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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

Hebrews 3

Verses 1-6

Christ’s Superiority Over Moses

Because of the things He has done, Christians should center their thoughts on Jesus, who is the "Apostle and High Priest of our confession" ( Heb_3:1 ). An apostle is one sent on a mission. Jesus, then, was certainly an apostle of God ( Joh_3:16-17 ; Mat_26:39 ; Mat_26:42 ; Joh_13:20 ; Joh_20:21 ; 1Jn_4:14 ). Heb_2:17-18 shows that Jesus is our high priest, in that, He, like that figure, made reconciliation for our sins. Remember that the high priest was the one who offered the sacrifice on the day of atonement. He was the only one who could enter the holy of holies and he took that blood sacrifice in to atone. The word translated "confession" actually includes two ideas. First, it is, as Milligan states, "a public avowal of one's beliefs and sentiments." Second, it is a way of life for the Christian ( Mat_10:32 ; Mat_16:13-20 ; Rom_10:9-10 ; 1Ti_6:12 ). So Jesus is the object of our confession because He was the one sent and the one who offered, and indeed was, the reconciliation for our sins. Paul tells us in Rom_10:9-10 , that confession of Christ leads to our salvation and Jesus, in Mat_10:32 , says that if we confess Him on earth, He will confess us in heaven.

Moses was trustworthy in carrying out the duties appointed to him in God's house, as was Jesus ( 1Co_4:2 ). Moses was faithful in his duty, but Jesus is held in higher esteem. Moses was a part of the house of Israel, but Jesus was both the builder and furnisher of that house. Even today, the man who built a great building is considered greater than the building itself. The greatness of the builder can be seen as the writer goes on to say God is the builder. Clearly, these verses let the reader know the writer thought of Jesus as divine ( Heb_3:2-4 ).

Heb_3:5 goes on to extend the superiority of Christ over Moses. Moses was faithful in God's household as a servant and his faithfulness testifies to the accuracy of the message he brought. However, Moses' service was only a foreshadow of things that would come long after his life on earth was finished (see also Col_2:17 ; Heb_10:1 ). Christ, as Son, is more than a servant over the house. While Moses was a servant over God's house, Jesus is the Son over a house which the author calls His "own." As members of the church, Christians are considered members of God's household ( 1Ti_3:15 .) This truly is Christ's house, as He pointed out in Mat_16:18 . One can become a part of that church (as is recorded in Act_2:47 ), but, as the author points out, to remain a part of it he must speak boldly of it and hold fast to the hope of it to the end of life ( Heb_3:6 ).

Verses 7-12

Lessons from the Unbelief in the Wilderness

The writer turns to a quotation from Psa_95:7-11 . This Psalm is a call to worship God and a warning against a disobedient heart. The writer was warning the Hebrew people against a hardening of their hearts and rejection of God. Their fathers had rebelled against God in the wilderness and because of that were not allowed to enter into "rest," which in their case was the promised land, or Canaan. The events in the wilderness clearly demonstrate God will not tolerate unbelief after He has shown His power to His people. So, the writer called his readers to worship and asked them to remain receptive so they could enter into God's "rest," which, for the Christian, is heaven ( Heb_3:7-11 ).

The writer next issued a warning to his brethren. Notice he said, "in any of you," which indicated he was not only concerned with the church as a whole but with individuals who make up the church. The warning is against the "heart of disbelief" which is one that does not trust God and His promises. A heart such as this can cause one to distrust God so much that he will turn totally away. Remember, the readers of this letter were considering rejection of Christ which would cause them to turn back to Moses' law ( Luk_9:62 ). It is significant to note the writer equates rejection of Christ with rejection of God ( Heb_3:12 ).

Verses 13-19

Exhortation to Faithfulness

So that they will not fall, Christians are to encourage one another every day. This is done so that sin and its tricky ways will not be able to harden a believer in the ways of sin. Such exhortation is needed while it is called "today"--before the night of death, which may come at any time. Members of the body of Christ come to share with Him if they hold close to themselves the hope with which they started. One must not only have that hope in the beginning of his ministry with Christ, but must maintain it until the end of that ministry. This is unlike those of the first generation Israelites who lost hope and trust in God and died without entering Canaan, which was their land of promise ( Heb_3:13-14 ).

The author of the letter to the Hebrews then repeated his quotation of Psa_95:7 to show the great importance placed upon keeping one's heart from hardening. Then, as the New International Version has it, he asks, "Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?" The rebellion was complete save for Joshua and Caleb. All those who had enjoyed the deliverance under Moses, one of God's great leaders, were lost because of unbelief ( Heb_3:15-16 ).

That the possibility of falling away is great was plainly demonstrated in the falling of the people of Israel in the wilderness ( Num_14:28-32 ). Though they had once believed and trusted God's promises, once they turned to unbelief they were unable to enter into the "rest" God offered. It is important to realize Israel possessed the land of rest in the promise of God but lost it through their unbelief. The writer pointed out their death in the wilderness was totally and solely brought about because of their unbelief. Edward Fudge remarks that their falling was not due to any unfaithfulness on Moses' part or inability on God's part. They simply quit trusting God ( Heb_3:17-19 ; Deu_32:20 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.