“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.” – Hebrews 3:1 (ESV)
In our last study taken from Hebrew 2:10-18, we were taught that God saw fit to allow Jesus, the founder of our salvation, to be made perfect through suffering. He did this because we were under the power of death and this power needed to be broken. To do this, Jesus became a “merciful and faithful high priest” to deliver the sacrifice and be the Sacrifice for our sins. Chapter three begins with the word, “Therefore” and let’s us know what is written here is because of what we just read, specifically, Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest.”
The writer then makes a reference to his audience, “holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling.” By my account, this is the first specific reference to the original audience of the letter. In the first two chapters, there are references such as “Therefore we must pay closer attention” (2:1) and “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” (2:3), but nothing like what we read in 3:1.
In our study, we haven’t addressed the audience of the letter in a specific way. Verse 3:1 gives us the opportunity to do that.
It’s obvious from the name of the book, “The Letter to the Hebrews,” that the original audience was to a group of Jewish people. It’s also usually assumed that this is a group of Jewish Christians. As John MacArthur notes in his commentary on Hebrews, the terms “holy brothers” and “heavenly calling” are words used to identify followers of Christ. I have, however, a slightly different view of the audience mentioned in 3:1.
I do believe the letter was written to a group of Jewish Christians, or a church filled with Jewish Christians. I believe there were believers within this group. But within this group there were likely some who had not yet been converted and quite possibly some who were apostate. I say this because this letter preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ and because of how this gospel is presented. For example, verse 3:14 says,
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. – Hebrews 3:14 (ESV)
This statement could have benefit or applicability to the not yet saved, the saved or even those who have fallen away. Other statements similar to this are made throughout the book as well.
My point is, like the faithful preacher in front of the congregation each Sunday morning, the spiritual condition of the audience is not always known, so the message is preached to all. I believe that is the case with the book of Hebrews. [By the way, this is also how each audience throughout history has heard God’s word from His Bible.]
So, whether the writer is addressing current believers, believers to come, or perhaps even those falling away (apostate), he encourages them by calling them “holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling.” How does this encourage? Those who are in Christ are “brothers” with Christ, as we are reminded from chapter two:
“That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” – Hebrews 2:12b (ESV)
And what are all encouraged to do? “Consider Jesus.”
Through two chapters of Hebrews, we have seen that Jesus is superior to angels (chapter 1) and that God saw fit to allow Jesus to be made perfect through suffering as Jesus fulfilled the role of “a merciful and faithful high priest” and atoned for sin (chapter 2).
With the exhortation to “consider Jesus,” the writer is asking the hearer of this message to think about Jesus. The hearer should hear what has been preached in chapters one and two and the hearer should think about the message about to be delivered. The hearer needs to consider Jesus.
In finishing this exhortation, the writer reminds us that Jesus is the “apostle and high priest of our confession.” This is a lower case “apostle,” referring to Jesus bringing the message of salvation to us by His life, work on the cross and via the resurrection. “High priest” again refers to His role as “a merciful and faithful high priest” as mentioned in verse 2:17. Our confession doesn’t refer to repeating some words over and over, it refers to our understanding and acceptance of the gospel. For example, if we say, “Jesus is Lord,” “Jesus is King,” or “Jesus is our High Priest,” we are confessing what God’s word tells us about Jesus.
So when the writer says, “consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,” he is reminding us of the gospel! He is not saying, “how about thinking about Jesus as you consider all of the other religions out there.” He is not presenting Jesus as an alternative among many choices. No, he is saying “consider Jesus,” the “founder of their salvation” that God saw fit to make “perfect through suffering” (2:10). “Consider Jesus,” who sanctifies (2:11). “Consider Jesus” our “merciful and faithful high priest” (2.17). “Consider Jesus” who is the “propitiation of the sins of the people” (2:17).
Jesus wasn’t just a good man who did some good and merciful things to help people, therefore we should model our lives after Him. No, Jesus is the “apostle and high priest of our confession.” As Philippians 2:10 reminds us, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Knowing that, “consider Jesus” while there is still time.