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Bible Commentaries

Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews

Hebrews 3

Verses 1-6

Christ Superior to Moses.

(Hebrews 3:1-6 ).

Our present portion introduces us to the third division of the Epistle, a division which runs on to Hebrews 4:6 . The first division, comprising but the three opening verses of the first chapter, evidences the superiority of Christ over the prophets. The second division, Hebrews 1:4 to the end of chapter 2, sets forth the superiority of Christ over the angels. The one we are now commencing treats of the superiority of Christ over Moses. "The contents of this section may be stated briefly thus: That the Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, is high above Moses, the mediator of the old dispensation, inasmuch as Jesus is the Son of God, and Lord over the house; whereas Moses is the servant of God, who is faithful in the house. And upon this doctrinal statement is based the exhortation, that we should not harden our hearts lest we fail to enter into that rest of which the possession of the promised land was only an imperfect type. This section consists of two parts a doctrinal statement, which forms the basis, and an exhortation resting upon it" (Saphir).

Of all the godly characters brought before us in the Old Testament scriptures, there is not one who has higher claims on our attentive consideration than the legislator of Israel. Whether we think of his remarkable infancy and childhood, his self-sacrificing renunciation (Hebrews 11:24-26 ), the commission he received from God and his faithfulness in executing it, his devotion to Israel (Exodus 32:32 ), his honored privileges (Exodus 31:18 ), or the important revolutions accomplished through his instrumentality; "it will be difficult to find," as another has said, "in the records either of profane or sacred history, an individual whose character is so well fitted at once to excite attachment and command veneration, and whose history is so replete at once with interest and instruction."

The history of Moses was remarkable from beginning to end. The hand of Providence preserved him as a babe, and the hand of God dug his grave at the finish. Between those terms he passed through the strangest and most contrastive vicissitudes which, surely, any mortal has ever experienced. The honors conferred upon him by God were much greater than any bestowed upon any other man, before or since. During the most memorable portion of their history, all of God’s dealings with Israel were transacted through him. His position of nearness to Jehovah was remarkable, awesome, unique. He was in his own person, prophet, priest and king. Through him the whole of the Levitical economy was instituted. By him the Tabernacle was built. Thus we can well understand the high esteem in which the Jews held this favored man of God cf. John 9:28 , John 9:29 .

Yet great as was Moses, the Holy Spirit in this third section of Hebrews calls upon us to consider One who so far excelled him as the heavens are above the earth. First, Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His own person: Moses was a man of God, Christ was God Himself. Moses was the fallen descendant of Adam. conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity; Christ was sinless, impeccable, holy. Again; Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His Offices. Moses was a prophet, through whom God spake; Christ was Himself "the Truth," revealing perfectly the whole mind, will, and heart of God. Moses executed priestly functions (Exodus 24:6 ; Exodus 32:11 ); but Christ is the "great High Priest." Moses was "king in Jeshurun" (Deuteronomy 33:5 ); Christ is "King of kings." To mention only one other comparison, Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His work. Moses delivered Israel from Egypt, Christ delivers His people from the everlasting burnings. Moses built an earthly tabernacle, Christ is now preparing a place for us on High. Moses led Israel across the wilderness but not into the Canaan itself; Christ will actually bring many sons "unto glory." May the Holy Spirit impress our hearts more and more with the exalted dignity and unique excellency of our Savior.

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (verse 1). There are three things in this verse which claim our attention: the exhortation given, the people addressed, the characters in which Christ is here contemplated. The exhortation is a call to "consider" Christ. The people addressed are "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." The characters in which the Savior is viewed are "the Apostle and High Priest."

"Wherefore." This word gives the connecting link between the two chapters which precede and the two that follow. It is a perfect transition, for it looks both ways. In regard to that which goes before, our present verse makes known the use we are to make of it; we are to "consider" Christ, to have our hearts fixed upon Him who is "altogether lovely." In regard to that which follows, this basic exhortation lays a foundation for the succeeding admonitions: if we render obedience to this precept, then we shall be preserved from the evils which overtook Israel of old hardening of the heart, grieving the Lord, missing our "rest."

The exhortation given here is, "Wherefore . . . consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession." Three questions call for answers: what is meant by "considering" Him; why we should do so; the special characters in which He is to be considered. There are no less than eleven Greek words in the New Testament all rendered "consider," four of them being simple ones; seven, compounds. The one employed by the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 3:1 signifies to thoroughly think of the matter, so as to arrive at a fuller knowledge of it. It was the word used by our Lord in His "consider the ravens, consider the lilies" (Luke 12:24 , Luke 12:27 ). It is the word which describes Peter’s response to the vision of the sheet let down from heaven: "I considered and saw fourfooted beasts" (Acts 11:6 ). It is found again in Matthew 7:3 , Romans 4:19 , Hebrews 10:24 . In Acts 7:31 "katanoeo" is rendered "to behold." In Luke 20:23 it is translated "perceived." In all, the Greek word is found fourteen times in the New Testament.

To "consider" Christ as here enjoined, means to thoroughly ponder who and what He is; to attentively weigh His dignity, His excellency, His authority; to think of what is due to Him. It is failure to thoroughly weigh important considerations which causes us to let them "slip" (Hebrews 2:1 ). On the other hand, it is by diligently pondering things of moment and value that the understanding is enabled to better apprehend them, the memory to retain them, the heart to be impressed, and the individual to make a better use of them. To "consider" Christ means to behold Him, not simply by a passing glance or giving to Him an occasional thought, but by the heart being fully occupied with Him. "Set Me as a seal upon thine heart" (Song of Solomon 8:6 ), is His call to us. And it is our failure at this point which explains why we know so little about Him, why we love Him so feebly, why we trust Him so imperfectly.

The motive presented by the Spirit here as to why we should so "consider" Christ is intimated in the opening "Wherefore." It draws a conclusion from all that precedes. Because Christ is the One through whom Deity is now fully and finally manifested, because He is the Brightness of God’s glory and the very Impress of His substance; because, therefore, He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than the angels; because He, in infinite grace, became "all of one" with those that He came to redeem, having made propitiation for the sins of His people; because He is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and while there is "a merciful and faithful High Priest;" because He has Himself suffered being tempted and is able to succor them who are tempted; therefore, He is infinitely worthy of our constant contemplation and adoration. The opening "Wherefore" is also an anticipatory inference from what follows: because Christ is worthy of more honor than Moses, therefore, "consider" Him.

There are two special characters in which the Holy Spirit here bids us contemplate Christ. First, as "the Apostle." This has reference to the prophetical office of Christ, the title being employed because an "apostle" was the highest minister appointed in New Testament times. An apostleship had more honors conferred upon it than any other position in the church (Ephesians 4:11 ): thus the excellency of Christ’s prophetic office is magnified. The term apostle means one "sent forth" of God, endowed with authority as His ambassador. In John’s Gospel Christ is frequently seen as the "Sent One," 3:34, 5:36, etc. The general function of Christ as a prophet, an apostle, a minister of the Word, was to make known the will of His Father unto His people. This He did, see John 8:26 , etc. His special call to that function was immediate: "as My Father hath sent Me, so send I you" (John 20:21 ).

Christ is more than an apostle, He is "the Apostle," that is why none others, not even Paul, are mentioned in this Epistle. He eclipses all others. He was the first apostle, the twelve being appointed by Him. His apostolic jurisdiction was more extensive than others; Peter was an apostle of the circumcision. Paul of the Gentiles; but Christ preached both to them that were nigh and to them that were far off (Ephesians 2:17 ). He received the Spirit more abundantly than any other (John 3:34 ). With Him the Messenger was the message: He was Himself "the Truth." The miracles He wrought (the "signs of an apostle" 2 Corinthians 12:12 ) were mightier and more numerous than those of others. Verily, Christ is "the Apostle," for in all things He has the pre-eminence. The special duty for us arising therefrom is, "Hear ye Him" (Matthew 17:5 ) cf. Deuteronomy 18:15 , Deuteronomy 18:18 .

The second character in which we are here bidden to "consider" Christ Jesus, is as the "High Priest of our profession." As the priesthood of Christ will come before us, D.V., in detail in the later chapters, only a few remarks thereon will now be offered. As we have already been told, the Lord Jesus is "a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God" (Hebrews 2:17 ). This at once gives us the principal feature which differentiates His priestly from His prophetic office. As Prophet, Christ is God’s representative to His people; as "Priest," He is their representative before God. As the Apostle He speaks to us from God, as our High Priest He speaks for us to God. The two offices are conjoined in John 13:3 , "He was from God, and went to God." Thus He fills the whole space between God and us: as Apostle He is close to me; as Priest, He is close to God.

"Of our profession." The Greek word here is a compound and properly signifies "a consent." In the New Testament, it is used for the confession of a thing (1 Timothy 6:12 , 1 Timothy 6:13 ), and to set forth the faith which Christians profess (Hebrews 4:14 ). Here it may be taken either for an act on our part the confessing Christ to be "the Apostle and High Priest," or, the subject matter of the faith we profess. Christians are not ashamed to own Him, for He is not ashamed to own them. The apostleship and priesthood of Christ are the distinguishing subjects of our faith, for Christianity centers entirely around the person of Christ. The confession is that which faith makes, see Hebrews 10:23 . The cognate of this word is found in Hebrews 11:13 and Hebrews 13:15 , "giving thanks:" these two references emphasizing the "stranger and pilgrim" character of this profession, of which Christ Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest.

It remains now for us to notice the people to whom this exhortation is addressed: they are denominated "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." These Hebrews were addressed as "brethren" because they belonged spiritually to the family of God. "He evidently refers to the blessed truth just announced, that Jesus, the Son of God, is not ashamed to call us brethren" (Hebrews 2:11 ). He means therefore those who by the Spirit of God have been born again, and who can call God their Father. He addresses those of God who are in Christ Jesus, who were quickened together with Him; for when He rose from the dead He was ‘the first-born among many brethren’. He calls them ‘holy brethren,’ because upon this fact of brotherhood is based their sanctification: ‘He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one’" (Saphir). No doubt the "holy brethren" was also designed to distinguish them from their brethren according to the flesh, the unbelieving Jews. By his use of this appellation the apostle to the Gentiles evidenced his interest in and love for the Hebrews: he acknowledged and esteemed them as "brethren."

"What an interesting and delightful view is thus presented to our minds of genuine Christians scattered all over the earth belonging to every kindred, and people, and tongue, and nation distinguished from one another in an almost infinite variety of ways, as to talent, temper, education, rank, circumstances, yet bound together by an invisible band, even the faith of the truth, to the one great object of their confidence, and love, and obedience, Christ Jesus forming one great brotherhood, devoted to the honor and service of His Father and their Father, His God and their God! Do you belong to this holy brotherhood? The question is an important one. For answer, note Christ’s words in Matthew 12:50 " (Dr. J. Brown).

"Partakers of the heavenly calling." This at once serves to emphasize the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, which knew only an earthly calling, with an earthly inheritance. The word "partakers" signifies "sharers of." The calling wherewith the Christian is called (Ephesians 4:1 ) is heavenly, because of its origin it proceeds from Heaven; because of the means used the Spirit and the Word, which have come from Heaven; because of the sphere of our citizenship (Philippians 3:20 ); because of the end to which we are called an eternal Heaven. Thus would the Holy Spirit press upon the sorely-tried Hebrews the inestimable value of their privileges.

Finally, the whole of this appellation should be viewed in the light of the relation between those addressed and Christ. How is it possible for sinful worms of the earth to be thus denominated? Because of their union with the incarnate Son, whose excellency is imputed to them, and whose position they share. We are partakers of the heavenly calling because He, in wondrous condescension, partook of our earthly lot. What He has, we have; where He is, we are. He is the Holy One of God, therefore are we holy. He has been "made higher than the heavens," therefore are we "partakers of the heavenly calling!" Just so far as our hearts really lay hold of this, shall we walk as "strangers and pilgrims" here. Where our "Treasure" (Christ) is, there will our hearts be also. That is why we are here bidden to "consider" Him.

"Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was in all His house" (verse 2).

"To speak of Moses to the Jews was always a very difficult and delicate matter. It is hardly possible for Gentiles to understand or realize the veneration and affection with which the Jews regard Moses, the man of God. All their religious life, all their thoughts about God, all their practices and observances, all their hopes of the future, everything connected with God, is with them also connected with Moses. Moses was the great apostle unto them, the man sent unto them of God, the mediator of the old covenant" (Saphir). Admire then the perfect wisdom of the Holy Spirit so plainly evidenced in our passage. Before taking up Christ’s superiority over Moses, He points first to a resemblance between them, making mention of the "faithfulness" of God’s servant. Ere taking this up let us dwell on the first part of the verse.

"Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him." The chief qualification of an apostle or ambassador is, that he be Faithful. Faithfulness signifies two things: a trust committed, and a proper discharge of that trust. "Our Lord had a trust committed to Him... this trust He faithfully discharged. He sought not His own glory, but the glory of Him that sent Him; He ever declared His message to be not His own, but the Father’s; and He declared the whole will or word of God that was committed unto Him" (Dr. John Owen). Christ was ever faithful to the One who sent Him. This was His chief care from beginning to end. As a boy, "I must be about My Father’s business" (Luke 2:49 ). In the midst of His ministry, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me" (John 9:4 ). At the finish, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39 ).

"As also Moses was faithful in all His house." "The key to the whole paragraph is to be found in the meaning of the figurative term ‘house,’ which so often occurs in it (just seven times, A.W.P.). By supposing that the word ‘house’ here is equivalent to edifice, the whole passage is involved in inextricable perplexity. ‘House’ here signifies a family or household. This mode of using the word is an exemplification of a common figure of speech, by which the name of what contains is given to what is contained. A man’s family usually resides in his house, and hence is called his house. This use of the word is common in the Bible: ‘The House of Israel,’ ‘the House of Aaron,’ ‘the House of David,’ are very common expressions for the children, the descendants, the families of Israel, Aaron and David. We have the same mode of speech in our own language, ‘the House of Stuart,’ ‘the House of Hanover.’ Keeping this remark in view, the verse we have now read will be found, short as it is, to contain in it the following statements: Moses was appointed by God over the whole of His family: Moses was faithful in discharging the trust committed to him. Jesus is appointed by God over the whole of His family: Jesus is faithful in the discharge of the trust committed to Him" (Dr. J. Brown).

"The house, the building, means the children of God, who by faith, as lively stones, are built upon Christ Jesus the Foundation, and who are filled with the Holy Ghost; in whom God dwells, as in His temple, and in whom God is praised and manifested in glory. The illustration is very simple and instructive. We are compared unto stones, and as every simile is defective, we must add, not dead stones, but lively stones, as the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians speaks of the building growing. The way in which we are brought unto the Lord Jesus Christ and united with Him is not by building, but by believing. The builders rejected the ‘chief corner-stone’ (Psalms 118:22 ); but ‘coming unto Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Peter 2:5 ), simply believing, ‘ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.’ When we go about the works of the law we are trying to build, and as long as we build we are not built. When we give up working, then by faith the Holy Ghost adds us to Christ, and grafts up into the living Vine, who is also the Foundation. We are rooted and grounded. The house is one, and all the children of God are united in the Spirit" (Saphir).

That which the Spirit has here singled out for mention in connection with Moses, the typical "apostle," is that he was faithful in all God’s house, faithful in the discharge of his responsibilities concerning the earthly family over which Jehovah placed him. Although he failed personally in his faith, he was faithful as an "apostle." He never withheld a word which the Lord had given him, either from Pharaoh or from Israel. In erecting the tabernacle all things were made "according to" the pattern which he had received in the mount. When he came down from Sinai and beheld the people worshipping the golden calf, he did not spare, but called for the sword to smite them (Exodus 32:27 , Exodus 32:28 ). In all things he conformed to the instructions which he had received from Jehovah (Exodus 40:16 ).

"For this Man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house" (verse 3). The apostle now proceeds to present Christ’s superiority over Moses. But ere considering this, let us admire again the heavenly wisdom granted him in the method of presenting his argument. In the previous verse he has acknowledged the greatness of Moses, and here he also allows that he was worthy of glory, or praise. This would at once show that Paul was no enemy of Judaism, seeking to disparage and revile it. Equally striking is it to note how, in now turning the eyes of the Hebrews to One who is infinitely greater than Moses, he does not speak of his failures his slaying of the Egyptians (Exodus 2:0 ), his slowness in responding to the Lord’s call (Exodus 3:4 ), his angered smiting of the rock (Numbers 20:0 ); but by presenting the glories of Christ.

This third verse presents to us the first of the evidences here furnished of the superiority of Christ over Moses: He is the Builder of God’s house; this, Moses never was. Its opening "For" looks back to the first verse, advancing a reason or argument why the Hebrews should "consider" the Apostle and High Priest of their confession, namely, because He is worthy of more glory than Moses the typical apostle. "The phrase, ‘to build the house,’ is equivalent to, be the founder of the family. This kind of phraseology is by no means uncommon. It is said, Exodus 1:21 , that God ‘made houses’ to those humane women who refused to second the barbarous policy of Pharaoh in destroying the infants of the Israelites: i.e. He established their families, giving a numerous and flourishing offspring. In Ruth 4:11 , Rachel and Leah are said to have built the house of Israel. And Nathan says to David, 2 Samuel 7:11 : ‘Also the Lord telleth thee that He will make thee a house;’ and what the meaning of that phrase is, we learn from what immediately follows, Hebrews 5:12 ’ (Dr. J. Brown).

The contrast thus drawn between Christ and Moses is both a plain and an immense one. Though officially raised over it, Moses was not the founder of the Israelitish family, but simply a member of it. With the Apostle of our confession it is far otherwise. He is not only at the head of God’s family (Hebrews 2:10 , Hebrews 2:13 His "sons," His "children"), but He is also the Builder or the Founder of it. As we read in Ephesians 2:10 , "for we are His workmanship, created in (or "by") Christ Jesus." Moses did not make men children of God; Christ does. Moses came to a people who were already the Lord’s by covenant relationship; whereas Christ takes up those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and creates them anew. Thus as the founder of the family is entitled to the highest honor from the family, so Christ is worthy of more glory than Moses.

"For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God" (verse 4). Here the Spirit brings in a yet higher glory of Christ. The connection is obvious. In the preceding verse it has been argued: the builder is entitled to more honor than the building: as then Christ is the Builder of a family, and Moses simply the member of one, He must be counted worthy "of more glory." In verse 4, proof of this is given, as the opening "for" denotes. The proof is twofold: Christ has not only built "the house," but "all things." Christ is not only the Mediator, "appointed" by God (verse 2), but He is God. To how much greater glory then is He justly entitled!

"For every house is builded by some one," should be understood in its widest signification, regarding "house" both literally and figuratively. Every human habitation has been built, every human family has been founded, by some man. So "He that built all things" is to be taken without qualification. The entire universe has been built ("framed," Hebrews 11:3 ) by Christ, for "all things were made by Him" (John 1:3 ), all things "that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible" (Colossians 1:16 ). Therefore Christ made Moses, as the whole family of Israel. "He that built all things is God." The Holy Spirit here designedly uses the Divine title because the work attributed to Christ (building the family of God) is a Divine work: because it proves, without controversy, that Christ is greater than Moses; because it ratifies what was declared in the first chapter concerning the Mediator, that He is true God. Therefore should all "honor the Son even as they honor the Father" (John 5:23 ).

"And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over His own house" (verses 5, 6). These words bring before us the next proofs for the superiority of Christ over Moses: the typical apostle was but a servant, Christ is "Son;" the one was but a testimony unto the other. The position which Divine grace allotted to Moses was one of great honor, nevertheless he ministered before Jehovah only as a "servant." The words "in all His house" should be duly pondered: other servants were used in various parts of the family, but the glory of Moses was that he was used in every part of it; that is to say, he was entrusted with the care and regulation of the whole family of Israel. Still, even this, left him incomparably the inferior of the Lord Jesus, for He was a Son not "in all His house," but "over His own House."

"And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant." Here again the apostle would subdue the prejudices of the Jews against Christianity. He was not discrediting the greatness of Moses. So far from it, he repeats what he had said in verse 2, emphasizing it with the word "verily." Yet the faithfulness of Moses was as a "servant," a reminder to all, that this is the quality which should ever characterize all "servants." The word "as a servant" has the same force as in John 1:14 , "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father:" thus the "as" brings out the reality of the character in view. Moses faithfully conducted himself as a "servant," he did not act as a lord. This was evidenced by his great reverence for God (Exodus 3:6 ), his earnestly desiring an evidence of God’s favor (Exodus 34:9 ), his preferring the glory of the Lord to his own glory (Hebrews 11:24-26 , Exodus 32:10-12 ), and in his meekness before men. (Numbers 12:3 ).

"For a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after." This was a word much needed by the Jews. So far from the revelation of Christianity clashing with the Pentateuch, much there was an anticipation of it. Moses ordered all things in the typical worship of the house so that they might be both a witness and pledge of that which should afterwards be more fully exhibited through the Gospel. Therefore did Christ say, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me" (John 5:46 ). And on another occasion we are told, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27 ).

"But Christ as a Son over His own house." Here is the final proof that Christ is "counted worthy of more glory than Moses." The proofs presented in this passage of our Lord’s immeasurable superiority are seven in number, and may be set forth thus: Moses was an apostle, Christ "the Apostle" (verse 1). Moses was a member of an "house:" Christ was the Builder of one (verse 3). Moses was connected with a single house, Christ "built all things," being the Creator of the universe (verse 4). Moses was a man; Christ, God (verse 4). Moses was but a "servant" (verse 5); Christ, the "Son." Moses was a "testimony" of things to be spoken after (verse 5), Christ supplied the substance and fulfillment of what Moses witnessed unto. Moses was but a servant in the house of Jehovah, Christ was Son over His own house (verse 6). The Puritan Owen quaintly wrote, "Here the apostle taketh leave of Moses; he treats not about him any more; and therefore he gives him, as it were, an honorable burial. He puts this glorious epitaph on his grave: "Moses, a faithful servant of the Lord in His whole house."

"But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house are we" (verse 6). Here the "house" is plainly defined: it is a spiritual house, made up of believers in Christ. Not only are the "brethren" of verse 1, partakers of the heavenly calling, but they are members of the spiritual family of God, for in them He dwells. How well calculated to comfort and encourage the sorely-tried Hebrews were these words "whose house are we!" What compensation was this for the loss of their standing among the unbelieving Jews!

"If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (verse 6). Do these words weaken the force of what has last been said? In nowise; they contained a much-needed warning. "There were great difficulties, circumstances calculated especially to effect the Jew, who, after receiving the truth with joy might be exposed to great trial, and so in danger of giving up his hope. It was, besides, particularly hard for a Jew at first to put these two facts together: a Messiah come, and entered into glory; and the people who belonged to the Messiah left in sorrow, and shame, and suffering here below" (W. Kelly).

The Hebrews were ever in danger of subordinating the future to the present, and of forsaking the invisible (Christ in heaven) for the visible (Judaism on earth), of giving up a profession which involved them in fierce persecution. Hence their need of being reminded that the proof of their belonging to the house of Christ was that they remained steadfast to Him to the end of their pilgrimage.

"If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." As the same thought is, substantially, embodied again in verse 14, we shall now waive a full exposition and application of these words. Suffice it now to say that the Holy Spirit is here pressing, once more, on these Hebrews, what had been affirmed in Hebrews 2:1 , "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Let each Christian reader remember that our Lord has said, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31 ).

Verses 7-12

Christ Superior to Moses.

(Hebrews 3:7-12 )

In the first six verses of our present chapter four things were before us. First, the call to "consider" the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. Of old, Moses was God’s apostle or ambassador to Israel, Aaron, the high priest. But Christ combines both these offices in His own person. Second, the superiority of Christ over Moses: this is set forth in seven details which it is unnecessary for us to specify again. Third, the one thing which the Spirit of God singles out from the many gifts and excellencies which Divine grace had bestowed upon Moses, was his "faithfulness" (verses 2, 5); so too is it there said of Christ Jesus that He was "faithful to Him that appointed Him" (verse 2). Fourth, the assertion that membership in the household of Christ is evidenced, chiefly, by holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (verse 6). That there is an intimate connection between these four things and the contents of our present passage will appear in our exposition thereof.

"If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." The "hope" mentioned here is that made known by the Gospel (Colossians 1:23 ), the hope which is laid up for God’s people in Heaven (Colossians 1:5 ), the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27 ). Christians have been begotten unto a living hope (1 Peter 1:3 ), that "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13 ), namely, the return of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, when He shall come to take us unto Himself, to make us like Himself, to have us forever with Himself; when all God’s promises concerning us shall be made good. The reference to the holding fast the confidence of this hope is not subjective, but objective. It signifies a fearless profession of the Christian faith. It is to be "ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you, a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15 ). Stephen is an illustration. Then, this hope is also to be held fast with "rejoicing" firm unto the end: Paul is an example of this, Acts 20:24 .

What follows in our present portion contains a solemn and practical application of that which we have briefly reviewed above. Here the apostle is moved to remind the Hebrews of the unfaithfulness of Israel in the past and of the dire consequences which followed their failure to hold fast unto the end of their wilderness pilgrimage the confidence and rejoicing of the hope which God had set before them. A passage is quoted from the 95th Psalm which gives most searching point to both that which precedes and to that which follows. The path in which God’s people are called to walk is that of faith, and such a path is necessarily full of testings, that is, of difficulties and trials, and many are the allurements for tempting us to wander off into "By-path meadow." Many, too, are the warnings and danger signals, which the faithfulness of God has erected; unto one of them we shall now turn.

"Wherefore" (verse 7). This opening word of our present passage possesses a threefold force. First, it is a conclusion drawn from all that precedes. Second, it prefaces the application of what is found in Hebrews 3:1-6 . Third, it lays a foundation for what follows. The reader will observe that the remaining words of verse 7 and all of verses 8-11 are placed in brackets, and we believe rightly so, the sentence being completed in verse 12: "Wherefore take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."

The reasons for this exhortation have been pointed out above. First, because of the supreme excellency of our Redeemer, exalted high above all Israel’s prophets, and given a name more excellent than any ever conferred on the angels; therefore, those who belong to Him should give good heed that they harden not their hearts against Him, nor depart from Him. Second, because the Apostle, Christ Jesus, is worthy of more honor than Moses, then how incumbent it is upon His people to be especially watchful that they be not, by any means, turned from that obedience which He requires and which is most certainly due Him. Third, in view of the lamentable history of Israel, who, despite God’s wondrous favors to them, hardened their hearts, grieved Him, and so provoked Him to wrath, that He sware they should not enter into His rest, how much on our guard we need to be of "holding fast" the confidence and rejoicing of our hope "firm unto the end!"

"As the Holy Spirit saith." Striking indeed is it to mark the way in which the apostle introduces the quotation made from the Old Testament. It is from the 95th Psalm, but the human instrument that was employed in the penning of it is ignored, attention being directed to its Divine Author, the One who "moved" the Psalmist cf. 2 Peter 1:20 , 2 Peter 1:21 . The reason for this, here, seems to be because Paul would press upon these Hebrews the weightiness, the Divine authority of the words he was about to quote: consider well that what follows are the words of the Holy Spirit, so that you may promptly and unmurmuringly submit yourselves thereunto.

"As the Holy Spirit saith." Striking indeed is it to mark the way it links up with Hebrews 1:1 and Hebrews 2:3 . In the former it is God, the Father, who "spake." In Hebrews 2:3 , "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?" there it is the Son. Here in Hebrews 3:7 the Speaker is the Spirit; thus, by linking together these three passages we hear all the Persons of the Godhead. Observe, next, the tense of the verb used here; it is not "the Holy Spirit said," but "saith:" it is an ever-present, living message to God’s people in each succeeding generation. "Whatever was given by inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and is recorded in the Scripture for the use of the Church, He continues therein to speak it unto us unto this day" (Dr. John Owen). Let the reader also carefully compare the seven-times-repeated, "he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

"As the Holy Spirit saith." Dr. Gouge has pointed out how that this sentence teaches us four things about the Holy Spirit. First, that He is true God: for "God spake by the mouth of David" (Acts 4:25 ). "God" spake by the prophets (Hebrews 1:1 ), and they "spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21 ). Second, the Holy Spirit is a distinct person: He "saith." An influence, a mere abstraction, cannot speak. Third, the Holy Spirit subsisted before Christ was manifested in the flesh, for He spake through David. True, He is called, "the Spirit of Christ," yet that He was before His incarnation is proven by Genesis 1:2 and other scriptures. Fourth, He is the Author of the Old Testament Scriptures, therefore are they of Divine inspiration and authority.

"Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (verses 7, 8). Here begins the apostle’s quotation from Psalms 95:0 , the first portion of which records a most fervent call (verses 1, 6) for the people of God to be joyful, and come before Him as worshippers. Most appropriate was the reference to this Psalm here, for the contents of its first seven verses contain, virtually an amplification of the "consider" of Hebrews 3:1 . There the Hebrews were enjoined to be occupied with Christ, and if their hearts were engaged with His surpassing excellency and exalted greatness, then would they "come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms" (Psalms 95:2 ).

Their Apostle and High Priest had "built all things" (Hebrews 3:4 ), being none other than God. The same truth is avowed in Psalms 95:3-5 , "For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land." The apprehension of this will prepare us for a response to what follows, "O come, let us worship, and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand" (Psalms 95:6 ,Psalms 95:7 ).

The next thing in the Psalm is, "Today, if ye will hear His voice harden not your heart." So the next thing in Hebrews 3:0 is, "whose house are we if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Thus the Psalmist admonished those addressed in his day to hearken to the voice of the Lord, and not to harden their hearts against Him as had their ancestors before them. By quoting this here in Hebrews 3:0 , the apostle at once intimated what is the opposite course from holding fast their confidence.

"Today" signifies the time present, yet so as to include a continuance of it. It is not to be limited to twenty-four hours, instead, this term sometimes covers a present interval which consists of many days, yea years. In Hebrews 3:13 it is said, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today." So in Hebrews 13:8 we read, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever." So in our text. As that present time wherein David lived was to him and those then alive "today", so that present time in which the apostle and the Hebrews lived was to them "today," and the time wherein we now live, is to us "today." It covers that interval while men are alive on earth, while God’s grace and blessing are available to them. It spans the entire period of our wilderness pilgrimage. Thus the "end" of Hebrews 3:6 is the close of the "today" in verse 7.

"If ye will hear His voice." "Unto you, O men I call; and My voice is to the sons of man" (Proverbs 8:4 ). But no doubt the immediate reference in our text is unto those professing to be God’s people. The "voice" of God is the signification of His will, which is the rule of our obedience. His will is made known in His Word, which is a living Word, by which the voice of God is now uttered. But, alas, we are capable of closing our ears to His voice. Of old God complained, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel cloth not know. My people cloth not consider" (Isaiah 1:3 ). To "hear" God’s voice signifies to attend reverently to what He says, to diligently ponder, to readily receive, and to heed or obey it. It is the hardening of our hearts which prevents us, really, hearing His voice, as the next clause intimates. To it we now turn.

"If ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." It is to the heart God’s Word is addressed, that moral center of our beings out of which are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23 ). There may be conviction of the conscience, the assent of the intellect, the admiration of understanding, but unless the heart is moved there is no response. A tender heart is a pliable and responsive one; a hard heart is obdurate and rebellious. Here hardening of the heart is attributed to the creature: it is due to impenitency (Romans 2:5 ), unbelief (Hebrews 3:12 ), disobedience (Psalms 95:8 ).

"It appears that unto this sinful hardening of the heart which the people in the wilderness were guilty of, and which the apostle here warns the Hebrews to avoid, there are three things that do concur: 1. A sinful neglect, in not taking due notice of the ways and means whereby God calls any unto faith and obedience. 2. A sinful forgetfulness and casting out of the heart and mind such convictions as God by His word and works, His mercies and judgments, His deliverances and afflictions, at any time is pleased to cast into them and fasten upon them. 3. An obstinate cleaving of the affections unto carnal and sensual objects, practically preferring them above the motives unto obedience that God proposeth unto us. Where these things are so, the hearts of men are so hardened, that in an ordinary way, they cannot hearken unto the voice of God. Such is the nature, efficacy and power of the voice or word of God, that men cannot withstand or resist it without a sinful hardening of themselves against it. Every one to whom the word is duly revealed, who is not converted of God, doth voluntarily oppose his own obstinancy unto its efficacy and operation. If men will add new obstinacy and hardness to their minds and hearts, if they will fortify themselves against the word with prejudices and dislikes, if they will resist its work through a love to their lusts and corrupt affections, God may justly leave them to perish, and to be filled with the fruit of their own ways" (Dr. John Owen).

"Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness" (verse 8). The reference here is to what is recorded in the early verses of Exodus 17:0 . There we are told that the congregation of Israel journeyed to Rephidim, where there was "no water for the people to drink." Instead of them counting on Jehovah to supply their need, as He had at Marah (Exodus 15:25 ) and in the wilderness of Sin (Heb. 16:4), they "did chide with Moses" (verse 2), "and when they thirsted, the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (verse 3). Though Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord graciously responded by bringing water out of the rock for them, yet God’s servant was greatly displeased, for in verse 7 we are told, "And he called the name of the place Massah (Temptation) and Meribah (Strife), because of the chiding of the children of Israel and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not".

Once more we would point out the oppositeness of this quotation to the case of the Hebrews. "The thought of Moses (in verses 1-5 A.W.P.) naturally suggests Israel in the wilderness. Faithful was the mediator, through whom God dealt with them; but was Israel faithful? God spake: did they obey? God showed them wonder signs: did they trust and follow in faith? And if Israel was not faithful unto Moses, and their unbelief brought ruin upon them, how much more guilty shall we be, and how much greater our danger, if we are not faithful unto the Lord Jesus" (Saphir).

It is not only true that the difficulties and trials of the way test us, but these testings reveal the state of our hearts a crisis neither makes nor mars a man, but it does manifest him. While all is smooth sailing we appear to be getting along nicely. But are we? Are our minds stayed upon the Lord, or are we, instead, complacently resting in His temporal mercies? When the storm breaks, it is not so much that we fail under it, as that our habitual lack of leaning upon God, of daily walking in dependency upon Him, is made evident. Circumstances do not change us, but they do expose us. Paul rejoiced in the Lord when circumstances were congenial. Yes, and he also sang praises to Him when his back was bleeding in the Philippian dungeon. The fact is, that if we sing only when circumstances are pleasing to us, then our singing is worth nothing, and there is grave reason to doubt whether we are rejoicing "in the Lord" (Philippians 4:4 ) at all.

The reason Israel murmured at Meribah was because there was no water; they were occupied with their circumstances, they were walking by sight. The crisis they then faced only served to make manifest the state of their hearts, namely, an "evil heart of unbelief." Had their trust been in Jehovah, they would at once have turned to Him, spread their need before Him, and counted on Him to supply it. But their hearts were hardened. A most searching warning was this for the Hebrews. Their circumstances were most painful to the flesh. They were enduring a great fight of afflictions. How were they enduring it? If they were murmuring that would be the outward expression of unbelief within. Ah, it is easy to profess we are Believers, but the challenge still rings out, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?" (James 2:14 ).

"When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years" (verse 9). The "when" looks back to what is mentioned in the previous verse. The "Day of Temptation in the wilderness" covered the whole period of Israel’s journeyings from the Red Sea to Canaan. "The history of the Israelites is a history of continued provocation. In the wilderness of Sin they murmured for the want of bread, and God gave them manna. At Rephidim they murmured for the want of water, and questioned whether Jehovah was with them and He gave them water from the rock. In the wilderness of Sinai, soon after receiving the law, they made and worshipped a golden image. At Taberah they murmured for want of flesh and the quails were sent, followed by a dreadful plague. At Kadesh-barnea they refused to go up and take possession of the land of promise, which brought down on them the awful sentence referred to in the Psalm; and after that sentence was pronounced, they presumptuously attempted to do what they had formerly refused to do. All these things took place in little more than two years after they left Egypt. Thirty-seven years after this, we find them at Kadesh again, murmuring for want of water and other things. Soon after this, they complained of the want of bread, though they had manna in abundance, and were punished by the plague of fiery flying serpents. And at Shittim, their last station, they provoked the Lord by mingling in the impure idolatry of the Moabites. So strikingly true is Moses’ declaration: ‘Remember, and forget not, how thou provoked the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place ye have been rebellious against the Lord’, Deuteronomy 9:7 ’ (Dr. J. Brown).

"When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years" (verse 9). Israel’s terrible sins in the wilderness are here set forth under two terms: they "tempted" and "proved" Jehovah, the latter being added as an explanation of the former. To tempt one is to try or prove whether he be such as he is declared to be, or whether he can or will do such and such a thing. By tempting God Israel found out by experience that He was indeed the God He had made Himself known to be. In this passage the tempting of God is set down as a sin which provoked Him, and so is to be taken in its worst sense. Instead of believing His declaration, Israel acted as though they would discover, at the hazard of their own destruction, whether or not He would make good His promises and His threatenings.

"In particular men tempt God by two extremes: one is presumption, the other is distrustfulness. Both these arise from unbelief. That distrustfulness ariseth from unbelief is without all question. And however presumption may seem to arise from overmuch confidence, yet if it be narrowly searched into, we shall find that men presume upon unwarrantable courses, because they do not believe that God will do what is meet to be done, in His own way. Had the Israelites believed that God in His time and in His own way would have destroyed the Canaanites, they would not have presumed, against an express charge, to have gone against them without the ark of the Lord and without Moses, as they did, Numbers 14:40 , etc. Alas, what is man!

"Men do presumptuously tempt God, when, without warrant, they presume on God’s extraordinary power and providence; that whereunto the devil persuaded Christ when he had carded Him up to a pinnacle of the temple, namely, to cast Himself down, was to tempt God; therefore, Christ gives him this answer, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,’ Matthew 4:5-7 . Men distrustfully tempt God when in distress they imagine that God cannot or will not afford sufficient succor. Thus did the king of Israel tempt God when he said, ‘The Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab,’ 2 Kings 3:13 . So that prince who said ‘Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be’, 2 Kings 7:2 ’ (Dr. W. Gouge).

"And saw My works forty years." This brings out the inexcusableness and heinousness of Israel’s sin. It was not that Jehovah was a Stranger to them, for again and again He had shown Himself strong on their behalf. The "works" of God mentioned here are the many and great wonders which He did from the time that He first took them up in Egypt until the end of the wilderness journey. Some of them were works of mercy. In delivering them from enemies and dangers, and in providing for them things needful. Others were works of judgment, as the plagues upon the Egyptians, their destruction at the Red Sea, and His chastening of themselves. Still others were manifestations which He made of Himself, as by the Cloud which led them by day and by night, the awesome proofs of His presence on Sinai, and the Shekinah glory which filled the tabernacle. These were not "works" done in bygone ages, or in far-distant places, of which they had only heard; but were actually performed before them, upon them, which they "saw." What clearer evidence could they have of God’s providence and power? Yet they tempted Him! The clearest evidences God grants to us have no effect upon unbelieving and obdurate hearts.

An unspeakably solemn warning is this for all who profess to be God’s people today. A still more wonderful and glorious manifestation has God now made of Himself than any which Israel ever enjoyed. God has been manifested in flesh. The only-begotten Son has declared the Father. He has fully displayed His matchless grace and fathomless love by coming here and dying for poor sinners. When He left the earth, He sent the Holy Spirit, so that we now have not a Moses, but the third Person of the Trinity to guide us. God made known His laws unto Israel, but His complete Word is now in our hands. What more can He say, than to us He has said! How great is our responsibility; how immeasureably greater than Israel’s is our sin and guilt, if we despise Him who speaks to us!

A further aggravation of Israel’s sin is that they saw God’s wondrous works for "forty years." God continued His wonders all that time: despite their unbelief and murmuring the manna was sent daily till the Jordan was crossed! Man’s incredulity cannot hinder the workings of God’s power: "What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid" (Romans 3:3 ). An incredulous prince would not believe that God could give such plenty as He had promised when Samaria by a long siege was famished; yet, "it came to pass as the man of God had spoken" (2 Kings 7:18 ). Nor would the Jews, nor even the disciples of Christ, believe that the Lord Jesus would rise again from the dead: yet He did so on the third day. O the marvelous patience of God! May the realization of it melt and move our hearts to repentance and obedience.

"Wherefore I was grieved with that generation" (verse 10). In these words, and those which follow, we learn the fearful consequences of Israel’s sin. "When God says He ‘was grieved’ He means that He was burdened, vexed, displeased beyond that forbearance could extend unto. This includes the judgment of God concerning the greatness of their sin with all its aggravations and His determinate purpose to punish them. Men live, speak and act as if they thought God very little concerned in what they do, especially in their sins; that either He takes no notice of them, or if He do, that He is not much concerned in them; or that He should be grieved at His heart that is, have such a deep sense of man’s sinful provocations they have no mind to think or believe. They think that, as to thoughts about sins, God is altogether as themselves. But it is far otherwise, for God hath a concernment of honor in what we do; He makes us for His glory and honor, and whatsoever is contrary thereunto tends directly to His dishonor. And this God cannot but be deeply sensible of; He cannot deny Himself. He is also concerned as a God of Justice. His holiness and justice is His nature, and He needs no other reason to punish sin but Himself" (Dr. John Owen).

"And said, They do always err in their heart" (verse 10). To err in the heart signifies to draw the wicked and false conclusion that sin and rebellion pay better than subjection and obedience to God. Through the power of their depraved lusts, the darkness of their understandings, and the force of temptations, countless multitudes of Adam’s fallen descendants imagine that a course of self-will is preferable to subjection unto the Lord. Sin deceives: it makes men call darkness light, bitter sweet, bondage liberty. The language of men’s hearts is, "What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?" (Job 21:15 ). Note Israel "always erred in their hearts," which evidenced the hopelessness of their state. They were radically and habitually evil. As Moses told them at the end, "Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you" (Deuteronomy 9:24 ).

"And they have not known My ways" (verse 10). The word "ways" is used in Scripture both of God’s dispensations or providences and of His precepts. A way is that wherein one walks. It is not God’s secret "ways" (Isaiah 55:9 , Romans 9:33 ), but His manifest ways are here in view. His manifest ways are particularly His works, in which He declares Himself and exhibits His perfections, see Psalms 145:17 . The works of God are styled His "ways" because we may see Him, as it were, walking therein: "they have seen Thy goings, O God" (Psalms 68:24 ). Now it is our duty to meditate on God’s works or "ways" (Psalms 143:5 ), to admire and magnify the Lord in them (Psalms 138:4 ,Psalms 138:5 ), to acknowledge the righteousness of them (Psalms 145:17 ). God’s precepts are also termed His way and "ways" (Psalms 119:27 , Psalms 119:32 , Psalms 119:33 , Psalms 119:35 ), because they make known the paths in which He would have us walk. Israel’s ignorance of God’s ways, both His works and precepts, was a willful one, for they neglected and rejected the means of knowledge which God afforded them; they obstinately refused to acquire a practical knowledge of them, which is the only knowledge of real value.

"So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest" (verse 11). This was the fearful issue of Israel’s sin. The patience of God was exhausted. Their inveterate unbelief and continued rebellion incensed Him. The sentence He pronounced against them was irrevocable, confirmed by His oath. The sentence was that they should not enter into Canaan, spoken of as a "rest" because entrance therein would have terminated their wilderness trials and travels; "God’s rest," because it would complete His work of bringing Israel into the land promised their fathers, and because His sojournings (see Leviticus 25:23 ) with His pilgrims would cease.

"We may observe, 1. When God expresseth great indignation in Himself against sin, it is to teach men the greatness of sin in themselves. 2. God gives the same stability unto His threatenings as unto His promises. Men are apt to think the promises are firm and stable, but as for the threatenings, they suppose some way or other they may be evaded. 3. When men have provoked God by their impenitency to decree their punishment irrevocably, they will find severity in the execution. 4. It is the presence of God alone that renders any place or condition good or desirable, ‘they’ shall not enter into My rest" (Dr. John Owen).

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (verse 12). Here the apostle begins to make a practical application to the believing Hebrews of the solemn passage which has just been quoted from the 95th Psalm. He warns them against the danger of apostatizing. This is clear from the expression "in departing from the living God." The same Greek verb is rendered "fall away" in Luke 8:13 , and in its noun form signifies "apostasy" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 . Such apostasy is the inevitable outcome of giving way to an "evil heart of unbelief," against which the apostle bids those to whom he was writing to "take heed."

Thus the contents of this verse at once bring before us a subject which has been debated in Christendom all through the centuries the possibility or the impossibility of a true child of God apostatizing and finally perishing. Into this vexed question we shall not here enter, as the contents of the verses which immediately follow will oblige us taking it up, D.V. in our next article. Suffice it now to say that what is here in view is the testing of profession; whether the profession be genuine or spurious, the ultimate outcome of that testing makes evident in each individual’s case.

"Take heed brethren." The introducing here of this blessed and tender title of God’s saints is very searching. Those unto whom the apostle was writing, might object, "The scripture you have cited has no legitimate application to us; that passage describes the conduct of unbelievers, whereas we are believers." Therefore does the apostle again address them as "brethren;" nevertheless, he bids them "take heed." They were not yet out of danger, they were still in the wilderness. Those mentioned in Psalms 95:0 began well, witness their singing the praises of Jehovah on the farther shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:0 ). They too had avowed their fealty to the Lord: "all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:8 ); yet the fact remains that many of them apostatized and perished in the wilderness. Therefore the searching relevancy of this word, "take heed brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief."

"In departing from the living God." The reference here is plainly to the Lord Jesus Himself. In Matthew 16:16 the Father is denominated "the living God," here and in 1 Timothy 4:10 the Son is, in 2 Corinthians 6:16 (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16 ) the Holy Spirit is. The reason for the application of this Divine title to the Savior in this verse is apparent: the temptation confronting the Hebrews was not to become atheists, but to abandon their profession of Christianity. The unbelieving Jews denounced Jesus Christ as an impostor, and were urging those who believed in Him to renounce Him and return to Judaism, and thus return to the true God, Jehovah. That Christ is God the apostle had affirmed here, in verse 4, and he now warns them that so far from the abandonment of the Christian profession and a return to Judaism being a going back to Jehovah, it would be the "departing from the living God." That Christ was the true and living God had been fully demonstrated by the apostle in the preceding chapters of this epistle.

The extent to which and the manner in which the warning from Psalms 95:0 and the admonition of Hebrews 3:12 applies to Christians today, we must leave for consideration till the next chapter. In the meantime let us heed the exhortation of 2 Peter 1:10 , "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure," and while attending to this duty, let us pray the more frequently and the more earnestly for God to deliver us from "an evil heart of unbelief."

Verses 13-19

Christ Superior to Moses.

(Hebrews 3:13-19 )

There are two great basic truths which run through Scripture, and are enforced on every page: that God is sovereign, and that man is a responsible creature; and it is only as the balance of truth is preserved between these two that we are delivered from error. The Divine sovereignty should not be pressed to the exclusion of human responsibility, nor must human responsibility be so stressed that God’s sovereignty is either ignored or denied. The danger here is no fancied one, as the history of Christendom painfully exhibits. A careful study of the Word, and an honest appropriation of all it contains, is our only safeguard.

We are creatures prone to go to extremes: like the pendulum of a clock in motion, we swing from one side to the other. Nowhere has this tendency been more sadly exemplified than in the teachings of theologians concerning the security of the Christian. On the one hand, there have been those who affirmed, Once saved, always saved; on the other hand, many have insisted that a man may be saved today, but lost tomorrow. And both sides have appealed to the Bible in support of their conflicting contentions! Very unwise and unguarded statements have been made by both parties. Some Calvinists have boldly declared that if a sinner has received Christ as his Savior, no matter what he does afterward, no matter what his subsequent life may be, he cannot perish. Some Arminians have openly denied the efficacy of the finished Work of Christ, and affirmed that when a sinner repents and believes in Christ he is merely put in a salvable state, on probation, and that his own good works and faithfulness will prove the deciding factor as to whether he should spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

Endless volumes have been written on the subject, but neither side has satisfied the other; and the writer for one, is not at all surprised at this. Party-spirit has run too high, sectarian prejudice has been too strong. Only too often the aim of the contestants has been to silence their opponents, rather than to arrive at the truth. The method followed has frequently been altogether unworthy of the "children of light." One class of passages of Scripture has been pressed into service, while another class of passages has been either ignored or explained away. Is it not a fact that if some Calvinists were honest they would have to acknowledge there are some passages in the Bible which they wish were not there at all? And if some Arminians were equally honest, would they not have to confess that there are passages in Holy Writ which they are quite unable to fit into the creed to which they are committed? Sad, sad indeed, is this. There is nothing in the Word of God of which any Christian needs be afraid, and if there is a single verse in it which conflicts with his creed, so much the worse for his creed.

Now the subject of the Christian’s security, like every other truth of Scripture, has two sides to it: into it there enters both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It is failure to recognize and reckon upon this which has wrought such havoc and created so much confusion. More than once has the writer heard a renowned Bible-teacher of orthodox reputation say, "I do not believe in the perseverance of saints, but I do believe in the preservation of the Savior." But that is to ignore an important side of the truth. The New Testament has much to say on the perseverance of the saints, and to deny or ignore it is not only to dishonor God, but to damage souls.

There have been those who boldly insisted that, if God has eternally elected a certain man to be saved, that man will be saved, no matter what he does or does not do. Not so does the Word of God teach. Scripture says, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ), and if a man does not "believe the truth" he will never be saved. The Lord Jesus declared, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3 ); therefore, if a sinner, does not "repent," he will not be saved. In like manner, there are those who have said, If a man is now a real Christian, no matter how he may live in the future, no matter how far or how long he may backslide, no matter what sins he may commit, he is sure of Heaven. Put in such a way, this teaching has wrought untold harm, and, at the risk of our own orthodoxy being suspected, we here enter a solemn and vigorous protest against it.

The writer has met many people who profess to be Christians, but whose daily lives differ in nothing from thousands of non-professors all around them. They are rarely, if ever, found at the prayer-meeting, they have no family worship, they seldom read the Scriptures, they will not talk with you about the things of God, their walk is thoroughly worldly; and yet they are quite sure they are bound for heaven! Inquire into the ground of their confidence, and they will tell you that so many years ago they accepted Christ as their Savior, and "once saved always saved" is now their comfort. There are thousands of such people on earth today, who are nevertheless, on the Broad Road, that leadeth to destruction, treading it with a false peace in their hearts and a vain profession on their lips.

It is not difficult to anticipate the thoughts of many who have read the above paragraphs: "We fully agree that there are many in Christendom resting on a false ground of security, many professing the name of Christ, who have never been born again; but this in nowise conflicts with the declaration of Christ that no sheep of His shall ever perish." Quite true. But what we would here point out and seek to press on our readers is this: I have no right to appropriate to myself the blessed and comforting words of the Savior found in John 10:28 , John 10:29 , unless I answer to the description of His "sheep" found in John 10:27 ; and I have no warrant for applying His promise to those who give no evidence of being conformed to the characters of those He there has in view. Let no man dare separate what God Himself has there joined together.

The passage begins with, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." That is the Lord’s own description of those whom He owns as His "sheep." Now if, to the contrary, I am "hearkening" to the seductive voice of this world, if I am "following" a course of self-will, self-seeking, self-gratification, what right have I to regard myself as one of the "sheep" of Christ? None at all. And if, notwithstanding, I do profess to be one of His, then my walk gives the lie to my profession. And any one who comes to me with words of comfort, pressing upon me the promises of God to His people, is only encouraging me in a course of wrong-doing and bolstering me up in a false hope.

It may be replied, "Yet a real Christian may leave his first love." True, and before a church that had done so, the Lord Jesus appeared and said not, "It will be alright in the end," but "Repent, and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick" (Revelation 2:5 ). "But a real Christian may backslide, and in a large measure become worldly again." Then if he does, his need is not to hear about the eternal security of God’s saints, but the eternal and fearful consequences of giving way to an evil heart of unbelief if such a course be continued in. "Yes, but if he is one of God’s people, he will be chastened, and grace will restore him; and therefore I cannot see the need or propriety of giving him to believe there is a danger of his being lost."

Ah, it is not without reason that the Lord Jesus declared, more than once, "he that endureth to the end shall be saved." And let it not be forgotten that in Matthew 13:20 , Matthew 13:21 . He spoke of some who "but endureth for a while"! Again it may be objected, "Such a pressing of the need of perseverance of God’s elect is uncalled for: if a man be a Christian, he will persevere, and if he persevere then there is no need of urging him to persevere." Not so did the apostles think or act. In Acts 11:22 , Acts 11:23 we read, "they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." Again, in Acts 13:43 we read, "Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God." Once more, in Acts 14:21 , Acts 14:22 we are told "And when they had preached the Gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

According to the views of some, such earnestness on the part of the apostles was quite unnecessary. But the impartial Christian reader will gather from the above passages that the apostles believed in no mechanical salvation, wherein God dealt with men as though they were stocks and stones. No, they preached a salvation that needed to be worked out with "fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12 ); in a salvation which calls human responsibility into exercise; in a Divine salvation effectuated by the use of the means of grace which God has mercifully provided for us. True we are "kept by the power of God," but the very next words afford us light on how God keeps "through faith" (1 Peter 1:5 ). And not only does faith feed on the promises of God, but it is stirred into healthful exercise and directed by the solemn warnings of Scripture.

A real need then is there for such words as these, "But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6 ). "Oh, blessed word and promise of God, that He will keep us unto the end. But how is it that we are kept? Through faith, through watchfulness, through self-denial, through prayer and fasting, through our constant taking heed unto ourselves according to His Word. ‘Hold fast’ if you desire it to be manifested in that day that you are not merely outward professors, not merely fishes existing in the net, but the true and living disciples of One Master." (Saphir).

"But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (verse 13). "There is need of constant watchfulness on the part of the professors of Christianity, lest under the influence of unbelief they ‘depart from the living God.’ ‘Take heed,’ says the apostle. There is nothing, I am persuaded, in regard to which professors of Christianity fall into more dangerous practical mistakes than this. They suspect everything sooner than the soundness and firmness of their belief. There are many who are supposing themselves believers who have no true faith at all, and so it would be proved were the hour of trial, which is perhaps nearer than they are aware, to arrive; and almost all who have faith suppose they have it in greater measure than they really have it. There is no prayer that a Christian needs more frequently to present than, ‘Lord, increase my faith’; ‘deliver me from an evil heart of unbelief.’

"All apostasy from God, whether partial or total, originates in unbelief. To have his faith increased to have more extended, and accurate and impressive views of ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’ ought to be the object of the Christian’s most earnest desire and unremitting exertion. Just in the degree in which we obtain deliverance from the ‘evil heart of unbelief’ are we enabled to cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart, to follow Him fully, and, in opposition to all the temptations to abandon His cause, to ‘walk in all His commandments and ordinances blameless.’ To prevent so fearful and disastrous a result of apostasy from the living God, the apostle calls on them to strengthen each other’s faith by mutual exhortation, and thus oppose those malignant and deceitful influences which had a tendency to harden them in impenitence and unbelief" (Dr. J. Brown).

To "exhort one another daily" is to call attention to and stir up one another for discharging our mutual duties. But in performing this obligation we are sadly lax: like the disciples upon the mount of transfiguration (Luke 9:32 ) and in Gethsemane (Luke 22:45 ), we too are very dull and drowsy and in constant need of both exhortation and incitation. As fellow pilgrims in a hostile country, as members of the same family, we ought to have "care for one another" (1 Corinthians 12:25 ), to "love one another" (John 13:34 ), to "pray one for another" (James 5:16 ), to "comfort one another" (1 Thessalonians 4:18 ), to "admonish one another" (Romans 15:14 ), to "edify one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ), to have "peace one with another" (Mark 9:50 ). Only thus are we really helpful one to another. And, note, the exhorting is to be done "daily," for we must not be weary in well doing. While it is called "Today" warns us that our sojourn in this scene is but brief; the night hastens on when no man can work.

"Lest any of you be hardened" adds force to the duty enjoined. In verse 8 the terrible damage which hardness of heart produces had been pointed out; here it is warned against. The implication is unmistakable: hardness of heart is the consequence of neglecting the means for softening it "lest." Clay and wax which are naturally hard, melt when brought under a softening power, but when the heat is withdrawn they revert again to their native hardness. The same evil tendency remains in the Christian. The flesh is "weak," our heart "deceitful"; only by the daily use of means and through fellowship with the godly are we preserved. Oftentimes the failure of a Christian is to be charged against his brethren as much as to his own unfaithfulness. How often when we perceive a saint giving way to hardness of heart we go about mentioning it to others, instead of faithfully and tenderly exhorting the offending one!

"Through the deceitfulness of sin." Here is the cause of the evil warned against and upon which we need to be constantly upon our guard. It is the manifold deceits of sin which prevail over men so much. The reference here is to the corruption of our nature, with which we are born, and which we ever carry about with us. It is that which, in Scripture, is designated the "flesh," the lustings of which are ever contrary to the Spirit. God’s Word speaks of "deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22 ), the "deceitfulness of riches" (Matthew 13:22 ), for their innate depravity causes men to prefer material wealth to vital godliness and heavenly happiness. So we read of the "deceivableness of unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10 ); philosophy (the proud reasoning of that carnal mind which is enmity against God) is termed "vain deceit" (Colossians 2:8 ); and the lascivious practices of formal professors are called "their own deceivings" (2 Peter 2:13 ). This is one of the principal characteristics of sin: it deceives. "All the devices of sin are as fair baits whereby dangerous hooks are covered over to entice silly fish to snap at them, so as they are taken and made a prey to the fisher" (Dr. Gouge).

This deceitfulness of sin should serve as a strong inducement to make us doubly watchful against it, and that because of our foolish disposition and proneness of nature to yield to every temptation. Sin presents itself in another dress than its own. It lyingly offers fair advantages. It insensibly bewitches our mind. It accommodates itself to each individual’s particular temperament and circumstances. It clothes its hideousness by assuming an attractive garb. It deludes us into a false estimate of ourselves. One great reason why God has mercifully given us His Word is to expose the real character of sin. By the deceitfulness of sin the heart is hardened. "To be hardened is to become insensible to the claims of Jesus Christ, so that they do not make their appropriate impression on the mind, in producing attention, faith, and obedience. He is hardened who is careless, unbelieving, impenitent, disobedient" (Dr. J. Brown).

In the light of the whole context the specific reference in the exhortation of verse 13 constitutes a solemn caution against apostasy. What we particularly need to daily exhort one another about is to cleave fast to Christ, lest something else supplant Him in our affections. The whole trend of our sinful natures is to depart from the living God, to grasp at the shadows and miss the substance. This was the peculiar danger of the Hebrews. Sin was trying to deceive them. It was seeking to draw them back to Judaism as the one true and Divinely-appointed religion. To guard against the insidious appeals being made, the apostle urges them to "exhort one another daily," that is, promptly and frequently. The importance of taking heed to this injunction is placed in its strongest light by what immediately follows.

"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (verse 14). These words complete the exhortation commenced at verse 12. They are added as a motive to enforce the dissuasion from apostasy (verse 12), and also the warning against that which occasions it (verse 13). The contents of this verse are similar in their force to that which was before us in verse 6: in both instances it is profession which is being put to the proof. There are two classes on which such exhortations have no effect: the irreligious who are dead in trespasses and sins, and have no interest in such matters; and the self-righteous religionist, who, though equally dead spiritually, yet has an intellectual interest. Many a professing Christian, who is infected by the Laodicean spirit of the day, will shrug his shoulders, saying, Such warnings do not concern me, there is no danger of a real child of God apostatizing. Such people fail to get the good of these Divine warnings, their conscience never being reached. But where there is a heart which is right with God, there is always self-distrust, and such an one is kept in the place of dependency through taking heed to the solemn admonitions of the Spirit. It is these very warnings against departure from God which curb the regenerate.

"Persistency in our confidence in Christ unto the end is a matter of great endeavor and diligence, and that unto all believers. It is true that our persistency in Christ doth not, as to the issue and event, depend absolutely on our own diligence. The unalterableness of union with Christ, on the account of the faithfulness of the covenant of grace, is that which doth and shall eventually secure it. But yet our own diligent endeavor is such an indispensable means for that end as that without it, it will never be brought about. Hence are many warnings given us in this and other epistles, that we should take heed of apostasy and falling away; and these cautions and warnings are given unto all true believers, that they may know how indispensably necessary, from the appointment of God, and the nature of the thing itself, is their watchful diligence and endeavor unto their abiding in Christ" (Dr. John Owen).

But it should be pointed out that these solemn warnings of Scripture ought not to be pressed upon weak Christians, who though anxious to walk acceptably before God, are lacking in assurance. "Observe here for Satan, and our own conscience when it has not been set free often make use of this epistle that doubting Christians are not here contemplated, or persons who have not yet gained entire confidence in God: to those who are in this condition its exhortations and warnings have no application. These exhortations are to preserve the Christian in a confidence which he has, and to persevere, not to tranquillise fears and doubts. This use of the epistle to sanction such doubts is but a device of the enemy. Only I would add here that, although the full knowledge of grace (which in such a case the soul has assuredly not yet attained) is the only thing that can deliver and set it free from its fears, yet it is very important in this case practically to maintain a good conscience, in order not to furnish the enemy with a special means of attack" (J.N.D.).

For the right understanding of this verse it is of first importance that we should note carefully the tense of the verb in the first clause: it is not "we shall be made partakers of Christ if" that would completely overthrow the gospel of God’s grace, deny the efficacy of the finished Work of Christ, and make assurance of our acceptance before God impossible before death. No, what the Spirit here says is, "We are made partakers of Christ," and in the Greek it is expressed even more decisively: "For partakers we have become of the Christ." The word "partakers" here is the same as in Hebrews 3:1 , "partakers of the heavenly calling," and at the end of Hebrews 1:9 is rendered, "fellows." Perhaps, "companions" would be a better rendering. It means that we are so "joined unto the Lord," as to be "one spirit" with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17 ). It is to be so united to Christ that we are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:30 ). It is to be made by grace, "joint-heirs" with Him (Romans 8:17 ). The word "made partakers of Christ" shows there was a time when Christians were not so. They were not so born naturally; it was a privilege conferred upon them when they "received" Him as their Savior (John 1:12 ).

"If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." This does not express a condition of our remaining partakers of Christ in the sense of its being a contingency. "What is the one thing which the Christian desires? What is the one great thing which he does? What is the one great secret which he is always endeavoring to find out with greater clearness and grasp with firmer intensity? Is it not this: ‘my Beloved is mine, and I am His’? The inmost desire of our heart and the exhortation of the Word coincide. To the end we must persevere; and it is therefore with great joy and alacrity that we receive the solemn exhortations: ‘He that endureth unto the end shall be saved’; ‘No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’ We desire to hear constantly the voice which saith from His Heavenly throne, ‘To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My kingdom, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne’" (Saphir).

To hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end is to furnish evidence of the genuineness of our profession, it is to make it manifest both to ourselves and others that we have been made "partakers of Christ." Difficulties in the path are presupposed, severe trials are to be expected: how else could faith show itself? Buffetings and testings do but provide occasions for the manifestation of faith, they are also the means of its exercise and growth. The Greek word for "confidence" here is not the same as in verse 6: there the "confidence" spoken of is to make a bold and free confession of our faith; here, it is a deep and settled assurance of Christ’s excellency and sufficiency, which supports our hearts. The one is external, the other is internal. To "hold fast the beginning of our confidence" signifies to "continue in the faith, grounded and settled" (Colossians 1:23 ). It is to say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:15 ).

"Firm unto the end." This is the test. At the beginning of our Christian course, our confidence in Christ was full and firm. We knew that He was a mighty Savior, and we were fully persuaded that He was able to keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day. But the roughness of the way, the darkness of the night, the fierceness of the storm into which, sooner or later, we are plunged, tends to shake our confidence, and perhaps (much to our sorrow now) we cried, "Lord, carest Thou not"? Yet, if we were really "partakers of Christ" though we fell, yet were we not utterly cast down. We turned to the Word, and there we found help, light, comfort. In it we discovered that the very afflictions we have experienced were what God had told us would be our portion for "we are appointed thereunto" (1 Thessalonians 3:3 ). In it we learned that God’s chastenings of us proceeded from His love (Hebrews 12:0 ). And now, though we have proved by painful experience to have less and less confidence in ourselves, in our friends, and even in our brethren, yet, by grace, our confidence in the Lord has grown and become more intelligent. Thus do we obtain experimental verification of that word, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof" (Ecclesiastes 7:8 ).

"While it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation" (verse 15). The apostle continues to make practical application of the solemn passage he had been quoting from Psalms 95:0 , pressing upon them certain details from it. That which is central in this verse is its directions for cleaving fast to Christ. Two things are to be observed: the duty to be performed, positively to "hear His voice," negatively not to "harden their hearts." This duty is to be performed promptly, "Today," and is to be persevered in "whilst it is said today" i.e. to the end Of our earthly pilgrimage. The opportunity which grace grants us is to be eagerly redeemed, the improvement of it is to be made as long as the season of opportunity is ours. The admonition is again pointed by the warning of Israel’s failure of old. Thus the sins of others before us are to be laid to heart, that we may avoid them.

"When we hear God’s voice and, oh, how deafly and sweetly does He speak to us in the person of His Son Jesus, the Word incarnate, who died for us on Golgotha! the heart must respond.... By this expression is meant the center of our spiritual existence, that center out of which thoughts and affections proceed, out of which are the issues of life, that mysterious fount which God only can know and fathom. Oh that Christ may dwell there! God’s voice is to soften the heart. This is the purpose of the divine word to make our hearts tender. Alas, by nature we are hard-hearted: and what we call good and soft-hearted is not so in reality and in God’s sight When we receive God’s word in the heart, when we acknowledge our sin, when we adore God’s mercy, when we desire God’s fellowship, when we see Jesus, who came to save us, to wash our feet and shed His blood, for our salvation, the heart becomes soft and tender. For repentance, faith, prayer, patience, hope of heaven, all these things make the heart tender: tender towards God, tender towards our fellow-men" (Saphir).

"For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses" (verse 16). The apostle here begins to describe the kind of persons who sinned in the provocation, amplification being given in what follows. His purpose in making mention of these persons was to more fully evidence the need for Christian watchfulness against hardness of heart, even because those who of old yielded thereto provoked God to their ruin. The opening "for" gives point to what has preceded. The unspeakably solemn fact to which He here refers is that out of six hundred thousand men who left Egypt, but two of them were cut off in the wilderness, Caleb and Joshua.

The Greek word "provoke" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the Sept. employs it in Psalms 78:17 , Psalms 78:40 ; Psalms 106:7 , Psalms 106:33 ; Jeremiah 44:8 , etc. They "vexed" Him (Isaiah 63:10 ), and this because of their contempt of His word. Hereby they showed they were not of God, see John 8:47 , 1 John 4:6 . Should any unsaved man or woman read these lines, we would say, Beware of provoking God by thine obstinacy. To them that believe not, the gospel becomes "a savor of death unto death."

"But with whom was He grieved forty years"? (verse 17). This being put in the form of a question was designed to stir up the conscience of the reader, cf. Matthew 21:28 , James 4:5 , etc. "Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness"? (verse 17). "He doth not say ‘they died,’ but their ‘carcasses fell,’ which intimates contempt and indignation. God sometimes will make men who have been wickedly exemplary in sin, righteously exemplary in their punishment. To what end is this reported? It is that we may take heed that we ‘fall not after the same example of unbelief’ (Hebrews 4:11 ). There is then an example in the fall and punishment of unbelievers" (Dr. John Owen).

"And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believeth not"? (verse 18). Having reminded the Hebrews in the previous verse that sin was the cause of Israel’s destruction of old, he now specifies the character of that sin, Unbelief. The order is terribly significant: they harkened not to God’s voice; in consequence, their hearts were hardened; unbelief was the result; destruction, the issue. How unspeakably solemn! The Greek word here rendered "believed not" may, with equal propriety, be rendered "obeyed not"; it is so translated in Romans 2:8 ; Romans 10:21 . It amounts to the same thing, differing only according to the angle of view-point: looked at from the mind or heart, it is "unbelief"; looked at from the will, it is "disobedience." In either case it is the sure consequence of refusal to heed God’s voice.

"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (verse 19). "The apostle does not single out the sin of making and worshipping the golden calf; he does not bring before us the flagrant transgressions into which they fell at Beth-peor. Many much more striking and to our mind more fearful sins could have been pointed out, but God thinks the one sin greater than all is unbelief. We are saved by faith; we are lost through unbelief. The heart is purified by faith; the heart is hardened by unbelief. Faith brings us nigh to God; unbelief is departure from God" (Saphir). There is no sin so great but it may be pardoned, if the sinner believe; but "he that believeth not shall be damned."

The application of the whole of this passage to the case of the sorely-tried and wavering Hebrews was most pertinent and solemn. Twice over the apostle reminded them (verses 9, 17) that the unbelief of their fathers had been continued for "forty years." Almost that very interval had now elapsed since the Son had died, risen again, and ascended to heaven. In Scripture, forty is the number of probation. The season of Israel’s testing was almost over; in A.D. 70 their final dispersion would occur. And God changeth not. He who had been provoked of old by Israel’s hardness of heart, would destroy again those who persisted in their unbelief. Then let them beware, and heed the solemn warning, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." May God grant us hearts to heed the same admonitory warning.

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Bibliographical Information
Pink, A.W. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews".