Hebrews 3:6-15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 7, 2001


The writer to the Hebrews is writing to Jewish people who have been introduced to Jesus as the Messiah.  You will see many references to the Old Testament.  If you aren’t familiar with the Old Testament, you may find some of the language confusing.  Let this letter be a challenge to you to understand the Old Testament.

One thing is clear throughout the letter, that there is a temptation for these people to fall away from the Lord.  The writer is writing to a group of people who are being persecuted.  Over and over again, the writer will be encouraging them to keep holding on to their faith in the Lord, even though times are tough and getting tougher.

We aren’t saved because we do good things and deserve God’s salvation.  We are saved because Jesus Christ died on a cross and paid for our sins.  We are saved because we have chosen to receive God’s free gift of forgiveness, and He no longer holds our sins against us.

But when we are saved, things will happen in our lives, and Jesus will begin to change us.  The Holy Spirit will begin to clean up areas in our life and we will find ourselves becoming more and more like Jesus.  But the changes only happen as we are staying close to Jesus, holding on to Him.

What happens if a person were to “fall away”?

What if someone stops going to church?  What if they backslide into sin?  What if they stop believing in Jesus?

I’m not sure anymore that I know the answer to all those questions, but one thing I do know, and that is that you simply don’t want to go there.
I hope that this morning’s message will be an encouragement to keep holding on to Jesus.

: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.

sonhuios – a son

Moses was called a “servant”, but Jesus was called a “son”.

if – This is a “third class” conditional statement.  The idea is that there is some doubt as to whether or not we will “hold fast”, but the outlook is a favorable one, that we probably will “hold fast” (A.T. Robertson’s Grammar, pg.1016; it is third class because the “hold fast” is a subjunctive).  It is not a “first class” condition, which would translate, “if we hold fast, and we will …”.

the confidenceparrhesia – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment; without ambiguity or circumlocution; without the use of figures and comparisons; free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance

rejoicingkauchema – that of which one glories or can glory, matter or ground of glorying; a glorying or boasting

the hopeelpis – expectation of evil, fear; expectation of good, hope; in the Christian sense; joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; on hope, in hope, having hope

firmbebaios – stable, fast, firm

the endtelos – end; termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not of the end of a period of time); that by which a thing is finished, its close, issue; the end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose

hold fastkatecho – to hold back, detain, retain; to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of; to get possession of, take; to possess

(Heb 3:6 NLT)  But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God's household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

Who is the “house” of Jesus?  We are, as long as we stay faithful.

A.T. Robertson:

“…We are God’s house if we do not play the traitor and desert…The author makes no effort to reconcile this warning with God’s elective purpose. He is not exhorting God,  but these wavering Christians.”

When it comes to asking the question, “Can a Christian lose their salvation?”, there are two distinct points of views, sometimes referred to as “Calvinist” and “Arminian”.  The Calvinist view is that you have been chosen by God and He will never let you go.  The Arminian view is that you could let go of God and lose your salvation.

You may consider yourself a “Calvinist” in that you believe that it is impossible for a person to lose their salvation.  I’m not calling that belief into question.  The issue is still the same, are you clinging to Jesus?

That great Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards, once said that “the sure proof of election is that one holds out to the end.”

If you are a truly saved person, you will keep clinging to Jesus.  If you have stopped clinging to Jesus, then you ought to get your act together and get back to Jesus.  I’ll let you decide whether or not you lost your salvation or whether you were never saved to begin with.  Just get back to Jesus.

I really no longer care whether or not you call yourself a “Calvinist” or an “Armenian”.  All I care about is whether or not you are sticking with Jesus.


Holding On

On a commuter flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston, Henry Dempsey, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the small aircraft.  He turned the controls over to his co-pilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plain hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door.  He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise.  The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff, and it flew open.  He was instantly sucked out of the jet. The co-pilot, seeing the red light that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport, requesting permission to make an emergency landing.  He reported that the pilot had fallen out of the plane, and he requested a helicopter search of that area of the ocean. After the plane landed, they found Henry Dempsey - holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft.  Somehow he had caught the ladder, held on for ten minutes as the plane flew 200 mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet, and then, at landing, kept his head from hitting the runway, which was a mere twelve inches away.  It took airport personnel several minutes to pry Dempsey's fingers from the ladder.

Things in life may be turbulent, and you may not feel like holding on.  But have you considered the alternative?

:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

the Holy Ghost saith – The Holy Spirit was speaking through the writing of King David.  The Holy Spirit has personality.  David wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The writer is going to be quoting Psalm 95:7-11 and then drawing his point from it.  Keep in mind as we look at verses 7-11 here in Hebrews 3, that the writer is quoting David in Psalm 95.

To daysemeron – this (very) day); what has happened today

if ye will hearakouo – to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf; to hear; to hear something; to comprehend, to understand.  The verb is a “subjunctive” mood.  It’s a possibility you might be hearing God’s voice.  This would be another “third class” condition where there is some doubt as to whether the reader is hearing, but it’s very possible that they might be hearing.

Two questions from this verse:

1)  Is it “today”?

This is not yesterday.  This is today.

2)  Are you hearing God speak to you today?

If so, then you’d better listen up, because this next couple of verses are for you.

:8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

hardenskleruno – to make hard, harden; metaph. to render obstinate, stubborn. “Hardening of the arteries” is called “arteriosclerosis”.

provocationparapikrasmos (“alongside” + “bitter”) – provocation

temptationpeirasmos – an experiment, attempt, trial, proving; the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy; an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances

The NAS translates Psalm 95 this way:

(Psa 95:8-9 NASB)  Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness; {9} "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work.

David wasn’t just talking generally about the people testing God’s patience.  There were some specific times we could look at when they tested God, they events known as “Meribah” and “Massah”.

:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

temptedpeirazo – to try whether a thing can be done; to attempt, endeavour; to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself

proveddokimazo – to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals; to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

Here’s the story that David is talking about in Psalm 95:

(Exo 17:1-7 KJV)  And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. {2} Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?

For a long time I’ve looked at this and thought, “What’s so bad with the people’s response?”  They were out of water, shouldn’t they have a right to complain?
It’s not wrong to be aware of your needs.  It’s not wrong to know that you are thirsty and there is no water.  The problem comes with what you do with that knowledge.

{3} And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? {4} And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. {5} And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. {6} Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. {7} And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?

The people were having a tough go in the desert.  And they thought that because it was tough, that God wasn’t with them.
The issue isn’t whether God is with you or not.  It is wrong to assume that if God is with you that you will not have any problems.
The problem lies in whether or not you are going to come to God and ask Him for help, or whether you’re just going to complain and make a big fuss.

Keep in mind, the Israelites in the wilderness had NO EXCUSE for doubting God’s presence with them.  They had been delivered from Egypt.  They had lived through the plagues.  They had crossed the Red Sea on dry land.  They had no excuse for not trusting God.

The readers of Hebrews were also going through tough times.  Were they going to start questioning God or were they going to trust Him?

:10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

grieved prosochthizo – to be wroth or displeased with; to loathe; to spew out; to be disgusted with.  This is how God felt about these people.

alway aei – perpetually, incessantly; invariably, at any and every time: when according to the circumstances something is or ought to be done again

err planao – to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way; to go astray, wander, roam about

in their heart – God was concerned about what was going on in the heart more than the actual actions.  It’s the heart that’s important.

ways hodos – a way; metaph. a course of conduct; a way (i.e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding

If the people had been paying attention, they might have gotten a clue about God’s concern for His children.  After all, they had been delivered from slavery from Egypt.  God had supernaturally protected Israel during the plagues in Egypt.  They had made it through the Red Sea, but the Egyptians all drowned.  God had even started His free food program in the desert, the “manna”.

Shouldn’t this tell them that God could be trusted?  Why wouldn’t they trust God?  Why wouldn’t they go to God and ask for help?

We see this also in the lives of the disciples.  They, like us, were also prone to doubting God’s care for them.


(Mark 4:35-41 KJV)  And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. {36} And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. {37} And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. {38} And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? {39} And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. {40} And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? {41} And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Just like the disciples, sometimes we are going through the “storms” of life, and it seems like Jesus is “asleep on a pillow”.  It seems that He must not care for us.
What should we do?  It’s okay to “wake the Lord up”.  But instead of questioning His love for you, why don’t you simply ask Him for help?  The disciples’ lack of faith wasn’t in that they didn’t rebuke the storm, it was in their doubting of Jesus’ love for them.
God’s love for you does not mean that He’s not going to let you have difficult times.  But it does mean that you can ask Him for help.

:11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

I swareomnuo – to swear; to affirm, promise, threaten, with an oath; in swearing to call a person or thing as witness, to invoke, swear by

wrathorge – anger, the natural disposition, temper, character; anger, wrath, indignation; anger exhibited in punishment, hence used for punishment itself

enter intoeiserchomai – to go out or come in: to enter

restkatapausis – a putting to rest; calming of the winds; a resting place; metaph. the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which he has promised to make persevering believers in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended

Pay attention here.  The writer is going to draw a lesson from the fact that an entire generation of Israelites did not enter into their Promised Land because of their disobedience.  The writer is going to make this be the point to move us into action.

:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

take heed blepo – to see, discern, of the bodily eye; metaph. to see with the mind’s eye; to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand; to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine

lestmepote – that ... not, lest, whether perhaps, whether or not, in no way, perhaps

there be – the verb is a “future indicative” (not subjunctive).  There is no “might” or “should” in this sentence (like NAS).  It is “shall”.  Lest there shall be in you …”  This is a pretty strongly worded warning.  You don’t want to be going down the road where you are in unbelief.

evilponeros – full of labours, annoyances; bad, of a bad nature or condition; in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad

unbeliefapistia – unfaithfulness, faithless; want of faith, unbelief; weakness of faith

departingaphistemi – to make stand off, cause to withdraw, to remove; to stand off, to stand aloof; to go away, to depart from anyone; to desert, withdraw from one; to fall away, become faithless; to withdraw one’s self from, to fall away

living zao – to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead).  God is not dead.  He is not just some kind of philosophy.  He does not exist only because we “believe” in Him.  He is a living entity.  Even if you doubt His existence, that doesn’t change the fact that He is the Living God.


Warning:  Wicked hearts depart from God

The writer is warning us that we too face the possibility that we could develop wicked unbelieving hearts.
I think we need to be careful of thinking that we would never depart from Him.
When Jesus told His disciples that they would be offended by Him and scatter, Peter said that he’d never be offended by Jesus.  Jesus said,

(Mat 26:34 KJV)  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

I believe the point the writer is trying to make is to realize that we too could be carried away by our own wicked hearts.

:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

exhort parakaleo – to call to one’s side, call for, summon; to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.; to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort

daily – literally, “according to each day”

To day semeron – this (very) day); what has happened today

hardened skleruno – to make hard; metaph. to render obstinate, stubborn

The writer is referring back to Psalm 95, “today … harden not your hearts

How do our hearts become “hardened”?  Through the deceitfulness of sin.

Every time we sin and refuse to deal with it, our hearts become a little harder. 
It’s like building up calluses on your fingers when you’re learning to play guitar.  At first it can be very painful to push the strings down with your fingers, but as the calluses grow on your fingers, you don’t notice the pain any longer.
When we refuse to deal with our sin, we become callused to the point where we no longer feel the pain of conviction or guilt.

deceitfulness apate – deceit, deceitfulness; from apatao – to cheat, beguile, deceive

Sin is incredibly deceitful.  Our hearts are incredibly deceitful.  If left to myself, I can talk myself into just about anything.

I may be on a diet and trying to lose weight, but if I’ve had a particularly hard day, I’ll tell myself, “Hey, you deserve a big old hot fudge sundae!”  I’ll tell myself, “It won’t hurt you to cheat just this once!”  But then one time becomes two times.  Two times become three.  Before you know it, I’m hooked.

What can we do to protect ourselves from the “deceitfulness of sin”?  Encourage one another daily. Besides simply “trusting” in God, this is the one thing we can do to guard ourselves from being in that condition where we would “depart” from God.


Get connected

It’s hard to be encouraged by others if you never really get connected to others.
I know that there is an extreme danger of getting too close to any human being.  They can turn on you and hurt you.  They can betray you.
But God’s way is that you are not to be “alone”.  God doesn’t make “Lone Ranger Christians”.
Some of you may be thinking that the person you will “connect” to will be me.  I’m flattered by that, but in reality I’m not going to be able to encourage everybody.
(Heb 10:23-25 KJV)  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) {24} And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: {25} Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
You need to make a commitment to yourself to “plug in” to church.  You will need to make an effort to build relationships with other people in the church.  I know I will offend some of you, but I have to be honest, I have a hard time seeing how anyone can do it seriously when they only come to church occasionally, or even only once a week.  I think I’ve held back at times from trying too much to push people to come to church more because it sounds like I’m pushing “me”.  But it’s not about me.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about being in God’s Word.  It’s about growing in Him.


Encourage each other

David was a man with a heart for God.  He was a guy who was even willing to trust God when he faced giants like Goliath.  But as David was being used by God, his boss, Saul, grew jealous.  Saul eventually began to try and have David killed because of jealousy.  David became a fugitive.  We pick up the story after David has just rescued the city of Keilah from the Philistines, but the people from Keilah are about to betray David:
(1 Sam 23:8-18 KJV)  And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. {9} And David knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. {10} Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. {11} Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down. {12} Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up. {13} Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth. {14} And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. {15} And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood. {16} And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.

NAS – vs. 16 – “encouraged him in God”.

{17} And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. {18} And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.

Jonathan knew that his friend needed help.  He didn’t just try and make him laugh at a few jokes.  He encouraged him “in God”.  He encouraged him to keep trusting God.

We could learn a lot from Jonathan.  He was the “crown prince” of Israel.  He was the one in line to become king after Saul.  Yet he was willing to lay down his job, his reputation, even his life for his friend.  He encouraged his friend David.

:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

partakersmetochos – sharing in, partaking; a partner (in a work, office, dignity)

the beginningarche – beginning, origin

confidencehupostasis – a setting or placing under; that which has foundation, is firm; the steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution; confidence, firm trust, assurance

untomechri – as far as, until

the endtelos – end; termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not of the end of a period of time)

steadfastbebaios – stable, fast, firm; metaph. sure, trusty; holdkatecho – to hold back, detain, retain; to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of; to get possession of, take

(Heb 3:14 NLT)  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

This is the same kind of language that we saw in verse 6.

:15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Same language as in verses 7-8.

Do you need encouragement to hold on to Jesus today?  Have you been struggling in your walk?