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Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT

Hebrews 3

Verse 1

These words are an exhortation to the believing Hebrews, to consider and ponder in their hearts the high dignity and excellency of Christ, as the great prophet and apostle of his church; and in them,

Observe 1. The title given to the Hebrews, unto whom the exhortation is directed; he styles them.

1. Holy brethren, so they were all by external profession, and many of them, no doubt, by internal sanctification.

Learn hence, That all the professors of the gospel are obliged to be holy, and such as are real professors of it, are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and made truly and really holy.

2. Partakers of the heavenly calling; that is of that calling from heaven which makes you heirs of heaven implying, that the only way to attain the saving knowledge of Christ in the gospel, is by means of an effectual heavenly calling.

Observe, 2. The duty exhorted to, and that is diligent consideration. Consider Christ Jesus; that is, rationally attend unto, and with great intention of mind ponder upon, the undertaking of the Son of God: for if you consider him in his person and offices, you will firmly adhere to him and his most holy and excellent religion, without entanglements unto Judaism.

Learn thence, That the spiritual and deep mysteries of the gospel, especially those which concern the person and offices of our Lord Jesus Christ, do require our deep and diligent, our most attentive and serious consideration.

Observe, 3. The title given to Jesus Christ, the object of this consideration: he is styled the Apostle and High-priest of our profession; that is, the first and chief apostle sent of God to be the prime preacher of the gospel, the first legate sent from heaven, and the great High-priest that mediates between God and man.

Here note, That the function of an apostle and high-priest were the greatest functions that ever God instituted in his church; none greater than an high-priest under the law, none greater than an apostle under the gospel, both of them never conjoined in one man but here.

Learn hence, That the Lord Jesus Christ is all in all unto his church, the king, priest, prophet, and apostle of it, all in one: Consider the Apostle an High-priest of our profession, &c.

Verse 2

Because the Jews had generally too high an opinion of Moses, our apostle here enters upon a comparison between Christ and Moses, thus, "As Moses was faithful, so was Christ in declaring the will, the whole will, of God unto his church. Was Moses universally faithful, faithful in all his house; so did the faithfulness of Christ extend itself to all the church. Did Moses do everything according to the institution and appointment of God; so was Christ faithful to him that appointed him, doing all that in and for the church which God had commanded him, and nothing else."

Learn hence, That the worship of God in his household and family, the church, is, for the substance of it, no less perfectly and completely ordered and ordained by our Lord Jesus Christ, now under the gospel, than it was by Moses of old under the law; I say, as to the substance of it, not as to every particular circumstance.

As, for example, the manner of celebrating the passover in every minute circumstance of it is set down by Moses, how it must be killed, and how eaten; but Christ has not set down by Moses, how it must be killed, and how eaten; but Christ has not set down so for the sacrament.

A general command we have to do this in remembrance of him; but neither the time when, nor place where, nor gesture in which, is particularly and expressly mentioned. The gospel, which teaches us a more spiritual way of serving God, is not so particular in the circumstantials of worship as the law was; and yet Christ was faithful to him that appointed him, as Moses was faithful in all his house.

Verse 3

Our apostle having, in comparison between Christ and Moses, and showed in general wherein thay were alike and did agree; he proceeds now to evince the preference of Christ, and to show in sundry signal instances his exaltation above Moses; This man, meaning the Messiah, was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, &c.

As if he had said, "Christ is as much more honourable than Moses, as the maker and master of the house is more honourable than the house: he that buildeth the house hath more honour than the house; but Christ built the house, and Moses was only the house, or a part of it. "Therefore Christ ought to have more honour than Moses: for all families or houses are founded by some man; but he that built the church, is the same that made all things, namely, God"

Another proposition proving the same conclusion, we have in the next versed: thus, "He that is a son over his own house, is of more honour than a servant in the house of another. But Christ is a son over his own house; Moses was only a servant in the house of another; therefore more honour is due to Christ than is payable to Moses."

Learn hence, 1. That the church is God's house, a building of God, a sacred building, his special temple, the place of his constant and fixed residence.

Learn, 2. That the build of the church is so great and glorious a work, as that it could not be effected by any but him who was truly and really God: such is the wisdom of its contrivance, that none but God could build it, and such omnipotent power was required in the building of it, that we may admire its excellency, but cannot comprehend it.

Learn, 3. That Christ, the builder of this church, the house of God, is worthy of all glory and honour, upon the account of that his building: he had indeed an essential glory from all eternity, the same with that of God the Father, which was clouded for a season by his taking upon himself the form of a servant: but there is a farther honour and glory, which he received in his exaltation as head of the church, and as Lord and heir of the whole creation, which renders him the object of religious adoration.

Learn, 4. That although every one that is employed as an instrument in building the house of God, and is faithful in his work and trust, is with Moses worthy of great honour; yet the honour of all such instruments put together, is inferior and subordinate to the glory and honour of Jesus Christ, the chief builder of the church.

The apostle having thus confirmed his argument, returns (according to his usual manner) to make application of it unto the Hebrews, and improves it for enforcement of his exhortation unto constancy and perseverance. Whose house are we: that is, believers who worship him according to the gospel are so, upon this condition, that we hold fast our confidence; that is, the confident profession of our Christian faith, and the joy and glorying in our hopes of the promised blessedness, unto the end.

Learn hence, That as it is an eminent privilege requires an answerable duty: because we are the house of God, it becomes us to hold fast our confidence unto the end.

Learn, 2. That as at all times, so especially in a time of trial and persecution, constancy in our Christian profession is, and will be a good evidence, both to ourselves and others, that we are living stones in the house of God: His house are we, if we hold fast our confidence unto the end.

Verse 7

The apostle having proved our Lord Jesus Christ to be the great Prophet and Teacher of his church, doth in these words draw an inference from the foregoing conclusion: namely, that seeing Christ is the chief apostle and prophet of his church, seeing he was a teacher sent of God to instruct the world in the practice of their reasonable duty, that therefore it is our obliged duty to hearken to Christ's voice, and that now to comply with his call, and that presently: Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, "Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

Observe here, 1. The person spoken of, and that is Christ; his voice; that is, the voice of Christ our great apostle, speaking in his gospel.

Observe, 2. A duty required of us in reference to his person, and that is, to hear and obey Christ's voice.

Observe, 3. The circumstance of time, and the special season when this duty of hearing Christ's voice is to be performed, and that is presently; "Today if you will hear his voice."

Observe, 4. A cautionary direction given to all those that sit under the dispensation of the gospel, and hear Christ's voice speaking to them therein; namely, to take heed that they harden not their hearts.

Learn hence, 1. That the voice which speaks unto us in and by the gospel, is Christ's voice.

2. That it is the great duty of all those that sit under the preaching of the gospel, to hear and obey Christ's voice.

Learn, 3. That it is not only their duty to hear Christ's voice, and answer his call in the gospel, but to do it now, to do it presently, and without delay; Today if you will hear his voice.

Learn, 4. That it is the duty and ought to be the special care, of all those that sit under the dispensation of the gospel, and that hear Christ's voice speaking to them therein, to take heed that they harden not their hearts.

Observe lastly, From our apostle's drawing an instance out of the Old Testament, namely, that of the Jews in the wilderness, to instruct the Hebrews to make use of the present season for hearing the voice of Christ under the New Testament; we learn, That Old Testament examples are New Testament instructions. The examples of our fore-fathers are of use and concernment to us, and ought to be the objects of our deepest consideration: Your fathers tempted me, and I was grieved with that generation.

Verse 12

The apostle having propounded the example of the Israelites, in the foregoing verses, to the consideration of the Hebrews, here he advises them to take care that they do not imitate the old Israelites in their unbelief, which will endanger our revolt from God now, as it did theirs then: Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.

Where note, The nature of sin in general, and of unbelief in particular, declared; it is a departure from God, from the living God; the root of all apostacy is cursed infidelity: Unbelief sets all the corrupt lusts and affections of the heart at liberty to act according to their own preverse nature and inclination; for it makes the soul negligent, careless, and slothful in opposing sin.

Note farther, That there is need of great care and heedfulness, of circumspection and watchfulness, lest at any time, of by any means, there should be found in us an evil heart of unbelief, to occasion our backsliding from Christ, and the profession of our faith in him; Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing, &c.

Verse 13

These words afford us a special remedy against the forementioned evil of apostasy, and that is mutual exhortation to constancy of religion: Exhort one another, ministers the people, and the people their ministers, and themselves mutually.

Learn hence, That sedulous and mutual exhortation is a special means to preserve Christians from the sin and danger of apostasy from Christ, and his holy religion; Exhort one another daily.

Observe next, How this duty is amplified by the properties of it, it must be frequent. Exhort one another daily; and seasonably, whilst it is called Today we know not; the day of life is uncertain, and so is the day of the gospel; a summer's day for clearness, a winter's day for shortness; our working day is a wasting day.

Observe, lastly, The great peril and danger which attend the neglecters and neglecting of this duty, Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Learn hence, That sin is very full of deceit, or exceedingly deceitful. That the deceit which is in sin, and inseparable from it, tends exceedingly to the hardening of the sinner. There are three eminent evils in sin' pollution, by which it defiles; baseness, by which it dishonours; deceitfulness, by which it deludes us with a false expectation of what it is never able to perform.

Verse 14

That is, hereby we shall declare ourselves to be made partakers of Christ and his saving benefit, if we persevere in the faith of the gospel, of which we have begun to make a profession of Christianity, either through fear or flattery, were never made partakers of Christ, nor savingly united to him: No better evidence of our interest in Christ, than what perseverance gives.

Verse 15

The intention of our apostle in these and the following verses, is to confirm his preceding exhortation, to hearken unto the voice of Christ, speaking in and by the gospel; and this he does by propounding the example of the Israelites, who came forth by propounding the example of the Israelites, who came forth out of Egypt under the conduct of Moses, and heard the voice of God in the wilderness; howbeit all did not provoke, but only some.

Note here, 1. How the apostle again repeateth over the words of the Psalmist, which he had mentioned before, Hebrews 3:7-8. Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

From whence we may learn, that the repetition, yea, frequent repetition of matters of moment, is very useful and necessary: We can never hear that too often, which we can never learn too well.

Note farther, The privilege which the Israelites of old enjoyed in the wilderness, and which we now enjoy under the gospel: Both theirs and ours is this, To hear the voice of God. This is a very great privilege, but privileges are as men use them; in themselves they are very valuable, but unto us they are no more than as they are prized and improved by us. Many, yea, most of them to whom Christ himself preached, finally perished; they got nothing by hearing his doctrine, through their unbelief, but an aggravation of their sins, and hastening of their ruin.

Christ himself, in his whole ministry, was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel. Let not his ministers then be discouraged at the smallness of their own success, knowing that they shall be a sweet savour unto God, as well in them that perish, as in them that are saved.

Note lastly, That although many, very many in the wildernss that heard the voice of God, provoked him, yet not all, Hebrews 3:16. Some when they heard, did provoke, howbeit, not all that came out of Egypt.

Learn hence, That in the most general and visible apostasy of the church, God evermore reserves a remnant to himself to bear witness for himself by their faith and obedience; They provoked, howbeit, not all. God always has, and ever will reserve a remnant of faithful and undefiled souls unto himself, to maintain and keep up his own kingdom in the world, and to have a revenue of special glory from them, and by them, so long as the world continues.

Verse 17

Observe here, The party grieved, God; the parties grieving, the people of Israel: The time of both, forty years; the occasion of this grief, sin in general, unbelief in particular, hardness of heart, and final apostasy; the punishment of their sin, their carcases fell in the wilderness.

Learn 1. That sin is the proper object of God's displeasure, the only thing he is displeased with for itself, and with the sinner for sin's sake.

Learn, 2. That public sins, or the sins of societies, are great, very great provocations unto God: It was not for their personal and private sins that God was thus provoked, but for their confederacy in sinning.

Learn, 3. From their exemplary punishment, their carcases fell in the wilderness; that God sometimes makes men who have been wickedly exemplary in sin, to be righteously exemplary in punishment.

The rest here spoken of is the land of Canaan, so called, because God promised it to Abraham, to plant and settle his posterity in it; and because it typified heaven that eternal rest which God has promised for his saints; into this rest the rebellious and unbelieving Israelites must not enter.

God swore the contrary, he swore by himself, he swore in his wrath, he swore to make his sentence irrevocable and immutable.

Lord! thine oath stands as a bar against the Israelites of old, and cuts of all hope of future entrance into thy eternal rest which they have eternally forfeited! To whom swore he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

Learn hence, 1. That unbelief is the immediate root and cause of all provoking sins. Did men believe the happiness of Heaven, they would not neglect it; did they believe the torments of Hell, they would avoid them.

Learn, 2. That the oath of God is engaged against all unbelief, and no unbeliever shall enter into the rest of God, Hebrews 3:19. We see they could not enter in because of unbelief.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. 1700-1703.