Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
The Study of Jesus.
I. The Person of Christ is the great miracle and mystery of the universe enshrined in the Christian faith; and that is the object which we are invited perpetually to contemplate. "Wherefore, holy brethren," signifies the lifting of a veil from before an august Being, who has been already described in His two natures, though their union has not been described, but is taken for granted. Our Lord is the central object of our profession. He Himself tells us that the bond of perfectness in our religion is devotion to His own Person. After having brought into a new and most marked prominence the supremacy of the love of God, as occupying all the heart, and soul, and mind, and thought, He demands literally the same all for Himself. There is a specific Christian grace that has no name in the New Testament, which is derived from the impress of the Redeemer on the heart and life. Be sure you aspire to this, or, rather, think nothing of aspiring to it; look at Him much, and His image will steal irresistibly into your nature and form and life, II. The office of Christ is here dwelt upon. He is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. There is to us no person of Christ without His work; the personal Emmanuel is in the background; but the ministry of Jesus Christ fills up the whole visible horizon of thought. We are all in the school of Jesus, and, however busy we may be, like Martha, we must find time, like Mary, to sit and behold, and study the Master.
III. But the study of Christ is not yet exhausted; there remains the habitual consideration of the supreme faithfulness of our common Master. It inspires boundless trust in all the brethren of the Christian profession who keep their eyes fixed on Him who is its High Priest. Looking to Him, and considering His faithfulness, we at once see the perfect Example, and feel the Divine energy flowing from it into our souls.
W. B. Pope, Sermons and Charges, p. 101.
I. We have here one great comprehensive command: "Consider Christ." Now that word "consider" implies in the original an earnest, fixed, prolonged attention of mind. Our gaze upon Christ is to be like that of a man who resolutely turns away his eyes from other things to fix them, with keen interest and eagerness, with protracted, steady look, on something which he is resolved to learn thoroughly. (1) The first remark that I would make, then, is the very simple and obvious one—that a Christian man's thoughts should be occupied with his Saviour. (2) But, still further, our gaze on Him must be the look of eager interest; it must be intense as well as fixed. (3) Still, further, another requisite of this occupation of mind with Christ and His work may be suggested as included in the word. Our consideration must be resolute, eager, and also steady or continuous.
II. Notice the great aspects of Christ's work which should fix our gaze. (1) He is the Apostle of our profession. He is sent forth from God, and brings God to us. He, and He alone, He, and He for ever, He, and He for all, is the sent of God. (2) Then we are to think of Him as our High Priest. "As Apostle," it has been well said, "He pleads God's cause with us; as High Priest He pleads our cause with God." The Apostolate and the Priesthood of Christ are both included "in the one word—Mediator." The idea of priesthood depends upon that of sacrifice, and the idea of sacrifice, as this epistle abundantly shows, is incomplete without that of expiation.
III. Notice, finally, the great reasons for this occupation of mind and heart with Christ our Mediator. (1) Our relation to Christ, and the benefit we derive from it, should impel us to loving meditation on Him. (2) The calling of which we are partakers, should impel us to loving meditation. (3) The avowal which we have made concerning Him should impel us to loving, steadfast contemplation.
A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, p. 289.
Hebrews 3:1Christ our Priest.
Christ our Victim is slain. His blood is poured out on the cross. The cross and the earth are sprinkled with that blood. He Himself, as our Priest, is baptized with it. And when that sacrifice was accomplished He, our High Priest, went up with the marks of the sacrifice upon Him, the same Jesus, into the presence of God, there to plead the merits of His blood for us. And we are waiting, as the people waited without on that day of atonement, for Him to come forth—to return again to bless us with the glorious effects of that His atonement, even everlasting salvation. Now in this, the principal work of Christ's priestly office, there are several minor particulars, all of interest as further explaining and setting it forth.
I. Note the qualifications for the office, and His fulfilment of them. (1) All bodily freedom from blemish did but faintly set forth the purity and spotlessness of the Lord Jesus. (2) Our High Priest was harmless, undefiled. (3) He was separated from sinners. (4) He is a merciful High Priest, full of sympathy, knowing how to compassionate and to succour them that are tempted and led out of the way.
II. Note the efficacy and finality of the High Priesthood of Christ. In the poured out blood of Jesus we have all that we can want—pardon, acceptance, renewal unto righteousness. We have all we want, and we therefore want no more. His everlasting priesthood is enough for us. That He is in heaven, appearing for us, makes all human mediators vain and needless. That He has offered Himself for us makes all other sacrifices valueless. Every believer, however humble, is a priest unto God; a priest of the tabernacle which God built, and not man, to offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving, even his body, soul, and spirit, consecrated and devoted to God's service.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 145.
References: Hebrews 3:1.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 103. Hebrews 3:1-4.—J. W. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 4.
Hebrews 3:1-6Christ the Lord, and Moses the Servant.
I. To speak of Moses to the Jews was always a very difficult and delicate matter. It is hardly possible for Gentiles to realise or understand the veneration and affection with which the Jews regard Moses, the servant of God. All their religious life, all their thoughts about God, all their practices and observances, all their hopes of the future, everything connected with God, is to them also connected with Moses. Moses was the great apostle unto them, the man sent unto them of God, the mediator of the Old Covenant; and we cannot wonder at this profound, reverential affection which they feel for Moses.
II. After admitting fully the grandeur and excellence of Moses, the Apostle proceeds to show us the still greater glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The zeal of Moses was not free from earthborn elements, and had to be purified. But there was nothing in Jesus that was of the earth, earthy; no sinful weakness of the flesh was in Him who condescended to come in the weakness of sinful flesh. His love was always pure, His zeal holy, His aim single. Moses spake face to face with God, and was the mediator between God and Israel. The Lord Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King, in one Person; but He is perfectly and eternally the true Revealer, Reconciler, Ruler, and the Son of God. Moses was willing to die for the nation; the Lord Jesus actually died, and not for the nation only, but to gather all the children of God into one. Moses brought the law on tables of stone; the Lord Jesus, by His Spirit, even the Holy Ghost, writes the law on our hearts.
A. Saphir, Expository Lectures on the Hebrews, vol. i., p. 167.
Reference: Hebrews 3:1-6.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 456.
Hebrews 3:1, etc
I. The High Priest was one taken out of the people, and bound to the people by ties of the closest and most intimate kind. It might have been otherwise. This important official might have been a stranger introduced into the nation from an alien source; or he might, although being a Jew, have occupied a position of such complete independence and isolation as should have placed him almost in antagonism to the rest of the community. Such was the case of the priestly caste in other countries. But with the Jews the Divine method of constructing the ecclesiastical system, secured the most perfect identification of the man who was at the head of it with the feelings and sympathies of the rest of the people. We observe, also, as another result of the Divine arrangement, that all the Israelites, drawn as they were towards a single person, were reckoned before God as being in the High Priest. The man who stands there in the sanctuary, arrayed in his gorgeous robes, is not to be regarded as a mere individual,—is not to be looked upon as merely one out of many, though one above the many, and distinguished from the many, by superior dignity and higher privileges; but he is the head, in whom the whole nation is included, and involved, and gathered, and summed up before God. It was, for instance, as including in himself the entire mass of the nation, that the High Priest on the day of atonement had to enter into the most holy place with the blood of sprinkling, and afterwards to confess the sins and iniquity of the people over the head of a living goat.
II. Now in all this we have a lively and striking portraiture of the position which the Lord Jesus Christ, the great antitype of the Jewish official, occupies with respect to the blessed company of faithful people. The Lord Jesus is the ideal man. If you turn to the Jewish high priest you find that he was what every Jew was intended to be. The Lord Jesus alone possesses complete perfection of human character. But He is very much more to us than the pattern man. He does much more than exhibit to us in His own person what a king and a priest unto God ought to be. He is also, if I may so express myself, the inclusive man; He is the great Head, in whom His people are gathered, and summed up, and presented before God. If St. Paul teaches us anything by his writings, he teaches us this, that the entire spiritual community, the whole body of the faithful in Christ Jesus, are reckoned by God as being gathered and summed up, involved, included, represented in Christ before the throne of God. And this, in its Christian form, is precisely what, in its Jewish form, the Israelite was taught by the existence of such a personage in the state of the Jewish high priest. The ordinary Israelite, if he were a spiritual and a thoughtful man, would look with longing desire upon the unbroken communion which the High Priest, by virtue of his office, maintained with God. So the Spirit of Christ maintained an unbroken communion with His Father in heaven. This characteristic of His earthly life is still more characteristic of His resurrection life, in which He is, in a special manner, the High Priest of our profession.
G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 495.
References: Hebrews 3:1-19.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 250. Hebrews 3:6-14.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 378. Hebrews 3:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1160; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 46.
Hebrews 3:7-19Unbelief in the Wilderness.
I. The history of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness is most instructive. No Scripture is of private interpretation, but is Catholic and eternal. Israel's history in the wilderness is typical throughout. (1) It is a marvellous history from beginning to end. (2) It was a history of solemn and glorious privileges. Is not this a picture of the Christian's life? (3) It is a sad history, full of fearful judgments. Do you understand the parable?
II. Unbelief prevented Israel's entering into the Promised Land. Then it follows that faith enters into the rest. "Believe with thy heart," is the great lesson of the chapter. Only believe, only worship, only harden not your heart, when in the Scripture, and in the Spirit's teaching, and in God's daily dealings you hear God's voice; and, though wild beasts, hunger and privation, weakness and temptation, beset you, you are safe, you are blessed. God is with you; who can be against you? Angels are around you, and you can give thanks, for you are more than conquerors, through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you.
III. Yesterday is the past of sin and misery. To-day is the present of Divine grace and man's faith. To-morrow is eternity, full of joy and glory. To-day is the turning-point, the crisis, the seedtime. To whom can we go but unto Jesus Christ, with the past of our transgression, with the yesterday of the first Adam, with the today of our weakness and need, with the for ever of our endless destiny? He is Jehovah, the Saviour God, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Cleaving to Him, we rest in mercy, which is from everlasting to everlasting.
A. Saphir, Expository Lectures on the Hebrews, vol. i., p. 188.
References: Hebrews 3:7-19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 457. Hebrews 3:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281. Hebrews 3:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 249; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 620. Hebrews 3:14.—Ibid., vol, xviii., No. 1042; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 13.
Hebrews 3:16The Warnings of Advent.
The true translation of these words is this: "For who were they, who, when they had heard, did provoke? Nay, were they not all who came out of Egypt with Moses?" So far from meaning that some and not all did provoke, He lays a stress on the universality of the evil.
I. There is something striking in the season of the natural year at which we celebrate the beginning of another Christian year. It is a true type of our condition, in which all the changes of our lives steal upon us, that Nature, at this moment, gives no outward signs of beginning; it is a period which does not manifest any striking change in the state of things around us. The Christian spring begins ere we have reached the half of the natural winter. Nature is not bursting into life, but rather preparing itself for a long season of death. And this is the type of a universal truth: that the signs and warnings which we must look to must come from within us, not from without; that neither sky nor earth will arouse us from our deadly slumber unless we are ourselves roused already, and more disposed to make warnings for ourselves than to find them.
II. If this be true of Nature, it is true also of all the efforts of man. As Nature will give no sign, so man cannot. There is no voice in Nature, no voice in man, that can really awaken the sleeping soul. It is the work of a far mightier power, to be sought for with most earnest prayers for ourselves and for each other; that the Holy Spirit of God would speak and would dispose our hearts to hear; that so being wakened from death, and our ears being truly opened, all things outward may now join in language which we can hear; and Nature and men, life and death, things present and things to come, may be but the manifold voices of the Spirit of God, all working for us together for good. Till this be so we speak in vain; our words neither reach our own hearts nor the hearts of our hearers; they are but recorded in God's book of judgment, to be brought forward hereafter for the condemnation of us both.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 157.
Hebrews 3:18The Hardening Influence of Sin.
I. Sin has distinctly this effect, that while it makes repeated sin more easy, it makes repentance more difficult. It makes sin, in a measure, the obvious beaten path where our own footsteps are stamped for a precedent. They lie there before our eyes; we repeat ourselves. We have less scruple in sinning today than we had yesterday; we find it easier to sin again than it was to sin once; we sin now with a relish where we sinned before with a pang. This is what Holy Scripture calls hardening the heart. This is the way in which the deceitfulness of sin works within us. It conveys, as it were, a bribe to the judgment, an opiate to the conscience; we have learned what it were better for us not to have known, viz., that a sinner may be let alone by God's judgment to pursue his way unmolested. It is a fearful thing to be thus initiated into the mystery of ungodliness, ever working grosser deceit within.
II. As was the first step of man from purity to sin, so is, in a lower degree, every first step. True, we have no upright nature to debase, we have no untainted spirit within us to corrupt; yet the grace of God has done much for us, has set us on a pinnacle of vantage. Every time we resist a temptation we make that vantage more easy to keep. Every time we yield we forfeit a position which of itself was a preservative. You are members of Him from whom radiate and to whom rally all the pulses of the spiritual life. The will fixed on Him tends to fix itself yet more intently, to be set and rooted in Him. That was the best security you had. For He worketh in you, both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. All this you may strengthen yet more by the entrenchments of habit. Then there will go on a process gradually building up a result, each day, each hour adding something; like the massive reefs of coral, which are the result of the deposits of a worm.
H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 199.
References: Hebrews 3:19.—H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 404; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281. Hebrews 4:1.—E. D. Solomon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 195. Hebrews 4:1, Hebrews 4:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1177. Hebrews 4:1-13.—R. W. Dale, The Jewish Temple and the Christian Church, p. 81.
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
And 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.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
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 To day; 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 stedfast unto the end;
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.