A FAITHFUL LIFE

 

Week of August 10, 2008

 

Bible Verses:  Hebrews 2:14-18; 3:1,5-14.

 

Biblical Truth: God has provided believers resources to help them stay faithful to Him.

 

My Helper: Heb. 2:14-18.

 

[14]  Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, [15]  and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. [16]  For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. [17]  Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. [18]  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.  [NASU]

 

[14-15]  The necessity and purpose of the incarnation are now defined with more preciseness than before. Its intention has already been declared: so that by the grace of God Christ might taste death for every one [9]; and its effect: bringing many sons to glory [10], those sons being the brethren whom he has sanctified [11]. The genuineness of Christ’s humanity is now affirmed in the most unequivocal terms: flesh and blood, a common synonym for human nature. Moreover, that the incarnation was the divine Son’s free act on our behalf is indicated by the tenses of the two verbs share and partook. The first, a perfect, describes the constant human situation: all men and women, of every generation, have this in common that their nature is flesh and blood; whereas the second, an aorist, points to the historical event, unique in itself, of the incarnation when the Son of God assumed this same human nature and thus Himself became truly man and accordingly truly one with mankind. This assertion of the common humanity by which Christ is linked to us and we to him is followed by a statement of the primary purpose of the incarnation, namely, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. The power of death is held by the devil only in a secondary and not in an ultimate sense. God is still supreme in His sovereignty. The necessity of Christ’s death on the cross is bound up with the demands of the moral structure of God’s world. In Christ, the Son of man and only law-keeper, dying in the place of man the guilty law-breaker, the justice and the love of God prevail together. Thus the death of Christ for us was the defeat of the devil; but it is not the end of the story, for it was followed by His resurrection, ascension, and crowning with glory and honor. This is the great vindication of Christ’s saving work, the assurance of its perfection and its acceptance by God, as well as its eternal efficacy for man. The defeat of the tyrant naturally means the setting free of those whom he holds in bondage. Rescue is the whole point of the operation.

 

[16-18]  In saying that Christ took to Himself the seed (descendant) of Abraham our author places the incarnation within the perspective of the covenant, of which the incarnate Son is the focal point. It follows (therefore) that He had to be made like His brethren, that is, to identify Himself completely with mankind, whom He came to rescue, by a true incarnation, involving the assumption not only of flesh and blood but also of all human feelings and sensibilities (in all things). Representation requires identification. By His voluntary and victorious endurance of testing and suffering, the incarnate Son gave proof of his mercy and faithfulness. The Greek verb used here (translated propitiation) means to render propitious or well disposed, to conciliate, and when used intransitively, as in this verse, to make propitiation for. To procure our restoration, God himself has met the demands of His own holiness. He has, so to speak, propitiated Himself in our place, thereby achieving the reconciliation to Himself of mankind, who otherwise were hopelessly alienated and under condemnation because of sin.  The help that He brings is twofold: in the first place, forgiveness of sins, the annulment of past defeats, and, in the second place, the power to fight and overcome temptation.

 

My Calling: Heb. 3:1,5-6.

 

[1]  Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; [5]  Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; [6]  but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.  [NASU]

 

[1]  This chapter begins a new section with the primary theme of the superiority of the Son to Moses. The description of the brethren as holy does not imply that they are holy in themselves, but rather “sanctified” or “consecrated” as those who have been chosen and set apart by God. The reference to a heavenly calling shows that the initiative comes from God. Here the readers are admonished to consider, to give thoughtful attention to (an intensive compound meaning to apply one’s mind diligently to something). The designation of Christ by the title Apostle is without parallel in the New Testament. The word apostle means one who is sent and Jesus repeatedly describes Himself as having been sent by the Father into the world. As our high priest Christ is intercessor and the One who prepares the way for us to the land of the living, because He intervenes for us and enables us to pass over the waves of this world and over every calamity to the heavenly fatherland.

 

5]  The contrast between Moses and Christ, both faithful, is now resumed and developed. There are two main points of comparison, namely, that Moses as a servant was faithful in God’s house, whereas, Christ as a Son was faithful over God’s house. Christ displays Himself in a double capacity, as servant and as sovereign: servant in His mediatorial office which involved Him in the service of the household, and sovereign by reason both of His eternal Sonship and of the enthronement that followed His humiliation, and as such the ruler over the household. A further relationship between Moses and Christ is implied in the description of the function of the former as being to testify to the things which were to be spoken later, that is, to be spoken by God. That is to say, an important element of Moses’ stewardship was that of witness, not to himself as though he were the end and fulfillment of God’s purposes, but to realities which were still future and would come to expression in the incomparably greater person of Christ.

 

[6]  As so frequently in this epistle, we are God’s house if, on condition that, we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope. Admonitions such as our author gives here serve to emphasize the seriousness of the Christian’s calling and are thoroughly in line with God’s covenant relationship with His people in former times. A man whose profession of faith is contradicted by the quality of his life should examine himself to see whether he is a Christian at all [2 Cor. 13:5]. What is said here points to a dwindling of confidence, involving inevitably a weakening of evangelical witness, on the part of those to whom this letter is addressed. The pride with which they had formerly testified to their Christian hope was draining away. In the case of our present letter, its recipients would seem to have been heeding suggestions that the expectation of the return of Jesus Christ was a vain hope [2 Pet. 3:3ff]. But it is a mark of true Christianity that constantly and tenaciously we exult in hope of the glory of God [Rom. 5:2]. 

 

My Bible: Heb. 3:7-11.

 

[7]  Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, [8]  DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, [9]  WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me  BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. [10]  THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS'; [11]  AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.'"  [NASU]

 

The comparison between Christ and Moses leads to one between their followers. The writer uses the conduct of the Israelites as a means of challenging his readers to a closer walk with God. There was a promise in the Old Testament that God’s people would enter into rest. The writer sees this promise as fulfilled in Christ. In drawing attention to this, he shows from another angle that Christ is God’s final word to mankind. The writer begins this section with a quotation from Psalm 95:7-11. Israel did not walk in fellowship with God but disobeyed and provoked Him. Therefore they did not enter His rest. Today is emphasized indicating that immediate action is imperative. The voice of God is sounding now. It must not be neglected. To harden the heart is to disobey the voice of God and act in accordance with one’s own desires. Through lack of faith and failure to appreciate God’s purposes of grace, the people of Israel put Him to the test. Since God had done so much for them, they should have trusted Him when they could not see. Instead, they tested His works where they could see. Heart as used in the Bible does not stand for the emotions but for the whole inner being: thoughts, feelings, and will. Often the emphasis is on the mind. The last line of the verse implies that if people really knew the ways of God, they would walk in them. They were not blamed simply for not knowing but for not knowing things they ought to have known and acted on. They did not take the trouble to learn. To neglect opportunity is serious. The seriousness with which God viewed Israel’s sin is shown by the divine oath. This points to an unshakable determination. Rest as used here points to a place of blessing where there is no more striving but only relaxation in the presence of God and in the certainty that there is no cause for fear.

 

My Church: Heb. 3:12-14.

 

[12]  Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. [13]  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. [14]  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,  [NASU]

 

[12]  There is a strong logical connection with the words in verse 7 by which the quotation was introduced: Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, Take care, brethren. In other words, the Holy Spirit has said these things not to provide a static record of past occurrences, but to speak an admonitory word, dynamic and existential, to us in our day. The immediate danger is that there should arise an evil, unbelieving heart in their midst. The unbelieving heart mentioned here is not a heart that has not yet come to belief, but a heart that departs from belief, a heart not firm in faith, the evil nature of which is displayed in an act of willful apostasy. It is not a question of a quasi-passive falling away but of a deliberate, rebellious secession from the living God. It is far more serious to commit apostasy after professing belief than never to have come to faith [cf. 2 Pet. 2:15; Mt. 12:43-45; Heb. 6:4ff, 10:26ff].

 

[13-14]  An important means for withstanding the enticement to apostasy is that of mutual exhortation or admonition. Mutual concern and encouragement are of constant value in the church. This unremitting encouragement of one another in loyalty and perseverance should continue as long as it is still called “Today,” that is, as long as the present day of God’s grace endures. The allusion is to the quotation from Psalm 95 in verse 7 above. Under Moses, that “day” lasted for forty years in the wilderness, and so long as it lasted the opportunity persisted for the people to heed God’s voice and obey his will. As with them, however, the day of divine forbearance will not last forever; it will be succeeded by another “day,” the Day of the Lord, which is the day of judgment for those who have spurned the day of grace [cf. 2 Pet. 3:8-10]. The purpose of the mutual encouragement which he advocates is that that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is a constantly present reality which makes its inroads by means of deceitfulness. Sin first deceives and then hardens, leaving its victims in an irretrievably hopeless position. Our author links authentic participation in Christ with the condition, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. This conditional clause corresponds closely with the conditional clause at the end of verse 6: if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. These conditional statements serve as a test to determine the genuineness of one’s faith and salvation. If you have true saving faith in the Gospel, then, by the help of the Spirit, it is certain that you will meet these conditions.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.          Why did Jesus have to share human nature completely? What three purposes for Christ’s death do you see in verses 14-17? What is the importance of “therefore” and “that” in verse 17? Explain the meaning of propitiation?

 

2.          How does Christ’s role as high priest encourage you in your current situation (17-18)? What kind of high priest is Jesus? Why are these qualities that we would want our high priest to have? Do you think He really understands everything you are going through? Why or why not? As our high priest, what does Jesus do for us?

 

3.          Why would the writer refer to Jesus as “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession?”  How can we fix our thoughts (consider, apply one’s mind diligently in order to learn the inner meaning) upon this Jesus? What are some warning signs that should tell us that we are not fixing our thoughts upon Jesus?

 

4.          What are the confidence and hope that we are to hold fast to? How do we rejoice in the hope? Scholars have long debated the meaning of the “if” clause in 3:6. Look at the following passages where you also find conditional statements: 1 Cor. 15:1-2; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col 1:21-23; Heb. 3:14; 6:4-6. How do these verses relate to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?

 

5.          Why does the writer put so much importance on encouraging one another [13]? What does the author say about the purpose of encouragement? What encouragement can you offer each other? How does verse 14 tie in with this? What is the connection between partakers and confidence or assurance?

 

References:

The Book of Hebrews, Philip Hughes, Eerdmans.

Hebrews 1-8, William Lane, Word Books.

Hebrews, Leon Morris, EBC, Zondervan.