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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Hebrews 3

Verses 1-19

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." Let us keep in mind that this is addressed to Jewish believers. How great a contrast to that which their own religion had taught them! Earthly hopes now they must leave behind, and as "holy brethren," set apart by virtue of identification with the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus, were to recognize themselves as partakers of the heavenly calling. Israel in rejecting their Messiah had forfeited all title to their longedfor earthly inheri-tance; but God had in grace provided a transcendently greater blessing for those who in their hearts received His beloved Son.

Now, in properly considering Him - the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, - the significance of this is more clearly seen. It will be observed that both the Deity and the Manhood of the Lord Jesus are vitally involved in what is now presented to us. Also, both Moses and Aaron are seen to be types of this blessed One: hence there are comparisons, while yet, these being noted, there is greater emphasis upon the contrasts in this great Person to the lesser glories of Moses and Aaron. Indeed angels have before been set aside in His favor, and cer-tainly men ought to be.

"Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confes-sion, Jesus" (N. Trans.). The official title "Christ" evi-dently had no place here in the original, for the insistence here is upon His Personal Name of moral grace and beauty, in both the lowliness and dignity of true Manhood. But as the Apostle, He is One sent of God, to maintain the sovereign rights of God in reference to the people. As the High Priest He is One come in grace to maintain the cause of the people in reference to God. In these Moses typifies the first, Aaron the second.

"Who is faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house." This faithfulness to God is true of Him both as Apostle and High Priest, but He is compared here first to Moses, as He is later to Aaron (Ch. 5:4). Doubtless the house here referred to is the tabernacle, in which was represented God's rela-tionship with the people, and in which Moses was careful to conform to the pattern given him of God.

But if verse 2 is comparison, verse 3 is contrast. Moses had been faithful in God's house; but Christ is the Builder of the house, worthy of greater honor than the house itself, and therefore than any servant in the house. "For every house is builded by some man; but He that built all things is God" The force of the passage is sim-ply that a house testifies to the fact that someone must have built it. Creation testifies also that it has a Builder greater than itself. "He that built all things is God." Note that this again proves the Deity of the Lord Jesus, Whom verse 3 declares the Builder. It is not that all creation is the object in view in what is said here, but rather that, if He built all things, then He certainly built that of which the tabernacle is a type, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

Beautiful it is however to consider the faithful devo-tion of Moses as a servant in God's house, a servant obeying the word of his Master, in order that the house (the tabernacle) should rightly represent the God who in grace dwelt there. The reader may profitably consider Exodus 39:1-43; Exodus 40:1-38 as to this matter, where it is evident that Moses was extremely diligent to see that every detail conformed to the commandment of the Lord. "According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. And Moses did look upon all the work, and behold they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them" (Exodus 39:42-43). Eight times in Ch. 40 the expression is repeated, "As the Lord commanded Moses."

Moreover, our verse 5 continues, "for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after." The taber-nacle was a type of that which was to be revealed afterward (and has now been revealed). Thus the servant Moses has borne testimony to the truth of God even in that which was but a type of the church. And if so, does our God expect any less faithfulness to His Word in the church itself? Indeed, how diligent ought every servant of the Lord be that the Word of our God be faithfully followed in its entirety. Let the faithful testimony of Moses be taken to heart, and bear its proper fruit in encouraging the saints of God today.

"But Christ as a Son over His house." The word "own" is not correctly inserted here, for he is speaking all through of God's house, though of course that house has different character today, for it is the antitype rather than the type. But here is One who, because of equal dignity with the Father, is to be trusted utterly to order the house in perfect wisdom and truth. "The Father lov-eth the Son, and hath committed all things into His hand." This is far above Moses, or any other servant.

"Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." The apostle here is certainly not seeking to unsettle faith, but to encourage it. But he would definitely unsettle anyone who rested upon anything but Christ. All false confidences would eventually leave souls bereft and hopeless. Pro-fession must necessarily be tested, and its reality is prov-en only by continuance. Some of the Hebrews who had publicly embraced Christianity were giving it up, and returning to Judaism. Did they actually then have part in the house of God? No: their giving up proved they had never really been brought in faith to the Lord Jesus. Faith is not a mere cloak one may put on and later put off again. It is rather the vital gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), which purifies the heart, remaining as the settled attitude of its possessor; and it is proven only by holding fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end.

"Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith,) Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the wilderness." One who has merely made a profession without reality may easily harden his heart. The wilderness history of Israel served to bring out what was actually in their hearts. Just so, if one is a mere rocky ground hearer, the seed might spring up quickly, then when persecution or tribulation arises because of the Word, the truth of the Word is as quickly renounced, the heart hardened against what the conscience had previously approved. Christ is given up because He was not actually in the heart.

"The day of provocation" refers to mans provoking God to anger. Their rebellion was occasioned by their circumstances of trial, but this was only the occasion, not the reason. If man excuses himself by protesting that he was provoked to rebel, let him think again that such rebellion is a reason for God's being rightly provoked to judge him. They tempted God: He bore long with them. They proved Him: times unnumbered He proved faith-ful and gracious in spite of their selfwill. They saw His works of grace and power forty years. But all this, to-gether with His patient forbearance they treated with contempt, and time thus proved their hearts false and ignorant of God's ways.

This was the general condition of the people. They were all surrounded by and partook of the benefits of God's goodness in publicly blessing the nation; yet proved themselves cold in heart toward the God Who fed them. Doubtless there were individuals who differed but he speaks generally. God was grieved with that generation.

"So I sware in My wrath, If they shall enter into My rest." Both in the Psalm quoted (95) and here the verse is translated, "They shall not" etc., but the actual form is a question. Is the lesson not simply this, that since man dares to question the truth and faithfulness of God, by his proud rebellion, then does not God have a right to question man's title to blessing? In other words, profession must be questioned, or tested, to ascertain its reality.

Such being the case, how urgent is the warning of verse 12: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God," (or "in falling away from the living God"). He is not speaking of weakness of faith or of failure in details of conduct, but of an evil heart of unbelief, faith not being present at all. This is the cause of falling away, a fall into a state of cold rejection of One previously acknowledged as the Son of God. Only faith can maintain this position of firm confidence in the blessed Son of God; so that a mere lip profession that lacks this vital root of the matter, may very soon give place to a callous reaction of deliberate apostasy, from which there is no recovery: the living God is rejected, and the only alternative is the cold, cheerless state of death.

"But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you he hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." If in the case of those truly born again, this ex-hortation would stimulate and encourage their faith, it might also, in the case of any who lacked faith, be the means of awakening and bringing them in reality to the Lord Himself, and thus prevent so dreadful a fall. For sin will harden, however innocent its face may at first appear; and those deceived by it will choose eventually to mock at faith. The expression "while it is called today" insists that the present is the time of testing, which may abruptly end at any moment.

"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." Similarly to verse 6, the emphasis is on continuance as the proof of whether one has actually in his first profession been made a partaker of Christ. If an engrafted branch has really "struck" into a stock so as to partake of the sap of the tree, it will continue as a live, flourishing branch. If the "beginning" was not however a vital, real connection, the branch will wither and die.

Verse 15 refers again to "the provocation" in the wil-derness, the limited time of testing; and the urgent entreaty here is evident: in the brief moment men are given to be proven, a false step may be eternally fatal. But if none in the wilderness had been exceptions to the general state of provocative unbelief, it might be cause for de-spair; but "not all that came out of Egypt with Moses" were guilty of this. "Some, when they heard, did pro-voke." The Word of God was despised: how solemn a sign!

"But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?" Patience bore long during this testing time, but because they had despised the land of promise, they died in the wilderness. Solemn consideration for those who today lightly esteem the heavenly glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the heavenly calling of His saints. It is important to make clear however that the issue in the wilderness was that merely of an earthly inheritance and temporal blessings, not the heavenly inheritance and eternal blessings. Falling away from Christ today is im-measurably more dreadful evil than Israel's despising the pleasant land: Israel's rebellion called for temporal judg-ment; but rebellion against Christ eternal judgment.

Verses 18 and 19 expose to our view the root of this rebellion on the part of Israel: it was not mere passive lack of faith, but active unbelief. The testimony of God had been declared: they had heard it, and had seen pub-lic evidences of its trustworthiness; but through fear of present discomfort and opposition of the Canaanites, they chose to disbelieve God. He told them to enter the land: they refused: only unbelief kept them out.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.