IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Jesus, the Centerpiece of Our Faith

Date: Mar. 5, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

Hebrews 3:1-19

Key Verse: Hebrews 3:1

“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.”

So far in our study of Hebrews the theme of the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus has rung true. In chapter one, we found out that Jesus is greater than angels, in chapter two we learned that we have so great a salvation because of Jesus, and in chapter three Jesus takes on Moses. Some of you might be wondering why is the author pointing out that Jesus is greater than Moses? I know at first I did. Because I thought that it’s pretty obvious that Jesus is greater than Moses so why does he have to go through all of this? It kind of feels a little like Jesus is a boxer, who is working his way through different boxing organizations challenging the champion of each one (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO) on route to his goal of becoming the undisputed champion of the world. So, in chapter one, it was the angels, in two it was humanity and temptation, and next challenger up is the great hero Moses. To the Hebrew people, Moses was right up there with the all-time great ancestors of faith. He probably would have been just under God but a little above the angels. After all, Moses brought them out of Egypt, lead them through the desert, gave them the Ten Commandments and brought them to the brink of the Promised Land. Moses was the only man to be in such close presence with God that after their meeting Moses had to put a vale over his face because it glowed so brightly and it kind of freaked the people out. They had their own Moses night light.

This letter was written some time after Jesus had ascended into heaven but before 70 AD. The author wrote this because there were some Jews who were beginning to doubt the divinity of Jesus however they still highly honored Moses and some were putting Moses on the same level as Jesus or maybe even higher. To understand this, we have to understand the Jewish/ Hebrew mind set. Usually, earlier is greater, the ancestor is greater than the present. So, if we remove the divinity of Jesus, then he becomes just another great ancestor and since Moses came first then he is greater than Jesus. The author challenges that mind set to show their error and reveal why Jesus is greater than Moses. 

Take a look at verse 1. “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.” Before we became Christians, all of us were stained with sin. We were unholy and wretched and enemies of God. But after accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have been sanctified by the atoning blood of Jesus and welcomed as brothers and sisters into God’s holy family. All of us then share in the heavenly calling. This is a unique bond that unites all Christians together. In fact the Bible encourages us to seek out and find all like-minded people so that we can have community together. It’s like we have go out and dig up the diamonds that God has buried. That what we do when we are out inviting people to join us. Verse 1 encourages us that we are fix our thoughts on Jesus. So that’s what we do when we go out to invite people to join us to come to Bible study, worship service or any number of our activities, are all for the purpose of fixing our thoughts on Jesus, it’s just different ways of doing it. God gives us the freedom to be creative in how we fix our thoughts on Jesus. Maybe it’s through song, study, prayer, movie, conference, retreat, whatever activity we chose. Verse 1 says that we are to “acknowledge Jesus as our apostle and high priest.” The word “apostle,” means “sent by God.” It uniquely applies to Jesus, whom God sent to fulfill his salvation work. Jesus is the supreme apostle, from whom all other apostles derive their authority. Jesus is also our high priest who represents us in the presence of God. When we acknowledge Jesus before people, he acknowledges us before the Father in heaven (Mt 10:32).

In verses 2-6, the author compares and contrasts Jesus with Moses. “He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 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.” In verse 2, the author introduces the analogy of God’s house and explained how both Moses and Jesus were faithful to the one who appointed them. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he took care of them for forty years in the wilderness, enduring all of their sins and weaknesses as a mother carries her baby, and led them all the way to the front door of the Promised Land (Nu 11:12). So God said of Moses, “…he is faithful in all my house” (Nu 12:7b). Jesus was appointed to lead those who believe in him out of slavery of the devil and into God’s rest. Jesus, though he is the Son of God, was faithful to finish what God gave him to do: to teach God’s word, to raise disciples, to save mankind from our sins through his death on the cross (Php 2:6-8). In verses 3-6, the author described how Jesus was superior to Moses. Moses was a servant in God’s house, whereas Christ is the Son and owner of God’s house. While Moses was a servant in the house, Jesus, who is God, is the builder of the house. Moses’ works shadowed salvation; and as a witness Moses pointed to the Messiah (Dt 18:15) however Jesus is the Messiah and the way of salvation (Jn 14:6).

The author must have had a sense of how the readers of his letter would react to his statement that Jesus is greater than Moses because in verses 7-19 he warns not to harden our hearts and fall into unbelief. He began by quoting the Holy Spirit’s words in Psalm 95:7-11. The key phrases are the first and last verses: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” and “They shall never enter my rest.” The author of this Psalm was King David (4:7). In the first part of Psalm 95, David praises the Creator God and Shepherd of his people, and exhorts us to come to him in thanksgiving and worship. Then he warns that today, when we hear God’s voice, we should not harden our hearts. He illustrates this with two examples of Israel’s failures. The first event takes place Exodus 17, the Israelites were in the desert and were thirsty and could not find water; they felt their lives were in danger. In this situation, they should remember what God had done for them and ask for his help. Instead, they complained bitterly, saying, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and our livestock die of thirst?” God did not punish them right away, but graciously provided fresh water out of the rock. We should recognize God’s love and patience (Ro 2:4) and be thankful that he doesn’t punish us immediately but gives us the opportunity to repent. Moses called that place “Massah,” which means “testing,” and “Meribah,” which means “rebellion.” They quarreled with Moses and complained to him, but actually it came from their rebellion against God. This rebellion reveals their root problem of unbelief. They should have repented, but they didn’t. As a result, it remained unsolved and led to serious consequences in the next event.  When God exposes one of our hidden problems, we should repent right away. The sooner the better. Otherwise, this problem leads to more serious consequences later which is what happened to the people of Israel.

In the second event takes place in Numbers 13-14, they were at the border of the Promised Land. Moses chose twelve tribal leaders to spy out the land and bring back a report. These leaders all saw the same reality, but their reports were quite different. Two leaders, Caleb and Joshua, gave a positive and encouraging report (Nu 14:9b). However, ten leaders spread a bad report among the people (Nu 13:32b-33). They overestimated enemies and underestimated themselves. They did not look at God, who is living and almighty, but only at the reality. They did not remember God’s promise and trust God. Rather, they fell into fear and despair and gave up. They wanted to return to their former lives as slaves in Egypt. Their negative reports overpowered the positive reports and captured the hearts of the people of Israel. Then the whole nation fell into fear and rebelled against God. The consequences were serious. God was so angry that he didn’t allow them to enter the Promised Land. They wandered in the desert for forty years until that whole generation died, except for Caleb and Joshua. David explained why God was so angry in verses 10-11. God said, “…Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” They failed, not because of one or two mistakes, but because their hearts were always going astray.

Through this example from Israel’s history, what lessons can we learn? First of all, we learn not to have a sinful, unbelieving heart (12). This leads to a serious result, which is to turn away from the living God. God alone is the source of life. If we turn away from him we have no life. Heart disease is a major killer of mankind, but unbelief is the most serious heart disease. Those who are sick with unbelief are always complaining and unthankful. Moreover, they spread their disease to others, produce mistrust, and make others sick to death like them. On the other hand, those who trust God are always full of life, thanksgiving and joy and they are a good influence to others. Secondly, we learn to encourage one another daily, so that we may not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (13). Sin is deceitful. In the beginning, sin seems fun and exciting without any consequences, but later we find that the fun is gone and painful results follow. If we had known this from the beginning, we would be afraid to commit sin. So, we need to encourage one another not to be deceived by sin, but to hold firmly to our original conviction to the very end (14). Sometimes we take unbelief lightly because it doesn’t seem as serious as murder or adultery. But unbelief is a serious sin. After all it kept the exodus generation from entering the Promised Land.

I find it interesting in this passage the word Today is mentioned twice and it’s capitalized thus it giving it some importance. So, what’s up with “Today”? Today is the time between Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven and His triumphant return. Today is the day of salvation for those whose hearts are not hardened to the call of the Holy Spirit. Yesterday, God sent His Son Jesus into the world to pay the price for our sins. Jesus died on the cross as the sinless sacrifice so that we can made righteous before our Holy God. Tomorrow, Jesus will return in glory with power to make all things new. Tomorrow, Jesus will right the wrongs and bring the fullness of His justice to a broken world. And so, we live in Today - a time between Yesterday and Tomorrow. Yesterday when God’s plan of salvation was made known and Tomorrow when all of creation will be re-made complete and whole. We live in Today, between the act of salvation and its completion. Today is the time when those who believe in Jesus as their salvation anxiously await His return and seek to make known the Good News to everyone. So, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.

As I said in the beginning, I think in our time it’s pretty obvious that Jesus is greater than Moses, so how does this passage relate to, and connect with us now? In our time period of history, there is a heavy emphasis on tolerance and acceptance. For many year’s children, have been taught to be kind, tolerant and accepting of others. While this is in itself a good thing, we know that sin has a way of twisting what is good and corrupting it. As a result, what was intended for good, Satan uses it against God. And so, what is happening, is that we have become a society that accepts and tolerates everything and has started to deny absolutes (anything that limits tolerance and acceptance). Combine this with relativism, the idea of what is good for you, may not be good for me, and we now have a society that is very hard to have absolute convictions about anything. At this year’s Golden Globes, you can see how the entertainment industry has declared war on intolerance. They made it clear that they will not stand for anyone limiting another person’s human freedom. For example, recently I heard from Liz about an article featured by Snapchat about a National Geographic interview with an author of a book titled “Cannibalism, a perfectly natural history.” In the article the author states that in his book he explains that basically cannibalism is only bad in western cultures and if you don’t accept it you are a bigot, and close minded to other cultures.

Today’s passage reveals that Jesus is God, and he is the centerpiece of our faith. It is only through Jesus that we can come to God. Now here is where society will push back and say, “No, that too absolute. There are many ways to God.” The world will tell you this is not true, they will deny the divinity of Jesus and say that you can find eternal happiness through Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or any other religion, just pick one or take them all, whatever makes you happy. You can even take the route of no religion at all. Take the pursuit of self, or seek power, wealth, or thrill seeking – excitement, or games and fantasy will make you happy. Sin is so deceitful and can manipulate our thoughts until we fall under it’s influence. Satan lies and floods the world with the ideas that there are many ways to God. Technically, they’re right because there are many ways to God however only one of them, Jesus, doesn’t lead to condemnation. So, if you want to take one of those other routes, you better enjoy the ride, because the destination is going to end badly for you. Only through Jesus can we come to God and receive eternal life.

In addition, through this passage we learn that because unbelief is such a strong obstacle, we need to encourage one another daily. What does it mean to encourage one another and how can we do this? Encourage means to inspire, to give hope, to lift up, to give courage to. We encourage one another in our faith when we help others to see the hope of Jesus. All of us can become discouraged in unbelief at one point or another. All of us need others to inspire us to deepen our relationship with God. We encourage one another in our shared faith through words, through actions, and by our attitude. Our words or actions are too often used to discourage rather than to encourage. This is what happened when the Hebrews approached the Promised Land. All of us that “share in the heavenly calling” should be encouragements to one another, not discouragements. All of us are in the same amazing race of faith together. Only we’re not competing AGAINST one another, but we’re teammates HELPING one another to cross the finish line. No one is strong 100 % of the time, so when you are strong, you help the person next to you, and when you stumble, someone who is strong will help you. We all need to fight against unbelief every day and put our faith in Jesus the centerpiece of our faith.

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