The superior worth and dignity of Christ above Moses is shown. (1-6) The Hebrews are warned of the sin and danger of unbelief. (7-13) And of necessity of faith in Christ, and of stedfastly following him. (14-19)
Verses 1-6 Christ is to be considered as the Apostle of our profession, the Messenger sent by God to men, the great Revealer of that faith which we profess to hold, and of that hope which we profess to have. As Christ, the Messiah, anointed for the office both of Apostle and High Priest. As Jesus, our Saviour, our Healer, the great Physician of souls. Consider him thus. Consider what he is in himself, what he is to us, and what he will be to us hereafter and for ever. Close and serious thoughts of Christ bring us to know more of him. The Jews had a high opinion of the faithfulness of Moses, yet his faithfulness was but a type of Christ's. Christ was the Master of this house, of his church, his people, as well as their Maker. Moses was a faithful servant; Christ, as the eternal Son of God, is rightful Owner and Sovereign Ruler of the Church. There must not only be setting out well in the ways of Christ, but stedfastness and perseverance therein to the end. Every meditation on his person and his salvation, will suggest more wisdom, new motives to love, confidence, and obedience.
Verses 7-13 Days of temptation are often days of provocation. But to provoke God, when he is letting us see that we entirely depend and live upon him, is a provocation indeed. The hardening of the heart is the spring of all other sins. The sins of others, especially of our relations, should be warnings to us. All sin, especially sin committed by God's professing, privileged people, not only provokes God, but it grieves him. God is loth to destroy any in, or for their sin; he waits long to be gracious to them. But sin, long persisted in, will make God's wrath discover itself in destroying the impenitent; there is no resting under the wrath of God. "Take heed:" all who would get safe to heaven must look about them; if once we allow ourselves to distrust God, we may soon desert him. Let those that think they stand, take heed lest they fall. Since to-morrow is not ours, we must make the best improvement of this day. And there are none, even the strongest of the flock, who do not need help of other Christians. Neither are there any so low and despised, but the care of their standing in the faith, and of their safety, belongs to all. Sin has so many ways and colours, that we need more eyes than ours own. Sin appears fair, but is vile; it appears pleasant, but is destructive; it promises much, but performs nothing. The deceitfulness of sin hardens the soul; one sin allowed makes way for another; and every act of sin confirms the habit. Let every one beware of sin.
Verses 14-19 The saints' privilege is, they are made partakers of Christ, that is, of the Spirit, the nature, graces, righteousness, and life of Christ; they are interested in all Christ is, in all he has done, or will do. The same spirit with which Christians set out in the ways of God, they should maintain unto the end. Perseverance in faith is the best evidence of the sincerity of our faith. Hearing the word often is a means of salvation, yet, if not hearkened to, it will expose more to the Divine wrath. The happiness of being partakers of Christ and his complete salvation, and the fear of God's wrath and eternal misery, should stir us up to persevere in the life of obedient faith. Let us beware of trusting to outward privileges or professions, and pray to be numbered with the true believers who enter heaven, when all others fail because of unbelief. As our obedience follows according to the power of our faith, so our sins and want of care are according to the prevailing of unbelief in us.
Hebrews 3:1-19 . THE SON OF GOD GREATER THAN MOSES, WHEREFORE UNBELIEF TOWARDS HIM WILL INCUR A HEAVIER PUNISHMENT THAN BEFELL UNBELIEVING ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS.
As Moses especially was the prophet by whom "God in times past spake to the fathers," being the mediator of the law, Paul deems it necessary now to show that, great as was Moses, the Son of God is greater. EBRARD in ALFORD remarks, The angel of the covenant came in the name of God before Israel; Moses in the name of Israel before God; whereas the high priest came both in the name of God (bearing the name JEHOVAH on his forehead) before Israel, and in the name of Israel (bearing the names of the twelve tribes on his breast) before God ( Exodus 28:9-29 Exodus 28:36 Exodus 28:38 ). Now Christ is above the angels, according to the first and second chapters because (1) as Son of God He is higher; and (2) because manhood, though originally lower than angels, is in Him exalted above them to the lordship of "the world to come," inasmuch as He is at once Messenger of God to men, and also atoning Priest-Representative of men before God ( Hebrews 2:17 Hebrews 2:18 ). Parallel with this line of argument as to His superiority to angels ( Hebrews 1:4 ) runs that which here follows as to His superiority to Moses ( Hebrews 3:3 ): (1) because as Son over the house; He is above the servant in the house ( Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6 ), just as the angels were shown to be but ministering (serving) spirits ( Hebrews 1:14 ), whereas He is the Son ( Hebrews 3:7 Hebrews 3:8 ); (2) because the bringing of Israel into the promised rest, which was not finished by Moses, is accomplished by Him ( Hebrews 4:1-11 ), through His being not merely a leader and lawgiver as Moses, but also a propitiatory High Priest ( Hebrews 4:14 , 5:10 ).
1. Wherefore--Greek, "Whence," that is, seeing we have such a sympathizing Helper you ought to "consider attentively," "contemplate"; fix your eyes and mind on Him with a view to profiting by the contemplation ( Hebrews 12:2 ). The Greek word is often used by Luke, Paul's companion ( Luke 12:24 Luke 12:27 ).
brethren--in Christ, the common bond of union.
partakers--"of the Holy Ghost."
heavenly calling--coming to us from heaven, and leading us to heaven whence it comes. Philippians 3:14 , "the high calling"; Greek "the calling above," that is, heavenly.
the Apostle and High Priest of our profession--There is but one Greek article to both nouns, "Him who is at once Apostle and High Priest"--Apostle, as Ambassador (a higher designation than "angel"-messenger) sent by the Father ( John 20:21 ), pleading the cause of God with us; High Priest, as pleading our cause with God. Both His Apostleship and High Priesthood are comprehended in the one title, Mediator [BENGEL]. Though the title "Apostle" is nowhere else applied to Christ, it is appropriate here in addressing Hebrews, who used the term of the delegates sent by the high priest to collect the temple tribute from Jews resident in foreign countries, even as Christ was Delegate of the Father to this world far off from Him ( Matthew 21:37 ). Hence as what applies to Him, applies also to His people, the Twelve are designated His apostles, even as He is the Father's ( John 20:21 ). It was desirable to avoid designating Him here "angel," in order to distinguish His nature from that of angels mentioned before, though he is "the Angel of the Covenant." The "legate of the Church" (Sheliach Tsibbur) offered up the prayers in the synagogue in the name of all, and for all. So Jesus, "the Apostle of our profession," is delegated to intercede for the Church before the Father. The words "of our profession," mark that it is not of the legal ritual, but of our Christian faith, that He is the High Priest. Paul compares Him as an Apostle to Moses; as High Priest to Aaron. He alone holds both offices combined, and in a more eminent degree than either, which those two brothers held apart.
profession--"confession," corresponds to God having spoken to us by His Son, sent as Apostle and High Priest. What God proclaims we confess.
2. He first notes the feature of resemblance between Moses and Christ, in order to conciliate the Hebrew Christians whom He addressed, and who still entertained a very high opinion of Moses; he afterwards brings forward Christ's superiority to Moses.
Who was faithful--The Greek implies also that He still is faithful, namely, as our mediating High Priest, faithful to the trust God has assigned Him ( Hebrews 2:17 ). So Moses in God's house ( Numbers 12:7 ).
appointed him--"made Him" HIGH PRIEST; to be supplied from the preceding context. Greek, "made"; so in Hebrews 5:5 , 1 Samuel 12:6 , Margin; Acts 2:36 ; so the Greek fathers. Not as ALFORD, with AMBROSE and the Latins, "created Him," that is, as man, in His incarnation. The likeness of Moses to Messiah was foretold by Moses himself ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ). Other prophets only explained Moses, who was in this respect superior to them; but Christ was like Moses, yet superior.
3. For--assigning the reason why they should "consider" attentively "Christ" ( Hebrews 3:1 ), highly as they regard Moses who resembled Him in faithfulness ( Hebrews 3:2 ).
was--Greek, "has been."
counted worthy of more glory--by God, when He exalted Him to His own right hand. The Hebrew Christians admitted the fact ( Hebrews 1:13 ).
builded the house--Greek, "inasmuch as He hath more honor than the house, who prepared it," or "established it" [ALFORD]. The Greek verb is used purposely instead of "builded," in order to mark that the building meant is not a literal, but a spiritual house: the Church both of the Old Testament and New Testament; and that the building of such a house includes all the preparations of providence and grace needed to furnish it with "living stones" and fitting "servants." Thus, as Christ the Founder and Establisher (in Old Testament as well as the New Testament) is greater than the house so established, including the servants, He is greater also than Moses, who was but a "servant." Moses, as a servant, is a portion of the house, and less than the house; Christ, as the Instrumental Creator of all things, must be God, and so greater than the house of which Moses was but a part. Glory is the result of honor.
4. Someone must be the establisher of every house; Moses was not the establisher of the house, but a portion of it (but He who established all things, and therefore the spiritual house in question, is God). Christ, as being instrumentally the Establisher of all things, must be the Establisher of the house, and so greater than Moses.
5. faithful in all his house--that is in all GOD'S house ( Hebrews 3:4 ).
servant--not here the Greek for "slave," but "a ministering attendant"; marking the high office of Moses towards God, though inferior to Christ, a kind of steward.
for a testimony of, &c.--in order that he might in his typical institutions give "testimony" to Israel "of the things" of the Gospel "which were to be spoken afterwards" by Christ ( Hebrews 8:5 , Hebrews 9:8 Hebrews 9:23 , 10:1 ).
6. But Christ--was and is faithful ( Hebrews 3:2 ).
as a son over his own house--rather, "over His (GOD'S, Hebrews 3:4 ) house"; and therefore, as the inference from His being one with God, over His own house. So Hebrews 10:21 , "having an High Priest over the house of God." Christ enters His Father's house as the Master [OVER it], but Moses as a servant [IN it, Hebrews 3:2 Hebrews 3:5 ] [CHRYSOSTOM]. An ambassador in the absence of the king is very distinguished--in the presence of the king he falls back into the multitude [BENGEL].
whose house are we--Paul and his Hebrew readers. One old manuscript, with Vulgate and LUCIFER, reads, "which house"; but the weightiest manuscripts support English Version reading.
the rejoicing--rather, "the matter of rejoicing."
of the hope--"of our hope." Since all our good things lie in hopes, we ought so to hold fast our hopes as already to rejoice, as though our hopes were realized [CHRYSOSTOM].
firm unto the end--omitted in LUCIFER and AMBROSE, and in one oldest manuscript, but supported by most oldest manuscripts.
7-11. Exhortation from Psalms 95:7-11 , not through unbelief to lose participation in the spiritual house. Seeing that we are the house of God if we hold fast our confidence . . . ( Hebrews 3:6 ). Jesus is "faithful," be not ye unfaithful ( Hebrews 3:2 Hebrews 3:12 ). The sentence beginning with "wherefore," interrupted by the parenthesis confirming the argument from Psalms 95:7-11 , is completed at Hebrews 3:12 , "Take heed," &c.
Holy Ghost saith--by the inspired Psalmist; so that the words of the latter are the words of God Himself.
To-day--at length; in David's day, as contrasted with the days of Moses in the wilderness, and the whole time since then, during which they had been rebellious against God's voice; as for instance, in the wilderness ( Hebrews 3:8 ). The Psalm, each fresh time when used in public worship, by "to-day," will mean the particular day when it was, or is, used.
his voice--of grace.
8. Harden not your hearts--This phrase here only is used of man's own act; usually of God's act ( Romans 9:18 ). When man is spoken of as the agent in hardening, the phrase usually is, "harden his neck," or "back" ( Nehemiah 9:17 ).
provocation . . . temptation--"Massah-meribah," translated in Margin "tentation . . . chiding," or "strife" ( Exodus 17:1-7 ). Both names seem to refer to that one event, the murmuring of the people against the Lord at Rephidim for want of water. The first offense especially ought to be guarded against, and is the most severely reproved, as it is apt to produce many more. Numbers 20:1-13 and Deuteronomy 33:8 mention a second similar occasion in the wilderness of Sin, near Kadesh, also called Meribah.
in the day--Greek, "according to the day of."
9. When--rather, "Where," namely, in the wilderness.
your fathers--The authority of the ancients is not conclusive [BENGEL].
tempted me, proved me--The oldest manuscripts read, "tempted (Me) in the way of testing," that is, putting (Me) to the proof whether I was able and willing to relieve them, not believing that I am so.
saw my works forty years--They saw, without being led thereby to repentance, My works of power partly in affording miraculous help, partly in executing vengeance, forty years. The "forty years" joined in the Hebrew and Septuagint, and below, Hebrews 3:17 , with "I was grieved," is here joined with "they saw." Both are true; for, during the same forty years that they were tempting God by unbelief, notwithstanding their seeing God's miraculous works, God was being grieved. The lesson intended to be hinted to the Hebrew Christians is, their "to-day" is to last only between the first preaching of the Gospel and Jerusalem's impending overthrow, namely, FORTY YEARS; exactly the number of years of Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, until the full measure of their guilt having been filled up all the rebels were overthrown.
10. grieved--displeased. Compare "walk contrary," Leviticus 26:24 Leviticus 26:28 .
that generation--"that" implies alienation and estrangement. But the oldest manuscripts read, "this."
said--"grieved," or "displeased," at their first offense. Subsequently when they hardened their heart in unbelief still more, He sware in His wrath ( Hebrews 3:11 ); an ascending gradation (compare Hebrews 3:17 Hebrews 3:18 ).
and they have not known--Greek, "But these very persons," &c. They perceived I was displeased with them, yet they, the same persons, did not a whit the more wish to know my ways [BENGEL]; compare "but they," Psalms 106:43 .
not known my ways--not known practically and believingly the ways in which I would have had them go, so as to reach My rest ( Exodus 18:20 ).
11. So--literally, "as."
I sware--BENGEL remarks the oath of God preceded the forty years.
not--literally, "If they shall enter . . . (God do so to me and more also)," 2 Samuel 3:35 . The Greek is the same, Mark 8:12 .
my rest--Canaan, primarily, their rest after wandering in the wilderness: still, even when in it, they never fully enjoyed rest; whence it followed that the threat extended farther than the exclusion of the unbelieving from the literal land of rest, and that the rest promised to the believing in its full blessedness was, and is, yet future: Psalms 25:13 , Psalms 37:9 Psalms 37:11 Psalms 37:22 Psalms 37:29 , and Christ's own beatitude ( Matthew 5:5 ) all accord with this, Hebrews 3:9 .
12. Take heed--to be joined with "wherefore," Hebrews 3:7 .
lest there be--Greek (indicative), "lest there shall be"; lest there be, as I fear there is; implying that it is not merely a possible contingency, but that there is ground for thinking it will be so.
in any--"in any one of you." Not merely ought all in general be on their guard, but they ought to be so concerned for the safety of each one member, as not to suffer any one to perish through their negligence [CALVIN].
heart--The heart is not to be trusted. Compare Hebrews 3:10 , "They do always err in their heart."
unbelief--faithlessness. Christ is faithful; therefore, saith Paul to the Hebrews, we ought not to be faithless as our fathers were under Moses.
departing--apostatizing. The opposite of "come unto" Him ( Hebrews 4:16 ). God punishes such apostates in kind. He departs from them--the worst of woes.
the living God--real: the distinctive characteristic of the God of Israel, not like the lifeless gods of the heathen; therefore One whose threats are awful realities. To apostatize from Christ is to apostatize from the living God ( Hebrews 2:3 ).
13. one another--Greek, "yourselves"; let each exhort himself and his neighbor.
daily--Greek, "on each day," or "day by day."
while it is called To-day--while the "to-day" lasts (the day of grace, Luke 4:21 , before the coming of the day of glory and judgment at Christ's coming, Hebrews 10:25 Hebrews 10:37 ). To-morrow is the day when idle men work, and fools repent. To-morrow is Satan's to-day; he cares not what good resolutions you form, if only you fix them for to-morrow.
lest . . . of you--The "you" is emphatic, as distinguished from "your fathers" ( Hebrews 3:9 ). "That from among you no one (so the Greek order is in some of the oldest manuscripts) be hardened" ( Hebrews 3:8 ).
deceitfulness--causing you to "err in your heart."
14. For, &c.--enforcing the warning, Hebrews 3:12 .
partakers of Christ--(Compare Hebrews 3:1 Hebrews 3:6 ). So "partakers of the Holy Ghost" ( Hebrews 6:4 ).
hold--Greek, "hold fast."
the beginning of our confidence--that is, the confidence (literally, substantial, solid confidence) of faith which we have begun ( Hebrews 6:11 , 12:2 ). A Christian so long as he is not made perfect, considers himself as a beginner [BENGEL].
unto the end--unto the coming of Christ ( Hebrews 12:2 ).
15. While it is said--connected with Hebrews 3:13 , "exhort one another . . . while it is said, To-day": Hebrews 3:14 , "for we are made partakers," &c. being a parenthesis. "It entirely depends on yourselves that the invitation of the ninety-fifth Psalm be not a mere invitation, but also an actual enjoyment." ALFORD translates, "Since (that is, 'for') it is said," &c. regarding Hebrews 3:15 as a proof that we must "hold . . . confidence . . . unto the end," in order to be "partakers of Christ."
16. For some--rather interrogatively, "For WHO was it that, when they had heard (referring to 'if ye will hear,' Hebrews 3:15 ), did provoke (God)?" The "For" implies, Ye need to take heed against unbelief: for, was it not because of unbelief that all our fathers were excluded ( Ezekiel 2:3 )? "Some," and "not all," would be a faint way of putting his argument, when his object is to show the universality of the evil. Not merely some, but all the Israelites, for the solitary exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, are hardly to be taken into account in so general a statement. So Hebrews 3:17 Hebrews 3:18 , are interrogative: (1) the beginning of the provocation, soon after the departure from Egypt, is marked in Hebrews 3:16 ; (2) the forty years of it in the wilderness, Hebrews 3:17 ; (3) the denial of entrance into the land of rest, Hebrews 3:18 . Compare Note, "with the majority of them God was displeased."
howbeit--"Nay (why need I put the question?), was it not all that came out of Egypt?" ( Exodus 17:1 Exodus 17:2 ).
by Moses--by the instrumentality of Moses as their leader.
17. But--Translate, "Moreover," as it is not in contrast to Hebrews 3:16 , but carrying out the same thought.
corpses--literally, "limbs," implying that their bodies fell limb from limb.
18. to them that believed not--rather as Greek, "to them that disobeyed." Practical unbelief ( Deuteronomy 1:26 ).
19. they could not enter--though desiring it.