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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Hebrews 3

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Jesus, Superior to Moses

A. Considering Jesus.

1. (1a) Therefore: who we are in light of the previous paragraphs.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,

a. Therefore: We have been left with the picture of Jesus, our heavenly High Priest. Since this is true, it teaches something about who we are. Understanding who we are in light of who Jesus is and what He has done is essential for a healthy Christian life. It keeps us from the depths of discouragement the Hebrew Christians faced.

b. We are holy brethren: Because our heavenly, holy High Priest is not ashamed to call them brethren. (Hebrews 2:11) It should bless and encourage us that Jesus calls us His holy brethren.

c. We are partakers of the heavenly calling: Because Jesus is committed to bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10), we are partners in His heavenly calling. This should bless and encourage us to press on, even through difficult times and trials.

2. (1b) Therefore: what we are to do in light of the previous paragraphs.

Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

a. Consider the Apostle: We don't often apply this word to Jesus, but He is our Apostle. The Greek word for apostle really means something like ambassador. In this sense, Jesus is the Father's ultimate ambassador (Hebrews 1:1-2). God had to send a message of love so important, He sent it through Christ Jesus.

i. The message is plain: consider this. Consider that God loves you so much He sent the ultimate Messenger, Christ Jesus. Consider also how important it is for you to pay attention to God's ultimate Apostle, Christ Jesus.

ii. God also chose His original, authoritative "ambassadors" for the church; these are what we think of as the original twelve apostles. God still chooses ambassadors in a less authoritative sense, and there is a sense in which we are all ambassadors for God.

b. Consider the … High Priest: Jesus is the One who supremely represents us before the Father, and who represents the Father to us. God cares for us so much that He put the ultimate mediator, the ultimate High Priest, between Himself and sinful man.

i. The message is plain: consider this. Consider that God loves you this much, and that if such a great High Priest has been given to us, we must honor and submit to this High Priest, who is Christ Jesus.

c. Consider the Jesus as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus is the ambassador and the mediator of our confession. Christianity is a confession made with both the mouth (Matthew 10:32, Romans 10:9) and with the life.

3. (Heb 3:2) Consider Jesus as faithful in His duties before the Father, even as Moses was a faithful servant of God.

Who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.

a. Who was faithful: When we consider the past faithfulness of Jesus, it makes us understand that He will continue to be faithful. And as He was faithful to God the Father (Him who appointed Him), so He will be faithful to us. This should bless and encourage us!

b. As Moses also was faithful in all His house: Moses showed an amazing faithfulness in his ministry; but Jesus showed a perfect faithfulness- surpassing even that of Moses!

B. Jesus, superior to Moses.

1. (3a) Jesus has received more glory than Moses did.

For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses,

a. Moses: Moses received much glory from God. This is seen in his shining face after spending time with God (Exodus 34:29-35), in his justification before Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:6-8), and before the sons of Korah (Numbers 16).

b. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses did: But Jesus received far more glory from the Father, at His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), at His transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and at His resurrection (Acts 2:26-27 and Acts 2:31-33).

2. (3b-6) Why did Jesus receive more glory than Moses? Because Moses was a servant in God's house, but Jesus is both the builder of the house and a Son in it.

Inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

a. Inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house: Moses was a member of the household of God, but Jesus is the creator of that house, worthy of greater glory.

i. The ancient Rabbis considered Moses to be the greatest man ever, greater than the angels. The writer to the Hebrews does nothing to criticize Moses; he only looks to properly exalt Jesus.

b. Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant … but Christ as a Son over His own house: Moses was a faithful servant, but he was never called a Son in the way Jesus is.

c. Whose house we are if we hold fast: We are a part of Jesus' household if we hold fast. The writer to the Hebrews is encouraging those who felt like turning back, helping them to hold fast by explaining the benefits of hanging in there.

i. True commitment to Jesus is demonstrated over the long term, not just in an initial burst. We trust that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

ii. Whose house we are: 1 Peter 2:4-5 says we are being built up a spiritual house. God has a work to build through His people, even as one might build a house.

C. The application of the fact of Jesus' superiority to Moses.

1. (Heb 3:7-11) A quotation from Psalm 95:7-11 and its relevance.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'"

a. Do not harden your hearts: If those who followed Moses were responsible to surrender, trust and persevere in following God's leader, how much more are we responsible to do the same with a greater leader, Jesus?

b. As in the rebellion, in the day of trial: The day of trial refers first to the trial at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13). But more generally, it speaks of Israel's refusal to trust and enter the Promised Land during the Exodus (Numbers 13:30-14:10). God did not accept their unbelief and condemned that generation of unbelief to die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:22-23; 28-32).

c. And saw My works forty years: Because of their unbelief, the people of Israel faced judgment which culminated after forty years. This warning in Hebrews was written about forty years after the Jews' initial rejection of Jesus. God's wrath was quickly coming upon the Jews who rejected Jesus, and would culminate with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

d. Therefore I was angry with that generation: God's anger was kindled against that generation on account of their unbelief. They refused to trust God for the great things He had promised, and were unwilling to persist in trust.

2. (Heb 3:12-15) Beware: Don't be like the generation that perished in the wilderness!

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

a. Lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief: This is strong language, but we often underestimate the terrible nature of our unbelief. Refusing to believe God is such a serious sin because it shows an evil heart and a departing from the living God.

i. "Unbelief is not inability to understand, but unwillingness to trust … it is the will, not the intelligence, that is involved." (Newell)

ii. One can truly believe God, yet be occasionally troubled by doubts. There is a doubt that wants God's promises but is weak in faith at the moment. Unbelief isn't weakness of faith; it sets itself in opposition to faith.

iii. "The great sin of not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is often spoken of very lightly and in a very trifling spirit, as though it were scarcely any sin at all; yet, according to my text, and, indeed, according to the whole tenor of the Scriptures, unbelief is the giving of God the lie, and what can be worse?" (Spurgeon)

iv. "Hearken, O unbeliever, you have said, 'I cannot believe,' but it would be more honest if you had said, 'I will not believe.' The mischief lies there. Your unbelief is your fault, not your misfortune. It is a disease, but it is also a crime: it is a terrible source of misery to you, but it is justly so, for it is an atrocious offense against the God of truth." (Spurgeon)

v. "Did I not hear some one say, 'Ah, sir, I have been trying to believe for years.' Terrible words! They make the case still worse. Imagine that after I had made a statement, a man should declare that he did not believe me, in fact, he could not believe me though he would like to do so. I should feel aggrieved certainly; but it would make matters worse if he added, 'In fact I have been for years trying to believe you, and I cannot do it.' What does he mean by that? What can he mean but that I am so incorrigibly false, and such a confirmed liar, that though he would like to give me some credit, he really cannot do it? With all the effort he can make in my favour, he finds it quite beyond his power to believe me? Now, a man who says, 'I have been trying to believe in God,' in reality says just that with regard to the Most High." (Spurgeon)

b. Exhort one another daily: If we will strengthen our faith and avoid the ruin of unbelief, we must be around other Christians who will exhort - that is, "seriously encourage" us.

i. How seriously do we take our responsibility to exhort one another daily, and to be exhorted? We judge and criticize rather well, but how well do we really exhort?

ii. If you are out of fellowship altogether, how can you exhort or be exhorted? What will keep you from becoming hardened through the deceitfulness of sin?

iii. This emphasis flies in the face of our society's thinking. A survey found that more than 78% of the general public and 70% of churchgoing people believe "you can be a good Christian without attending church." (Roof and McKinney)

c. The deceitfulness of sin: The sin of unbelief has its roots in deceit; and unbelief hardens us (lest any of you be hardened). Unbelief and sin is deceitful because when we are unbelieving towards God, we don't stop believing - we simply start believing in a deception.

d. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end: If we have really become partakers of Christ, if we have really heard His voice, we will hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. Paul communicated the same idea in Philippians 1:6.

i. But it isn't enough to leave the matter with a fatalistic "if you are really saved, you will endure." We have to realize that God uses these warnings and appeals to our will as His appointed means to build endurance in us. There is no fatalism here!

e. Do not harden your hearts: We often say our hearts have been hardened by others or by circumstances. But the fact is that we harden our own hearts in response to what may be done to us.

3. (Heb 3:16-19) It isn't enough to make a good beginning.

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

a. For who, having heard, rebelled? As a nation, Israel made a good beginning. After all, it took a lot of faith to cross the Red Sea! Yet all of that first generation perished in the wilderness, except for the two men of faith - Joshua and Caleb.

b. They would not enter His rest: 11 times in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, Hebrews speaks of entering rest. That rest will be deeply detailed in the next chapter. But here, the key to entering rest is revealed: belief.

c. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief: One might be tempted to think the key to entering rest is obedience, especially from Hebrews 3:18: to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? But the disobedience mentioned in Hebrews 3:18 is an outgrowth of the unbelief mentioned in Hebrews 3:19. The unbelief came first, then the obedience.

i. In a New Testament context, our belief centers on the superiority of Jesus Christ, the truth of who He is (fully God and fully man) and His atoning work for us as a faithful High Priest (as in Hebrews 2:17).

ii. When we trust in these things, making them the "food" of our souls, we enter into God's rest.

d. Israel's great failure was to persevere in faith. After crossing much of the wilderness trusting in God, and after seeing so many reasons to trust in Him, they end up falling short- because they did not persevere in faith in God and His promise.

i. Jesus reminded us in the parable of the soils with the seeds cast on stony ground and among thorns: it isn't enough to make a good beginning, real belief perseveres to the end. If we have made a good start, praise God; but how we finish is even more important than how we start.

ii. C.S. Lewis speaks to the difficulty of persistence (from a tempting demon's fictional perspective): "The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for you ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it-all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years from prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He fells that he is 'finding his place in it' while really it is finding its place in him. . . . That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth." (The Screwtape Letters)

iii. Will the passing years wean us away from an on-fire, trusting relationship with the Lord? Or will they only serve to increase our life of trust and reliance on Jesus?

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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