Hebrews 3

Hebrews 3  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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THE FIRST CHAPTER has presented to us the Lord Jesus as the Apostle, that is, as the Sent One, who came forth from God to us, bringing us the Divine revelation. The second set Him before us as the High Priest, who has gone in from us to God, representing us and maintaining our cause in His presence. Now we are bidden to consider Him very thoroughly in both these characters. We are to set our minds to it as those who aim at discovering all that is involved.
These Hebrews had taken up a new profession, or, we had better say, they had entered upon the confession of the name of Jesus, who had been rejected by their nation. The national attitude towards Him was summed up in these words, “We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is” (John 9:29). The more these converted Hebrews considered JESUS and studied Him the more certainly would they know from whence He was: they would perceive that truly “He was come from God, and went to God” (John 13:3).
The Jews made their boast in Moses and in Aaron. God had indeed spoken to the one and made him His spokesman, and He had established the other in the priestly office; nevertheless both were dead. The Christian, and the Christian alone, has an Apostle and High Priest who lives, to be known and contemplated and loved: One who is God and yet Man, endowed with all the attributes and glory enumerated in chapters 1 and 2.
He is worthy of our eternal study. Let us consider Him well, for as we do so we shall the more clearly see how rich is the place we have as set in relation to Him, and how high is the calling in which we partake. Both these things are mentioned in the first verse. Do not pass them over lightly. They are worthy of serious attention.
We are addressed as “holy brethren.” This is tremendously significant. It does not merely mean that all Christians are brethren and all set apart for God. The expression must be understood in relation to its context, that is, in relation to what has gone before, and particularly to verses 10 and 11 of chapter ii. In the latter of these two verses we have “sanctifieth” and “sanctified,” and in our verse “holy.” These are all different forms of the same word. We are holy inasmuch as we have come into the wonderful sanctification of being “all of one” with the great Captain of our salvation. For the same reason are we “brethren,” since He is not ashamed to call us that. In addressing us as “holy brethren” the Spirit of God is reminding us of the place of extraordinary nearness and honor in which we are set.
As holy brethren we partake in the heavenly calling. We all know how God called Israel out of Egypt and into the land which He had purposed for them. Theirs was an earthly calling, though by no means to be despised. We are not called to any particular place on the earth, but to a place in the heavens.
In the gospels we see how the Lord was preparing the minds of His disciples for this immense change. At one point in the midst of His ministry He bade them not rejoice so much in the possession of miraculous powers: “but rather rejoice,” (Luke 10:20) He said, “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Our names are inscribed in the records of the cities to which we belong, and in these words the Lord indicated that they were entering upon a heavenly citizenship. Later, in His farewell discourse, He spoke to them of His Father’s true house which is in the heavens—that house of which the earthly temple was only the pattern and shadow—and He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Our place is there. Our calling is heavenly in its character and it has heaven as its end.
If these early Hebrew converts really took in these mighty facts by faith, they would without doubt have realized how greatly they had been elevated. It was truly no mean thing to have been the people of Abraham and Moses, called to a land flowing with milk and honey; but all that shrinks into comparative insignificance besides such things as being among the “many sons” who are being brought to glory, owned as “holy brethren” by the Lord Jesus, and thus called to heaven. But again, if so great an elevation for them how much greater an elevation for us, who with neither part nor lot in Israel’s privileges were just sinners of the Gentiles? Only let us take time to ponder the matter and we shall find abundant cause to bend our hearts in worship of Him from whose heart of love such designs have proceeded.
Holiness and heavenliness characterize our calling, but the great thing for us is that we turn the eyes of our mind upon Jesus and earnestly consider Him. He is both Apostle and High Priest and in His greatness we may read the greatness of our calling. Verses 2 to 6 give us a glimpse of His greatness as contrasted with Moses. When, as recorded in Num. 12, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, they said, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath He not spoken also by us?” (Num. 12:2). That is, they questioned his office as the prophet, or apostle, of that day. Then the Lord bore of him this remarkable testimony, “My servant Moses... is faithful in all Mine house” (Num. 12:7). In this he was a type of Christ, who is faithful to Him that appointed Him in a supreme degree.
Yet even so we find that the relation here between type and Antitype is contrast rather than comparison. First, Moses was faithful in God’s house as being part of the house himself; whereas Christ is the builder of the house. Second, the house in which Moses ministered was just Israel; he bore the burden of that nation but of that nation alone. The Lord Jesus acts on behalf of “all things.” He that built all things is God, and the Lord Jesus is He by whom God built them. Third, in the small and restricted sphere of Israel Moses ministered as a faithful servant; but in the vast sphere of all things Christ ministers to the glory of God. Let us meditate on these points and we shall begin to have large thoughts of Christ.
Still we must not lose ourselves in the immensity of God’s mighty universe, so we find that Christ has His own house over which He is Son, and we, the believers of today, are that house. We are His building, and He faithfully administers all that concerns us to God’s glory, as Apostle and High Priest.
But, as it says here, we are His house, “IF...” That if mightily disturbs a good many people. It is intended to disturb, not the true believer, but the mere professor of the Christian religion. And here let us draw an important distinction. When in Scripture we are viewed as those born of God, or indeed viewed in any way as the subjects of God’s work by His Spirit, then no if is introduced. How can there be?-for perfection marks all God’s work. On the other hand when we are viewed from the human standpoint as those who have taken upon us the profession of Christianity, then an if may be introduced-indeed it must be.
Here are some who professed conversion years ago, yet today they are far from being Christian in their behavior. What can we say as to them? Well, we aim at being charitable in our thoughts, so we give them the benefit of the doubt and accept them as believers, until conclusively proved not to be so. Still there is a doubt: an if comes in. The Hebrews, to whom our epistle was written, were many as to numbers and very varied as to their spiritual state. Some of them made the writer of the epistle feel very anxious. The mass doubtless were really converted people of whom it could be said, “But beloved we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation” (ch. 6:9). Still in writing to them all indiscriminately what could be said except that all Christian privileges were theirs, if indeed they were real in their profession.
Now it is just this that the second part of verse 6 says, for it is time that tests reality. There is no more certain guarantee of reality than continuance. The false sooner or later let things slip, and turn away; the true hold fast to the finish. But then if any do let slip and turn away the real root of the trouble with them is, in one word, unbelief.
You notice of course that a parenthesis stretches from the second word of verse 7 to the end of verse 11. To get the sense we read, “Wherefore take heed, brethren, etc.” It is an evil heart of unbelief, and not of coldness or indifference or worldliness, that we are warned against; bad as these things are for the spiritual health of believers. It was just unbelief that was the root of all the troubles of Israel in their wilderness journey, as the last verse of our chapter says. So the Israel of the days of Moses was in this a beacon of warning to the Hebrews of the Apostolic age.
In the parenthesis we have a quotation from Psa. 95 It is introduced to our notice not as a saying of David but as a saying of the Holy Ghost, who inspired David in his utterance. In the last five verses of our chapter we have the Spirit’s comment upon His earlier utterance in the Psalm, and here we have made abundantly plain what we have just stated above. Caleb and Joshua entered the land of promise because they believed; the rest did not because they did not believe. Their carcasses fell in the wilderness.
A further word of explanation is necessary at this point lest we become confused in our thoughts. The history of Israel may be looked at in two ways: firstly from a national standpoint, then from a standpoint more personal and individual. It has a typical value for us whichever way we look at it.
If we take the first standpoint then we consider them as nationally a redeemed people, and that nationally they entered into the land God purposed for them, with the exception of the two and a half tribes, who became typical of earthly-minded believers, who fail to enter into that which is God’s purposed blessing for them. From that point of view we do not concern ourselves with the fact that the individuals who actually entered into the land were, with two exceptions, entirely different from those that came out of Egypt. From the second standpoint we do concern ourselves with the actual state of the people and of individuals amongst them. Only two of those who left Egypt so believed as to actually enter Canaan. This latter point of view is the one taken in Hebrews, as also in 1 Cor. 10:1-13, where we are told that they are also in all this types or ensamples to us. They warn us very clearly of the awful end that awaits those who, though by profession and to all outward appearance the people of God, are really without that true and vital faith which is the mainspring of all godliness.
We are warned therefore against an evil heart of unbelief which departs from the living God, and bidden to exhort one another daily for sin is very deceitful. If believers are to exhort one another daily it means that daily they seek one another’s company. This verse then takes for granted that, like the Apostles who, “being let go... went to their own company” (Acts 4:23), we also find our society and companionships amongst the people of God. It also infers that we watch for one another’s souls and care for one another’s spiritual prosperity. But is this true of us all? The general spiritual health of Christians would be much better if it were. We are far more influenced by the company that we keep than many of us like to admit.
If however, any of us have professed the name of Christ without reality, then there is still in us the evil heart of unbelief, whatever we may have said with our lips; and the downward course that lies before us, except we be awakened to realities, is plainly set before us. The evil heart of unbelief is easily deceived by sin; and sin itself by reason of its deceitfulness hardens us, so that we become impervious to reproof. Then instead of holding “the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end,” we let go and give up. But only the real, who do remain steadfast unto the end, are made partakers, or companions of Christ.