Today: [Hebrews 3:] Is Jesus your Apostle and High Priest? Chapter three of Hebrews reveals Jesus as Apostle and High Priest over the newly converted Jews to whom the letter addressed. Those terms meant very specific things to them that compelled them to forsake all they knew and abandon themselves to the newly emerged faith. For us they are meaningless religious terms but if we can reclaim them in their fundamental meaning the reward for us would be immense.
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[Heb 3:1-19 KJV] 1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses [was faithful] in all his house. 3 For this [man] was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some [man]; but he that built all things [is] God. 5 And Moses verily [was] faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in [their] heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, 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 To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? [was it] not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
In chapter one of Hebrews, the writer asserts the supremacy of Christ as Lord over all creation and the angels. In chapter two the believers of the first century are called into accountability not to neglect the message of salvation through Jesus. They were tasked to transmit it to the generations to come which was one of the first commissions of the apostolic fathers who inherited the church from the first generation of leaders who sat under the direct leadership of Jesus himself. The work of Christ in raising us up a company of many sons through the work of redemption is declared and the fact that he did so not as an angel or other supernatural being but as a man acting in his humanity to pay for the sins of the world.
This work of redemption in the context of Jesus’ humanity constitutes him (chapter 3 verse 1) as both our apostle and high priest. To call Jesus, an apostle conveyed certain understandings to the first-century believer that we have little insight into today. The term apostle held no religious connotation whatsoever to the first-century church. An apostle was a military leader in the Roman empire tasked with conquering new lands and territories. A group of warriors called an ecclesia would be conscripted, and a fleet of ships commissioned to go into battle with foreign powers to enlarge the empire for the glory of Rome. The idea of an apostle had a direct line of connection to the Roman occupation imposed upon the nation states of the Middle East at that time. It was a hated term. For the writer to say, Jesus is our apostle not only says something about Jesus but something about us. An apostle was only an apostle to the soldiers that served under him. This is the first and only verse that calls Jesus by this title. It conveys the thought of conquest and dominion completely lacking in the anemic meaning of those words “apostle” or “high-priest” for us today.
Jesus is also our high priest. The Jews who crucified Jesus had a high priest, and this book is primarily written to those Jews who have now converted to Judaism. The writer is saying to them that Caiphus was no longer their high priest. This also was a compelling statement because without a connection to the high priest in the city of Jerusalem there was no access to the temple in Jerusalem which was still standing at the time. It would be as though to say “your pastor isn’t your pastor, and your church isn’t your church. Jesus is your pastor and your church is no longer in a building but is made up of an oppressed body of believers scattered throughout the Middle east hiding in secret meetings and catacombs”. To say Jesus was their high priest was to compel the Jewish believer to radically shift his thinking about Judaism, religious culture, worship and their place in it.
In making these declarations, the writer does not suggest that Moses was not faithful but rather that Moses’ mandate was fulfilled in Christ who now takes the headship over the house of Israel not as a servant but as a son. For this reason, the people are urged to hear the voice of God not to harden their hearts or to desire to go back to the way things were just because they were in transition as the Israelites were in moving from the wilderness to Canaan.
The children of Israel taxed the patience of God and Moses for 40 years in the wilderness because they consistently refused to cooperate with what God was doing. Coming out of Egypt demonstrated God’s hand of the deliverance. The wilderness trek was God’s process that the people despised. They despised the heat. They loathed the manna. They disliked Moses and Aaron. In v. 10 we the spirit of God was grieved at their continual error because they were not interested in learning the ways of God in the wilderness they just wanted the promise to come to pass without any demand being placed upon them. For this reason, God swore in his wrath that they would not enter into His rest.
The warning for us (v. 12) is to be mindful that we likewise do not have the same heart of unbelief because to depart from the process is to depart from the living God. These newly converted Jews were initially elated to accept Christ but now are finding out it is going to cost them something, perhaps everything without the benefit of immediate temporal reward (i.e., the overthrow of Rome.) Remember in John 14:6 that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The truth is that God loves us. The life is that He delivers us. The way is that He does so on his terms and not ours. Jesus is not only the outcome, but He is also the way – or the process. If you despise the process (not getting what you want on your terms), then you despise the God who initiates that process by which He brings you out of bondage into your place of promise. If you depart from the process, you have departed from the living God. This is a very dread reality because in the current Christian climate everyone wants an outcome, but nobody wants to cooperate with the process. They want to cut out the middleman and go directly from deliverance to their blessing place without the wilderness journeying in between. We need God’s process. It works His character in us. It teaches us to trust in the water from the Rock and to wait for the manna every morning. It compels us to stand fast refusing to break camp (doing our own thing) but to wait for the cloud by day and the fire by night to lift up and lead us to where God wants us to go and not where we choose to go of our own initiatives. We are to take heed to these things and (v. 13) to exhort one another daily lest our hearts become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. That phrase deceitfulness of sin means “to miss the mark due to obstinant delusion and stubbornness.”
What is the alternative? You might find yourself in the process but remember that you have been made partakers of Christ in the midst of the process. He is the water from the Rock and the Manna every morning. I remember years, decades of my life that my only reason for living in a very frustrating experience of opposition and struggle on every hand was the anointing that came like a pillar of fire to kindle my heart in the night and the water from the Rock that refreshed me and kept me going. I had no other reason for living. I was in process. I was learning that Jesus was my way as well as my truth and my life.
The writer goes on to point out that there was a mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with Moses. Not all of them came because they were called. It is no different today. You can identify the mixed multitude today as those who fall away, who have no driving dependency on a living Lord Jesus sustaining them moment by moment. They have no understanding of spiritual things they are merely in it for the blessing, and they are hanging around because they don’t want to miss something. The oath of God is that they will not enter into and cannot have what they are pining for. Why can they not enter? Because of unbelief. The word unbelief there is faithlessness. Toward what? Faithlessness toward Jesus as their high priest and apostle. They are believers who are waiting for an outpouring and then they plan to show up. Then they will give of their lives. They constantly say when their ship comes in and all their dreams fulfilled then they will give, and then they will do thus and so, but it is all a lie that they have deluded themselves into believing and want you to agree and applaud their deception. Most Christians today have no working or practical understanding of Jesus as their priest and apostle. These words are just meaningless religious titles, but for the Jews, they understood them intimately and realized that those titles as applied to Jesus made claims on their lives that could potentially and in many cases did cost them everything.
Is Jesus your apostle? The body of soldiers commissioned to follow an apostolos into battle left everything behind. They took of their own wealth and sweat to build ships to follow the apostle into battle. When the ships landed on foreign soil, they would burn them as a sign that there was no going back without a victory. Does your life denote that level of radical commitment? To see Jesus as your high priest meant to the reader that they were being called to abandon the prevailing religious system utterly. They were being challenged to follow after Jesus as the one who gave them access not to a temple built by Herod on the earth but to a heavenly temple only accessed by faith. This was an utterly sacrificial act of commitment. To give up that which was the very centerpiece of their culture for something that in the natural was nothing other than a concept that could only be demonstrated by faith. This was the urgent call imposed by the writer of Hebrews upon their intended audience and upon us today.
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