Hebrews Bible Study: Chapter Three

scaling a mountain
I hope you have been enjoying the Hebrews study thus far. We have covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and we have much more to come. If you are new, you can click below to segue to any of the previous posts. If you are a regular, then welcome back!

Link to the previous studies: Hebrews Introduction, Hebrews Chapter One, Hebrews Chapter Two

Our fellowship started with an interesting conversation that had begun about 10 minutes earlier before the official (ha) start time of 6:30am; we just kept going with it…that’s how we roll. A brother in Christ came in a little, what shall we say, crabby…yeah, concerned crabby…not out-of-the-blue crabby. He came in and said good morning to everyone and proceeded to pronounce America a pagan nation! More accurately, he asked everyone how it felt to officially be living in a pagan nation. Oh Lord, here we go! We all agree that our society is devolving into something unrecognizable, but we don’t all see eye to eye on the reasons why. They seem simple enough, but believe me, the reasons for where we are stretch across all barriers and striations of social diversity. And it is a deep issue, touching us to our very identity as Christians and Americans; times are strange indeed, and our situation, we all agree, is only going to get worse. Our greatest challenges are most assuredly before us. But I will say this: my personal opinion (in case you wanted it) is that the church has yet to fulfill her destiny as the bride. I also believe that what some call the “falling away” will happen simultaneously with a great move of the Spirit I refer to as the Third Great Awakening. I read a book by Joel Rosenberg called “Implosion” and he also referred to this seemingly inevitable revival as the Third Great Awakening, but I assure you…I said it first! Call me, Joel.

Some days the world with all of its baggage and predictable, not to mention preventable, behavior can get a person down a bit. But that’s why we come together and have fellowship! So thank God we have a safe environment where we not only pray together but also vent together. The original Greek word for this is koinonia (Strong’s 2842) and means “a having in common, partnership, and fellowship.” It has the implications of sharing our lives; not only perfunctory congeniality but also our very human side. In a good small group of Christians, every person should be completely comfortable to be themselves. Masks in a small group get discovered and discarded. We all have them, but sometimes we don’t recognize that we are wearing them! To me, “real church” is in the small groups where “everyone knows your name”…and your weaknesses, strengths, pet peeves, pet doctrines, and the like. If you are a Christian and are not involved in a small group meeting, I highly suggest you checking this option out. By far the best and easiest way to grow in Christ is to grow together as a team, if you will, in a small group. Progress in literally leaps and bounds is possible in your spiritual maturity. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that one year (going weekly) in a small group is equivalent to at least five years of just attending a Sunday morning service! And that’s being conservative.

Enough of my soap-box, let’s get started.

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

The first thing to note above is that this is the only citation in scripture of Christ being “the Apostle”. This is curious. But if we know the original word’s meaning, it makes a lot more sense. Apostle means “one who is sent”; so it only makes sense that in this capacity, Jesus was sent. He was sent from heaven, from the Father, to the earth. The one practical note I can add here is that in the Great Commission, Christ asks us to “go” and preach the good news of His gospel. So in a very pragmatic way, Christ was sent, and He commands (note: not a suggestion!) us to be the ones that are sent in His Name. I think the wording of our Savior’s prayer in John 17:18 speaks to the clarion relationship: “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

A special note here: the above verse can be narrowly interpreted by some that this was speaking specifically to the 12 disciples only (well, minus Judas). But that doesn’t make sense when you continue reading and put 2 and 2 together. Number one, Jesus continues on to pray for “those who will believe” (that’s you and me) because of the testimony of the now 11 disciples. Secondly, the Great Commission is “go and make disciples” or in other words: go and replicate yourself! How can one make disciples and not be “sent”, or rather, how can one NOT be an apostle when the word “apostle” means “one who is sent”?! Because of our traditions, we limit sometimes the sheer power of the Holy writ! How would your life change if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are indeed an Apostle of Christ, sent into the world to tell of the incredible news that Jesus is the Answer to what ails us all? How would your life change if you could even taste the magnificent glory awaiting a faithful person of God? What you can’t see in full now, will one day come into glory. That my friend is a reason to drop everything we are busy doing and fix our eyes on what REALLY matters.

Another astounding point to ponder is the writer uses the word “holy” as an adjective of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Why is this significant? Couldn’t this just be a couched compliment or an expression? No, and it is more significant than I ever thought. For the writer then defines a distinct parameter for being holy, mainly “partakers of the heavenly calling”. How much different would our gatherings be and how much more honest our relationships if we referred to one another as holy? We are not holy because we deserve it, earn it, or are predisposed to holiness; we are holy because we have been “called out” and are “partakers” in Christ! Let’s unpack the word “partakers” real quick: the Greek word for “partakers” is transliterated metochos (Strong’s #3353) and means “to be a partner, to share in (work, office and dignity)”. So the writer is making a huge leap here! Are you ready to be someone who shares in God’s work, to share His office, and to share His dignity?! No one feels ready of such an honor, and indeed, none of us could earn such a distinction; but by the Holy Spirit working within us, we are not only being sanctified but also have the title of “holy” because whether we realize it or not, we share all with Jesus…I know, I know, it seems impossible most days. But remember, it is not what you can do but rather what He has DONE. We must submit and obey and therein we find the Power to live a holy life. Without the Spirit, we will only become frustrated and bitter…trust me: been there, done that.

The writer makes a distinction here, and we will see this crop up many times, concerning “heavenly” things vs. earthly things. Note the excerpt from Guthrie’s commentary:

“The writer speaks also of the heavenly gift (6:4), the heavenly sanctuary (8:5), heavenly things (9:23), the heavenly country (11:16), and the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22). In all cases the ‘heavenly’ is contrasted with the earthly, and in all cases the heavenly is the superior, the real as compared to the shadow. If the heavenly call is understood in the same sense, it must mean a vocation which has a spiritual and not a material direction.”

There is a particular phenomenon of an attitude that basically says, “I don’t care if the world goes to hell because I’m going to heaven” or “God will ultimately win and do what He will do, so I am looking forward to leaving this fallen world.” But this does not sit well with the “heavenly calling” that the writer of Hebrews is speaking; on the contrary, Guthrie points out that in context, we are speaking of a spiritual calling and a spiritual direction. Let us not be confused by this distinction, as there are persons who are actually rewarded for their heavenly longing. According to scripture, there are a variety of crowns that will be given to saints and one of those prestigious crowns is the Crown of Righteousness. This particular crown (there are five different crowns) is given to those who longed for the Lord’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

Personally, I dream of what the future kingdom will look like, but I don’t know if I qualify for a Crown of Righteousness. But we can’t go to the extreme and disengage in this life. For we are called to “go” and “do”, so in some ways, taken to the extreme, we could literally throw our hands up in surrender, kick back in our easy chairs, and await heaven by death or His second coming. This simply goes counter to all of the other teachings in the New Testament and therefore must be rejected. I know this sounds extreme, but I know more than a few people who would just as soon have it all over with sooner than later.

I also know a few people who will surely receive the Crown of Righteousness. They are effervescent in hope and absolutely a blast to be around! They always seem to find the positive in any negative situation. So being excited about heaven and pining away at the glory to come is a spiritual blessing, but part of that true anticipation entails pouring this hope into others!

Just a side note for your edification at no charge: There are five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament. They are, the one we just talked about, The Crown of Righteousness for those longing for heaven and Christ’s return, The Incorruptible Crown for those who have shown the ability to discipline their fleshly bodies and exercise self-control (1 Corinthians 9:25-27), The Crown of Life for those who endured patiently through the trials in life (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10), The Crown of Glory for godly leaders who were living examples to their brothers and sisters (1 Peter 5:2-4), and The Crown of Rejoicing for those jubilant, soul-winners out there (Daniel 12:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:19). You can do some research on your own and explore the different crowns. The only thing I will add is a question: Does the Bible point to a rewards system? And if so, how does this fly in the face of those who warn of “works based” faith? Hmmmm.
One day, if we are so honored to receive a crown in the earthly kingdom, we will take those crowns and throw them at the feet of Christ. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gift to give Him in His greatest moment of glory? By throwing our crowns at His feet, we say with this gesture that it is all because of Him anyway! What a glorious day that will be when we see our King with our eyes and bow down to Him in enraptured joy, gladly taking our crowns and tossing them at His feet. It gives me chill-bumps…

Verses 2-5 do a comparison between Moses and Christ, again appealing to the Jewish audience’s esteemed, positional paradigm. It is interesting to note that the writer uses an eerily familiar construct found in Paul’s recorded words. When the writer uses the phrase “He who built the house has more honor than the house”, he number one is seriously throwing down the gauntlet here; and number two, using a construct similar to Romans 9:20-21 which says:

20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

The Father is the Potter, and we are His clay (hopefully); Jesus is the Builder, and we are His House. IF…IF…IF…

“If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end…”

This expression is absolutely critical in the Christian life, and because of the magnitude of the “If/then” statement given here, it behooves us to unpack the true, deeper meaning of the original language. To hold fast (transliterated katecho, Strong’s #2772) in this context means “to keep from going away.” Think about that for a minute. This has the implication of not drifting, or not allowing to fade. What do we not want to fade away? Answer: the confidence (transliterated parrhesia, Strong’s #3854), or defined as “freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, openly, frankly, without concealment, and without ambiguity”. The root of the word parrhesia is rheo (Strong’s #4483) which means “to pour forth, to utter”. There is no way around this one folks! This “confidence” is not simply an assurance or a belief or even faith; this confidence is SPOKEN OPENLY with boldness and overflowing, unashamed and HONESTLY. Do you realize that the scripture is telling us that we are the house of Christ if we do not let our enthusiastic testimony fade away? To be silent is to be dead spiritually! Ouch, that one hurts…

And the next if (or requirement) is “rejoicing of the hope”. The word for rejoice (transliterated kauchema, Strong’s #2745) in Greek means “that of which one glories or can glory, a glorying or boasting”. After reading some commentaries on this subject, all seem to agree that this “rejoicing” is an in-your-face kind of action. It would be similar to the fans of a professional sports team after winning a championship with “number-one” foam fingers flapping around, arms raised in victory, dancing, celebrating, and generally too enthusiastic to control! Just imagine “We Are the Champions” playing in the background as you glory in victory…now you catch my drift.
But what are we celebrating? We are celebrating the hope (transliterated elpis, Strong’s #1680) we have in Christ. The word “hope” in this context means “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation”. Heck yeah we ought to be celebrating! Not only is it a proper response to the best news on the planet we call Earth, but it also ushers us into His Presence on a continuous basis.

Psalm 100: “1 A Psalm of Thanksgiving. Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

This message of enthusiasm and bold proclamation of the Truth in Christ is NOT politically correct! It wasn’t politically correct when Hebrews was written, and it isn’t politically correct today. But it is a necessity according to the writer; so you can agree or disagree with the statement and the presentation of an “if/then” ultimatum but it warrants careful examination and some serious time in prayer. For me, I am not that excitable…except when it comes to the kingdom of God. I used to be shy, and people who know me now will tell you I am anything but shy. When you finally wrap your arms around grace, there really isn’t anything that can hold you back. If you struggle with this, as I have struggled with this, I suggest you find a pathway to this joy. Some people find it in prayer, some find it in reading the promises of God, some find it in a hard-rock Christian song about victory, some find it just by meditating with the Spirit; but whatever it takes, nothing beats the absolute freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Be free to be free. And be bold about it for goodness sakes, it is your birthright!

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” 12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

In verse 7, we find a peculiar inference. The writer intimates that it is the Holy Spirit who “says” and not David. The scripture quoted is from Psalm 95 (the third movement of Psalm 95 to be exact), and we know that David wrote this. But this is clearly a case of what we discussed in Hebrews 1, mainly, that it is by the Holy Spirit and through David! This piece of scripture is referring to the times that despite God’s miraculous actions in the earthly realm, His people still battled with unbelief. I love the way the writer then draws into the “here and now”: we start with the rebellion of unbelief with the ancient Israelites, we get caught into a Psalm written many centuries later, then we are transported into the letter to the Hebrews, and right now I am reminding us once again! To all who can hear, “Today is the day of salvation…if you will hear His voice.”

14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Notice, another conditional clause: “if you will hear His voice”. The writer mentions this three times: once in the original Psalm, once again in verse 13, and yet again in verse 15. If you know much about biblical construction, then you will know that anytime something is mentioned 3 times…listen up! You see, there are two responses from us to God when He speaks: 1.) You can believe and obey or 2.) You can harden your heart and sin. There is an immense connection repeated throughout the entire Bible between “belief” and “obey”. One cannot exist without the other; in fact, they are so tied together that the words can be interchangeable. Belief always leads to obedience. Unbelief always leads to “the deceitfulness of sin”. I will address this again in later chapters, as we are running out of time once again. But ponder on this heavenly Truth: we cannot enter into God’s rest with unbelief in our hearts; for, to believe and NOT obey means that you really didn’t believe in the first place.