By: Thomas Clayton Booher
Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews is unknown. The writer does not identify himself, and the clues are sufficiently weak as to make it impossible to offer a suggestion with any certainty. The Scofield Reference Bible ascribes the letter to Paul. Most all other such Bibles refrain. It is very unlikely that Paul was the author. The writer places himself among those who had not received any direct revelation from Christ, but heard only those who had (Heb 2:3). Paul insists that he had received his Gospel from Christ himself (Gal 1:11, 12; Cf Eph 1:3).
The occasion of the letter is an apparent danger of some Jewish converts to turn back to the Old Testament system of worship in some fashion. The temptation to succumb is easier because the temple and priestly offices were still in tact, as the letter seems to indicate (Heb 5:1; 8:13; 10:1-3, 11). If the temple had been destroyed, as it was in 70 AD, its significance would have disappeared.
Because of this danger, the author’s purpose is to persuade his readers not to leave their confidence in Christ and turn back. Hence, his theme is the superiority of Christ over anything that had previously come in redemptive history: OT prophets (1:1,2), angels (1:4ff), Moses (3:2-6), the High Priest (4:14-5:10; 6:20; 7:26ff; 8:1, 2; et. al.), Abraham (7:1-7), the Levitical priesthood (7:11-25; 8:3-6); the Old Covenant sacrifice (8:7-13; 10:1-18).
Hebrews 6:4-6 underscores the danger. Although the interpretation of this text is problematic, however it is interpreted, we may discern a stern warning. For those who have been so enlightened, as his Jewish audience has, but after careful consideration turn back to the old ways, there is no more sacrifice. The implication is that such persons will fall away and cannot be restored for they will not come to repentance. Their hardhearted disdain of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and the word of God is akin to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31) wherein there is no forgiveness.
But the writer is persuaded of better things of his readers, that they are not going to apostatize but rather continue on in the way of salvation (Heb 6:9). It is with this confidence that the author addresses his readers as holy brothers and partakers of the heavenly calling.
Our calling is a heavenly calling because it is a calling whose origin is not of this world. From Paul we learn that all of humanity by nature comes under the dominion of the prince and power of the air (Eph 2:2). John speaks of the whole world lying in the power of the wicked one (1 John 4:19). There is nothing in this world that can produce a calling like the heavenly calling. It is a calling that comes through the work of his Spirit within us (John 3: 3, 5).
It is a heavenly calling because those called have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, that is, in Christ who is now in heaven at the right hand of God (Eph 1:3) interceding for us (Rom 8:34). Our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5) places us in the heavenlies with him even now (Eph 2:5, 6) though to the human eye and in our mundane experience it does not appear to be so and will not until we see Jesus when he comes again (1 John 3:1, 2; Col 3:3, 4).
It is a heavenly calling because it is a rescuing from this present evil world (Gal 1:4) into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) which has not yet been fully realized, but will be when Christ returns to recreate the world (2 Pet 3:10) and establish the heavenly tabernacle of God among men in the new heavens and earth (Rev 21:1-3) where God and man will co-dwell once again as they had done at the beginning (Gen 3:8, 9).
It is a heavenly calling because it persuades us to set our affection on the holy things above, not on the wicked things of this world (
3:1-5). It imparts to us wisdom from
above that is pure,
peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without
partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17). Col
It is a heavenly calling because the Savior who calls us as sheep by name (John 10:3) came down out of heaven (John 3:13; 6:38) as the Bread of Heaven (John 6:31-33, 50, 51) who gives us heavenly life.
Because our calling is heavenly we are assured that nothing here below can alter its sure outcome as Paul wrote, I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).
Our heavenly calling assures us that God can do a great work in us with the same power that he used to raise Christ from the dead and seat him (and us) in the heavenly places (Eph 1:19, 20) where we are untouched by the principalities, mights, powers, and dominions of spiritual forces (Eph 1:21).
With such a heavenly calling, who can be discouraged? There is hope now and for the end. It is when we forget our heavenly calling that the difficulties and trials of this world become too great for us. We are drained of assurance and tend to despair as those who have no hope.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.... without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb 4:14; 10:23).