The first chapter has presented to us the Lord Jesus as the
Apostle, that is, as the Sent One, who came forth from God to us,
bringing us the Divine revelation. The second set Him before us as the
High Priest, who has gone in from us to God, representing us and
maintaining our cause in His presence. Now we are bidden to consider
Him very thoroughly in both these characters. We are to set our minds
to it as those who aim at discovering all that is involved.
These Hebrews had taken up a new profession, or, we had better
say, they had entered upon the confession of the name of Jesus, who had
been rejected by their nation. The national attitude towards Him was
summed up in these words, "We know that God spake unto Moses: as for
this fellow, we know not from whence He is" (John 9: 29). The more
these converted Hebrews considered JESUS and studied Him the more
certainly would they know from whence He was: they would perceive that
truly "He was come from God, and went to God" (John 13: 3).
The Jews made their boast in Moses and in Aaron. God had indeed
spoken to the one and made him His spokesman, and He had established
the other in the priestly office; nevertheless both were dead. The
Christian, and the Christian alone, has an Apostle and High Priest who
lives, to be known and contemplated and loved: One who is God and yet
Man endowed with all the attributes and glory enumerated in Hebrews 1
and Hebrews 2.
He is worthy of our eternal study. Let us consider Him well, for
as we do so we shall the more clearly see how rich is the place we have
as set in relation to Him, and how high is the calling in which we
partake. Both these things are mentioned in the first verse. Do not
pass them over lightly. They are worthy of serious attention.
We are addressed as "holy brethren." This is tremendously
significant. It does not merely mean that all Christians are brethren
and all set apart for God. The expression must be understood in
relation to its context, that is, in relation to what has gone before,
and particularly to verses 10 and 11 of Hebrews 2. In the latter of
these two verses we have "sanctifieth" and "sanctified," and in our
verse "holy." These are all different forms of the same word. We are
holy inasmuch as we have come into the wonderful sanctification of
being "all of one" with the great Captain of our salvation. For the
same reason are we "brethren," since He is not ashamed to call us that.
In addressing us as "holy brethren" the Spirit of God is reminding us
of the place of extraordinary nearness and honour in which we are set.
As holy brethren we partake in the heavenly calling. We all know
how God called Israel out of Egypt and into the land which He had
purposed for them. Theirs was an earthly calling, though by no means to
be despised. We are not called to any particular place on the earth,
but to a place in the heavens.
In the gospels we see how the Lord was preparing the minds of His
disciples for this immense change. At one point in the midst of His
ministry He bade them not rejoice so much in the possession of
miraculous powers: "but rather rejoice," He said, "because your names
are written in heaven" (Luke 10: 20). Our names are inscribed in the
records of the cities to which we belong, and in these words the Lord
indicated that they were entering upon a heavenly citizenship. Later,
in His farewell discourse, He spoke to them of His Father's true house
which is in the heavens-that house of which the earthly temple was only
the pattern and shadow-and He said, "I go to prepare a place for you"
(John 14: 2). Our place is there. Our calling is heavenly in its
character and it has heaven as its end.
If these early Hebrew converts really took in these mighty facts
by faith, they would without doubt have realized how greatly they had
been elevated. It was truly no mean thing to have been the people of
Abraham and Moses, called to a land flowing with milk and honey; but
all that shrinks into comparative insignificance besides such things as
being among the "many sons" who are being brought to glory, owned as
"holy brethren" by the Lord Jesus, and thus called to heaven. But
again, if so great an elevation for them how much greater an elevation
for us, who with neither part nor lot in Israel's privileges were just
sinners of the Gentiles? Only let us take time to ponder the matter and
we shall find abundant cause to bend our hearts in worship of Him from
whose heart of love such designs have proceeded.
Holiness and heavenliness characterize our calling, but the great
thing for us is that we turn the eyes of our mind upon Jesus and
earnestly consider Him. He is both Apostle and High Priest and in His
greatness we may read the greatness of our calling. Verses 2 to 6 give
us a glimpse of His greatness as contrasted with Moses. When, as
recorded in Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, they
said, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath He not spoken
also by us?" That is, they questioned his office as the prophet, or
apostle, of that day. Then the Lord bore of him this remarkable
testimony, "My servant Moses . . . is faithful in all Mine house." In
this he was a type of Christ, who is faithful to Him that appointed Him
in a supreme degree.
Yet even so we find that the relation here between type and
Antitype is contrast rather than comparison. First, Moses was faithful
in God's house as being part of the house himself; whereas Christ is
the builder of the house. Second, the house in which Moses ministered
was just Israel; he bore the burden of that nation but of that nation
alone. The Lord Jesus acts on behalf of "all things." He that built all
things is God, and the Lord Jesus is He by whom God built them. Third,
in the small and restricted sphere of Israel Moses ministered as a
faithful servant; but in the vast sphere of all things Christ ministers
to the glory of God. Let us meditate on these points and we shall begin
to have large thoughts of Christ.
Still we must not lose ourselves in the immensity of God's mighty
universe, so we find that Christ has His own house over which He is
Son, and we, the believers of today, are that house. We are His
building, and He faithfully administers all that concerns us to God's
glory, as Apostle and High Priest.
But, as it says here, we are His house, "IF . . ." That if mightily
disturbs a good many people. It is intended to disturb, not the true
believer, but the mere professor of the Christian religion. And here
let us draw an important distinction. When in Scripture we are viewed
as those born of God, or indeed viewed in any way as the subjects of
God's work by His Spirit, then no if is introduced. How can there
be?-for perfection marks all God's work. On the other hand when we are
viewed from the human standpoint as those who have taken upon us the
profession of Christianity, then an if may be introduced-indeed it must
Here are some who professed conversion years ago, yet today they
are far from being Christian in their behaviour. What can we say as to
them? Well, we aim at being charitable in our thoughts, so we give them
the benefit of the doubt and accept them as believers, until
conclusively proved not to be so. Still there is a doubt: an
if comes in. The Hebrews, to whom our epistle was written, were many as
to numbers and very varied as to their spiritual state. Some of them
made the writer of the epistle feel very anxious. The mass doubtless
were really converted people of whom it could be said, "But beloved we
are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany
salvation" (Hebrews 6: 9). Still in writing to them all
indiscriminately what could be said except that all Christian
privileges were theirs, if indeed they were real in their profession.
Now it is just this that the second part of verse 6 says, for it
is time that tests reality. There is no more certain guarantee of
reality than continuance. The false sooner or later let
things slip, and turn away; the true hold fast to the finish. But then
if any do let slip and turn away the real root of the trouble with them
is, in one word, unbelief.
You notice of course that a parenthesis stretches from the
second word of verse 7 to the end of verse 11. To get the sense we
read, "Wherefore take heed, brethren, etc." It is an evil heart of unbelief, and
not of coldness or indifference or worldliness, that we are warned
against; bad as these things are for the spiritual health of believers.
It was just unbelief that was the root of all the troubles of Israel in
their wilderness journey, as the last verse of our chapter says. So the
Israel of the days of Moses was in this a beacon of warning to the
Hebrews of the Apostolic age.
In the parenthesis we have a quotation from Psalm 95. It is
introduced to our notice not as a saying of David but as a saying of
the Holy Ghost, who inspired David in his utterance. In the last five
verses of our chapter we have the Spirit's comment upon His earlier
utterance in the Psalm, and here we have made abundantly plain what we
have just stated above. Caleb and Joshua entered the land of promise
because they believed; the rest did not because they did not believe.
Their carcases fell in the wilderness.
A further word of explanation is necessary at this point lest
we become confused in our thoughts. The history of Israel may be looked
at in two ways: firstly from a national standpoint, then from a
standpoint more personal and individual. It has a typical value for us
whichever way we look at it.
If we take the first standpoint then we consider them as
nationally a redeemed people, and that nationally they entered into the
land God purposed for them, with the exception of the two and a half
tribes, who became typical of earthly-minded believers, who fail to
enter into that which is God's purposed blessing for them. From that
point of view we do not concern ourselves with the fact that the
individuals who actually entered into the land were, with two
exceptions, entirely different from those that came out of Egypt. From
the second standpoint we do concern ourselves with the actual
state of the people and of individuals amongst them. Only two of those
who left Egypt so believed as to actually enter Canaan. This latter
point of view is the one taken in Hebrews, as also in 1 Corinthians 10:
1-13, where we are told that they are also in all this types or
ensamples to us. They warn us very clearly of the awful end that awaits
those who, though by profession and to all outward appearance the
people of God, are really without that true and vital faith which is
the mainspring of all godliness.
We are warned therefore against an evil heart of unbelief
which departs from the living God, and bidden to exhort one another
daily for sin is very deceitful. If believers are to exhort one another
daily it means that daily they seek one another's company. This verse
then takes for granted that, like the Apostles who, "being let go . . .
went to their own company" (Acts 4: 23), we also find our society and
companionships amongst the people of God. It also infers that we watch
for one another's souls and care for one another's spiritual
prosperity. But is this true of us all? The general spiritual health of
Christians would be much better if it were. We are far more influenced
by the company that we keep than many of us like to admit.
If however, any of us have professed the name of Christ
without reality, then there is still in us the evil heart of unbelief,
whatever we may have said with our lips; and the downward course that
lies before us, except we be awakened to realities, is plainly set
before us. The evil heart of unbelief is easily deceived by sin; and
sin itself by reason of its deceitfulness hardens us, so that we become
impervious to reproof. Then instead of holding "the beginning of our
confidence stedfast unto the end," we let go and give up. But only the
real, who do remain stedfast unto the end, are made partakers, or
companions of Christ.