“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;” (Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1)
This verse concludes the thought begun previously: that the Christian has been delivered from the weakness of the flesh:
Heb 2:14 “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”
- the wickedness of the Devil
- the wastedness of life
Hebrews 2:15 "And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
To be delivered from all of this means to be delivered to something! To be delivered to what?
Having encountered the cross of Christ (Heb 2:14,15) we have been cut off from and set apart from the world behind us. We have been delivered from Sin, Satan and judgment and death! Delivered from all of this, but delivered to what? In Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1 we stand on the brink of destiny; ready to move into all the inheritance that God has for us. We have not yet quite made it. There is the potential to press on into all that God has for us.
- Rest in Christ (chps 3 + 4)
- Relationship with Christ (chps 8-10; 10:19-22)
- Resemblance to Christ (chps 10 to 13; 10:14; 11:40; 13:21)
Here on the edge of our destiny, God has not left us alone. To aid His people in attaining their destiny He has provided a 2 fold ongoing ministry in Christ. We are called to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession; Christ Jesus". If the writer had called us to "consider Jesus" or to "consider Him" as he does in Hebrews 12:3 we could well be left floundering wondering where to start. If we were simply to consider Christ Jesus, we could each, surely from the very youngest give some kind of appreciation of Christ; maybe from the simple Bible stories of baby Jesus to the stories of His miracles. Older believers could speak of the Cross work and saving work of Christ. Perhaps some could speak of His Person, His character, of what He means to us, of what He means to the Father.
- We could consider Him as presented by Zechariah the Prophet:
Zec 6:12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
- We could consider Him as presented by Pilate: "Behold the Man"
Joh 19:5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
- We could consider Him as presented by Pilate: "Behold your King"
Joh 19:14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
- We could consider Him as presented by Isaiah in chp 40: "behold your God"
Isa 40:9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
- We could consider Him as presented by Jehovah in Isaiah 42: "Behold my Servant"
Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
Mat 12:18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
- We could consider Him as presented by John the Baptist:
Joh 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
- We could consider Him as pointed out on the Mount of transfiguration by the Father as the "my Son in whom is all my delight"
Or we could simply: "Consider Him" (Hebrews 12:3). The point is that when it comes to Christ there is so much that we could consider! Where do we start? In Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1 we are given 2 aspects of Christ to consider:
- Christ as the Apostle
- Christ as the High Priest
Hebrews 3:1 thus becomes something of a key verse; connecting us back to Hebrews 2: "Wherefore Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling..." completing the picture of sanctification commenced in chapter 2: the world behind us and the cross before us and opening up for us the answer to the question: If I have left the world behind me and the Devil behind me and sin and Satan behind me, what lies ahead of me? For this we have a helpful illustration in the depths of the Old Testament scripture: the nation of Israel as it exits Egypt:
- Leaving the world behind
- Leaving the "pleasures of sin behind"
- Leaving the tyranny of Pharaoh behind
- Leaving slavery behind
this Spirit inspired and helpful Old Testament illustration will form much of the content of chapters 3 and 4. So chapter 3 vs 1 connects back to chapter 2. The subsequent 2 chapters are in essence an exposition of this verse. Consider:
- The Apostle
- High Priest
When we consider:
- The Apostle - we consider the OT Picture of Moses - chp 3
- The High Priest - we consider the OT Picture of Aaron - chp 4 + 5
So why shoulder we : "consider the apostle and High Priest of our profession?" For from chapter 2 we have a people, who have left:
- Their families
- Their religion
- The sacrifices
- The temple
Behind them and now they stand rejected by Judaism, ostracised by Pagans, hated by Rome. They stand persecuted and rejected by the world at large. In these circumstances what happens? We begin to get discouraged; to have "hands that hang down" and "feeble knees" and we begin to flag. And so for these believers there is a special ministry of Christ. This is a ministry just for them! A two fold ministry of Christ as:
- High Priest
This is just for them! Just for those and only those who have left the world behind them and have the cross before them! This is the transitional ministry of Christ; for a people between Egypt and Canaan. The punch line comes in Hebrews 3:6 :"whose house are we if we hold fast..." As a called out people we find that Christ not only calls but He keeps! There is provision in Christ to call and to save. There is provision in Christ to keep and to sanctify. As the Apostle of God Moses communicated from God to man. Consider the strange nature of the Exodus; 600,000 men plus women and children; at least 3 million souls maybe a lot more, leave Egypt. The events surrounding this Exodus were remarkable enough but consider the events leading up to this Exodus from Egypt. Over 3 million souls ready to leave their homes behind, a roof over their head, familiar surroundings, a regular supply of food, to go on a journey! Go and ask these men and women who are preparing to leave:
- Where are you going? They will tell you: 'we don't know'
- How are you going to get there? They will tell you: 'we don't know'
- Why are you going? why are you for leaving Egypt? They will tell you; God has called us out.
So that is a great step, a great step of faith, to leave the world behind and move out. So that is a great thing to hear fro God! Tell me what is it like to hear from God? They would tell you; 'we don't know, we've never heard from God, but we know a man who has - Moses - sent from God to the people of Israel! This is Moses the Apostle. Moses was a man who had encounters with God and flowing out of those encounters with God came the experience of God to Israel. Moses was a man who met God:
- At the burning bush
- In Mount Sinai
- In the tabernacle
- In the Wilderness
Moses was a man who came:
- From the bush with a MISSION
- From the mount with a MESSAGE
- From the sanctuary with a MINISTRY
From the Bush with a Mission :
The Redemption of God
This Moses who was born for the moment, who came into time for a purpose - to deliver his people
This Moses who at 3 months of age became the focus of Satanic interest and attack
This Moses who was preserved through the slaughter of the innocents
This Moses who was preserved in Egypt from the attentions of an evil despot
This Moses was the man who condescended from the palace to the pasture
This Moses the man who was a sovereign but became a shepherd
This Moses the man who laid aside the Sovereigns Crown to take the Shepherd Crook
This Moses who was rejected by his people as a Prince and a judge (Exodus 2:14)
This Moses who was tested in the backside of the desert before taking up his public ministry (40 years for Moses and 40 days for Christ)
This Moses who came to his people presenting the title of God: "I AM" (Ex 3:14)
This Moses who performed miracles amongst the people
This Moses who came to bring a 7 fold redemption to Israel (Ex 6:6ff):
"Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and ....
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and - removal
I will rid you out of their bondage, and - release
I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And - redeem
I will take you to me for a people, and - relationship
I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And - responsibility
I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and - realisation
I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD – remain (Exo 6:6-8)
This Moses who demonstrated his power over the serpent (Ex 4:3ff)
This Moses who delivered his people on the evening of the Passover.
This Moses who led his people out under the power of the blood of the lamb.
This Moses who brought salvation and deliverance on the night that was marked by the death of the firstborn.
This Moses, this Moses is the faithful servant of the Lord who came from His presence with this Mission: to deliver His people under the power of the shed blood of the passover lamb.
And all of this is but a shadow of what we find in our Moses / our Apostle; for all that I have just said of Moses I could say and more of Christ!
This Moses came not only from the burning bush with a mission but:
This Moses Came from the Mount with a Message:
A Revelation of God
The Righteousness of God - the absolute and unflinching righteousness of God (Ex 20)
The Requirement for Sacrifice
The Provision in Grace for man to meet with God in the pattern of the tabernacle system:
- The altar of burnt offering and the need for sacrifice
- The laver and the need for washing
The way of approach to God in the tabernacle which included the following items:
- The altar of incense
- The shewbread
- The table
- The lampstand
- The vail
- The ark of the covenant
- The mercy seat
all speaking of Christ and to be developed in the remainder of Hebrews.
Moses revealed the absolute truth concerning God, the absolute facts of Gods Holiness and character as contained in the law and the pattern, unchanging and prophetic of sacrifice and sanctuary, but more than this; this Moses came from the Sanctuary with a Ministry:
A Relationship with God:
With Moses there was a daily provision in his relationship with God for every eventuality in life.
He not only conveyed a revelation of absolute truth from God, of the unchanging facts of who God is and what God is but an ongoing and abiding ministry for those many occasions in life when we need personal direction on life.
From that ongoing personal relationship with God, ultimately formalised in the tabernacle sanctuary came such ministry as:
Leadership – guidance in the way (Ex 13:17)
Answers to the apparently insurmountable problems of life (Ex 14:15ff) when trapped between the armies of Pharaoh and the Red Sea. To go forward – death by sea, or to go back – death by sword – you choose: death by sword or death by sea? There are only 2 options isn't there? Out of that relationship with God comes a 3rd option! “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Ex 14:13) Notice how we cannot predict by reason nor by right what can come out of that sanctuary experience!
Who made the bitter waters sweet, the difficulties bearable by casting in the tree (Ex 15) to the waters of Marah.
Who interceded for them with God for manna (Ex 16)
Who satisfied them with water from the rock (Ex 17)
This sanctuary ministry of Moses was very precious.
It brought not only the right answers and the right provision for the needs of the people but it brought those provisions at the right time!
- The Mission of Christ – Redemption
- The Message of Christ – Revelation of God
- The Ministry of Christ – Relationship with God
What makes me wonder if some never get onto the 3rd?
- A ministry of repeated messages – it certainly succeeds in declaring the truth of God but denies the relevance, the ability of God to minister in a fresh way on each occasions.
- A culture of dependence upon men – manifesting itself in various ways from the mega churches of America to the employment of pastors
- The counselling epidemic – not convinced at all that God can meet our need in a personal way.
With all this encouragement that the resources are there for us in Christ, can I sound a tiny note of caution. It is a small note but very important! I want to carry you with me on this one:
Would you agree that in the first aspect of the apostolic ministry of Christ which we have considered – the mission of redemption – that there is in that mission a sense of the tragic?
Do you believe in an all sufficient Christ?
Do you believe that there is enough in Christ for all who will come?
Do you believe in the terms of John 3:16.
We do understand that “salvation is of the Lord,” and that “no man can come to me except the Father which is in heaven draw Him,” and that but it be for the Grace of God none would be saved, for “there are none that seek after God, no not one.” We are clear about absolute Divine Sovereign personal election to salvation. We also understand that whilst only God can draw, convict and convert man tragically “will not come” and refuses in disbelief the message of salvation. In the first of these apostolic ministries of Christ we can say that there is provision but sadly many reject it, neglect it and miss it! That's not new to us. Now consider the final of these apostolic ministries of Christ; that daily ministry of relationship and provision from the sanctuary. Here is my note of caution; provision can be made and is made and yet we can fail to take it!
As believers we might:
Diversion - Seek resources elsewhere!
Distraction - Neglect - Become distracted and miss the provision! Have we seen it so often? That message would have been a real help to them but there not here?
Offended and embittered – provision there for our wounded spirit and grieved conscience but make sure we take that provision for those occasions in life when our spirit is offended or our feelings are hurt; especially if we are the kind of person who nurses a grudge; who tends to dwell on things; moody or morose.
These are all illustrations but stick to the scriptures; there is none of that here!
Seeking resources elsewhere – it was an issue: “if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in Him” (Heb 10:38); “who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright” (Heb 12:16); “be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupies therein, we have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” (Heb13:9-10)
Neglect – it was an issue : “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:25)
Bitterness and offense was an issue: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (Heb 12:14-16)
“wherefore Holy brethren” (3:1)
There is no message like the gospel; that paints a picture of mans soul in such deep dark sinful shades of blackness
So much so that many will tell that the picture painted by the Bible is:
with such statements as:
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Mind you if that is your mind on the biblical diagnosis of your condition I might be tempted to enquire as to how you arrive at your conclusion that the Biblical view is overly stated, too bleak and black, too dark and demonic?
Is it that your own heart that tells you God is wrong?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). Can you trust the assessment of your own heart by your heart? Medicine has a number of golden rules; one of them being; never attempt to diagnose your own problems, go to a better doctor. The bible does not attempt to sanitise the human condition. The village philosopher will tell you there is good and bad in everyone. The Eastern philosophies will speak of Ying and Yang. The mystics and self help gurus will speak of harnessing your own energies and Shakas.
The Bible doesn't sanitise the soul
The Bible scrutinises the soul
The Bible examines the soul according to a higher set of standards
The Bible condemns the soul
What does this have to do with Hebrews 3? Not only is it true to say that no book / revelation paints such a deep dark picture of the human soul in increasing shades of black but no book elevates man so highly:
“wherefore Holy brethren” (3:1)
We will never move forwards by pretending that:
- Egypt isn't that bad
- Slavery isn't that severe
- Tyranny ain’t that terrible
- World isn't that wicked
That won't move us forward; that will only draw us back
Numbers 11:4-6; Ex 16:3; Num 21:5
Minimising our problems might seem intellectually like a good idea but it is not the way forward
Minimising our problems is the way back to Egypt
We might think that going soft on sin is a kindness but it is rather a fatal deception, to see reality as something other than it truly is.
In fact God has gone to extraordinary lengths in those opening 4 / 5 chapters of Exodus to turn up the heat in Egypt to let His people feel the true heart and nature of Egypt; with its:
- Satanic influence
- Slaying of the infants
This is a wicked place
A merciless place
A ruthless place
That when the call comes His people might not only be able to leave but that they might be willing to cleave Egypt behind. If we do not appreciate how desperate our situation truly is and how helpless we truly are and how terrible this world actually is and the danger which lies ahead we may be tempted to adopt the philosophy of
F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby':
“tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arm further... and then one fine morning – so we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
We will not get there simply by trying a little harder nor by simply pushing on a little further. This Biblical view of the sinfulness of self, that glimpse of deep desperate darkness could lead us to despair and to despise ourselves and others. Be encouraged – no book paints such a bleak picture of the human condition and no book offers such a glorious and elevated glimpse of where man can be (3:1). If this is where we can be how can we be there?
“The Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (3:1)
There is something here very relevant for today; that Christ has come not only to bring us out of Egypt but to bring us into the promised land; into rest. Christ has been sent from God to man to bring man to God. Over the years we have met many who wanted to be out:
- Out of their problems
- Out of despair
- Out of drugs
- Out of drink
- Out of distress
- Out of pain
But to desire to be IN is another matter altogether:
- Into Christ
- Into God
- Into rest
- Into holiness
- Into truth
- Into heaven
Here lies the crises at the core of Hebrews
A people :
- Discouraged by persecution
- Distant from the sanctuary
- Departed from the word
and exposed and vulnerable to all 3 because at their heart, here is a people who want out of death, out of judgement, out of hell but who are not totally committed, convicted nor convinced that they must be INTO Christ!
We have heard the “heavenly calling” (3:1) and we have been set free from the world and from Satan and enabled to respond to this calling.
The ties that hold us to a world bound by Sin and Satan and death have been broken.
The calling is upward and away.
Hebrews chapter 2 presents the negative – what we have been delivered from
Hebrews 3:1ff presents the positive – what we have been delivered to
In order to get a handle on the purpose of the Christian life: “consider the apostle and High Priest of our profession Christ Jesus.” Here is one who not only brings us out from Egypt but He leads us into promised rest. Moses had this as his ambition, a greater than Moses (Heb 3:3ff) can deliver on the reality. Not only does Christ lead us into the inheritance God has for us, the apostle commissioned and sent to us but He leads us into the presence of God Himself as our Great High Priest.
Christ leads us both into:
- Rest – the Apostle
- Sanctuary – our High Priest
an important and helpful observation to make at this point in our studies is that in Christ these are two ways of speaking of the same reality.
As God brought Israel out of Egypt He brought them out of literal, physical hard labour, bondage, abuse and death.
For Israel in departing from Egypt there was literal physical rest from the task masters of Egypt.
Was this rest just physical inactivity?
The cessation of work and the emancipation from slavery was only ½ of it:
Exo_7:16 And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.
Exo_8:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Exo_8:20 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Exo_9:1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Exo_9:13 And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
Exo_10:3 And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.
At the heart of Gods calling out of Egypt and Gods 7 fold redemption from bondage in Exodus chapter 6 lay Gods calling to Himself; to get up and get God:
“I will take you to me for a people” (Exodus 6:7)
Gods call was not only a negative one, to down tools in Egypt but to swap dungarees for prayer mats, to swap work in Egypt for worship in the promised land.
As the nation left Egypt and went out to worship God, He had this key promise for them:
“And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”
The moving out to Gods presence first in the wilderness and ultimately in the promised land held this promise with it: “rest”
Notice the key truth from Exodus 33:14 – that the rest God promised His people was the enjoyment of His presence.
The Rest of God lay in Himself.
This verse helps connect for us the themes of the first 10 chapters of Hebrews:
The Person of Christ (chps 1-2)
The Prospect of Rest (chps 3+4)
The Priestly ministry of Christ (chps 5 to 8)
The Place where we find Christ – the Sanctuary (chps 8 to 10)
The Person of Christ brings us into Rest
This Rest is the Presence of God Himself (Ex 33:14)
In His High Priestly ministry Christ brings us into the Sanctuary, by a new and living way (Heb 10:20), as we draw near to that Throne of Grace:
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16)
we find over the mercy seat:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.” (Lev 16:2)
“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”
and upon the mercy seat – the presence of God:
As the Apostle – Christ brings us into rest – that rest is the presence of God. As the Apostle Christ brings us into a relationship with God, this is the rest of God.
As the High Priest – Christ brings us into the sanctuary where we find the presence of God. As our High Priest Christ brings us into a relationship with God.
Would it be correct to say then that the essence of Christian experience lies in this:
A relationship with God
and this progressively and finally perfectly brings us into:
A resemblance to God
where have we heard this before??
Not everyone who came out with Moses was prepared to go in with Joshua
For them, in the sovereign purposes of God, the wilderness became a place of decision and a place of scrutiny, a place where hearts were exposed and a place where God could see what true desires are:
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deu 8:2)
Part of our systematic Bible teaching ministry series of studies in the book of Hebrews. Audio recording of this Bible study in Hebrews is free to download.
Yours by God's Grace in Christ, Dr J Stewart Gillespie.