Lesson 7: "Christ. . .Counted Worthy of More Glory Than Moses" (Hebrews 3:1-3)
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson # 7 and thanks for coming. As we read back over ch. 2, there are many interesting points that we did not have time to even touch. For example, the phrase "flesh and blood" in v.14, we could read I-Cor. 15:50 "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" and do a lesson just on this. What about v.6 here, where it says God has visited man? God visited man in the sense that Jesus came to man, i.e. Christ as God was translated into the Word (John 1:1), he became flesh and blood and dwelt as a man, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). This was a visitation, God visiting with man, in the human sense. Jesus was the Word, he was God and he left God's rules and directives with us by which to live. It was a visitation, if you will. What about v.11? "both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Does that bring to your mind Jesus' prayer in John ch. 17, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou. Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us..." Jesus the Christ and God the Father are one. Jesus said in that prayer (John 17:11), "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are," i.e. as we are one. And you'll think of 40 more things you would like to discuss that we did not touch, I'm sure. The mind of the H.S. is so deep and these thoughts are so intertwined we just cannot begin to discuss it all in twenty minutes. The best we can do is to examine the framework by which the writer structures his message and get an overview of that message.
Alright, this brings us to the beginning of chapter three, where this lesson begins. Please get the text in front of you and we will be reading a rather vast hunk, i.e. (I mean) a rather long passage, in just a moment or two. So, get your markers set. We'll be reading all of chapter three (which is 19 verses), plus we'll read the first 13 verses of chapter four, a total of 32 verses. We're going to consider these 32 verses together as one large block; although, we will not be able to complete all 32 of these verses in one lesson. Once we've read this rather long reading, we'll come back and divide the text of this block into four parts of which we'll cover part by part. But, before we read, please take a moment to do a mental review. We have said this was written to the Hebrew brethren, i.e. members of the church of Christ in and around Jerusalem, just before the War of AD 70, possibly as much as four of five years before that war which literally wiped out Jerusalem. Take a moment to think what all this entailed. The church in Jerusalem had been there (now) for 30 years or more, another generation (as always happens) came on during that 30 year period; although, some of the original members, i.e. charter members (so-to-speak) maybe even had been baptized on the day of Pentecost were still living and still part of the scene at the time we're considering. Many of those older Christians there could (no doubt) still remember in the long ago that Pentecost in which Peter stood up with the eleven and began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts ch. 2). The birthday of the church as someone has called it. However, many of the older brethren (no doubt), that were active immediately following that Pentecost of long ago, had gone on to their reward, of course. The church during that 30 years had spread all over the Roman empire, i.e. the Roman world and possibly beyond. But, you must clearly understand, there was a movement during that 30 year period on the part of the Jews, i.e. Jewish nonChristians, to undo the church, so-to-speak. It was an extension of that element of people who crucified Jesus, really. This movement followed every place the church went. We usually refer to the leaders of that group, this movement, as the Judaizing teachers, i.e. they tried to persuade those who became Christians that they would be lost as Christians unless they were circumcised and continued to keep the law of Moses; in other words, go back to the Jews religion, which of course continued to be practiced by countless thousands of Jews. They said, "ye cannot be saved" except you do this (Acts 15:Iff). These Judaizers had spread over the empire and we have in our previous studies (many lesson) studied about the conflicts and the problems these Judiazers brought on in the early Christian world, i.e. the success of the Judiazers to look at it from their point of view. The apostle Paul said to the Galatian Christians, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel..." This is Gal. 1:6 and obviously, the other gospel (which Paul said is not another gospel really, but a perverted gospel. Gal. 1:6-9) was a reference to the Judiazing gospel, i.e. to use accommodative language. This "ism," this "sect," (if you will) was finally having strong influence in Jerusalem and even in the Jerusalem church. Obviously, the Jewish temple being located there and Jerusalem being the home city of the Jews religion where most of the priests were, of course, their influence was very strong in and around Jerusalem. Now, you must see the book of HEBREWS as a refuting of this Jewish "ism," i.e. to comprehend this letter with full force. However, don't miss the point that this letter still carries many, many implications for us, embedded in this text. If we miss that aspect, we are just spinning our wheels and wasting our time; but, we must understand a little about the Judaizing doctrine (you see) to comprehend the letter with full implications. AND, trying to examine all these facets together makes analysis rather complex; although, this intertwining, when totally deciphered, means the text carries a lot of message per line of print. However, it's more meaningful, I believe, if (as we read) you think in terms of the primary recipients of this letter and their problems, i.e. the Jerusalem church and then apply it to us.
Let's read. Beginning in 3:1. Are you ready? Here we go! "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, insomuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor 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, Today 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 always 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 Today; 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 steadfast unto the end; while it is said, Today 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 carcasses 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. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the Seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again. If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said. Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
O.K., have you got it? As I see these 32 verses, they are really a continuation of the thought in our last lesson that Christ is the captain of our salvation (going back to 2:10). Not only is Christ the leader of our salvation, Christ was superior to Moses, who was a great prophet, the writer wants us to understand. Near the end of ch. 2, (in v.17), Christ by his suffering was qualified and described as "a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God..." Beginning (here) in ch. 3, the writer extends this line of reasoning and says in effect, now let's take a moment to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. Do you see that? (v.1)? An apostle is one who is appointed for a special purpose. Thus, Christ Jesus was appointed by God and in that sense is an apostle, you see. Focus your eyes in v.2 on that word "appointed." Do you see it? In the verses that follow, the writer sort of lumps these two thoughts together, i.e. Jesus as an Apostle and Jesus as the High Priest of our profession, i.e. our vocation, if you will, using terms these first century people understood very well. Out of this consideration, we can conveniently and naturally divide these 32 verses into four parts. The first part is v.1-6, in which the writer shows the superiority of Christ over Hoses. Then, going to the second part, v.7-19, the rest of the chapter, the writer says in effect that Moses was really a great man, a great leader, one who was given a great appointment also. And from the experience of Moses, going back to the book of Exodus and the book of Numbers, we see that Moses was a great leader; but, his leadership floundered to a high degree mostly because the people "hardened their hearts...in the days of temptation in the wilderness...and God was grieved with that generation" (this is v.8-9-10). God did not allow them to enter the promised land (a kind of rest, if you will) because of their attitude and their actions that stemmed very simply from a lack of faith. So, the writer draws a very applicable lesson (here) from this, not only a great lesson for those in and around Jerusalem, wanting to turn back to the Jews religion as those Israelites in the desert wanted to go back to Egypt; but, a very sobering lesson that remains and endures for our benefit as well. God will not give us rest, i.e. heaven, if we turn back into the world. The lesson to us is just that simple.
Then, part three, beginning in v.1 of ch. 4, the writer brings it down home (so-to-speak), by making the application to us. "Let us therefore fear," i.e. let us learn this lesson well (take note!) and not repeat the mistake(s) of that generation lost in the wilderness. Now, the common thread of both that generation and the present generation, as the writer presents it, is a simple lack of faith. If God would not accept their lack of faith, will God accept our lack of faith? Obviously, NOT!
Then, finally, part four, the writer repeats and summarizes this lesson bringing his exhortation to a crescendo, which begins with the words: "Let us labor therefore..." (this begins in v.11 and consumes v.12-13 of ch. 4 also).
Thus, as I have proposed, we'll consider this as one block of text; although, we will not be able to finish it in this twenty minute lesson. Please mark these divisions: v.1-6 of ch. 3; then, v.7-19 of ch. 3; then, v.1-10 of ch. 4; followed by this great conclusion (4:11-13).
Now, in the minute or two we have left, let's try to cover the first part, i.e. v.1-6, beginning in ch. 3, here we go. Brethren, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. Christ Jesus was faithful, just as (or in a similar way as) Moses was faithful, also (v.2). Thus, both Christ and Moses were faithful. Now, get this faithful bit programmed into your brain. To be faithful carries with it the aspect of faith (yes), as well as, carrying through with and making our actions conform to our faith, i.e. we act and perform according to what we believe and what we understand...that is being faithful. To do otherwise, is hypocritical. Thus, there was no failure on the part of either Moses or Christ in terms of understanding and leadership. Both, were great leaders. However, Christ by virtue of his appointment (v.2) and by virtue of the fact he was "appointed heir of all things, by which [God] made the worlds" (Heb. 1:2), Christ was/is much superior to Moses. Thus, he cautions, don't equate them as just two of the old prophets. To illustrate: the writer says Jesus the Christ was as superior to Moses as the builder of a house is superior to the house that he built (v.3). All houses are built by somebody, some man, some person, some human being (houses don't build themselves); where as, Christ built mankind, he built the system (end of Heb. 1:2). Moses was like a servant (v.5), i.e. one who works for another, one who builds a house for another. However, in contrast to the status of Hoses, Christ is the owner of the house, he is as a son over his own house, he owns the house; whereas, Moses was simply a caretaker. Now, what is this house, we're talking about? The church, the children of God, the camp of the saints. Jesus said: "Upon this rock I will build my church..." (Matt. 16:18). Thus, the bottom line has to do with God's people, the house of God, the church of God. Now, in this illustration, if you'll study it, you'll find in it the principles of Heb. ch. 1, God spoke at one time through the prophets; but in these last days God has spoken by his Son (1:2). We must hear Christ! He is superior to angels, he is superior to Moses; because, Christ is God. Are you getting the message? Have a good day.