Category Archives: HEBREWS 3

An exhortation to consider the apostle and high priest of the Christian profession, Christ Jesus

HEBREWS 3

INTRODUCTION:
Chapter 3 continues the theme begun in chapter 2.  There the manhood of Christ is emphasised, and the seven-fold way in which He ministers to His people’s needs.  He sanctifies His people, separating them from Adam’s world, and sets them on the path of faith, a path sure to end in glory.  It is beset by difficulties, however, so He acts as a faithful and merciful high priest, and thus enables His people to reach their destination. 
To further show His fitness for this task, the writer contrasts Him with Moses, who was responsible for leading the children of Israel through the desert until they reached Canaan.  Under Moses, however, many of the people fell when they were tried and tested by the wilderness journey.  We, however, have a greater than Moses to help us, and so are encouraged as we press on to heaven.
The whole section from 3:7 to 4:13 is based on the words of Psalm 95:7-11, in which the psalmist details the failure of the nation of Israel to listen to God’s voice while they were crossing the wilderness towards Canaan.  So it was that some forfeited their right to the land, and died in the wilderness.  Hebrews 3:7-19 concentrates on those who refused to enter into the land, whereas Hebrews 4:1-11 speaks of those who do enter into God’s rest.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER:

(a)        Verses 1-5     Considering the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.
(b)    Verses 6-13      Obeying the voice of the Son over God’s house.
(c)    Verses 14-19    Becoming partakers of Christ.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 6:

3:1  Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

3:2  Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house.

3:3  For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

3:4  For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God.

3:5  And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

(a)    Verses 1-5    Considering the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus

3:1  Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

3:1  Wherefore- this is the translation of a word which is not found in any epistle known to be from Paul.  It means “for which reason”.  Chapter 2:18 has described our high priest as able to succour those that are tempted, so for this reason we should do what we are exhorted in the words following.
Holy brethren- believers have been made the brethren of Christ, 2:12, and He has sanctified them, 2:11, separating them from their former links with Adam. 
Partakers of the heavenly calling- as Hebrews they had been called to an earthly inheritance.  They have now exchanged this for a heavenly one, for their High Priest is at the right hand of God, not on David’s throne on earth.  The word “partakers” is the same as “fellows” in 1:9, and the word “partakers” of 3:14, 6:4, 12:8.  It is used in Luke 5:7 of those who were partners in a fishing business.  It denotes those who are sharers together in a common interest, in this case the heavenly things to which believers are called.
Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession- when Israel were about to begin their journey across the desert, they were led by Moses and Aaron, who had met and kissed on Mount Horeb, where later the law would be given, Exodus 4:27.  There is bonded together in these two men the twin ideas of one who represents God’s interests to the people, and who comes out from God’s presence to declare God’s mind, and another who represents the people’s interests in the presence of God, and who comes out from the presence of the people to be before God.  Moses was the apostle-like figure, coming out from and sent by God, whereas Aaron was the priest, going in to God from the people and for their interests.  The Jews used the word apostle of those sent by the High Priest to collect the temple tribute from Jews in foreign lands.  Compare Matthew 21:34.
What was divided between Moses and Aaron is combined to perfection in Christ, who is superior to Moses in 3:2-6, and superior to Aaron in 4:14-5:3.  Moses and Aaron both failed, as is seen in the fact that neither of them entered the land of promise.  Christ did not fail, and is entered in to heaven, 4:14. 
The word profession has the idea of saying the same thing.  In this context, it means to be in agreement with God when He tells of the glories and offices of His Son.  He is apostle and high priest in order to make our profession a possibility, and to make the things spoken of in that profession a reality.
Christ Jesus- the title Christ, or Messiah, can justly be connected with the personal name of Jesus.  This combined title is not found in the Gospels, so is a name reserved for Christ as one who, having been here, has become Christ or “anointed one” in a new way.  As Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “God hath made this same Jesus…Lord and Christ”, Acts 2:36.  He was Lord and Christ before, but is now to be thought of as having these titles in a new way.  He has become Christ in a heavenly sense, for He is God’s approved man who fits His people for heaven.

3:2  Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house.

3:2  Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him- the faithfulness of Christ is emphasised here, as His mercy is to the fore in 4:14-16.  To appoint means literally to make, but clearly has the idea of installing into an office, and therefore making Him something officially.  He was appointed as apostle in eternity, as He Himself indicated, “Him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world”, John 10:36.  And again, “As Thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”, John 17:18.  He was appointed as high priest in ascension, 5:4,10; 7:21,28.  The word is used in Mark 3:14, where disciples were made, or appointed, apostles.  It is appropriate that He should be appointed apostle as He begins His journey, and appointed High priest as He ends it.
The phrase is literally “being faithful”, so does not confine itself to the past, as “was” might suggest.  He was faithful as apostle when here, He is faithful as high priest up in heaven.
As also Moses was faithful in all His house- the latter words are a quotation from Numbers 12:7.  The context of that passage is relevant.  Numbers 11 records the appointment of the 70 men designated by God to assist Moses in his task of leading the people.  This might have seemed to Aaron and Miriam a sign of weakness on Moses’ part, and raised a doubt in their minds as to his competence.  They spoke against him in regard to the Ethiopian wife he had taken, perhaps suggesting that this showed lack of right judgement on his part.  They might have thought, “If he cannot order the affairs of his own house aright, how can he administer the house of God?”  “Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses”, they ask, “Hath He not spoken also by us”?  He had indeed used Aaron as Moses’ spokesperson in Pharoah’s palace, and Miriam had sung on the banks of the Red Sea to the praise of God, but still it was Moses who was to take the lead role in the affairs of the nation.  God moves to defend Moses’ reputation with the words quoted here, emphasising his faithfulness, for a faithful man is a reliable man; one to whom God can entrust His word, and such was Moses.  Aaron had failed at Sinai and also on the day of the consecration of the priests. 
God refers to “His house”, in Numbers 12:7, so this fixes the meaning here as being God’s house, not Moses’ house. 
The question is, what is signified?  Is it the House of Israel considered as ideally being God’s house, or the tabernacle, which is later on called the House of God? Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 23:18, and in later scriptures too. 
We should remember that a person’s house is not necessarily the building he lives in.  It can mean his family, as in the expression “House of Jacob”.  The Hebrew word for son is “ben”, but this is connected with the word for build.  In Bible times, sons were what a man’s house was built with. 

3:3  For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

3:3  For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses- the  word “for” takes us back to the idea of considering Christ.  He is worthy of more glory even than was, as the respected leader of Israel.  The word “more” is an adjective, so the idea is of greater, better glory.  This is why the Hebrews needed to turn from considering Moses as their leader, and consider Christ Jesus.
Inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house- the word for build used throughout this section has the idea of “prepare, make, equip”.  It is used in 9:2 of the making of the tabernacle, and in 9:16 of its arrangement.  This is a general principle, for the builder of any house displays access to resources, intelligence, and skill.  Things that obviously cannot be said of the house.  But the point is that Moses is in God’s house, and is therefore part of it, and therefore the builder is superior to him.  He cannot be the builder of the house in the first instance, since he is part of it.

3:4  For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God.         

3:4  For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God- the idea that Christ built the tabernacle might seem strange to us, so the writer explains.  Since the word builded means to prepare and equip, it is clear that the materials that Moses used to actually make the tabernacle were put in place by Christ, for He is the one who made the earth and its fulness.  As John 1:3 puts it, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made”.  He it was who placed the gold, silver, brass, and precious stones in the earth, and caused the shittim trees and the flax to grow, so that materials were available for Moses and his helpers to use.  It is true that the tabernacle was built by Moses, and so, like every house on earth, has been built by man, but beyond that Christ supplied the materials, and is therefore worthy of more honour.  The reason He is worthy of a greater glory than Moses is found in His Deity.

3:5  And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

3:5  And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant- this word may be translated as “confidential servant”, which fits in with Numbers 12:8, where God speaks of the way in which He spoke face to face with Moses, in a way which He did not speak to other prophets.  Having heard the voice of God, Moses was faithful in his acting upon that word from God.  It is interesting to notice that the word for servant, “therapon”, is one which gives us the English words “therapeutic”, and “therapy”.  In Numbers 12:13 Moses appeals to God about Miriam with the words “Heal her now, I beseech Thee”.  As mediator, he was indirectly responsible for the healing of his sister.  All Aaron could do was appeal to Moses, verses 11,12; Moses, on the other hand, appealed to God.
For a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after- notice that the testimony of Moses was “of those things”.  In other words, it was connected with those things.  It was not testimony to the things, for testimony or witness cannot be borne before an event, only after.  But Moses was faithful in so ordering and maintaining the tabernacle set-up, that when the time came for the meaning of it to be told out, all was easily understood.  Even in Moses’ time the Holy Spirit was teaching things through the way the tabernacle was arranged, even though those things were negative, (see 9:8-10).  Now that Christ has come, those things only feebly appreciated by the few, may be understood by the many.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 6 TO 11:

3:6  But Christ as a son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

3:7  Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice,

3:8  Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

3:9  When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.

3:10  Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known My ways.

3:11  So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.)

(b)    Verses 6-13    Obeying the voice of the Son over God’s house.

3:6  But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

3:6  But Christ as a Son over His own house- for some reason the Authorised Version inserts the word “own” here, which is absent from the Textus Receptus.  The phrase is exactly the same as in verse 2, which, because it is a quotation from Numbers 12:7, we know means God’s house.  Perhaps it was felt necessary to stress that a different house is in view in each case.  We have a great priest over the house of God, according to 10:21.  The idea of being faithful is to be understood from the context.  Moses was faithful as a servant…but Christ (was faithful) as a Son.
Whose house are we- this is where the meaning of house as a family comes in.  The House of Jacob was Jacob’s family; the house of God is those in the family of God.  The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to remind him that the church of God in Ephesus had the character of “house of God”, 1 Timothy 3:15.  It was composed of believers who desired to respond to the directives of God as He exercised His rights in the house.  For a house in this sense is the place where God resides and rules.  He has delegated that task to His Son, who as firstborn has the duty of administering for God.  Hence the importance of hearing and obeying the voice of the Son, verse 7.
If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end- the problem with Israel was that they did not persevere in the hearing and obeying of the voice of God.  They were not firm to the end, so they murmured instead of rejoicing, and instead of maintaining confidence in God, that He would bring them into the land, were disbelieving.  By holding fast they would show themselves true believers, and therefore in the house.

3:7  Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice,

3:7  Wherefore- for the sake of proving that you are genuinely part of the house.  There follows a parenthesis from 3:7-11 in which part of Psalm 95 is quoted, and a summary of the behaviour of Israel in the wilderness is given to us by the Spirit of God.  This the writer to the Hebrews uses, extracting different phrases from it to challenge his readers.  The whole passage from 3:7-4:13 forms his second warning passage in the epistle.  Having drawn lessons from the giving of the law at Sinai in 2:1-4, he now proceeds to warn them using the subsequent wilderness experience of Israel. 
(as the Holy Ghost saith- there now comes a quotation from Psalm 95.  Having made the quotation, the writer will highlight various phrases from the psalm, and use them in his exhortation to this readers.  In chapter 3 the emphasis is on the middle of the quotation, whereas in chapter 4 the main point is the beginning and ending of the quote.  The word “today” is referred to seven times.                                      To day if ye will hear His voice- so the Holy Spirit is speaking in the present, (saith), in words that were written centuries before by the psalmist.  Despite having been written by a man, they were the words of the Holy Spirit of God.  As such they have great relevance.  The expression used for Holy Spirit is literally “the Spirit, the Holy”, indicating and emphasising His separateness from anything wrong or corrupt.  He may safely be listened to.  Note, too, that the Holy Spirit is exhorting that we listen to the voice of the Son.  One Divine Person is supporting the ministry of another, as happens again in 10:15.  Note the importance of hearing the voice today, and not delaying obedience.  We are to hear the voice each day, and honestly assess our response to it.  Psalm 95:7 spoke of Israel as the flock of God’s pasture, and the Lord Jesus, the good shepherd, emphasised the importance of hearing His voice, John 10:27.  To ignore the voice of the shepherd might mean we get into danger, or stray.  In Numbers 14:22, after Israel had refused to go into the land, the Lord accuses them of not having hearkened to His voice.

3:8  Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

3:8  Harden not your hearts- it is entirely possible to hear the voice, but not have hearts responsive to what is said.  Sadly this was the case with the majority in Israel, in incidents now to be referred to.
As in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness- the meaning of the place-name Meribah, (where, at the beginning of the wilderness journey, the people murmured against God and His goodness), is strife, or provocation, and the other name given to the place by Moses was Massah, which means temptation, Exodus 17:7.  So the failure and sin of the people is recorded for all to know and learn by.  Long after the event, the psalmist recalled it for our instruction.

3:9  When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.

3:9  When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years- what happened at the beginning of the wilderness journey happened at the end, 40 years later in Numbers 20.  (See verse 1 of that chapter, where “the first month” means the first month of the fortieth year).  Again it is a matter of water from the rock, and again the place is named Meribah by Moses.  When placed under trial and testing, instead of being cast upon God, and availing themselves of the ministry of their high priest, they tempted God by suggesting that He was not able to deal with the situation.  Nonetheless, God still allowed them to see His great works for forty years, in the provision of the manna and quails, and their preservation from harm.

3:10  Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known My ways.

Wherefore I was grieved with that generation- God is always grieved when His word is disobeyed, because that is the same as saying He is a liar.  This is how the apostle John saw it, for he wrote, “he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar”, 1 John 5:10. 
And said, They do alway err in their heart- it is no surprise to learn that those who fail to listen to God go astray.  The word for err is “planos”, the lights in the sky that sailors plot their course by at their peril, for they wander across the night sky.  The psalmist said that Israel “wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way”.  Instead of taken the direct way under God’s direction, they were condemned to wander aimlessly for 38 years.  The erring of their heart was mirrored in the wandering of their feet.  Stephen tells us that “in their hearts they turned back into Egypt”, Acts 7:39; and he is referring to the incident at the foot of Sinai, just a month after crossing the Red Sea.  See verse 17 below, where God was grieved, not just 38 years, but 40.
And they have not known My ways- preferring their own way, God’s way was unknown to them, for only those responsive to the word of God shall know the way. 

3:11  So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.)

So I sware in My wrath- this is the psalmist’s comment on the passage in Numbers 14:27-39 where God says, “As truly as I live, saith the Lord…your carcases shall fall in this wilderness”.  Because God cannot swear by anything higher than Himself, (for there is nothing higher), He swears by Himself, for He, as God, is His own point of reference, Hebrews 6:13.  We shall see in chapter 4 that these words may be rendered slightly differently, so that God, even when He is wrath still remembers mercy, Habakkuk 3;2. 
They shall not enter into My rest-  the Canaan-rest God had prepared for His people could not be entered in a state of unbelief and disobedience.  This is the way the words apply to that portion of the nation which were disobedient to the word of God.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 12 TO 19:

3:12  Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

3:13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

3:14  For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

3:15  While it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

3:16  For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

3:17  But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

3:18  And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?

3:19  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

(c)    Verses 12-19    Becoming partakers of Christ

3:12  Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Take heed, brethren- the quotation of Psalm 95 ends in verse 12, and the line of thought is now resumed from verse 6.  We should not assume that by calling them brethren he is reckoning them to all be believers.  The common mode of address in the synagogue was “Men brethren”, the common interest in God’s dealings with Israel being that which made them into a brotherhood, see Acts 7;2; 13:26,38; 22:1.
Lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief- a heart of unbelief is always evil, which word means “causing grief or pain”.  Hence God speaks of being grieved 40 years by their manifest unbelief.  Any one of the nation could be in danger of this; simply being of Israel did not make them immune.  It was one of the twelve apostles that betrayed Christ, and thereby showed Himself to be an apostate.
In departing from the living God- the word for departing here means to apostatise, to deliberately go away from the stand one has taken with regard to the truth.  In the parable of the sower, those whose hearts were like the rocky ground, where the seed could not take deep root, “for a while believe, but in time of temptation fall away”, Luke 8:13.  So there is such a thing as temporary faith, where a form of belief is exercised, but which does not take serious note of the consequences.  The apostle Paul calls this believing in vain, 1 Corinthians 15:2.
Those who departed from the living God were those who did not share the life of God, which is eternal life.  No wonder we read their carcases fell in the wilderness, for they were dead while they lived.

3:13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day- daily exhortation is encouraged by the fact that every day is an opportunity to hear the word of God, for the Son constantly brings it to us.  It was those who spoke often to one another in Malachi’s day who were precious to the Lord, Malachi 3:16,17.
Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin- sin committed because the word of God is not obeyed, will result in a hardening of the heart.  Sin has the ability to deceive us into thinking that it knows the best policy.  We see this in the fact that many in Israel preferred Egypt to Canaan.

3:14  For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;

For we are made partakers of Christ- literally “we have become companions of Christ”, so the deed is done.  The word partaker is translated “fellows” in 1:9, and partakers in verses 1 and 14 of this chapter.  The idea is of those who have a close association with another, so that they share in his affairs.  This is a high position to be in, but high privileges bring great responsibilities.
If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end- the beginning of the confidence in Christ is the initial, fervent faith in Him they showed at conversion.  A continuance in that attitude is a sure sign of genuineness, and is the opposite of the “departing” of verse 12.  It is not a question of continuing so as to be saved, but continuing because we are saved.

3:15  While it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
3:16  For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear His voice- having spoken of the whole of the pilgrim journey from initial faith to the end of the journey, the writer now reminds us that we must respond to Christ on a day to day basis.  We cannot maintain our walk as companions with Christ if we neglect His word day after day.
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation- the psalmist had mentioned provocation because it was the name given to the place in the wilderness where the people murmured against God and Moses, and He provided them water, Exodus 17:7; Numbers 20:13.  See notes on verse 9.
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses- so the nation is divided into those who provoke God by their unbelief and murmuring, and those who respond to His word.  Those under 20 when they came out of Egypt, (for 20 was the minimum age to be included in the census, Numbers 1:3), were spared.  See Numbers 26:63-65.

3:17  But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

But with whom was He grieved forty years?- the attitude of heart at the beginning, at Massah, was found at the end, again at Massah; they were unchanged, despite having seen God’s providential and sustaining works for 40 years. 
Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?- so God was justified for banning them from the land, for they showed themselves to be sinners for 40 long years.  As those who were spiritually dead, it was as if they were dead while they lived, hence their bodies are called carcases before they were put in the grave.  This is why there needed to be the provision in Numbers 19, (Numbers is the wilderness book), if a bone or a grave were touched, for the wilderness became a graveyard.

3:18  And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?
3:19  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. 

Only two men over the age of 58 entered the land of promise, Caleb and Joshua, the two faithful spies.  Despite the evidence of the fruitfulness of the land, and despite the encouragements Caleb and Joshua gave to the people as they preached the gospel of good things ahead, 4:2, the people were marked by unbelief.  This unbelief takes the form of disobedience, such is the word used, so we are back yet again to the question of obeying the word of God as it comes to us.  Thus ends a sad section where the emphasis has been on those who did not enter in.  Chapter 4 will concentrate more on those who did, and the reasons why they did.