Continuing with our study in the book of Hebrews, we find in Chapter 3 a shift in focus. In Chapters 1 and 2 we have a thorough argument as to who Jesus Christ is, and why He is worthy of our worship and reverence moving forward. Now, the author is going to take us backward and demonstrate through the Old Testament Law the superiority of Christ and the legitimacy of the New Covenant. But first, a call to accept once and for all the absolute superiority of Christ above ALL OTHERS--Including the Giver of the Law that most of the remaining book will be discussing: Moses.
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
Truly, Moses is presented as a mere servant of Jesus Christ--the Son who rules over the House of God--the body of believers. Thus the author of Hebrews continues, reminding the readers of the words of God found in Psalms 95:7-11, which prophesied of the time when God would once more speak directly to His people:
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
We are a blessed people to have received the promise of God!
Indeed, God has spoken once more directly to Man by and through Jesus Christ, and continues to do so by the Holy Spirit which was sent to be a comforter and guide to us. Our hearts too have been transformed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, tender and willing to be led and molded by the Lord in all humility. Our hearts, however can become sinful if we allow ourselves to turn away from God and the Truth of His Word. It is for this reason that we are positioned into a body of believers that can share in Christ's promises and can encourage one another to a higher walk with the Lord:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
Verse 14 says that if we can "hold our original conviction firmly to the end" it means that we have truly come to share in Christ. Often, this is utilized in legalist systems to support the idea that those who fail to live up to the rules of the group are not really saved.
That teaching however, is nowhere supported by scripture, and there are ample examples in scripture of the failings of man being completely ineffective at disrupting the finished work of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!". The work done by Christ cannot be undone, and those who have truly surrendered the Lordship of their Life to Christ are a new creation and the old is gone. There is no "old man" to become once more, and thereby lose what was gained in Christ. What Christ has given is a free gift--an irrevocable one.
The redeemed will not live in continual unrepentant sin (1 John 3:6), but we are fooling ourselves if we think for a moment that any one of us is able to go without sinning ever. Though we are new creations in Christ with hearts of flesh, desiring to do good, we are weak; and as long as we are in a body of flesh, we will be tempted by it. It is for this reason that we needed a Savior to begin with, and for this reason that we need Jesus Christ every single day of our lives in a position to intercede on our behalf. We need His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, and we need a strong Help in a time of trial.
Moving forward in the text, we find that if we are able to "hold to our original conviction" it means that, just as the Psalmist wrote in Psalms 95:7:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
"Holding to our original conviction" then is very clearly a matter of the heart, and a matter of constant and continual surrender to God. It means that we do not rebel against His authority in our lives and we do not harden our hearts against Him. No matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, we must all be willing to say, "I could be wrong." THAT is a heart of flesh--a yielded and humble heart, listening for the voice of the Lord.
The writer continues with the idea of this softened heart by recalling the condition of the Jews in the wilderness under Moses about whom Psalms 95 was referring when it says, "as you did in the rebellion":
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
So once again the point is clearly made that God desires a surrendered heart. The people in the wilderness heard the Word of the Lord, and disobeyed, sinning outright against God's express instructions to them. It wasn't that they didn't know better--they all knew what had been commanded them. They didn't try and do the right thing and fail--in open rebellion they disobeyed, knowing full well that they were transgressing. It was a hardened heart--a heart intent upon rebellion that without shame did exactly what they knew was wrong--that was what separated them from the Lord.
They did not believe that God was Who He said He was, and they didn't truly believe that God was going to follow through with His plan were they to transgress. It was not the physical sin act in and of itself that separated--it was the heart committed to wickedness that did. David sinned repeatedly, but he had a heart that was tender. When convicted of his transgression, David accepted that he was entirely in the wrong. David, though clearly not an example of exemplary life choices, is heralded as a man after God's own heart--and the reason is clear! David had a tender heart. He wasn't perfect, but he was sincere. There was not a fleck of rebellion in him. He absolutely gave into temptation of the flesh over and over again. But never once did David choose to reject God's authority in his life.
Chapter 3 begins by explaining to us that Jesus Christ is superior to even Moses. It then emphasizes how at one time, God did not operate at a personal level because of the hardness of men's hearts--the concepts presented in Hebrew 1:1 being reinforced once more with a slightly different emphasis. By reading through Psalms 95 we get to see the Old Testament principle brought forward and applied to believers of Christ. In this instance, rebellion against God vs. surrender to His will in our lives is contrasted, the former discouraged and the latter praised! And finally, the chapter concludes with a fundamental truth--that what separates us from God is unbelief in His divine promises.
It is a beautiful thing to study the scripture like this--one verse at a time, one chapter at a time, in order and in context. There are topics that I've found repeated throughout the Bible that get very little attention in legalistic teachings--such as the sufficiency of Christ alone and the truly effective nature of His sacrifice for us. Taken out of context, these things can be minimized, but when we study the Bible daily--really immersing ourselves in it and committing ourselves to understanding it the Truth becomes so clear. Things that are overemphasized in the message suddenly take on a more balanced place in our lives, and we can really start to embrace the Gospel in its simplicity.
I'm going to continue going through the book of Hebrews one chapter at a time, and I sincerely hope you too read and study the text, allowing God to speak to you through it. Please share your thoughts concerning Hebrews chapter 3! I would love to hear what this passage means to you, too.