Hebrews 3 Commentary

vv.1-3 “Moses held a special place in the hearts of the Jews of the first century. He was considered to be the greatest person in history in certain strands of Jewish tradition, and in some, the Messiah was expected to be a ‘new Moses’ (cf. Deut. 18:15 – 18: ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers …’). Other evidence suggests that Moses held an even higher status than the angels because of his special intimacy with God. Therefore, the author of Hebrews moves naturally from his discussion of the angels as Old Testament messengers (2:1 – 2) to the preeminent messenger of the old covenant — Moses himself.”[1]

v.1 “He bids his hearers fix their attention on Jesus. The word he uses (katanoein) is suggestive. It does not mean simply to look at or to notice a thing. Anyone can look at a thing or even notice it without really seeing it. The word means to fix the attention on something in such a way that its inner meaning, the lesson that it is designed to teach, may be learned. In Luke 12:24 Jesus uses the same word when he says: ‘Consider the ravens.’ He does not merely mean, ‘Look at the ravens.’ He means, ‘Look at the ravens and understand and learn the lesson that God is seeking to teach you through them.’ If we are ever to learn Christian truth, a detached glance is never enough; there must be a concentrated gaze […] a determined effort to see its meaning for us.”[2]

“No one else in the New Testament ever calls Jesus an apostle. That the writer to the Hebrews does so deliberately is quite clear, because apostle is a title he never gives to any man. He keeps it for Christ.

“What does he mean when he so uses it? The word apostolos literally means one who is sent forth. In Jewish terminology it was used to describe the envoys of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. The Sanhedrin sent out apostoloi who were clothed with its authority and the bearers of its commands. In the Greek world it frequently meant ambassador. So then Jesus is the supreme ambassador of God[3]

“Jesus is the great High Priest. What does that mean? This is an idea to which the writer to the Hebrews returns again and again. Just now we only set down the fundamental basis of what he means. The Latin for a priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest is the person who builds a bridge between man and God. To do that he must know both man and God. He must be able to speak to God for men and to speak to men for God. Jesus is the perfect High Priest because he is perfectly man and perfectly God; He can represent man to God and God to man. He is the one person through whom man comes to God and God comes to man.[4]

v.3 “Moreover, in this passage we may also discern a further aspect of his work as God’s apostle. He is also sent to form or establish a house, or household, a redeemed community (3:6). The preceding chapters of the letter have already hinted at the writer’s doctrine of the church; in Christ we are sons, brothers, children and partners. But here we begin to realize the importance of the Christian family in the in thinking of the author. Christ came not only to save fallen individuals but to gather a vast company of his followers, the redeemed people of God. This epistle has little time for the spiritual individualist. Believers are to recognize the immensely important ministry that they can exercise towards other Christians and to take such responsibility seriously: ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.’ The regular meeting for worship and fellowship must not be neglected and Christian people must give all the encouragement they can to other believers. Christians are here described as those who belong to God’s house, and Christ was sent into the world to save them and bring them into this enriching, secure and eternal company.”[5]

v.6 “It is important to recognize the seriousness of this letter when it rightly insists on perseverance. F.F. Bruce describes this persistent endurance as ‘the test of reality’. There is no casual easy-going presentation of Christianity in these chapters. William Manson is perfectly right when he insists that to the author of this epistle, Christianity is ‘not a matter only of repenting and obtaining forgiveness, but of irrevocable commitment of life to a supernatural end.’ We are certainly in God’s house by faith in Christ but, to be real, that belief must be something more than the occasionally faltering faith which initially takes hold of Christ, or that excited faith which, with adoring gratitude, first renounces sin and comes to Christ for liberating pardon. It is hardly that vacillating faith which calls out in moments of bewildered dejection: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ It is a persistent faith which holds fast to its boldness and rejoices in the certain hope of better things. True Christian confidence is unwavering faith in a trustworthy God. He who has promised to keep us is eternally faithful and will not disappoint his people, but that truth is not meant to encourage careless complacency.”[6]

v.12 “He exhorts them to beware lest any one of them fall away. The ‘sinful, unbelieving heart’ stands in marked contrast to the faithfulness ascribed to both Jesus and Moses (v. 2). It is an unusual and emphatic expression. The author stresses the heinousness of this by speaking of turning away from the living God. ‘Turn away’ is perhaps not strong enough; the meaning is rather ‘rebel against.’ The author is fond of the expression ‘the living God’ (cf. 9:14; 10:31; 12:22). The rebellion he warns against consists of departing from a living, dynamic person, not from some dead doctrine. Jews might retort that they served the same God as the Christians so that they would not be departing from God if they went back to Judaism. But to reject God’s highest revelation is to depart from God, no matter how many preliminary revelations are retained. A true faith is impossible with such a rejection.”[7]

v.13 “Contrariwise, they must encourage one another constantly and urgently. The author sees Christian fellowship as very important. It can build people up in the faith and form a strong bulwark against sin and apostasy (cf. 10:25; Matt 18:15-17). ‘Daily’ means that encouragement should be habitual. ‘As long as it is called Today’ adds a touch of urgency, for ‘Today’ does not last forever.”[8]

“The readers were tempted to go back to Judaism in the belief that by doing so they would be better off. But sin deceived those who thought like this. Temporal and physical safety would be bought only at the price of spiritual disaster.”[9]

v.19 “The depressing conclusion sums up what has gone before. The author does not say that they did not enter but that they ‘were not able to enter.’ Sin is self-defeating and unbelief […] itself prevents us from entering God’s rest. This is not an arbitrary penalty imposed by a despotic God. It is the inevitable outcome of unbelief. In the Greek the final word in this section of the argument, thrown to the end of the sentence for greater emphasis, is apistia (‘unbelief’). That is what robbed the wilderness generation of the rest they had every reason to expect when they came out of Egypt. The warning to the people of the writer’s day is clear. To slip back from their Christian profession into unbelief would be fatal.”[10]


[1] George H Guthrie, Hebrews, The NIV Application Commentary series CD (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan,1998).

[2] William Barclay, The letter to the Hebrews, The Daily study Bible series CD (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[3] William Barclay, The letter to the Hebrews, The Daily study Bible series CD (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[4] William Barclay, The letter to the Hebrews, The Daily study Bible series CD (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[5] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982)76-77.

[6] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982)81.

[7] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[8] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[9] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[10] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

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