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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 3 - Verse 1

 

CHAPTER III.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

THE Jews valued their religion on many accounts. One was that it had been given by the instrumentality of distinguished prophets sent from God, and by the medium of angels. The apostle, in the previous chapters, had shown that, in these respects, the Christian religion had the advantage over theirs, for it had been communicated by one who was superior to any of the prophets, and who had a rank above the angels. Next to this, they valued their religion because it had been imparted by a law-giver so eminent as Moses—a man more distinguished than any other one on earth as a legislator. To him they looked with pride as the founder of their economy, and the medium through whom God had given them their peculiar laws. Next to him, their high priest was the most important functionary in the nation. He was at the head of their religion, and served to distinguish it from all others; for they high priest was recognised. The apostle, therefore, proceeds to show, that in these respects the Christian religion had lost nothing, but had the advantage altogether—that it was founded by one superior to Moses, and that Christ, as high priest, was superior by far, to the high priest of the Jews.

This chapter, and to verse 13 of chapter 4, relates to the first of these points, and is occupied with showing the superiority of the Redeemer to Moses, and the consequences which result from the admission of that fact. It consists, therefore, of two parts.

I. The first is employed in showing, that if the Author of the Christian religion is compared with Moses, he has the preference, Heb 3:1-6. Moses was indeed faithful, but it was as a servant. Christ was faithful as a Son. He had a rank as much above that of Moses as one who builds a house has over the house itself.

II. The consequences that resulted from that, Heb 3:7-19, and Heb 4:1-13. The general doctrine here is, that there would be special danger in apostatizing from the Christian religion —danger far superior to that which was threatened to the Israelites if they were disobedient to Moses. In illustrating this, the apostle is naturally led to a statement of the warnings against defection under Moses, and of the consequences of unbelief and rebellion there, he entreats them, therefore,

(1,) not to harden their hearts against God, as the Israelites did, who were excluded from Canaan, Heb 3:7-11.

(2.) To be on their guard against unbelief, Heb 3:12.

(3.) To exhort one another constantly, and to stimulate one another, that they might not fall away, Heb 3:13.

(4.) To hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, and not to provoke God, as they did who came out of Egypt, Heb 3:14-19. In the following chapter (Heb 4:1-13) he completes the exhortation, by showing them that many, who came out of Egypt, were excluded from the promised land, and that there was equal danger now; and then proceeds with the comparison of Christ with the Jewish high priest, and extends that comparison through the remainder of the doctrinal part of the epistle.

Verse 1. Wherefore. That is, since Christ sustains such a character as has been stated in the previous chapter; since he is so able to succour those who need assistance; since he assumed our nature that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest, his character ought to be attentively considered, and we ought to endeavour fully to understand it.

Holy brethren. The name brethren is often given to Christians to denote that they are of one family. It is possible, also, that the apostle may have used the word here in a double sense—denoting that they were his brethren as Christians, and as Jews. The word holy is applied to them to denote that they were set apart to God, or that they were sanctified. The Jews were often called a "holy people," as being consecrated to God; and Christians are holy, not only as consecrated to God, but as sanctified.

Partakers of the heavenly calling. On the meaning of the word calling, See Barnes "Eph 4:1".

The "heavenly calling" denotes the calling which was given to them from heaven, or which was of a heavenly nature. It pertained to heaven, not to earth; it came from heaven, not from earth; it was a calling to the reward and happiness of heaven, and not to the pleasures and honours of the world.

Consider. Attentively ponder all that is said of the Messiah. Think of his rank; his dignity; his holiness; his sufferings; his death; his resurrection, ascension, intercession. Think of him, that you may see the claims to a holy life; that you may learn to bear trials; that you may be kept from apostasy. The character and work of the Son of God are worthy of the profound and prayerful consideration of every man; and especially every Christian should reflect much on him. Of the friend that we love we think much; but what friend have we like the Lord Jesus?

The Apostle. The word apostle is nowhere else applied to the Lord Jesus. The word means one who is sent—and in this sense it might be applied to the Redeemer as one sent by God, or as by way of eminence THE one sent by him. But the connexion seems to demand that there should be some allusion here to one who sustained a similar rank among the Jews; and it is probable that the allusion is to Moses, as having been the great apostle of God to the Jewish people, and that Paul here means to say, that the Lord Jesus, under the new dispensation, filled the place of Moses and of the high priest under the old, and that the office of "apostle" and "high priest," instead of being now separated, as it was between Moses and Aaron under the old dispensation, was now blended in the Messiah. The name apostle is not indeed given to Moses directly in the Old Testament, but the verb from which the Hebrew word for apostle is derived is frequently given him. Thus, in Ex 3:10, it is said, "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh." And in Heb 3:13, "The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you." So also in Heb 3:14,15, of the same chapter. From the word there used—

HEBREW

to send, the word denoting apostle

HEBREW

—is derived; and it is not improbable that Moses would be regarded as being, by way of eminence, THE one sent by God. Further, the Jews applied the word

HEBREW

apostle, to the minister of the synagogue; to him who presided over its affairs, and who had the general charge of the services there; and in this sense it might be applied by way of eminence to Moses, as being the general director and controller of the religious affairs of the nation, and as sent for that purpose. The object of Paul is to show that the Lord Jesus, in the Christian system—as the great apostle sent from God—sustained a rank and office similar to this, but superior in dignity and authority.

And High Priest. One great object of this epistle is, to compare the Lord Jesus with the high priest of the Jews, and to show that he was in all respects superior. This was important, because the office of high priest was that which eminently distinguished the Jewish religion, and because the Christian religion proposed to abolish that. It became necessary, therefore, to show that all that was dignified and valuable in that office was to be found in the Christian system. This was done by showing that in the Lord Jesus was found all the characteristics of a high priest, and that all the functions which had been performed in the Jewish ritual were performed by him, and that all which had been prefigured by the Jewish high priest was fulfilled in him. The apostle here merely alludes to him, or names him as the high priest, and then postpones the consideration of his character, in that respect, till after he had compared him with Moses.

Of our profession. Of our religion; of that religion which we profess. The apostle and high priest whom we confessed as ours when we embraced the Christian religion.

{a} "High Priest" Heb 4:14

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