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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Hebrews 3

Verses 1-19

Revelation in a Son

Hebrews 3:1

The text of the Epistle to the Hebrews will be found in the first verse of the third chapter, 'Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus'. Like all Christian teaching, it finds its centre in the historic Personality and Life, which is the constant element because it is the Divine Fact.

I. It is of the utmost importance to make clear to ourselves the fact that the work of Christ is essentially a unity, that He is not at one time concerned with making known the name of God, at another with fulfilling His Will in the redemption of mankind. He manifests the love of God, as He could not fail to do, in fulfilling the Father's loving purpose of reconciliation through death. The Fact of Christ crucified, the work of Calvary, the Death of the cross is itself God's word, God's message. It is this position, established in the first two chapters, that justifies the author in proceeding to his theme. 'Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.'

II. When God speaks in the prophets, He does so indirectly, mediately, through the interposition of the human voice. When God speaks in a Son, He does so directly, immediately, through the facts themselves, which the human voice more or less imperfectly represents. It is the difference between nature and science, between reality and representation, between the actual world and the lesson-books which describe its processes. Prophecy interprets God's purposes: facts realise them.

III. It is important to remember that the union of the messenger and the priest was already portrayed in the pages of that Old Testament prophet the fulfilment of whose ideal in Jesus the Messiah was the characteristic discovery of the Apostolic Church. The second Isaiah is the great anticipator of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is he who fixes for ever the sacrificial idea as the only adequate expression of the deliverance, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, which the Messenger and Servant should preach as a gospel to the poor. For this elect and beloved representative of Jehovah was to be, not like the prophets a preacher of righteousness, but a bringer of salvation, and as such a man of sorrows, led as the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter, bearing the iniquity of His people, and, because He had poured out His soul unto death, dividing the spoil with the strong. I think we shall best represent the difference between the work of the Servant and the work of that long line of 'servants in the house,' from Moses onwards, who had preceded Him, if we say that, while the prophets declared the righteousness of God, in the Suffering Servant that righteousness was to become redemptive.

IV. The priestly mediation of Jesus, of which His death is the embodiment, and His exaltation the Divine acceptance, is not only the subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but is itself the message of the Gospel. He is God's Apostle in His capacity as priest. This means an entirely different view of the proportions of the Christian Faith from that with which we have been made familiar by the teaching, for example, of the late Bishop Westcott, whose interpretation of this Epistle is, if my view be correct, prejudicially affected by the general point of sight which he adopts. There is, as I believe, in the New Testament no Gospel of the Incarnation as such, far less a Gospel of creation. The Scriptures give us no warrant for speculation as to whether the Word would have become flesh independently of the actual conditions under which God intervened in human life. Christ is not presented as the necessary consummator of a development which, apart from the fact of sin, would have been incomplete without Him. We simply do not know what such a development would have meant. But He is the reconciler, His death being the essential feature in this historical manifestation: 'I am the living one, and I became dead'. To acknowledge this is of the highest importance if we are to appreciate the self-surrender and voluntary love of God, the debt we owe Him, and the dependence in which we stand towards His Christ, who for our sakes became poor, took upon Him (the exact expression which follows should be noticed) 'the form of a slave,' and endured the cross. And it enables us to understand what the writer of Hebrews means by God speaking to us in a Son. He does not mean us to dwell upon the Incarnate Son as an object of contemplation, His personality, His teaching, His self-expression as a revelation of the Eternal Father, and then to go on to consider His redeeming work. He has not really omitted to develop in detail the work of the Son as the Apostle, referring us, as it were, to the Gospel according to St. John for a fuller treatment of the subject. No, God's speech is nothing else but the facts of the sufferings of Christ and the glory in which they issued. 'When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.'

J. G. Simpson, Christus Crucifixus, p. 51.

References. III. 1. G. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 206. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Hebrews, p. 258.

Consider

Above all, Romanes,' said Darwin to G. T. Romanes, cultivate the habit of meditation.'

Hebrews 3:4 ; Hebrews 3:6

'Life,' says George Macdonald, 'is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God.'

Reference. III. 5, 6. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 28.

Hebrews 3:6

Had we fast-hold on God by the interposition of a lively faith; had we hold-fast on God by Himselfe, and not by us; had we a divine foundation; then should not humane and worldly occasions have the power so to shake and litter us, as they have. Our hold would not then yeelde to so weake a batterie: The love of noveltie; the constrainte of Princes; the good success of one partie; the rash and casuall changing of our opinions, should not then have the power to shake and alter our beleefe. We should not suffer the same to be troubled at the wit and pleasure of a new argument, and at the perswasion, no, not of all the rhetorike that ever was: we should withstand these boistrous billowes with an inflexible and unmoveable constancie.

Montaigne ( Florio ), II. 12.

References. III. 6. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 410. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Hebrews, p. 268. III. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1160. III. 7, 8. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 81. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 305. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Hebrews, p. 275. III. 8. H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, p. 247. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 52.

Hebrews 3:12

The commonest sort of fortitude prevents us from becoming criminals in a legal sense; it is from weakness unknown, but perhaps suspected, as in some parts of the world you suspect a deadly snake in every bush, from weakness that may lie hidden, watched or unwatched, prayed against or manfully scorned, repressed or maybe ignored more than half a lifetime, not one of us is safe.

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (ch. v.).

The parting of Life's road at Doubt and Faith! How many pilgrim feet throughout the ages, toiling devoutly thus far, have shrunk back before that unexpected and appalling sign! Disciples of the living Lord, saints, philosophers, scholars, priests, knights, statesmen what a throng! What thoughts there born, prayers there ended, vows there broken, light there breaking, hearts there torn in twain! Mighty mountain rock! rising full in the road of journeying humanity!

Jas. Lane Allen.

Hebrews 3:12-13

A proper sense of public duty will prompt endeavours to stop abuses the moment they become visible, without waiting for them to become serous. The misdoings which, in course of time, make useless or mischievous this or that administration, begin with trivial derelictions of duty, which no one thinks it worth while to protest against. Each increment of mischief, similarly small, is passed over as unimportant; until at length the evil is found to have grown great and perhaps incurable.

Spencer, Principles of Ethics (§ 470).

References. III. 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, xliv. No. 2552. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 128. III. 13. H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 13. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 87. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 620, and vol. xxxvi. No. 2130. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Hebrews, p. 285. III. 14. Ibid. p. 295. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1042. III. 15. H. Windross, Preacher's Magazine, vol. x. p. 272. III. 16. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 157.

Hebrews 3:19

In the first chapter of The Saints' Everlasting Rest, which is based on Hebrews 4:9 , as its text, Baxter observes: 'When God would give the Israelites His Sabbaths of rest, in a land of rest, He had more ado to make them believe it than to overcome their enemies, and procure it for them'.

Reference. III. 19. G. H. Morrison, Scottish Review, vol. i. p. 130.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/hebrews-3.html. 1910.