Persevere in the Faith – Hebrews 3

Read the Passage: Hebrews 3

Listen to the Redeemed Mind Podcast: Hebrews 3

Priesthood of Jesus (3:1–6)

In light of his previous teaching about the kinship between Jesus and man, the author begins to exhort his readers to persevere in the faith and to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). Note that this is the only time in Scripture that Jesus is called an Apostle, which signifies that Christ is a “sent one,” a “messenger,” or a “delegate” from the Father, whom—being God Himself—has all of the rights, power, and authority of the Father. Furthermore, the term “consider” literally means “to fix one’s mind upon.” This, then, is a call to meditate upon Jesus’ work and His faithfulness, for it will aid believers in their own work and faithfulness. The mentioning of a “house” in Heb. 3:2 refers to a household or to a family of people. For Moses this house was the nation of Israel; for Jesus this house refers to the church (cf. Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:19–20; 1 Pet. 2:5).

Having mentioned Moses and God’s house in Heb. 3:2, the author next shows that Jesus is superior to Moses by using an illustration about building a house. The author argues that just as a house-builder is superior to the house that is built, so Jesus is superior to Moses, for Christ built the house of which Moses is only a participant. In this passage we are told twice that Moses was “faithful in all His house” (Heb. 3:2, 5a); yet this was only “a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward” (Heb. 3:5b). Indeed, Jesus is the new and better Moses who was promised in Deut. 18:15–19 (cf. Acts 3:22, 26; 7:37). If we are faithful to Christ and “firm to the end” (Heb. 3:6), it is a sign that we are part of that which Jesus is building—His house, the church, the Body of Christ. Moreover, regarding one’s position in the house that is built, the author notes that Moses is only a servant, while Jesus is the Son.

Exhortation to Believers (3:7–15)

In Heb. 3:7–15 the author continues his warning and encouragement about persevering in the faith. One way that we can be faithful to Christ is to believe and to obey the revealed Word of God. Here the author appeals to this principle as he quotes Ps. 95:7b–11. This psalm was written by David; however, likely wanting to emphasize the divine nature of the Bible, the author writes, “As the Holy Spirit says” (Heb. 3:7). Note it is probable that this psalm was composed to be used during the Feast of Tabernacles, a celebration designed to remind God’s people about His provision during the wilderness wanderings and His eventual deliverance of Israel into the Promised Land. Indeed, this Psalm was meant to spur the Jews on to covenant faithfulness, because of God’s faithfulness, despite the many heartaches that their forefathers experienced on account of their own unbelief.

As Israel was delivered from bondage in Egypt, the people were privileged to “hear God’s voice” (Heb. 3:7) and they also “saw His works” (Heb. 3:9). Yet, as the Old Testament narrative reports, Israel did not stay faithful. Rather, they continually grumbled during the exodus event (cf. Num. 14:20–23). Incredibly, this lack of faith resulted in the death of every adult over the age of twenty, with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb, during forty years of wilderness wandering (cf. Num. 14:29–30). Given this sobering example, the author instructs his readers, “Exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). The idea here is that the deceitfulness of sin can harden anyone, thus believers must encourage one another daily. Furthermore, in an arresting verse, the author writes, “For we have become partakers of Christ [only] if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:14).

Unbelief of Israel (3:16–19)

Continuing with his warning about “hold[ing] fast [to] the confidence” (Heb. 3:6) we have in Christ, as a warning, in Heb. 3:16–18 the author points to the failure of ethnic Israel to trust in God and to obey Him. Sometimes Bible readers assume that all ethnic Jews in the Old Testament were in a personal relationship with God; however, as Paul teaches, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Rom. 9:6–7; cf. Deut. 29:4; 32:5; Acts 7:51; 1 Cor. 10:5). Thus, just as external factors such as ethnicity, circumcision, and participation in the exodus event did not guarantee that an Israelite was redeemed, so Christians dare not root their salvation in outward considerations such as their church membership, giving, and attendance. Indeed, in God’s grace, salvation is available by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Application Questions:

  1. What things or events challenge your faith the most, perhaps making it difficult to persevere in the faith?
  2. Upon what things do you usually fix your attention? Do you regularly meditate on biblical/theological themes?
  3. If Moses was a picture, an object lesson, or an illustration of the Messiah who was to come, what are some similarities you can identify between Moses and Jesus?
  4. Why do we often not believe in God’s promises, despite His goodness and His faithfulness in our lives?
  5. What is the difference between God’s discipline of believers and God’s punishment of unbelievers?