Have you ever felt like giving up—giving up on problems, giving up on relationships, giving up on life, or even giving up on God? If so, you’re not alone. The prophet Habakkuk said, “How long, O LORD, must I call to You for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrong?” Habakkuk 1:2-3.
When overwhelmed by the loss of his health, wealth, family, possessions, and livelihood, the Old Testament believer Job said, “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” Job 3:11. After winning a great victory on Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah, suddenly and inexplicably weary of life and terrified by enemies, slumped beneath a juniper tree and said, “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life,” 1 Kings 19:4.
None of these individuals were pagan. All were people of God. And yet, Habakkuk still said, “I’ve been forgotten by God.” Job still said, “I curse the day of my birth.” Elijah still said, “I wish I were dead.” Are we so different from them? No. It is precisely because we too are tempted to give up on problems, relationships, life, and even God, that we can so easily identify with Habakkuk, Job, and Elijah, as well as the first recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Hebrews was originally sent to Jewish Christians who, after coming to faith in Jesus, experienced hatred and persecution from their own countrymen. The more opposition they faced, the less confidence they had. They began to lose heart and lose hope
Recognizing this danger, the writer of Hebrews sent a letter solemn in its warnings, but also rich in its encouragements. Again and again he urged his readers: “Don’t give up. Don’t turn back. Don’t let go. Don’t falter or fall short of God’s promises in Christ. Hold on. Keep moving forward. Run with perseverance.” The letter virtually hums and sings with such exhortations, until it reaches the loud crescendo of “by faith” in Hebrews 11 and the cheering “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12.
And throughout the Epistle to the Hebrews the means to “keep on keeping on” and to never give up in despair is always the same; namely, focusing on Jesus Christ: His person and work, His deity and humanity, His power and grace, His glory and humility. Indeed, the focus is on Christ from the first words of this epistle, where the author writes: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word,” Hebrews 1:1-3.Jesus sustains all things, including us.
Or consider Hebrews 2:9, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Or consider also Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Jesus. Jesus. Always Jesus. Only Jesus.
The first verse of today’s text, “consider Christ Jesus,” is the essence and constant invitation of the Epistle to the Hebrews. What does it mean to consider Christ Jesus? It certainly does not mean to celebrate Christ’s birth for a day in December, then pack Him away for the rest of the year with the artificial tree, ornaments, and reindeer. Significantly, Jesus Himself used this same verb in His Sermon on the Mount, saying in Luke 12:27, “Consider the lilies, how they grow.” You can’t consider how lilies grow by racing past the lily patch, thinking, “Pretty flowers, but I’m late for supper.” No, to consider the lilies, you must stop, study, touch the petals, smell the fragrance, note the color and texture, take a photograph, and make an album.
In other words, the urgent directive to “consider Christ Jesus” means to focus on Jesus; to carefully, deeply, and believingly reflect on WHO Jesus is and WHAT Jesus has done—not merely for the world, but for you as an individual. Consequently, in Hebrews 3:1-6 the writer presents five titles or descriptions of Jesus meant to lift us up and spur us on as we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1.
First, consider that Christ Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Hebrews 3:1, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Why would these two descriptions of Jesus, Apostle and High Priest, bring encouragement to the first readers of Hebrews? And why should these descriptions encourage us when we are tempted to give up on problems, relationships, life, or even God? Let’s do what we are asked to do; namely, consider the meaning of these descriptions or titles.
The word APOSTLE literally means “one who is sent”. By New Testament definition, apostles were selected by God, equipped by God, and sent by God to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the majority of his letters, Paul introduced himself as ‘an apostle of Jesus Christ’. This title had great significance. It meant that Paul was not self-appointed but God-appointed; that Paul was not acting out of personal ambition but was sent by God’s commission. And so we read in Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” Or Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
Old Testament HIGH PRIESTS were also appointed by the will of God, as explained in Hebrews 5:4, “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.” The primary role of the high priest was to intercede and to sacrifice. Once a year, on the Great Day of Atonement, the high priest alone was permitted to pass beyond the thick veil in the temple sanctuary, enter the Most Holy Place, and offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the people.
In Hebrews 3:1, then, Jesus is called both “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” Notice the definite article THE. Jesus is not only an apostle but the Apostle. Jesus is not only a high priest but the High Priest. The real one. The true one. The only one of which all other Old Testament high priests and New Testament apostles were mere types and pictures and shadows.
Throughout history, there were many messengers sent by God. But as “the Apostle of our confession,” Jesus Christ came as the Supreme Messenger and the Supreme Message; as the clearest expression of God’s love for lost mankind and God’s love for you as an individual. Recall the opening words of Hebrews: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son,” Hebrews 1:1-2. Jesus came as the Final Word on God’s love and God’s grace.
Likewise, throughout history there were many Old Testament high priests. Yet, only one High Priest was sinless. Only one High Priest was true God and true Man. Only one High Priest was worthy enough to sacrifice Himself to atone for the sins of the world. Only one High Priest was both the sacrifice and the sacrificer. This one High Priest was Jesus Christ, “the High Priest of our confession.”
And so with stunning brevity, the writer of Hebrews summarized Christ’s entire work of redemption with the single phrase “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession”—all that we confessed this morning in the Apostolic Creed, from “conceived by the Holy Spirit” to “crucified, died, and rose again on the third day.”
In blessedly simple terms, “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” is a reminder that in Jesus Christ you have the right Savior and the only Savior; a reminder that Jesus Christ was sent to save the world and to save you; a reminder that Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to atone for your sins. Tell me, dear friends, what does this say about God’s love for you? What does this say about how much God wants you, and what God was willing to do to save you—this gracious God who, for your sake, chose to be born in a barn and die on a cross. Consider this, consider Him, the next time you feel forgotten or forsaken by God; or the next time you question God’s involvement or providence or guidance; or the next time you feel like giving up on Jesus or giving Jesus up.
Second, consider that Jesus will never give up on you. Or in the words of Hebrews 3:2, Christ Jesus “who was FAITHFUL to Him who appointed Him, as Moses was also faithful in all His house.” Yes, Jesus was faithful to the heavenly Father who sent Him and appointed Him to suffer and die for our sins. Remember the anguished words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.
Yet, Jesus was equally faithful to us. Faithful in word and deed. Faithful in accomplishing our salvation. Faithful to the point of death, as beautifully stated in Hebrews 12: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Human faithfulness leaves much to be desired. Statistically, even the most sacred of human promises, the promise to be faithful “until death us do part,” fails in one out of every two marriages. Somewhere, buried deep in a dresser drawer, I still have a wedding ring engraved with the words “eternally yours”.
Yet, not so with the promises of God. Where human promises fail, “the Scripture cannot be broken,” John 10:35. Where human promises fail, “the word of the Lord stands forever,” 1 Peter 1:25. And in the word of the Lord, indeed, in this very Epistle to the Hebrews, God declares: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.
If like Habakkuk, Job, or Elijah, you feel forgotten or forsaken by God, open your Bible and count the number of times the New Testament states: “This happened so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.” Count the number of times this phrase is used of Christmas and Good Friday; of the coming, suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus Christ. “God is faithful” is the clear, undeniable statement of 1 Corinthians 10:13. And dear friends, this means that there is never a time when God isn’t being faithful to us—in sickness and health, in gain and loss, in laughter and sorrow, in weakness and strength, in life and death.
In fact, according to the Bible, when Jesus Christ came to save the world, He also came as the fulfillment of every promise God has ever made to you. As Paul insisted in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” The promise to save you. The promise to enrich your life and relationships. The promise to forgive your sins and remove your guilt. The promise provide you with all that you need and more than you can ask or even imagine. The promise to deliver you in times of trouble. And what God promises, God does. What God starts, God finishes. When God calls you, He gets you there. Consider this the next time you’re tempted to give up on Jesus or give Jesus up.
Third, consider that Jesus is the one who builds and builds up your life. In the words of Hebrews 3:4, “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” How often have you driven through a neighborhood, thinking that the houses in that neighbor built themselves? “Oh, look at that beautiful house. I bet that house built itself. I bet that house chose its own location; constructed its own foundation, floors, walls, and roof; decorated its own interior; installed its own utilities; designed its own landscaping; and even secured its own mortgage.” That’s nonsense, isn’t it? Even with all the construction materials purchased and left on a vacant lot, a house could never build itself. Never. Not in a million years. Not in a billion years.
Isn’t it equally nonsensical; to think that we can build our faith, families, marriages, ministries, congregations, and Christian lives apart from Almighty God? Listen closely to Colossians 1, speaking of Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all thing were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Jesus builds everything. Jesus holds everything together. Friends, if we only considered that blueprint, that reality, would we ever give up? Would we ever lose heart and hope? Would we every say, “This circumstance is too hard for the Lord?” No. Instead, if we considered Jesus, we would rather say with the apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11-13.
Consider, finally, the last description of Jesus in today’s text; that of a Son. Hebrews 3:6, “But Christ as a Son over His house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.”
Let me ask again the question with which I began: “Have you ever felt like giving up—giving up on problems, giving up on relationships, giving up on life, or even giving up God?” If so, then consider what you’ve learned today from Hebrews 3:1-6. Jesus is your Apostle and High Priest, both Messenger and Message, both Sacrifice and Sacrificer. Jesus is your faithful Savior, so faithful to you that not even the agonies of the cross of the weight of the world’s sin, or the fury of hell itself could prevent Him from dying for your sins. And Jesus is your Builder; the Builder of the universe; the Builder of your body; the Builder of your Christian life, hope, home, and relationships.
Yet, of all these descriptions of Jesus, what should spur you onward and upward more than any other is the last—the knowledge that God gave you His one and only Son. The knowledge that God gave you the very best He had to give. And if this is true, will God fail to give you anything else you need? And so Paul wrote: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things. Yes, consider that. Consider Jesus. And you will never give up on problems, relationships, life, or God.