Remain True

Explore the Bible Series

September 17, 2006


Lesson Passage: Hebrews 3:1-15



Hebrews, for almost two full chapters, asserts Christ’s supremacy to the angels (1:5-18), but the text now takes a somewhat different direction.  Chapter Three claims that the Lord Jesus has preeminence over Moses as well as the angels. Of course, First-Century Jews venerated Moses as the great lawgiver, and these Hebrew/Christian recipients of this treatise apparently considered, under the duress of persecution, a retreat into the law system of the Old Covenant.  The author of Hebrews masterfully cut off this route of withdrawal from the battlefield of faith.  The fundamental argument of this chapter centers on Christ’s preeminent sonship and Moses’ humble servanthood in the household of God; therefore, these believers must hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope.”  


The key verses in this chapter (vv. 12-19) continue the great theme of perseverance in the faith (These verses contain the second great exhortation of the Book of Hebrews).  One of the essential marks of saving faith centers on continued trust and obedience to Christ, even in the face of immense hardship.  No man has any right to consider himself a Christian who fails to persevere in the faith.  Sadly, Baptist church roles teem with people who had temporary religious impressions but have failed to hold fast their profession.  The Parable of the Soils (Mark 4:1-25) describes those who immediately receive the word with joy; then, when affliction or persecution arise, they shrivel under solar glare of pressure (the rocky soil).  Others hear the word, but the concerns of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for the world’s trinkets choke the word, and they become unfruitful (the thorny soil).


Chapter Three uses the illustration of Israel’s wilderness wanderings to drive home the point.  Of all of the ancient peoples, Israel enjoyed the greatest of heaven’s privileges.  Furthermore, the Hebrews gave some evidence of trust and obedience to God; nevertheless, in the final analysis, they failed in the hour of testing.  The prospect of contending for the land of promise caused them to recoil from their faith.  They stood at the threshold of blessing, but the evil report of ten faithless spies gave vent to hearts of unbelief and rebellion.  They rejected the leadership of God’s appointed servant (Moses) and gave preference to the “security” of the wilderness.  Four men (Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb) stood alone against the multitude of people (The cause of righteousness seldom follows the path of the majority).  Beyond doubt, the Israelites took comfort that they remained unified in their unbelief; nevertheless, they rejected the promise of God and brought ruin upon themselves and their children.


The readers of the Book of Hebrews found themselves in a similar circumstance.  A greater leader, the Lord Jesus, stood as ensign over the congregation of faith; however. The Master’s way seemed fraught with hardship and danger. Some recoiled from the narrow path and stood, as ancient Israel, at the doorway of destruction.  Hebrews reminded them of the peril of turning back.


Dear reader, you are not exempt from the warnings of Hebrews.  The siren call of the world allures many who once made a fair profession of faith in Christ.  Hardship comes, and they seek a “safer”, easier path.  Perhaps they take some comfort in the multitude of those who throng to “hot tub religion” (J.I. Packer’s term).  Inborn rebellion reigns in the soul, and these false men refuse to hear the voices of those who warn them of the dangers of the by-path.  Above all, they turn from their only sure guide and guardian, the Lord Christ.  Remain faithful to those things taught to you from the beginning.


Outline of the Lesson Passage:


I.                   The Character of the These Readers (3:1)

A.    “Holy brethren”: This designation builds on Hebrews 2:11-13.  Christians share a holy bond of brotherhood because Christ has transformed them into a sacred family.  He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, and he holds together a family of adopted siblings from every tongue, tribe, social class, race, and nation.  He has torn down the middle wall of partition and made all Christians into a holy brotherhood. Point of application: if this claim is true, all racism, classism, sexism or nationalism is sin against the redemptive work of Christ. 

B.     “partakers of a heavenly calling”: Those whom God has chosen, he calls by the Holy Spirit and the word.  He enlightens the minds of his elect to understand the claims of the gospel, convicts of sin, renews the will and the affections, and reveals the delightful glory of Christ.  No one can respond favorably to the outward call of the gospel unless the inward, heavenly call occurs.  Those whom God calls come freely and willingly to Christ and embrace him as Scripture reveals his wondrous character and work.  This heavenly call helps the poor sinner to see the Lord Jesus as the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. The text demands that believers consider (literally “think down upon”) Christ’s authoritative mission as one sent from God and his High Priestly work for sinners.


II.                Christ’s Superiority to Moses (3:2-6)

A.    Christ and Moses were both faithful to the respective tasks appointed to them by the Father (v. 2). 

B.     Christ is worthy of greater glory than Moses on two grounds (vv. 3-6)

1.      Christ built the “house” of God and Moses did not (vv. 3-4).  The “house” here may denote the household of faith; or, it may employ the term “house” as an analogy of an architect erecting a building.  Just as builder constructs a house, so Christ is the designer and builder of God’s true house.

2.      Christ was (is) a faithful Son, and Moses merely served in the household of God. Obviously, a faithful servant receives the approval and commendation of the Master; nevertheless, the Son enjoys a favored position in the household that that servant will never share. Once the Heir has come to the Father’s house, the servants assume an inferior position. Again, the author exhorted his readers to hold their confidence fast because the Son holds a superior position to any servants, including Moses, in the Father’s house.


III.             The Example of Israel’s Faithlessness (3:7-11) Quotation from Psalm 95:8-11

A.    Israel hardened her heart in unbelief.  She enjoyed great privilege and revelation, but that generation never entered the Promised Land because of rebellious unbelief (See Numbers 13-14-- this passage merits careful study for the understanding of Hebrews 3).

B.     Israel evidenced an unfaithful heart on many occasions during the wilderness wanderings.

1.      (Exodus 14;11-12) Israel’s response to the threat of Pharaoh’s army

2.      (Exodus 15:24) Israel’s complaint at Marah

3.      (Exodus 16:2-3) Israel’s unbelief concerning God’s provision for her physical needs

4.      (Exodus 17:2-3) Israel’s thirst at Rephidim

5.      (Numbers 11-1-5) Israel’s grievance at Taberah

6.      (Numbers 13-14) Israel’s failure to enter the Promised Land: Ultimately, this episode seems to form the backdrop of Psalm 95:7-11 and Hebrews 3:7-11).

              Application: Lessons from Kadesh Barnea

1.      The failure at Kadesh Barnea occurred in the context of months of ingratitude and complaining.

2.      Until the evil report by the ten unfaithful spies, the Scriptures give no evidence of that anyone questioned the Lord’s will concerning the Promised Land.

3.      The unbelieving report of the faithless spies spread like a deadly contagion among the people.  Just a few men set off a firestorm of unbelief that infected an entire generation of people.

4.      The infected masses rose up against the God-ordained leadership of Israel.  Over and over, the people of Israel made Moses’ life miserable by the thankless complaints and rebellion.

5.      Once the people realized their error, they sought to proceed with the invasion of Canaan, but it was too late.  They found their own military prowess and ingenuity insufficient for the task.  God’s blessing would secure their inheritance, but human strategies always come to ruin.

6.      Israel brought forty years of suffering on herself because of rampant unbelief.




IV.             The Second Exhortation (3:12-19)

A.    A somber warning (v. 12): Unbelief comes from an evil heart that holds the living God in contempt.

B.     A helpful safeguard (v. 13):  “Exhort (encourage) one another daily.”  Constant vigilance, in the context of the church, must be practiced to safeguard the Lord’s people.  Sin will weave its web of deceit and draw away the hearts of professing believers, and the heeding these deceptive appeals leads to the hardening of the heart.

C.     Motives for heeding this exhortation (vv. 14-19)

1.      “We are partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (v. 14).

2.      The examp0le of unbelieving Israel (vv. 15-19)


Personal note:  I realize that I have overreached the verses for this lesson, but these last verses in Hebrews Three, in contrast to our lesson materials, seems to fit with the current study more so than the materials for next week.