BROTHER BEEBE: - In looking over the ninth number, present volume of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, I discover that sister Lovicy Brown, of Illinois, has asked for my views on Hebrews ii. 14:
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."
I am aware that many brethren whom I highly esteem have different views on this mysterious portion of holy writ, and therefore, what I may say on the subject can not meet the approval of all. It is not so pleasant for those who sincerely desire unity among the children of God to write or speak on subjects, when conscious that those they love differ with the writer or speaker; but still I think the investigation of the subjects upon which we may have different ideas is proper, and often profitable to the saints when the elucidation is conducted in a christian spirit. If I am wrong and subject that error to the examination of "those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil," and they, thus having the opportunity, convert others with myself from the error of our way, their act is both commendable and profitable to those who are thus converted, particularly to myself, the propagator. Having this view of the subject, I hesitate not to give such views as I have, hoping that our different ideas upon abstruse portions of the scriptures will not disturb the harmony that exists amongst us on the plain and positive points of the doctrine of the salvation of sinners by grace, and grace alone.
This text, together with its connection, presents to our view some of the most important things pertaining to the salvation of poor, lost sinners. Jesus is exhibited as the great High Priest and Apostle of our profession, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, angels and authorities being made subject to him, there to reign without a rival, until his enemies be made his footstool, or, until all those enemies be put under his feet, the last one of which is death. From that highly exalted position, or from heaven, God has spoken to us by him, and therefore, the apostle says we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip, or pass without due attention; because much of the comfort and assurance of the saints depends upon a careful and earnest heed of those matters; and not only that, but neglect of those important matters is wrong, and certain to bring upon us, who neglect so great salvation, the Lord’s chastising rod, from which there is no escape.
He then shows the dignified station in which man was placed in his first creation. Being made a little lower than the angels, he was set over the works of God’s hands, having all things put under him. “But [continues the apostle] now we see not yet all things put under him.” So signally has he fallen from the exalted position he occupied and the rule he exercised over the beast of the earth, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, that he is made to shudder at the approach of many of them, who are permitted to tear him to pieces, or otherwise destroy him. “But [adds the apostle] we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels [precisely where man was placed] for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” Yes, he was [in the past tense] made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, but that suffering ended on Calvary, and therefore, “Death hath no more dominion over him.” But, we see him [now in the present] crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God [not by suffering,] should [in the future] taste death for every man. So that when Arminians attempt to quote this text, “He tasted [in the past] death for every man,” they pervert the language of the Scriptures by using the past instead of the present tense. This death is to be tasted “by the grace of God,” and alludes, in my humble opinion, not to his suffering on the cross, but to the presence of Jesus by his grace in the hour of the death of his brethren, to thus taste or take away its sting, and finally, to not only taste, but swallow it up in victory, or totally destroy it so far as his brethren are concerned; and the brotherhood consists of; Both he that sanctifieth [setteth apart] and they who are sanctified [or set apart] who are all of One [Father,] for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
In this connection then, the holy writer alludes particularly and exclusively to Jesus and his brethren, those “many sons,” which he engaged to bring to glory by the great and important work of salvation which he accomplished by taking part of the same flesh and blood of which they are partakers. In the next verse preceding the text, he says. “Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.” Here is portrayed a close and endearing tie of kindred relationship, or vital unity, and that relation based upon a sameness of parentage, for they are all of one Father. Christ is “The only begotten Son of God,” and the younger brethren have their sonship in him, and are thus the children of God, as the children of Isaac were the children of Abraham. This sonship is a spiritual relationship, for they are all “Born of God,” and “God is a Spirit;” and these “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” that Paul addresses “are built up a spiritual house to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” But as these children have a fleshly as well as a spiritual relationship, it was necessary that he should “be made like unto his brethren,” sustain a like relationship, in order to bring those “many sons unto glory.” “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.”
My sister wishes to know; “When the children were partakers of flesh and blood, was it in their natural or spiritual birth?” Had she asked when the children are partakers, the question would seem to me more in accordance with the text, for the apostle does not use the word were, referring to the past, but are, the plural of the present tense of the verb to be. This expression, then, cannot refer to the children as having partaken of flesh and blood originally, but in Paul’s day it had reference to the then present time, and is to be so used in all time. Had he referred to the past by using the word were, we might, with some show of propriety, conclude that the children partook of flesh and blood in Adam, as some suppose; but I should then be puzzled to know what children they were that thus partook in that relation.
The Saviour says: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and I suppose he meant what he said. If he did, he did not allude only to the fleshly fibers that cover our corporeal frames, but to all that is born of the flesh. In our natural birth then, according to Christ’s definition, we are wholly and totally flesh, although all the component parts of the fleshly man, such as blood, bones, muscles, sinews, mind, soul, spirit, &c., make up his composition; yet the Lord includes all in the general term flesh, for all these are born of the flesh, and as before observed, “Which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and Paul says, “The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” Again, if they are flesh, as Christ says, what would such a partaking be, but flesh? And what more would the child be after such a participation than a fleshly one? What advantage would accrue to that child by such a partaking? What comfort could he draw from such an idea? Can we claim, by our natural birth, any vital relationship to any but a natural father or his natural offspring? On what would rest our hope of immortality beyond the grave? Is not that hope based upon a vital and indissoluble unity with Christ, that we are partakers of the divine nature as well as the fleshly one? Convince me that there are no children to partake of flesh and blood, but the natural ones in the natural birth, and then my hope of a glorious resurrection, and succeeding consummate bliss beyond the grave’s dreary dominion, will be paralyzed forever. Now, if the children of the flesh are not the children of God, as Paul says, where shall we go to find them delineated? I shall go first to John i. 13, for there he tells us of those “Which were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God;” and I conclude that those who are born of God are the children of God. Am I not right in this conclusion? Next let us go to John iii. 6, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Are not those who are born of the flesh the children of the flesh? And are the children of the flesh the children of God? Paul says not. Are not the children of the Spirit, or those who are born of the Spirit, the children of God? I know of no spirit they are born of, but God; for “God is a Spirit,” and conclude, that they are the children of God. Let us next go to I Peter i. 23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Is not that incorruptible seed Christ? And is he not God? Yea, “The true God and eternal life.” Hear him, “Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt have no God but me; for there is no Saviour besides me.” Hosea xiii. 4. Is not the conclusion inevitable, then, that those who are “born of God,” “Born of the Spirit,” “Born of incorruptible seed,” are the children of God, and that when one of those children are thus born, that child is a partaker of flesh and blood, or, takes its residence in a body of flesh as did the Saviour? Let us see whether this conclusion is corroborated by the plain language of the text; for that should always govern us in forming our opinions. “He also Himself Likewise took part of the same.” This little adverb also, signifies, “in the same manner,” and likewise, “in like manner.” Now, if we can ascertain the manner in which he partook of flesh and blood, we may rest assured that it is “in the same manner” – “in like manner” that his children partake of it. When he partook of flesh and blood, he “came down from heaven,” when a body was prepared him, which served as a temple for him to dwell in. John ii. 19-21. John saw his children, “the Holy City, new Jerusalem, [in like manner] coming down from God out of heaven.” Rev. xxi. 2. And Paul says, “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?” See I Cor. Iii. 16 & vi. 19. Moreover, he is not of the world, “in like manner,” his children are not of the world. John xv. 19 & xvii. 16. Then, the manner in which Christ partook of flesh and blood, was to come down from heaven, and therefore, is not of the world, but dwelt in a temple of flesh and blood. “In like manner,” or “in the same manner,” his children came down from God out of heaven [being born from above,] are not of the world, but dwell in a body of flesh and blood.
If this is the manner in which he partook of flesh and blood, and if the children and him partake of it in the same manner, in like manner, which the words also and likewise signify, how can we suppose that the children are partakers of flesh and blood in their natural birth, unless we conclude that they came down from God out of heaven at the time of their natural birth? The idea is preposterous. Which of the two ideas is the best calculated to comfort the people of God? That is one prime object to have in view. I cannot imagine how the belief that it is only in the natural or fleshly birth that the children are partakers of flesh and blood could give any comfort, any evidence of anything beyond our fleshly relation or mortal state of existence. In that we are but the component parts of Adam, and "In Adam all die."
But we anticipate something beyond death; still, we have nothing originating in our natural birth for that hope to rest upon. But when the child that is born of the Spirit, and which “is spirit,” is sent to take his residence in the body, and thus partake of flesh and blood, it brings the evidence of our “Adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;” and we are then permitted to lawfully claim God as our Father, and have a testimonial of a free passport through the valley of the shadow of death, and onward to the glorious dawn of the morning of the resurrection; and a legal title to all the bliss and brilliant glory of that bright eternal day.
Thus the question is solved how the children of the flesh can be put among the children that are born of God, for it is by the law of adoption that they are legally entitled to the inheritance of a spiritual patrimony, and have Paul’s assurance that, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” When that auspicious day arrives;
“The trump of God shall rend the rocks,
And open adamantine locks;
Call forth the dead from death’s dark dome,
And Jesus take his ransom’d home.”
This will be the consummation of the most stupendous scene of condescension that ever was transacted upon this globe, the most amazing stoop of humility that mortals can contemplate upon. Wonderful exhibition of inimitable love! Inconceivable display of benign favor! The Son of God, though immaculate, bathed in sweat, blood, tears and overwhelmed with sufferings. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” In order to accomplish this transcendently glorious work, he must be a partaker of flesh and blood, for “it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, for the sins of his people.”
And think of the majesty of him who put on this robe of flesh to complete this work of eternal salvation for poor, lost, rebellious sinners! Think of the exceeding, surpassing glory that so brilliantly adorned him before the world was, and then think of his dressing himself in a robe of suffering flesh and blood, like the brethren! Think! O, brethren! Think of his dignity, his sublime parentage, think of HIM, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” What unspeakable joy, what an earnest of unutterable glory it affords us to have an evidence by the Spirit of adoption that God our heavenly Father has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” But, although we have received the Spirit of adoption to evince the legal initiation of the natural or fleshly child into the spiritual family, according to the law of adoption, like Paul, and all his brethren who have received the first fruits of the Spirit, we must wait for the complete and consummate adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body, and groan within ourselves until our change comes; then shall we realize more fully the sublime mystery and great utility that Christ should take part of the same flesh and blood of which his children are partakers, “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” “Then shall we be satisfied when we awake with his likeness, when we behold his face in righteousness.” Then, and not till then, shall we see him as he is, and be like him and enter into the full possession of the inheritance of the saints in light.
"To swim in seas of bliss, to strike the string,
And lift the voice to our almighty King;
To swell eternally our grateful lays,
And fill heaven's wide circumference with praise."
I submit the foregoing remarks first to your consideration, brother Beebe, and if you are pleased to publish them in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, to the judgment of the brethren, sisters and friends, who may examine them, particularly to that of sister Brown, hoping they will endorse or reject them as they may be corresponsive with, or antagonistical to the scriptures, and still crave a place in the affections and an interest in the prayers of the saints.
J. F. JOHNSON.