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NAMES AND OFFICES OF CHRIST
Hebrews 3:1. Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.
OUR Lord possessed, from all eternity, a nature infinitely superior to that of angels [Note: Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:10.]: yet did he submit to the lowest humiliation for us [Note: Philippians 2:6-7.]. And it is by the knowledge of him, as humbled, that we attain salvation [Note: John 17:8.].
The Apostle having spoken much on this subject in the foregoing chapter, enforces it with this affectionate exhortation—
Explain the exhortation—
The first thing that calls for our attention is the description which he gives of all true Christians—
[Wishing to persuade, he strove by tenderness to conciliate their esteem: he calls them brethren; which they are, both by relation [Note: Matthew 23:9.] and affection [Note: 1 John 3:14.]. They are “holy;” set apart for the service and enjoyment of God—washed in the fountain of Christ’s blood, and renewed after the Divine image: they are “partakers of an heavenly calling;” called to heavenly exercises and enjoyments—obedient to that call—and suitably influenced by it in their hearts and lives. How amiable is such a character! “brethren!” “holy!” “called!” &c. Who would not wish to be found of their number?]
The next thing which demands our notice is the object he sets before them—
[When he speaks of Christ in common, he places the name “Jesus” first; but when with more than ordinary solemnity, the name “Christ” is first. He here describes the Saviour both by his names and offices. His names “Christ [Note: It is of the same import as Messias, Joh 1:44 and means Anointed.], Jesus [Note: Jesus is the same with Joshua, Hebrews 4:8.; and Joshua is a contraction for Jah Oseah, the former of which signifies God, and the latter Saviour. This name was given by God to Hoseah the son of Nun, who, as a type of Christ, led the Israelites into the land of Canaan: and the giving of this name to the Virgin’s Son may be justly considered as an accomplishment of that prophecy which said he should be called Emmanuel, God with us. Its import therefore is, Divine Saviour. See Mat 1:21-23 and Bp. Pearson, p. 69, 70.],” are peculiarly significant in this connexion: his offices are such as Moses and Aaron sustained under the law. Christ is “the Apostle of our profession,” as being sent, like Moses, to publish that religion which we profess: he is also “the High-priest of it,” because, like Aaron, he performs all that is necessary for our reconciliation with God [Note: Jesus, as our High-priest, offered himself a sacrifice for us—is gone into the holy of holies to present his blood before the mercy-seat—liveth to make intercession for us—presents our offerings unto the Father—bears us on his breast-plate—and makes known to us the will of God.].]
The last thing to explain is the duty which he presses upon them—
The word which we translate “consider,” implies an attentive regard [Note: Κατανοήσατε.]. It might easily be shewn how important this duty is; but our observations on this subject will occur more properly in another place.]
Having spoken what was necessary to unfold the meaning of the exhortation, we proceed to,
To those who answer the foregoing character we address the exhortation—
Consider the object set before you—
[As “Jesus,” Divine Saviour, he is able to save to the uttermost: As “Christ,” he was anointed of God for this very purpose. Had he not been appointed of God, or had he been less than God, you might have been afraid to trust in him; but his names attest his right and ability to save. Think how these words would sound in hell; and let them be as sweet to you as they would be to the unhappy spirits there.]
[As the Apostle or Prophet of the Church, he will instruct all [Note: Matthew 11:29.] — — — As the High-priest, he will open a way for us into the holy place [Note: Hebrews 10:19-20.] — — — O reflect on these, till your hearts burn within you with gratitude and love!]
Consider more particularly the view given of him in the preceding and following context—
His compassion as an High-priest—
[He himself has endured persecution from men, temptation from Satan, desertion from God, &c. [Note: Hebrews 2:17-18.]: he will sympathize with you under your trials [Note: Hebrews 4:15. This may be further illustrated by the care of a refiner, whom Christ is said to resemble, Malachi 3:3.]. Let this be a source of comfort to you under every affliction.]
His faithfulness as a Prophet—
[He extends his care to all his people [Note: Hebrews 3:2.]: he never suffered the weakest believer to err finally [Note: Isaiah 35:8.]; nor will he fail to guide us aright [Note: Isaiah 30:21.Psalms 73:24; Psalms 73:24.]. Go to him then for teaching in every doubt and every difficulty.]
Those who do not answer to the character may reap
benefit from the exhortation—
[Ye who are unholy, and strangers to the heavenly calling, consider this description of our blessed Lord. Consider it—with attention, that you may understand it—with faith, that you may have an interest in it—with affection, that you may delight in it—with gratitude, that you may display its influence in your heart [Note: This subject may be reduced to more of unity and simplicity, thus:—Mark,
What offices the Lord Jesus Christ sustains for us—
Every religion has its apostles, who propagate it, and its priests, who perform its rites. Of our religion our incarnate God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is both the Apostle and High-priest. These offices were assigned to him from eternity, Psalms 40:6-8. He executed them faithfully when on earth; the prophetic, Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:3; the priestly, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:17. He still discharges them for the good of his people; as a prophet, teaching them by his Spirit, John 16:7-11; as a priest, compassionating and relieving all their spiritual necessities, Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15.
Our duty towards Him in relation to them—
We should consider him in these characters: with attention, that we may have the fullest knowledge of him; with faith, that we derive all benefit from them; with gratitude, that we may give him the glory of them.
Those who profess to be “partakers of the heavenly calling”—
If indeed you have experienced the power of divine grace, you will need no incentives to this duty. To contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ in all his excellency and glory, will be the richest delight of your souls.
To those who are strangers to this holy exercise—
Alas! what do you lose! There is no other subject under heaven that would so repay your labour. The more you delight yourselves in Christ, the more evidence you will have of his grace in your souls, and the better preparation for his glory.].]
CHRIST’S SUPERIORITY TO MOSES
Hebrews 3:5-6. Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 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.
IN order to have a just conception of the Christian dispensation, we must above all things acquire scriptural views of the person of Christ, as God and man, and of his mediatorial character, as Emmanuel, God with us. It is in this latter view more especially, that we are led to contemplate him throughout this whole epistle. As God, he is “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;” whilst, as man, “he has purged our sins, and is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high [Note: Hebrews 1:3.]:” but it is as God and man in one Christ that his sacrifice becomes effectual for this great end. It is in his mediatorial capacity, as God-man, that he is exalted above all the angels in heaven, who are expressly enjoined to “worship him [Note: Hebrews 1:4-6.].” And it is in the same capacity that we are now called upon to “consider him as the Apostle and High-priest of our profession [Note: ver. 1.].” As “the Apostle” of our profession, sent like Moses, to instruct us in the mind and will of God, he is superior to Moses, whose instructions he is sent to supersede. And, in like manner, will his superiority to Aaron also be declared, when we shall come, in a subsequent part of this epistle, to consider his priesthood. It is the comparison between him and Moses which alone we have to notice at this time.
We proceed then to mark,
The superiority of Christ to Moses—
The character given of Moses is most exalted—
[He was “faithful in all God’s house [Note: Numbers 12:7.].” From the first moment of his undertaking the office that was assigned him, he was faithful in the discharge of it. Whatever was commanded him to do, he did; adding nothing, omitting nothing, neglecting nothing. Whether the commands were moral or ceremonial, he was observant of every the minutest direction that was given him. He was aware that all which he was commissioned to say or do, had respect to a future period, and was intended to shadow forth something under a future dispensation: and so accurate was he in every particular, that there is not the smallest want of agreement between the Jewish and Christian codes, the one answering to the other, as the coin to the die by which it is stamped. As the tabernacle, even to the smallest pin, was “made according to the pattern shew to him in the mount;” so was that whole dispensation in perfect accordance with that under which we live.
Much he had to try him, and to shake his fidelity: but he was immoveable. Nothing could for a moment divert him from his duty, or cause him to relax his efforts in his Master’s cause. And in this fidelity he stood alone. Aaron and Miriam both turned aside from the path of duty; yea, both confederated even against Moses himself. But Moses was steadfast to the end, unmoved, unwearied, unrestrained.]
But Christ in this respect was exalted infinitely above him—
[Christ also was faithful in all his house. He delivered nothing which he had not previously heard and learned of his Father: but all which had been given him either to do or teach, he did and taught with all imaginable fidelity: yea, and what he was ordained to suffer also for the sins of men, he patiently endured, drinking the bitter cup even to the dregs, and never stopping till he could say, in relation to it all, “ʾTis finished.”
Thus far the two may be supposed to have been upon an equality. But there are some points of difference between them, which exalt the office and character of Christ far above that of Moses. Moses was “a servant in the house of another:” Christ was a Son, or Lord, “over his own house.” Moses only instructed his house: but Christ was the very source and builder of the house he governed; every member of it having been created by his power, and redeemed by his blood, and converted by his grace. The house itself would have had no existence but for him. Now, as the builder of a house, whether in a literal, political, or religious sense, must be far above the work which he has prepared; so must Christ, who formed his house, be far above every member of it: and as being the only true source of every thing in the Church, he must be truly and properly “God [Note: ver. 4.];” and consequently have infinitely higher glory than Moses, who was only a member of the very house which he himself was appointed to instruct and govern.]
That this superiority of his is not a mere speculative point, will appear, if we consider,
Our interest in it—
“We are his house”—
[The Church is called in Scripture “the house of God [Note: 1 Timothy 3:15.]:” and if we have truly believed in Christ, we are that house. We are those for whom all the wonders of redeeming love were planned; those for whom all that Christ has ever executed was undertaken; those for whose sake he has hitherto ordered all things both in heaven and earth; those over whom he still watches as his peculiar care; and those for whom he is engaged to complete the work he has begun. Wonderful thought! We are his house, his family, his peculiar people!. What an honour! what a privilege! what a blessing!
But it is here taken for granted, that we have believed in him, and made him the one foundation of all our hopes, and boldly confessed him in the presence of an ungodly world:]
And under this character we have appropriate duties and obligations—
[We must “hold fast our confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope firm unto the end.” We shall have difficulties to encounter, even as Moses and Christ had: but we must endure like them, being “steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Whatever we may meet with, we must not for a moment be moved away from the hope of the Gospel: we must stand fast in our principles [Note: Ephesians 4:14.] — — — our practice [Note: Hebrews 10:26.] — — — our profession [Note: Hebrews 10:23.] — — — for on our steadfastness in these things our ultimate acceptance with him depends. “If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: but if we deny him, he will deny us. And if we believe not (either the one or other of these sayings), yet he abideth faithful (to his word); he cannot deny himself [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.];” He will be with us, whilst we are with him: if we seek him, he will he found of us: but if we forsake him, he will forsake us [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.].]
Let us put ourselves under his direction—
[Christ is the great Head and Lord of all. From him we must receive directions, as he did from his Father, and as Moses did also. Nothing is to be done by us but according to his word; nothing to be done which he has forbidden; nothing to be omitted which he has commanded: no deviation is to be admitted in a way of excess or defect. If doubt at any time arise respecting the path of duty, we must consult him, and not proceed, till we have attained, so far as we can attain, the knowledge of his will. Human opinions are to have no weight with us in opposition to his word. And if we see not as yet the reasons of his commands, as Moses certainly did not in relation to the ceremonial law, we are not on that account to disobey them, but in all humility to comply with them, saying, “What I know not now, I shall know hereafter [Note: John 13:6-7.].” Nor are we to complain of any commandment as difficult or self-denying; but to disregard even life itself, if by the sacrifice of it He may be glorified [Note: Philippians 1:20.]. Admirable was the lesson which the Jews were taught in the wilderness: if the pillar and the cloud moved for several days and nights together, they continued to follow it: and if it was stationary for a year together, they were stationary also. Thus it should be with us: we should move when, and where, and as the Lord prescribes, and in that way alone, to the latest hour of our lives.]
Let us endeavour to approve ourselves to him in our respective spheres—
[He walked amongst the seven golden candlesticks, the seven Churches of Asia, and declared to each of them, “I know thy works.” And still are his eyes as a flame of fire to penetrate the inmost recesses of our hearts. We must not therefore be satisfied with walking irreproachably before men, but must labour to approve ourselves to Him who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins. We must be attentive not to our actions only, but to our motives and principles, that, if possible, every thought may be brought into captivity to his will. We must seek to obtain from God that testimony which he bore to Moses, that we are “faithful in all our house.” Let us look to it, that as parents and children, masters and servants, rulers and subjects, we do all that he has required of us. Let us labour to “serve him with a perfect heart;” so that in all our commerce with men, and in our secret walk with God, we may have “the witness of his Spirit that we please him [Note: Hebrews 11:5.];” and may receive from him in the last day that testimony of his approbation, “Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord.”]
Let us expect from him all that he has undertaken for us—
[Still does he superintend the concerns of his Church: and though he has wrought much for us, yet is there much that yet remains to be done, and much that he has promised to be accomplished. But “his promises are sure to all his seed [Note: Romans 4:16.]:” not one of them shall ever fail: nor shall even the least member of his house ever have occasion to complain that he was disappointed of his hope. Joshua’s testimony shall be that of all the Church in the last day, that “of all which God has promised, not one thing has failed [Note: Joshua 23:14.].” Take hold then of his promises, and plead them before him. If they appear too great to be fulfilled, “stagger not at them, but hope against hope, and be strong in faith, giving glory to God [Note: Romans 4:18; Romans 4:20.].” If your tribulations be great, let them not for a moment obstruct your rejoicing in him; but “maintain your glorying firm unto the end.” See the utmost desires of a bleeding soul all concentrated in one short prayer; and, for the accomplishment of them, rest not merely on the love and power of Jesus, but on his fidelity: and when you have been praying that the very God of peace would sanctify you wholly, and that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, then add, “Faithful is He that hath called me, who also will do it [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.].”]
AGAINST DEPARTING FROM GOD
Hebrews 3:12-14. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God, But exhort, one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
THE consideration of the fulness and sufficiency of Christ, is that which animates the believer in all his conflicts: yet it is on no account to supersede our own care and watchfulness: on the contrary, it affords us the greatest encouragement to watch. because it ensures success to us in our endeavours, which, without his Almighty aid, would be of no avail. In this view it is that the inspired writer calls us to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was not merely a servant, like Moses, but a son, the Heir and Lord of all, yea, the very builder of that spiritual house, of which we profess ourselves to be a part.” On this truth he grounds the exhortation in the text [Note: All the words between “wherefore,” in ver. 7, and the text, are a parenthesis: we must therefore connect the text thus; “Wherefore,” “take heed,” &c.], in which he suggests,
A solemn caution—
Difficult as it is to come to God, we find it but too easy to depart from him. We should therefore be on our guard,
Against any departure from him—
[While men are yielding to temptation, and turning aside from the ways of God, they cherish a hope that they may still preserve their interest in his favour, though they be not studious to do his will. But a departure of any kind, whether from the faith or practice of Christianity, is nothing less than a departure from God himself, even from him who is the only source of life and happiness. We cannot therefore be too much on our guard against any secret declensions, which are so dishonourable to him whom we profess to love, and so destructive of our present and eternal welfare.]
Against that unbelief from whence all declensions arise—
[As faith is that which brings us to God, and keeps us steadfast in our adherence to him, so unbelief separates us from him, and, in proportion as it is harboured, invariably alienates us from the life of God. Whatever be the more immediate object of that unbelief, whether we attempt to lower the strictness of God’s precepts, or question the veracity of his promises or threatenings. it proceeds equally from “an evil heart,” and brings with it the same pernicious consequences: it is a root of bitterness, which, if it be permitted to spring up, will cause every devout affection to wither and decay. We must therefore labour to eradicate it, if we would not eat for ever its bitter fruits.]
That his caution may have its due effect, the Apostle prescribes,
The means of improving it—
Sin is of a deceitful and hardening nature—
[When “a backslider in heart” commits a sin, many thoughts will arise in his mind to palliate the evil, and to make him think that it will not be attended with any important consequences. Soon he begins to doubt whether the thing be evil at all; and, ere long, to justify it from the peculiarity of his circumstances. At first he felt some remorse; but presently his conscience becomes less tender, till at last it is altogether seared and callous; so that, notwithstanding he be miserably departed from God, he is regardless of his loss, and insensible of his danger. Who that has ever noticed the workings of his own heart, has not found what a bewitching and besotting thing sin is? yea, who has not often seen reason to bewail its deceitful, hardening effects?]
To guard effectually against it we should watch over each other—
[Sin, from the foregoing qualities, naturally hides itself from our view, and renders us inattentive to the means of prevention. But ignorant as we often are of our own spirit, we see clearly enough the defects of others; yea, perhaps we condemn with severity in others the very things which we allow in ourselves. To watch over each other therefore, and to warn each other of those declensions which we either see or apprehend, is a most valuable service; and, if performed with discretion and love, it can scarcely fail of producing the happiest effects. This is a duty to which God has solemnly called us in his word [Note: Leviticus 19:17.]; and it is to be a part of our “daily” work. Our time for it will be very short: either we or our brother may be speedily removed; and our opportunity of benefiting his soul may be lost for ever. We should exhort one another therefore “daily, while it is called To-day;” and, though it is often an unpleasant office, we should use all fidelity in the execution of it. By this means we may restore a brother before he has relapsed too far, and preserve him from that departure from God, which would otherwise terminate in his destruction.]
Still further to enforce the caution given us, the Apostle adds,
A motive to regard it—
Our final participation of Christ’s benefits depends on our steadfastness in the pursuit of them—
[Without entering into the question, whether God have decreed the final perseverance of the saints, we may be fully assured, that none can attain salvation but by persevering in the way of holiness to the end of life: the Scriptures continually speak this language, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved:” “but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him [Note: Matthew 24:13.Hebrews 10:38; Hebrews 10:38.].” It is true that believers are already in a measure “partakers of Christ;” but the complete enjoyment of his benefits is reserved for the future life: and we must not only have a scriptural and well-founded confidence at first, but must keep it steadfast even to the end, in order to attain that full possession of our inheritance. You may call yourselves “brethren,” and may boast of “your confidence in Christ:” but it is to you, yea, to all of you, that the caution is addressed; and to you I address myself, saying, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,” and “lest any of You be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”]
If any thing can stimulate us to caution, surely this must—
[Eternity is at stake, and depends on our present conduct: according as we approve ourselves to the heart-searching God, will our state be fixed for ever. Is it not madness to be remiss and careless under such circumstances? Would any one, who should have reason to think his house were on fire, sit still without endeavouring to find out the latent grounds of his alarm? And shall we know our proneness to unbelief, and not guard against its operation, lest it prevail against us, and lead us to apostasy? Shall we acknowledge the deceitful, hardening nature of sin, and not exhort each other to mortify and subdue it? Surely, if we have the smallest concern for our own souls and the souls of others, we shall not only regard the caution given us in the text, but shall labour to improve it in the way prescribed.]
Those who have never come to God at all—
[The foregoing subject is in itself applicable to those only who profess religion; but it may be accommodated to those also who make no such profession: for, if they who have come to God are in danger of departing from him, and they who have enjoyed a scriptural confidence, may lose it; if they, who have believed, may “make shipwreck of their faith,” and they, who have “begun in the Spirit, may end in the flesh;” if they, who have “begun to run well, may be hindered,” and they who have “escaped the pollutions of the world, may again be entangled therein and overcome;” and, lastly, if they who “have been enlightened, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, may so fall away as never to be renewed unto repentance;” what must become of those who have never experienced any of these things? Can they be safe? Can they have any scriptural hope of heaven? If the strongest have so much need of caution, and the most circumspect such reason to fear the deceitful, hardening effects of sin, surely the careless have need to tremble, lest they “die in their sins,” and “be driven away in their wickedness.” If all, except two, of those who came out of Egypt, perished in the wilderness, can they hope to enter into the heavenly Canaan, who have never once come forth from their spiritual bondage? The point is clear; may God enable us to lay it to heart, and to consider it with the attention it deserves!]
Those who are conflicting with their spiritual enemies—
[Much has already been spoken to you both in a way of caution and direction: we beg leave to add a word of encouragement. The thing against which you are chiefly guarded, is unbelief; because that is the true source of all apostasy. We now would say, Be strong in faith, giving glory to God. “Faith is the shield wherewith you are to quench the fiery darts” of your enemies. Only believe; and Omnipotence will come to your support. Only believe; and you shall experience “the mighty working of his power, who raised Christ from the dead.” Commit yourself to him “who is able to keep you from falling; and he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter