6/21/15

The Center of our Faith

Hebrews 3:1-19

Scholars have said that Hebrews was probably written by a group of Apostles who worked with Paul to deal with the problem of the continued influence in the church of the old Hebrew manner of worship. This letter is not attributed to him, but his influence is easy recognize.

Though there are many applications for our day found in the book of Hebrews, we must keep in mind the purpose and the context of this book. That purpose was to speak to those Hebrews who desired to depart from the faith they professed in Christ’s mediation work, and return to Moses mediation which still taking place in the then standing Temple.

We are told in this chapter that “if thou shalt believe in thine heart, thou shalt be saved." Those who came out of Egypt believed in their heart, and were safely delivered out of Egypt. However that belief did not translate into obedience to every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. Therefore, they perished in the wilderness.

Belief and deliverance from the bondage of sin is not the end result of salvation. It is only the beginning as we are to move on in sanctification as the Holy Spirit works in our lives to make us holy even as he is holy. Sanctification is a life long work.

1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”

The whole of the law word of God must be applied to ourselves, and to our areas of responsibility. The Christian life is one of responsibility.

There are two great themes of the Bible from beginning to end; that is, the absolute sovereignty of God, his power, his predestination, everything, and then second, our responsibility. So the two go together, we cannot separate them without departing from the word.

Failure to act according to our deliverance from the bondage of sin will grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and will bar us from our promised rest as it did the Hebrews of old.

Sadly, most believers see individual conversion as the chief end of Christ mediatorial work, but conversion is only the first step. We are called by the spirit not only to salvation, but also unto sanctification, which is a continuing process. God’s people are called to take his light and authority into every area of life and thought.

1 Corinthians 6:11 “ And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
2 Timothy 2:21 “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.“
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Moses gave the mediation laws that they were tempted to return to. The Hebrews considered him a great person, which he was. Moses is here compared to Jesus Christ. They are told that Moses, as are each of the elect, was no more than a servant in the house of which Christ is the builder. Therefore, Christ is much greater than Moses, who was simply a servant in the house or kingdom of God. So why would they want to return to Moses when they have so much greater in Christ, the builder and Lord over his house from eternity past and future.

(A builder’s character is revealed in the house he builds. Few builders will build their house right unless they are doing it for themselves, or the owner stays “on top of them” to be sure it is right.)

Accordingly, to depart from the mediation work of Christ, and return to the works required by Moses was a serious sin. In the Hebrew’s case, it was serving a servant in the house, rather than serving the builder and owner of the house. They are told that the “builder” is a “consuming fire” to those who “forget the covenant of the Lord” made with his people in Christ. Deut 4:23, 24, He 12:29.)

V. 1. The Hebrews are warned to consider the apostles, and the high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ. As high priest, Jesus Christ is the builder of the new house or temple of God. He is the builder of all things. He is the creator of heaven and earth. And he is the builder the new house, the new Temple of God. (1 Cor 3:16, 17, 9:13) As a member of the Godhead, the Son the builder of all things.

V. 2. Moses is presented here as a faithful servant in the house of God. But Moses is not held up as the standard of faithfulness, for he was only a servant. Christ is the faithful one, and is exalted above Moses as the builder/owner of a house is exalted above a servant in that house.

How foolish to exalt a servant above the builder/owner.

V. 14. "The beginning of our confidence". That is, the beginning of our foundation or upon which everything stands or is supported.

Matthew 21:42 “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?”(Ps 18:22, 23)
Ephesians 2:20 “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
1 Peter 2:4 “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.“

V. 6, “whose house are we, if we hold fast… unto the end.”

“now the author of this epistle exhorts the Jews who had already made a profession of Christ to persevere inthe faith, that they might be deemed as being in Godshousehold. He had said before that God’s house was subject to the authority of Christ. “ (Calvin)

Vv. 7-11, the Holy Spirit himself gives a stern warning to all Israel, including to the New Israel of God, the Gospel Church. They must not harden their hearts against God, and the Word of God. They are reminded that though the Exodus generation saw the marvelous works of God in their deliverance and his provision in the wilderness, they rebelled in unbelief, and would not go into Canaan.

[V. 9.] Forty years. These are connected by David with what follows. But we know that the Apostles in quoting passages attend more to the general meaning than to the words. And no doubt God complained that the people had been vexatious to him for forty years, because so many benefits had availed nothing for the purpose of teaching them; for though God did good continually to them who were wholly unworthy, they yet never ceased to rise up against him. Hence arose his continual indignation, as though he had said "Not once or for a short time have they provoked me, but by their incessant wickedness for forty years." Generation means race, or men of one age. (Calvin)

In other words, even after seeing his marvelous works bringing them out of Egypt and is supernatural care for them in the wilderness for 40 years, they continued to “err in their heart…” His mighty works did not teach them anything, as they continued in hardness, and refused to submit to the Lord.

Unbelief in the word and promises of God bared them from the promised rest, chapter 4.

The context of the time of Hebrews was the generation that had seen Christ as a man, and a time when the apostles were still living.

The problem was that they could remember Jesus as a flesh and blood man who walked among them, and who worked great miracles. They had seen him as a man like unto themselves at every point. So for some of these early Christians, it would have been difficult for them to see him as very God of very God.

There are many today who have publically professed Jesus Christ, yet depart from that profession with their actions. Then despite of the Lord’s obvious care of them, they remain hardened in their hearts against him. (Mat 13, Heb 6:6.) Such people have forgotten who the Son is. He is very God of very God. He is the Righteous Judge who does all things well, and he is a consuming fire to those who depart from their profession.

So “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;”

“1) to perceive, remark, observe, understand 2) to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon” (Greek Lexicon, OLB)

“In Hebrews Christians are to focus on the moral example of Christ {#Heb 3:1-2? or to consider how they can stir up one another to loving actions that will demonstrate their faith. {#Heb 10:24?” (TDNT. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, OLB)

Consider Jesus Christ, or remember who he is. He is far more than the one you saw walking among you. Christ is called the Apostle of God; that is, he is the delegate or messenger who was sent forth from God the Father with orders to do the Father’s will and redeem his people.

V. 3 “calls Jesus himself an apostle, obviously, in the sense that the definitive revelation of God has taken place in him. Absence of the article before high priest shows that the phrase “apostle and high priest” is a unity. For the church Christ is the Son in whom God has finally spoken and who has made final expiation. Where the Son speaks and acts, God speaks and acts (as it was God who spoke and acted through the OT priest). The confession has absolute authority on the basis of his absolute authorization for word (apostolos) and work (archiereus). Another possibility is that the two terms contrast Jesus with Moses and Aaron in virtue of his unique divine sending, but this would involve an unusual NT sense and isolating two terms (apostolos and archiereus) which the author is concerned to relate.“ (TDNT)

As an Apostle of God the Father, Christ only had authority to act as authorized by the one who had sent him.

John 6:38 “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (4:34, 6:40, 9:4)

Hebrews one, God the Son is greater than all the angels, though he was made a little lower so he could die as the sacrifice for his people. In chapter three, the Hebrews are told he is not only the Apostle of God the Father, but he is also the High Priest who offered the perfect sacrifice to the Father, and he is now the only Mediator between God the Father and man.

Being the Apostle of the Father, he brings to us the Word of the Father. Hebrews also tells us that true believers are called holy brethren, and are partakers of a holy calling.

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Ti 1:9)

Holiness of life does not save us, but the faith of Christ saves us.

Faith enables us to understand his salvation, and become part of his victory over sin and death, if we remain faithful to the end, v. 6.

The Hebrews, and thus the church, are reminded that those who left Egypt did not necessarily enter into the promised land.

We are told that they answered Moses’ as a physical calling. They carried out the physical requirements of Passover and followed Moses out of Egypt. Though they answered the call to come out, their action had no actual faith in it. Their lack of faith was shown by final act of rebelling at the border of the promised land of rest. They did not abide in the faith because they had none. (1 Jn 2:9)

They followed Moses for selfish, personal reasons. They wanted to escape the slavery and death, and they wanted to have all the benefits of deliverance.

That lack of faith in the Lord who delivered them from Egypt manifested itself several times even before they reached the border of the promised land. Their physical hope was a material hope, and was not enough to deliver them into the promised land. They had a call to serve God by faith and in spirit and truth, but they chose to “serve” or “follow” God because of what might be in it for them.

They desired physical deliverance and blessings apart from faith, but they had an “evil heart of unbelief”, v. 12. Though they saw the mighty works of God, their hearts were not changed. Their lack of faith temped and provoked God, and grieved the Spirit to the point that they were barred from the promised rest.

In other words, though the call to serve and obey God, they chose to demand that God save them, and provide for them all their hearts desired. They were looking for “personal peace and prosperity”, and not for a God who requires man to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”

Since Israel’s time, how many have chosen to “follow Jesus,” but when they understand his requirements of active obedience for and in his kingdom, they decide that was not what they “signed up for”.

They chose to be delivered from Egypt, and were delivered, but they were delivered unto death in the wilderness for their lack of faith.

V. 10, that generation saw deliverance, salvation as being for their own personal benefit, rather than as a call to serve God in faithful obedience to his every word.

The call today to those in bondage is to by faith trust in the blood of the Lamb, and then by faith, follow Him in obedience to his law-word as revealed through Moses at the Mount. But a great many have answered his call as a physical call, rather than spiritual call. And because there was no converting faith involved, they depart from the “living God”, and depart from the promised rest in Christ. Their desire was and is for God to serve them, rather than them serving God.

The great question here in Hebrews 3 is “who is Lord, God or man?” Whose will will be obeyed? Is salvation for man’s glory or for God’s glory. Anyone who confess the God of Scripture will say, “for God’s glory”, but like Israel, what do actions prove. (“Faith without works is dead”, and they died.)

Moses told Pharaoh that Israel had to take everything with them so they could serve God with everything. So they went out, but when they got into the wilderness, we see the true reason they wanted to come out. They chose to follow Moses out not to serve God with everything, including their money, but for their own benefit. The wilderness proved that the faith of Israel was in a God who would serve them, and that faith excluded the God who expected undying faithful service from them.

Hebrews is very clear that a man-centered, self-centered faith is an abomination to God. The man centered faith of the generation that came out of Egypt provoked God, and left their carcasses” in the wilderness.

V. 13, to “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” means to make ourselves and our desires the centeral focus of God’s work.

It is common to hear of and answer calls for special prayer for God to come to our or another’s aid. But how many calls for special prayer have been a call to pray for a better understanding of how to serve God?

V. 1, “consider.” The author here uses Israel to show the devastating results of a man-centered faith, e.g., I will follow the Lord for his promise of personal peace and prosperity.

Hebrews is a call to change from a man-centered faith to a God-centered faith. Israel focused on itself as the goal of God’s work. They ignored the fact that God called them out as his holy instrument to subdue the earth for his glory through holy living. Their calling was to be a holy priesthood reaching the world for the Glory of God.

Deuteronomy 26:16 “This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.17 Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.”

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:”

(Cf. Deut 7:6, 28:9,Ex 19:6. The command with its promises is given to the Gospel Church, Titus 2:14 “zealous of good works”, not for salvation but for the Glory of God, 1 Peter 2:9, &c.)

Did not the entire world seek Solomon to hear the wisdom put in his heart by God? He destroyed himself and his calling to influence the world because of the deceitfulness of sin.

The church’s calling in the Lord is prophesied in Isaiah 61:

“1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. 4 ¶ And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.” (See also Isaiah 66. There are so many Old Testament prophecies of a period of victory in Christ through his church before the Second Coming that it would a year’s worth of study to even touch them all.)

Without the goal of the expansion of kingdom of God and his righteous, or justice, over the whole earth, the kingdom of darkness and injustice expands. As the church allows the expansion of the kingdom of darkness, it then says it is hopeless to seek to expand God’s kingdom. Therefore, the whole world lieth in the wicked one because the church sees no hope in confronting wickedness wherever it is found in the world. The church says things are getting worse and worse, so there is no hope. But it fails to realize that its hopelessness and uninvolvement results in wickedness increasing. It is like a dog chaseing its tail.

The New Israel of God is called to be instruments of God though whom he expands his kingdom over the whole world as was Israel of old.

V. 5, the Hebrews are reminded of the faithfulness of Moses as a servant in the house or kingdom of God. He is held up as an example of faithfulness to his calling, godliness and holiness.

John 9:28 “Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.”

Moses and the prophets were exalted as great men; however, though they were great men, they were only obedient servants in the house of God.

Hebrews is telling those who exalted Moses that they are not seeing Moses as he saw himself. He saw himself as God’s servant, and establishes an example of service, humility, holiness and godliness.

Those who see the end result of Christ’s redemptive work as being for their own personal welfare, happiness and prosperity have denied the faith just as much as did those who came out of Egypt without genuine faith in the God of their deliverance. They professed faith by their outward actions, but their hardness was revealed at the promised land.

The center of our faith must not be ourselves, but Christ, his salvation and his work through us. Salvation is not the end, or goal of Christ’s work in us. Salvation restores in us our calling to do all things to the glory of God, and thereby expand his kingdom and righteousness in our every action and thought.

Salvation is the starting of the new life in Christ. Arminianism sees the work of Christ reduced to salvation, “personal peace and prosperity” for me and mine; personal salvation is the goal in Arminianism. Calvinism sees the kingdom of God and his righteousness reaching all the world through preaching the gospel, and teaching the converts to obey all things as commanded by King in his law-word.

Hebrews pronounces serious judgment upon the church of our time and its self-centeredness. Hebrews makes it clear that we are saved not for our benefit, but we are saved for God’s benefit. We are saved and called to serve God with true holiness and righteousness in his kingdom. He chastens his sons who fail in their calling in Christ, and he judges those who have a false, self-centered faith. Our God is a consuming fire. Predestination and responsibility cannot be separated.