|Study of Hebrews|
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Today we will be studying Hebrews 3:1-6. But I would like to start off by summing up what we covered in our last study, Heb. 2:5-18. According to this passage Christ became a man for three main reasons, and I want you to keep this in mind because this is important for us sinners:
I would like to start off by mentioning the two words, “faithful” and “merciful,” so that we can be clear as to what Paul is trying to get across. Christ can be our faithful High Priest because in our humanity He fully redeemed us completely and is, therefore, legally qualified to be our representative and our advocate before God in heaven. He is a merciful High Priest because, as one of us, He understands our weaknesses. He understands our struggles and He is able to help us. That’s the kind of priest we have.
This is the major difference between Christ and the law. You see, the law is good, it is holy, it is righteous, just like Christ is. But there is a difference:
If you go to the law and say, “I want to be good, please help me.”
The law will say, “That’s not my responsibility. All I can do is command you to be good, but I can’t help you.”
The law is incapable of helping us. The law is incapable of sympathizing with us. That’s why most people don’t like policemen, because they represent the law. Very often a policeman may not be sympathetic and He may have good reasons, because he is there to uphold the law. But Christ is sympathetic, He understands our weaknesses and He can help us in time of need. With this in mind, let us turn now to the first six verses of chapter three of Hebrews:
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 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.
That’s the passage I want to deal with today. Let’s look at the two terms that Paul uses to describe the believers. He calls them “holy brethren.” That’s a very lofty, wonderful name to call Christians. He does not say, “you struggling Christians,” but calls them holy. If Paul were to address our church, would he call us “holy brethren” or would he call us “a bunch of sinners”? What would he call us?
I’m going to take the worst church in the New Testament. The ones who had terrible problems in terms of Christian living. They were fighting like cats and dogs. There was jealousy in this church. They were practising fornication of the worst type. They were taking each other to court. I want you to notice what Paul calls them.
Of course, I am talking about the Corinthian Church. It was not the best church in the New Testament. Paul was not condoning what they were doing. He was correcting them. Notice what he calls them. Turn back to 1 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians was commending them for listening to him, but 1 Corinthians was really a letter of rebuke. 1 Cor. 1:2:
Unto the church of God [notice he calls them the church of God] which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,...
The words “to be” are supplied. It is not in the original. Paul did not say, “to be saints,” he simply said, “called saints.” Please notice, they are sanctified and they are called saints because of what they are in Christ, not because of what they are in themselves.
...called saints, with all that in every place [i.e., not only are you Corinthians called saints but all Christians in every place who...] call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
That is, any one who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, God will call a saint. Or in the words of Ellen G. White, “God looks at you as if you had never sinned.”
Let me give you another statement in 1 Cor.6:9. Here Paul is rebuking them for their poor Christian witness and behaviour.
Don’t you know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?
Then he gives a whole list of illustrations as to what he means by the unrighteous—fornicators, idolaters, abusers, covetous people, drunkards, and so on, in verses nine and ten. Now look at verse eleven:
And such were some of you [this is how you were]: but ye are washed [past, present or future?...past tense, in the Greek, the aorist tense, a historical tense], but ye are sanctified, [past tense] but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
What Paul is saying is, “Look, you are holy now in Christ, please let holiness be your behaviour. Let the righteousness of Christ become your goal. Stop living like worldly, sinful people.” In chapter three he tells them, “Your conduct tells me that in behaviour you are no different from the unbelievers. Shame on you,” he says. Remember that we are holy, not because we are good but because we are in Christ.
This is where the big distinction is between Roman Catholic teaching and true Protestantism. The Roman Catholic teaching tells us that God’s makes you good and then He calls you a saint. If you ask a Catholic, “Are you a saint?”
He will say, “No. Joseph is a saint and Christopher is a saint.”
”When will you be a saint?”
”Well, I don’t think while I’m here on earth. We have to go to purgatory to make up where we have failed in this earth. When we have made it, then we go to heaven.” The good news of the Bible is that the New Testament calls all believers saints, holy brethren.
Let’s go back to Heb. 3:1. The second thing that Paul says about us, and it is important that we know this: “We are partakers of the heavenly calling.” What did he mean by that? “We are partakers of the heavenly calling.” When Jesus Christ came to this world, He came to bring what for us? Did He come to make heaven real for us? Did He fulfill that? Have you accepted it? Yes. Therefore, heaven is yours. You’re not there as yet. That’s why he states it is a calling. But that’s your destiny. Look at a couple of texts. Eph.2:6:
We are sitting with Christ in heavenly places.
In other words, our destiny is heaven. I know that some of you say, “When I retire my destiny is the southern part of America. I don’t want any more of these winters.” When you get to fifty-five or sixty you begin to worry where will you retire. You’ll find that wherever we have colleges, we have lots of people retiring. Walla Walla is no exception. I don’t blame you, but I’ll tell you Walla Walla, too, has its problems. The real kingdom is heaven. And that is what Phil. 3:20,21 says:
Our citizenship [that’s the Greek word, the King James Version says “our conversation” because in old English that meant citizenship] is in heaven where we look forward to the coming of Christ.
Why? Because when He comes He will take us to where we belong. So he is saying to these Christians (remember, he is writing to discouraged Christians), “Don’t be discouraged:
That’s why he calls them that. Remember that the book of Hebrews is a pastoral letter. It is not a theological dissertation.
Back to Hebrews three. Consider Jesus Christ. Now he calls Christ two things:
Now, the word “Apostle” literally means “to be sent.” So then, we speak of a missionary, in a sense, as an apostle. But the word ”apostle” is used in more than one sense. In this sense, it simply means someone who lays a foundation or who begins something. Christ laid our foundation to heaven. He is the One who laid it. 1 Cor. 3:11:
Other foundation can no man lay than that which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
So our foundation, our hope is based on a concrete foundation. You remember the story that Jesus told when He was here about building a house on sand? And building a house on a rock. When the storm comes which house remains solid? The one built on the rock. That is why you must remember the foundation of our salvation is Jesus Christ. The other text is Eph. 2:19,20; it is talking of our position in Christ:
Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles, and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.
Please remember that the foundation that the apostles laid down in their preaching was Jesus Christ. By the way, you will find very little of the preaching of the apostles based on Daniel two when they had evangelistic sermons. They probably used John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son.” Please remember, that is the foundation.
The second term is “High Priest.” Christ is our High Priest. Remember that a prophet is a person who represents God before the congregation. A priest is a person who represents the congregation before God. Christ is our representative in heaven. Just like we have senators who represent us, Christ is the one who represents us before God. He represents us on the basis of His faithfulness. That’s the point that the apostle Paul wants to bring out in the this passage. Look at Hebrews 3:2, this Christ who is our High Priest:
Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him.
There are two “hims” here in verse two. Christ was faithful to Him. Who is the “Him”? God the Father. The Father appointed Him to be our High Priest. On what basis? On the basis that God sent Him to be our Saviour. You see, Christ became our High Priest after He finished redemption. You remember what He cried on the cross? “It is finished.”
Go to John seventeen and listen to the prayer of Jesus just before the crucifixion. It was the prayer that He prayed before He finished His mission on this earth. Look at John 17:4:
I have glorified Thee on earth. [Jesus is talking to His Father.] I have finished the work that Thou gavest me to do.
When God sent His Son to this world He sent Him to do a job. What was that work? Was it to take pictures of the Empire State building? No, because that wasn’t existing then. What was He sent here for? Look at John 3:17:
God sent His Son, not to condemn us, but to save us.
Or look at Gal. 4:4,5:
When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman and made under the law, to redeem us from under the law that we might be adopted as sons.
So Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to save us and to redeem us and to adopt us as children of God. Did He finish His work? Was it perfect, as far as the earthly mission was concerned? He is not finished in the sense of making it all a reality; so He still has a priestly ministry. But as a Saviour did He do His job? Yes. Did the Father accept Him? You remember when Mary saw Him on the resurrection morning, she grabbed Him and said, “I’m not letting you go.”
He said, “I have not yet ascended to my Father and to your Father and to my God and your God.” Why did He have to go to the Father? To get the green light saying, “Your sacrifice has been accepted.” Did He get the green light? When He came back He said, “All authority [power] has been given unto Me.” Matthew 28:18. What authority is this? The authority to take us miserable sinners to heaven. God gave Him that authority. Therefore, He says:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples of them. They who believe, baptize them and give them this hope.
Was Christ faithful? Yes. This is what Paul is bringing out in Heb.3:1-6. To do this, he is comparing the faithfulness of Christ with the faithfulness of Moses. Was Moses faithful? Yes. Was Christ faithful? Yes. Let’s look now at verse two:
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
There is a word that is repeated in verses 1-6 very often. The word is “house.” What did Paul mean by the word “house?” Did he mean a building? To us the word “house” means a building. Look at the first part of verse six. There we are told what the word “house” means.
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we....
So the house of God is not buildings. It is God’s people.
Now, are we saved because of our faithfulness or are we saved because of Christ’s faithfulness? Please remember that.
So when you look at the word “house” here, please remember he’s not talking about buildings. And, by the way, the Christian church owned no buildings during the first two centuries of its existence. The church had no houses in terms of buildings like we have. So when the New Testament talks about the house of God in such and such a place, it does not mean a denomination or a building. I was discussing one day with a Church of God minister in Idaho. He said, “My Church is the true church of the New Testament and yours is wrong.”
I asked, “What grounds do you have?”
He said, “Nowhere in the New Testament do you ever read Seventh-day Adventist, but in the New Testament you do read, ‘The Church of God.’” I reminded him that it is not the name that makes it the right church but it is the truth.
Now notice what Paul is doing in these verses. He is comparing Christ to Moses. Remember that he is writing to Jewish Christians. To them, Moses was number one. It was to him that God gave the law. To them Moses was everything. And if Christ is greater than Moses then Christ should be a stronger anchor than Moses. Before I give you the two reasons that Paul uses to prove that Christ is greater than Moses, I would like to point out something that you need to notice. Look at verses 3-5:
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....
Moses was a faithful steward as a testimony of something that will be spoken after. What did Paul mean by that? Paul meant that Moses was a type of Christ. If you look at 1 Cor. 10, it comes out clearly. They were baptized into whom? Moses. I would like to emphasize here that when you study the Exodus, look at it as a type of the plan of redemption and you will receive a tremendous blessing.
Was Moses faithful? Yes. In regard to delivering God’s people out of Egypt, were that people appreciative of what Moses was doing? Were they rebellious? Did they give Moses a hard time? How hard? Keep this in mind because when I go to the mission field and the African says to me “Please, we don’t want you here any more. You can leave your money here—your budget—but we want you to go back home.”
Would you still work for them? This is one of the biggest problems that we are facing in the mission field today. The hardship in the mission field today is not physical. It is not material. It is psychological. Today, missionaries are not appreciated in the Third World. Why? Because it gives them the impression that they are still backward. We send missionaries to backward countries. That is the mentality of most people. If someone would say, “I’m sending you as a missionary to America,” you would be insulted. You would say, “We don’t need missionaries.” Is that true? Did Moses retaliate for their rebellion? Turn to Ex. 32:9, I want to show you how faithful Moses was, as a type of Christ.
And the Lord said to Moses, I have seen this people and behold it is a stiff-necked people [they are stubborn, they are rebellious, they are unappreciative]. Now, therefore, let me alone that my wrath may be hot against them that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation.
What a privilege. “Moses, no longer will Abraham be the father of my people, you will.” Moses turned around to God and said, “Thank you, I’ve been waiting for this.” Did he say that? No. Listen to what he said in Ex. 32:31,32.
And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin...
Here was a people who were murmuring against Moses and making life hell for him and he asks God to forgive them. But he did more than that and this is what I want you to notice:
...And if not, [if legally you can’t forgive them] blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”
What did he mean by that? Deprive me from eternal life that they might live. Did Christ do the same thing on the cross? Yes. Moses was faithful even though the people were rebellious. The reason I’m stressing this is that, in our next study, Paul will use the rebellion of the Jews in the Exodus as a warning for us. Let us not make the same mistake.
Let us go back to Hebrews and emphasize two reasons why Christ is superior to Moses. Moses was faithful, but Christ was superior. Therefore, His mission is much greater than Moses. The reason is that Moses could not really save them. He was a type. Moses could not really give them the full rest. We will see this later. But Christ could, for two reasons. Number one: Heb. 3:3:
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.
You have a house and you have the builder. Which is greater? The builder or the building? Can you have a building without a builder?
Was Moses really a saviour? Or did he need to be saved himself? Yes, he needed to be saved himself. So he belonged to the house that needs redeeming. He delivered the Jews out of Egypt but he himself could not save them from sin. That was God’s job. So God is the builder and that’s why in verse four he says:
For every house is builded by some man [the Greek doesn’t say “man,” but it is implied] but he that built all things [he that really saved His people is not Moses] is God.
God saved mankind not through Moses but through Christ. Therefore, Christ is greater because Christ is the true Saviour of mankind. Now look at verse five:
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony [is all]... But Christ as a son over his own house.
So Moses was a servant but Christ was a Son. Who is greater, the servant or the Son? The Son. But please remember that what Christ did is much more important than what Moses did. What Moses did was a type. Yes, he was faithful but he was only a type. He could not truly give that peace but Christ can and because He was faithful in His earthly mission He is now going to be a faithful High Priest. So He is faithful not only as a Saviour but He is faithful as a High Priest.
And now I want to conclude with the big “if” of Hebrews 3:6:
....if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
Now here is Christ. He is faithful. The problem is not Christ. The problem is us. Can He defend us in the judgment if we turn our backs to Him? If not, why not?
I made a statement to a Russian Marxist one day in Ethiopia. He was a communist. He said, “When the communists take over, we clear the country of all crime.” He had a point there. There is very little crime in China and there is very little crime in Ethiopia. He gave me an example. He said, “If communism says ‘No more smoking,’ we don’t have to have five-day plans like you Adventists. Our people stop smoking.”
I said, “How come?”
He said, “Because we give them no choice. What we tell them, they do. Otherwise, we bury them.”
Now, God cannot do that. God can’t say, “I’m going to save you whether you like it or not.” He can only save those who accept Him. Now these Christians had accepted Him but they were getting discouraged. And in their discouragement they were in danger of saying “Goodbye” to Christ. What Paul is saying here is, “Look, God is faithful, Christ is faithful, He will defend you with everything, but if you say ‘Goodbye’ to Christ you are putting Him beyond the ability to save you, not because He is not faithful but because you have chosen to turn your back on Him.”
So we must remember that our salvation depends upon God’s faithfulness as long as we believe in Him as our Saviour. This idea of us holding on to our confidence in Christ is very important. You may lose confidence in your pastor. You may lose confidence in your church. You may lose confidence in the General Conference, and there are some Adventists who are losing confidence because of many events that took place and all kinds of things. The Devil destroys confidence in these to use them as stepping stones so that you will eventually lose confidence in Christ. Your pastor may fail you. Your church may fail you, but Christ will never fail.
And it doesn’t matter how badly you are mistreated by the church, don’t give up your confidence. Paul tells us later that the one way that the Devil destroys your confidence is to remove you out of the church. He says in chapter ten, “Do not forsake the assembling of your brethren.” Don’t give up your church attendance even though things are not right. Be careful, it is just a stepping stone. The plea of Hebrews is, “Please, hold on!” And I want you to see, for example, chapter four verse fourteen:
Seeing that you have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Then go to chapter ten verse twenty-three:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for he is faithful that promised).
You will find this all through Hebrews—the plea to the Christian is “HOLD ON!”
Go to John 13:1. Jesus Christ comes to the end of His life. He is facing the cross and here John says:
Having loved His own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
He was faithful in His earthly mission. 1 Thess. 5:24:
Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.
There are many more texts but I would like to give you one that I have already given you and will repeat one hundred times, Rom. 8:38,39. It is my prayer folks that every one of us will be able to say what Paul says here:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is not our love for God but God’s love for us which was demonstrated in Christ, who loved us to the end. We must remember that God will never let us down. You may let Him down many times but He will never let you down. That is the anchor of your soul. My prayer is that we will hold on to Him no matter what happens.
You will be mistreated. Even those who work in the church are mistreated. I’m talking from experience, but I’m not employed by the church. I am employed by Jesus Christ. He called me to be a minister. So if the brethren mistreat me, I don’t care. That’s their problem. They will have to answer for themselves. If there are people who have done wrong in the church to you, they will have to answer in the judgment. But your Saviour is not the church or your pastor or your conference, it is Jesus Christ. Please remember, all of us without exception are one hundred percent sinners but saved by grace. We may not do the terrible things that we talk about other people doing but given the same environment, the same circumstances, and the same opportunity, we are capable of doing every sin committed in the world, including what Hitler did and what Idi Amin did in Uganda. And we must have the attitude, “There go I, except for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I thank God that we have a Saviour who is able to save us to the uttermost. Our part is to not give up our confidence. So when things go wrong, terribly wrong, it isn’t because God has stopped loving you. We are living in enemy territory. We must expect problems. God has a reason why He has allowed it but it is not because He doesn’t love us. So hold on to God and, when He comes, you will never regret it. You will say “It was worth it.” It is nothing compared to what He has for you. My concern is to build up your faith so that, no matter what comes, you will know that He will never let you down.