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Themes in Hebrews Lesson 3 – Part 1.

26/11/2011

Lesson 3 of the Themes in Hebrews series was too long for a single post, so it’s in two parts, and this is part 1. Part 2 will follow in a few days.

Introduction…

In the Old Testament, God spoke to His people and to mankind through a number of prophets, who were specially chosen and equipped by Him, to convey his message, his will and purpose. But in these last days, God has spoken to us an a better way. He has spoken in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the message of God is entirely summed up. In Christ, God has finally spoken to mankind.

The Hebrew Christians, probably Jewish converts, living in Italy, we’re worried. Persecution was coming, and in Italy, under the reign on (perhaps) Nero, persecution would be severe and relentless. Nero thought nothing of using Christians as living torches to illuminate the streets of Rome. Nero and other Roman emperors used Christians as sport in the arena, allowing the gladiators to kill them in merciless and painful ways, just to amuse the crowd. Christians were thrown into pits of hungry lions, so that the watchers could bet on how long they would last before they were torn to shreds.

The Hebrew Christians were afraid, and so would we have been. Why put yourself at such risk? Jews were being persecuted too. But the Jews had great help. They had the angels, (they thought) watching over them, whereas the Christians seemed to emphasis Jesus, to the exclusion of all others. Would it not be better to return to Judaism?

“No!” says the Author. Angels are great. But Jesus is greater! He far surpasses the angels in every way. But wait, the Jews have MOSES! And Moses was the greatest of all prophets…

Lesson 3, Part 1.

Don’t be a Loose Brick!

Read Hebrews 3:1-6

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself.

4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,

6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

So, the Hebrew Author has shown that Christ is far better than angels. To drive the point home, he tells his readers that while the word spoken by angels was reliable, the word spoken by Christ (and in this age, God doesn’t speak to us, except through Christ) is even more reliable. If rejecting the word of angels was dangerous, how much greater the danger in rejecting the word spoken by Christ.

We must be careful of drifting. (The analogy is nautical. The word ‘drifting’ is used to describe a ship whose moorings haven’t been carefully tied, and when strong tides come, the knots holding it to the harbour loosen, and it drifts out to sea and is lost. We are warned to make sure that a work of grace has actually been done on our lives. Now Hebrews add to this, using another analogy – a house.)

In this passage we are required to:

  1. Consider Christ!

We must do this. We must consider Christ because we are CALLED to consider him. The Author calls this a heavenly calling. William Barclay notes that this is a double calling, for we are called from heaven, and we are called to heaven. The Author is once again subtly reminding the Hebrew Christians that he who calls us will bring us home, and he will expand on this later in chapter 3 and 4. So, because we are brothers, and because we have been called by God and because we have our names already recorded in heaven, and we have been separated from the world, we must consider Christ. So…

a) Christ is our Apostle. The Hebrew author is the only author who refers to Christ as an apostle, and he refers to no other apostle as such. The word simply means an ‘ambassador’ – someone who is sent and who carries the authority of the one who sent him. So Christ is our apostle in the sense that he has been sent to us from God, perfectly bringing us God’s message, and with all of heaven’s authority for his mission. Again, the Hebrew author is stating the superiority of Christ, recapping on his message in Hebrews 1:2.

b) Christ is greater than Moses. The Author introduces the next stage in his treatise on the superiority of Christ. Perhaps the Hebrews have learned the lesson that Christ is greater than angels and it would be pointless in going back to Judaism, just to get the protection that the angels supposedly would offer the Jew. But there might be another reason. What about Moses? The Jews had Moses as their greatest Prophet. Surely it might be worth returning to Judaism for the sake of having the authority of Moses?

Now it is worth taking a moment to consider just how important Moses was to the Jew. All of the OT prophets were in some way called by God and equipped by him to speak out his will. Moses, according to the Jews, was different.

* Moses was a prophet. We often think of Moses as a Lawgiver. Remember that prophecy in the OT was largely FORTHTELLING rather than FORETELLING. Foretelling mostly occurred by a process of prophetic foreshortening, where a prophet speaks to his own times, and by extension, God applies that to events in the eschaton. So Moses, in setting forth the Law, was in fact acting as a prophet, showing the people the will and the requirements of God. But…

* Moses was the greatest of prophets. The way in which God spoke to Moses seems to have been different from the other prophets, and this was seen by the Jews as being of great significance.

Numbers 12:5-8

5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.

6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.

8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

Do you see how God spoke differently to Moses? To the Jews this made Moses the greatest of all the prophets, and may have been a fairly good reason for the Hebrews to consider giving up their Christian profession and returning to Judaism in times of stress and trouble. The Jews have Moses!

2. Compare Construction. Hebrews now makes an interesting analogy. Moses was ‘faithful in his house’. It is a direct reference to the Numbers text above, where Moses was recorded as faithful in God’s House.

In the NT, God’s Kingdom/the Church is referred to as a House.

2 Cor. 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

1Pet2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7

1Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God:

So Moses was faithful in God’s House. But Jesus has been counted more worthy of honour than Moses. Here’s the reasons why…

* Moses was part of the house, but Jesus was the designer and builder of the house.

3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honour than the house itself.

* Moses made a contribution to the house, but Jesus made everything and so owns everything in this world.

4(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

* Moses was a faithful servant in the house, but Jesus is the SON, the one who has the legal right to the deeds of the house. HE OWNS IT! It is ‘his own house’.

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.

(Some commentators argue that because of the reference to the faithfulness of Christ, this passage is ‘exhortatory’. Moses was faithful. Christ was more faithful. Moses saw the promised Rest, but never entered it. Jesus has not only entered into heaven, but will take us with him. When we consider the Crucifixion and Christ’s faithfulness in completing His Father’s will, would we not also be persuaded to be faithful in our time of trial, as He was for us?)

Be aware that the word house is used in this passage in both it’s Biblical contexts:

* A house is a BUILDING. in that sense it is a structure, designed and built by Christ and placed in God’s world.

* A house is a HOUSEHOLD. (cf the Philippian gaoler and his HOUSE). The house is the people who dwell in the structure. Hence, in the house Moses is the servant, Christ is the Son.

Now The Author applies what he has taught. He writes, And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. He has used the analogy of a boat, not properly tied to the quay, so that when the maritime stress occurs, the ship drifts away to sea and is shipwrecked. Now he warns us about apostasy in terms of a building.

We can be part of the building, apparently part of the house, look solid enough, but if the cement that glues us into the structure is weak, the brick may come loose and be separated from the rest of the structure.

Here’s the challenge. Are we truly part of the house?

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