit for that
fabric by the free-will offerings of the people; and, by the skill of
Bezaleel and Aholiab, compacted, fitted, and reared up a house,
a tabernacle, or a sanctuary. See Exod. xxxv.-xl. Thirdly, The
gloriou. presence of the Lord entered into the tabernacle so erected,
and God dwelt there: Exod. xl. 34, " Then a cloud covered the tent
of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."
God came, and in a wonderful manner took possession of this his
house.



YER. 3-6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 543

So it was also in the preparation and building of the temple: —
First, The pattern of it, of the whole fabric, and all the orders, ordi-
nances, and worship of it, was given and showed unto David, who
delivered it unto Solomon, his son. So he concludes the account
that he gave of all the particular concernments of these things:
1 Chron. xxviii. 19, " All this, said David, the Lord made me un-
derstand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this
pattern/' Secondly, Solomon prepared materials in abundance, and
by the skill of Hiram framed them into a house, and all the holy
utensils of it, as is at large expressed in the story. Thirdly, The
temple being erected, the glorious presence of God entered there-
into, to appropriate, dedicate, and sanctify it u-nto God: 1 Kings
viii. 10, 11, "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out
of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that
the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the
glory of the LoRD had filled the house of the LoRD."

It is evident, then, that these three things are required to the
building of the house of God, whereof these material fabrics were a
type and representation. And all these were perfectly effected by
Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have said before, that it is not the
house or church of this or that age, place, or generation, that is
intended in this expression, but the church of God in all ages and
places from first to last. I confess the principal instance of this
work is in the church of the new testament, whose foundation in
himself and erection on himself he did so expressly and particularly
undertake. " On this rock," saith he, " I will build my church,"
Matt. xvi. 18; — the stable rock of faith in himself as the eternal
Son of God, and as designed to the great work of God in glorifying
himself among sinners. This work of building the house of God
was always, from the beginning, performed by himself. The first
thing required unto it may be considered two ways: — First, as to
the delineation or forming of this house in his own eternal mind,
as the Son and Wisdom of the Father. He was in the eternal
counsels of the Father about the providing and framing of this habi-
tation for himself God from all eternity had. laid the plot and
design of this great fabric and all the concernments of it in the
idea of his own mind. And there it was hid, even from all the
angels in heaven, until its actual rearing, until the event, Eph. iii.
9-11. This design and purpose of his " he purposed in Christ Jesus;"
■ — that is, this counsel of God, even of Father and Son, Prov. viii.
31, 32, was to b^ accomplished in and by hina. And this glorious
pattern he had in his mind in all ages, and brought with him into
the world when he came to put the last hand unto it. This
answered the ri''3nri or idea represented to Moses in the mount.
He expressed this conception of his mind, when he gave out laws,
YOl.. XII. — '6o



544 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. III.

rules, orders, ordinances, institutions of worship, the whole pattern
of the house, as it was in divers manners and at sundry seasons to
be erected. I have in the Prolegomena unto the first part of these
discourses abundantly manifested that it was the Son who, from the
foundation of the world, immediately in his own person transacted
the affairs of God with men. Thither I refer the reader. He it
was that walked in the garden when Adam had sinned, and gave
the first promise unto him ; which proved -the foundation of the house
of God in after ages. He it was that was with the people in the
wilderness, which gave them their laws and statutes in Horeb, and
so built autocratically the house of God. And for the church of
the new testament, when he immediately and visibly transacted all
tlie affairs of the kingdom of God, it is most apparent he spake
with and instructed his tlisciples in all things pertaining to the
kingdom of God, Acts i. 8, — that is, of the house. And as God com-
manded Moses that he should make all things according to the
pattern showed him in the mount, so Christ requires of his disciples
that they should teach men to do and observe all things whatever
he commanded, Matt, xxviii. 20; which is therefore all that belongs
unto the house of God.

Secondly, The second thing required unto the building of this
hou.se is the providing of materials, and the framing and compact-
ing of them into a house for God. Now this was a great vv'ork
indeed, especially considering the condition of all those persons
whereof this house was to be constituted. They were dead in tres-
passes and sins, and the house was to be a living house, 1 Pet. ii. 5.
They were all enemies to God, strangers from him, and under his
curse; and the house was to be made up of the friends of God, and
such as he might delight to dwell with and among. They v/ere
dead stones, and the house was to be built of the children of Abra-
ham. This, then, was a great and glorious work, and which none
could perform but he that was unspeakably more honourable than
Moses or all the sons of men. The particulars of this work are
many and great; I shall briefly reduce them into four heads, such
as were resembled and represented in the building of the tabernacle
by Mosi^s: —

First, then, Moses gathered the materials of the tabernacle by a
free-will offering from among the people: Exod. xxxv. 4, 5, "And
Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel,
saying. This is the thing which the LoED commanded, saying,
Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever
is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD."
By this means, without force, or compulsion, or imposition, were the
materials of the tabernacle brought in. And so also doth the Lord
Christ provide for the building of the church. He dotii not gather



VER. 3-G.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 545

men by force or violence, or drive them together into the profession
of the truth with the swor-J, as Moliammed and the Pope (io to
their idols; but he invites none, receives none, admits of none, but
those that willingly offer themselves. Such as come unto him, aud
give up themselves to the Lord, and to the officers of his house,
by the will of God, he admits, and no other, 2 Cor. viii. 5; Rom.
xii. 1. And herein he puts forth the greatness of his power, in
giving them this will of coming; for they have it not in nor of
themselves, but he makes them " willing in the day of his power,"
Ps. ex. 8. And this work we could manifest to be great and glo-
rious, might we insist on the particulars of it.

Secondly, The materials of the tabernacle being freely offered,
Mv ere wiseli/ framed aud compacted together, and I'ashioned into a
sanctuary for a habitation of the Lord. This was the work of
Btzaieel and Aholiab, by art, wisdom, and skill. But the fashion-
ing of the real spiritual house of God by Christ in all ages is a thing
full of mysterious wisdom and holiness. The apostle expresseth it iu
sundry places ; we may touch on some of them : Eph. ii. 20-22, " Je.sus
Christ himself is the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building,
fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: iu
whom ye also are builded together for an habitatioa of God through
ti.e Spirit." The living stones being brought together by their own
willing offering themselves to the Lord, they are by him (as the
tabernacle of old) fitly iramed together into a holy temple or habi-
tation for God. How this is done, as he says in general that it is
by the Spirit, so he particularly declares, chap. iv. 15, 16, " Growing
up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from
whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that
which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in
the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the
edifying of itself in love." And he expresseth it again to the same
purpose. Col. ii. 19. There are various allusions in the words, both
unto an artificial house and unto the natural body of a man. The
sum is, that in Christ, the head of this body, the lord and buihler
of this house, there is resident a Spirit of life, which by him is com-
municated to every stone of the house, which gives it life, useful-
ness, union unto the head or lord of the body or house, as also order
and beauty iu reference unto the whole; that is, being all alike
uniU;d unto Christ, and acted in their places and order by one
Spirit, they become one house unto God. In brief, the compact-
ing and uniting of the materials of this house is twofold; — first,
physical and living ; secondly, legal or moral. The former is, as
was said, by the communication of the same Spirit of life unto them
all which is in Christ their head, so that they are all animated aud
acted by the same Spirit. The latter is their regular dispositiou



546 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. III.

into beautifully-ordered societies, according to the rules and laws of
the gospel.

Thirdly, That the house so built and compacted might be a
habitation unto God, it was necessary that an atonement should be
made for it by sacrifice, and that it should be purified and sanctified
with the blood thereof. This our apostle declares, Heb. ix. 19-21:
" For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people accord-
ing to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water,
and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all
the people, saying. This is the blood of the testament which God
hath enjoined unto you. Moreover, he sprinkled with blood both
the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry." This also was
Christ to do in the building of his church, as the apostle in the
same place declares. He was to make atonement for it by the
sacrifice of himself, and to sprinkle it wholly with his own blood,
that both an atonement might be made for it, and likewise that it
might be cleansed, sanctified, and dedicated unto God; which part of
his work in building his house the Scripture most largely insists upon.

FourtJily, The tabernacle being erected, and sprinkled with
blood, it was also with all its utensils to be anointed with the lioly
oil; and it was so accordingly, Exod. xl. 9, 10. "Thou shalt,"
saith God, " take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and
all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof:
and it shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint the altar of the burnt-
offering, and all his vessels, and sanctify the altar: and it shall be
an altar most holy." That this unction was a type of the Holy
Ghost is known ; he is the "oil of gladness" Avherewith Christ himself
and all his were to be anointed. This, therefore, the Lord Christ
in an especial manner takes care for in the building of his house,
namely, to have it anointed by the Holy Ghost. This he promised
unto them, John xvi. 7; and this he performeth accordingly, 1 John
ii. 27. This unction, with all the blessed and glorious effects of it,
doth the Lord Christ grant unto this whole house of his. And these
are the heads of some of the principal actings of Christ in the build-
ing of the house of God; all which are done by him effectually, and
by him alone.

Lastly, Unto the completing of this house for a habitation to
the Lord, the glorious entrance of his presence into it was required.
• And this also is accomplished by him, according to his promise that
he will be with us, among us, and dwell in us by his Spirit, unto the
end of the world. Matt, xxviii. 20, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 2 Cor. vi. 16,
Eph. ii. 19-22.

And so we have briefly demonstrated the first thing expresse'd in
the words, namely, that Christ was the builder of the house, whereof
Moses was a part and a member only.



VER. 3 6.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 547

2. The second thing asserted is, that the Lord Christ is worthy
of all glory and honour, upon the account of his thus building his
chuich, the house of God.

This also is directly taught by the apostle, and .included in the
comparison that he makes of him with Moses, and his preference
above him. He is worthy of much more glory and honour than
Moses. What glory it is that the apostle intends we must first in-
quire; and then show both that he is worthy of it and also hath it;
which things comprise what remains of the apostle's intention in this
first argument.

First, The Lord Christ liath an essential glory, the same with
that of the FatKerT This he had from eternity, antecedent unto his
whole undertaking of building the house of God, He and his Father
are ONE, John x. 30. Before his humiliation " he was in the form of
God, and counted it not robbery to be equal with God," Phil. ii. 6. —
equal in dignity and glory, because of the same nature with him,
which is the fountain of all divine glory and honour. This is " the
glory which he had with the Father before the world was;" which
being clouded for a season, in his taking on him " the form of a ser-
vant," Phil. ii. 7, he desires the manifestation of again, upon the
accomplishment of his work in this world, John xvii. 5, Rom. i. 8, 4.
But this is not the glory intended ; for the reason and cause of it is
not his building the house of God, but his divine nature, from which
it is absolutely inseparable. Had this house never been built, yet
he would have been thus glorious to eternity.

Secondly, Ther;e is in Christ the glory and honour of the human
nature, as glorified after its obedience and suffering. This nature
was rendered glorious by virtue of its union with the Son of God fron?
his incarnation, as it is expressed by the angel, Luke i. 35: "'The
Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest
shall overshadow thee ; therefore also that holy thing which shall be
born of thee shall be called the Son of God." But it received an
inconceivable addition of glory, when, being made spiritual and
heavenly, and every way glorified beyond what the understanding
of man can reach unto (for whereas " our vile bodies .shall be made
like unto his glorious body," or we shall be made like unto him,
" it doth not appear," is not conceivable, " what we shall be," 1 John
iii. 2), it was received triumphantly into heaven. Acts i. 9, there to
continue " until the times of the restitution of ail things," chap. iii. 21.
Neither is this, as absolutely considered, the glory and honour here
intended; for this glory is not merely that which he hath in himself,
but that which is due to him from and given to him by the church.

Thirdly, There is the honour and glory which he hath received in
his exaltation as the hecid o/jhe church. What this glory is, and
wherein it doth consist, or what are the effects of his exaltation,



548 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. III.

have been at large declared on chap. i. 2, 3, etc. See Matt, xxviii.18,
Eph. i. 20-22, Col. i. 15-18. In this last place, both the nature
and reason and consequents of it are expressed. The nature of
it is in this, that he is " the first-born of every creature," verse 1 5,
or lord and heir of the whole creation of God ; " the head of the
body," with an absolute pre-eminence in all things, verse 18. And
the reason which makes this exaltation reasonable is taken from the
dio-nity of his person absolutely considered, and the infiniteness of
his power: for, in his person he is " the image of the invisible God,"
verse 15, or " the express image" of the Father, as Heb. i. S; and as
to his power, " by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and
that are in earth," verse 16, as is at large declared, John i. 1-3. This
made it equal, that having fulfilled the work assigned unto him,
mentioned verses 20-22, he should enjoy all the glory and honour in-
sisted on; that is, that after he had built the house of God, he was
thus exalted.

What this glory or honour of Christ is, with respect unto the
church or the house built by him, shall be briefly declared, supjjos-
ing, as was said l)efore, what hath been already taught concerning
it on the first chapter. And it may be considered, —

First, In respect of the collation of it upon him. His glory as
the eternal Sou of God was and is personal and natural unto him,
even as it is unto the Father; for each person being possessed "in
solidum" of the same nature, each of them being God hy nature,
and the savie God, they have the same glory. But this glory of
Christ, as the builder of the church, as mediator, is consequent unto,
and bestowed upon him by the will and actual donation of the
Father. By him was he designed unto his work, and from him doth
he receive his glory. He " raised him from the dead, and gave him
glory," 1 Pet. i. 21 : that is, not only rendered him glorious by his
resurrection, as he was " declared to be the Son of God with power,
according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,"
as Rom. i. 4, — that is, made known by that miraculous, divine ope-
ration to be the true, real Son of God, and his divine nature thereby
manifested; nor only because he was afterwards " received up into
glory," 1 Tim. iii. 16, — that is, gloriously and triumphantly in his
human nature received into heaven; but because it was his will that
glory and honour should be yielded, ascribed, and paid unto him.
■ For so he speaks concerning the whole intellectual creation : as first,
for angels, he saith, " Let all the angels of God worship him," Heb.
3. 6; and for men, "The Father hath committed all judgment unto
the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour
the Father," John v. 22, 23. So that this glory and honour is con-
ferred upon the Lord Christ as the builder of the church, by the



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 67 of 70)