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Bible Commentaries

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

Hebrews 3

Verse 1

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.

From the considerations which he had suggested, the Apostle urges the Hebrews to fix their attention upon Christ Jesus, under the character of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. The considerations alluded to are His superiority not only to the prophets but also to the angels, inasmuch as He was "over all, God blessed for ever." Romans 9:5. By Him the Gospel was first promulgated. He ruled the new dispensation in the character of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, having been for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.

He was not the Savior of angels, but of sinners, of mankind, with whom He united Himself in the closest bonds, becoming a member of the human family, taking part with them in flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that Isaiah, the devil, and thus free His brethren from the tyranny of the king of terrors. This unity with His brethren was necessary in order to His being a merciful and faithful High Priest, able to make atonement for their transgressions, and to make intercession for them, through His perfect atonement, which magnifies and makes honorable the law of God. Being Himself a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, He was also well qualified to sympathize with His afflicted people.

He addresses them as holy brethren; he had represented them as sanctified, chap; as separated from the rest of mankind by their union with Christ, who took part in flesh and blood with the children whom God had given Him. Believers are represented as sanctified by the blood of Christ, chap13:12, as Israel was sanctified or set apart as God's peculiar people by the blood of the Sinai covenant. There was, however, an essential difference: the latter was the blood of bulls and goats, and could never take away sin; the former was the blood of Immanuel, which cleanseth those for whom it was shed from all sin. Believers are also represented as sanctified by the Holy Spirit, of which they are all made partakers, 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and as sanctified through the truth, John 17:17. In one sense they are at once all equally and completely sanctified, they are all washed in the blood of Christ, all partakers of His Spirit, and all are of the truth which dwelleth in them, which they have of God. Hence Christ is said not only to be made of God unto them righteousness, but sanctification. Every believer, from the first moment of his new life in Christ, has thus the germ of perfect holiness, although sanctification is also represented as a growth in holiness, and advancement in conformity to God, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Believers are called to follow after holiness, Hebrews 12:14; to mortify their members which are upon the earth, engrossed with earthly objects, Colossians 3:15; and we are assured that all shall be judged according to their works, Revelation 20:12; Galatians 6:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:10. So that, while all boasting is excluded, Christ's doctrine is manifestly according to godliness.

They are also represented as partakers of the heavenly calling. The privileges of the Sinai covenant were peculiar to Israel, Amos 3:2; but the Gentiles were fellow-heirs, Ephesians 3:6; and therefore the Hebrew believers are described as partakers of the heavenly calling. It was not exclusively directed to them. In giving of the law God spoke on earth, but He now speaketh from heaven. Hebrews 12:25. Believers are frequently described as called, Romans 8:28; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 1:24; and here described as partakers of the heavenly calling, for it is a call to His kingdom and glory, 1 Thessalonians 2:12.

They are exhorted to consider Jesus Christ under the character of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. Christ is eminently the sent of God. John 6:29; John 6:40; John 17:18. Hence He is termed the Apostle of our profession, and is thus contrasted with Moses, whom God sent to deliver Israel. Exodus 3:10. While Moses was in an eminent degree the Apostle of God to Israel, Aaron was the High Priest; but both these high offices were united in Christ, and the Hebrews are here exhorted to consider the Lord Jesus as uniting the offices both of an Apostle and a Priest.

Verse 2

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

The Apostle was far from intending by the contrast to lower the character of Moses; on the contrary, he quotes the most honorable testimony borne to him in the Scripture, that he was faithful in all his house. He was not only the lawgiver of Israel, but the laws were executed under his direction; such was the confidence with which the God of Israel was pleased to treat his illustrious servant. Aaron and his sister Miriam spoke slightingly of Moses, specially condemning his marriage with a woman who was not of the daughters of Israel. It is to be observed that this marriage was solemnized before the middle wall of partition was set up between Israel and other nations; and probably it was a prophetic intimation of the Gentiles by union with Christ being admitted into the Church of God.

From the extraordinary meekness of Moses, which is mentioned in connexion with their speaking against him, it is probable that he was disposed to pass over their presumption; but the Lord was pleased at once to rebuke any appearance of rivalry. He suddenly commanded them to stand before the tabernacle, and, coming down in the pillar of the cloud, informed them that He would communicate His will to the prophets by a vision or a dream. Not so with His servant Moses; with him He would speak mouth to mouth, and that he should even behold the similitude of the Lord. Probably there is here a reference to the manifestation made to Moses on the occasion of the molten calf. Exodus 33:11; Exodus 33:21; Exodus 33:23. When this took place, no man was to be with him, nor was any to be seen throughout the mount. In the close of Deuteronomy we are informed that there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. Deuteronomy 34:10. He was the only lawgiver in Israel; but at length a prophet was raised up unto him of their brethren, like unto Moses. Deuteronomy 16:15.

Verse 3

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.

The Apostle, in contrasting the old and new dispensations, while he admits the glory of the old, observes that it had no glory in comparison of the new, 2 Corinthians 3:10; and here he illustrates the inferiority of Moses, as constituting a part of that house in the government of which he celebrates his faithfulness. Now a house may be very glorious, but it is evident that the builder has more honor than the house. It owes its magnificence to his skill.

Verse 4

For every house is builded by some man: but he that built all things is God.

Every house is builded by some man; it owes its existence to the skill of the architect; while God is the great architect of the universe, and the greater the glory of creation the greater the glory of the Creator. Perhaps there is here a reference to chap, and10:12, in order to establish more fully the glory of the Son of God, as being the Creator and Proprietor of the house over which He presided. This is confirmed by Psalm 115:5-6. He is the great Shepherd, who feeds and nourishes His sheep.

Verse 5

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after.

And according to the testimony which he had quoted, Moses was faithful in all his house, "as a servant," as had been specifically noticed in the testimony borne to his faithfulness.

"My servant Moses is not Song of Solomon, who is faithful in all mine house." Numbers 12:7. But the house in which Moses was "a faithful and wise servant" was erected for the purpose of bearing testimony to those things which were afterwards to be spoken. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." Chap7:19. It was a scaffolding for the erection of a building.

The Jewish dispensation was a " shadow of good things to come," of the spiritual kingdom which God was afterwards to establish. " he law and the prophets," says Jesus, " were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Luke 16:16. "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me." John 5:46. Moses and the Apostle taught precisely the same thing; only Moses taught with a vail on his face, and the Apostle used great plainness of speech.

Verse 6

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

While Moses was faithful as a servant in the house of God, Christ was faithful as a Son over His own house. It was erected by His power. He is heir of all things, Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; He is Lord of all. Acts 10:36. " The Father loveth the Song of Solomon, and hath given all things into His hand." John 3:35. "For the Father judgeth no Prayer of Manasseh, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." John 5:22. All things, without exception, are put under Him, chap2:8, whose house are we.

The house over which He rules is a spiritual house, composed of living stones, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, He Himself being the chief corner-stone. Christ is the fountain of life to all His people, and this life is communicated through faith; in other words, by resting on Him, as the stones of a building rest on the foundation.

The loadstone communicates its properties to iron; had it pleased God, it might have done so to stone; and we might conceive of a loadstone so powerful as to impart its qualities to every stone in the building erected upon it.

The supposition is realized in the house of God; it rests upon Christ; and, by faith, Christ dwells in every heart. "Now," says one Apostle, " we are His house, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."

Faith, or confidence, and hope are inseparably connected, and, indeed, may be used interchangeably. Believers are " begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," 1 Peter 1:3; and this hope is founded on the immutable promise of God, confirmed by His oath. Hebrews 6:17-18.

" This is the promise that He hath promised us (believers), even eternal life." 1 John 2:25. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." 1 John 5:11. Now the Apostle says, " Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." As when a stone ceases to rest on the foundation, it is no longer a part of the building; Song of Solomon, if a man abide not in Christ, he is no longer of the house of God. " The just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Hebrews 10:38-39.

Verse 7

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice.

Wherefore.—From the consideration of the privileges connected with keeping the faith, the Apostle delivers a very solemn exhortation, in a quotation from Psalm 95 : In order more powerfully to enforce it upon the minds of the Hebrews, he describes it as the saying of the Holy Ghost.

We have here a conclusive proof of the plenary or verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The words referred to are represented as spoken by the Holy Ghost, which exactly corresponds with what the Apostle says:—"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man"s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." 1 Corinthians 2:13. The Psalm referred to was written by David, Hebrews 4:7; but " the Spirit of the Lord spake by him, and his word was in his tongue." 2 Samuel 23:2. To this also our Lord testifies, in the question which He asked the Pharisees, how David called Messiah Lord. David might have spoken erroneously; but David, in or by the Spirit, called Him Lord. He is the Spirit of truth, and therefore must here, as on every other occasion, have spoken truth.

The words of the Holy Ghost, to which the Apostle directs the attention of the Hebrews, are, "Today if ye will hear His voice." In the Psalm there is a reference to Israel"s rebellion in the wilderness. The account of their journey is calculated to be very useful to those who profess the faith of Jesus, and is therefore repeatedly referred to in the New Testament1Corinthians10 : Jude, in foretelling the departure from the faith which should take place, puts those whom he addressed in remembrance "how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." Jude 1:5. They are described as having tempted the Lord ten times, and not hearkened to His voice. Numbers 14:22. But, after they had got possession of the land, they are warned " today" to listen to the voice of God, which evidently implies that their entrance into Canaan did not supersede the necessity of the exhortation. We are taught that Israel's provocations and punishment are recorded for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come. 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Verse 8

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.

Men not listening to the voice of God proceeds from the hardness of their hearts, which, as appears from the conduct of the Israelites, will too frequently neither be melted by kindness nor subdued by suffering. Israel's conduct in the wilderness was a tissue of provocations. The object which God had in view in all His dealings with them was to humble them and to prove them, and to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep his commandments or no. Deuteronomy 8:3. Now the Apostle warns the Hebrew believers by their example not to harden their hearts and provoke God, as their fathers had done in the wilderness, in the day of temptation.

Verse 9

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

We have seen that God's object in his dealings with Israel was to prove them, and bring out the hidden evil of their heart; but we are warned against tempting the Lord. Israel had many proofs of the long-suffering of God; but, instead of its leading them to repentance, it emboldened them in sin. Presuming upon His long-suffering, they seemed to be trying how far it would extend. Now we are particularly cautioned against tempting the Lord. We are to cherish the most entire conviction of His perfection, and to place the most unlimited confidence in Him, which necessarily implies our being guided in all things by His wisdom. The day of temptation may refer to the whole period of their sojourning in the wilderness. During that period God was proving them, bringing out what was in their heart, while by their rebellion they constantly provoked Him.

Verse 10

Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

Here we have the result of Israel's provocations and temptations of God. He " was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart, and have not known my ways." They were so blinded by their love of sin, that they always erred in heart, and refused to be guided by Him. It is the character of the wicked that they know not God; and such was the case with the generation whose carcases fell in the wilderness.

Verse 11

So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

So I sware in my wrath...—In consequence of which, God sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest. We have a full account of what God said on this occasion, . The expression here is elliptical, "If they shall enter into my rest."

Our translators have given the meaning correctly. It is an oath; God swears by Himself. "I am not God if they shall enter into my rest."

Verse 12

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

Upon the quotation which the Apostle had made from Psalm 95 :, he founds an exhortation against there being in any of the believing Hebrews an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Israel were excluded from Canaan by unbelief. They had the promise of God on which to rely; but, on hearing the report of the spies, respecting the fortified cities, and the prowess of the Canaanites, they determined to make a captain and return to Egypt.

There could not, therefore, have been a more suitable foundation for the exhortation against an evil heart of unbelief. The fears and apprehensions of Israel led them to disregard the promises of God, and to determine to act in direct opposition to their deliverer. The believing Hebrews stood by faith, and, if they let slip the truth, must necessarily fall.

Verse 13

But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

They were not only each to mind his own things, but every man also the things of others. The Lord has commanded his people to associate together, that they may support and strengthen each other. . They are not only individually to beware of an evil heart of unbelief, but to exhort one another; to be aware of the dangers to which they are exposed, and to watch over one another in love, and daily to exhort each other, lest they should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Satan first entered the hearts of our first parents in the form of a lie, and he insinuated it in the most ensnaring manner. He at first questioned whether our first parents had rightly understood what God said. "Yea, hath God said?" as if he said, It cannot be; surely God could not lay you under this restraint. Had Eve spurned the insinuation— had she rested on the glorious perfections of the Divine character—had she considered that it was her honor and happiness to be implicitly guided by her Creator in all things, Satan would have been baffled, and would have fled from her, James 4:7; but she chose to argue the matter, to explain to the tempter the liberty bestowed on them to eat of the trees of the garden with one exception. This emboldened Satan directly to contradict the Almighty, and to assure the woman that, in- stead of dying, they should become as gods. Thus was Eve hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; the tempter, by his subtlety, led her not only to expect impunity, but an increase of rank and happiness; and thus, by the hope of impunity, and the prospect of enjoyment, are men in every age hardened by those lusts which are gendered by the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the heart of fallen man. There is but one safeguard, to which we have already alluded:—" Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." Psalm 17:4.

Verse 14

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.

The Christian life is compared to a race, a warfare, in which we are exhorted to strenuous exertion, while we habitually recollect that in the Lord alone we have righteousness and strength, and that, while we are called to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are apt to err, either by trusting in our own heart, which is a sure proof of folly, or to think that we are something, and that, by our resolutions and exertions, we are able to overcome. But, in either case, we are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, not holding the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. Faith worketh by love; it overcometh the world and its snares. Hence this verse is connected with the preceding by the particle "for," reminding us how prone we are to let slip the truth.

This verse is exactly similar to Hebrews 2:6; in the former the Apostle says,—" Whose house are we;" in the verse before us,—"We are made partakers of Christ"—of those benefits which He bestows on His people, by their dwelling in Him and He in them, communicating to them of His fulness, leading them by His counsel, and afterwards receiving them to His glory. If we are Christ's house He dwells in us, and thus we are made partakers of Christ; so that the two verses express the same idea, while, by the variation of the expression, our views of the mutual relationship of Christ and His people are more fully exhibited.

The pronoun our is not in the original; it is simply the beginning of the confidence exactly corresponding with holding fast the confidence. We may notice that the word rendered "confidence," both in vers6,14, are not the same in ver14; it is the same word rendered "confidence in." "The confidence of things hoped for." The word, in ver6, signifies boldness; openness, 2 Corinthians 7:4. It is connected with the rejoicing of hope. A bold avowal of the truth exposed the disciples to persecution; but this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4.

When the Apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they replied, "for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard;" and when they had been beaten for not complying with the commandment to hold their peace, " they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Acts 5:41. Here we have an illustration of the boldness, or confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope enjoined by the Apostle. Believers are begotten to a lively hope, but there are stony-ground hearers, who for a time appear to believe, and the Scriptures frequently speak of things according to their appearance; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. In due season we shall reap if we faint not.

Verse 15

While it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

The Apostle here recurs to the quotation already made from Psalm 95 :, which demonstrates that the word of the Lord endureth for ever, and that its warnings and exhortations are applicable to every age; for the Psalmist says to the men of his generation, "Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation,"—referring to a transaction which took place hundreds of years before.

Verse 16

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

Some of the children of Israel, who had not only heard the commandments and promises of God delivered by Moses, but had heard the voice of God at Sinai, provoked him by their disobedience, although not all that came out of Egypt under the guidance of Moses; for, not only Caleb and Joshua, but all the tribe of Levi, all under twenty years of age, and, probably, many of the women, from not being numbered, were not excluded from Canaan. Numbers 14:29.

This illustrates the Apostle's doctrine, that there was a remnant according to the election of grace. Thus it was in the days of Elijah, in the days of Malachi ( ), and also in the days of Paul. Romans 11:4-5.

Verse 17

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

With whom was God displeased during forty years? was it not with them whose carcases fell in the wilderness? .

Verse 18

And to whom aware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

And to whom did He swear that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not. Numbers 14:11. All the rebellions of Israel sprang from unbelief. Their making the calf, their murmuring against God and against his servant Moses, and their refusing to enter Canaan, all proceeded from unbelief.

Verse 19

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

Thus we see that they could not enter the promised land because of unbelief. Faith in God was essentially necessary to their expelling the Canaanites, who were by far more warlike than themselves. They indeed quitted Egypt under the assurance that they should inherit Canaan; they followed the leader whom God had appointed through the sea, but they were at this period escaping from the house of bondage, where their lives had been embittered by oppression; besides, Pharaoh's army was behind them, and to stop was certain destruction. Such were the motives by which they were induced to enter the path through the mighty waters which God had opened for them. But their circumstances on the borders of Canaan were very different. They were, so to speak, naturalized in the wilderness; albeit there was neither earing nor harvest, all their wants were richly supplied. The spies had given a description of the warlike condition of the Canaanites; they represented it as certain destruction to invade the land, so that every natural principle forbade their making the attempt. There was a lion in the way; and thus it is that the conduct of men is often ascribed to their faith, when, in fact, they are walking by sight influenced by worldly motives, while they give themselves, and receive from others credit for being actuated by confidence in God. Such was the case with Israel at the Red Sea. There was, doubtless, a remnant whose dread of the sea was overcome by faith in God; but the great body of Israel were children in whom there was no faith, while their conduct on some occasions appeared to result from this Divine principle.

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Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hal/hebrews-3.html. 1835.