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Bible Commentaries

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Hebrews 3

Verses 1-6

Christ, the Son Moses, the servant

Hebrews 3:1-6

There are three main divisions in this chapter.

1. The glory and pre-eminence of Christ over Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6).

2. A strong warning against unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-13).

3. An exhortation to perseverance (Hebrews 3:14-19).

Hebrews 3:1 . Paul calls the Hebrews ‘holy brethren,’ not because of their birth or because of any merit in them, but because of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22). We are also partakers of ‘the heavenly calling’ because it is from heaven that we are called to Christ, and it is to heaven that we are called. The old theologians used to talk of an effectual call and a general call. All men receive a general call (or warning) through nature (Romans 1:18-20), by conscience (Romans 2:14-15), and by providence (Amos 4:6-12); but the elect receive an effectual, conquering call (Galatians 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:9).

‘Consider’ or take a good look at Christ Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess and profess as ours!

1. He is the apostle because he was sent of God to preach the gospel of redemption (Luke 4:18) and to secure the salvation of his people by his obedience and death (Romans 5:19; Hebrews 9:26-28).

2. He is the high priest because he enters the holiest with his atonement and intercedes for us with the Father (Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-22).

Hebrews 3:2 . As Moses was faithful to the trust and responsibility put upon him by God (for he had the whole house of Israel committed to his charge and care), so Christ, our Mediator and Surety, had committed to him all the elect of God to bring them to glory. He shall not fail but shall accomplish all that he was given to do (John 6:37-39).

Hebrews 3:3 . Our Lord Jesus is considered worthy of a much greater honor than Moses as the builder of the house has more honor than the house itself. This is said in answer to the Jewish temptation to speak of Moses or Abraham as their father. Christ and Moses are not to be compared any more than the builder of a house is to be regarded on the same level as the house. Moses was but a servant. Christ is the Son, the Lord, the heir (John 9:28-29; John 5:45-47). Moses is of no value unless he is put in his proper place as Christ's servant.

Hebrews 3:4 . A house does not build itself. Someone must plan it and erect it. The planner and builder of all things is our Lord. The reference here is especially to his church or the body of believers (Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 2:5). The greatest saints and apostles (even Moses) are built by and upon Christ and receive all their gifts from him (1 Corinthians 3:4-9).

Hebrews 3:5 . Moses was not only a servant, but he was the Lord's servant; and he was faithful with fear, reverence, and obedience to all that God called him. In his entire ministry of prophecy, type, and writing, he was a testimony to Christ. He wrote of Christ, he spoke of Christ, and he erected the tabernacle, the greatest type and picture of Christ (Luke 24:44-45; 1 Peter 1:9-12).

Hebrews 3:6 . Christ is not a servant as Moses was. He is the Son, the Master, and the heir of all things. ‘Whose house are we!’ Believers in Christ (whether Jews or Gentiles) are living stones, built up a spiritual house in whom Christ dwells by faith and over whom he reigns (Colossians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

‘If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.’ These words are not to be understood as a condition of sonship, nor do they indicate that sons of God can and will depart from him; but they are written to distinguish between genuine stones planted by God and counterfeit stones. Living stones will continue; imitation stones will fall (1 John 2:19; Matthew 15:13; Colossians 1:20-23).

Verses 7-19

Unbelief the greatest sin

Hebrews 3:7-19

Hebrews 3:7-11 . This is a direct quotation from Psalms 95:7-11. These Israelites were professing to be God's people; but at the same time they were rebellious, murmurers, and unbelievers.

1. They would not hear the voice of God as he spoke to them by Moses. God speaks to us by his Son. ‘This is my Son, hear ye him.’ (Hebrews 1:1-2.)

2. They hardened their hearts. There is a natural hardness of heart with which we are all born; but there is an acquired, voluntary hardness of heart that comes through rejection of truth, light, and warnings and through continuance in sin (Matthew 11:20-24; Proverbs 29:1).

3. They tried God's patience and longsuffering through their complaints, murmurings, and rebellion even though they had seen his goodness, provisions, protection, and miracles for forty years.

4. God was grieved with them. This speaks after the manner of men and denotes that God was weary of them, displeased with them, and angry with them. He firmly declares that they shall not enter into the land of Canaan (called God's ‘rest’ because he promised it and gave it to Israel).

Hebrews 3:12 . ‘Take heed brethren.’ This warning is written to us (founded upon this Old Testament example) as a caution lest we follow the same path and miss the ‘rest’ of Christ. Unbelief was the first sin of man and is the mother-sin.

1. Unbelief renders the word unprofitable (1 John 5:10-13).

2. Unbelief shuts us out from the mercies of Christ (Mark 16:16).

3. Unbelief causes us to finally depart from dependence upon and confidence in Christ.

4. Unbelief closes the door of prayer (Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6).

5. Unbelief sets up other gods such as reason, human wisdom, and human philosophy.

Hebrews 3:13 . Encourage one another, exhort one another, instruct and teach one another while the time of life lasts and while the grace of God is available. How can we do this? It is to be done daily:

1. By worshipping, praying, and praising God together (Hebrews 10:24-25).

2. By teaching, preaching, and studying the Scriptures (1 Peter 2:1; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

3. By talking together about divine things and less about foolish things.

4. By warning one another when we see signs of indifference and worldliness.

Hebrews 3:14 . We only participate in the blessings and benefits of Christ by a genuine, persevering faith. No man is in Christ by a temporary faith or a false faith, or a second-hand faith. There are examples throughout the New Testament of faith that was not saving faith (John 2:23-25; John 6:26; Acts 8:13; Acts 8:18-21). Faith that saves is God-given, genuine, and continues growing in strength and confidence (Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 10:38-39).

Hebrews 3:15 . This is a repetition of Hebrews 3:7-8.

The next three verses are three questions leading up to the 19th verse. These verses explain why they were shut out of the land of promise and stand as a severe warning to us in this day of mercy and grace.

Hebrews 3:16 . Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious and provoked the Lord God? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?

Hebrews 3:17 . With whom was the Lord God irritated and provoked and grieved for forty years? Was it not those who sinned by murmuring and rebelling and whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?

Hebrews 3:18 . To whom did God swear that they should not enter into his rest but to those who listened to his word and believed not?

What a solemn warning to us who are favored with a clearer revelation of his grace in Christ. Though they had many evidences of God's goodness and much light and truth, they did not believe.

Hebrews 3:19 . So we see the summary of the whole matter. They were not able to enter into his rest because of unbelief. They were not willing to believe God, to trust God, to rely on God so unbelief shut them out (Romans 4:20-25; Hebrews 2:1-3).

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Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.