Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 47
The Evil Heart of Unbelief
As we begin our study today, we will be looking at Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1. Again, we are just an informal Bible study. We go verse by verse and as I have said so often, we don’t promote any group. We don’t attack anyone, we are simply going to open the Scriptures and let the Holy Spirit do the work of touching hearts and lives. How we thank you for your letters and your phone calls that express just that! How that the Lord has touched a multitude of hearts and lives and created an interest in the Word like folks have never had before.
I’m going now to Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1. The very first word, as Paul so often does in all of his letters, starts it off with a wherefore or therefore which basically is the same, and he uses it mostly back in Romans, and he used it over and over. Every time you come to a new chapter he’d say “wherefore or therefore.” What’s it there for? Well to make you go back and remember what he has just covered. We’re only in chapter 3 so this wherefore is going to go back to the beginning of chapter 2 where he had another therefore. So in reality this one is taking us all the way back to chapter 1. Back there in chapter 1, we were epitomizing Jesus of Nazareth as the “Son.” The Son Who was pre-eminent of everything. He was the Creator, He is the Sustainer of the universe and we had to do all that we could to show how He had finished the work of redemption. Then He sat down at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us.
When we come into chapter 2, we see the Son as “man” in his humanity but in His humanity then He has accomplished the work of the cross. And in order to accomplish the work of the cross He had to take on human flesh, He had to become lower than the angels for a little while. And of course, that was only for his earthly sojourn. So, indeed, the Scripture says that He was made a little lower than the angels but mostly the important part is that He was for a little while lower than the angels. And then we went on through the rest of chapter 2, how that He tasted death for every man. No one will ever slip into their lost eternity saying “I never had a chance.” Yes they did. He has accomplished salvation for every human being that has ever lived. Alright, now I think we can go on into chapter 3.
Wherefore, (because of what we have already established) holy brethren,…”
Now here we’re not talking just simply to the Hebrews in the flesh, but we’re talking to believers who are brethren in Christ, because we’re sure Paul wrote this and so Paul is going to be constantly, by innuendo, if not by direct statement, bringing in the position of the Grace Age believer, saved as we are by faith in that finished work of the Cross. So he speaks of them as brethren in Christ not just as brethren in the flesh as Jews. Then he says:
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,…”
Once in a while it just thrills my heart when someone writes that, as they saw a program, they saw something for the first time that they had never understood, even though they had read the Bible over and over or they’d been in Sunday School, they never understood this concept before – and that was that Israel was God’s earthly people, we in the Church Age are God’s heavenly people. And there’s that much distinction.
God’s earthly people, Israel, were associated with all the earthly promises of materialism. And all you have to do is just stop and think for a moment. Abraham, was he rich or poor? According to the economy of their day he was wealthy. All that wealth went right on to the next one, Isaac. And by the time Isaac finishes his sojourn on earth where does all that wealth go? To Jacob. And so indeed they were blessed with material blessings and so Israel was admonished throughout her Old Testament history that if they were obedient, God blessed them. When they were disobedient, God chastised them in the area of the physical and the material.
But see, we don’t live under that kind of format in this Age of Grace. God may bless us materially, but He isn’t duty bound to. There’s nothing in Paul’s writings that said if you do good He’ll make you a millionaire. That’s not in there. All our promises, all our blessings are heavenly and, consequently, we do not get tied to the earthly things. If God sees fit to bless us, great, but if not, we’re not going to complain, because our riches are waiting for us. I don’t care if we do have to go through 70, 80, 90 years with little of this world’s goods, the eternity that is waiting for us is more than worth it. Alright, so he says that we are:
“…Partakers of the heavenly calling…”
Even these Jewish believers. Now we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the Book of Hebrews is written to Hebrew believers. When I started the book of Hebrews, do you remember I said there is no Roman Road in the book of Hebrews? There’s no plan of salvation laid out so clearly like it is in Romans or Galatians, but it is a letter written to Hebrew believers who had been steeped in Judaism, the religion of the Jew. And anytime, I don’t care whether it’s Jew or Gentile, whether is was then or now, whenever someone tries to make that break with “religion,” it is tough. It is not easy to turn your back on something that has been drummed into you since you were old enough to walk.
That was the lot of these Hebrew believers that Paul is addressing. They had come out of Judaism, they had made the break and now they’re having second thoughts. Is this Jesus of Nazareth really Who He said He was? Is He really the Messiah, the Redeemer of mankind? And so this is the thrust of this Book of Hebrews. Here again now, Paul says that even these Jewish believers, having come out of the religion of Judaism, are now partakers of the heavenly calling. And I’ll be pointing to that in a little later verse this chapter, how that we are already citizens of heaven and we have that heavenly connection.
Alright, so now he says we who are partakers of this heavenly calling, the next word is rather a blasé word in our English and that’s unfortunate, the word is:
“…consider…” In the Greek it means- with all the attention that you can muster, focus on this man from Glory, the apostle of our confession, which another word would be the prophet or the Messiah. Now don’t take that word “consider” lightly. In the Greek it just can’t emphasize it enough. One time we were taking the ship up to Alaska and the whales were jumping. Way over, about a mile over and my little binoculars weren’t good enough and a fellow there had a great big set and he said, “Here use mine.” Well, when you concentrated through those binoculars, even though they were a mile away, my you could see those humongous whales just jumping. But what did you have to do? You had to focus on it or you’d miss it.
Now it wasn’t just a casual scanning the ocean, it was focusing in there and watching the activity. Now I think that’s a good way of explaining this. We are to just focus in on this Man from glory, the Carpenter of Nazareth, Who is the eternal Sovereign Creator, God of the universe. So now as partakers of this heavenly calling we are to focus in with all that’s at our disposal. So reading the verse again.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostles and High Priest of our (confession is a better word than) profession, Christ Jesus;”
Now of course you all know, I trust, that the word ‘Christ’ in the English, is ‘Messiah’ in the Greek. The Messiah, Jesus. And that of course, comes out of all the promises of the Old Testament. So let’s look at it again. We are to consider, we’re to focus in with everything of Him being our apostle.
Now I’m going to wait for the High Priesthood until we get a little later into Hebrews, especially chapter 7, but for today I’m going to let the High Priesthood just sort of sit and we’re going to look at this word ‘apostle.’ Normally we don’t think of Jesus as an apostle and it even shook me up when a long time ago I started preparing for this study of Hebrews, and I always knew He was Prophet, Priest and King but I’d never really heard of Him as an apostle.
Well the word means the same thing. An apostle in the Greek is really someone who was “sent,” in other words the Twelve. What did Jesus do? He sent them. When the Apostle Paul was commissioned in the Book of Acts what did the Lord tell him? I’m going to send you far hence to the Gentiles. Now we have the same concept here then concerning Christ. He was“sent.” Well, Who sent him?
Let’s go all the way back to Deuteronomy because, after all, the Old Testament fits with the New and we can’t separate them. Come back to Deuteronomy chapter 18 verse 15.
“The Lord thy God (the Father) will raise up unto thee a Prophet (or we could say from the book of Hebrews, an apostle) from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me;(Moses is speaking) unto him ye shall hearken: 16. According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb (that’s the other word for Mount Sinai) in the day of the assembly (when they were gathered around the mount) saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.” Now verse 18. God says to Moses.
“I will raise them up a Prophet (an apostle, someone that I am sending) from among their brethren, (now the word ‘brethren’ here is talking about the Nation of Israel from whence Christ came.) like unto thee and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I (the Father says) shall command him.” See how clear that is? Now verse 19.
” And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken (or listen) unto my words which he shall speak in my name, (God says) I will require it of him.”
Alright, now to pick up that “being sent” concept, let’s go all the way up to Matthew and again I’m using this for more than one reason and that is, whenever I teach that Jesus came only to the Nation of Israel to fulfill all the Old Testament promises and prophecies, some people get all shook up. I think I’ve shared this before that while I was teaching this one time in Jerusalem on one of our Israeli tours, a gentlemen just got as red as a beet. He was that up tight. He said, “Then what do you do with John 3:16? That doesn’t say He sent Him to Israel, it sent Him to the whole world.” I said, “He came first to the Nation of Israel and when Israel rejected Him, then yes, He became the Savior of the whole world. But in His original ministry, He came only to the Nation of Israel.”
Now in Matthew 15, most of you know the account of the Canaanite woman. And we almost have to take all of it; otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. So let’s start at verse 21. And this is taking place during His earthly ministry.
“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts (or the borders, or city limits) of Tyre & Sidon. (Roman cities up there on the Mediterranean Sea coast.) 22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan (a Gentile, she was not a member of the tribes of Israel) came out of the same coasts, (in other words, the cities of Tyre & Sidon) and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23. But he (the Lord Jesus) answered her (how much?) not a word. (He never even responded that he heard her.) And his disciples (The Twelve) came and besought him saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24. But he answered and said, (in her hearing) I am not sent (now underline that word sent) but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying Lord, help me. (And again he gave the answer, which tells us so clearly that he was under covenant responsibility. He could not betray the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.) 26. But he answered and said, It is not meet (it’s not right) to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”
Now goodness sakes, I trust you’ve all been in Church and Sunday School long enough. Who were the children that Jesus is referring to? Israel, the Jewish people! They were God’s covenant people, the children! And who were the dogs? The Gentiles! And so the picture was God’s table.
Whenever I teach this I always have to bring up Psalms 23. What does David say about the Lord’s table? It was set before him. Now that wasn’t a table of meat and potatoes and vegetables or any of the other Jewish kosher food. What was he referring to? The spiritual blessings that Israel was positioned to partake of. That was part of their being in the covenant promises. They feasted at the Lord’s table. Now you see the Lord brings that all the way up out of Psalms 23 into his earthly ministry and he said, “It’s not right for me to take the things from the Lord’s table that is for Israel and give it to you Gentiles.” He couldn’t do that! Because he was under covenant promises.
But this is one of those exceptions in His earthly ministry, that He condescended to a Gentile and He finally gives in and He says:
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
Now the only other Gentile that this happened to, was the Roman Centurion on behalf of his son. Jesus had nothing to do with the Gentile. He couldn’t because He was under those covenant promises and He was sent by God the Father to fulfill those promises. Now another companion verse, of course, is in Matthew chapter 10 and we’ve looked at some of these verses off and on but I have to always remind myself that we have new listeners coming in every day and even though some of you have heard all this from Genesis 1:1, we have a lot of listeners who have not. And so, we’ll just keep repeating these things for their benefit. Now Matthew chapter 10, and again this is the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry.
“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples,…” And then it names them. Now come all the way down to verse 5.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, (that’s why they’re called apostles) and commanded them, saying, Go not (see how plain this is. We’d say it in our English vernacular, do not go) into the way of the Gentiles, and (do not go) into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. 6. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Now good heavens, that’s plain English. There’s no gobbledygook here. There’s no way of twisting this to make it mean something else. It says what it means and it means what it says.Jesus said, “do not go to a Gentile. Do not go to a Samaritan. These promises are given only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel because of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And as you read the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the rest, they never write to the Gentile world. They write to the Nation of Israel. And so everything was directed according to these covenant promises.
Now let’s go all the way to Acts chapter 3 and Peter is now preaching shortly after the day of Pentecost. Chapter 2 is the day of Pentecost but now I’m going to take you into chapter 3, which is just a very short time later. Let’s drop in at verses 22 and 23,and now remember, what’s Peter’s purpose of preaching this message? To convince his Jewish listeners, shortly after Christ’s earthly ministry, that the one they crucified was the Christ. He was the promised Messiah, but God raised Him from the dead and so you haven’t stopped God’s program. It’s all been made ready now. The work of redemption has been accomplished and He’s alive and He can yet fulfill all the Old Testament promises. Plain as day isn’t it? Now look at what Peter says.
“For Moses (see how he goes back to the Old Testament) truly said unto the fathers, (now who were the fathers? The tribal leaders of Israel, the Twelve Tribes) A prophet (an apostle)shall the Lord your God raise up unto you (not the whole world yet, to Israel) of your brethren, (in other words, he was born of the Jewish family of Joseph and Mary) like unto me(now Moses was speaking of himself as a Jew, raised up out of one of the twelve tribes of Jacob); him shall ye hear (Peter said, quoting it from Moses) in all things whatsoever he(that is, the Messiah, the sent prophet) shall say unto you. 23. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, (that Jesus of Nazareth) shall be destroyed(or removed from the scene) from among the people.”
Now what’s he saying? Israel was under a tremendous responsibility to believe that this carpenter’s son, once he proved it with signs and wonders and miracles, was the promised Messiah. And if they couldn’t believe it they would be removed from Israel, and of course, we know that’s what happened. And when they cried for His crucifixion and they said let His blood be upon us, they didn’t know what they were saying. And for 2000 years the Jewish people have been suffering immeasurably. I was reading a book again the other night just detailing the suffering of the Jewish people for the last 2000 years. It is beyond human comprehension. Of course the holocaust was the epitome of all that.
I have one more reference in Acts chapter 7 verse 35. We’re still going to have a reference to Moses, but now Stephen is the speaker and he is addressing the religious leaders of Israel. Stephen, just like Peter before him, is trying to convince these Jews that Jesus was the Christ. Yes He’d been crucified, but God had raised Him from the dead and He was now alive and could still fulfill all those Old Testament promises. There’s not a word of God’s Grace in here yet. There’s not a word of the Gospel of Grace. There’s not a word in here about what we call Paul’s Gospel, of believing for salvation that Jesus died for your sins, was buried and rose again. This is still dealing with Israel.
“This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? The same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer (40 years later, remember) by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. 36. He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37. This (speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom they had crucified) is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren (in other words, out of the Nation of Israel), like unto me (and as Moses was the deliverer, so Jesus of Nazareth was to be the deliverer of Israel into the Kingdom promises); him shall ye hear. 38. This is he, (this is Who was in the midst of that assembly or) that was in the church in the wilderness…”
In other words, Who was the pillar of cloud by day? It was Christ. Who was the pillar of fire by night? It was Christ. Who was the One that rained down manna for Israel? It was the Christ!